The beauty of a series like Star Trek is that it can change and play with genres between episodes while maintaining its core genre. This episode explores the horrors of sleep deprivation and it is horror-sci fi in every way. Originally airing on March 18,1991, this is Night Terrors.
Stardate 44631.2 Night Terrors
The Enterprise finds the USS Brittain, a lost ship, filled with a dead crew only to find themselves beginning to succumb to the same affliction that ultimately killed the people of the Brittain. Finding themselves unable to achieve REM sleep, Picard and crew must find a way out before the Enterprise crewman end up killing one another like the members of the Brittain did.
When the Enterprise finds the Brittain, it is adrift and it appears that the entire crew have killed one another. Only a single crewman is found alive, a betazoid named Andrus Hagan, but he is in a catatonic state seemingly from the shock of the senseless murders.
Soon people begin to have nightmares and begin seeing things throughout the ship. As the visions and dreams get more rampant, people also begin to become upset with one another for no apparent reason. Miles and Keiko have a fight over nothing, Picard begins to hear door chimes when there are none, this continues until suddenly, the ship can not go into warp. This becomes even more stressful because, as time passes, the crew becomes more erratic and frustrated for no apparent reason.
After ten days unable to move, It appears that they are trapped in something called a Tyken’s Rift. This is a rupture in space that prevents the warp engines from working properly. Picard and Riker realize that their nerves are frayed and discuss the matter with one another. They need sleep but it appears that even sleep isn’t helping…
Picard asks Data to be the shepherd for the ship as he realizes that it is likely none of them will survive should this deterioration get worse. He knows that he is not himself and Data appears to be the only one unaffected.
Crusher soon realizes that the problem isn’t so much external but internal. It appears that whatever is affecting the ship is also causing the crew to be unable to reach REM sleep and so they are unable to dream. This is slowly driving the crew mad as REM sleep is necessary for the health of the crew. So far only Data and Troi are unaffected but the latter is experiencing night terrors every time she sleeps.
Troi keeps trying to contact the Catatonic Betazoid (that sound like a good name for a bar) but to no avail. He keeps repeating ‘eyes in the dark, one moon circles’ in his head. Clearly he is referencing the binary stars but why?
As it turns out, the message is coming from another ship trapped in the Tyken’s Rift. They have been sending out signal indicating that they need Hydrogen, ‘eyes in the dark, one moon circles’ indicates the structure of the molecule. Their signal is causing the sleep deprivation and by following their signal, the Enterprise may have a way to escape.
Troi goes back into REM sleep and manages to signal the aliens as Data jettisons Hydrogen into the rift. It works and the resulting explosion allows them to escape.
Data, as acting Captain, orders Picard and crew to bed for a much needed rest.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is by far one of the most original and interesting episodes so far. Taking a chance at a horror story in the confines a series like this is risky but when done well, it is amazing. In many ways it feels more like an Outer Limits episode than a Star Trek one but it really feels that was what they were going for. To reference classic Doctor Who, this is a Behind the Sofa episode in every way.
Everyone is delivering their A-Game in this one and it really shows. As the episode progresses you really get a sense of anxiety that is usually reserved for horror and thriller stories. What I really liked was that, although there was a genuine threat, the threat wasn’t a single being or group of beings but a natural occurrence that causes the crew to fight against themselves. Had it not been for Data, the ship would have fallen prey to the same fate as the USS Brittain. Everyone gets their moments from Crusher dealing with the living dead to Keiko and Miles fighting about nothing, but each moment feels genuine, heartfelt even. This cast has certainly found their stride and it shows.
This was always a favorite of my fathers due to the horror elements. To this day, when we speak of Star Trek, he brings it up. I remember watching it for the first time and finding it frightening but intriguing all at once. It still holds up well.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
Worf attempts ritual Klingon suicide at one point as he no longer feels like a warrior. Michael Dorn nails this bit perfectly.
We never see nor hear from Andrus Hagan but I would like to think that he is living peacefully in whatever version of an asylum that StarFleet has.
The aliens who were trapped were never named but appeared to be in a crystalline starship of some sort.
Apparently the Reliant Class Starship is still in use as the USS Brittain is one.
Guianan defends Ten-Forward with a space version of a shotgun. Like a bartender in the old west she fires a single shot to calm a rioting crowd.
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Late To The Game 12/29/2019 (Originally published 7/27/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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