TNG: S5E24: “The Next Phase”

In which Geordi dies, Cloaking technology advances, and Riker gets shot in the face. 

Picard is pacing the bridge. They’re racing to help out a Romulan ship which is facing some kind of horrible difficulty, and Riker is leading LaForge, Worf, and Ro on an engineering rescue mission. No weapons allowed, either. This is another one of those times where the Enterprise Goes Forth and Does Good in the hopes that it will improve relations. Actually, I’m not sure whether a cynic would say that they’re doing it for political currency or to get a good look at Romulan technology. I am certain that they’d be wrong, because after a certain point it’s poor game theory to choose cooperation regardless of what your opponent does. It only encourages the enemy to cheat. Only blind idealism can account for it after a certain point.

Pictured: A conspicuous absence of an aborted transport.

Pictured: A conspicuous absence of an aborted transport.

Geordi and Larren beam back to the Enterprise in order to repair a generator, but something goes wrong with the transport and they both die. Plus the generator is lost. What really strikes me here is that the transporter chief, who is not O’Brien, is called Chief but only has one pip on her collar. At this point, ‘Chief’ must be either the job of transporter duty officer or a nickname O’Brien has that just happens to also be a rank that other people hold. Like calling a captain “L.T.” because you knew him back then and he hasn’t threatened to demote you for it yet.

Also, the generator is gone. And the Romulan ship is still broken. Troi confirms that she can’t sense Geordi or Ro anywhere, so it’s unlikely they were beamed somewhere else. Why am I so
blasé about this? Because I got all excited about Worf kicking the bucket and they didn’t deliver, so hell with it.

Anyway, the Romulan engine goes critical and Worf, Riker, and eventually Data help them seal everything off and save everyone. Hooray for interspecies cooperation. Although one imagines that, upon arriving back at Romulus, the crew of this ship will either be warned very sternly not to mention how helpful the Federation was in a time of crisis, or else just be Disappeared. So you can see why they’re not exactly jumping for joy at not exploding.

The hallway outside of Sick Bay is the Starfleet equivalent of a Denny's parking lot.

Section 23-Baker near Sick Bay is the Starfleet equivalent of a Denny’s parking lot.

Speaking of disappearing, Picard just walked right by some crewperson passed out on the floor. That crewperson is the recently-dematerialized Ro Larren. Whose communicator doesn’t work. Who’s getting increasingly sick of people not moving aside for her. For whom doors don’t open. Who overhears Picard and Crusher saying that they’re both dead, and who Picard can walk directly through.

Let us, right now at this moment, deal with the glaringly obvious. She doesn’t fall through the floor because gravity still works on her, and the Enterprise artificial-gravity system is calibrated such that each deck has its own localized gravity field which lines up pretty perfectly with the decks. This, plus the inertial dampers, ensure that the Enterprise generates a locally objective frame of reference. She doesn’t go flying through the ship when it moves, and nor does anyone else. It’s not that the ground is solid to her, it’s just that the ground happens to coincide with the proper fields to make it feel solid.

Because otherwise I can’t deal with the episode. Yes, this is why we can’t have Nice Things.

They spent a lot of money on this effect, it seems a shame to waste it.

They spent a lot of money on this effect, it seems a shame to waste it.

And to answer your next question, obviously her eyes are now detecting a new set of photons that don’t interact with ordinary matter. You probably already knew that dark matter accounts for most of the universe’s mass, this is clearly a subset of that phenomenon. Who can even guess how many other parallel whatevers there are? What’s that? Your next question wasn’t about how she can see if nobody can see her? Well why not?

In order to help out further, the Enterprise is directing a beam of power into the Romulan ship to get them powered up. Data requests permission to conduct LaForge’s funeral, as he considers Geordi his best friend. Other concerns about as well – Worf demands that they not give the Romulans a modern computer core, but an obsolete one will not be a significant security risk.

Geordi is also invisible and intangible, but he and Ro are at least solid to each other. We will now play a game called ‘studiously avoid the temptation to confirm that there is fanfiction of this.’ Ro is pretty disappointed at this afterlife, but Geordi refuses to believe he’s a blind ghost.

Data’s hypothesis is that the damaged Romulan cloaking device caused an issue with chroniton particles, which is responsible for the Science Catastrophe. Don’t ask me how Ro can touch her chair or console as a way of saying goodbye, I have nothing for that. Nor, now that I think of it, for how she’s still breathing. There is a neat little moment where Larren is startled to hear that Riker wants to speak on her behalf during the memorial service, and she gets to begin saying her goodbyes.

Data has a moment with Worf where he mentions how Geordi was his first real friend, the first person who talked to him as if he was human. This, we have noted in the past, is something Geordi just does. of course, to Worf, Geordi and Ro have fallen in the line of duty and have therefore earned a place in the halls of the Honored Dead.

Nope, we're done speculating about how. We're just done.

Nope, we’re done speculating about how. We’re just done.

Back on the Romulan ship, Geordi has found a phaser inverter inside some Romulan console, indicating that Geordi and Ro might be both cloaked and ‘phased’ in such a way as to allow them to pass through ordinary matter. A ship with that tech could hide inside solid matter. And rather than let the Enterprise discover this during the course of the repairs, the Romulans will sabotage the energy transfer beam and blow it up. Ro and LaForge to to figure out a way to warn the Enterprise, and are chased by a phased Romulan.

It also turns out that Geordi and Ro (and the Romulan, presumably) are generating chroniton fields wherever they go, but not from the phased entities themselves. Data has a beam that removes the chroniton particles, and when it hits Geordi it ‘partially de-phases’ him. So now all Geordi has to do is figure out a way to make the same beam occur at a higher intensity.

Meanwhile, Ro has met up with the Romulan officer, been captured, evaded capture, kicked him in the breadbasked, and run away through a wall. He fires a phased disruptor at her, and as she runs away through a wall, the beam is stopped by the wall without doing damage.

Yup. There goes the last of my scotch. The good news is that the disruptor beam caused a higher-intensity chroniton field than just walking through stuff does. The bad news is this episode has no internal consistency. Ro and the Romulan scuffle a bit before Geordi knocks him through the hull to drift endlessly in space. Since we’ve already established that Ro and Geordi shouldn’t be able to breathe, that Romulan is probably just going to drift forever, alive and conscious until maybe he starves to death.

With the Romulan ship repaired, the Enterprise has only to clear all the chroniton fields before it can jump to warp and trigger the Romulan trap. Good thing those fields are dangerous to ships traveling at warp, otherwise the ship would have blown up by now.

Never forget that these two banged, like, constantly, when they had no memory.

Never forget that these two banged, like, constantly, when they had no memory.

Data has created less of a funeral and more of a party. Geordi likes it, Larren is Not Amused and starts shooting everything. This is creating a sufficiently strong field to show up on sensors, but it’s only enough to make Worf think he’s hallucinating when they yell at him. As a matter of last resort, Ro sets the phased disruptor on overload, to explode, and then they hide behind a chair. Again, the phased energy which passed through the ordinary matter of Riker’s face is going to be stopped by the ordinary matter of a chair? Could they not have written this episode to be slightly more coherent? I used to really like this one.

The disruptor overload is sufficient to require a decontamination beam powerful enough to make Geordi and Ro visible for just barely long enough. Data figures it out and the two of them decloak on the floor and save the day, and I think the saving grace of this episode is how everyone in Ten-Forward just kind of shrugs and accepts this as ‘just one of those things that happens on the Enterprise.

Did we miss something awesome?