Star Trek: The Next Generation: Night Terrors   Rewatch 
February 11, 2021 3:49 AM - Season 4, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Investigating a distress signal, the Enterprise crew discovers that everyone went insane in the Brattain.

What's wrong with standing up for ourselves?! Memory Alpha owes us some answers!!

• Teleplay writer Jeri Taylor noted, "This was a real tough episode. It was convoluted, it was a little mysterious, technical, quasi-supernatural. It was all over the map and there were a lot of different episodes to try and make cohesive. I rewrote and rewrote it, and I never thought we were ever going to put that one to bed. It was strange. Troi's dream sequences are not something you get to see every week.

• The scenes with Troi "flying" were shot through a whole day of second-unit production, a rarity for TNG. Marina Sirtis commented that her requests for more action scenes had backfired; she had to grapple with an intense fear of heights in order to film them. Sirtis recalled, "The terror on my face was actually real. I was absolutely terrified."

• Michael Piller recalled that the pace of the show was so slow that the episode ran nine minutes over and had to be severely cut.

• Brian Tochi (Lin) previously played Ray Tsing Tao in TOS: "And the Children Shall Lead".

• As mentioned in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, this episode is considered to be one of the weakest of the fourth season and many members of the production staff were unhappy with it. The scenes with Troi "flying" were said to be a "terrible" mistake by Jeri Taylor and Robert Legato described them as "horrible".

• Jonathan Frakes remarked, "That was a yawner, wasn't it? That was a shitty piece of special effects work when Troi was flying with those cloud[s] around her. That was below our standard."

• Marina Sirtis opined, "I liked the storyline of that episode because it was about the dreamworld, and I'm of Greek descent so I totally believe dreams mean something. And not the Freudian thing, all this hocus pocus. So that was another one that I could relate to really strongly. But I did hate the flying."

• Rick Berman commented, "The sleep disorder was that our people were not getting enough REM sleep [and] they were all going mad which, in fact, is what would happen. It was all medically accurate, but it was kind of hard to follow and got convoluted. I don't think there was anything very terrifying in it."

• Michael Piller concluded, "[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."

• Director Les Landau blocked this episode out and prefers not to discuss it, for reasons he won't elaborate. It had something to do with Troi floating in space.

"There is an inevitable conclusion to this pattern and if I can't find a way to stop it... we will all go insane."
- Crusher, on the crew's lack of REM sleep

"I will need to rely on you from now on. We may need to count on you for our very survival."
"I will do my best, sir."
- Picard and Data, as the situation aboard the Enterprise continues to deteriorate

Poster's Log:
I really don't find it as bad an episode as the crew seemed to. As Anomaly-of-the-Week outings go, there absolutely are stronger ones, but absolutely weaker ones too.

For one thing, at this point in the show, it's reassuring to get a Deanna Episode that isn't somehow disgusting, especially one with the concerning title of "Night Terrors." IIRC this trend continues overall throughout the remaining seasons, but we do still have at least one more mindrape episode. (And then there's Nemesis, but hey, we don't have to discuss Nemesis, because FF already did.)

We also get some good character stuff with Beverly and Worf (and what may be the first tender moment between Worf and Troi), the cool morgue scene, and a general atmosphere of creepiness even if leavened with sleepiness. Part of what keeps the viewer's interest here, IMO, is the factual basis of the whole REM sleep thing; it's unnerving to consider that not being able to dream could make us as useless as the crew quickly becomes.

Still, you can readily perceive that the writing process was troubled. And VOY veterans: is it just me, or is there something very Voyageresque about this one? I can't put my finger on it.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
MST3K fans might remember helmsman Brian Tochi as one of the villains from the second episode of The Master, a.k.a. Master Ninja. He was the dude who was threatening the Jack-Perkins-lookin' tapdancer and his daughters.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Servo5678 at 6:24 AM on February 11, 2021

The older among us may also remember Brian Tochi as Tee Gar on the Filmation live-action show "Space Academy", alongside Lost in Space's Jonathan Harris (not to be confused with its spin-off, "Jason of Star Command", which starred James Doohan), or as Takashi in the first Revenge of the Nerds movie.
posted by hanov3r at 8:00 AM on February 11, 2021

I also thought that it was better than the crew gave it credit for being. I understand that some eps are harder to break than others, but this one held together reasonably well, and if the dream sequence was mostly just a bunch of lavender clouds, well, welcome to 30-year-old TV-quality SFX. It was indeed a better-than-average Troi episode, and also very pertinent to those of us who have had sleep issues, whether because of The Current Situation or from sleep apnea. (I've been using a CPAP machine for the last few months, and, let me tell you, it's a life changer.) I also get that it's Voyageresque, because of the situation of being stuck on board an isolated ship, and maybe things getting a bit claustrophobic as tensions rose. (This was another first watch for me, and when I saw in the teaser that the crew of the Brattain had killed each other, and that the only survivor was a Betazoid, I wondered if this was maybe a Lon Suder type situation.)

