5/31/14

Star Trek: Asterisk "Night Terrors"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S04E16
Air Date: March 18, 1991
Written by: Pamela Douglas, Jeri Taylor, and Shari Goodhartz
Directed by: Les Landau

Premise
While the rest of the Enterprise can't dream and are stuck in a binary star system, Troi saves the day by flying through green clouds and taking care of a wedgie.

Recap
While flying through deep space, the Enterprise comes upon a binary star system in which the U.S.S. Brittain has been stuck for the past few days. They have no idea why, only that they sent out a distress signal, and when they scan the ship, there are not a whole lot in the way of life signs. Troi uses her built-in natural sensors and senses... something... so she requests to be put on the away team. When the away team gets there, they find everyone dead by what seems to have been their own hands, except for one quivering mass of a male Betazoid hiding in a closet. He's speechless, and not just because Troi's there.

Back on the Enterprise, Troi tries to get the Betazoid to talk. He's so catatonic that they can only really communicate telepathically, but even then he seems to be speaking nonsense. "Double," "Eyes in the dark," "One moon circles," crazy, disconnected stuff like that which couldn't possibly point to the binary star system they were in. Meanwhile, Crusher reports back to Picard that the crew of the Brittain did, in fact, go crazy and kill themselves, but she can't figure out why. They weren't drugged, they weren't under the influence of a parasite, or anything like that, but records show that the captain was getting extremely paranoid near the end. *sigh* And then there are Troi's nightmares.
What a view!
As you can see, she's hanging (not floating, hanging) in the air, surrounded by some green smoke and staring at two bright lights that she somehow still doesn't connect with the binary star system. She's also listening to some freaky alien voices trying to tell her something, but their phrases are just about as disconnected as the other Betazoid's. In any case, it's just a nightmare, right? So, she disregards it and goes back to work. The thing is, that's when strange stuff starts happening. A bright young ensign that looks like Once Upon a Time's Peter Pan starts hearing things in the Brittain after all the bodies were cleared out. O'Brien suspects Keiko of cheating on him.  Chief Gillespie tells O'Brien in 10 Forward about reports he'd been hearing of people seeing ghosts. Picard himself hears his door chime ring several times with no one there. Finally, someone knocks on his door, and it's Crusher. She says people are starting to go crazy on the Enterprise just like the Brittain, so they better get out now.

Shouldn't be a problem. The Brittain's engines don't seem to be working, even though Geordi's sure they're fine, but, whatever, we can tractor beam it away. Only one problem... the Enterprise is stuck now, too... Data reports that they're stuck in a Tyken's Rift. Might as well be a fly trap, for all I understand about it, but what's important is they need an explosion to get free of it. Data and Geordi plan just such a thing to shoot out of the... the, uh... oh, the deflector dish, and the meeting is over. Picard, meanwhile, tells Riker to take a break and sleep off some of the craziness. But, in the turbolift, Picard encounters more crazy when he perceives the ceiling to be crushing down on him. How embarrassing for him when the turbolift doors open to the bridge while he's curled up on the floor and screaming.
C'mon get hyped?
Riker's not immune to the crazies either. When he goes to his quarters, he hears noises like someone's there with him. Then he gets in bed and thinks there are snakes slithering around his legs. Even Beverly, when she goes to examine the dead bodies, hallucinates that they sit up. The only one who is immune, is Data, so Picard entrusts the android to take over command if need be. Meanwhile, Crusher reports to Picard with a theory: She notes that since they've arrived in the binary star system, no one has had any dreams. No one except for Troi. This is an indication that, while they may be sleeping, they're not entering REM sleep, which is basically like a defrag cycle for the brain. The less we get of it, the crazier we become. She's unsure why Troi isn't affected, but she suspects it has something to do with being a Betazoid. This is no comfort, though, since the only other Betazoid around is still catatonic and telepathically spouting nonsense.

In any case, they better get out of there soon because Chief Gillespie is starting to get paranoid in 10 Forward and wanting to start a riot against Picard. So they shoot their load out of the deflector dish and... nothing happens. The same energy that's keeping them there eats up the beam. Distraught and frightened, Worf runs off to his room and attempts to ceremoniously kill himself, but Troi stops him. Then she goes to the other Betazoid to see if she can find out anything else, and then she finally makes a connection. The things he's been saying are the same things she was hearing in her nightmares. They've been having the same dreams... so maybe they're not dreams... maybe they're a message!
Oooohhhh, eyes in the dark! I get it now!
With that in mind, she reports to the senior staff and they all come up with the theory that alien beings on the other side of the rift are sending messages through telepathic channels that are screwing with human REM patterns. They deduce that these messages are meant to tell the Enterprise what they need to do in order to help both of them escape. After looking through some of the possibilities, Troi spots a hydrogen atom, or "One Moon Circles," and understands what must be done. Data helps her conclude that the aliens need hydrogen to set off an explosion that'll break the rift and they'll be free. So Troi goes to sleep to find the aliens again and tell them what's up. It's none too soon, too, because Guinan has to break out her Pimp Gun to stop Chief Gillespie's riot in 10 Forward, and Picard is barely alert enough to give any orders. Taking over command, Data sends the hydrogen through the rift, it explodes and the Enterprise, along with the alien ship, is freed. Data's final command as Acting Captain: get some sleep.

Review
Ya know, it doesn't sound all that bad when written out, does it? Unfortunately, this episode suffers from excruciating pacing issues and an unforgivable "special" effect of Troi floating. On top of that, there was really just too much other stuff going on which made it a little convoluted. This is like the Plan Nine from Outer Space of Star Trek episodes. A great idea, but terrible execution.