Friday, July 27, 2007

Star Trek 231: The Next Phase

231. The Next Phase

FORMULA: Wink of an Eye x regular speed + Contagion

WHY WE LIKE IT: Fun idea.

WHY WE DON'T: It's all a little ridiculous, isn't it?

REVIEW: While it may be fun to see a couple characters run through wall "phased", it just doesn't make any sense. What keeps them on the floor? How can they breathe? Ride a turbolift? How can a disruptor beam also be "phased"? Even within the rules set by the episode, Ro touches her helm panel and chair, and the phased Romulan sits in a chair that rocks when he rises. And then, there's the contrived delay until a phased character tries to touch someone who's ignoring them. But that's all just a high concept premise. Suspend your disbelief because 1) it's pretty neat to see Geordi and Ro walk through walls and 2) it's not really what the story is about.

It's really about character. Being invisible allows Geordi and Ro to have one-way conversations with characters they would normally not talk to, and even attend their own funeral. Ro, as usual, is the star here. How intimidated she is by Picard even though he can't see or hear her. The great comic bits as she wonders what words Riker found to say at her funeral (these two are still going at it in the opening scenes). And she gives us a look into Bajoran spiritual beliefs and practices, though nothing quite matches what we'll find out in DS9. On Geordi's side, we have Data's funeral arrangements and Worf being happy for him. I have a hard time believing Geordi would be among the honored dead. It's not like he died in battle. Seems like a Klingon would find a transporter accident to be one of the worst ways to go.

And of course, you do have the adventure story with the Romulans planning to blow up the Enterprise, a chase scene through various quarters (including a look at Ensign Gates' intimate life - nice to see what is basically an extra get some small development), and an evil Romulan who'll end up a floater. Geordi finding a way to communicate with Data is a fun bit of business, but he could have been smarter about it (like creating a pattern or even shaping his fields like words). And finally, I think the episode features the best "laugh" ending in all of Trek. Played pitch perfect as to be convincing.

LESSON: When walking around phased, stay well clear of the hull.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Some silliness and gonzo physics keep this episode from being an absolute gem, but fans of Ensign Ro should find something to like. It's at least fun and exciting.


Matthew Turnage said...

I agree that the internal logic of this episode is really questionable (not phasing through the floors bothers me most) but if you can set that aside it is a lot of fun. One of my favorites from season five.

Bill said...

Try this rationalizion: the artificial gravity generators in the floors block phasing with whatever exotic technology they're using. How's that?

Siskoid said...

Yes Bill, that would be my explanation as well.