In which Beverly loses an old friend and everyone she’s ever known, but I remember why I love Star Trek.
Beverly is in charge of this episode. She narrates how she’s looking forward to meeting up with her mentor, Dalen Quace, at Earth Spacedock. Dude looks like a walrus. Beverly is also the only person apart from Worf’s parents to acknowledge O’Brien for anything other than giving new orders. Dalen is nearing the end of his life, and reminiscing about all the people he used to know, and how as life goes on people tend to forget about you. I mention this because it seems pertinant to the title.
Wesley and Geordi are arguing about an experiment Wesley has been running with new warp field configurations. Inside a spacedock. With the Starfleet flagship. I keep thinking about Contact where Dr. Arroway has to lease time on the VLA for SETI because there’s limited large equipment and everyone has a project. First, this is one of the few ways scarcity shows up in Star Trek, and second, how does Wesley rate experiment time on equipment that bends spacetime? The Traveler must have really gotten Picard’s attention. Not enough to keep Geordi from yelling at Wes, though. Wesley shuts down the warp field with a bright flash, and they two of them check to make sure Wesley didn’t break the ship. Beverly Crusher is no longer in the shot.
Now, I get that everyone is an adult and expected to be responsible about departure times, but are we expected to believe that it’s nobody’s job to have the computer cross-check a duty roster with registered commbadges and whatever they use to keep track of children to make sure that everyone is on board before leaving Starbase? Because Beverly goes to visit her mentor Dalen only to find him gone and his quarters unoccupied and the computer having no record of him.
That is the reason I asked, not because I remember this episode extremely vividly. I don’t know where you would have gotten that idea.
Beverly goes to Worf to see if he can help track down Quaice. Despite the fact that the computer can’t find him, Worf offers to order a search on the theory that his communicator might have been damaged. Doesn’t explain why his stuff wasn’t there, though. Or why Data’s scans which they can evidently do after all don’t detect him. Or why Picard doesn’t remember why he never received a request. Or why the starbase has no record of Quaice at all. It’s as though he never existed. Forgotten by history itself.
In fact, O’Brien remembers Beverly coming into the transporter room, looking around for a few moments, saying “Thank you,” and leaving. And nobody seems to wonder why she would’ve come into the transporter room. Will is still acquiescing to her attempts to figure out where Quaice is, but in the face of more and more ways Quaice doesn’t exist, it’s only a matter of time before they just start blatantly humoring her. She goes to give O’Brien a checkup and calls in some of the other doctors, but they don’t exist either.
Wesley calls Picard down because they found an anomaly that might help explain things. Apparently, he’s been experimenting with Kozinski’s warp field equations (Recally that Kozinski was an unknowing fraud, it was all The Traveler) to try to improve the engines. They were trying to hold a stable warp bubble (again, in spacedock) when it collapsed outwards in a burst of radiation that included but was not limited tot he visible spectrum. In theory, if Quaice were caught in the bubble, he could have been taken away by it, but of course, Quaice wasn’t in engineering at the time. Nor were any of the others that Beverly remembers and nobody else does. And of course even if Quaice were trapped in a warp bubble that probably wouldn’t erase him from history, unless the Enterprise were slingshotting around a star at the time.
You know who was in Engineering before and not immediately after the flash, of course. That would be the same person who’s the only one who remembers Sick bay having a staff. Or the Enterprise having more than 230 crew.
To give Picard credit, he’s still accepting Beverly’s word, particularly since she was sane enough to check herself for mental disorder. Well, as best as she could being the only doctor on the ship. She agrees to talk to Troi, who Picard still remembers, and Picard agrees to return to starbase. Crusher goes back to Sick Bay and a lightshow hanging in midair starts playing until it rips into a fully-fledged hole in reality. So that’s worrying.
Data has been in communication with other ships, and they report nothing abnormal, and all 130 crew are accounted for. Worf is not among them. Troi reassures Beverly that even if Bev is crazy, all she’s done is act in the best interests of the ship, even if her premises were mistaken.
She rushes off in a panic to make sure Wesley still exists, and Wes brings up Kozinski again, and reminds Beverly about the Traveler. Now, it’s worth remembering at this point that the Traveler took the ship to a place where matter, energy, and thought converged. Or stopped diverging. That all of these things are strongly interrelated. And now Beverly is living in a personal horror where everyone she loves slowly forgets about everyone else she loves.
Sounds familiar. They go off to try to get in touch with the Traveler, and Wesley disappears between shots of the same scene. Picard is now the only other person on the ship. Somehow, the fact that there’s nobody else aboard makes perfect sense to Picard. “We’ve never needed a crew before,” he says with a shrug.
She orders continuous lifesign readouts of him, and is about to tell him something appropriately dramatic to the will-they-won’t-they dynamic they have, but she looks away and of course he’s not there when she looks back. Then the vortex appears again, and we see Geordi and Wesley in engineering, trying to hold it open. The whole time, Beverly has been inside the warp bubble, but it’s collapsed now and her region of spacetime has completely detached from normal spacetime and floated away forever, or until the Traveler shows up to help. So I was wrong – John Doe in Transfigurations isn’t the only energy being not to be a jerk, he’s the second.
So, yes. Beverly’s thoughts at the moment the bubble formed around her shaped it, and she was thinking of all that negative crap Quaice put into her head about fading into oblivion. The Traveler and Wesley are going to team up and use the Force to save her.
The upcoming scene is a standout in an already-good episode. Crusher earns her blue uniform. Look, O’Brien is great at fixing stuff. Geordi is great at figuring out what existing equipment can do the thing you want it to do. Riker and Picard are great leaders. But in this scene, Beverly does science. Not engineering. She starts from first principles, takes readings and measurements, and forms a hypothesis that she can test based on facts and logic. She gets socratic at the Enterprise computer and tells it to lay in a course for the Traveler’s home planet. There is, however, no warp sound. There is no Tau Alpha C on current star maps. While the Traveler guides Wesley in the ways of the Force, Crusher discovers that the Enterprise is surrounded by a mass/energy field of a known radius and which is impenetrable.
The universe is a spheroid region seven hundred and five meters in diameter.
-Enteprise Computer, laying some knowledge.
The Enterprise has to remain precisely in the same position it was in when the warp flash happened. It’s a good thing that the warp bubble is stationary relative to the Virgo Supercluster, Milky Way galactic core, the Sun, the Earth, and Earth Spacedock. I am not sure what the combined speeds of all those things could be relative to an arbitrary reference point, but since the Enterprise itself was clearly not a valid reference point it’s a damn good thing something nearby was.
The universe begins to be smaller than the ship, and starts shrinking around Beverly at 15 meters per second, and Wesley starts typing in math with his eyes closed. It’s been three years and we’ve only gotten as far as the scene where Kenobi is teaching Luke to deflect blaster bolts. The Traveler starts vanishing as Crusher figures out she needs to go to engineering, and then Wesley starts doing the same.
Q, if you will recall, gave Riker the powers of the Q for a time, and came back to humans when he lost his powers. He shows up time and time again to torment the Enterprise. The fact that Wesley was able to just manifest this other power in a time of need kind of speaks to why. It also underscores a fundamental shift in the portrayal of gods. Where in TOS they were always and without exception jerks (of varying capacity to hide that jerkdom) TNG represents, for all my complaining, a more transhumanist vision. Not everyone gets a VISOR, but people are no longer bound by their handicaps. Dying? Upload your brain into a computer, just don’t be a tool about it. Recognize the rights of anyone who can ask for them. And today’s lesson is: When in doubt, science your way out.