I see. I'm expected to sleep tonight, am I?
This was one of the weirdest TNG episodes I've ever seen...and it was damned good, too. I'll do my usual ranting 'n' raving after a synopsis. And going into the synop, I'm wishing myself good luck in keeping it short. Here goes:
The Enterprise is docked at Starbase 133, and Bev greets her old friend Dr. Dalen Quaice, who's departing the base after his wife's death (the Enterprise will be taking him home when they depart). After getting him settled, Bev thinks about his comments on losing everyone he knows, and goes to see Wesley. Wes is in Engineering, working on some warpfield experiments. As Bev watches, Wes tinkers a little, and then there's a bright, completely unexpected flash. There doesn't seem to be any lasting effect, though, and we see the ship depart the base.
The next morning, Bev goes to Quaice's quarters to invite him to breakfast, but after he doesn't answer the ring, she enters--and finds neither him nor his belongings. Further, the computer claims that no such person is on board. She calls Worf, who is apparently not aware of Quaice's presence either, but he agrees to start a search. Stranger still, Picard doesn't remember seeing any mention of his visit, despite Bev's insistence that she sent the electronic paperwork about it to him weeks ago. Even more bizarre, the starbase claims to have no record of Quaice's existence--and he worked on the base for SIX YEARS. Then, as if that weren't enough, O'Brien, whom we saw beam Quaice on board, doesn't remember doing so--but does remember Bev coming in alone, looking around, saying "Thank you" and leaving. And, of course, there's no transporter trace of Quaice's existence, either.
While Worf, Riker and others start looking to see if the ship's somehow been tampered with, Bev checks O'Brien to see if he's all right. He's fine, but Bev finds that Drs. Hill and Selar, and four other medical personnel are gone as well--and they've all been on board for months. After she reports this to Picard, the two of them proceed to Engineering, where Wes talks about his experiment. He'd been experimenting with Kosinski's warpfield equations, and when he tried to create them (i.e. make a stable warp-bubble), it destabilized. While a bubble could theoretically have swept up Dr. Quaice, it was limited to Engineering, so it can't be the culprit--and there's no way it could alter computers and memories like that either.
Bev goes back to sickbay--and finds it completely empty. When she reports the absence of her staff to the bridge, they seem unsurprised--after all, says Data, she's never had one. And the complete crew assigned to the ship only numbers 230. As Bev reacts with somewhat understandable shock, Picard takes her aside and begins expressing concerns for her mental state. He believes her, and even sends the ship back to SB 133 based solely on her plea, but she agrees to talk to Troi.
Then, not much later, Bev's in sickbay, when suddenly a bright vortex appears out of nowhere, blowing papers and books everywhere, and nearly sucking Bev in. Geordi, however, looks for it after it disappears and finds no trace of it--or any evidence that it ever existed. By now, an analysis has shown that there are no malfunctions--but now the complete crew only numbers 114. Worse yet, when Bev suggests working with Worf on something, she finds that no one knows whom she's talking about. She asks Deanna if she's going mad, and Deanna comforts her, telling her that if it turns out this is all a mistake, all that happens is that they're a little late at their next destination.
Bev goes to find Wes in Engineering--fortunately, he's still there. She tells him that they've got to find someone who can help--someone who understands all about warp-bubbles. Unfortunately, Kosinski's no help, and they're his damned equations. However, Wes mentions that Kosinski's "assistant", the Traveller, might be able to assist--but no one knows where, or even _if_, he is. The two of them head up to talk to Picard--but only Bev gets as far as the turbolift. Now truly panicked, she runs to the lift and goes to the bridge, finding a sole occupant--Picard.
Picard has no memory of any of the people she mentions (Riker, Data, Troi, O'Brien, Worf, and Wesley), insists that the ship's "never needed a crew before", and doesn't remember the Traveller. To make her feel better, he agrees to have his vital signs continually monitored, and the computer starts talking about them continuously in the background. She promises not to forget any of them, and to try to get them back. She tells Picard that she's got something to say to him--but his seat is suddenly empty, and the computer is silent. Then, the vortex appears again, and Bev again just manages to avoid being sucked in. However, as we see her starting to recover from the vortex's influence, we hear Geordi and Wes trying to maintain something--but then they fail, and the vortex (in reality, a gate they tried to open) collapses. Wes gives up, saying they'll never get Bev back now. But a voice says "It's not over, Wesley...", and the Traveller phases in. "There's still a way."
