Star Trek: The Next Generation

“The Nth Degree”

4 stars.

Air date: 4/1/1991
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Robert Legato

Review Text

The Enterprise is assigned to repair the Argus Array, a space telescope that has stopped working. (It's the 24th-century equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope; was this story about a critical scientific tool in need of crucial repairs ripped from the headlines of the time?) A mysterious probe orbiting the array zaps Barclay while he's on a shuttle mission. After returning to the ship, Barclay has a newfound confidence and his brain activity increases exponentially. He becomes smarter and smarter, and that begins to worry some people.

The character outline is Flowers for Algernon, except instead of taking a mentally challenged man and turning him into a genius, it takes a man of average intelligence (for this crew) and turns him into an ultra-confident, cosmic super-genius. In the opening scene, regular-Barclay is playing Cyrano de Bergerac in a performance that, let's face it, is pathetic despite his best efforts. Later, watch how genius-Barclay's acting is so mesmerizing that it practically makes Crusher weep. Dwight Schultz's performance as Barclay is pitch perfect because it finds the right balance between earnest sincerity and dryly ironic narcissism. Schultz, and the episode, know that deep down this is all kinda funny because it's about Barclay, and they don't shy away from the comic notes of Barclay's growing ego and arrogance, even if he's always well intentioned.

Meanwhile, the imaginative sci-fi machinations proceed at warp speed. To fix the array, Barclay comes up with a brilliant plan that's impossible to execute by anyone except him, and requires a computer interface far faster than anything available, so he uses the holodeck to build a device that taps him directly into the ship's computer core (this device is both creepy and really cool; kudos to the production designers), where his brainpower expands and eventually takes over the entire computer and, thus, the ship. Barclay begins to develop a god complex, perhaps not unjustifiably, and claims he can understand the entire universe as a simple equation. He starts to scare the hell out of everybody.

The way the crew reacts to all this is absolutely honest human nature; they fear what they cannot predict or understand, and I don't blame them — especially when Barclay puts an energy field off the starboard side of the ship and prepares to send the crew 30,000 light-years through it, while assuring everybody, "Please, you must trust me." The suspense of what waits at the other side is one of the true moments of unpredictable awe in the Trek canon.

What actually waits there, alas, cannot live up to that awe, but I did still enjoy the episode's sense of whimsical curiosity, in which it turns out that advanced aliens used Barclay as an implement to bring the Enterprise here in carrying out their own exploration of the galaxy. Barclay is of course returned to normal, which begs the question of whether it's a blessing or a tragedy to allow the blind man to see before taking it away again. "The Nth Degree" is a splendidly unique amalgam of tones and themes, plot and characterization, imagination and bemusement, and it ends up being one of the most fascinating hours in TNG's run.

Previous episode: Identity Crisis
Next episode: Qpid

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86 comments on this post

    He wasn't completely returned to normal, I loved how there was some residual effect at the end. What would have happened had they not destroyed that probe? This episode was a precursor to a good Voyager/Barclay episode later on.

    The ominous feel is heightened by the echoes (as it were) of Hal from *2001*, as Barclay-computer speaks to the crew throughout the ship. Notice the similarity of the scene where Geordi is changing out components. I kept expecting Barclay-computer to say, "What are you doing, Geordi? ... I can't let you do that, Geordi."

    I regret learning that Dwight Schultz is a wacko conspiracy believing tea bagger nutjob. I can't enjoy the Barclay episodes now.

    Haha, totally, 2001esque... Yeah, shame about the political views, since his character seemed to be used to promote tolerance in most of his episodes

    A great episode, showing a full acting range from Mr. Schultz, and classic Sci-Fi themes executed Star Trek style. Even Troi had a meaty role for once.

    Once again, as with "Hollow Pursuits", I feel the need to correct calumny directed towards Dwight Schultz. There is nothing about the desire to have balanced government budgets, responsibility and freedom to direct your own life (rather than that being the state taking over that role) and rule of law rather than rule of men, that is incompatible in any way with the pro-exploration and pro-respect views espoused by Star Trek.

    Indeed, those of us of this orientation seek to simply espouse the same values and philosophy as the United States' "Founding Fathers" (notably minus the slavery some of them were slow to get rid of). Does one think for a moment that Benjamin Franklin wouldn't be thrilled to stand on the bridge of a real Enterprise? And the same man made a point of telling his countrymen that they gave us "a Republic, if you can keep it", and "pennies do not come from heaven - they have to be earned here on earth".

