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Star Trek The Next Generation: Realm of Fear

“The best way out is through.”

This was an interesting episode with some ups and downs.
The central character in this episode is Barclay, an occasional character who has several mental health issues including a phobia of transporters. Of course, when he finally submits himself to transportation he runs into an interesting glitch which eventually turns out to be crew members from a scientific research vessel, caught in the transporter stream. It takes Barclay facing his fears to save the crew members, himself and possibly the Enterprise.

I like Barclay as a character. He isn't perfect and that brings a bit of reality into the show. Our main characters, even though we sometimes see their flaws, are hero material. Barclay is a brilliant engineer and a Starfleet officer but he is also anxious, somewhat neurotic and lacks self-confidence. It makes sense that some people would have issues with transporters. You are literally torn apart molecule by molecule and then reassembled. However, it has become so every day that people just accept the process. It is similar to airplanes. If you really think about it we entrust ourselves on a regular basis to a form of travel that should be outside the capacity of humans. It is no wonder that many people have a fear of flying.

The actor, Dwight Schultz, did a good job of portraying the absolute terror of someone forced to face their phobia. When he was getting ready to be transported for the first time, he looked like he was going to his death. For people with phobias this is what it's like (I have a phobia of elevators – seriously, why do people travel in metal boxes that let you off when they want to!). I was a bit disappointed that the writers had Barclay get over his phobia so fast and at times Barclay's responses were a bit too clownish or maudlin. If you are going to have a more normal person with some mental health issues, they shouldn't always be for laughs.

 On the other hand, I did like the way that the show dealt with mental health issues in the workplace. Everyone just accepted that Barclay was Barclay and tried to support him as best they could. Still Barclay is probably correct in saying that if he had revealed his phobia it would have affected his career with Starfleet. Too bad that stigma is still an issue that far into the future.

Bits and Pieces

O'Brien has a lovely piece in this episode. We find out that he's been working with transporters for 22 years and that he used to be afraid of spiders.

I'm not sure why you would retry an experiment that destroyed the crew of another ship even with a force field. Wouldn't it make more sense to try it over on the other ship? Safety first, people.

We learned a bit about transporters. The usual time of transport is 2 - 2.5 seconds and bandwidth is a consideration. You don't have to worry about a little static charge accumulation.

Transporter Psychosis used to be a thing. I wonder what other kinds of issues were around. What happens if you lose a bit of your liver or your baby finger?

I do hope I never run into a Talarian Hook Spider. I don't have a phobia of spiders, but...

While 'plexing' is not an actual thing, there is a form of acupuncture called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) tapping which uses acupressure to deal with emotional issues.


O’Brien: “Sickening, crawly little things don’t you think, all those legs.”

Barclay: “Maybe ignorance is bliss.”

La Forge: “Reg, transporting really is the safest way to travel.”

Barclay: “Computer, more birds.”

A nice stand alone with a recurring character. Three out of four wormy things that are actually scientists.


  1. It was an interesting idea to examine a phobia in the context of Starfleet, and it's certainly easy to imagine someone being afraid of being transported. But there were a few things that were off about it that you mentioned: the "let's recreate this disaster" idea, and the treatment of phobias wasn't very realistic. And as someone who's been binging the series, it's really jarring to here Jordi and O'Brien saying no, they've never had any strange transporter accidents. It was only a few episodes ago that Jordi and Ro Laren were transported out of phase with this universe and assumed dead. It also struck me as very hard to believe you could actually get through the Academy without being transported, unless you had an "accommodation for disability".

  2. Since I used to love the A-Team as a kid, and Murdock was my favorite team member, it is great seeing Dwight Schultz on TNG, and Barclay is perhaps its most relatable character for me.

    My mom is deathly afraid of snakes, to the point that it seems a close parallel to Barclay's fear of transporters, so it does seem like he should have taken longer to get over it, and it should have been treated with more reality involved. It's still good stuff though!


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