The afterlife, Is there one? Two members of the Enterprise crew are faced with this dilemma in the episode that originally aired on May 18,1992. This is The Next Phase.
Stardate 45892.4*: The Next Phase
Geordi and Ensign Ro beam back to the ship only to discover that no one can see them. Fearing they may have died, they attempt to discover what happened and how they can communicate with their crew.
Responding to a distress call, Riker and his away team beam aboard a small Romulan vessel. When Geordi and Ensign Ro attempt to beam back aboard the Enterprise with a Romulan Engine component, they are lost in the transmission.
Data and two engineers take a shuttle to the Romulan vessel in order to bring additional support to the ship. Soon, the ship begins show signs of imminent destruction and, in the nick of time Riker and team save the ship by ejecting the warp core.
Ensign Ro awakes on the ship but soon notices that no one seems to hear her as she makes her way through sick bay. Soon she arrives in Beverly Crusher’s office only to hear Picard and Crusher discussing Ro and Geordi’s deaths. It is soon apparent that something is wrong when, much to Ro’s surprise, Picard walks through her. Ro then watches as Crusher writes Ro’s Death Certificate.
On the Bridge, Data begins to work on transferring power to the Romulan vessel. He notices that there is a strange power anomaly.
Meanwhile, Ro finds Geordi in engineering and, while they pass through everything around them, they discover that they can interact with one another. Ro is convinced that they are indeed dead while Geordi refuses to accept his fate. He soon finds that Data is investigating their deaths and hopes to find how and why they died. Data discovers a chroniton particles that could only have come from the Romulan ship.
Ensign Ro wanders the ship and finds her way to the Bridge to ‘say goodbye’ to the crew so that she can make peace with her fate. While there Geordi informs her that Data and Worf are heading back to the Romulan vessel and they join them. When they arrive at the Romulan ship, Data explains that he has returned to inform them of the dangerous Chroniton particles that he detected. Geordi and Ro discover that the Romulans have been experimenting with a Phase Cloaking Device that may have gone critical at the time of their transport. They are not dead but out of phase with everything else. They soon overhear two Romulans discussing the phase device and their plans to destroy the Enterprise so that their secrets do not get out. What they don’t know is that one of the Romulan is also phased and he secretly follows Ro and Geordi on board.
As Data investigates the strange Chroniton particles, Geordi realizes that the particles are being produced by he and Ro. Meanwhile Ro encounters the Romulan who has a Phaser with him and threatens her. Soon, after Ro escapes, they begin to race through the ship with Data (and Geordi) tracking their movements as they follow the Chroniton Particles. As Ro and the Romulan fight, the Romulan is knocked out of the ship and floats away into space.
Knowing that the Romulans have setup a booby-trap to destroy the Enterprise, Ro and Geordi attend their own memorial service. Just before Picard commands the ship to go to warp, Ro and Geordi set off an explosion to get Data to set off a stronger decontamination field. Data concludes what has happened and he is able to bring them back in time to save the ship.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is a really fun episode that explores more about both Ensign Ro and Geordi. The episode, while dealing with a new Romulan technology, really manages to capture some moments of provocative discussion about the afterlife and how people deal with death.
Ro, assuming she is in fact dead, starts to think that her life as a non secular Bajoran was a mistake. That the stories her mother told her as a child are indeed true and that, now that she is experiencing an afterlife, she made a horrible error ignoring her heritage. This really helps develop her character further as her ‘hardened persona’ is revealed to really be a mask that she wears in order to avoid being hurt. Although still not a major character, this moment really sets her into a new direction that will be played out in the coming season. Meanwhile Geordi, being the scientist, refuses to accept his fate so simply. His mind immediately goes to the scientific explanation and that, as he puts it, why would he be a ghost that is still a blind man in a uniform? Ever the rational one, this shows how clever and level headed the Enterprises Chief Engineer really is.
We also get an idea on how the living react to an unexpected death, in this case with Data. Data, having already gone through the loss of Tasha Yar and his own daughter Lal, requests that he be permitted to stage a memorial service for their fallen comrades. Picard of course agrees and we see some of the planning through the episode as he investigates their deaths. In a key scene with Worf, Data explains that Geordi’s friendship is something that was important to him and that Geordi is, in fact, Data’s first friend. This makes Data want to do something to feature Geordi’s life as opposed to memorializing Geordi’s death. He settles on a very New Orleans style funeral where it is much more of a celebration of life than a sorrowful occasion. Worf also has a great moment where he, in his discussion with Data, notes that Geordi is among the Honored Dead. To Klingons, there is nothing greater.
Overall this is a really solid episode that has lasting implications in not just the character development but also the technology the Romulans were experimenting with. Trust me, this isn’t the last time we see this kind of technology being attempted.
On a technical note, the special effects to make Geordi and Ro out of phase were downright perfect. Using blue screen technology there are some moments that are absolutely seamless.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
So, I have to ask the obvious, if they pass through solid objects, how is it that they simply don’t fall out of the ship? I mean, they really shouldn’t be able to walk on the decks.
*the stardate for this episode is not spoken aloud but, the keen eyed view can make it out on Ro’s death certificate if you pause it just at the end of the scene. This is one of the only times that a stardate is seen but not spoken during the episode.
We see the Phase Cloak technology again in a later episode but with much more disastrous results.
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Late To The Game 4/25/2020 (Originally published 10/12/2018)
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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