    No, the calumny directed to Mr Schultz is a calumny directed against me and many, and hence I vigorously protest. May we regain the republic that is slipping out of our hands, both for the sake of freedom, and so that we'll have the kind of society that actually _can_ support noble exploration!

    How did the enterprise get back after this? They must've used the technology of the big head santa people at the center of the universe. Lt. Barclay must have heard about some of this at some point. This knowledge would come in handy if he were to find himself, at some point in the future, perhaps in a different Trek franchise, trying to get a ship home from far away.

    Magic Reset Button.

    I love this episode so much. Barclay is a great character, and so well-acted. Like others here, I don't understand the Dwight Schultz hate. He's an actor. His job is to play a role, and he does that very well. His political beliefs are irrelevant. When I get good service at a restaurant, I don't care what my server thinks about tax policies. This is no different. We all have favorite actors - what are the odds that every single one of them sits on our side of the political spectrum? For the record, I'm as radical a leftist as they come. I disagree 100% with just about everything Mr. Schultz believes. I'm so left I hate Obama because he's too far right. I'm so left I believe in a maximum wage. I'm so left I've actually hugged trees. But none of that changes the fact that I love Barclay. Disagreeing with someone doesn't mean you can't appreciate their talent. If I ever get a chance to meet Mr. Schultz, I will ask him about acting, not politics. And I'll never listen to his radio show. Problem solved.

    Well said! And I must agree, Barclay is a great character played by a fine actor. Love all of his episodes!

    I love the Nth Degree but man it's so tough to pick between that and the great Voyager episodes with the Midas Array - I can't help but always cheer this very special TNG character on. There is just some really wonderful, memorable material here.

    Well, I guess if I go to Dwight Schultz's autograph table at the Con I'm going to this weekend, I won't be talking about politics. I'll just tell him that the Barclay character he helped create makes me feel better about situations in my life where I've felt a lack of confidence, or have royally screwed up.

    From my very liberal, fairly socialist point of view, all I can say about Schultz's politics is, "Well, nobody's perfect." :p

    It's not going to stop me from enjoying Barclay, but I think that when fans are as passionate about a series as Star Trek it feels like a betrayal to learn that one of your favorite Trek stars has beliefs that are completely opposing Trek values.

    Disclaimer - I don't think it's impossible to be a conservative Trek fan, I'm not saying that, I just think that when you get too far right watching Trek just feels odd, whereas you don't get that heading too far left. If you throw up a little in your mouth at the thought of any kind of socialism, you probably shouldn't be watching Trek (IMHO).

    Conservatives aren't allowed to watch Star Trek. Well we'll let them watch enterprise but none of the good trek. If you think beverly crusher shouldn't give free healthcare in sickbay then Star Trek isn't for you

    An all around great episode (if you can look over the ridiculous giant bearded floating lion head alien at the end). And wow, Dwight Schultz sure can act!

    I regret learning that Dwight Schultz is a wacko conspiracy believing tea bagger nutjob. I can't enjoy the Barclay episodes now.


    Shame that your left-leaning, tolerance for all Trek mantra doesn't seem to extend to those you disagree with. Funny that.

    He also doesn't seem bad to me. Seems like someone who is sick of leftist fascists and apologists. Nice to see a guy who cares and who lives in the real world.

    A lot of hollywood is the way it is because those people never have to live in places with crime and so on. Deluded, self hating , appeasing leftists.

    @ DLPB

    Hollywood is like any other industry: make a public enough stink about not getting work and eventually you for sure won't get any. Ask Victoria Rowell or the lady who played Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince.

    The truth is no one wants to hear a poor-me story about how the world is keeping someone down.

    Seriously, man, not everything should be viewed through a socio-political lens. You REALLY need to reevaluate your thought processes.

    I was responding to someone calling him a right wing nut job. Of course, I've also responded to you for doing roughly the same elsewhere on Jammer. You need to stop lying and start living in the real world.

    @ dlpb

    What precisely did I say in my post that isn't factual? I await your answer with bated breath.

    What difference do the man's politics make? What difference do George Takei's politics make? None, they're actors. Moving on.

    "The Nth Degree" - is it an excellent episode? Yes. 10 out of 10 excellent? Hardly.