I think that one of the buttons that gets pushed by this episode is an inversion of the crew's usual competence porn; even going into the situation knowing that what happened on the Brattain could happen to them, they still can't keep it from happening. Picard's embarrassing moment in the turbolift was bad enough, but when his ready room doorbell kept ringing, I wondered if he'd burst out of the room yelling, "If you damn kids do that one more time..." Guinan getting her gun was another good moment (that raises all sorts of questions), as was Worf methodically going about his ritual suicide. (The Hegh'bat and Mauk-to'Vor were later additions to the seemingly endless list of Klingon rituals, but it makes sense that Worf would do this one solo, because of his shame at his own fear, and, at this point, who in the crew would he trust to assist him? As it was, yeah, this seems to be the beginning of the Worf-Troi thing.) Also of note WRT guest stars is John Vickery, who will go on to a couple of brief but memorable roles as a Cardassian and a Klingon in other series.

Commenter's log, supplemental: Huh, I missed your previous post on The Master. Lots of Trek actors in those episodes, plus of course Lee Van Cleef, who I know mostly from Escape from New York. "I'm about to kick your ass out of the world, war hero."
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 AM on February 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think it's a pretty good episode and good performance by Sirtis, it's just kind of hard to rewatch when you remember how the mystery was solved a couple minutes into the intro.
posted by skewed at 8:31 AM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Wow. I was not expecting so much hostility to this one, as it's one of my favorites. I don't even care about the cheesy flying effects, which were cheesy back then. I had all these things I wanted to say about it, but now I'm so bummed that everyone thinks it's crap that I kind of just...forgot everything.

I agree with Halloween Jack in that this feels particularly sharp to someone who's struggled with sleep issues their whole life (I've been a lifelong insomniac and a born night owl, always forced to work on a schedule that my body clock rebelled against, and there was a period where I couldn't get REM sleep and let me tell you, they were not exaggerating how unbelievably horrible that is). I thought they did a great job of creating a sense of the crew falling apart just through mussed hair, makeup, and slightly disheveled uniforms.

I really wasn't expecting such a bad reaction to it. I found it tense and I really appreciated the way they set up one failure of a plan to fix things, so that you're primed for it failing again (even if you know they will succeed, that initial moment of "oh shit, that was our last chance"). I loved that both Beverly and Deanna are crucial to figuring out what's going on and it's Deanna who saves the day, with Data's help.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

This episode creeped me the HELL out, between the ominous voices Troi was hearing (but yes, the flying effects were super bad, and having a terrified actor probably doesn't help sell the dialogue) and the morgue scene, which can still give me the heebie-jeebies.

I actually liked the setup, and appreciate a bit the fact that these mysterious telepathic aliens don't have a chance to follow up with the Federation, or vice versa. They literally pass in the night, having helped each other, and then can't? don't? find each other again.
posted by pykrete jungle at 4:12 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
The plot of this episode (and a nice creepy screencap) provides REM Fatigue Hallucinations. Bring a well supplied Sickbay, or get gakked.Very flavor texty game text, 'No one aboard can dream.' That doesn't do anything in the game. The rest of it does though! It's odd to make this encounterable on planets, in theory you wouldn't need a ship there. Ah well.

Premiere also included U.S.S. Brittain as well as the ship of the line U.S.S. Miranda. The bit from Shakespeare I admit I was uaware of at the time. Brittain is a pretty bad rare, having just one more shield over the common version, and no commander or anything. U.S.S. Nebula takes a bit more staffing, but you'll have plenty.

The slightly spooky Alternate Universe set featured a couple interrupts, Eyes in the Dark and Phaser Burns. Providing some juice for Empathy and personnel battle decks, respectively.
posted by StarkRoads at 4:19 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've never really minded the Deanna flying scenes. It's early 90s TV special effects, what do you expect? It's certainly no worse than soundstage-as-alien-landscape or Papier-mâché caves that continue to be mainstays of Star Trek for years to come.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:23 PM on February 11, 2021

I really wasn't expecting such a bad reaction to it.

Keep in mind that all those bullet points come from Memory Alpha, which is roughly as objective and reliable as Wikipedia—which is to say, not universally. You never know when somebody with an axe to grind might take "ownership" of a wiki page, especially on a fan Wikia.

And speaking of Wikipedia, it notes:
"In 2018, TheGamer ranked this one of the top 25 creepiest episodes of all Star Trek series. They note a number of scenes with frightening imagery, depicted in hallucinations or dreams. also noted this episode as one of scariest episodes of TNG, highlight how it builds with suspense as the audience becomes concerned the Enterprise crew will have the same fate as the doomed starship they came upon."

They're not wrong, IMO—I would've skipped this one if it was a TOTAL dud because I've seen it plenty of times—but OTOH, we could've had more hallucinations. The morgue scene was so good; somebody should've been like, "Let's add a bit more of that stuff."

We have another slow-burn-creepiness episode coming up. Maybe this one is, like, you can overlook the shortcomings if you enjoy scariness/creepiness inherently, and if you don't, you can't (hence the behind-the-scenes misgivings).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

We have another slow-burn-creepiness episode coming up.

