Star Trek: The Next Generation


3 stars.

Air date: 10/25/1993
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Patrick Stewart

Review Text

During his periods of nightly shutdown, Data's dream program begins manifesting bizarre and nonsensical nightmares that Data has difficulty deciphering the meanings of. The situation becomes more serious, however, when Data begins oversleeping, then having periods of waking dreams — and things become dire when he eventually begins sleepwalking during those waking dreams and doing bad stuff, like, say, stabbing Counselor Troi.

I've talked recently about Good Brannon Braga. "Phantasms" is more like B-grade Decent Brannon Braga, but it still gets an endorsement from me because it has the benefit of being amusing. The best way to approach "Phantasms" is to look at it as weirdness for weirdness' sake. On that level it works. It benefits from some bizarre and funny images and has a tone that strikes the right balance of strange, funny, and downright goofy. It does all of this while also tying everything into a fairly routine — and definitely Braga-esque — tech/alien mystery involving interphasic parasites from another dimension (or something) which, if not expunged, will cause the entire crew to lose cellular cohesion and disintegrate. You know, the part of the plot that makes sense compared to Data's nightmares.

This is the logical plot-based non-character outgrowth of Data dreaming, established in last year's "Birthright, Part I." It involves Troi as a human cake being cut up, Worf commenting on its deliciousness ("It is a cellular peptide cake"), a trio of 19th-century laborers dismantling a corridor on the Enterprise, a telephone that won't stop ringing inside Data's chest, Crusher drinking Riker's brain through a straw, and, of course, Dr. Sigmund Freud (Bernard Kates) deconstructing it all in the holodeck and recommending Data undergo full psychoanalysis. Of course, all of that pales in comparison to Data becoming a mad slasher, stalking Troi through the corridor, and then stabbing her in the turbolift in a perfectly framed payoff shot that echoes Norman Bates in Psycho. When I look at that list, what's not to like?

All of this is happening for a reason, naturally. It's shortly after the stabbing that Crusher discovers the invisible alien parasites from another dimension, and it's learned that Data's dreams are actually subconscious manifestations of his program having detected them on their wavelength. The meanings behind the images line up with the happenings aboard the Enterprise as a result of the alien presence; within the clues lie the answer of how to destroy them. So Picard and Geordi use the holodeck to enter Data's dream and try to crack the mystery. This leads to a lengthy sequence where Data's dream is broken down, symbol by symbol, with Picard and Geordi providing running commentary to explain how the puzzle all fits together. This is more arbitrary than enlightening, but it gets the story from A to B.

All of this is leavened by its humor. In addition to the story's clear amusement with its own goofiness, we also have a running gag about Picard potentially missing a conference that he absolutely would love to miss but has been sternly warned by the admiral to absolutely not miss it without a really good reason. As I said before, this is the nuts-and-bolts approach to Data as a piece of hardware instead of an exploration of what nightmares mean to him as a character, but sometimes hardware is what we enjoy in our TNG.

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95 comments on this post

    This would get 1 from me. Take away the bizarre imagery (which has made for some fun caption contests, but since it was all dreaming, who gives a ^%$#?) and you've got a really pedestrian "mystery."

    And oh, good lord, that was the worst Freud I've ever seen.

    I think there could have been potential with the parasites and Data stabbing Troi, but the weird stuff didn't seem fun to me at all.

    It gets the 1 for the scene with Spot and Worf.

    I agree it is a 3-star episode. Not Brannon's best work but good enough. I think what really stands out to me is the atmosphere it really felt dream-like and bizarre. I thought some of the padding with the lady with a crush on Geordi and Picard/Admiral was uninteresting filler which brought the episode down but I though Brannon did a good job with the selection of images and connecting them to the real-life events on the ship.

    Good point: The whole thing with the woman with a crush on Geordi was completely irrelevant and was dropped by the story ... so much so that I forgot to even mention it in the review.

    This is actually one of my very favorites, even though I have to admit it's not horribly rich on substance. "Phantasms" has the too-rare-for-Trek Lynchian tone also present in TNG's "Survivors," Voyager's "One" and Enterprise's "Doctor's Orders". It's funny but it's also chilling. The image of Worf eating Deanna has never left me.

    Trek should have more episodes where a character's subjective reality bends as it offers so many storytelling opportunities. Whenever they experimented and used art house techniques the episode stood out, even if they sometimes missed their mark. Voyager's horridly pretentious "The Fight" comes to mind as an obvious failure. All form (or lack of it...) with no substance to present through the form.

    I actually watched this one a few weeks ago and agree with the rating. It has a good mixture of creepiness and humor.

    This has always been one of my favourites as well. The funniest moment in all of Trek for me is probably when Data answers matter-of-factly "It is a cellular peptide cake" with Worf, mouth full, piping in "with mint frosting!"


    Terrible episode. I might give this one star, if only for the "mint frosting" line.

    The weird, almost metaphysical plots from Braga sometimes work. But this is just Data masturbation, of which there's way too much of in season 7 (Masks, Thine Own Self, Descent II). We get it -- he's the series' most interesting character, Spiner's a good actor and we're bored with just about everybody else.

    The first six episodes of this season (with the awful Dark Page next) show that TNG was really out of gas. If not for Parallels, All Good Things and even The Pegasus, there would be almost nothing worth watching this season.

    A top 10 Data episode. Top 40 TNG episode. Have always loved it. Loved Data interacting with Sigmund Freud...Trek is so educatioal, I believe from sherlock holmes to freud to shakespeare TNG first introduced me to all these things. Awesomenes.... 3.5 stars

    Hey jammer, if you wanna skip all the episodes until "
    All Good Things", with maybe a sentence on each episode in between, I am perfectly fine.

