Episode #124: The Next Phase

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Episode #124: The Next Phase

Post  BoG on Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:38 pm

THE NEXT PHASE (5th season; episode #124)
Directed by David Carson; written by Ronald Moore

A very entertaining episode that builds on the notion of having the Enterprise crew believe that two of their fellow crew members (La Forge and Ro) are dead; of course, they're not - they're more like living ghosts. Ghosts, you may ask - on a sci-fi series? OK, not really ghosts - there IS a scientific explanation. This could have been an eerie episode but it's not a ghost story.

In the plot, the Enterprise comes to the aid of a damaged Romulan ship. La Forge and Ro (Michelle Forbes) are beaming back to the Enterprise when something goes wrong and their patterns are lost; since the crew can find no trace of them, they are presumed dead. This is not just a transporter malfunction; it involves experimental cloaking technology that not only cloaks objects but also makes them intangible (see also the episode The Pegasus). This technology is usually applied to things like ships, not living beings, which is why things get unusual here. La Forge & Ro end up in different sections of the ship - still alive, kind of - but no one else can see, hear or touch them.
This is another episode which benefits from the presence and acting of Forbes as Ro. Hers is a slightly arrogant character and its faintly ironic how she can't get anyone's attention right after she wakes up from the transporter mishap. This type of story has been done on other sci-fi series - a character becomes a kind of ghost and is able to observe other characters who cannot sense the invisible character. Of course, there were films like Ghost, released a year before this.
In this case, after Ro realizes she is undetectable to others and can pass through solid objects, her first thought is that she is dead, that this is her after-life. She finds herself embracing old Bajoran beliefs about the after-life, such as making peace with her old life, even though she's always been a bit of a cynic. La Forge, however, will have none of that; he believes them to be still alive, albeit in some transparent state - a phased state. The clues involve more techno-babble - the presence of chroniton particles; these particles seem to be detected in relation to their ghost-like movements. The obvious fallacy to this whole premise is that if such phased people phase through objects and bulkheads, what enables them to walk on the floors as they do in this episode? Question

The story takes an even more urgent turn because La Forge and Ro are also able to eavesdrop on the Romulans as well as their shipmates. They find out that the Romulans have sabotaged things so that the Enterprise will explode the second it goes into warp. The two phased officers now need to warn everyone of this threat besides just finding out a way to return to normal. There are a couple of fairly nail-biting scenes when Picard is on the verge of ordering the ship to go to warp and is stopped at the last second. There are also exciting scenes when a phased Romulan officer is unveiled and ends up chasing the phased Ro throughout the ship. The fate of the Romulan remains the only really eerie bit.
But, the best scenes are those of the various crew members talking about La Forge and Ro as the two invisible officers look on. Especially amusing is Riker's surprising intention to speak about Ro during the planned funeral services. The interaction between Riker & Ro continues to be tense here, echoing the early scene in Conundrum, as Ro continues to challenge her commanding officer. However, it's evident that Riker at least grudgingly admires her in secret - perhaps she reminds him of himself when he was a younger officer. Or, perhaps more revelatory, he wishes he were more like her, more defiant in the face of bureaucracy and protocol. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10
TNG Trivia: this was Ro's 6th episode appearance and her last in the 5th season. She next appeared in Rascals, in the 6th season. A 'bottle show' episode such as this was intended as cost-cutting; but, this ended up as one of the most expensive episodes due to all the FX.

Last edited by BoG on Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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