Star Trek: The Next Generation: Sub Rosa   Rewatch 
November 1, 2021 9:23 AM - Season 7, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Beverly Crusher attends her grandmother's funeral, but a mysterious entity that inhabited her grandmother is now focusing on her.

I think that I preferred Memory Alpha the way it was before.

Story and script
  • "Sub Rosa" originated from a pitch from freelance writer Jeanna F. Gallo. Jeri Taylor recalled, "The original spec script was that there have been aliens throughout history on Earth who had possessed people and they were responsible for much of what we called supernatural paranormal events. That writer had the idea of the Scottish kind of origins of Beverly. Rick and Michael were very distrustful of this story. They considered it a romance novel in space and felt the possibility for embarrassment was monumental, but I just knew it would work. It's a different kind of story for Star Trek to tell. It is a romance but we do have women in our audience and women do traditionally respond to romantic stories." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Taylor denied that the story was inspired by Anne Rice's The Witching Hour. She explained, "One of Brannon and my favorite movies is The Innocents, which comes from Henry James' Turn of the Screw. We saw this episode as a homage, and we packed in every sort of Gothic ghost story trick that one could imagine." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?); Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Consequently, the caretaker Ned Quint and Jessel Howard were a homage by Brannon Braga to valet Peter Quint and the governess Miss Jessel in The Innocents. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • Felisa was said to be at least 100 years old at the time of her death, though her grave stone gives her birth year as 2291, which would make her only about 79 (which was much closer to the actual age of her performer Ellen Albertini Dow, who was about 80 years old at the time of filming). Interestingly, Dow would in fact live to be over one hundred years old.
Production
  • As in-jokes, the gravestones in the graveyard bore the names of various movie characters, including McFly (Back to the Future) and Vader (Star Wars). (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • Property master Alan Sims was surprised during the filming of this episode when the actress chosen to play Felisa Howard turned out to be Ellen Albertini Dow, his college drama teacher in 1972. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
Continuity
  • The notion of Beverly's grandmother being a healer can be traced back to the first season episode "The Arsenal of Freedom". Injured in a subterranean cavern, Beverly uses the medicinal knowledge of roots and herbs learned from her grandmother to assist Picard in treating her wounds.
  • Duncan Regehr later went on to play the recurring role of Shakaar Edon in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Michael Keenan also appeared on DS9 as Patrick in "Statistical Probabilities" and "Chrysalis" as well as playing King Hrothgar in VOY: "Heroes and Demons".
  • This is one of only five TNG episodes that doesn't have a stardate. The others are "Symbiosis", "First Contact", "Tapestry" and "Liaisons". Since Troi is still a Lieutenant commander, the episode happens earlier than 47611.2 where she becomes a Commander ("Thine Own Self"). On Netflix if you watch it with English subtitles at the end when Picard says "Captain's log supplemental" the captions say stardate 47488.2.
  • The control panels seen in the weather substation appear to use a late 23rd century layout. This is consistent with Maturin's comment that the weather control systems are almost a century old.
Reception
  • The production staff noted that fan response to the episode was split along gender lines, with men hating "Sub Rosa" and women loving it. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • René Echevarria recalled, "I can still reduce Brannon to shudders when I go into his office and say, 'I can travel on the power transfer beam'. But the cast loved it. Every woman on the lot who read it was coming up to Brannon and patting him. Ultimately I think it was worth doing because it was campy fun and the production values were wonderful. The sets look great and everybody threw themselves into it. Gates did a wonderful job. It just got bigger and broader and to the point of grandmother leaping out of the grave. Just having Beverly basically writhing around having an orgasm at 6 o'clock on family TV was great. For that alone it was worth doing. We got away with murder." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Frakes opined, "I drew a good straw because it wasn't a Star Trek. It was more like Tales from the Crypt. Gates and I have worked well together and she was never better than in 'Sub Rosa' and never looked more beautiful. She looked like a movie star." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • At an Austin, Texas convention in 2012, Gates McFadden stated she wasn't very fond of this episode. "I was basically in love with a lamp! This woman is a doctor and falls in love with a lamp! How the hell does that work?"
Poster's Log:

Well, that was certainly an episode.

