Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Imaginary Friend

Written by Edithe Swensen, Brannon Braga, Jean Louise Matthias, Ronald Wilkerson, and Richard Fliegel
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont

It’s somewhat reassuring to see that those in the future haven’t evolved so much that all of the same problems we see in our current world completely disappear. I know I’ve heard from friends whose fathers were in the military how awful the moving around constantly was, and how hard it was to make and keep friends. I don’t know how this problem would completely disappear unless our sense of community disappeared and we no longer sought out the companionship of those with whom we shared a common interest. As a parent, I see how my children evolve from when they are young and just needing a companion, to as they enter their teens, seeking out those who share the same interests and values they do.

The Ship’s Counselor, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is counseling Clara (portrayed by Noley Thornton), a girl whose father is concerned about her imaginary friend named Isabella. Clara has lost her mother and has been moved around from starship to starship, following her father’s transfers. Troi reassures her father, Daniel (portrayed by Jeff Allin) that this is perfectly normal. Once Clara settles in and makes new friends on the Enterprise, the imaginary friend will disappear, she reassures.

The Enterprise, meanwhile, is investigating the phenomenon of a nebula formed around a neutron star. Viewers then are shown a curious spot of light touring the ship in various places, finally settling on observing Clara in the arboretum. It then manifests itself as Clara’s imaginary friend, Isabella (now portrayed by Shay Astar).

The ship begins experiencing a slower velocity versus engine output, then the situation seems to correct itself. Mysterious strands of energy appear around the ship, causing it to lose power.

“Isabella” conveniently disappears when a grown-up appears. Clara goes along with what “Isabella” asks, even when it’s against the rules. This worries both Counselor Troi and her father as it seems that Clara is doing things she shouldn’t do and then blaming her imaginary friend. After Counselor Troi lures Clara away to a ceramics class leaving “Isabella” behind, “Isabella” shows signs of being something out of The Exorcist. She annoys Counselor Troi first, then sabotages Clara’s attempt to make friends with the Klingon Worf’s son, Alexander (Brian Bonsall). When confronted by Clara, “Isabella” threatens her with “dying like everyone else”.

Troi tries to help Clara now work through her fears of “Isabella”, thinking she is still dealing with an imaginary friend. “Isabella” appears when Troi is in Clara’s room and attacks Troi.

The story here is fairly predictable, especially to fans who have been watching Star Trek for some time now. Episodes like this began to creep up at the end of The Next Generation’s run, and it became a huge problem with Star Trek: Voyager. Some alien or unknown force puts the ship in peril and it’s up to the crew to figure out how to save the ship. In this case, it’s Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) who attempts to reason with the alien who is getting to see what humans are like from the perspective of our children – when life seems unfair and there are too many rules.

The child acting in this episode is better than most in this series. Especially comparing it to the episode Disaster. The actress who portrays Clara does a decent job, especially for someone so young. The young actress who portrays “Isabelle” is exceptional. Shay Astar at times displays stoic unattachment to the people and events around her, then can switch to seeming to have a deeper bond with Clara and a desire to be her friend; to please her.

The job of the adult actors here (aside from Sirtis and Allin) is to generally be annoyed whenever Clara shows up somewhere she’s not supposed to be. They do that admirably, reminding me of adults who get to Disney World only to be annoyed that there are actually children there. The only stand-out performance is by Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan. She makes a brief appearance when Guinan encounters Clara (and “Isabelle” in her invisible state) in the 10-Forward Lounge. It’s interesting to see how Guinan manages to relate to the young girl and create a bond that, in all likelihood, would have been very important to Clara.

This is not a memorable nor important episode of the show. It’s really more filler in between the better ones. As that, it’s not bad. If I saw it on television, I wouldn’t shut it off, but it’s also not something I would seek out to watch again.

Previous episode in series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Perfect Mate

Next episode in series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – I, Borg

7 replies »

  1. Whoopi Goldberg did seem to play a very key role, despite being just a bartender, in TNG.

    I loved her talk with Warf about making him laugh before his promotion to Lt. Senior Grade!

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