In the twenty-fourth episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, Ro Laren and Geordi are trapped in a very weird situation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This is a very solid episode of the show, one that makes me thrilled to be able to just enjoy the hell out of science fiction. Look, I just love the genre. I’m thankful that while it took me a long, long time to get into fantasy, I grew up on many of the greats within the genre. I mean, I read Ursula Le Guin and Bradbury and Asamov by the time I was ten. I watched The X-Files in real time, AND WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT CHANGED ME FOREVER. The majority of what I’ve read in my life counts as science fiction, too, and it’s what genre I’m writing my own novel in. There’s something about the wackiness of it all that I love so much. You know why?
Because you can write an episode like this and there’s an audience for something this absurd.
For what it’s worth, Ronald D. Moore’s script is clever as hell. As I watched this, I thought about all the episodes of genre shows that deal with invisibility. Then I thought about how unfair that was, not only because this was on the air in 1992, but because that’s technically not what’s happening here. Moore combined both the invisibility trope and the trope where people can interact with a world, but no one can see or hear them. It’s a brutal predicament because there’s no way for Ro and Geordi to communicate with anyone around them. They can’t touch anyone, no one can hear them, and they can’t even write a note or send an obvious message. (Whichâ€¦ well, I have to ask: how come no one plunged through the floor? Why was the floor solid? Why was Ro able to touch her chair or the console without passing through it?)
So there’s a lot of angst here born of frustration, and it manifests different in each of these characters. Geordi is determined to find a solution, while Ro believes that they’ve actually died. It’s a fascinating dichotomy, especially since it allows us to see an emotionally vulnerable side to Ro that we’ve not experienced before. Honestly, it made me want another episode about the Bajorans because there’s so much we haven’t explored regarding their religion and culture! Here, we learn bits and pieces of their view on death, all through Ro herself, and it’s pretty damn cool. I mean, what if you’d not thought of the afterlife in years and then suddenly were convinced you ended up in it? That’s kind of a traumatizing thing to go through, you know?
Another aspect of “The Next Phase” that I found super rewarding was the uniqueness of the situation. For everyone aboard the Enterprise, it seemed super obvious that Ro and Geordi had died. They didn’t come back from a botched transporter beam, and no one survives that. Therefore, Ro and Geordi get to have the rare chance to see how people react to their death. I admit that it was a little strange that no one seemed all that sad when Geordi was “dead.” Hell, the closest to “sad” that we got was Data, and that’s already ridiculous. Has this crew gotten so used to death that they don’t even react much to it anymore? Granted, I understood why the memorial wasn’t all that depressing, since Data brilliantly styled it in a way to make it a celebration.
Regardless, it was still neat to get to see some of this. That perspective made me squish my face a few times because GEORDI IS DATA’S BEST FRIEND and PICARD’S STORY ABOUT GEORDI IS TOO MUCH and RIKER REALLY HAS GROWN TO RESPECT RO LAREN and it’s so much to deal with. But I have left one thing out of this review thus far. The use of the Romulans is pretty fucking cool because the story isn’t about them, you know? They’re the background to a larger tale. But there’s still one hell of a plot-twist in the midst of this. THAT ROMULAN WAS ALSO PHASED OUT OF THIS REALITY AND HOLY SHIT, I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE IT. But you know what? The Romulan inclusion is totally worth is so that we can see Geordi push the Romulan INTO OUTER SPACE. The more you think about it, the more fucked up it is.
I’m here for it.
The video for “The Next Phase” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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