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Star Trek The Next Generation: Sub Rosa

"Dinna light that candle!"

I had the dubious honour of getting to review Next Gen's most detested episode. Now I get to tackle what is probably its second most detested episode.

And I couldn't be happier.

This is an abysmal episode, unquestionably one of the absolute worst episodes Next Gen ever produced. Which makes it something of a joy to review. Well, I say review, but this is really just me trashing this episode with overwhelming glee.

The Enterprise visits Caldos, a planet that has supposedly been terraformed to resemble the Scotland Highlands. Except sets are expensive so all we ever see is a quaint cottage and a small cemetery. The production compensates for this total lack of genuine Highland scenery by having everyone wears a lot of tartan so we know just how Scottish this place is. Which is just stupid. If they really wanted it to feel Scottish they should've had some of the locals demanding independence from the Federation. Or have one of them give Picard a Scottish pound note as change and dare him to say something about it. Now that's an authentic Scottish experience. Not sure why there'd still be money on a Federation colony, but this is not the kind of episode where sense and logic are abundant resources.

The ship is there so that Beverly can attend her grandmother’s funeral. Is this a luxury the entire crew enjoys or is it reserved only for senior officers? (Especially the ones the captain fancies?) If Ensign Burke asked if they could take the ship back to Earth so he could attend his niece's christening would Picard say yes or tell him to shut up and get him some tea. Earl Grey. Hot. Surely Starfleet Command at least has some objection to the captain using their flagship as a glorified taxi service? I mean, this is why you have shuttles. Are all the admirals just too damn busy being evil and crazy to notice?

While sorting through her things, the good doctor finds her grandmother’s journal (because there’s always a journal in these types of story) and discovers that Nana had herself a boy toy and kept a detailed account of their erotic encounters. Now, any sane person in this situation would take the journal, throw it into the fire, burn the house down and salt the earth. But not our Dr. Crusher. No, she instantly gets hooked on Nana’s steamy liaisons with her young lover. Gross, Beverly, that's your grandmother you're reading about. I know it has probably been a while and Jean-Luc still won't get the hint, but surely there's less icky erotic fiction available? How would you feel if Wesley turned your sex life into a bedtime story?

Ugh, now there's an image that's going to haunt me until my dying days.

Beverly goes back to the ship and naturally tells everyone about how addicted she is to Nana's kinky escapades, which is worth it just for the Picard faces:

Later that night, after falling asleep reading another juicy chapter of The Story of Oh I am Going to Need So Much Therapy, Beverly gets a visit from Casper the non-consensual ghost, who keeps whispering her name in a way that he mistakenly thinks is seductive. She dismisses it as a dream, but on some subconscious level must realise she's trapped in some lame 19th century ghost story because she goes to visit Nana's grave on a dark and stormy night dressed like the heroine of some lame 19th century ghost story.

"Excuse me, could you direct me to the nearest moor?"
There she runs into Ned, the local doomsayer, who repeats his earlier dire warnings about Nana's candle and the ghost, but never really explains how he seems to know so much about all this. I doubt Nana went around broadcasting that she was having ghost sex across the entire colony. Did he sneak a peek at her literary pornos? I bet he did, the perv.

Anyway, Beverly ignores Ned's warnings and returns to Nana's house only to find it creepily filled with flowers. Did Ronin create them with his ghost powers or did he just clear out the local florist? I wonder what it is like running a small business in the Federation. Since the state provides for everyone, bankruptcy is never an issue so you wouldn't have to worry about maintaining a steady business, which means you wouldn't need to maintain good customer service. So is the Federation full of brutally honest shopkeepers unafraid to tell their customer when they are being absolute morons?

It truly is a paradise.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Beverly's dead stalker. So it turns out that Ronin is really a ghost from Glasgow (yeah, right, with that accent? That has to be the most unbelievable part of this entire episode) and he's been having hot steamy ghost sex with the Howard women since the 1600s. Luckily for him they all had daughters and never changed their name when they got married. Except for Beverly, that notorious rebel. Wait, what was he going to do if she'd died? Would he have put the moves on Wesley?

