Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Next Phase   Rewatch 
June 7, 2021 8:37 AM - Season 5, Episode 24 - Subscribe

Geordi La Forge and Ensign Ro are believed dead after a transporter malfunction. However, they soon discover that their state may not actually be "death".

I don't have all the answers. I've never been Memory Alpha before.

Story and script
  • The story originated with two pitches which were both purchased and combined into one. Michael Piller was at first hesitant to use the Romulans as he felt they were overused on the series. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • The story originally involved Troi rather than Ro. Brannon Braga recalled, "Troi's had enough running and jumping this year. We felt why not give Ro something and I'm glad she did, because she kicks a Romulan in the chest and does a kick worthy of Bruce Lee. She's some sort of acrobat. That scene in my opinion makes the whole show." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 246-247)
  • Ronald D. Moore noted, "We were always trying to find ways to work Ro into our scripts. She was someone you could count on to bring spark into any scene and stir up conflict with the other characters. That's the kind of thing a writer is always looking for." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 261)
  • While originally intended to be a cost-cutting bottle show, this episode ended up being one of the most expensive of the season due to the special effects required. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 203))
  • Director David Carson recalled, "This was an extremely difficult episode to do, because it dealt with special effects of a type people were familiar with from Ghost, which Star Trek had never attempted before. It was one of the most difficult technical episodes they'd ever done just by the nature of having people walk through people and an environment where people exist in different phases." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • Rick Berman added, "It was very difficult to shoot in blue screen with people putting their hands through consoles and walls. It looked relatively easy on paper, but took a lot of time to make the visual effects work." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 246)
  • Michelle Forbes and LeVar Burton spent two long days filming the necessary blue screen sequences, which required many takes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 261)
  • The first Jazz piece played during the funeral service is "Down by the Riverside". The second is "When the Saints Go Marching In".
Cast and characters
  • All three of the guest actors playing Romulans (Thomas Kopache, Susanna Thompson, and Brian Cousins) went on to play numerous other roles in various Star Trek episodes and films.
  • The Romulans were experimenting with a molecular phase inverter to create an interphase cloak. This is similar to what the USS Pegasus illegally attempted to test in "The Pegasus". La Forge foreshadows this in his penultimate sentence: "Well, maybe we should develop our own interphase device." According to Ron D. Moore, the technology seen in this episode and in The Pegasus were indeed meant to be based on the same technology. (AOL chat, 1997)
Poster's Log:

Brossmer looks very familiar, and I'd swear she's been on the show before but, no, this is the actress's one TNG appearance.

Nitpick: LaForge and Ro attempt to beam back to the Enterprise with the graviton generator but it's not visible in the aborted transport attempt.

Troi's entire contribution to this episode is shaking her head to say "Nope, can't empathically sense them either".

With 30 seconds to go to warp core breach, Data sure does take his time leisurely saying "Excuse me, sir" and walking over to shut the doors.

At this point in the series, Data's been in Starfleet over 20 years (almost 30, including his Academy days), and yet LaForge is the first person to treat him "like a human"? The first person he's considered a friend? There's even more species-ism buried in Starfleet than we've thought.

"We didn't eat for almost two days" implies that they also didn't drink water for almost two days. Dehydration is really quick - two days without no water at all can have pretty severe effects. Running around the ship, kicking Romulans in the chest, shoving them out a bulkhead - Ro and LaForge shouldn't really be able to be as active as we see.
posted by hanov3r (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Interphase Generator shrugs off encounters with several planet dilemmas from the Premiere set. Archers, Armus, Chalnoths and was decent at the time, but one would encounter these cards less as time went on.

Phased Matter is conceptually neat but as it doesn't stop any of your crew on its own, it's not that strong.

Disruptor Overload
provides a basic counter for Equipment cards(like that Interphase Generator, above) which would be useful throughout the life of First Edition.

