"Realm of Fear"

Season Six, Episode 2
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Cliff Bole
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Dwight Schultz as Lt Reg Barclay
Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
Patti Yasutake as Nurse Ogawa
Renata Scott as Admiral Hayes
Thomas Belgrey as Yosemite crew member

"This is not the first time I've been apprehensive.
Every time I try to do it I have this certain feeling -- I guess
you could call it...mortal terror."
-- Barclay to Troi in his counselling session.
He can't do what exactly? Hmm...

Synopsis:

The Enterprise locates the missing science ship Yosemite, which was studying a plasma stream anomaly and seems devoid of several crewmen. Lieutenant Barclay must confront his phobia of transporters when he has to beam aboard the ship, but on his way back over to the Enterprise he encounters a strange snake-like creature which attacks him. He grabs the creature and it dematerialises as one of the missing Yosemite crewmen. It turns out that several of the crew were lost in the transporter beam, and this is what Barclay was seeing.†


Review:

Good heavens, was that BORING or what?!

I don't think they could have made Realm of Fear any more of a sleep-fest if they'd tried. Excruciatingly dull and unengaging in the extreme, the episode plods along and practically nothing happens at all. I really don't blame Dwight Schultz for this, for he's a good actor who tries valiantly to keep things entertaining and lively, but sadly he's just not supported by Brannon Braga's miserable script.†

I like Barclay. I do, and like I said, I think Schultz is an endearing screen presence. But I don't think the character's phobia of a transporter is nearly entertaining enough to sustain a whole forty minutes. I mean -- who cares? It didn't help that his various neuroses were over-played to the point of making him look like a complete and utter buffoon. I also detect something of a credibility problem in that the man is supposedly a trained Starfleet officer, yet he's incapable of even stepping on a transporter pad! How the heck did he make it through Starfleet Academy? Was it a case of collect twelve crisp coupons and become a Starfleet officer?! (I'll mail out £10 to the first person that can say where I got that quote!)†

I will say, however, that Barclay is definitely the best thing about the episode. Yeah, he was over-played to the point of stupidity and yeah, he was victim to a seriously inept plot, but there were some good moments and just about all of them belonged to Barclay. I thought his fruitless attempts to calm down were quite amusing -- such as his stress reduction program (which proves stressful in itself), his constant "plexing" and his spontaneous display of the symptoms he was hearing in his medical encyclopedia was amusing. Amusing, if very cliched; it's one of the oldest tricks in the book. I also liked the closing scene with O'Brien's spider! I didn't like the actual spider itself (brrr!) but Barclay's reaction was quite fun.

But that's about it. The rest was just so ruddy dull. And I mean DULL. Upon re-watching I found myself fast-forwarding large chunks -- and the telling thing is that I missed absolutely nothing! Perhaps because the episode is so repititive and the fact that nothing actually happens until the second-last scene. By then, I simply didn't care. The mystery of the Yosemite's missing crew was about as exciting as counting bits of gravel and twice as boring. To make matters worse, the whole episode is absolutely laced with a severe over-flow of technobabble. It truly is just unbearable: practically every second WORD is some silly piece of meaningless "science" jargon. Witness this conversation between Geordi and Data:

What the hell...?! That just about sums up the episode -- little more than an endless string of† mind-numbing "tech" crap. Who cares?! I mean as the end credits rolled I felt like I'd completely and utterly wasted an hour of my life. And I ain't gettin' any younger, ya know! Uh, what a waste.

One of the few remotely interesting aspects of Realm of Fear is that fact that for the first time in Trek history we actually get to see what the transportation process looks like. Sadly that's kind of marred by the rather unimpressive special effects which are used to create the sequence -- not to mention that downright laughable "snake".†

I'm afraid I can only recommend that you avoid this episode, folks. Unless you happen to suffer insomnia, in which case a quick viewing before bed-time will no doubt ensure a good night's sleep.

Rating: 3


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