    This episode, like the two immediately preceding it, has an excellently creepy atmosphere - seen best in the scene where Barclay tells Picard that he can't disconnect himself from the computer. Even though Dwight Schultz does a voice-over as the computer voice, most of that scene involves him doing everything non-verbally. And, my oh my, does he do a good job! Just his flicking of his eyes back and forth between Picard and Worf makes the scene ultra-creepy. What sets "The Nth Degree" apart from "Night Terrors" and "Identity Crisis," however, is that the atmosphere isn't the only thing keeping it afloat.

    Dwight Schultz delivers a knock-out performance here. From the shy, fumbling Barclay of the opening theater scene to the well-meaning but growingly narcissistic one, this man is on the top of his game.

    But what really stands out, for me anyway, is the fact that we have an episode here that focuses on "seeking out new life and new civilizations" and actually isn't boring as hell. I tend to like my Trek focused on world-building and fleshing out the larger picture of the fictional universe. Episodes like this often leave me feeling flat. But this one, however, doesn't. I was hooked from the first frame.

    Sadly, like Jammer said, the payoff just doesn't fit. So, some aliens we'll never see again brought them there because they're explorers who never leave their homes? Big whoop! Barclay is almost completely returned to his usual socially-phobic self? Why?! Why did the writers have them travel to the center of the galaxy? What was the point if they weren't going to do anything with that concept?

    Finally, just a minor nitpick. The scene with Barclay and Einstein in the holodeck is probably the best in the episode but LaForge's reaction to it leaves me perplexed somewhat. Grand unification theories are way over LaForge's head? This is a guy who is the Chief Engineer on the most advanced ship humanity has ever produced, a ship which travels by literally distorting the very fabric of the space-time continuum. He also lives in a civilization where fourth graders are taught advanced calculus. That "stuff" should be second nature to him.


    So Barclay goes on the ultimate geek fantasy journey, becoming the confident, hyper intelligent person "I always wanted to be".

    I wouldn't go overboard about this one. It's an excellent performance by Dwight Shultz, but the episode spends so long setting him up as the megalomaniac, Messiah complex, Hal 9000 type bad guy that I couldn't help thinking when watching "is this a 2-parter, cos they are going to have to wrap this up really quickly". Then the final twist is done in literally a minute and the whole piece suffers as a result.

    There were some other good moments - Crusher's face as Troi describes Barclay's pass at her is wonderful - but overall I couldn't get too engaged. And I don't normally go on about plot holes but... why was the probe acting as a threat to the ship...? 2.5 stars.

    I love this episode for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons was that the reveal of the Cytherians at the end DID live up the awe and especially to the spirit of Star Trek: they are explorers, they are curious about us just as we are about them. I get such a wonderful feeling of optimism about the real-life future of space exploration when I watch this episode, and it's not a feeling I get very often, even when watching or reading science-fiction in general. Kudos.

    I liked this much more than the two prior episodes, but 4 stars? On par with Yesterday's Enterprise, BOBW, Sins of The Father? No way. It's great fun and trekkian, but not quite on that level.

    And I agree with whoever -- I was taken aback when I looked Schultz up the other day and found out he's part of the right-wing wacko conspiracy theorist echo chamber, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate and enjoy his work.

    Picard in the conference room the next day: "Worf, we need to have a serious talk about security on this ship. Back-to-back weeks of known-risk crew members having their way with the Enterprise are not going to look good on my next report. I'm already in hot water because of the Data/Soong incident a few months ago. Not to mention Duras and Ardra..."

    @Sinteck wrote "I regret learning that Dwight Schultz is a wacko conspiracy believing tea bagger nutjob. I can't enjoy the Barclay episodes now."

    Ahhh…the hate-spewing left resulting to name-calling yet again. Yet they want us to believe that they are the party of tolerance and peace.

    Makes me laugh out loud every time.

    Fortunately, from all the progress we see in the 24th century, it would seem that liberalism was eradicated long ago from the show's perspective.

    Well said, J J.

    It's a guarantee that the mighty federation wasn't built by a bunch of dumb, lazy, pot-smoking hippie liberals sitting around on their ass, waiting for a free-hand out at the tax-payer's expense. Try to take a liberal's free handout away and you'll quickly be called a racist/sexist/bigot and every other name their feeble brain can come up with. Liberalism/progressivism/socialism/communism are the biggest joke ever played on society.

    The vast majority of America is not, or ever has been racist, sexist, or any other vile name.

    However, the only way a Liberal can feel good about his/her pathetic lifestyle is to put down others an lie about what others believe.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us are out building, designing, inventing, creating, and solving all the world's problems. We are the majority, and I've no doubt that we will build a very bright future for everyone going forward.