    The only reason I say this is because I fear we will all be dead of boredom by the time we get to "All Good Things"!

    Quick question to everybody. Why was "All Good Things" so amazing, and every single other episode of season 7 so amazingly lackuster? Did some writer or director come back from somewhere? I felt like "All Good Things" would have fit perfectly during season 3 or 4, back when the show was really good.

    @Nick P

    Sorry dude. "Lower Decks" is a classic, and I and many others want to hear Jammer's thoughts on this matter.

    ("Firstborn" and "Preemptive Strike" are also ones of considerable interest.)

    @Nick P and @Patrick --

    The finale, Parallels, Pegasus and Preemtpive Strike are all good to great. Lower Decks, Attached, Force of Nature, Journey's End, Inheritance, Interface, Bloodlines and Gambit are watchable.

    But I'd say Liaisons, Phantasms, Dark Page, Homeward, Masks, Thine Own Self, Eye of the Beholder, Firstborn and Emergence are all really terrible, Sub Rosa is arguably TNG's worst episode and Genesis is arguably its most ridiculous.

    The series lost a lot of its zip in the sixth season and only rarely found it again in the seventh. Troi gets too much airtime, Worf gets declawed, there's too much Data masturbation (Thine Own Self, Masks, Phantasms) and the tone of the series is noticeably muted.

    TNG was at its best midway through season three to midway through season six (with some classics sprinkled around elsewhere).

    "Genesis" is the worst episode of all 178 episodes of the series. It's worse than even "Shades of Grey". Seriously.

    And "Lower Decks" is *far* more than 'watchable'. It's a classic.

    The inclusion of Ben as the Guinan stand-in hurts "Lower Decks" in a major way.

    Also, Genesis and Shades of Grey aren't worse than Sub Rosa.

    Let's see, classic season 7 episodes: "All Good Things", "Parallels", "The Pegasus"...Very good season 7 episodes: "Preemptive Strike", "Phantasms", "Lower Decks" and although season 7 isn't the best season and yeah seasons 3 and 4 were the best and more epic you guys really exagerate on your critisiscm, it has several more decent episodes, I mean man my mentality is I LOVE TRek and I love TNG as a whole and it has some down/inferior momemts and some GREAT moments same as anything, overall its one of THE best series EVER. PERIOD.

    I'd like to think of Ben as one of Guinan's many children training at tending bar and listening. I never found it to hurt the episode in the least.

    Landon -- I don't like season 7 as a whole, but I love TNG.

    Patrick -- I hate when new characters that we've never seen before parachute in and the regular characters all act like said new characters have been around for years. This isn't unique to Star Trek, but I can't think of a more blatant example in Trek than here.

    It's especially transparent when Ben is CLEARLY playing a role meant for Guinan -- right down to the character's self-assured nature.

    More blatant than in "The Wounded" when we learn that the Federation was retroactively at war with the Cardassians, who in that episode we meet for the first time? "The Wounded" was a terrific episode in the vein of "Balance of Terror" (which did the exact same thing in TOS).

    Well, BOT was like the 10th episode of the series and the story talked about how the Romulans hadn't made an appearance in a century. So, it was plausible that we'd never heard of them until that episode.

    The Cardassian thing was less plausible, though it happened a couple other times (the Xgenthi in DS9, the one-off bad guys in TNG's Suddenly Human, etc.).

    But, yes, I do find the Ben thing more annoying the others. Here's a character who we never saw before and never saw again who's like best friends with everybody. Ridiculous.

    I actually liked Ben... one of the great things about Lower Decks is that it opens your mind to the fact that there are hundreds of officers on the Enterprise with lives, hopes, dreams and concerns that aren't "our main seven".

    Even DS9 (which had a more fleshed out set of recurring characters) sometimes suffered from that same feeling of being too small (especially jarring during wartime when, outside of big battle CGI sequences, it felt like the entire enemy force was Damar, Weyoun and the female changeling). Introducing one off characters that seem to be friends with and know everybody isn't necessarily a bad thing (especially in an episode that seemed designed to make you feel the amount of people on the ship).

    Paul, I do share your feeling that it was a little sad we never saw him (or Ensigns Gomez and Lefler) again. It was a missed opportunity to get some excellent recurring characters (like O'Brien/Ro). But even with those recurring characters they often just "show up" one day. Ro got a hefty introduction, but one day everybody is psyched for Keiko/O'Brien's wedding and the viewers had never heard of Keiko before. I remember Guinan's introduction being equally as sudden and shes best buddies with Picard even though we never heard from her Season 1. The only difference between that and Ben is that Keiko/Guinan showed up again later!

    This how it gone for me: series-wise I've gone back and forth between which series is better-TNG, VOY or DS9....ultimately there all great and equal for me with their own individual strengths....I think that says somethig....
    Concerning TNG, I've jonestly gone from thinking maybe ssn 6, then 5, then 7 and then 4, now 3 are the best seasons, at one point I even felt like maybe season 2 was the best due to its handful of timeless juggernauts...before I looked more for high-concept episodes, ow I more appreciate the expanding, epic-scale fleshing out of the Trek universe that ssns 3 and 4, again...I think this says something....and I think ultimately that something is Star Trek is damn good and damn consistent for all the reasons and in all the ways all of us already know....

    @Robert: You make some valid points. And had they introduced Ben more gradually, had he appeared in later episodes or if he hadn't SO CLEARLY playing the role like Guinan, I might not have cared.

    The problem here isn't that they introduced a new character. It's that the senior officers on the Enterprise are so trusting of and close to this new character who we never saw previously and never see again.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think this episode should have been made without Guinan -- unless the Ten Forward bartender role was removed completely.

