Saturday, November 04, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 158 (Phantasms)

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

In Birthright, Part I, Data picked up the ability to dream. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. The thing is that Data’s an android. (There was no mention of electric sheep, in case you’re wondering.) This is the first episode since then that deals with that ability.

At first, it’s just confusing. Data dreams of come miners dismantling part of the Enterprise. When Data asks them to stop, the miners turn to attack data. At that point, he emits a high-pitched noise. As the episode progresses, Data’s dreams become more involved. He sees Dr. Crusher drinking out of Commander Riker’s neck. Counselor Troi is lying on a table; her head is real, but her body is a cake. Worf is eating a piece and says that it’s delicious. Data feels compelled to cut into the cake.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is having problems of its own. New parts were installed at a starbase, but the warp drive won’t work. This is frustrating because Picard was invited to a function and has run out of excuses to not attend. Now that he really does have a problem, it looks like he’s trying to get out of it.

Data has a real problem. Being an android, it’s not clear whether or not the same psychological rules apply to him. Dreams come from the unconscious, but does Data have an unconscious? If so, what do the dreams mean? If not, why are the dreams so violent? It gets to the point where Data is having waking dreams and even attacks Troi.

The solution to this episode is pretty ingenious. I don’t really feel compelled to reveal what happens here. However, I will say that it was probably best to have this as a separate story rather than try to integrate it into Birthright II. This is some major character development for Data. There have been episodes where Data’s programming has malfunctioned or Data has been taken over, but this is more than that. This is either what Data was designed to do or a side effect of that. When Data oversleeps, Troi points out that it may have been the intent to have Data do so from time to time.

The rating I want to give this episode is 4.5 stars, but I’m going to round up. The dreams don’t come across as cheesy or cheap. In fact, it’s about what I would expect from Data. It was interesting to see Data hooked up to the holodeck so that Captain Picard and Chief Engineer La Forge could see what Data was dreaming about. Someone who’s never seen the series before isn’t really going to understand a lot of what’s going on. Someone might be able to figure out most of it by watching, but I think there are a lot that would ask questions if they were given the opportunity. However, I do recommend this episode.

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