The Traveller, on board the _real_ Enterprise, says that Bev is still alive, for as long as she THINKS she is. It would seem that a warp-bubble did capture someone--her; and while inside, Bev's thoughts created the reality she's currently in. He cannot go in and get her, any more than he can enter her thoughts, but together, he and Wes might be able to open a gateway. (However, she'll have to choose to go through it.)
Meanwhile, Bev tries to reason things out, but gets nowhere. She tries to contact the Traveller's race, and then orders a course to Tau Alpha C, that race's homeworld. But as she says "Engage", she finds that the planet has vanished from the computer's starfield. As the real ship heads back to SB 133, and Wes begins to rework the equations, Bev tries to raise the starbase and finds she cannot. She calls up the viewscreen, but sees only a mist outside, which the computer describes as a mass-energy field 705 meters in diameter. She continues her enquiries, and finds that according to the computer, the known universe is a spheroid that is only 705 meters in diameter.
The Enterprise arrives at the starbase and begins to assume the _precise_ location and position they had when the bubble formed. The Traveller senses the bubble, and Wes sees it again on his panel, but then the Traveller shudders slightly, and says that the bubble's collapsing.
Bev calls up a graphic of the universe, and when she finds it looks exactly like the schematic she saw in Engineering of the warp-bubble, realizes that she's trapped inside it herself. Then there's a sudden hull breach--when she investigates, she finds that reality is shrinking further; and she's only got 4 minutes 17 seconds left. As the Enterprise reestablishes the exact coordinates, Bev theorizes that her thoughts created this reality, but she can't figure out what to do next.
With about three minutes left, the Traveller starts phasing--and Bev realizes while talking to the computer that the vortex she saw must have been the gateway out of this reality. She decides to go to where the bubble originally established itself, in Engineering, traveling just to deck 36 when she finds the lift won't go directly to Engineeering.
By this time, both the Traveller AND Wesley are phasing, and the gateway is beginning to form, but now time's running short. Seconds after Bev leaves the lift, it vanishes, and now she starts outrunning entropy. She makes it to Engineering, and manages to dive through the gate just as the bubble vanishes entirely. She embraces Picard, thanks the Traveller, and clings to her somewhat exhausted son. And all is as it should be.
Short. Yeah. Right. Oh, well. Anyway, now for Tim's Random Occasionally Crunchy-In-Milk Ramblings:
God, this was good. I'm sure this show will get a fair amount of bashing from the Anti-Crusher League, since center stage is occupied primarily by Bev, and the rest mostly by Wes. However, in this case I don't think they have any ground to stand on.
Gates is, admittedly, one of the weaker link's in TNG's acting chain in general, but she gave one of the best performances I have EVER seen from her here. There was only one scene which I felt she erred in even slightly (which I'll go into later), but even that was just a slight overreaction. She can so act.
Wil did a good job too, and Eric Menyuk's Traveller was nicely understated, I thought. Everyone else did a good job with the small amount of time they had. Even Marina, who had only one big scene, namely comforting Bev, did well--and for once, Troi was written properly.
On to non-acting topics. This was a very solid plot, with no real loopholes in sight. I have one small quibble: namely, if the phantom Enterprise was created from Bev's thoughts, how did any of them (like Wes) know anything she didn't? However, that can easily be rationalized out, or just plain "suspension-of-disbelief" 'ed out, since there was a rather prominent dose of unreality permeating the entire show.
The director, Cliff Bole (whom you might remember from both parts of "The Best of Both Worlds"), together with Lee Sheldon (never heard of him/her), who wrote this, did an absolutely magnificent job of keeping the audience guessing. I know that I was completely baffled through the first two acts, and only had a dim idea of exactly what was happening before the Traveller cleared things up. Now, in many cases that's a bad thing--but here, it's precisely how I was supposed to react. I'd definitely believe that I was meant to be whimpering in confusion by the time pity was taken on me. Don't worry, I was. :-) However, after the initial "what the HELL?" feeling was removed, everything STILL HELD UP. And that, after all, is at least as important as the mystery.
