The Nth Degree (ST:TNG Rewatch, Season 4, Episode 19) Barclay Evolves

Rewatching ST:TNG

Engineering schlub Lt. Barclay gets zapped by this week’s Space Thing, which makes him smart, charming… and also dangerous.

Stumbling through a friend-zoning scene from the play Cyrano de Bergerac, actor Dwight Shultz deliberately flubs a dramatic line and fails to shove a prop to the floor on the first try, masterfully embodying Barclay’s ineptitude.

The bridge looks great as always, and the model of the Argus Array is detailed and probably very expensive, but on my rewatch I was impatient for Barclay to start his “Flowers for Algernon” arc.

The post-zapped Barclay conjures up increasingly creative engineering solutions and knocks a Cyrano monologue out of the park, as the other characters react believably and meaningfully.

I always thought when Gary Mitchell or Ilya got zapped by Space Things, the zapping happened too quickly, before we had any time to invest emotionally in the relationships that were supposed to have been changed by the zapping. This episode hits that sweet spot.

When a puzzled Picard asks for anything potentially threatening that Barclay might have done, after an awkward pause, Troi reports, “He did make a pass at me last night… a *good* one.” A follow-up bit between her and Riker after the meeting is just delightful.

The holodeck is once again the source of a threat to the ship, but this time it’s very well done. I wanted more of the obligatory Dave/H.A.L confrontation scene, where LaForge is looking for a way to disconnect Barclay, while Barclay is struggling to articulate how he’s transgressed his limits.

I was waiting for Picard to order LaForge to pull the plug on laser-brained neuro-Barclay, and I was disappointed when the job fell to Worf in a silly and unnecessary action scene.

The floating-alien-head B-plot climax is firmly in the WTF zone, but thankfully it’s brief, leaving time for a good resolution to Barclay’s A-plot.