Mirok is a decent addition to the surprisingly strong 'Romulan Science' type decks. Especially with his matching ship, which came out some time later. Varel is also a 3 skilled Romulan from Premiere, which for them was good at the time, the actual skill set isn't quite as useful in general as Mirok however. Parem is basic.

The non-unique Science Vessel provided an easily-staffed, reasonable alternative to the slightly-faster Scout Vessel and the far brawnier D'Deridex. Slightly lower stats were given to Mirok's unique vessel, Apnex, but it's faster when flying under its phased cloak and immune to any other game effects, so it definitely had its niche.

Second Edition included Mirok, Interphase Researcher and Parem, Special Security in early expansions. Mirok joins the cast of 2E Romulans that will detract from your opponent's mission attempts at the same location, one of their strong themes, and Parem gains some scientific skills and dilemma-busting power.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:12 AM on June 7, 2021

I wished they'd explained how people could walk/fall through walls but not fall through floors, or how they could see everything in the unphased universe. Notwithstanding that, Levar Burton and Michelle Forbes did a great job of selling the desperation of being unable to communicate or interact with their environment. The shock of the first encounter with a phased Romulan was well done too.
posted by cardboard at 9:14 AM on June 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I like to think they both pooped in the captain's ready-room at some point during the two days, and then when they flooded the ship with anyon particles, the poops materialized along with Ro and Geordi.

I really like this episode, it's fun, light-hearted and moves along quickly. I just have to control my urge to ask "how are you two walking on the floors, huh? HOW???"

Pointless personal anecdote: When this episode first came out, my best friend and I were really into TNG, and some distant friend-of-the-family of his had something to do with the making of this episode, and teased it to him as "one of the main characters is going to die for real in one of the episodes in (whatever month it was)". Don't know if there was some miscommunication, or his friend was misinformed, or what. Anyway, he's making a big deal out of knowing about this ahead of time, and I don't buy it, I didn't believe they'd be able to keep something like that a secret. We got in a big stupid argument about it, as appropriate for two 14-year old aspiring nerds, and ultimately made a $1 bet on the outcome of the episode. The day after the episode aired I was so excited to go to school and lord it over him, he paid up and has never mentioned it again. Next time I see him, I should bring it up. Anyway, that stupid little drama always plays out in my head when I see this episode come up.
posted by skewed at 9:23 AM on June 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

This two-fer is probably best labeled "In Memoriam", and, as with last week's, has a relatively light ep preceding one that's pretty heavy. This is relatively light, although there's a bit of an edge to it, as the generally well-regarded La Forge is contrasted with Ro, who's apparently still something of a loner. (We're left wondering if Riker's eulogy for her would have revealed their amnesia-enabled affair; that whole thing ended with an air of "we will never speak of this again.") Attending your own funeral is a venerable trope--that TVTropes entry even mentions Ira Graves in Data's body giving his own eulogy. (My first encounter with the trope would probably have been The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.) The chase through the bulkheads, with unsuspecting crew members having just gotten out of the shower, busting out a few pushups, or on a date, as well as a frustrated Ro disruptoring Riker right between the eyes, added a bit of the madcap comedy to things. As such, I'm not that worried about the whole "how does phasing even work/how did they breathe" practical stuff; fall down that rabbit hole, and you may as well dig up discussions of how Kitty Pryde's powers work from forty-year-old comics fanzines. My only real regret about the ep is that Data didn't have an excuse to come up with a chroniton detector that bore a suspicious resemblance to a proton pack.

Good work from the guests; I too thought that Brossmer had been on the show before. I thought that maybe she was taking over for O'Brien because of DS9, but he's got a couple more appearances at least before transferring to the station, with DS9 not actually starting until January of 1993. We'll see the experimental phase cloak (and the dangerous side effects thereof) on this series again, as well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:32 AM on June 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I wished they'd explained how people could walk/fall through walls but not fall through floors

The thought I came up with on this rewatch is that floors, unlike walls, have gravity plating. Something something gravitons.