The mystery, though, was really well done--I can't emphasize this enough. It had me curious (and more than slightly uneasy/off-balance, as it was meant to) to an extent I haven't seen in a "mysterious" TNG episode since "Conspiracy" aired all those shows ago. In both cases, things were not what they seemed-- and in both cases, that was conveyed to us beautifully.
And now, as I mentioned before, the one scene which I felt was a tad overdone. I'll actually quote most of it, because I like the thing--and besides, I went to all this trouble to transcribe it. :-) Bev is now on the near-empty bridge, and ends up having to quickly describe some of the bridge crew to the confused Picard (having earlier described Worf as "the big guy who never smiles"): She mentions, in fairly rapid order,
"Will Riker, your first officer! He's...he's very good at poker! Loves to cook...he listens to jazz music, plays the trombone!" "Commander Data, the android who sits at Ops! DREAMS of being human, never gets the punchline of a joke!" "Deanna Troi, your ship's counselor--half Betazoid, loves chocolate. The arrival of her mother makes you shudder!"
and then proceeds with:
"O'Brien, Geordi, Worf, Wesley--my _son_! They have all been the living, breathing backbone of this ship for over three years! They deserve more than to be shrugged off--brushed aside, just pinched out of existence like that! They all do. They deserve some honor." (Note: due to my horrible handwriting and the fact that I wrote this in a hurry, I'm not sure that last word is correct.)
Now, most of this I liked a lot (particularly the bit about Lwaxana making Picard shudder :-) ), and I thought Bev did a good job playing half-hysterical. However, I thought the last two sentences were a little bit of overkill, and they blunted the impact...but only marginally. (I also think that some of this phrasing is an apt capsule description of TNG.) Still, if that's the weakest scene the show had, it's in very good shape.
Now for some really quick comments:
1) When Bev starting "outrunning entropy", as I put it (I just like the sound of it for some reason :-) ), and the corridor dissolved behind her, was I the only one who felt the same way as when the Falcon was trying to outrun the collapsing Death Star in "Return of the Jedi"?
2) A quick technical quibble, but one which virtually all SF shows have fallen prey to: if the bubble's EXACTLY where it was created, then they shouldn't have gone back to the starbase. Sorry, folks, but starbases move too. Not a big deal, though.
3) Even though I knew the Traveller was appearing, and even though I, like most, have qualms about a superbeing coming in and saving the day, I felt a rather profound sense of relief to hear his voice close out act 3. And this time, he didn't do it himself (though I'm sure many will consider the option they chose worse yet ;-) ).
4) I'm glad to see that Wes was so exhausted after saving Bev, and even more interested to note that the Traveller was much less affected. That's a good thing--after all, Wes should have had a lot more taken out of him than someone who's used to this, even if the Traveller probably did do most of the work.
I think that's about it, and this is running really long. I'll just say that I had high hopes for this episode, and was overjoyed to see them fulfilled. A splendid way to tie TOS.
From one number (79 hours) to others; the ratings:
Plot: 9.5. A tiny bit off for how the phantoms seemed so perfectly real, but since I'm not sure that's an error, it doesn't lose much. Aside from that, truly blissful. Plot Handling: 10. Cliff pulled off an unreality that I'd have expected from Rob Bowman, and did so mighty well, too. Characterization/Acting: 9.5. A tiny bit off for Bev's one outburst, but very good otherwise. Gates gives what's probably her best effort to date. Technical: 10. Considering that the entire plot complication was technically based, this is saying something.
TOTAL: 9.8---10. Wow.
TNG breaks TOS's airtime with a visit to Tasha's world...and her sister. Is she loyal or not? Is she a murderer or not? Was she holding a lightsaber or not? (No, I'm not kidding.) We'll find out.
And so it goes.
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students) BITNET: tlynch@citjuliet INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org UUCP: ...!email@example.com "We will start with the assumption that I am _not_ crazy." --B. Crusher, MD -- Copyright 1990, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.
Technical design, graphic design, interactive features, HTML & CGI programming by Andrew Tong. || All materials Copyright © 1987-1995 by their respective authors. || Document created: June 5, 1994 || Last Modified: November 09, 2010