In the seventeenth episode of the fourth season of The Next Generation, NOPE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For ophidiophobia (snakes) and mental illness.
I found “Night Terrors” to be an entertaining episode with a number of creepy moments, but it follows a fairly familiar pattern for The Next Generation. Shall we?
1. Something goes horribly wrong.
It depends what that is, but it usually involves something that incapacitates the ship or one of the crewmembers. There’s a part of me that’s eager to know what Starfleet thinks of the Enterprise and the crew aboard it. Do they gather around the water cooler or in the mess hall during breaks and just read the logs for entertainment? Because how often does the Enterprise break down? If this is the flagship of the fleet, thenâ€¦ holy shit, how often do the other ships break down? Is it worse? HOW DOES STARFLEET FUNCTION AT ALL.
Anyway, I feel like that’s a separate post in and of itself. (Or perhaps a fanfic series!) The point is: we are presented with a conflict that seems impossible. Here, the Enterprise faces an energy drain while simultaneously dealing with an inability to enter REM sleep. It’s unnerving, creepy, and destructive. To the writers’ credit, this particular episode is fairly thrilling, given that I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. But that’s also part of the pattern.
2. Everyone fails to figure out what’s going on.
If you’re going to do episodic television where plots are always resolved within a single episode, then you’ve got to at least do something to keep audience interest within these smaller stories. For the most part, that’s the main thing that season four of this show has done. These stories feel tighter, more affecting, and more brutal. But “Night Terrors,” while a solid story, felt like it belonged in season two or three. It’s so self-contained, and the mystery lasts a long time. In that sense, you could argue that much of The Next Generation follows the experience more than the story, especially when you get episodes like this one where none of the characters grow or change at all.
This is definitely one hell of an experience, I’ll admit that. The show lifts several creepy tropes from horror and suspense films, such as mysterious sounds and paranoid scenarios. There’s even a hellish sequence where Riker finds snakes in his bed. (NOOOOOOPPPEEE.) It’s effective and unsettling, for sure. But what does it tell us about these characters? About the universe?
3. The day is saved.
We’re given a solution to the conflict at the center of “Night Terrors,” and it’s a bit of a strange one. I did not understand “Tyken’s Rift” at all, not even with a visual accompaniment. I got that some phenomenon in space was draining the energy of the ship, and I understood that the unnamed species had unknowingly caused the Enterprise crew to stop having dreams. I didn’t need to comprehend the science to get the gist of the story, for what it’s worth, and like I said on video, there’s an aspect to this story that felt so ridiculous that odds are it was bound to happen during space travel. Telepathic beings who tried to send a message through Deanna Troi’s nightmares? That’s pretty unique.
But by the end of “Night Terrors,” we’ve got a neat little solution that wipes the slate clean for all the characters and sets the Enterprise free. After such a disturbing incident, you’d think there’d be some sort of follow-up to the horrifying and upsetting things these people did. But that’s the pattern that this episode clings to. When the day is saved, all the ramifications of the events of the episode are also washed away. Will Keiko and O’Brien ever have a conversation about what he said to her? What about all the people who brawled in Ten Forward? WHAT ABOUT GUINAN’S AMAZING GUN??? In the grand scheme of things, these stories don’t really matter. The episode ends, and that’s it.
This probably sounds like I hated “Night Terrors,” but I didn’t. It just pales in comparison to the vast majority of season four, especially since the writers and the cast really stepped up their game in the episodes prior to this. I wouldn’t call this a mediocre story. I just think that after having watching so many fine episodes, I just wanted something more.
The video for “Night Terrors” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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