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Night Terrors

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WARNING:  The following post contains critical plot information relevant to this week's TNG episode, "Night Terrors", so if you're skittish about being scared...go 'way.

In brief:  not quite a standout, but far better than I expected.

That sounds about right.  If not for one major flaw, I think it could've been extremely good--but I thought it was pretty good regardless.  Here's what happened:

The Enterprise enters an uncharted binary system in search of a science vessel, the Brittaine, which has been missing for about a month.  It finds the Brittaine, intact but adrift...and all the crew are dead of extremely
unnatural causes.  

All but one, that is.  The scientific advisor, Hagan, a Betazoid, is alive, although catatonic and withdrawn.  While Troi tries to get through to him, Geordi and Data try to restart the Brittaine's engines--but although
everything's working fine, there's no motion.  Before long, Beverly tells Jean-Luc of her findings--the crew of the Brittaine, with no apparent outside influences, killed each other.  Meanwhile, Troi has a nightmare, of floating
adrift in a fog with a voice saying only "eyes in the dark, one moon circles..."

Four days later, with no answers in sight, and tempers mounting (O'Brien gets paranoid about Keiko's alleged "affair" with another man, for example, and Picard hears his ready room door buzz many times with no one there), Picard decides to leave the area.  Unfortunately, the engines suddenly fizzle out and stop working, leaving the ship adrift.  Data's analysis (SIX days later...) shows that they're caught in a "Tychon rift", and need a large explosion (greater than even the photon torpedoes can generate) to break free.

Picard, realizing that one of the two top officers needs to keep hold of his sanity, sends Riker off to a nap.  Unfortunately, neither one gets any rest: Picard hallucinates in the lift and comes to the bridge screaming like a baby, and Riker feels snakes on his leg moments after getting into bed.  After a brief conversation with Data in which Data suggests the deflector burst (a la "The Best of Both Worlds") as a possibility, Picard tells Data that he'll need to help Picard out more and more as this continues.

After Bev has a brief hallucination, she figures out what's wrong: except for Troi, no one has had any dreams since this began, and the dream-deprivation is driving them all slowly insane.  As unrest builds in Ten-Forward (with a crewman, Gillespie, deciding he'd rather go down fighting than quietly in his room), the deflector burst is tried, and fails miserably.  After this, Worf, feeling that his fear makes him no longer a warrior, tries to commit suicide, but Troi stops him and takes him to sickbay.

Finally, after Data's been appointed Acting Captain, Troi figures out that her nightmares are not dreams, but _messages_.  There's another ship on the other side of the rift, and its beings are trying to communicate telepathically on Troi's mental frequency (thus jamming out all humanoid REM frequencies at the same time).  After some study and a bit of good fortune, Troi and Data realize that the other crew needs hydrogen from the Enterprise in order to create the necessary explosion.  As Data does this, Troi communicates to the aliens that they should release the catalyst, and both ships are freed.

Hey, now that was nice and short.  Now, onwards to some comments:

First, the major flaw, so I can get it out of the way and talk about good things. The Enterprise needed an explosion, right? Er, guys--there's a WHOLE SHIP right outside for you to blow up (with a torpedo, if nothing else)! Now, it's quite possible that it may not have worked, but it should have been thought of. And while the REM-deficiency might have made Picard or Riker or Worf punchy enough not to think of it, Data has no such excuse. Bad, BAD problem--because that gets you out of the hole right there.

But apart from that, I was quite pleased.  To be more specific, I very much enjoyed the whole creepy atmosphere of the whole thing.  (Of course, it helps that a very jumpy friend of mine was in town for this one...:-) :-) ).  I almost expected to see that Rob Bowman had directed this one.  He didn't--Les Landau, of "Sins of the Father" and "Family" fame, did, but he did a good job with it.

Also, for once, for bleeding ONCE, Marina Sirtis turned in a standout Deanna Troi.  This is quite possibly the only time in TNG history that Troi has been feeling pain/nervousness/etc. and NOT gone into screaming ninny mode.  Rather the reverse--she looked like hell at the end, but still had her wits about her, flustered though they were.  Bev was far more hysterical than Troi was (which makes sense, too, since she was hallucinating and Troi wasn't); and Gates did almost as good a job as Marina this time 'round.  Kudos to the two usual weak links.

But just about everybody else was terrific, too.  Riker and Data were fine, if nonexceptional.  Worf's one major scene was very well played--it was interesting to finally hear Mike Dorn put something other than anger and
annoyance into his voice, and it worked for me.  And Picard--oh, Picard. Damn, but Patrick Stewart is good at looking haggard when he needs to.  And boy oh boy, he did not look at _all_ good by the end of all this.  The major weak link was probably Keiko, who wasn't particularly interesting in her 2 minutes of screen time (although I rather enjoyed O'Brien's scene in Ten-Forward right afterward).  Guinan had some good moments, too, particularly her last scene--but that's unexpected enough that I won't say much about it.   (I will say that it worked for me.  Hell, doesn't EVERY bartender have a gun stashed under the bar?  :-) )

Let's see...what else...hmm.  Technical was fine--I found the music well above the norm this week, particularly near the end (reminded me a little of the close of "The Battle", actually), and it was nice to see the Brittaine, not to mention some terrific shots of the Enterprise every so often.  I'm sure there will be some comments on the "mental frequency" bit, though, so let me add something quickly on that:

Yes, it's probably stretching the point a bit.  I'm not a biologist (although my fiancee is, and she was uneasy about the concept), but it might be iffy.   However, without definite evidence that it was WRONG, I can go with it.  In particular, I can go with it because if you believe that there is some sort of "fundamental frequency" for REM brainwaves, everything else they used in the show follows nicely.  One small stretch works for me, as long as everything else doesn't require any greater ones.

Well, I think that may be about it.  This is rather shorter than usual, but (a) I've got a very early plane to catch tomorrow morning, and (b) my body's finally decided to let itself catch all the diseases I couldn't get last week
during finals, so I'm beat.  Anyway, I'd definitely say it's worth seeing--just forget that there's another ship there, and you're fine.  :-) The numbers, then:

Plot:  5.  The "blow up the ship" concept really hurt here.
Plot Handling:  9.5.  Majorly creepy, precisely as intended.  It only misses the 10 because it automatically invites comparison to MASH's "dream" episode, which nothing beats.  :-)
Characterization:  10.  Awfully nice--when even Marina turns in a standout performance, something's gotta be right...
Technical:  9.  Nice-looking stuff, and not bad on the science.

TOTAL:  33.5/4 ---> 8.5.  Not too shabby...not too shabby indeed.

NEXT WEEK:

Geordi might end up as a big blue glowing thingy.  I'm frightened.  :-)
Later, folks.

Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjuliet
INTERNET:  tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"Snakes...why did it have to be snakes?"
                --if you can't place this, too damn bad :-)
--
Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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