    I didn't much care for the Ben character either, but I suspect his purpose was to be a "Lower Decks" Guinan equivalent for the junior officers (which apparently suggests than the real Guinan has no time or regard for any of the crew other than the top brass, which is a bad insinuation), but there it is.

    If we could, I'd prefer everyone discuss later episodes on their respective reviews when they're eventually posted, and keep the topic here more focused on "Phantasms" or discussion that's at least somewhat related. Thanks.

    Of all the "crazy crap is happening on the Enterprise" episodes of season 7, "Phantasms" was the best. It's a clever, albeit convoluted premise, but it's well executed.

    Compared to garbage like "Masks", "Sub Rosa" and the worst episode of TNG ever a.k.a. "Genesis"--this episode is "Yesterday's Enterprise".

    I liked the episode. The solutions data tries out (like visiting Freud) are funny.

    The parasites were creepy. I would jump up and down if I discovered such a creepy critter was attached to my body, invisible or not. Our crew members are not that much disturbed.

    One question: why does a captain have to attend an admiral's dinner? And that for six year in a row?

    I'm pretty late to this party (just found your review while googling "Phantasms" after viewing this episode during my own TNG rewatch last night), but I was wondering if there was ever an explanation behind Data's "glitches" in this episode?

    I get that Data detected the creatures on some level, and his dreams were how he was working out the problem in his subconscious, but if there was a reason that his internal chronometer failed, or that he started uncontrollably dreaming while awake, I missed it. I assume that there is a technobabble explanation as to why this situation was unique, but was it mentioned? It saved them this time, but I wouldn't want to travel through space with an android who might get stabby any time he has to sleep on a problem!

    Regardless of whether or not there was an explanation, I think that 3 stars is about right for this episode. It's not perfect, but the crazy imagery and humor ("I will feed him!") make up for most of its flaws.

    The explanation for Data's glitches is, as usual, Braga once again failed to understand the premise of his own story, I'm sorry to say (because it's beating a dead horse).

    Data - " and you must talk to him . . . tell him he is a pretty cat, and a good cat"

    I too loved the exchange between Data and Wharf about Data's cat, but my favorite funny bit was Data climbing into bed, doing a forced fakey yawn and arm stretch, 2 smacks of his lips and he is ready to "sleep"! LOL

    I mostly agree with Jammer's review and would also give this episode three stars. However, I think that it is somewhat character-based. In some ways, Data has a lot in common with autism-spectrum disorder people, in that he processes so much information that he sometimes has difficulty with his filtering processes. And additionally, he has some highly obsessive traits. Once Data fixates on an idea, he cannot get off that idea, and does not need to sleep or eat (if he does not want to) to get off it. When he's solving a mystery, this is *very* good -- in this season, "Thine Own Self" comes to mind, where he works until he discovers the concept of radiation. But when it's something of a personal matter, Data's heedless focus can be less than fruitful -- he can't relax in "In Theory," for example -- or outright dangerous, as in his continuing to chase the dragon of emotion at the possible risk to his own life in "Descent, Part I" (in the holodeck scene with the Borg; this happens before his ethical subroutine is compromised by Crosis).

    Braga previously suggested what happens when Data gets a subconscious signal in "Cause and Effect," where Data obsessively placed three's all around the ship and didn't know he was doing so. In this episode, he "subconsciously" perceives the threat from the parasitic life forms. It enters his dreams, where he processes information through his creative side. The dreams turn to nightmares, and the urgency with which this occurs eventually drives out other considerations. He starts having waking dreams, and reflexively stabs Troi to save her. What is interesting and scary and kind of great is that Data is at the point of processing so much information that he "knows" on a deep level that he absolutely has to "save" Troi, and the crew, by alerting them to the parasites, but that knowledge is only encoded in him intuitively, and so manifests as an urge which he can't control.

    I was thinking about no one being too concerned, after the episode ends, that this incident not be repeated; that there is no court-martial, nor any risk of Data being disassembled and reexamined, or so on. To some extent, it's because the Enterprise crew are a forgiving bunch, but I think the other thing is, *Data was right* -- Data's uncontrollable impulse was not a sign of some buried destructive urge, but a way to alert the crew to the life forms in a way that was not possible for him to access. Data's dreaming becomes a metaphor for, and demonstration of, all the value of creativity and the irrational mind (in Data and in humans) in interpreting information about the world that is too difficult and complex to deal with fully rationally. It's not so much that the irrational is better than the rational, but that the latter, while frightening, can actually be very important. That's a very Braga type theme to play with, and it's one he deals with well.

    I love so many of the touches of humour in this episode -- Worf & Spot, Data's lip smacking, the great Admiral's Banquet subplot. My favourite touch is the image of Data sitting quietly across from Picard in the conference room with two security guards towering over him on either side -- it's such a beautiful contrast, Data's relatively small frame and quiet, pleasant demeanour up against the evidence of how dangerous he is. This is by far the best of the symbol-laden shows this season, though it still falters in some areas (the Fredu is too silly, for example).

    As usual Counsellor Pschobabble was way off base, this time with mint frosting.
    Lots of good humor here. Especially imagining Worf calling Spot 'pretty cat.'
    I do believe that there was some poking fun at Freud and some of his theories. We weren't supposed to take him seriously.
    Riker's brain is apparently the perfect beverage to wash down Troi's body. Wierd stuff but definitely enjoyable.

    One of my favorite Braga episodes. Very creative with some great metaphors. Great lens for looking at pycho-babble, parasites and dreams. Loved the critique that Braga did of Freud (Braga admitted he wasn't a fan of him). The directing was actually a pleasant surprise from Stewart (wasn't a big fan of his western trek). Pacing was great, imagery was creative and camera work was wonderful. The one exception was the cake which the producers instructed Patrick not shoot it the way he did (made it obvious that Marina was poking her neck through the cake). Patrick ignored them...and this kind of showed through, but wasn't too bad.

