Friday, July 21, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 128 (Realm of Fear)

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

New technology brings about new fears and the transporter seems to have brought about a great deal of concern. Lt. Reginald Barclay is deathly afraid of the transporters and, being an engineer, has a right to be. He understands that the transporter literally takes you apart molecule by molecule and puts you back together somewhere else. Even though many people have used it, it’s still a frightening experience.

However, Barclay has to use it. The Enterprise finds the U.S.S. Yosemite trapped in a plasma stream and the only way to get over there is by using the transporter. The plasma stream is going to make transporting tricky, but tractor beams are useless Captain Picard doesn’t want to risk losing a shuttlecraft to whatever might have damaged the Yosemite. So, the away team is beamed over one by one. When it comes time for Barclay to transport over, he can’t do it; he storms out of the transporter room.

Counselor Troi talks some confidence into Barclay and he manages to transport over. On the way back, he sees something in the transporter. It looks like a big worm with a rather large mouth; one of them actually ‘bites’ him on his arm. He tells Chief Engineer La Forge and Transporter Chief O’Brien. They take the transporter apart and look it over, but find nothing wrong with their systems. Soon after, Barclay starts having problems with the part of the arm where he was bitten. He thinks that he has a problem called transporter psychosis, but there hasn’t been a case of that in a while.

Finally, La Forge and Data are able to figure out that there are life forms in the plasma stream. Barclay collapses and is taken to sickbay, where it’s discovered that he’s got them all over his body. The transporter’s biofilter, which is capable of screening diseases, couldn’t detect them because they exist in an unusually state, but now the transporter can be programmed to filter them out. Barclay is sent through the transporter beam and sees the worm creatures again. Instead of being afraid of them, he actually grabs one when it approaches. It turns out that the worm creatures are actually people from the Yosemite that had disappeared. Security Chief Worf and two other members of security are sent through the transporter to retrieve the others.

Somehow, the people from the Yosemite were trapped in the transporter. I’ve seen this episode a couple of times and I’m still not sure exactly what happened. A very brief explanation is given, but it didn’t really mean anything to me. The transporter creatures aren’t that elaborate. The overwhelming blueness of the transporter effect obscures them, so it’s hard to see them anyway.

Mostly, I think the episode is meant to showcase Barclay, who’s appeared in several other episodes of The Next Generation. Barclay has always been a little neurotic. That’s always been the best part of the character. It shows that even in the 24th century, not everyone is this normal, happy person. (If that were the case, Counselor Troi would be out of a job.) Barclay is the character that’s used to show some of the more pronounced problems; in this episode, it’s a phobia, but he’s had an addiction to the holodeck and is known for being paranoid about his medical condition. Barclay has always been a little insecure. He’s a good engineer, but not sure of himself. Dwight Schultz does a great job with the role.

I’m torn between three and four stars. It’s above average, but I don’t think it’s that great that it’s half-way to five stars. I feel compelled to give it four stars because it is better than average, but it’s closer to 3? stars. I’d recommend this episode if it comes on TV or if you have the season set, but I wouldn’t rush out and buy the tape. 

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