Ugh, there's another image that's going to haunt me until my dying days.

After discovering that all the women in her family have been haunted by a horny ghost for almost 800 years, Beverly naturally does the rational thing and tells friends and colleagues all about it. Just kidding. She keeps it all to herself because ghosts are no big deal, especially sexually abusive ghosts that have no concept of consent. Plus, Ronin stops her from thinking straight by giving her lots of ghost orgasms, allowing Gates McFadden the chance to show off her aroused acting. Or maybe it is her seizure acting. I can't really tell.

Now hopelessly addicted to Ronin's ghostly allure, Beverly quits her job and goes to live in her Nana's old house. Ronin clearly isn't just an abusive ghost boyfriend, he's a controlling one as well. At first I didn't get why he needed her to move to the planet. The guy lives in a candle which are notoriously mobile. Then I realised that he's obviously shit scared of Picard's raw sexual magnetism. I mean, look at him:

No way Ronin's creepy ghost powers are gonna compete with those arms. Which is probably why he tries to kill him first chance he gets. Stupid fake Glaswegian ghost, doesn't even know the main character has impregnable plot armour. No wonder he lives in a candle.

At the same time all this is going on there’s some weird shit happening with the colony's weather control system. This is all caused by Ronin. Why? No clue. Probably so the rest of the cast has something to do while Beverly is off having PG-13 ghost sex. This all leads to another hilariously bad scene where Data and Geordi get zapped by zombie Nana. Yes, as well as ghosts this episode also has zombies. Which would be great if it wasn't so very fucking terrible.

Shocking. Positively shock.
Seeing her breakfast buddy/lust object nearly die knocks some much needed sense in Beverly. In fact, it knocks a mountain of sense into her because she figures out in record time that not only is Ronin an alien instead of a ghost, she also figures out exactly what kind of alien he is and exactly how to destroy him. Although, to be honest, I doubt you needed to attend Starfleet Academy to figure out that destroying the candle would do it. I mean, it was obviously the source of his power. Even fucking Ned knew that.

Later, in Ten Forward, Beverly tells Deanna that for all the horrible things that Ronin did to the woman in her family for hundreds of years, he at least made her Nana happy.

Really? That's how you're going to end it? By effectively giving the bad guy a free pass?

Stuff like this is why no one likes you, Brannon.

Notes and Quotes

--Two of the tombstones in the cemetery have the names Vader and McFly.

--The actor who played Ned, Shay Duffin, was actually Irish.

--This is the last TNG episode directed by Jonathan Frakes.

--Felisa Howard was over 100 when she died. Ellen Albertini Dow, the actress who played her, lived to the age of 101.

--How is the coffin completely clean when it is beamed up? There's not a bit of dirt anywhere. Is transporter tech really that precise? Also, why doesn't the ground underneath it instantly cave in the moment it's beamed up?

Crusher: "I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother's journal."
--Way to overshare, Bev.

Zero out of four Scottish pound notes.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig


  1. I enjoyed your critique of this dreadful episode. It was so dreadful, in fact, that in my recent TNG watch, I actually gave up about 15 minutes in. I think it was the only episode of the series I found literally unwatchable. When Gates McFadden started writhing around on the couch, I just couldn't take it any more. And it sounds like it gets even worse from there!

    I get that they were trying to experiment with a different genre, to change things up in a series that by season 7 was getting a little tired. But Victorian gothic is a tricky proposition with modern women. It might have worked better if they had played it for laughs and had the ghost retreating as Crusher throws all her scientific knowledge at trying to understand why she's feeling this compulsion instead of getting swept away by it. And that ending (which I could not persevere to reach) is just...yuck.

  2. Somewhere I read and interview with Gates McFadden. She talked about this show. I'm paraphrasing, but she went to the higher ups and basically said "I'm in love with a CANDLE, I can't be in love with a CANDLE, this doesn't work". Then she ended up having to act like she was in love with a candle. My big impression was she hated this episode as much as, if not more than, anyone else.


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