    In esoteric circles...there are actually incorporial parasites and perhaps Braga tapped into this subcounsly... All in all, fun episode!

    I know Hollywood rules means you have to pay an actor more if she says a line, but does it really make sense to have Ensign Gates be a mute here? Sure, it's fine when Picard says "engage" and the ship engages, but here? Everyone is standing around the comm panel wondering what's going on and discussing it, and poor Gates has to just sit there and tap the panel and ignore them all. A wee bit awkward. The fact that Gates is able to say stuff in other episodes just makes it more bizarre.

    So Data goes to talk to Troi about his nightmares, and Troi tells him that it's ok to visit his dark side sometimes. Apparently, she forgot that the last time she gave that advice to him, he held her prisoner and nearly tortured Geordi to death. I guess she still didn't learn her lesson here, and ends up getting stabbed for her effort. I imagine the next time Data comes to her with some negative feelings, she'll prescribe a hefty dose of puppies and rainbows before fleeing to the Andromeda galaxy.

    Meanwhile, poor Frakes. Even in Data's dream all he can do is be annoyed and yell at people.

    But other than that, it was a fun episode! The humor worked, the eeriness worked, and the mystery worked. About that didn't work was the horror, mainly the slasher scene of Data going after Troi, which was done in just about the most cliched way imaginable. But that was such a minor part compared to everything else that I didn't mind.

    This is a pretty fun episode, though I understand if people don't like it. To me, the only truly bad parts were any time "Freud" was on screen. Not only was the actor appallingly bad, but Freud himself was demented, and it's hard to take anyone seriously when they quote him. Given that the problem with Data was mechanical and not a real nightmare, Freud's input was useless and annoying.

    That, and characters created from real people are almost always cringe-worthily inaccurate.

    2-1/2 stars for me. It is likeable, and delves into an interesting topic of Data's dreams, with good continutity with "Birthright part I". It seems to me if Data can't control his impulese that's a major malfunction, and didn't seem intuitively plausible. The imagery was well done, like others Freud didn't work for me. Another problem with Freud is most of his methods are discredited and his sole contribution the fact that the psyche is a venue of study and therapy. The parasites themselves were great. And I suppose the "mint frosting" referred to Counselor Troi's green uniform.

    "Phantasms" is yet another episode that doesn't raise above its premise. An eerie atmosphere, surreal imagery, dream sequences, etc. can work. "Violations" and "Schisms" were examples of that to one degree or another. But here, like so many things in late TNG, it just falls flat.

    I'm reminded of a moment in "Tapestry," which I'll paraphrase - "never [comes] into focus, [drifts] with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that [present] themselves." What we have here is a simple series of whimsical/goofy scenes that are loosely tied together with the idea that the Enterprise is being invaded by invisible creatures. It all flows together but never once feels like it means anything other than an excuse to have, as Jammer says, weirdness for weirdness' sake. We go from a scene of Data fighting the workers to Data watching Spot sleep to the cake sequence to a counseling session with Sigmund Freud to Data having waking dreams to more dream sequences until we finally get a resolution. Okay, all of that is okay for what it is, but it leaves me thinking - now what, what was the point? Brannon Braga can often make stories like this work, but this one never really achieves liftoff. And speaking of "never seizing opportunities," why isn't Troi involved in the holodeck search through Data's dream? You would think that would be something the Ship's Counselor, the one who is specifically trained in the interpretation of dreams, would be on hand for. Instead, they have the Chief Engineer and the Captain doing it. Um, okay. Why isn't Troi used here?! They, instead, have her confined to a Sickbay bed for no apparent reason - everyone, like her, is infected with the creatures and Crusher healed her stab wounds. Instead of actually using the character for something she would be helpful in they decide to just drop her from the story. If that doesn't tell you about how woefully misused Troi is as a character, I don't know what will. But then, what also does it say that Data got just as much good counseling advice from Sigmund Freud (a guy who had some good but a whole lot of bad things to say) as he did from Troi!

    But, despite all that, "Phantasms" is just average. What really harms it, however, are the two sub-plots. So, one of the pieces of "drama" is that Picard REALLY doesn't want to go to a banquet with a bunch of admirals. Well, zip-a-dee-fucking-doo-dah! This is what passes for tension now? This?! Picard doesn't want to spend a few hours schmoozing with his superiors because he finds it tedious? Who the fuck cares?! It can't be more tedious than this concept. I've often defended Season Seven against people who say it was the season where they ran out of ideas, but - damn - those people might have a point about this one! (Though, I will say, given some of the things Picard likes to do for "fun," if he finds something tedious and boring then it most likely is. :P) Then there's the sub-plot of the ensign with a crush on LaForge. Braga, I'm trying to defend you here and will admit that you can produce some really quality stuff, but sometimes you make that awfully hard. Had the man even watched this show before him wrote this stuff? Had he seen what LaForge's "love life" has consisted of? He's been routinely shown to be so desperate for love that he's often willing to fall for women he hasn't even met! Now he's got an attractive woman who is also an engineer literally throwing herself at him and.... he's just not interested? Did I miss a memo here or something?! Talk about out of character!

    But, in the end, it does have some genuinely enjoyable scenes like Worf with Spot and Data's attack on Troi, so I won't be too harsh with it.


    I guess this was always going to be a love/hate kind of episode, rather than one that failed to elicit anything more than boredom. File me in the camp that loved it.

