Written by Pamela Douglas, Jeri Taylor, Shari Goodhartz, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Les Landau
There are occasionally episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that on paper end up looking better than they actually come off. In the case of Night Terrors, the storyline itself seems very good. The problem with this episode is that it has the feel of one that the writers did not correctly estimate the length and needed a lot of filler.
The Enterprise comes across the Brittain drifting in space. The Brittain is a science vessel and had been missing for about a month. After receiving no response to hails, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders an Away Team to beam over. They find everyone on board dead with the exception of one Betazoid.
Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), herself a Betazoid, immediately takes over the care of the catatonic man. Meanwhile, after investigating the incident and preparing the Brittain to be tractor-beamed to the nearest starbase, the Enterprise finds that it is itself dead in space, unable to move, despite the fact that there are no evident reasons for the ship not to function.
After concluding that the crew aboard the Brittain killed each other, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) warns the same fate may be about to befall the Enterprise.
This is a typical science-fiction story that has the crew of the ship racing against the clock to solve a problem before they all perish. There are some nice twists and turns to the story which keeps the viewer engaged. However, much of the episode has the feeling of being filler in between the main parts of the story.
It begins to become evident that the crew seems sleep-deprived. At first, the story leads us to believe that is because everyone is experiencing nightmares, as the viewer is shown the nightmares which are plaguing Troi. However, it is not necessary to show Troi’s nightmares to us over and over again. The first and last time is all that is really needed to convey the story. Likewise, is her sitting with the catatonic Betazoid from the Brittain over and over again. Is it really necessary?
Apparently, it is to make the episode fill the time slot, and that’s a shame. There’s plenty of good material here to use without all of this “filler”. There are some terrific scenes of the hallucinations the crew experiences while in the throes of sleep deprivation. Of particular note is Dr. Crusher’s scene in the morgue of the Enterprise, but it’s really not that shocking or surprising as we’ve seen scenes like this in many horror movies before. More could have been done with that, as well as more with the alien race the Enterprise has encountered.
The writers do get a big plus for continuity. When the android Data (Brent Spiner), who is unaffected by what is happening to the rest of the crew, deciphers that the Enterprise has become stuck in a Tyken’s Rift (a massive rupture in space that drains the ship of energy), the suggestion is made to use the ship’s deflector dish as a weapon as was done against the Borg in The Best of Both Worlds Part I and The Best of Both Worlds Part II.
The acting is good, but nothing spectacular. Marina Sirtis does fine as she is pushed to the forefront, but the problem is really the material she has been given. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when it seems that you spend almost all of an episode focused on you either floating in a dream swimming towards light or at the bedside of a catatonic man trying to look concerned.
The biggest problem, however, is that the unraveling of the mystery never seems quite clear to the viewer. Coupled with the need for so much filler, the episode plods along to its conclusion. It’s not a horrible episode to watch, but it’s a shame that something with such a good premise couldn’t have been pulled off a bit better.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Galaxy’s Child