Data and Troi save the day through directed dreaming and split second timing.
This episode brings together two really interesting ideas. The first is what happens to a ship when it is stuck in the space age version of the "doldrums". When ships were mostly powered by sail, they would fear getting stuck in the doldrums also known as the horse latitudes - 30-35 degrees north and south from the equator. The weather on the ocean in these areas is calm and dry, not exactly what you need to sail a ship. Ships could get stuck there for weeks -- even months -- as their food and water depleted. Tyken's Rift is the space version of this. First the USS Brattain becomes trapped there and then responding to their distress call, the Enterprise. It might have been interesting to see how a crew would respond to long-term boredom and scarcity of supplies, but since it only took 29 days for the Enterprise to reach even uncharted space, something else had to be added: sleep deprivation.
I've always been fascinated with sleep deprivation and its effects. Although most of us have stayed up for 24 hours, after even 36 hours of no sleep some people will hallucinate. I think sleep deprivation explains some of our mental health issues and aberrations, just ask a new parent how well their brains are working. Although the crew can sleep, they cannot dream and they manage to get well into their 10th day before things really start to fall apart.
While I liked these ideas, I wasn't as happy with their execution. It was interesting to watch the crew, particularly those we know well, disintegrate but some of it was over the top, even a bit of hamming it up. As always, Patrick Stewart did an excellent job. He looked older and tired and responded to his deterioration with as much dignity as he could muster. I was disappointed that O'Brien turned into a jealous fool and Worf into a suicidal ninny. I would have appreciated more subtlety. The dream sequences with Troi were a bit over the top as well but I am willing to give leeway for the limitations of special effects at the time.
I did enjoy that it was Data and Troi who saved the day. Crusher had a central role in this episode as she tried to piece together the reasons for the crew's difficulties. Even Guinan got to be a bad ass. I think a show works better when all the cast members get some air time so I was happy to see this.
Bits and Pieces
Stardate: 44631.2 in an uncharted binary star system.
Picard had ready explanations for why a crew might kill each other - drugs, virus or poison.
You would think that a starship with such comfortable uniforms would have better sleep wear. How could Troi sleep comfortably in that thing? Even Riker's pjs looked uncomfortable.
I for one, am never going into space without an android. Data is really useful.
The story about Picard's grandfather was quite poignant. A good chance at character development left by the wayside. More of this exploration of how the crew felt about the circumstances would have been welcome.
There is no way to block telepathic communication.
Decoding the dream messages from the aliens was a bit far-fetched. Aliens should be a bit more straight forward in their distress calls.
Crusher: “We have to dream in order to survive.”
Troi: “To admit that you’re afraid gives you strength.
Guinan: “This is a little souvenir I picked up from Magus Three. That was setting one. Anyone wanna see setting number two?”
Data: “As my final duty as acting captain, I order you to bed.”
Not such a bad episode but had so much more potential. Two out of four hydrogen atoms.