Reginald Barclay, aka Broccoli, returns to the show in an episode that gives him a chance to explore how a regular man reacts when provided with unlimited knowledge. Originally airing on April 1, 1991 this is Nth Degree.
Stardate 44704.2: Nth Degree
After an encounter with a strange alien probe, Reginald Barclay’s intellect is increased exponentially only for him to hurl the Enterprise to the center of the Galaxy.
The Enterprise arrives at the Argus Array, at the edge of Federation space, to investigate why it has stopped transmitting. While there, they encounter a strange probe that hits Reginald Barclay with some sort of feedback and disables the shuttlecraft he and LaForge were in. After attempting to use a tractor beam to tow the probe, it activates and begins to follow the Enterprise on its own accord. Showing a potential threat to the ship, the Probe continues it’s pursuit. After awaking in sickbay, Barclay comes up with a solution despite everyone else’s inability to find one.
After the encounter with the probe, Picard and crew begin their repairs on the Argus Array. Due to his success, Barclay is invited to join the senior staff briefing in order to assist in the repairs. Exhibiting his new intelligence, he overrides Geordi’s briefing and claims to have a way to fix the Array days ahead of time. He then shows an incredible improvement in his acting abilities with Doctor Crusher, having just had a pretty rough performance at the beginning of the episode. All along, Counselor Troi begins to notice that something is different with Barclay. Gone is the nervous, anxious person she knew and in his place is a confident, intelligent man. She approaches him on her observations and he soon attempts to ask her out.
The next day Barclay is due to work on the Array, LaForge finds him on the holodeck working with a hologram of Einstein attempting to analyze new theories. LaForge points out that, since his encounter with the probe, Barclay has changed dramatically. Crusher scans him and discovers that his brain activity has increased tenfold. Due to the encounter with the probe, Barclay could now be the most advanced human being who ever lived.
Soon the Argus begins to go critical and threatens to explode. Unable to use the computers, Barclay connects himself with the Enterprise computer via the holodeck. Using his connection to the ship he not only saves the Array but is now in complete control of the Enterprise itself. He is now the computer itself and in full control.
After securing the room from Barclay, the Senior staff contemplate how they will remove him from the computer. They are understandably not comfortable with Barclay in control and begin plans to remove him from the Enterprise. While LaForge is working on the plan, Reginald Barclay informs him that he has found a way to travel faster than Warp Speed. Despite Picards objections and Troi’s attempts to convince him otherwise, Barclay begins the process.
Picard sends security to remove Barclay from the computer but to no success, just as the Enterprise jumps into a Quantum Warp. Just as the ship and it’s crew are threatened with potencial death, the ship arrives in the center of the Galaxy. Soon a giant disembodied head appears on the bridge and begins to converse with Picard. Barclay arrives on the bridge and explains that he was taken over by the Cytherians in order to bring the Enterprise to them to get to know humanity. After ten days with the new species, the Enterprise is returned to Federation space with Barclay back to his normal self.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
I remembered not being fond of this episode but on this viewing I found myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would. This is one that really explores the tertiary character that is Reginald Barclay and, although he is not a regular, it really establishes him as one of the crew.
Hooking yourself up to a Galaxy Class starship is certainly a way to get attention and Barclay, if anything, knows how to get attention whether he wants it or not. The idea of expanding someone’s intellect through artificial means is not an unexplored one but this certainly takes it to a new level, the ‘Nth degree’ you might say. This particular episode has shades of the classic book, Flowers for Algernon, in which a mentally challenged man named Charlie is exposed to an experiment that makes him super intelligent almost overnight. It explores how such a radical change will affect relationships in your life both with yourself and others. The ending is much the same with Charlie losing his abilities and learning to cope with being ‘normal’ again. It is an excellent book and I suggest giving it a read.
Dwight Schultz’ return to the show is a delight. While at first he is the ‘same ‘ol Barclay’ he gets a chance to really explore what and who Barclay could be given the chance. Barclay doesn’t show up too often, but when he does, you can be sure it will be a fun episode.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
This is only the second appearance of Reginald Barclay on the series and we haven’t seen the last of him yet.
Data gets a moment at the beginning of the episode where he doesn’t understand why people are clapping for Barclay’s terrible performance. Riker reminds him, its called being nice.
We, once again, travel to the center of the Galaxy and get to meet yet another disembodied head. This time the head is more benevolent than the previous encounter, what with all the ‘What would God want with a Starship?’ and all. I tend to believe that the one we met in The Final Frontier was a Cytherian that was trying to leave and was an exile from the rest of them. Clearly after a hundred years, they have chilled out a bit.
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Late To The Game 1/5/2020 (Originally published 8/1/2018)
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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