TNG: S6E02: “Realm of Fear”

In which Barclay is afraid, bitten, and a gorram hero. 

We are checking out the Yosemite which went out of communication checking out a binary star’s plasma stream. The little Oberth-class is just chilling out in a plasma streamer of stellar fire without exploding, and presumably has been doing so for several days. Remember this if the Enterprise starts taking damage at all during this episode.

Oh hey look, it’s Barclay! And he has an idea for meshing the two transporter systems together, and is really upset when this makes him Geordi’s go-to guy for the away team.

"What exactly did you mean by 'feel like having a railroad spike driven up my John Thomas?'"

“What exactly did you mean by ‘feel like having a railroad spike driven up my John Thomas?'”

Due to the interference, the throughput on the transporter system is down, so O’Brien will be beaming them over one at a time, and each cycle will take four or five seconds as opposed to the normal ~2. Barclay is concerned. There will be tingling and a ‘static build-up,’ which frankly, if I was being disassembled into subatomnic particles, I’d be terrified of. Then again, they have the technology to disassemble a human into subatomic particles and reassemble something at the other end that thinks it’s the same person. They can probably compensate for that.

Procedural note – Worf transports over first. Wonder of wonders, it’s like they have a protocol for this, although he has neither his phaser nor tricorder ready, so will be unable to respond quickly to threats or strange science things. Guys come on, I thought we’d learned by now.

Also of note, Worf and Riker wear their equipment on opposite hips. I’d never noticed their handedness before. O’Brien notes a brief problem but is easily able to compensate for it, to Reg Barclay’s complete non-reassurance, and he panics and runs out of the room. Credit where it’s due, he tried, and O’Brien had to keep talking like the countdown of doom.

He goes to talk to Troi about his transporter-phobia, and is also terrified that this coming out will be the end of his career. He’s apparently never had to transport. He ought to be a pretty reliable pilot, at least. Troi teaches him some relaxation techniques, which are vaguely accupressure-y. Apparently Betazoid physiology is similar enough to human physiology that she thinks it will work, or Reg is gullible enough that she thinks he’ll be effectively placeboed.

Do you think Starfleet Security gets investigation forensics training, or was the enormous blast mark kind of a giveaway?

Do you think Starfleet Security gets investigation forensics training, or was the enormous blast mark kind of a giveaway?

Aboard the Yosemite, analysis indicates that the crew didn’t launch the escape pods (and good thing too, since they’re inside a stellar ejection, and the explosion that disabled the ship originated in the transport chamber. Meanwhile, Crusher has found a dead crewman, the only body they’ve located so far. This will be a great time for Reg to beam over!

O’Brien gives him a quick pep-talk about phobias. Miles is afraid of spiders, which never really bothered Reg. This is hilarious to me. Reg beams over no problem, but for the first time we get to see his experience in the matter stream. Everything is white static around him, and it just kind of fades over from the transporter room to the Yosemite. 

At which point it began singing "Hello my baby" and tap-danced offstage.

At which point it began singing “Hello my baby” and tap-danced offstage.

Picard is dealing with some cosmopolitical context – there’s suspicion that the Cardassians are acting up and might be responsible, which Picard will discuss with Riker as soon as he’s on board. Also, if Reg chickens out now, he’ll be stuck on the Yosemite forever. He beams over, but this time he sees this weird worm thing in the stream, which bites him on the arm. Guess who’s never taking the transporter again?

To make Reg feel better after he mentions this to Geordi, they and O’Brien run a diagnostic on the transporters. and they try to reassure him by explaining why his fears are baseless, too.

Totally baseless.

Also, there’s apparently something called Transporter Psychosis, which probably involves incorrect reconstruction of the brain rather than simply being a psychological symptom.

In sick bay, the dead crewman keeps having parts of his anatomy restart. Spooky! Also, Barcaly’s arm is glowing blue where the worm bit him. I think it would be important to point out at this time that this wouldn’t be a transporter problem, per se. Alien attack falls into a completely different category. Anyway, Reg makes the mistake of looking up Transporter Psychosis. We all know that you never consult WebMD if you think you have something. You will only confirm it. Especially if you have a free health plan in the form of a Sick Bay you can just walk into.

Currently, there’s evidence to suggest that the science team on the Yosemite tried to beam plasma aboard into a container, which then explodes. Data’s first thought is to reproduce the experiment to see if they can also get a sample of stellar plasma to lethally explode aboard the Enterprise. Data has just lost literally all of his science credibility, and Geordi too for agreeing. I mean, sure they’re going to set up a containment field, but they’re still going to do it next to the warp core, instead of, like, a cargo bay.

Interesting moment- Geordi offers Reg some time off because of his obvious tension, but what he actually says is “you look a little pale.” Geordi doesn’t see that way. He’s using a figure of speech, either because Data pointed it out to him, or he’s learned to translate the mishmash of anatomical processes he can see as ill health or stress reactions.

Also of note – the computer’s stress-reduction program is remarkably bad at its job, but does include either holographic or gas candles. When he tries to go to sleep, his arm starts glowing and hurting again, and he goes to spend some time examining the transporter logs, and asks O’Brien to beam him in place to see if he can confirm the alien hallucination. Which he can. And now he goes to Crusher and the senior staff. His conviction is sufficient to get taken seriously.

He even gets a scan with this thing with no out-of-pocket cost. Thanks, Space Obama!

He even gets a scan with this thing with no out-of-pocket cost. Thanks, Space Obama!

Casual scans don’t reveal anything, but with this super-special machine, Crusher barely finds something in his arm which correlates with some of the things on the Yosemite. Some sort of ionizing energy. He even gets respect, or at least a lack of ridicule, from Riker. And they’re still doing the beaming experiment in Main Engineering!

They beam the plasma in, and the moment they start to scan it, the container explodes, filling the containment field with, and I can’t stress this enough times, stellar plasma just kind of sitting there on the table. Good job, idiots. Now you have a force field full of deadly plasma in main engineering where you normally keep your scrum table. And if Geordi’s interest is any indication, it’s also full of something else interesting. He says something about biomagnetic energy, and now Reg is glowing blue all over.

The wormy things are apparently microbes, which reg perceived as bull-insemination-baster-sized things because perception inside a transporter stream is like an Escher painting. And the transporter biofilter can’t detect them because they’re not wholly energy. In order to purge Barclay, they have to hold him in the stream for a while – half a minute or so. And of course there’s a Time Limit of Mortal Danger!

Some tense technobabble later, they get the purge going, but Reg grabs one of the worms before they fully re-energize him, and it turns out to be one of the crew from the Yosemite. Somehow. Screw you, that’s why. The Yosemite crew figured out they were infected as well and tried the same purge, but messed it up somehow. And they didn’t lose pattern integrity because of science. Barclay has faced his fear of transporters, and as a reward, O’Brien introduces Barclay to Christina, his pet tarantula. Because everyone loves messing with Barcaly.

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