    This sets up a genuinely unsettling and suitably nightmarish atmosphere - for some reason the miners dismantling Data is a particularly disturbing image. But where some episodes might drop the ball once the alien infestation is revealed this keeps on running and wraps up the conclusion in a satisfying way as all of the dream imagery is tied together.

    Add in a healthy sense of fun - Worf and Spot being a particular high point - and this is an episode that ticks all the right boxes. 3.5 stars.

    It seems to me the matter of Data's violent behavior was startlingly unresolved. The episode never really states how these organisms were able to affect him in such a way, much less offer a solution to prevent something like this from happening again. They could have just used some technobabble answer to explain it (interphasic EMF caused an error in Data's logical subprocessor) or at the least resolve to disable his dream program for awhile. Yet they just go on like it's business as usual, and Counselor Troi seems perfectly comfortable in the last scene alone with him. It doesn't make all that much sense at times, but overall it was a fine episode.

    Phantasms was utter dreck, pure and simple. The influence of Brannon Braga could clearly be seen in this and other S7 episodes for the first time in Star Trek. People like Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor and Rick Berman should have been switched on to the tedious, weird and tech filled stories which he favoured, and he should of been side lined there and then. That he was allowed to later run amok on the franchise and run it into the ground with Voyager and Enterprise was a sad and easily avoidable situation. All the early warning signs were already there in this episode.

    So Geordi falls in love and has a date with a Holdeck character, falls in love with a Holodeck simulation of a doctor and falls in love with diary logs of a woman believed to be dead who is sending those messages to his sister but finds it disturbing and uncomfortable that a real life woman might be attracted to him? Wow.

    I dunno guys. A lot of the dream stuff was just way too silly and I'm not sure it was intended? Like how they just shot Freud at the end, that was hilarious, but they just always have the super serious music and have more obviously comedic scenes.

    Yeah, this one isn't working for me. I suppose this is how people who hate The Thaw (which remember liking a lot) feel.

    People are forgetting the funniest part of this episode - where Freud starts analysing his own significance within Data's dream, as a part of Data's subconscious! I liked how absurd it became at that point. Quality writing.

    Alexander exists again. I thought Worf had quietly killed him off since we hadn't seen or even heard of him in, what, like two seasons? (Maybe not quite that long, but it feels like it.) What was the point of establishing that character only to do nothing with him and then forget he exists and have Worf go off doing whatever for weeks as though he doesn't have a small child dependent on him back on the Enterprise? Somebody call Interplanetary Child Services.

    Geordi being disinterested when a real woman is attracted to him is hilariously ridiculous. And entirely hypocritical for him to find her annoying, seeing how downright creepy he gets towards women he's pursuing. But he's a flawed character, and it fits with what we've seen of his social awkwardness and occasions of being unable to look at things objectively. It's still really hard to believe, given how desperate he normally is. Maybe his mom's death shook him more than we thought. Or maybe this is just a badly written episode where almost everyone is out of character.

    Data seems to exhibit mental illness... But it's just because his subconscious is making him react that way.... .. .? Uh-uh. Data can't notice something without noticing it. He's a machine, he has a perfect memory and is constantly multitasking. Either he knows about it, or he doesn't. Even if there was a hidden part of him that could know something or notice something without him knowing, he notices everything so it would never know something he didn't just based off of observed data. It just doesn't fit with what we've been told about how he works, and it's too late in the series to be trying to reinterpret things the way this episode did.

    Why is Starfleet fine with Data stabbing Troi because he "felt compelled to"? If I kill someone because I'm sleep-driving I still get in trouble for it. If I kill someone and claim it's because the voices told me to I still get institutionalized. Temporary insanity or not, there should have been some sort of followup on it.

    There's no way Riker and Worf could take down Data on their own the way they did, given how strong Data's been shown to be. He would have eviscerated them both in under two seconds, or at least thrown them halfway down the hall. The only way that scene makes sense is if it was part of a dream sequence. Having one of them come from the front (and take a few broken ribs for their trouble) while the other hit his off switch would have been more believable.

    Troi is surprisingly vengeful at the end with that Data cake. She knows he didn't intentionally stab her or dream about harming/eating her, and since they recently entered into a patient-therapist relationship it's grossly inappropriate for her to bring a cake mocking his bouts of psychosis. Actually, that seems out of character for Troi, I know a lot of people don't like her, but she's never been shown to be that petty, especially with Data.

    This is another of those episodes that is mostly random creepy stuff happening that doesn't fit Trek. I can't believe I'm saying this about a Data-centric episode, but not even he could turn this into more than a "meh" from me. It felt like I was stuck in a weird dream myself.


    They did bring Alexander back a couple times in DS9 and they did some pretty decent episodes with him IMO. To be honest though I liked the one in TNG where he came back from the future to try to get his younger self to want to be a warrior in order to save Worf later from being killed in a fight.

    I just felt tired of the gags - just seemed to be contrived and pointless. Actually, annoying.

    I agree with grumpy otter this episode does nothing for me. Maybe a nice Halloween episode. Not the worst episode but Im not sure how this one rates higher than Gambit from an enertainment perpspective. Other than a dark mystery, there's not much else to go back to.

    Didn't enjoy this episode and can see how it's a bit polarizing. For me, it only got interesting in the last part once the interphasic parasites were discovered. Up to that point, the buildup with Data's bizarre dreams (which of course are tied to the warp core not working) was slow and not particularly interesting for me. The weird imagery just didn't do it for me.

    Some comedic moments were inserted like Picard's running gag with the admiral. I liked the part when he was hovering over Geordi in engineering. It's just entertaining watching Stewart do almost anything -- sign of a good actor. Worf's cake icing line was good, but Ensign Tyler's crush on Geordi didn't go anywhere.