    And don't worry. Darwinism will quickly rid the world of the immoral, bottom-feeding scum where liberals reside.

    Good job with that comment, Trent. Star Trek TNG is definitely a platform for conservative values and morality, in my opinion.

    I think Denise Crosby left early on was because she is a 100% leftist and couldn't stand morality being taught through a TV show.

    And I fully agree: all hate comes from the left. All conservatives I know are the most loving, moral, charitable people I've ever met.

    I am curious as to how the obvious conservative utopia that is the Star Trek universe will come about? Perhaps you all can share your manifestos with us who sadly lack the chemical imbalance for us to grasp its complexities.

    Actually I don't believe 'Star Trek' is a Utopia by any means at all....all they did is replace America, Russians, Chinese, etc. with the Federation, Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians and continue waging war.

    There is really no progress made whatsoever by humanity on Star Trek....most of Star Trek TNG, DS9, Voyager, and the movies thereafter were all about war and violence.

    Sure the show is entertaining, but real progress, in my opinion, would be a largely peaceful state of being with no need for petty conflicts and battles any longer. Technology itself obviously doesn't guarantee peace - people can either use it for good or for bad.

    That's my two cents, and I really don't care if anyone sees that as left or right wing.

    I actually appreciated the ending, because it was a new creative sci-fi idea: same goal as the Federation, but opposite way of going about it. And because it was such an unexpected twist: the viewer was led to believe that Barclay was acting independently and that the episode would end when he was stopped, then suddenly there's a giant friendly Santa ghost head floating on the bridge! Great twist ending to an already good episode.

    If they could have in later episodes had them using some of their newfound knowledge that they learned from the Santa ghost that would have been great for continuity.

    Even though it was a giant floating Rasta Santa head, at least it wasn't Nagilum

    The look of utter confusion bordering on disgust across Data's face when he was watching Barclay's awful performance at the beginning of the episode is priceless, had me in stitches.

    As an aside, the recurrence of childish insults traded between (presumably) American) liberals and conservatives on here is quite tiresome. Not that you'll care, but the rest of the world had enough of it during your year long election campaign that culminated in the elevation of a narcissist clown to the highest office in the land. Give it a rest.

    Crusher - "I couldn't even guess at your IQ level now!"

    Barclay - "Probably somewhere being 1200 and 1450."

    Entire episode was gold. So many laughs, and it was great seeing Barclay in his ascendancy.

    Its hard to believe 25 years have gone by. Its still a great episode minus father xmas with a blue blob on his forehead at the end!

    "The vast majority of America is not, or ever has been racist, sexist, or any other vile name."

    Hahahahahahahaha!!!! That's a good one. Brilliant satire.

    I suggest that, rather than laughing your head off about the past, you direct your criticisms to the present. I.e., nearly every Muslim majority country, where child brides can be legal, child sex legal (as young as 9), FGM perfectly acceptable, slavery (in some places) still exists, and where basic human rights are absent (see Saudi for the best example of all).

    But, no, you'd rather attack a country that, while not perfect, is a damn site better. The West allows affords you the freedom to post your ramblings online. I am getting so so fed up with people like you. And the anger I have is catching on very fast with the majority of the West. You'll likely have to sit through 8 years of Trump - and I sincerely hope you have to squirm through the leadership of Le Pen and Geert Wilders.

    Your double standards aren't being tolerated anymore. People like me are taking charge of the lunatic asylum those like you created.

    Gawds, leave it to a nutbar to come in and spew political tripe without even tying it to the subject at hand. And this group of nuts wonder why most educated people in the world find them vapid, vile, and devoid of basic intelligence...


    Agreed. Gosh, what a great episode, and what great comments, until folks decide they are going to compare it to something that doesn't fit the episode or some certain agenda. Utopia then reigns of course.

    Nuts to that. I so get tired of it. Head to the political boards folks. Please. There is, must be, a limit.

    Otherwise, enjoy the day... RT

    I notice you don't debate the points made, K9T. You just use an insult. Classic. I haven't seen that before, honest! :P

    Ever notice.....the 'educated' are the political group you agree with, and the 'ignorant' are the political group you despise?

    @dlpb feb26:

    If it makes you happy to see others 'squirm'...well. Ok. No problem.

    Thanks... I guess. Not that I needed your blessing. Haha.