As supposed to the last two unacknowledged-creepiness-episodes they wrote before hand, heh.
posted by StarkRoads at 5:13 PM on February 11, 2021

This one is fine with me. Troi and Crusher get to do things! Data is useful in a way that utilizes his being an android without creating any special powers that will never be seen again. The episode has good, creepy moments.

I just have two questions.

1. Guinan was holding it together there at the end. I wonder if she was affected at all. It seems like episodes where something affects the crew either don't have Whoopi as a guest or Whoopi as a guest is a voice of reason.

2. They needed a big bang to get out the Tyken's Rift, but their weapons wouldn't be enough and by the time they realized what they were in, they didn't have the power to create any useful elements. What about all that talk over the course of TOS, the various movies, and TNG about when matter and anti-matter come together, BOOM?

Aside from these quibbles, this one as I said is fine. Watching it tonight was a pleasant experience and if I were to run across it again in the fufure, I'd probably stop to watch it.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:21 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've been chanting "one moon circles" for years. I've also been confusing every previous episode where Troi gets sick or the ship gets stuck with this one. So I guess it's one of the least creepy Troi episodes?
posted by Snijglau at 6:22 PM on February 11, 2021

Yeah, I always liked this one. I don't know why the people working on the show thought it was so dull. I wonder if it's something that's only scary if you've had sleep problems yourself? Recently I saw an old Twilight Zone that was a real snoozer when I was a kid, the one where the guy knows he can't fall asleep or he'll meet the sexy, evil dream lady again and he'll have a heart attack and die. As an adult with a hinky heart, it plays very differently.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:22 PM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I saw this episode when it first aired, while I was a child. Re-watching it, it still never fails: I get chills and all my hair stands up on end whenever we get the "EYES IN THE DARK, ONE MOON CIRCLES" scenes. Weird that this is one of the few things that does this.
posted by some loser at 6:29 PM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Count me among the likers. Creepy and memorable! The morgue scene is super effective and the “EYES IN THE DARK” bit was burned into my memory, even if the context wasn’t. Not perfect, a little slow, but not bad, especially after last ep’s cringe (on that note, relieved they didn’t go further with O’Brien’s jealousy).
posted by rodlymight at 6:38 PM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I think that the reaction here was mostly positive. The background about what the writers/producers/showrunners thought is just inside baseball; it's interesting but not really indicative of anything besides the view from backstage.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:45 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah! Thanks for mentioning that, rodlymight, I'd forgotten that--jealousy is something I loathe and between O'Brien here and in that episode with Worf's parents where he goes "women!" about Worf's mom being late (to say nothing about the pre-wedding stuff), I'm having very...different feelings about him this go-round compared to previous rewatches.

It's nice to see that there is more support of this episode here than it sounded like there might be based on the MA notes in the main body. It's funny that I still don't really see it as slow, possibly because that sense of dread still seems to come across so strongly to me and cements everything else. Also, I kind of liked how people were reacting to others talking--you could see their tethers getting increasingly frayed, so the fact that anyone was talking to them--Picard in particular was this way--whether slowly or not was just too much for them to handle. The talkiness worked perfectly to underscore their emotional collapse.

That stuff in Ten Forward sure plays differently after Jan. 6, doesn't it?
posted by kitten kaboodle at 7:07 PM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I found myself wondering why Acting Captain Data, specifically given command by Picard, kept asking Picard what to do.

I could have done without the never-before- and never-again-seen Gillespie, but otherwise this is a fine outing.
posted by hanov3r at 7:14 PM on February 11, 2021

The accompanying episode of The Greatest Generation has to be the best one I've heard so far. If I remember right, they liked the episode, but said it's central sin was that it did a lot of tell-but-don't-show. That rings true with a few things I remember--although not the morgue scene, which was pretty cool.

My complaint about Troi flying scenes is not that the effects were bad (and they did make me laugh), but that we kept seeing it and it seemed determined to go nowhere. Right at the end it proves to be a key to solving the mystery, but for most of the ep it just felt like a frustrating waste of time.
posted by polecat at 1:33 PM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I found myself wondering why Acting Captain Data, specifically given command by Picard, kept asking Picard what to do.

I think that Data was consulting Picard, with the understanding that if Picard started making really wacky suggestions Data could just disregard it. Data knew that he was only in charge due to special circumstances and he was trying to handle things the way Picard would've wanted.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:30 PM on February 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

The morgue scene was great, and felt a little Doctor Who to me.

Troi's hair getting messier was a great touch, but it was also notable that Worf's hair remained perfect. There's definitely Doylist reasons for this, but in a Watsonian sense it's kind of a great character beat.

I definitely agree that Guinan wasn't affected. I have a lot of questions about the gun. How long has she had it there? Did anyone on the ship know about it? If they did know about it, would they have allowed it? Is it even a gun that it's legal to own in the Federation? If Guinan is prepared to do crowd-control with a gun on the Enterprise, what other scenarios is she secretly prepared for? I feel like a search of her quarters would turn up a lot of interesting "souvenirs".
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:42 AM on October 31, 2021

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