    This is another one of the TNG creative sci-fi problem-solving episodes -- not sure how any viewer could catch on (or is supposed to catch on) to what Data's dreams mean and what Freud is telling him to do. I'm asking myself, why doesn't Data just turn off the damn dream program? But then they wouldn't find the interphasic creatures, I suppose. But they don't know that until much later, and certainly after Troi's already been stabbed Norman Bates-style.

    2 stars for "Phantasms" -- plenty of filler to create some kind of weird atmosphere, perhaps creepy which left me slightly bored. The explanation at the end was interesting from a creative sci-fi standpoint but it's ultimately pointless and is just another outing where Data gets to do some unusual things.

    I think by this stage in the game, having already made its mark, TNG is coasting. There are some interesting ideas here and there. The show basically has carte blanche and is firing mostly blanks so far in Season 7. Think I'd easily prefer TOS S3 over TNG S7.

    People seem to either love or hate this one, and i am one of the latter. I found large chunks of this boring. There was some funny stuff here, but overall it didn't do it for me. 1 1/2 stars.

    If you start this episode at the moment Troi is stalked and stabbed in the elevator, the episode plays better; like a tight, original, 22 minute film. There is nothing outside of this 20ish minute segment that is necessary for understanding the episode. Indeed, all the episode's padding, goofy or dull moments occur in the first half.

    Regarding the ensign who was flirting with Geordi, and the Admiral's Banquet subplot, I read these scenes as bits of misdirection; attempts to get you to think that the fantasies and nightmares of everyone (not just Data) were being projected and made real.

    I didn't like the way the episode misused Freud; on TV, Freudian psychology is too often portrayed as a silly means of interpreting unconscious symbols, symbols which have elaborate meanings and narratives. But Freud believed the opposite; most symbols or "things" in dreams are irrelevent, accidental or simple, and it is waking life that is a kind of shared dream, everyone enacting their desires or participating in the desires of others, all of which are programmed by socio-economic, psychological and cultural forces. The typical TV version of Freud plays like a reductive game of Where's Walo?.

    "Regarding the ensign who was flirting with Geordi, and the Admiral's Banquet subplot, I read these scenes as bits of misdirection; attempts to get you to think that the fantasies and nightmares of everyone (not just Data) were being projected and made real."

    Fantastic. Indeed, if we take this to its natural conclusion, those creepy parasites were dreamed up by Picard to avoid going to that conference.

    I actually enjoy both those subplots; the conference story is an inverted jeopardy plot, comic in its hitting the usual beats of a ticking clock scenario while the stakes are so obviously low.

    I like that analysis too, Trent. Could this episode be a funny way of outlining what we currently call 'first world problems'? That life on the ship is generally so cushy that the people there begin to dream up problems just to shake things up and excuse getting out of boring assignments like a conference? The Geordi angle plays like a typical awkward scenario in an office, where the problem is that *someone is being nice*. Yes, it's a 'problem', but the sort that only plays as a disturbance if the environment is otherwise perfect.

    Maybe we can gather than even for the crew of a ship that regularly experiences extraordinary events, during their long lulls between the storm even they need to dream up adventures to keep things interesting.

    You can almost see Braga's mind at work:

    "Let's make an episode about Data having nightmares. But what does Data dream about? What does the subconscious of a machine look like? Well, it would look logical. It would make perfect sense. The symbols would be super locked down and literal.

    But why would Data need dreams and nightmares? To save the ship! But from what? I don't know...what eats you while you're dreaming? Ah, evil bed bugs! Okay, now let's tie this plot to subtext and subplot. How do nightmares affect the rest of the crew? I know: Geordi's bad at love but is being pursed by someone he doesn't like! haha, nice one Braga! What about Picard? The guy hates dull Federation meetings! What a wonderfully banal nightmare! And what's up with Riker? He's the First Officier; he's constantly annoyed by everyone wanting to call him! And Troi? She's an annoying character, let's cut her up and silence the smug mouth on her shoulder (don't want to seem too sexist, so we'll let her eat a cake of Data). Sorted." - Braga's Brain (1993)

    Oh yeah, and Troi loves deserts, chocolate and hates being a sex object, so of course her ironic nightmare will be becoming a giant sugary cake.

    We know Crusher finds Riker physically attractive -- at least potentially -- from The Host, but to act on it would betray Picard, Troi and her medical position. So she merely casts him in mindfuck plays and acts out fantasies that way (Frame of Mind). Data sees her suggestively sucking on Riker's...brain.

    The crew, including Word himself, secretly worries about Worf's bloodlust extending into harming the crew -- Klingons eat raw food, the hearts of their enemies -- so he's the one who is most enthusiastic about this cellular peptide cake "with mint frosting."

    I realized during this episode that Spot is the only main cast member to never get to be temporary captain. Spot needs to get a better agent and play hardball during contract renewal. But seriously, great episode. I loved how they had Freud trying to analyze Data’s dreams. I’m sure the writers had fun with that. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Other times an android’s dreams are warnings that invisible mouths are out to destroy a spaceship


    "we also have a running gag about Picard potentially missing a conference that he absolutely would love to miss "

    It was a banquet, not a conference.

    Havent seen this in ages, however it's on the SyFi channel today here in the UK. First thing that caught my eye, Data 'sleeps' in his uniform.....

    For some reason, having only watched it once, the line “it is a cellular peptide cake” stuck with me for years.

    I completely agree with Worf's thoughts on jazz music before they find Troi in the turbolift. Overall, I really liked this episode.

    And I still say the Enterprise-D looks so much better with all it's external lights off. Kind of menacing.

    The funny moments are the only redeeming feature of this.

    - Data with a phone in his stomach
    - Asking Worf to talk to Spot
    - mint frosting

    Freud is a blabbering idiot. Sub-conscious crap about your mother, your father...bleh.