This one's been a fave for a long time. Super-cool sci-fi story with gripping drama. Forbes and Burton have chemistry, which is a good thing since this is pretty much the Ro and Geordi Hour. And the resolution remains exhilarating on this, my probably twelfth viewing. I can imagine this same story done less tightly, directed and acted less confidently, in an earlier season.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:34 AM on June 7, 2021 [6 favorites]

I forgot to point out that this episode has one of the most egregious examples of Riker talking into his comm badge before actually activating it. "CHIEF" *taps badge* "Do you have them?"
posted by hanov3r at 9:53 AM on June 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Great episode though-and-through.

I really wanted Geordi to use his ability to light up Data's sensor to spell out "HEY DATA, IT'S GEORDI" on the wall or something. Maybe he could have just used Morse code?

My sense was that Riker's speech was just going to be about how he wished he hadn't been so hard on her b/c the truth is she's smart & loyal & responsible etc. etc. So it was well played that we never find out, and they leave us to imagine it was something about the sex.

Even the low-drama friendly science geek Romulans turn out to be cold-blooded bastards!

two days without no water at all can have pretty severe effects

After the credits rolled:
Daughter: "What happened to that guy after he went outside the ship?"
Wife: "Well, I think he's going to die because there's no air to breathe."
Me: "Hmm, well Ro and Geordi shouldn't have anything to breathe either, because remember how they can't interact with the other matter?"
Wife & Daughter: hateful glares
posted by polecat at 10:52 AM on June 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

This is one of my top five episodes, and I think it’s at least partly because it’s almost as much fun to nitpick the technobabble-y stuff (and Cheeses, I definitely won the same no-prize as you when I was a kid) as it is to watch and enjoy the plot. Top notch writing, and it’s no wonder they go back to the same well (devious Romulans, dangerous power transfer, a small group of our crew uniquely positioned to stop it) at the end of Season 6.
posted by thecaddy at 11:51 AM on June 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Even the first time I saw this, I side-eyed the whole "walk through walls but not fall through floors" thing, but all the skience issues in this are so very handwaveable. It's just a rollicking great adventure and I love it because I love anything that centers Ro and where Geordi gets to be great. (Although, yeah, I have to admit I just guffaw any time Troi conveniently can't sense someone.)
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2021

This is one of those where you can pick it up at pretty much any point and watch the rest. An eminently watchable episode of TNG.

Geordi and Ro play well off each other. They should have done more with that. Geordi and Ro make friends, awww.

Data and Worf in the shuttle were interesting. If Geordi had ever died for real, that would have been an interesting friendship to develop to fill in the gap.

The party scene in Ten Forward is one of the great Data scenes along with the one I mentioned before. Data is collating data and figuring things out and Geordi is urging him on, "C'mon, Data, put it together!"
posted by Fukiyama at 12:20 PM on June 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

This is a solid episode. I love that Geordi and Ro get to hang out for an hour; they make for a good pairing. CheesesOfBrazil mentioned this could have been an earlier season episode: definitely. This is kind of episode they needed to do for Denise Crosby.

But am I remembering correctly that Geordi was hostile, alongside Riker, when Ro first showed up? As Fukiyama mentioned, it would have been nice to have seen more of these two together after, but also before. TNG had kinda sorta turned the corner with long-term character development vis-a-vis the Troi-Worf relationship by this point in the show. It would have been nice to see that kind of attention given to other relationships.
posted by Stuka at 7:09 AM on June 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Really good point about Geordi, Stuka. He said she didn't belong on the flagship or in the uniform. I guess she helped Save the Day enough times since that episode that we can just assume Geordi's at least as tolerant of her now as Riker is? maybe more b/c she's not in Geordi's department? :) … but it would indeed have been nice not to have to assume. At least they do still demonstrate some tension early on here.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:59 AM on June 8, 2021

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