Echevarria is right - the production values are great in this one. It's atmospheric (no pun intended) and dark, the costuming and set design are good, and McFadden does wonders with what she has (her and Sirtis's performances are both excellent). The story itself isn't bad, either, and it hits the beats really well. But, taken as a whole, this one is less than the sum of its parts. There's a lot to criticize here - Shay Duffin's Scottish accent, which is almost as bad as Doohan's; not one single person questioning the timeline of a thirty-something man who's been dating grandma since the passing of great-grandma (how old was he when he started dating grandma?); the tacked-on feeling of the weather control problem; and Maturin's horrible fake sneeze.

"Sub Rosa" has a reputation as a generally bad episode, a reputation that this rewatch has convinced me is undeserved. It's near the bottom of the season 7 leaderboard and I generally hope for better from a team that's been working on this stuff as long as they had, but it's a better episode than public wisdom and memes would tell you, and it's an important piece of Crusher canon.
posted by hanov3r (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just noting that it's _weird_ when Hunkin' Duncan shows up in DS9 and you go "wait, why do I OH GOD IT'S THE CANDLE LOVER"...
posted by Kyol at 9:49 AM on November 1, 2021


Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Anaphasic Organism is one of those Premiere dilemmas like Archer that basically says, always bring a medic and a guard on your landing parties. The following expansion enhanced AO with Howard Heirloom Candle, which mainly enhances dilemmas your opponent should beat to begin with. Never saw either of these in competitive play that I can remember.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


I will say that this is nowhere near the worst episode of TNG; there were plenty of stinkers in S1, and some others that aren't that great even in this season. One of my Rules of Trek is that the "worst" episode for any particular series is one that gets labeled as such by Trekkies who take their show very, very seriously; the eps may be problematic in various ways to various degrees, but the real sin is that they're kind of silly, and for some Trekkies, there's no worse crime. Thus, "Spock's Brain", "Move Along Home", "Threshold", and I don't know if ENT had one in particular but "Unexpected" would be a fair candidate. "Sex ghost candle" is a funny meme--Tumblr never seems to tire of it--but there are too many other eps that were offensive, dumb, or just plain wrong.

That having been said, it ain't great, for two main reasons:

- Of course it's a parasitic energy being; Trek is filthy with them. Crusher doesn't seem the type to just sort of roll with it.

- If the whole point is for Beverly to get an itch scratched, a supernatural gothic romance with strong erotic overtones is probably not the thousandth-freakiest thing in the holodeck files at any given moment.

So, yeah. Totally didn't recognize Keenan as one of the Jack Pack from DS9. Regehr was fine for the role as it was.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on November 1, 2021 [4 favorites]


Of course it's a parasitic energy being; Trek is filthy with them. Crusher doesn't seem the type to just sort of roll with it.

Sometimes the difference between a parasite and a symbiote is just how good their PR is.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2021 [11 favorites]


Sometimes the difference between a parasite and a symbiote is just how good their PR is

So, they'd be viewed better if they hired the Trill's shills?
posted by hanov3r at 11:54 AM on November 1, 2021 [6 favorites]


More details from Memory Theta:
  • Taylor recalled, "At this point, Rick had a thing about mom episodes. After we did 'Inheritance' he stormed into the writers room and yelled 'I can't believe you even gave the robot a mom! No more mom stories!' But we already had 'Bev's mom' on the story idea board, and no one had the heart to take it down. So one day, Jeanna swings by and just walks up to the idea board, all cool, and takes a marker and slowly crosses out 'Bev's mom', and under it, she writes, 'Bev's grandmom'. It was like a weight was lifted. I think we actually cheered."
  • The colony, described in early versions of the script simply as "Ethnic Planet", was made explicitly Scottish when one writer feared that an Irish setting would stir up traumatic, long-suppressed memories of season 2's "Up The Long Ladder".
  • Ellen Dow was upset that several flashback sequences featuring her amorous encounters with the alien entity were cut for time, so Braga added the sequence where she knocks out La Forge and Data on-set. "She really wanted to pop out of the coffin and just punch them out," Braga reminisces. "I convinced her we'd go with the lightning thing instead, but in retrospect I kind of regret that we didn't do it her way."
  • A last-minute attempt to get James Doohan in for a cameo was scrapped when he insisted that he would only play the part of the alien fuck cloud.

