Rewatch 168: The Nth Degree

Series: Star Trek: TNG
Episode: 4.19 The Nth Degree (04/01/1991)
Rating: 4/5
Redshirt Status: 0/1/34

Notable Guest Stars:
Dwight Schultz (Reginald Barclay) – Everyone’s favorite socially awkward engineer.  He has returned for his second (but not his last) appearance in the franchise.

John Norton (Albert Einstein)- Norton will appear as Einstein again in season 6.  He is also known for his role on the British sitcom Father Ted. He also appeared in Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets.

Kay E. Kuter (Cytherian)- Another reoccuring actor on Star Trek, Kuter will appear once again on DS9 as Sirah.  He is also known for his role as Newt Kiley on Green Acres.

Review:
Barclay’s back, back again.  This time he’s not having awkward hologram relationships, but he’s still awkward.  And then he gets creepy awkward.  But I digress, lets start at the start.

We start the episode with Beverly Crusher, the Enterprize’s Entertainment Director on the few hours she’s not in med bay, putting on a performance with Barclay.  It shows character development for Barclay, who is making an effort to be more involved in things on the ship, putting himself out there.  He is however not a good actor.  I’m guessing his relationships with Beverly and Deanna have improved since neither show being too awkward with the guy who was romancing holographic versions of themselves.

There is a bit of a comedic moment when Data is confused by how the entire audience is clapping for the sub-par performance.  Deanna and Riker look like proud parents, Deanna cheering for Deanna while Will tells Data its polite.

Deanna is in fact very proud of Barclay.  She compliments him on putting himself out there.  Geordi is also proud of him and invites him on an exploration trip the next day.

And here is where the main plot begins.  Probes are always iffy in Star Trek.  They could be well meaning, but often are not.  In this case, Barclay becomes a human computer, able to process things faster then even the computer on the Enterprise. 

When reading notes on this episode, I found many people mention the book Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.  It is a book I read in high school and always found the be a tragedy. In the book, Charlie is a mentally challenged man who is put into a medical testing program where he becomes friends with the rat that proceeded him, both showing severe jumps in mental abilities.  However, he is forced to watch Algernon the rat deteriorate when the medication no longer works, foreshadowing his own decline back into lower mental processing.

I can see where they get the inspiration from that, Barclay is temporarily given super genius mental processing and confidence.  But its hard to see much more.  Barclay is already a pretty smart guy.  He’s one of Geordi’s top engineers, and its already been mentioned several times on the show that only the best get on the flag ship Enterprise. He is however what I would think of possibly autistic (similar to Data, but in a different part of the spectrum), and unable to feel comfortable in social situations. He also doesn’t deteriorate as much as Charlie does. 

The interesting twist at the end as this being the benevolent workings of an alien race who are explorer who bring the aliens to them rather then go to the aliens was interesting.  I don’t know if we see more of this race later in the franchise, but it’s a concept not often used.

I do however dislike the lack of an aftermath.  The Array blew up, and there appears to be no thought of it after meeting the aliens.

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Joe Menosky
  • Directed by Robert Legato
  • Menosky claims he wrote this in homage to Flowers for Algernon (Which might explain the comparison reviews)
  • The lasers were done in live production rather then in post production

Pros:

  • This is a little better showing for Barclay. Dwight Schultz does an amazing job in this episode going back and forth from Super Confident to regular Barclay.
  • I like moments where you see the crew off duty. 

Cons:

  •  What is with this season and every male character getting his creep on?  When a woman wants to leave, let her leave.  Accept it.  *headdesk*

Screencap via CygnusX1.net

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