Written by Brannon Braga, Jeri Taylor, Jeanna F. Gallo, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
One of the problems with the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was that there were way too many character-driven episodes, especially involving the family of crew members. Many of these episodes weren’t bad, it’s just that piled one on top of another they got to be too much. Fans wanted to see more of what they liked the show for: action and high-stakes interplay between the various species.
Sub Rosa was perhaps the most erotic of all the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What makes that odd in a way is that the focus is on the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher (portrayed by Gates McFadden). She had a very sensual episode before this in The Host. What makes it odd is that with all the sexual tension over the years between her and Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart), she has appeared quite reserved.
The Enterprise travels to the terra-formed colony of Caldos IV where Dr. Crusher attends the funeral of her grandmother, Felisa Howard. As she’s reading her grandmother’s journal, she learns she had a young lover named Ronin. The man who acted as caretaker for Felisa, Ned Quint (portrayed by Shay Duffin) warns Beverly not to light a certain candle in the house and that the place is haunted.
After visiting her Nana’s grave, Beverly returns to find the house filled with camellias, her Nana’s favorite flower. Ronin (portrayed by Duncan Regehr) comes to her and tells her he is an 800 year old spirit from Scotland. The two embark on a torrid love affair, and Beverly decides to leave Starfleet. The excuse is to become a healer on Caldos IV, but in reality she wants to be with Ronin.
The problem is the way Sub Rosa is written. Who would believe that Captain Picard would throw away his Starfleet career over a sensual woman and some great sex? That seems to be what the writers are saying here; Dr. Crusher is so weak-willed that this spirit gives her some great sex and suddenly she’s ready to walk away from everything for him. Of course, in the end, there’s another explanation for why she was so willing to toss everything she’s worked so hard for aside for him. However, that really comes off sounding lame and apologetic, as if someone said “this isn’t how Dr. Crusher would act” so the writers had to come up with a different explanation for Ronin’s svengali influence over her.
The B-story of the problems the colony is having after 100 years is somewhat interesting. The weather malfunctions make a great setting for what Beverly is going through as well. That this is all drawn together in the end is a plus, because it really has the feel initially of just giving the rest of the crew busy work, but there’s a payoff to come.
Gates McFadden is good as Beverly. It gives her a chance to reach out for more from her character, but it’s a very different side of Crusher. In some ways it’s too sharp a contrast and it comes off as making her a simpering idiot. McFadden does the best she can, it’s the material that’s lacking.
That all of her friends except Picard just seem to shrug their shoulders and let her run off to mate with a ghost is also a problem and unlike the way we’ve seen the crew rally around each other in the past.
Sub Rosa is a perfect example of why fans were so alarmed when Brannon Braga (writer of the teleplay) was given so much power over the shows. He might have some talent, but he is very over-rated and his episodes usually aren’t satisfying in the end. Despite the wonderful sensualness of Sub Rosa, it feels much the same way.