posted by phooky at 12:18 PM on November 1, 2021 [5 favorites]


LOL, Memory Theta

One of my Rules of Trek is that the "worst" episode for any particular series is one that gets labeled as such by Trekkies who take their show very, very seriously


The wisdom of age (helped along by Greatest Gen) has led me to see that making fun of something you love is, in some cases, the greatest tribute you could make. "Sub Rosa" is goofy and not Trek at its best, but I'd rather joke about this episode than ponder the more "serious" episodes that were, in dramatic terms, pretty inert.
posted by Cash4Lead at 1:25 PM on November 1, 2021 [3 favorites]


Now that I look into it, I'm surprised that this wasn't a Halloween episode, like TOS's Catspaw. I agree that TNG could have benefitted from more fun spooky stuff.
posted by phooky at 1:33 PM on November 1, 2021


All I know is that I have very, VERY grave misgivings about the Crusher family if Beverly gets all horny and turned on by reading descriptions of her GRANDMOTHER having sex. Run, Wesley! Run as far from these perverts as you can!
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:57 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


Honestly, knowing that his ancestry includes a spooky ghost dad explains a lot about Wesley.
posted by thecaddy at 2:38 PM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


All I know is that I have very, VERY grave misgivings about the Crusher family if Beverly gets all horny and turned on by reading descriptions of her GRANDMOTHER having sex. Run, Wesley! Run as far from these perverts as you can!

It's those Howard women! Interesting how it's Howard women. Did they keep their original family name down through the centuries instead of adopting their husbands'? That's always something that itches me when I watch this one.

But I do like this one. The weather thing is kind of eh and the governor is goofy, but Beverly is great and I always love her giving Picard the brush off in the transporter room.

This one also has important details about life in the Federation we don't see much of elsewhere. Colonies that are theme parks where planned events possibly spoiled by weather are reason for complaint, oh my! Funeral services that sub happy memories for the Hereafter.

The Federation is so bland.
posted by Fukiyama at 2:47 PM on November 1, 2021 [1 favorite]


Honestly, knowing that his ancestry includes a spooky ghost dad explains a lot about Wesley.

Naw, he's just a spooky ghost booty call.

Ghost with benefits?
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:13 PM on November 1, 2021


Ectobooty.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2021


Sometimes the difference between a parasite and a symbiote is just how good their PR is.

Or the quality of the orgasms?

The production staff noted that fan response to the episode was split along gender lines, with men hating "Sub Rosa" and women loving it.

#notallwomen

I mean, I do love the batshittery of it, but it's terrible in most of the ways that count. The fake Scottish theme park planet, especially, is just so completely bonkers that it overshadows everything else for me, plus it hits my humiliation squick so bad with Bev writhing around (and worse, J-Luc walking in on her OMG I diiiieee). But I'll give them the fact that it was very different, and it's always funny when the asshole fanboys get their noses tweaked. It kills me that everyone just sort of shrugs at the fact that their usually sensible doctor has fallen in love with the much younger lover of her grandma, like "grams could get it! And so should you!"

I will say I love the formal uniforms they wore to the funeral.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:12 PM on November 1, 2021 [2 favorites]


"Fashion It So" covers "Sub Rosa."

I dimly remember seeing this when it first aired; it was the only ep since season one that got a WTF reaction from everyone in the room within the first ten minutes. Followed by awkward silence during The Scene, because "everyone in the room" was me and my parents.

it's an important piece of Crusher canon

Yeah, I'm pretty sure our only previous glimpse of Crusher's pre-Starfleet life was way back in "Arsenal of Freedom".

All I know is that I have very, VERY grave misgivings about the Crusher family if Beverly gets all horny and turned on by reading descriptions of her GRANDMOTHER having sex.

