An agitated engineer is poised to leap inside a warp nacelle’s plasma stream. He tells Riker “they laughed at me,” and jumps.
Picard wants to know what happened so he can break the news to Lt. Kwan’s parents.
Data tells LaForge he had great difficulties after he initially became sentient, and considered resetting his neural network, essentially killing himself and starting over, but decided against it. (LaForge approves.)
Troi and Worf visit Kwan’s quarters, which are orderly. They check his personal log, which reveals him as dedicated and optimistic. His girlfriend Ensign Calloway mentions some tension with his superior officer, Lt. Nara. We learn Kwan helped build the Enterprise-D, and though Nara hints at some early tension, she says they were working together fine.
While visiting the walkway where Kwan jumped, Troi experiences overwhelming panic and rage, apparently localized in the room. Crusher recommends Troi rest a few hours before returning, which is convenient for the plot because it provides us with downtime for the character-driven part of the story.
After Troi and Worf have an awkward but sweet conversation, Worf interrupts Riker on a date in Ten Forward by asking him whether there is “someone in particular you would rather I not be involved with.” Riker is amused, but is so eager to get back to his date that Worf excuses himself.
Back in the nacelle room, Troi not only experiences the emotions again, but sees the space in an unfinished state, and hallucinates a crate labeled “Utopia Planitia,” the name of the shipyard where the Enterprise-D was built. She sees a hazy image of a red-haired man looking at her oddly, and behind a nearby door, she finds a man and a woman kissing, who then start laughing at her.
After looking through personnel records, Troi finds the red-haired man, Lt. Pierce, who seems unusually bland when she inquires about the tragedy. Troi tells Worf later she couldn’t read his emotions, but suspects he’s holding something back.
After spending the evening working together, Troi and Worf say goodnight several times, but don’t leave. He takes her hand, they kiss, and we fade out to the morning after, where both look very happy.
When Troi is ready to go back to the nacelle room again where Data and LaForge will be doing technobabble stuff because reasons, a surprisingly chipper Ensign Calloway calls Worf away, gushing with compliments.
When LaForge removes a panel in the nacelle room, Troi has another episode, and oh my, there are bones behind that panel.
As Worf and Calloway investigate the bone fragments in Sickbay, Troi looks on, jealous. Meanwhile she realizes that she’s been seeing the flashbacks from Pierce’s point of view, seeing his face in a reflection. Worf says he’s going to talk to Pierce, and Troi is surprised when Pierce shows up in her quarters. She’s even more surprised when the computer tells her Worf is in Calloway’s quarters, where she finds them kissing. In a repeat of her flashback, we see Worf and Calloway laughing at her.
There happens to be a phaser sitting on a table in Calloway’s quarters, and Troi uses it.
Although she just told security to hold Pierce in his quarters, she bumps him into the hallway; he tells her “You know what you have to do,” and Troi climbs up the ladder to the nacelle room, preparing to throw herself into the plasma stream.
Suddenly Worf is there, pulling her back from the edge.
Most of this episode has consisted of how Troi’s mind interpreted the powerful emotional echoes she felt in the nacelle tube, mixing up details from the murderous love triangle nine years ago, with details from Troi’s current life.
So in the real world, Pierce never served on the Enterprise-D; in a fit of rage, Pierce killed the man and woman he found kissing in the nacelle room, and then killed himself; all are listed as having been vaporized by an accidental plasma discharge, which somehow stored the psychic energy of Pierce’s guilt, and because Pierce, Kwan and Troi all had telepathic abilities, the writers could tell a creepy story about a haunted nacelle tube and slip in a Troi / Worf bedroom scene that only happened in Troi’s hallucination.
As I read the timeline, Worf did awkwardly ask for Riker’s permission to date Troi, but it was only in Troi’s mind that Worf acted on that desire. And no creepy bones were ever actually found behind a panel.
I had never seen this episode before, so it was a nice treat as I come close to wrapping up my TNG rewatch.
It’s a tragic romance ghost story, with a technological explanation that asks us to accept that telepaths from multiple species can leave a hallucinatory echo of their trauma in a warp plasma stream, and that those hallucinations can lead other telepaths to repeat the trauma. Whew. (It would have been simpler just to ask us to believe the nacelle was haunted.)
I hadn’t seen this episode before, so it was a pleasant surprise as I near the end of my TNG rewatch.
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