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Season Six:
-226-227: "Time's Arrow"
-228: "Realm of Fear"
-235: "The Quality of Life"
-236-237: "Chain of Command"
-241: "Tapestry"
-248: "Suspicions"
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Realm of Fear

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 228)
  • written by Brannon Braga
  • directed by Cliff Bole
  • music by Jay Chattaway

Realm of Fear

While season six undoubtedly contains some disappointing two-parters, it does have an exceptionally strong line-up of single-episode stories. Here, "Realm of Fear" kicks off the real beginning of a season that remains one of my favourites in the Next Generation's run.

The central premise of showing a character in mortal terror of using the transporter is an idea so basic and obvious that you have to wonder why it took so long for us to get to it. And who better to be the protagonist of such an adventure than Dwight Schulz's Barclay? He can play all the hypochondriac beats entertainingly and with great humour, keeping the audience on side. Brilliant. I thoroughly loved this concept, and went with the episode 100%.

The transporter has been a signature aspect of the Star Trek franchise since its very first pilot, usually taken for granted and remaining in the background for 8 years of live action episodes, 6 movies, and an animated series. Finally it gets its due as a sci-fi process that is put under the microscope for an episode.

Granted, the science is quite hokey in this tale, but it's impossible to fault this episode specifically because we've seen the transporter in nearly every episode before and since, and heard enough of the core scientific oversight in transporter operation many times before. Star Trek's standing theory of how the transporter works operates on the flawed materialistic approach that it's only the molecules that matter in making a person who he or she is.

In that sense, Barclay's fears are actually well-founded. If the beam took your body apart and put it back together elsewhere, would your soul and your energy still be attached? Reports from our own Philadelphia Experiment indicate there could easily be a world of problems not covered here.

On the other hand, because Barclay is surrounded by hosts of characters who use this form of transport successfully all the time, is he just being silly by refusing to do what everyone else is doing? This episode enjoys a nice dichotomy of being able to play on both sides of this equation. It gives the episode a strong archetypal hook into a debate that could continue on in fandom for a considerable time.

But the episode also builds towards solving a very specific mystery involving the fate of the crew of a science vessel for its conclusion. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that Brannon Braga has an unknown cloud-like substance at the heart of this, but at least this time it takes the form of matter being pulled off of one star by its companion. Sadly, this involves primarily re-run footage from the season 3 story "Evolution", but it still looks cool. It's also not too surprising that we get the good old "It's alive!" cliché as well. I don't mind the facts of it, but it is tiresome to see the crew so surprised by it. It should be standard procedure to assume unknown phenomena are alive until proven otherwise, if you really can ever prove otherwise.

Quite a lot of this episode hinges on the ideas of what a person might perceive or be able to do while in the midst of undergoing the transporter beam process. If your molecules really were being taken apart, chances are your eyeballs wouldn't be seeing anything at all, and nothing you might think you saw could or should be taken seriously. Also, particularly when watching the original effect on 1960's episodes, there was an implication that a person could NOT move at all during the process and that it would probably be very wise of them not to. In fact, remaining still could be critical to the process's success.

However, on the flipside that postulates that the transporter could never actually work as a molecules-only reassembly project, if there was a better way to actually make people teleport from one place to another, their continuing perception of the event while it's happening is perfectly good territory for science fiction to explore. This episode dives right in and gives us the generous helping of that which Trek fans might have expected much, much sooner. In that sense, this episode does a pretty good job of making do with the molecular explanation Trek already had for its transporters while delving into the perceptual aspects and possible emotional responses to it.

Besides, who doesn't like a Barclay episode? Dwight Schulz works well with the entire cast of TNG, and both he and Colm Meaney's character of Transporter Chief Miles O'Brien are truly integrated members of the cast here, with everybody getting lots of good things to do. Two thumbs up.

Yes, season six had a good episode under its belt, and would quickly pile on a steady stream of many more....

This Next Generation Season Six story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Six (1992-1993):

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview: Year Six (17 min.)
  • Crew Profile: Lt. Commander Data (18 min.)
  • Bold New Directions (17 min.)
  • Dept. Briefing: Production (15 min.)
  • Dept. Briefing: Dan Curry Profile (19 min.)
  • Select Historical Data (17 min.)
  • Starfleet Archives: Sets and Props (12 min.)
  • Bonus Trailers: Star Trek Nemesis
    & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on DVD
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
June 3, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
June 3, 2014.

Season 6 (Bilingual)

Blu-ray U.K.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Relics" by writer Ronald D. Moore and
      scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Tapestry" by Moore and the Okudas.
    • "Frame of Mind" by director James L. Conway and director of photography Jonathan West.
  • Three-part documentary "Beyond the Five Year Mission - The Evolution of ST:TNG" (HD, 84 min. total) with all seven regular castmembers, plus Colm Meaney (O'Brien),
    Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan), John de Lancie (Q), writer/producers Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Ronald D. Moore, René Echevarria, Naren Shankar, Frank Abatemarco, director of photography Jonathan West, and many others.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.
  • Main audio tracks in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "The Quality of Life"

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