YEAH. Basically everything else here is explicable without resorting to the theory that the writers were on something.

Would I read "particularly erotic" chapters from a great-great-grandparent's journal? Sure, because they died before I could so much as meet them, and I barely even knew their kids. I would NOT read particularly erotic chapters from a even great-grandparent's journal, because their kids are my grandparents. And Beverly was close to her grandmother ferchrissakes. I have (well, had) grandparents I'm not close to, but I wouldn't even read THEIR journals, let alone particularly erotic chapters therefrom.

I can't believe I didn't recognize DS9's esteemed Admiral Patrick as the governor. Maybe it's because he looks like a Zakdorn-Tellarite hybrid. Speaking of particularly erotic.

You would be correct to expect a very special episode of "Greatest Gen"; it actually might be their longest TNG episode to this point (yet amazingly, they DON'T make a Quint-from-Jaws joke).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:01 AM on November 2, 2021 [2 favorites]


Ellen Dow was upset that several flashback sequences featuring her amorous encounters with the alien entity were cut for time, so Braga added the sequence where she knocks out La Forge and Data on-set. "She really wanted to pop out of the coffin and just punch them out," Braga reminisces. "I convinced her we'd go with the lightning thing instead, but in retrospect I kind of regret that we didn't do it her way."

The creaky old Admiral kicking Riker's butt in Conspiracy was one of its most effective bits.

Part of the negative response to this episode is maybe not too dissimilar to that with "Fair Haven", no?
posted by StarkRoads at 9:14 AM on November 2, 2021


Ectobooty.

Brings new, horrific meaning to the phrase, "I've been slimed."
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:02 AM on November 2, 2021 [3 favorites]


One more horrifying thought: what was the deal with the fog on the bridge? Was that the sex cloud, too? Did... did the alien ghost monster fuck the Enterprise?
posted by phooky at 10:31 AM on November 2, 2021 [1 favorite]


That was his earthy musk
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:54 AM on November 2, 2021


Did... did the alien ghost monster fuck the Enterprise?

If he did, then the emergent intelligence in "Emergence" could be his kid. Which makes Beverly its…stepmom, I guess? Soh-chim, maybe? Whatever the case, she's gonna buy that kid a lot of Brio sets.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:27 AM on November 4, 2021


Watching this for the first time and I’m definitely gonna have to take issue with “this isn’t THE very most worst STTNG episode.” Cuz yeah. I think it may be.
posted by obfuscation at 5:35 PM on November 29, 2021


I nominate this one for worst TNG episode that wasn't in season 1. It just keeps piling WTF on top of WTF. Did I understand right that Beverly was raised by her granny, while granny was getting round-the-clock ghost orgasms the whole time? Did the ghost also convince granny to give up her top-echelon career to live in the Thomas Kinkade cottage? And only now is the faux-Scottish groundskeeper sounding the alarm?

One thing in its favor: Bev and Deanna have a chat at Gran's cottage that isn't about a man. So we have an episode that passes the Bechdel test for...what? the fifth time? Every time they have a chat I go on alert: is it going to pass? Is it going to pass? Nope, it's almost always about Wesley or the Captain or the new predatory alien boyfriend that one of them has picked up. Of course 90% of their conversation in this episode is still about the predatory boyfriend.
posted by polecat at 4:44 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


screaming in horror this is so awful I can't stand it, the only way I am coping is by reading FanFare during it. I just want to hit Ronin repeatedly in his smug awful accented face. I think the only reason I'm hanging on is I want to see dead grandma coming out of the grave. SOOOOO BAAAAAAD.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:00 AM on March 29


Ok dead grandma rising from the grave was way underwhelming. What sheer unmitigated dreck.

Beverly did look nice though, in an overly made-up kind of way. And it was fun seeing Picard's nose thoroughly out of joint. But yeah, count me as a woman who absolutely loathed this one. Makes Move Along Home look Emmy-worthy.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:10 AM on March 29


« Older Supernatural: Sacrifice...   |  Succession: The Disruption... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments