The Nth Degree
Season 4 Episode 19
Original airdate: March 30, 1991
When assigned to investigate an unknown probe, Lt. Barclay receives an unexplainable boost of confidence and a vast increase in his knowledge.
My Brief Review
I often skip the Lt. Barclay episodes. I just can’t handle his twitchy nervousness and I have trouble believing someone so pathologically insecure could manage to get promoted to Lieutenant and score an assignment on the Federation’s flagship. But this episode stands apart, because for half of it, Barclay isn’t himself.
Who is he then? While investigating a mysterious alien probe that has knocked out a telescope array at the edge of Federation space, Barclay gets blasted with a beam of energy and is suddenly a confident super-genius. Which predictably goes to his head. Eventually he enters the Holodeck, not for one of his typical escapist fantasies, but to have the ship’s computer build a neural interface so his brain can merge with the computer itself.
This kind of thing has been done before (and since), but it’s still a pretty solid episode. I was reminded of Flowers for Algernon as Barclay’s IQ swelled. And there are definitely traces of HAL-9000 in Barclay/Computer’s interactions with La Forge as he’s trying to configure a bypass to the ship’s controls. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Geordi.” OK, he doesn’t actually say that line exactly, but he might as well.
There were several moments in this episode that piqued my faded memories of this episode from high school, but the one that stands out the most is certainly when the giant floating head of the aged hippie Cytherian appears on the Enterprise bridge. I feel like the 10 days Enterprise supposedly spends with them would have made for an interesting episode — or at least a few minutes’ worth of this one. But I suppose the writers or special effects designers ran out of ideas for how that all would work.
Barclay himself, of course! I understand it’s a practical matter in casting and production of a TV series, but it feels weird that Barclay is a full-fledged member of the crew, one of Geordi’s best engineers (according to Geordi himself in this episode), and yet we only ever see Barclay in episodes that are about him. It’s hard to suspend disbelief.
Distance Rating: 4K
IMDb rating: 8.1/10