235. Realm of Fear
FORMULA: Hollow Pursuits + The Enemy Within x Lonely Among Us
WHY WE LIKE IT: Barclay's always fun.
WHY WE DON'T: Ridiculous transporter science.
REVIEW: Barclay episodes have been excellent up until now, which is why Realm of Fear is such a disappointment. We know this guy is full of anxieties, especially in social situations, but does he have to have every phobia under the sun as well? Apparently, he's never used the transporter! Well, that's ok. I guess Pulaski avoided it a lot too. And the episode starts off reasonably well, with Reg coming up with inspired engineering solutions (left over from the Cytherian probe?).
But soon enough, the crew is letting him shirk off orders to have counseling sessions, anxiously tapping the back of his ear, and indulging in hypochondria. Though it's meant as comedy, it falls a little flat amidst the creepy autopsy scene and the wildly stupid science. The latter is a major impediment to enjoying the show. At first, it's interesting to see Reg's POV as he is dematerialized, but once the "matter stream" becomes a place in which you are aware and in which you can move around, we're in la-la land. If the transporter had ever been described as a carrier wave moving through hyperspace or something, it might be acceptable, but even this very episode makes it clear your molecules are being turned into data, then recomposited at your destination, which really doesn't fit with events seen here. So we're just rolling our eyes while we're supposed to care about ugly hand puppets attacking Barclay. (Never mind the bit where those worms are returned to human form...)
There are saving graces. Troi racing after Olympic speed walker Barclay is the one actually funny scene in the episode. It's also good to see that Barclay has earned some brownie points over the course of the series so that Picard takes his word when he describes his "hallucinations" as real. And O'Brien gets some development with the way he overcame his fear of spiders, inadvertently passing it off to Barclay. Miles comes off very well in this.
LESSON: Fear is the mindkiller.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium-Low: Ahead of its time in that it could have been a Voyager episode, and I don't mean that in a good way. The science fantasy plot undercuts the tension and undermines Barclay's potential as more than recurring gag.