Star Trek: The Next Generation – Night Terrors [4.17]

The Enterprise investigates a Federation ship that had gone missing, in which the entire crew had killed each other and themselves in a fit of paranoia.  The Enterprise becomes trapped in the same rift that had trapped the other ship, and the Enterprise crew begins to exhibit similar problems, which Dr. Crusher deduces is caused by an inexplicable failure of the crew to be able to dream.  Only Data is unaffected, while Troi alone among the crew has continual nightmares as she attempts to help the only survivor of the original ship, a catatonic Betazed.  Troi finally realizes that the dreams are really telepathic messages from another alien race that is also trapped, whose

Teleplay by Pamela Douglas and Jeri Taylor. Story by Shari Goodhartz. Directed by Les Landau.

Previous Episode: Galaxy’s Child • Next Episode: Identity Crisis

Night Terrors is a serviceable episode of Next Generation that suffers from a common problem of the show, which is a failure to allow enough time in the resolution of the story to be truly satisfying.  The episode is ostensibly a Troi-story – she is after all the character who comes up with the key to the solution of the dilemma, and who is tasked with actually communicating to the mysterious alien race.  And yet at the end of the story, we don’t even get to see Troi recovering from her dream ordeal.  Or interacting with the other Betazed guy she’s been sitting vigil over for the entire story.  Or getting congratulated by anyone for her life saving work.  Indeed, we don’t even get to see her actually deliver her message to the aliens.  We instead get last see her in an awkwardly directed and edited scene of her floating around in that spooky cloud, shouting “Where are you?” and “I need to find you!” over and over again.  Then explosion, Data orders Picard to bed, Picard thanks Data, roll credits.  It’s an emotionally abrupt ending that robs whatever satisfaction could have been there to find in the conclusion.  We are left wondering who these aliens were?  How did they feel knowing that their lame attempts to communicate led all those people to kill each other and themselves?  How did that poor Betazed guy come to terms with things?  Not that we need to go into all of that extensively, but some acknowledgement of these issues and story points wouldn’t have come amiss.

Beyond these failings, the story does have quite a few things to recommend it.  It certainly establishes a creepy atmosphere.  Picard’s nightmare in the turbolift is well done, and Beverly’s hallucination in the morgue is an amazing bit of direction.  Troi, Data, and Crusher all get good roles here.  The two women in particular are the best highlighted of all the crew in their attempts to deal with their condition and still function effectively.  And I’d say that this one of the better episodes at really using Troi’s empathic abilities in a genuinely useful way.  In addition to communicating to both the catatonic guy and the telepathic aliens, she even gets to save Worf from a lack-of-dreaming-induced suicide attempt.  It’s also notable that we get to have a Troi-focused episode that just involves her doing her job as a Starfleet officer, and not falling in love, arguing with her mother, or coming under some sort of attack due to her empathic abilities but failing to tell anybody about it before things get too bad.

So we have a decent Troi episode, but in the end it’s only a decent episode, not a spectacular one.  It’s a testament to the strength of the third and fourth season that now we’re really waiting for spectacular episodes, but sadly this isn’t one.  It’s watchable, but I’m grateful I’m now seeing it on DVD and can get right on to the next one.

Shout Out to the Past:
There is a reference to the phaser modifications made during the Best of Both Worlds epic to fight the Borg.

Guest Cast:
• John Vickery, who plays Andrus Hagan, appeared in a few episodes of Deep Space Nine as Gul Rusot and in Babylon 5 as Neroon.

• Brian Tochi, who plays Ensign Kenny Lin, appeared in the original series episode And the Children Shall Lead as Ray.

• Lanei Chapman plays Ensign Sariel Rager (the helm officer) for the second time.  I didn’t notice until this time that she is the actress who plays Whoopi Goldberg’s daughter in the movie Rat Race.

• Eww, gruesome deaths of the other ship’s crew

• Troi’s nightmare is creepy the first time through, but gets stale and repetitive as the episode progresses.

• Troi’s bedclothes don’t look particularly comfortable.

• Okay, so everybody on this other ship killed each other, inexplicably.  Really, it should not take anyone by surprise that something strange starts happening to our crew.  They really should be taking some sort of precautions.

• Patrick Stewart does an excellent job of playing terrified.  His “As you were,” is brilliantly understated.

• The morgue scene is very creepy, but the music is a bit of a giveaway.  Might have been better if they had done it without the music, to take us more by surprise.  “Go away.”  Go Beverly!

• Gates McFadden does a good job in the scene after the morgue scene where she’s talking to Picard about dream deprivation.

• I guess really there are very few non-human crew members on board the ship.  There’s no talk about how any other species are effected by this no dream thing.  Although it becomes clear that Klingons are just as dependent on dreaming to retain sanity as the humans are.

• Not many sees to be bothered when Worf abruptly leaves the Bridge in the middle of his duties.

• Nice moment between Worf and Troi when she saves his life.  She holds his hand.  Does this foreshadow their short-lived romance?

• If Data is the acting Captain, why is he waiting for Picard to give orders?  I guess he doesn’t wait too long

• Guinan pulls a very strange looking gun out from behind the bar.  She seems pretty unafffected by things

• Data’s final duty as Acting Captain is order everyone to bed?  His final duty?  Surely not, if he’s going to be the only officer functioning for the next eight hours.

Crazy Talk: Captain Riker (Huh?)
This episode would not have lost anything by making it into a Captain Riker episode, except for Patrick Stewart’s Shakespearean “No!!!!!” as he thinks he’s being squashed by the turbo-lift ceiling.

Dialogue High Point
Nothing really stands out, but I guess the most memorable for me comes from Data as he and Troi figure out their survival strategy:

When we are ready, the only message you should attempt to convey is, “Now.”

Previous Episode: Galaxy’s Child • Next Episode: Identity Crisis

One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Night Terrors [4.17]

  1. It’s a good episode with some really creepy bits. But it’s not a great episode. The morgue bit is definitely my favourite, and the most memorable part of the whole episode.

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