    Good thing they only had the top half of Troi as a cake. Could get interesting what part of her people want to eat...

    Geordi's discomfort with the fawning attention of Ensign Tyler could probably just be considered as part of a nebulous b-plot which in this episode includes anything not directly to do with Data's dreams. Also it turns out to have some ironic purpose when he ends up grateful to her for saving him from Picard's annoying him ("Good work, Ensign. I thought he'd never leave.").

    As soon as I saw the preview picture of Data with the phone in his chest, I knew I would like this one. I liked Data and his dream discovery. And in the preview when Data woke up and his modern art was in the easel next to his bed, I confirmed that to me, Data is the best of TNG. Even better than Stewart's acting - which is stellar. So lets see how I found the rest of the episode...

    Oh the ironies of Geordi finding unwanted attention uncomfortable. Maybe he would like to revisit his treatment of Dr Brahms.

    Ugh I hope this isn't one of those creatures in the warp core/plasma conduit/transporter stream in trouble and communicating through Data...


    Just caught this one again on TV, it's fine. Stewart's direction does a lot to elevate a fairly mundane script, though I did enjoy Data's new developments, even if the resolution sees him doing a plot thing rather than evolving as a character. Points for outright weirdness, even if the Braga-isms get a bit much (Freud, interdimensional bugs), and I do like this looser later-season Picard. Shame the movies didn't lean into that side of him more.

    Some very nice creepiness in this story.
    Some kid havinmg a crush on Geordi that goes nowehere did not fit in to it.
    Worf eating counsellor Troi cake might have future significance.
    I was initially bored but ended up quite liking this episode.

    This was an enjoyable episode - in some ways, the mixture of surreal humour and dark set pieces almost feels like a pilot for Farscape (released six years later).

    There are still weaknesses. First, we're asked to accept that the parasites are somehow undetectable despite being able to directly interface to physical objects and untouchable and invisible to anything other than a special torch. Then, we're expected to accept the idea that Data's body contains the only mechanism capable of dealing with the parasites, and that he's able to generate a pulse energetic enough to cover the entire ship from his internal power cells.

    And equally, this arguably was the starting point for Data being heavily overused in the seventh series.

    But still. This was definitely an entertaining episode!

    Gotta say, everything in the weird dreamland Ten Forward got a bigger reaction from me than anything in TNG S7 so far (hell, potentially *everything* in S7 so far put together). I remember the thought process as that first Ten Forward scene progressed -- the first thing you're shown is Worf and his cellular peptide cake (With Mint Frosting), which made me go "hah, it's like a Troi cake".

    Needless to say, when I saw that it actually *was* a Troi cake...

    I think I had to pause for a bit to process that.

    (I then sent a screenshot to my partner, who skipped this episode in his own TNG watch, and the exact words of his reaction were "WHAT THE HOLY JESUS".)

    To be honest, I don't think there's too much that's memorable about the actual story here. The dreams could've served any purpose or no purpose at all and I think I'd have come away with my reaction pretty much unchanged. Suffice to say, those visuals aren't gonna be something I'm forgetting any time soon.

    (And I see people quote the "cellular peptide cake... with mint frosting" line all the time. Now I know. NOW I KNOW.)

    I always called this "the cellular peptide cake episode". It looks like I'm not alone.

    The ensign hitting on LaForge is very cute. Don't know why he isn't interested, especially since he strikes out at every other opportunity with more boring women who aren't as attractive. She's even perceptive and runs interference with Picard. She's a keeper. You suck, LaForge.

    Great atmosphere in this one. The far above comment about it being "Lynchian" is spot on. Also, regarding the comment directly above mine, I don't think Ten Forward ever looked more interesting. Usually it's shot so flat and bland. The direction (and lighting) was actually pretty good in general.

    3.5 stars. This is enjoyably dreamy and eerie, and accomplishes very well what it sets out to do. I realize it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but this is an example of just how tight of a production TNG was... if a similar episode was attempted on Voyager it would have probably been one stat lower but on TNG the characters and acting are all so excellent that it (the writing is of course good as well) that it frequently is enough to boost an episode by .5 to 1 Star compared to how it would have turned out on Voyager (and its hard to compare to DS9 since this just isn’t the sort of thing it did).

    I have mixed feelings about this episode. While I found some scenes to be amusing and I thought it was clever how Data’s dreams revealed the invisible alien threat, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the concept of Data going to sleep and having dreams. In prior episodes Data explicitly stated he doesn’t need sleep and it was shown he would be the one to pull the night shift on the bridge while the senior staff were asleep in their quarters. I understand Data wants to be more like humans, but I perceive needing to sleep as a consequence of having a biological body rather than anything uniquely human. It would be like if Data had a program that required him to eat food to avoid hunger or to experience sexual desire due to an instinct to reproduce.

    If anything, I consider Data’s concern over Spot as a better demonstration of how human Data has become. Perhaps the purely logical/mechanical solution would’ve been to give Worf a program of instructions of how to care for Spot. Instead, Data worryingly tells Worf how to give Spot the best care possible.

    “Some comedic moments were inserted like Picard's running gag with the admiral.”

    A part of me agrees there is something comedic about the Admiral seeing through Picard’s charade of trying to conceal his disdain for attending the banquet. Another part of me finds it a bit unprofessional for the Admiral to assert Picard would be dishonest with a superior officer just to get out of a banquet. Picard is the Captain of a federation flagship. I would imagine most of the Enterprise’s missions have greater priority than a banquet. It’s not as if Picard has a desk job and works in the same building as the Admiral and the only time he’s on an away mission on a starship is when he’s been invited to one of these banquets.