    Trek is about understanding the other's point of view.
    Money and wealth are important for motivation and reward. Collecting them, ultimately may lead to personal freedom to live your life as you want. In the process, you produce, become useful, and society enjoys goods at less price (supply/demand).
    Social benefits reduce the cost of failure, by increasing the cost of reward (taxes).
    Is it important to reduce the cost of failure?
    Yes, for many SELFISH reasons, irrelevant to stupid self-leftious ideologies(you get it?). I will briefly describe only one in a childish way.
    When you start your life, there is a chance of failure for everybody.
    Maslow pyramid suggests that the cost of not having food is far greater than the benefit of having tasty foods. Or far greater than the cost of jail for stealing.
    So, snap, food stamps for the failed. Its not charity. Its not leftist. Its not out of the goodness of our heart. It is in almost everybodys interest, if he applies a risk approach to the problem.
    Ok, but how much benefits?

    That determination requires econometric knowledge, empirical knowledge of the specific economy, future projections, insight to the human condition, trial and error methods, independence, accountability to people who understand that economic policies yield long term results etc.
    Not even Data would be able to do it alone. Certainly, not left/right idealists, who know shit about shit, and use feelings or have a narrow understanding of their interest.

    With the exception of Patrick Stewart, Dwight Schultz's acting abilities put most of the main cast to shame. Kind of like Garak on DS9, it would have been nicer to have Barclay appear more often.

    3 stars

    A fairly entertaining hour. The idea of a super intelligent human being is an intriguing idea and the last minute twist of Barclay’s actions tying back to the probe was great. The quantum oscillation effect as the ship entered the rift was truly a nice out-there wondrous moment.

    There were a few lulls mainly with the Cyrano stuff

    Love Geordi’s comment to Barclay regarding his acting “skills “ in the beginning. “ Just think Reg... only took 8 weeks!” LMAO!

    It's interesting watching this episode after "The Ultimate Computer". You get a sense in both episodes of a piece of technology slowly escalating in power and toward a meltdown, and a human guest star becoming unhinged along the way with it.

    It's also creepy reading another comment by another, obviously deranged (Mirror Universe?) Trent up above.

    One of my early favourites. I love Barclay and I was amused seeing the senior officers' concern and frustration about his actions during their briefing. Reminds me of the impact I had in my last job XD

    Who knew that one day, Barclay would be the man who made contact with Voyager against all odds.

    Great episode, but I feel that the 'advanced alien draws us in' trope is a bit overused. But to be fair, this was the early '90s.

    But I could have sworn there was another alien that draws them to the center of the galaxy in a different episode of TNG. That one looked more like a cloud alien.

    I like how they hinted that Broccoli retained some of the extra smarts. I like to think that his time on Voyager was this thing reasserting itself.

    I remembered seeing this one first time round and liking it .

    Barclay becomes a wonderful cross between Hal and Gary Mitchell and I concur with the wish to believe his subsequent contributions to communicating with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant are possible because of residual improvements by the dotty aliens.

    I really don't get how Jammer rates this one 4 stars -- might be the most questionable of his 4-star ratings, for me. In absolute terms, this is a decent episode, good sci-fi, the Trek themes of exploring the unknown and contact with a completely different alien race, not to mention the terrific acting from Schultz as Reg Barclay. The episode reminded me of "Hal" from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Gary Mitchell from "Where No Man Has Gone Before" except we mostly believe Barclay doesn't have ill intentions toward the rest of the Enterprise crew. But in relative terms, it was disappointing given my expectations knowing Jammer rated it as 4 stars.

    It was an interesting episode because it was unpredictable how far Barclay would go -- would Barclay's narcissism turn antagonistic toward the crew? The idea of a super-human becoming the ship's computer is a good one, however the special effects didn't do it for me (Barclay in the holodeck, ship going through the subspace rift). I will never gripe about Trek special effects detracting from an episode (never would do that about TOS) but it didn't add anything here.

    The ending is a major letdown for me. The huge alien's projection like head didn't work -- sure it's a completely different alien species. But ultimately they just want to explore by bringing people to them? Why did their probe threaten the Enterprise? And after Barclay's powers are taken away, how does the Enterprise get back? The ending wrapped up too quickly, but the crux of the episode is the transformation of Barclay and the effect on the crew knowing they're in the presence of a super-being and that part was engaging enough.

    2.5 stars for "The Nth Degree" -- some nice elements in here that ring true of the old traditional sci-fi themes and a great performance for the Barclay character going through a range of personalities. Not enthralling by any stretch, but intriguing. Not as good as "Where No Man Has Gone Before" for the points that episode made and its analogies were terrific.

