Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise crew is affected when they are adrift in a remote binary system, and find themselves unable to dream.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser itself is pretty promising. The crew enter a remote binary system and find a missing science ship, drifting. Deanna beams over with the away team where they find the bridge crew killed in gruesome ways. There’s one guy left alive, but he’s catatonic. It’s a nice, creepy intro. Plot A is about the Enterprise predicament and how the crew is affected, there is no plot B. The engines of the science vessel, Brattain, won’t work, and we find out the Enterprise‘s don’t either. We see a final captain’s log, and she’s obviously nuts. Deanna starts having weird dreams, and the whole crew start hallucinating and getting agitated with each other, which is most of the episode. The dreams Deanna is having are the key to an alien message, and this is used in conjunction with the aliens to free both ships. The plot gets off to a great start, but then slows down and nothing really happens until the last 5 minutes or so.
Favorite Scenes: This whole episode is meant to be creepy, a kind of Halloween episode? A few of the scenes do work, most of them don’t. One that does takes place in the morgue, another is showing the other captain’s log. Along with the teaser we have three decent scenes in this episode. The turbolift scene with Picard…I mean, is that supposed to be scary?
Use of Cast/Characters: This is odd. The whole cast is used, but no character development really occurs with any of them. Troi and Data (and Guinan) are the only ones who can keep functioning and they are used the most, so there’s that. Troi does save Worf’s life, too. However this doesn’t feel like a Troi episode or a Data episode. The whole cast is used, even Guinan and O’Brien, but it doesn’t really feel like an ensemble episode either. I feel pretty bad for Marina Sirtis, who had to be hanging up by those wires–which can be spotted by a sharp eye–all for sub-par scenes which just make her look awkward.
Blu Ray Version: The closeups of the Brattain (or Brittain, heh) are so clear you can actually see the decals used to spell Brittain on the ship. There is a deleted scene that was not included with the Blu Ray release, however there is a description of it on TrekCore. Click on the link to read about it. Take a look at the chemical compounds listed at 37:03. There are multiple references to staff members in their names, such as “Hoffmeisterite” “Hutzelite” and “Moorite Polyronite B.” Ronald D. Moore, producer, and Ronald B. Moore, visual effects supervisor: Why both of them? “Poly-Ron-ite”!
Nitpicks: If you have access to the episode promo watch it. In the last couple of seconds it shows what’s supposed to be a ship coming toward the enterprise…it looks like someone had a piece of ugly crystal on their desk and said, ‘hey, let’s put this in the promo and fling it at the Enterprise.’ It’s bad, and lazy. The ship in the actual episode is this crystal, recolored blue and made blurry.
In the teaser Data scans the missing science ship and can’t identify if there are life forms on it. Why couldn’t he identify the Betazoid? No reason is ever given.
There’s a scene where Troi and Crusher warn the captain they need to leave, and he says “we’ll be on our way within the hour.” They having nothing to say to that. The ship’s leaving anyway (didn’t know the engines were out yet), why warn to leave when they’re leaving? This scene could have been taken out of the episode, or merged with the one where we’re debriefed on what’s happening.
Pause playback at about 1:17. Notice that on the ship the name is spelled BRITTAIN, whereas everywhere else in the episode it’s spelled BRATTAIN. I looked it up, turns out the ship model was mislabeled. It probably could have been digitally fixed for this release.
Overall Impression: I don’t dislike this episode. I do like the concept, but it’s poorly executed. The problem with this being a plot-driven episode is that nothing is really happening for most of the 45 minutes. There is no action, the Enterprise isn’t doing anything, and none of the crew can do anything to facilitate or advance the plot until the end. Everything is paralyzed. So the time is taken up with how the lack of dreams are affecting various crew members. If this was meant to be a scary or spooky episode, put more spooky scenes in it! If it’s about dreams, then do some cool dream stuff for Troi: they could’ve made this into a Troi episode where she has to navigate this whole world of dreams and figure out what the aliens want, while the crew slowly goes insane. But they didn’t. This is one of the weakest episodes of season 4. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: There is a dedication plaque on the Brattain‘s bridge. You won’t be able to make it out. Every dedication plaque on every ship has a quote of some sort on it. The one for the Brattain‘s says “…a three hour tour, a three hour tour.” Heh. The gun that Guinan uses is actually a repainted prop from Buck Rogers.
This episode was rewritten and rewritten multiple times by Jeri Taylor. Michael Piller said the pace of the show was so slow it ran 9 minutes over and had to be cut. He offered something of an explanation for the quality of this episode:
[I]t was the first show right after Christmas hiatus and I don’t think everybody was quite back on their feet yet. As a result, the energy level was way down and the timing was off and the nature of the problem made everybody start reading slowly…The bottom line was that it was no longer a script because they were dream deprived. They were all talking slowly and after a while that gets pretty boring, and the middle of that show sagged and was slow, boring and disappointing.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. Unfortunately the next one is at least as bad.