    If the two of them knew each other personally, I think the dialogue would be more sensible.

    “Oh the ironies of Geordi finding unwanted attention uncomfortable. Maybe he would like to revisit his treatment of Dr Brahms. “

    I have a very different interpretation of Geordi’s behavior. My impression was he considers it inappropriate for a junior officer to flirt with a superior officer, especially when they’re working in the same section on the same ship. Whether it be in the civilian or military world, romantic relationships between subordinates and supervisors are frequently frowned upon, if not prohibited by company policy or military regulations. If the Ensign was from a different department, I would agree with you more about the explanation for Geordi’s behavior.

    Jammer Why do say the episode is routine?? In whatbway? Other than everyone living at the end a d the ship not blowing up,..And for the people who say this episode was bad, didnt you think it was a uniquely handled alien mystery and an original and imaginative alien life form? Ans unique and creative imagery and a unique mystery set up? I think so.

    I liked this one, quite a bit. It does require a greater-than-usual suspension of disbelief, but it rewards it.

    The Enterprise's holodecks seem sometimes just to be an excuse for TNG to present 20th Century period pieces, but at least the Freud scenes were short. I didn't quite get the scenes with the young lady in engineering fawning over Geordi and they seem to have nothing to do with the plot, unless I'm overlooking some subtle allegory. I also don't get why Geordi wouldn't encourage it, she's delightful.

    It's a bit of a stretch to think that an Android might work something out in his subconscious that he's not able to recognise consciously. It also seems to me that this episode has uncovered something of a serious flaw in Data's operation. He's susceptible to "waking dreams" that can induce him to stab other members of the crew with a lethal weapon. Just bizarre. At the very least, the episode should have resolved that problem. Even as a response to a very serious situation, it's hardly appropriate to carve up the ship's counsellor in an elevator.

    Brave of Deanna to hand Data a cake knife at the end.

    A lovely comedy touch in this one. "Tell him he's a pretty cat". A scene which exploits the contrast in Worf and Data's characters nicely. Totally illogical for an Android to ask a Klingon to express that to a cat. But funny.

    At the conclusion, Picard says that he'd never "sacrifice" the safety of the ship, by rushing to the Admiral's dinner. I think the script must have said "compromise" and he got his line wrong. Either that or poor writing. Perhaps I should be a script editor.

    And finally - yet another quasi-magic space creature. The universe seems to be teeming with them. At least they didn't inhabit someone's body and start talking to the crew. Nonetheless - am I missing something or do they just get killed at the end, there? Where's the usual Star Trek respect for life in all its forms? I'd have expected a bit of hand-wringing at the very least.

    Anyway - a bit bonkers but original, amusing, intriguing and fun. Good one.

    Sometimes a lame episode is just a lame episode. Cellular peptide cake? Vomit bucket worthy.

    @James G

    Agree, enign Tyler is just some sort of filler / diverson. Perhaps there to descirbe "normal" life.

    Episode, fun, but perhaps to many cigars. On the other side, comander Troi wearing old fashion male unterear would have been a to obvious Freudian slip.

    Data: “hey viewers, want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?”

    I give this 2 stars, for silliness. Work's "I will feed him" line regarding Spot was the source of a Mandela Effect among my friends and I, who swore for many years it was, "I will feed your animal," which we found much funnier.

    Also, there is a much less credible Mandela Effect I just made up, where I could have sworn Troi came in at the end with a whole cake and said, "Data, any number of planets in this quadrant are experiencing food shortages, or even outright starvation. I thought we'd spit in their eye with this massive waste of biomass, for the sake of a very mild callback gag."

    And Data replies, "Speaking of eating people, Counselor, I am a literally tireless machine, programmed with endless patience and the ability to perform cunniligus. Why is there not a line outside my door at all hours of the day and night?"

    A rather ludicrous episode, made more entertaining by some psychedelic and comedic plotting.

    Intentional comedy:

    - the Admirals’ banquet theme (though what kind of miniature galaxy do they inhabit where they can converge for an event as if travelling across the States for a meal in New York?)

    - Troi as a cake! Crusher sucking Riker’s brain though a straw!

    Intentional or not?

    - the absurd cliched caricature of Sigmund Freud which was of the “so bad, it’s funny” kind of scene.

    Unintentional comedy:

    - an android needing a counsellor!!!

    - a Starfleet ensign’s work being affected by a crush on her chief!

    Then it all comes crashing down to the banal with technobabbly “Interphasic” invisible cicadas being the cause of all the problems. It then becomes a standard “Enterprise has to deal with an alien menace” load of old cobblers.

    2 stars for the entertainment value.

    Spot's final episode as a male cat.

    Three episodes later, in Force of Nature, Spot is female.

    Apparently that was the window during which "Genesis" was written.


    I know saying anything negative about Data is tantamount to blasphemy...



    I mean, seriously... - haven't this guy's(?) asinine (by every definition) pursuits of "becoming more human" landed him and everyone else in enough hot water already?! How's about we leave well enough alone, slugger!

    The technological/"science" part of this episode was okay but the dollar-store Freud and Diana "I Wish She'd Take a Day Off" Troi were annoying as all heck.

    Two stars overall.

    Data to Troi: "Thank you, counselor; I look forward to our next meeting."

    Yeah: You, her, and NO-ONE else, buddy!!

    Isn't this episode wonderfully imaginative and original and worth at least 3.5? And since whem is a B grade only decent? I would think C is decent but B is good and solid.

    Who would know what a telephone even IS, let alone what one sounds like, or that you have to "answer it" in 400 years?

    Anyone know what a 1907 dictaphone is, or how you use it?

    Anyone who's an android would know. And anyone whos's spent time with Picard in his Dixon Hill program would know.

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