    Another of the half-dozen episodes of TNG I remember last watching 25 years ago.

    So the doctor is a star medical practitioner, and a champion jazz dancer, and now conducts classes to train actors? Someone needs to CrushHer before she takes over the world.

    It's hard to imagine how the Star Trek universe as presente dwould be on the conservative agenda.

    Conservatives tend to hate the United Nations or surrendering any American sovereignty, so why would their agenda ever lead to the formation of the Federation?

    Wealth and capitalism has been abolished in the afforementioned Federation. Hard to see conservatives agitating for that either.

    The Iraq War and the Mexican War would both be gross Prime Directive violations.

    And of course, the universal health care.

    It's hard to imagine how the Star Trek universe as presente dwould be on the liberal agenda.

    Liberals tend to hate the military and giving the military a huge role in their government, so why would their agenda ever lead to the formation of Starfleet?

    Race and sex-based politics have been abolished in the afforementioned Federation. Hard to see liberals agitating for that either.

    Forcing communities to accept gay marriage or plastic straw bans or whatever would both be gross Prime Directive violations.

    And of course, the universal health care and other aspects of peace and prosperity were only created after governments nearly destroyed all of humanity, and only came about due to a single capitalist inventing something on his own without government help for the purpose of making tons of money for himself.


    There, now that we've established that judging people for their political opinions on a Star Trek site is stupid, can we go back to just talking about Star Trek?

    Ah, Skeptical, you beat me to the punch. I was just going to copy-paste your magnificent post in the DS9: "Looking for Par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" comments. If anyone wants a more detailed response, look it up (from March 16, 2016).

    I don’t see any reason not to discuss politics per se, and both sides are making good points here. It’s just that absolutely none of these points are brought up in this episode. Anyway, I wouldn’t care if Dwight Schultz owned a million guns, drove gas-guzzling cars, and imported all his clothes from China, this is still an amazing episode and its mostly due to the range of his performance.

    I have always thought that rejecting material because it features someone whose life you object to is ridiculous. This could only happen in acting or maybe politics in the first place, and on the face of it that's a shabby reason to invoke such a 'principle' - because you can literally see the face of the person you don't like. What about buying a computer; maybe the manager operating the division doing construction is a racist Commie-Nazi. You'll never know because the guy's face isn't plastered all over the product. Would such objectors actually boycott any product featuring *any one at all* they don't like involved somewhere in the production process? Yeah right.

    But somehowwith actors people feel entitled to judge them. Not that any old thing should be endorsed, and I might actually have trouble watching a show starring a literal Nazi, but shy of that...just watch the bloody thing and privately write the guy a letter if you object to something. TV execs aren't commenting on anyone's private life by doing good casting.

    Does anyone else but me think the sci for concepts in previous episodes like The Loss and Identity Crisis and Night Terros were more original and imaginative and engaging than the Santa head?? Why not a truly alien alien..a nonhumanoid maybe that lives in a different higher layer of space and time or something?? Not another subspace life form..but maybe hyperspace or something..what does eve4yone else think..

    Ahhh. I love the benevolent bearded old-man noggin which materializes on the bridge at the end and starts cheerfully categorizing the crew. He's so funny. Especially his mildly shocked reaction to Picard being 'interrogative.' He's like a highly intelligent but slightly eccentric grandpa.

    This makes me think of Star Trek V and the fake God, who the Enterprise-A also encountered at the centre of the galaxy, and who also seemed highly advanced and appeared as a giant floating head. It has long been my theory that he was a rogue Cytherian banished for being evil. It all seems to fit...

    This was great episode! Barclay was an inspired choice for this plot (or, more accurately, the showrunners tailored the plot really well to facilitate the reintroduction of Barclay). Schulz's acting chops really helped sell the point. I do agree with Luke that it makes no sense that grand unification theories would be above Geordi's head, when 24th-century physics has clearly advanced beyond this, and one practically has to have PhD-level knowledge in particle physics and astrophysics just to be an engineer.

    While I really like the ending scene in 10-forward (checkmate in nine moves!), I do find it curious that Troi eventually agrees to the walk in the arboretum, after earlier suggesting (perhaps rightly so) that it would be inappropriate given he was a former counselling patient. Unless that was just her way of letting him down gently. Either way, it's clear she sees something much more to him by the end, to the point of actively wanting to spend time with him. My recollection of follow up episodes in Voyager is that this turns into a strong bond of friendship, if nothing romantic, which is nice all the same. I also seem to recall Voyager regressing Reg a bit in terms of his social anxieties.

