The Good: Good enough character development
The Bad: LONG-belabored plot, Uncertain acting
The Basics: An attempt to produce a horror episode of Star Trek The Next Generation" collapses under its own weight.
Every now and then, especially in the fourth season of Star Trek The Next Generation, a television show attempts to go off in a different direction. Usually, it will be something awkward like a drama attempting a supernatural episode or The X-Files doing a comedy. In the fourth season of Star Trek The Next Generation, experiments ranged from trying hard character drama ("Family"), comedy ("QPid") and mystery ("Clues"). And it even attempted horror. It was called "Night Terrors."
Some experiments are more successful than others.
"Night Terrors" finds the Enterprise in an area of space where the U.S.S. Brittain is adrift. Finding the crew all dead, save one comatose Betazoid, the Enterprise personnel is intrigued. Soon, however, they learn they are trapped in a Tychen's Rift, an area of space where energy is being siphoned off into a hole creating a dampening field. In other words, the ship is trapped. Add to that the crew is slowly going psychotic. Deanna Troi is going on a nightly journey where she hears voices and soon she believes those voices are the key to escape and saving the Enterprise. If only she can figure out what they mean in time . . .
The problem with "Night Terrors" is that, outside making a horror episode of Star Trek The Next Generation it does little. Moments of the episode "read" as a mystery as the Enterprise crew attempts to piece together what happened with the Brittain and how they might escape the Tychen's Rift. The problem with the story on that front is that the significant facts of the mystery are indecipherable. That is, much of the information Troi is receiving in her strange flying dream sounds like mumbles and while Troi clearly may hear what the voices say, for the bulk of the episode the viewer may not.
Beyond that, there is little to the story. Like most horror stories, "Night Terrors" hinges on surprise, usually in flash images. Thus, Dr. Crusher sees a morgue full of bodies sitting up, Picard hallucinates in a turbolift and Worf becomes suicidal. The problem is, it does not hold up over multiple viewings. Surprise of this type does not replay terribly well.
On the bright side, Deanna Troi has an episode where the fate of the ship rests entirely in her hands. It's refreshing that in some ways the problem fits her talents; the solution to the problem is not physical, but rather emotional and cerebral. "Night Terrors" gives Deanna Troi the limelight to solve the problems of the Tychen's Rift and in the process proves Troi to be a dynamic and vital character.
Alas, however, the acting is not as strong as the idea of the episode. Instead, Marina Sirtis gives a fair performance and the rest of the cast gives marginal supporting work. A prime example of the back-up lack of strength is in the Worf scene. Michael Dorn fails to convince us that Worf is actually suicidal. Similarly, Gates McFadden's frustration over not being able to find a solution terribly quickly doesn't ring true. Instead, it feels like someone acting frustrated.
Finally, the plot drags on. The episode gets trapped in a rut, pun intended, early on. Almost as soon as the Brittain is found and the Betazoid aboard rescued, the plot remains stagnant. After Troi's first dream, the plot slowly progresses while she cluelessly stumbles through the clues until she finally has an epiphany.
In short, this is a boring episode, suffering from poor writing and a simple plot too long extended. As far as Star Trek horror episodes go, forget Star Trek The Next Generation's "Night Terrors" and go to Star Trek Deep Space Nine's "Empok Nor." That is a terrifying episode. But, if you want to stay with this part of the franchise, go with "Conspiracy" (reviewed here!).
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fourth season by clicking here!
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© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.