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TNG 7-06

TNG 7x06
"Phantasms"

Original airdate: 10/25/1993
Rewatch date: 12/24/2012


Data has disturbing nightmares that appear to be pushing him into a dangerous neurosis.

Spoiler-free notes:

This story is picking up where we left off with Data's development in "Birthright, Part I," with his newfound capacity for dreaming. Though major character arcs have seemed to fall by the wayside a bit lately, here the writers are clearly trying to move one forward. What I don't understand is why it skips over everything that happened to Data in "Descent."

The Ensign Tyler stuff is played for gags, but it would be potentially interesting to give La Forge a love interest who, for a change, is interested in him while he is not interested in her. Unfortunately, they kind of overplay the humor, which doesn't give the subplot any room to develop in a more serious manner.

When Troi quotes Freud, it's easy to think the writers take the father of psychoanalysis too seriously, but then there's the scenes with the holographic Freud, which quickly allays any of those fears.

Once the problem is resolved, there's nothing stopping Picard from taking a shuttlecraft to the admiralty banquet. I'm just sayin'.

By the coda, we may have dealt with Data's blooming neurosis, but I think there's still something seriously wrong with Troi.

This is a kind of schitzophrenic episode in that it's trying to be several different things at once. In one respect, it's a light romp, full of whimsical gags and no dramatic action. You've got Ensign Tyler doting on La Forge, Picard being unable to go to an admiralty banquet that he clearly doesn't want to go to anyway, an over-the-top holographic Sigmund Freud, etc. However, at the same time, the plot centers on Data essentially losing control over his mind and turning into a violent sociopath, which is hardly material that begs for more jokes. Some of Data's dream imagery is indeed dark and creepy (personally, I find the mouth on La Forge's neck to be the most messed up image of all), and the scene where he stabs Troi in the turbolift is pretty darn disturbing. On top of all that, you've got a puzzle show in which all the clues are buried in Data's nightmares. I think this episode was probably originally intended to be dark and twisted, somewhere between "Schisms" and "Frame of Mind." Alas, at some point in the planning stages, the writers made a deliberate choice to lighten the episode up and have more fun with it. Though the gags are good--TNG has been doing generally well with its humor lately--I think this was probably a poor choice, that "Phantasms" would be a better episode had they been truer to the more unsettling aspects of the premise.

Number of episodes in which a member of the crew is subverted by an alien lifeforce: 28.



Spoiler section:

Data tells the holographic Dr. Freud that he doesn't have a mother, but we will meet his "mother" in just a few episodes, in "Inheritance."





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