    Political stuff:

    It is interesting to compare the soundness of the arguments made on both sides, both of which are attempting to cast "Trekkian values" as in line with their own.

    Argument from leftist above: in a future society, the Iraq War and others like it would be gross Prime Directive violations.

    Evaluation: A solid point. Completely analogous, as it involves interference in the affairs of another sovereign state.

    "Counterpoint" from right winger above: in a future society, "imposing" gay marriage and plastic-straw bans would be considered gross Prime Direction violations.

    Evaluation: Exceedingly weak points. Not at all analogous, as they have *nothing* to do with interfering with the affairs of another sovereign state. They merely involve applying laws to one's *own* citizens. Did the person making this comment seriously think that the Federation has no environmental regulations and no anti-discrimination laws? Regarding environmental regulations: the Federation came up with speed limit within *days* of it being discovered that Warp engines were damaging subspace. Regarding discrimination, here the article on the Federation charter:

    and an excerpt from it:
    "In 2372, Benjamin Sisko pointed out to Akorem Laan that if Akorem, as Emissary of the Prophets, guided the people of Bajor towards using the D'jarra caste system, it would prevent them from joining the Federation, as "caste-based discrimination goes against the Federation Charter." (DS9: "Accession") "

    Look: we all know which end of the political spectrum espouses ideals that are more in line with established Trekkian values. The other side is of course free to go through whatever verbal contortions and false analogies are necessary to make it seem like the opposite.

    Ummm I was enjoying this one up until the super Barclay integration in the Holodeck. But I guess if those beings were so advanced with technology they could have integrated a human with the computer. It just seems like a ridonkulous way to do that...the idea of those beings bringing others to them was a good one however.

    Plus I do like Barclay. Its nice to see someone outside of the clique of the bridge crew.


    The far left liberals are in essence morons that want to establish a star trek economy without star trek technology.

    Abolish poverty and room scarcity with unlimited energy, replicators and colonies,
    create super computers that can support a centralized control
    create medical technology that solves 99% of health problems without cost

    and u dont need the free hand of the market or money to make society "tick" and "grow".

    At this point though, you need money and free market to create the aforementioned technology.

    In the end, Its the conservatives that will make the liberals utopia come true...

    @ kapages
    I know that you are bad faith actor but still.
    In Germany we have
    - a right to an apartment.

    - healthcare for all.

    - medication prices are controlled by the state. You never pay more than 38€ (if prescribed by a doctor you normally pay around 5€)and if you are poor you don't pay anything.

    - education is free and if you are poor the state provides you with an interest free loan of which you only have to repay half and over a very long period.

    I guess I live in the future?!
    Did I mention that Germany exports almost as much as the USA with far less people.

    And what the hell does this have to do with the episode!

    As long as far left liberals want to establish Germanies all around the world, I have no problem with them whatsoever.

    My point is this. You need a surplus of technology/goods/energy/exports/intelligence to support a social transfer system that yields results in the long run and keeps people motivated.
    Star Trek relies on technology and moral education. Germany relies on a strong capitalistic economy, an organized state without much corruption that provides services worth of the taxes it gets, brain inflow from poorer EU countries, muscle inflow from immigrants from 3rd countries, etc.

    Its not as simple as some seem to believe. Btw, try convincing Herr Sauble to increase german debt or an individual German to give away his/her accumulated wealth for funding additional social transfers without getting something in return...

    "Its not as simple as some seem to believe."
    So true. Most of the stuff that is very leftist in the US(Liberal in Germany means something else entirely) like what Warren or Sanders want is even supported by the conservatives in Germany. Us conservatives would be called reactionaries or fascists/nationalists in Germany.

    And if you mean the German finance minister then it is (or was)Wolfgang Schäuble but since 2017 it is actually Olaf Scholz not Sauble...

    Let's not continue this.

    Again, I see no connection to this episode.

    One thing that I always wondered about this episode... if the aliens are able to turn members of species they've never met into temporary super-geniuses, does that mean they're all even more impressive super-geniuses themselves? Just how advanced are they? Charles Stross's "Singularity Sky" and "Accelerando" comes to mind. Also Bruce Coville's "Aliens fried my brain" to a lesser extent.

