Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Phase

Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Carson

The Enterprise comes to the aid of a Romulan science vessel that has blown a graviton generator. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) leads an away team to the Romulan vessel. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Ensign Ro ( Michelle Forbes) attempt to beam back with the old generator to replicate it, but something happens during the transport procedure and they appear to be lost.

As the rest of the crew deal with the problems on board the Romulan vessel, Ro appears near sickbay. Not feeling well, she enters sick bay and asks for help. Everyone appears to ignore her until she realizes by listening to a conversation between Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) that they can’t see her. Ro believes that she is dead and is now a ghost.

As she walks around the ship believing she is dead, Ro locates Geordi down in Engineering. They realize that they are real enough to each other, although Geordi refuses to believe that they are dead. They also can wander around the ship and eavesdrop without others realizing it, which makes things interesting at times.

Eventually, Geordi overhears a conversation between the android Data (Brent Spiner) and Captain Picard which gives him some reassurance to his belief that they aren’t really dead. It’s complicated, and Geordi’s explanation is techno-babble at its best, but essentially they are one step beyond being cloaked. Geordi and Ro travel to the Romulan vessel with Data and the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn). There, they overhear a conversation between the Romulan science officer and his assistant where they plot how to blow up the Enterprise after all the repairs are complete.

As Ro and Geordi travel around the ship, they are leaving behind chroniton particles whenever they move through a bulkhead or computer. Ro encounters a Romulan who has phase-shifted like them and a chase and battle ensues throughout the ship.

Data is decontaminating the ship of the chroniton particles. What they are using seems to affect Geordi and Ro’s visibility. They try to figure out how to be in a place where a powerful enough beam will hit them, causing them to be “seen” by as many people as possible. They get the idea of appearing at their own memorial service.

The one thing that stands out about this episode is the effects. Since Geordi and Ro can walk through walls, computers, tables, and even people, there are some terrific shots in that area. In the beginning, when Ro is in sickbay there is an awesome effect where the Captain appears to walk right “through” her. During the chase scene with the phase-shifted Romulans, it’s fun to watch the Romulan and Ro run through the various crew’s quarters undetected, through walls, etc.

However, this brings up the one glaring major flaw of the episode. If they can go through walls, tables, and people, how come the two of them just don’t sink through the floors and out of the ship? Rather than trying to explain this ability or give a reason (as was done in the movie Ghost) it’s just ignored as viewers are expected to suspend disbelief in this area. It’s this flaw that to me keeps this from being a five-star episode.

The acting here is terrific. LeVar Burton has to recite tons of techno-babble, and he seems to believe and understand every single word of it. I think this is one of the few episodes where the scientific dialogue did go completely over my head and I was pretty lost in that area. This surprises me because Ronald Moore’s stories have usually been very accessible for the average viewer.

Michelle Forbes shows Ro in a different, but very believable, light. Ro has to come to grips with the thought of being dead and in the spirit world against what she’s believed all her life. Ro may be a Bajoran, but she’s obviously not one of the very religious ones that we see in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Her performance is stoic, but I could feel the emotions roiling inside of her as her disbelief is challenged by what she is experiencing in the beginning.

This is quite a memorable episode for many Star Trek fans. The effects are great and the story is good, with one exception. Like Ro, I was left wondering what Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) would have said about her at the memorial service.

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

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Inner Light

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