Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 124 (The Next Phase)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

If you’ve been reading some of my other reviews of Star Trek episodes, you know that I sometimes pick apart episodes that have mistakes. This is going to be another such episode and I’m not going to be the first person to do so.

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from a Romulan ship. Apparently, it has sustained a lot of damage and is in need of a lot of repair. Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge discovers a component that needs replacing; he and Ensign Ro Laren beam back with the damaged component to see if they can replace it. During transport, something happens and the two people end up on neither ship. Since it’s not understood what happened, the ship has to take all of the transporters offline leaving everyone to use shuttles. Ro wakes up near sickbay and quickly realizes that no one can see her. Also, she can seem to pass through solid objects like walls. She finds La Forge in Engineering and the two realize that they must have somehow been phased, which basically means that they’re out of sync with the normal matter. They can see each other and everyone else, but no one else can see them.

To make matters more urgent, Ro and La Forge overhear a conversation between two Romulans. The Romulans have a secret and are willing to destroy the Enterprise to keep it. The Romulans mention how they plan to destroy the ship, but La Forge and Ro are in no position to tell anyone. La Forge eventually figures out that when he passes through normal matter, he leaves some sort of residue, which the ship is able to get rid of. When La Forge is exposed to some of the radiation, it becomes harder for him to pass through normal matter. He figures out that if he can get himself exposed to enough of this, he will return to normal. He does this by causing a phased Romulan disruptor to overload, flooding the entire room with the residue. He and Ro return to normal in time to warn everyone about what the Romulans did.

Ok. The big, glaring error that everyone points out is that if Ro and La Forge can pass through walls, they should be able to pass through the floor. Throughout the episode, you’ll hear the shuffle of their feet on the floor, which means that they are able to interact with it. Ro is also able to touch a control panel and a phased Romulan is actually sitting down. They shouldn’t be able to breathe since Oxygen is still normal matter. For that matter, should they even be able to talk? Sound is essentially vibrations transmitted by matter. What we hear is sound transmitted through the air, so if Ro and La Forge can talk to each other, then others should be able to hear them. There are all sorts of implications dealing with phased matter, including the fact that Ro and La Forge reflect in the windows.

I also noticed that if La Forge and Ro wanted to get someone’s attention, they could have used the phaser to ‘write’ their names on a wall or something. It’s possible that the sensors wouldn’t have been able to discern exact shapes or that no one would have been looking for letters, but it was worth a shot.

I’m going to have to give this episode three stars. This is another last-minute-save episode. The Enterprise can’t go to warp, so of course there are several points in the episode where the captain wants to, but is stopped at the last minute. I’m sure that you’ve seen this in a few movies or TV shows over the years. There’s also the quasi-religious aspect surrounding the apparent death of Ro and La Forge. Ro, having seen Dr. Crusher fill out a death certificate, is ready to accept that she is a ghost or spirit. La Forge isn’t and at least gets Ro to play along for the sake of not giving up. It was an interesting aspect to the episode. 

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