Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’- S05E22 – Imaginary Friend

In the twenty-second episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, CREEPY CHILDREN AGAIN. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I think I find season four of this show more consistent than this one, though there have certainly been some stunning stories here. This episode isn’t bad, but it’s not one of the most thrilling or provocative things the show has ever done. But it’s solid, a creepy story about childhood, parenting, and the unknown. Yes, this show once again wants to terrify us with unnerving children, but Shay Astar is just so goddamn good at this that I’m willing to admit that this was more entertaining than I expected it to be.

I think the emotional core to “Imaginary Friend” makes this as satisfying as it is. I went through a huge, traumatic move at age 8, when my family packed all we owned and traveled hundreds of miles south from Boise, Idaho to Riverside, California. I remember being convinced that I’d never make another friend again and that I’d be alone forever. I don’t think it was that irrational of me at age eight to think so dramatically because… well, that’s a hard time to have to deal with something that is pretty upsetting. I have a lot of friends who were military kids, too, and their experience mirrors Clara’s a lot, lot more than my own does. It’s hard not to have that sort of certainty and security, you know? And unlike most folks I know who moved around a lot as kids, I started moving around a lot at age 16.

I know that’s one of the reasons why it was difficult for me to have a large number of longstanding friends. That kind of shit takes time, you know? Friendships have never just happened for me, at least not super close relationships. Acquaintances, sure, or casual, superficial friends, but like Clara, I found it difficult to make anything lasting. Now, I never went through the imaginary friend phase. I didn’t need to, frankly, because I had a twin brother. (And one day I’d like to write about all the weird and cool shit we did to socialize, which included an entirely fake language we would communicate in before we could fully speak English.) But I understood Clara’s need to create an imaginary friend. As Deanna put it, it was the only stable, dependable thing in her life. That didn’t mean her father was terrible, and he was clearly doing what he could to give her the best life imaginable. But she had to do something on her own to comfort her when her father was working.

It’s just unfortunate that an unnamed being MADE THE IMAGINARY FRIEND REAL AND THEN TURNED INTO THE WORST CHILD IMAGINABLE. The escalation of Isabella’s behavior is a slow, dreadful thing, especially since you know it’s only a matter of time before she completely turned on Clara and the rest of the ship. And it’s not like the show wanted us to think that Isabella wasn’t a threat; right from the beginning, she’s portrayed as unemotional, risky, and self-interested, and it only gets worse and worse. The scenes she is in are all unbearably uncomfortable not just because of her attitude, but because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL SHE’S GOING TO DO NEXT.

And it’s all so heartbreaking to watch because Clara doesn’t deserve this. She always knew her friend was imaginary; she knew she was pretending. So when she finally does get a friend? That person is mean, cruel, and MURDEROUS. I’m glad, then, that the resolution of this isn’t cruel or condescending. It’s especially neat because of that little speech Picard gives where he admits that sometimes, adults forget to think about how their behavior comes off to children. But at least there’s a framework for Clara to work with to begin to make friends aboard the Enterprise. ALSO: NO MORE CREEPY CHILDREN. I’m surprised Picard didn’t give another monologue about how much he doesn’t like them.

Regardless, this is a strangely charming episode. I loved getting to see Deanna working on counseling in a very hands-on way throughout “Imaginary Friend,” as I’ve thought that was something the show should have focused on more of in the past. She’s a wonderful force for positivity and support in Clara’s life, and even though I’m certain we won’t see this character again, it’s comforting to think that at the very least, Clara will have Deanna on her side.

The video for “Imaginary Friend” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at Borderlands Books, Book Riot Live, and Windycon this fall! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Kings, season 1 of Sense8, season 1 of Agent Carter, seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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