There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where everybody on the Enterprise disappears by ones and twos at first, then dozens and hundreds at a time, until only Doctor Crusher is left. She tries to get Jean-Luc, Will Riker and the rest to help her figure out what’s happening, and they do, at first, but they all have a look in their eye like they think she’s cuckoo bananapants.
Turns out she’s trapped in a warp bubble her son Wesley made accidentally while she was visiting him in the engine room. Wesley was tweaking the warp engines “to increase their efficiency” when there was a flash of light and the warp bubble collapsed.
“What was that?” Wesley asks Geordi, the chief engineer. “That shouldn’t have happened.” Georgi and Wesley share concerned looks, but the Captain is in a hurry to leave space dock, so they shrug it off. Then Wesley looks around for his mom, who was standing RIGHT THERE a few seconds ago. He has a puzzled look on his face. He wanders away down the corridor, puzzled. It’s puzzling.
I still love Star Trek TNG, but it will never not bug me that Wesley and Geordi and Doctor Crusher shrug their shoulders when weird shit happens even though every single episode is not only about weird shit happening to them but IT IS ALWAYS SIGNIFICANT. They’ve been tootling around in outer space for years! I would expect them to know better than to shrug it off.
But no. Even thought Geordi and Wesley are totally weirded out by the flash of light, and even though Wesley is clearly concerned that his mother has disappeared, they both still shrug their shoulders and pretend everything’s normal. My warp bubble went poof and my mom disappeared! Oh well, the captain says it’s time to pull out of space dock. Let’s not tell him some weird shit just went down.
Sorry, I’m being way too hard on them. They must’ve gone to the captain eventually because in Act Three Wesley and Geordi are back in the engine room creating a warp bubble meant to suck Doctor Crusher out of her warp bubble like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, but they can’t quite make it work. But props to them for trying.
Meanwhile, Doctor Crusher has not only figured out she’s in a warp bubble but also that the warp bubble is collapsing and chewing off parts of the Enterprise in the process, so she’s got to get out of it ASAP. She doesn’t know how to do that, maybe because that’s not something they teach in medical school, but she does manage to figure out that Wesley and Geordi are trying to get her out, and she runs down to the engine room and literally dives through the portal into reality at the last possible moment before her warp bubble collapses on her, because nobody in Star Trek ever gets anything done until they’re literally on their last breath.
It’s not one of my favorite episodes for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s an episode that seems to exist only so they can re-introduce a character known mysteriously as The Traveler, an alien of unknown origin who bebops around the universe using the power of his mind. The Traveler tells Wesley in this episode he can do this, too. Wesley doesn’t have much to say about this news which, to be fair, is not a completely unrealistic reaction, given that it’s a lot to process. The Captain, Doctor Crusher, and Geordi likewise seem underwhelmed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WESLEY HAS A SUPER-POWER! WHY IS EVERYONE YAWNING?
Another thing I don’t like about this episode is the way everybody treats Doctor Crusher. They search the Enterprise with all due urgency after she reports the first missing person, but they seem to be humoring her while they’re doing it, and each time she reports more missing people they get progressively more annoyed by her. I hate to sound like a stuck record, but this is a crew which has seen some of the weirdest shit the galaxy can throw at them but, for some reason, they believe her less and less as the episode plays out, instead of more and more. In the end they’re rolling their eyes and sighing every so tiredly when she shows up to report more missing people.
(This is even more bizarre after The Traveler explains that Doctor Crusher’s alternate reality in the warp bubble is a product of her own thoughts. If that’s true, why does everybody disbelieve her? She doesn’t exactly have any confidence issues when it comes to her standing among the crew. They should all be as driven to figure out what’s going on as she is.)
And finally, in the opening scene when Wesley is creating the warp bubble that will flash his mom into non-existence, Geordi enters the engine room and barks at him, “Wes, your time for the experiment is over! I want my warp engine back now!” Wes answers, “Almost done, commander,” to which Geordi responds, “Almost isn’t good enough! Do you want to be the one to explain to the captain when he says engage and we just sit here?”
Why is Geordi being such a hardass? If Wesley took the warp engines off-line, I’m pretty sure he had to get the captain’s permission to do it. You don’t just waltz into the engine room and announce, “I’ve got some experiments to run and oh I’ll have to disconnect the main source of propulsion.” (Not to mention power for life support, lights and everything else.)
I’m also pretty sure that Wesley wasn’t given carte blanche when it came to how much time he got for his experiment. You think the captain said, “Oh, I don’t want to put you under any unnecessary pressure. Just let us know when your experiment’s done. I’ve got all day.” I kind of doubt it went down like that. The only way the captain would’ve let Wesley take the engines off-line was if Wesley was duty-bound to have them back on-line at a certain time.
And hey Geordi, Wesley works on the bridge, right under the captain’s nose! He’s well aware he’ll wind up in a great big hurt locker if his experiment runs over time and the engines go *fart noise* when the helmsman hits the gas. So lighten up, why don’t you?
Before wrapping this up, there were these two weird glitches in continuity that nagged at me:
Doctor Crusher goes to the transporter room to meet her friend. He beams aboard. In the very next scene, dozens of people are walking across a gangway to board the Enterprise. That seems, well, weird.
In the final act Doctor Crusher is on the bridge, watching a display that shows the warp bubble tearing off chunks of the Enterprise as it collapses. The edge of the warp bubble quickly gobbles up half of the saucer section right before her eyes, including the front of the bridge. Yet somehow she has time to say a few more lines before leaving the bridge, and not in much of a hurry.