    Correction, the Bruce Coville novel is: "My Teacher Fried my brain"

    @ Eric,

    I think we have to assume they're in that category of super-advanced alien species, maybe in the ballpark of the Metrons or the Organians. It's not clear whether they're still corporeal or not, but for some reason they don't like to leave their home system.

    I'd never seen this one before this evening. On the original broadcast run on the BBC in the early '90s, I may have got bored by this time. Terrific episode. The old super-computer-goes-megalomaniac story is a very well worn trope in science-fiction, and is used at least once in the original series - but here it's blended very cleverly with an existing character story. And there's a lovely twist, in that it turns out to be benevolent this time.

    Really wonderful performance by Schultz here. He reminds me a little of Michael C Hall, with a similar intense other-worldly quality in his performance.

    It’s always nice to see a Barclay episode - even if that means dragging along some of that asinine holodeck tushery as well. To some extent, Reg functions as an Everyman, a stand-in for the ordinary person who would not know a Q from a Kazon.

    Yet again, Counselor Troi is almost completely useless.

    One thing I always wondered about that episode was whether the uncanny knack for 3D chess was something the Cytherians intentionally gave Barclay or whether it was just the tag end, temporary effect of the brain boost?

    Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 6:52pm (UTC -6)

    OMG what?? I thought that it was just generally thought of that the Cytherians were the race of the "Sha Ka Ree" planet from Star Trek V. Why are you the only commenter here talking about it!?

    Isn't it obvious enough?

    SOLID episode. Brilliant how he became more confident in himself. To me it seemed like the episode suggested that he retained some of his ability/instincts, or else just simply released his inner innate talents.

    Wouldn't Data have been able to have understood Barclay up to a point given his super intelligence?

    Was the ending alluding to Deanna and Barclay banging? Or I guess a date.

    I don't like episodes that should result in giant technological leaps forward but instead just end with credits and the show goes back to its normal routine.

    It was fun seeing Barclay become a badass but it's always funny to me that after all this he apparently just goes back to being a nervous wreck engineer on Geordi's team. You'd think that Starfleet would have wanted to study him to see what else they could learn.

    An episode that began very well, became a bit silly towards the end, but ended up very well.

    I only wish Reg featured more often as a regular character instead of just occasionally where he’s the entire focus.

    High 3 stars.

    I agree Dwight Schultz is a great actor and he pulls this off so well. He actually seems to physically change as Barclay's confidence grows. Barclay develops more of a presence instead of melting into the background.

    This recurring role is one of the better ones and I liked him in Voyager as well. I agree he would have been a great regular but they probably liked to keep the revolving door of guest stars in Engineering.

    Great review for a true great episode. I love the Barclay character and tbh it's ashame there were only a handful of episodes featuring him

    Good gravy, what utter tripe.

    I know there's some kind of a lore around Barclay among Star Trek fans but this was barely watchable. So many holes there's no solid matter left.

    300+ years from now Riker doesn't know what a neural interface is?

    Barclay becomes not just the smartest human but the smartest creature in the universe?

    The Holodreck Einstein can come up with new scientific discoveries and exegeses at the drop of a hate? (Why, then, don't they have him hard at work all the time, shooting out new discoveries?!)

    "Oh, we can't disconnect him, it would kill him!" So let him run riot in and with the ship instead, endangering the HUNDREDS of people on it.

    The less said about the whacky projection of an avuncular disembodied alien-cum-Santy Claus on the bridge, the better.

    And then, with two minute till the episode ends, Barclay just disconnects and returns to normal... - how, why? Doesn't matter.

    The creepy aliens who destroy stuff, usurp vessels, and scare the bejesus out of spacefarers? "They're just exploring the universe, just as we are!"

    Some repartee and joshing around at the bar, and they auw wived happiwy eva afteh. Thee eeeeeeend.

    Okay, that's a wrap, everybody! Take a tight 20 and we shoot the next one!


    1-1/2 stars. Maybe.

    This is one the very best episodes in the entire TNG run. Who cares what Dwight Schulz's politics are; he's a great actor. Ignore the garbage reviews above.

    I must say, this was a confusing episode! I thought our dear Mr Barclay (is he any relation to the bank? I'm with them you know) was going to go a bit HAL on us, what! And they'd have to go unplug him. You know, I was unplugged once, I was taking my ease on one of those vibrating beds and then the maid came in with the hoover and tripped over the cord.

    That introductary scene is the most cringe ever-
    it doesn't stop there- here come Deanna Troi!!! eck
    otherwise it's a great episode

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