Star Trek 198: Night Terrors

198. Night Terrors

FORMULA: The Loss + The Tholian Web + Day of the Dove

WHY WE LIKE IT: Some creepy and atmospheric scenes.

WHY WE DON'T: The technobabble plot. Having to see Beverly and Troi sans make-up ;-).

REVIEW: Night Terrors attempts to be a supernatural thriller with plenty of chills and scares, but it severely impeded by the too-early realization that the crew is hallucinating the weird goings-on. This dispels a lot of the suspense, and while some of the set pieces are atmospheric and creepy (in particular the body bags sequence), we know there's no actual danger. Good direction, but these are only images, independent ideas that aren't instrumental to the story.

Another problem is the overt technobabble that motivates - and resolves - the plot. When looking at plots, I often find myself thinking in terms of role-playing games. Specifically, if I were a gamemaster forcing this plot on my players, would they be able to find the solution on their own? The answer is no, since the phenomenon and its solution are total inventions. As with the players, so with the audience. The REM sleep deprivation stuff is better, but it just seems like the plot exists to force Troi to be the hero (despite Data's strange "hero shot" at the end). Directed dreaming as a plot device? They're pushing it. Oh, it works in that context, but it takes a lot of work to get to that conclusion. Never mind the fortuitous "one moon..." epiphany that relies on 1) Troi not knowing what a hydrogen atom looks like, 2) her asking Data "watcha doin?" at the best possible moment, and 3) hydrogen being placed smack dab in the middle of complex molecules instead of at the beginning. If the details manage to bug me so much, it's because the rest of the episode barely manages to get my attention.

There's a lot of padding here, since any of the set pieces could be removed without hurting the plot or even long-term characterization. The mutiny brewing in Ten-Forward, for example, ends with Guinan pulling a gun, which is either cool or totally naff, depending on your mood. However, I will recommend the previously mentioned body bags sequence, Worf's near-suicide, the effects in Troi's dream sequence (though not her dialogue), and the return of the O'Briens.

LESSON: Keep your text messages short and to the point.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Some scenes are worthy of your attention, but the plot is pretty dull as the characters one by one lose both their ability to speak coherently and their make-up artists.


Anonymous said...

It always bothered me that the aliens didn't have any of the most common element in the universe to cause their little explosion, but they had the other made-up element (if I remember that correctly - it's been a while) in quantity and on-hand.

Anyway, I enjoy your blog.

Siskoid said...

Thanks William. Are you related in any way to the illustrious Chris Sims?

Anonymous said...

Related in the sense that I read the ISB as well, but in no other (though since we are both southerners, you never know).


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