Beverly attends her maternal grandmother's funeral on a colony modeled after Scotland, where she finds herself drawn uncontrollably into a bizarre and unexpected tryst with ... a ghost. Okay, not really a ghost, because this is Star Trek. (It's an "anaphasic lifeform," blah, blah, blah.) But for all intents and purposes, yes, a ghost. A ghost named Ronin (Duncan Regehr) who, we ultimately learn, has been seducing the minds and cohabiting the bodies of the women in Beverly's family for generations. After season seven's endless parade of Family Tree Theater, this episode takes the cake — then blows it up with dynamite birthday candles.
Ah, "Sub Rosa." This may be TNG's equivalent to "Spock's Brain" — an episode so insanely, deliriously, hilariously, notoriously, transcendently bad that it manages to elevate awfulness to a sort of epic grandeur. Truth be told, I enjoyed watching "Sub Rosa" (granted, for all the wrong reasons) a lot more than I enjoyed watching "Homeward," but that's because I like to laugh at overcooked and overacted camp. The old adage "so bad it's good" was coined for just this sort of affair. I can't bring myself to hate "Sub Rosa" simply because it's way too goofy to be worthy of hatred.
Make no mistake — this is a terrible, terrible hour of so-called "science fiction" — but it's also a cheese-fest so absurd you almost wonder if it was meant in jest. (Note: I said "almost." I'm afraid it actually wasn't.) It appears to have been conceived as some sort of homage to 19th-century period romances crossed with haunted house stories. Where to begin?
- Beverly has an erotic affair. With a ghost. (No reason to bury the lead.)
- Beverly is warned early on by Ned Quint (Shay Duffin) that there's a ghost that brought her grandmother nothing but misery and bad luck, especially if she lit that dreaded candle. Helpful Quint dialogue: "Dahnaht laaght thaht caandle, and dahnaht goo to thaht hoose!" Beverly of course ignores these warnings. Then again, Quint is so urgent a Scotsman as to make James Doohan's Scotty seem restrained by comparison.
- No cliche goes unused as the writers and producers channel haunted house ideas that had clearly been simmering for years. Green lightning! Thunder! Wind! Faces in mirrors that aren't there when you turn around! Beverly getting possessed!
- Beverly's 10-Forward discussion with Troi about her supernatural paramour has a tone that pretty much translates to: OMG, HE GETS ME SO HOTT, LOL. Note to self for pitching the next spinoff series: Sex and the Saucer Section! Double LOL!
- Beverly resigns her Starfleet commission to go live on the planet full-time with Ronin, because erotic supernatural adventures just SCRAMBLE WOMEN'S MINDS.
- Quint is killed in the later acts by Ronin's sci-fi (or, if you will, ghostly) abilities, a victim of Screenwriting 101.
- Picard walks in on Beverly while she's very close to having an orgasm. With a ghost. Awkward!
- Hey, look! Graverobbing! And the animated corpse of Beverly's grandmother speaks!
- Gates McFadden turns in a brave performance while drowning in oceans of dreck. An overheated, hysterical and, yes, quite awful performance — but brave.
- There's probably a review to be written arguing how offensive this story is if you actually took its situation seriously. (Is Ronin a rapist? Is this episode misogynistic? Etc.) But I won't be the one to bother writing it.
- This must be the worst episode of the season. I don't remember "Genesis" being nearly this bad (nor as laughable), but we'll see.
- Did I mention Beverly has sex with a ghost?