Written by Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
The Enterprise locates the U.S.S. Yosemite – vessel not heard from in several days, apparently dead in space and caught in a plasma stream. Because of the ionic interference of the plasma stream, no life signs can be detected.
This story brings back the recurring character of Lt. Barclay (portrayed by Dwight Schultz). He comes up with the idea of linking the two transporters to cut through the interference and allow a team to transport from the Enterprise over to the Yosemite. The Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) is so impressed that he asks Barclay to come along on the mission to the Yosemite.
This succession of events reveals that Barclay has a fear of transporting. It’s a perfectly natural fear when your body is being taken apart molecule by molecule and sent over a stream of energy to someplace else where it will be reassembled, molecule by molecule. The rest of the crew sees stepping onto a transporter pad as something as natural as stepping out the front door of your house, while I sympathized with Barclay. The Ship’s Counselor, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) tries to help him overcome the fear and talks him into going to the Yosemite. All is well until while transporting back from the Yosemite, Barclay thinks he sees some type of worm-like creature in the data stream.
Geordi and O’Brien (Colm Meaney) go over the transporter with a fine-tooth comb and find nothing. After an episode in the lounge, Barclay believes he is suffering from transporter psychosis, a condition for which there is no known cure.
Barclay has always been the most human of the characters from the 24th century. Instead of being quite sure of himself, he is insecure; instead of fitting in well with those around him, he is at times awkward and even anti-social; instead of being seemingly fearless and courageous, he has deep fears and at times has difficulty overcoming them.
Comparing the Barclay of Realm of Fear to the Barclay fans first saw in Hollow Pursuits he is slowly overcoming some of his problems. He seems to be more sure of himself professionally; that his ideas can be a great contribution to his ship and very helpful to his fellow crewmates. It’s nice that the writers have stuck to the slow evolution of this character through the course of several different episodes.
However, the effects for the main story are pretty dismal. The effect of Barclay in the transporter is really not that great. I suppose the producers felt that they had to show an intact body in the data stream as a point of reference, but it really shouldn’t happen that way. Likewise, the “creature” in the data stream with Barclay looks like the same creature George Lucas felt the need to add to the Sarlac pit in Return of the Jedi, and it just doesn’t look right in there.
What saves this episode from being dismal is the fine acting by not just Dwight Schultz, but by those around him as well. LeVar Burton and Colm Meaney seem to genuinely believe his fears instead of continually patting him on the head and placating him. This is also an evolution from the way they would have reacted when the character was first introduced. Marina Sirtis is sufficiently supportive as Troi, not crossing the line into sheltering him from the possibility that his fears are unfounded, but allowing him the room to face his fears.
The story itself is pretty decent, but the execution just feels like it could have been better. The pacing seems a bit off and consequently, the story seems to drag in spots. The solution at the end of the story is pretty good and gives viewers a nice payoff for what they invest in the episode.
If there’s one nit-pick I have, it’s when Geordi states there have been two transporter accidents in the last 10 years. It seems like more than that just on this show over the last five seasons 🙂
It’s not a terrible episode, but it could have been a bit better. I wouldn’t recommend this to a new viewer trying to get a feel for the series, but for fans who enjoy the show, it’s not one I would say is not worth watching.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time’s Arrow Part II
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Man of the People