Star Trek The Next Generation: The Next Phase

"Are you saying I'm some sort of blind ghost with clothes?!"

Geordi and Ro find themselves inadvertently haunting the ship after they are apparently killed in a transporter accident.

This is one of those episode that I've always really liked without really being able to explain why (super useful on a reviews site, I know!). I think there's something really interesting about a character witnessing their own funeral, seeing how the people they work with and hang out with react to their death — plus, scenes where people suddenly pop back into view in the middle of their own funeral are always fun.

It's interesting that the episode's story is told from Ensign Ro's point of view, rather than main character Geordi's, but this is perhaps unsurprising considering that Ro has so much more to learn from the experience than Geordi. Geordi is a man who is reasonably confident in his position, in his friends and in his friends' feelings for him (even the one with no emotions). He's also considerably less inclined to assume they're really dead — while neither he nor Ro are religious, Ro has had a religious upbringing and is more inclined to connect their experience to that. Thanks to her prickly outward attitude and numerous issues, Ro is such a fruitful character for stories like this — I also really like season six's 'Rascals', in which Ro is once again part of a group suffering weirdness as the result of a transporter accident.

Meanwhile, we also get to see some of our main characters' reactions to the death of a close friend, for the first time since 'Skin of Evil' back in season one. Worf's Klingon perspective on death in the line of duty (happiness and joy) is a particularly interesting perspective.

Riker wanting to eulogise Ro is rather sweet. Their relationship is definitely one of the more interesting ones on the ship and Ro's desperation to learn what he was going to say about her is both hilarious and entirely understandable. (It may or may not have had something to do with the events of 'Conundrum'). She finds a good outlet for her frustration as she declares "Now I suppose I'll never know what you were going to say about me!" and phasers Riker in the head.

This episode is also just a joy to watch, and very well written (see the size of the Quotes section!). The scene where Ro and the Romulan chase each other through the ship while everyone goes about their business is great fun. As well as being a nice and unusual chase scene, it's also a unique glimpse into everyday life aboard the Enterprise. Because the ship is so big and their missions so long, crews' quarters often look more like family homes than military ships' berths.

The beauty of Star Trek is that it can do stories about all sorts of things, from morality plays to detective stories to adventure stories to political stories. Most of my favourites, though, are about character, and while this might be a smaller, quieter entry than some others, it is a really nice little character piece with interesting things to say about several of our heroes.

Bits and pieces

 - Picard mentions that when he first met Geordi, Geordi was working as a pilot, which is a nice nod to season one.

 - Considering the number of episodes kicked off by transporter accidents, one can't help feeling Doctors McCoy and Pulaski have a point about them.

 - Chief O'Brien isn't on duty in the Transporter Room and a female officer is now being addressed as "Chief". O'Brien reappears in season six, so it seems unlikely he's moved over to Deep Space Nine already — he must be on holiday.

 - Susanna Thompson, playing a Romulan here, played the Borg Queen in two two-part Star Trek: Voyager stories ('Dark Frontier' and 'Unimatrix Zero') before being replaced by original Borg Queen actress Alice Krige for the finale. She also appeared in another episode of TNG ('Frame of Mind') and an episode of Deep Space Nine.

 - If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy Stargate SG-1's 'Crystal Skull', which is a bit sillier ("GIANT ALIENS!") but also very good.

Quotes

Crusher: You're right. I just hate making out death certificates. I really felt for Crusher when she delivered this line.

Geordi: No. You may be ready for the afterlife, but I'm not.

Ro (to Picard): I'm dead, you can't even hear me, and I'm still intimidated by you.

Ro: Please, not the death chant!

Data: I never knew what a friend was until I met Geordi. He spoke to me as if I were human. He treated me no differently from anyone else. He accepted me for what I am. And that, I have learned, is friendship. I do not know how to say goodbye.

Geordi: Data, that's a nice sentiment, but a little premature.

Ro: They think we're dead and they're having a party?!

Geordi: Maybe we need to build our own interface device. If it can teach Ro Laren humility, it can do anything!

Great script and a fun story. Three and a half out of four interrupted funerals.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Terrific review, Juliette. I just re-watched this episode and it's so much fun, better than I remembered. A lovely character piece, especially for Ro, and a reminder of how wonderful Michelle Forbes is, and always was. A great episode for Geordi and Data, too. Especially enjoyed the funeral in Ten Forward, planned and carried out by Data, with Ro and Geordi materializing in the end. As you said, Juliette, wouldn't everyone enjoy attending their own funeral?