Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Remember Me

The Next Generation, Season 4
"Remember Me"
Airdate: October 22, 1990
78 of 176 produced
78 of 176 aired


Doctor Crusher is expecting an old friend and colleague on board the Enterprise, however, when she goes to meet him, his guest quarters are empty. Even more strange, the Enterprise has no record of him coming aboard, and stranger still, Starfleet has no record he even exists. Slowly, more and more people begin to disappear aboard the Enterprise, but only Doctor Crusher seems to remember they ever existed. Is there a sinister force at work or is Doctor Crusher simply losing her mind?

Crap... how do you drive this thing again?


Kevin: I'll admit, this episode has been better in recent viewings that it was for me when I first watched it. It wasn't that I thought the episode wasn't good, it just didn't grab me. On review, however, there is a lot to love her. First, there is some really interesting science fiction, and it's tied into a previous episode on the subject, Where No One Has Gone Before. The notion that ideas shape the universe isn't new, but it's always interesting.

Matthew: I am probably predisposed to liking this episode, for two reasons. One, it's a Beverly story, and she was definitely one of my MILF idols growing up. Two (and more importantly), this is the kind of science fiction I love to see, and that Star Trek at its best does better than anyone else. In our podcast, we noted the tonal similarities to The Twilight Zone. But a Twilight Zone-style story done on Trek is even better for me, because Trek generally makes an effort to posit explanations for the weird phenomena on display, explanations that, though they do not cohere with the state of current science, do generally cohere with themselves and other Trek stories. So our explanation du jour is "time/space/thought" equivalence, first proposed in "Where No One Has Gone Before." But "Remember Me" takes the concept, which was shown only in a few little vignettes in that episode (e.g. ballerinas, fires, Picard's Maman,) and gives it an extended treatment here - one that gives us deep insight into a character, her feelings, and her abilities. It's the best marriage of elements, in my opinion. There are an absolute treasure trove of philosophically interesting ideas in this episode. The notion that one's innate ideas structure our experience of the universe is quite Cartesian and Kantian. It's a good thing Crusher has innate notions of cause and effect, object permanence, gravity, atmosphere, and so on - otherwise her pocket universe could have been quite deadly! The notion gets pretty metaphysically kooky if you extend it further - if Crusher's thoughts and innate ideas construct her bubble reality, whose ideas have gone into constructing the "prime" reality? Everyone's? Early inhabitants of the universe? Notions from the mind of a creator God? My point is, when a television show gets you to think about these sorts of things in an organic and entertaining way, that's really something to note. Not many prime time entertainments can be said to provoke metaphysical introspection whilst still spinning a good yarn.

Kevin: While the episode has solid science fiction grounding, I think where it really sings is emotional depth. The nature of the problem is disturbing, and I'll get to this in the next section, but Gates McFadden plays it to the hilt. Her frustration and fear really shine through. I enjoyed watching her question her own sanity, and the scene on the bridge lamenting the loss of the crew, her son in particular, was quite moving. We even got a good use of the tease of Picard and Crusher's relationship. I enjoyed this particular instance of almost-but-not-quite since it actually served the plot, not just frustrated the viewer.

Matthew: Most definitely agreed. The opportunities provided for the character to reel at various revelations make for really juicy scenes. What I liked about the structure of the show was that the pacing was relentless, giving a lot of momentum to the first 30 minutes, taking away more and more people from Dr. Crusher. Another great structural element was the use of the computer. The computer, in almost every Trek show, is a steady, dependable source of unbiased information. And when it coolly delivers information such as "that person doesn't exist" or "the universe is a mass energy field 705 meters in diameter," the effect is really creepy and cool. It would be like your priest telling you that there is no God, or your calculator telling you that math doesn't function in this universe any more.

Kevin: I also liked a lot of the crew interaction. Crusher with Picard and then Troi really played well. It's a testament to their relationship that they give her the benefit of the doubt, but also a testament to their own intelligence that they treat the claim with believable skepticism.

Matthew: Part of the nice pacing of this show is how both the other players and the viewer are led to be skeptical at first. Had everyone disappeared right away, we'd know for sure that something was screwy. But they way it happens makes us (and the characters) wonder if Crusher is just going nuts, or there is a conspiracy, or an experiment has gone awry - they don't deliver the punchline until 30 minutes in.

Kevin: One of the best scenes in the episode for me is Crusher sussing out the mystery on her own. Her conversation with the computer was comedy gold, and the way she arrived, unaided, at the correct answer was a credit to the character. I would have liked had they held off longer on the scenes with the Traveler, because it reveals the solution to us too soon for me. I would have enjoyed seeing it solved first when Beverly solves it.

Matthew: I think this can be chalked up to "dramatic irony." Sometimes a viewer knows more than a character. The pleasure in watching a character come to a solution arises from this disparity. Knowing the solution ourselves, we root for the character to catch up with us, and it is satisfying when they do. Kelly mentioned some questions she had about Dr. Crusher's level of information in terms of solving the mystery. The nature of Wesley's experiment and the involvement of Traveler ideas is not mentioned to Dr. Crusher on screen in the prime universe. The former can be easily explained by their having discussed it over dinner the night before. The latter also, but it might have been nice to have given this a half line of dialogue to answer these sorts of logic questions. Nonetheless, the space/time/thought equivalence notion can answer some of these questions, if you push it enough. Dr. Crusher created the ship, her colleagues, the computer. Her assumptions about these entities include the idea that they are competent, have comprehensive knowledge, and can analyze and deliver information about their surroundings effectively. So I don't necessarily have a problem with bubble-Wesley or bubble-Geordi delivering cogent information about the nature of the bubble universe or the experiment that caused it. These things ought to be within their purview as they have been constituted by her thoughts.


Kevin: GIVE. GATES. McFADDEN. MORE. TO. DO. Ok, that came out a little more bluntly than I may have intended. But come on...the woman can carry a show, no two ways about it. I think the crew of the Relativity should send Jeri Taylor back in time to give the female characters on TNG more to do. She's really a gifted actress and she made the episode. If I didn't buy her fear, concern, loss, or competence, the episode falls apart. Particularly in the scene with Picard, she was awesome. I loved how she reaches for Wesley's chair when she says his name, and I adore the affectionate sparring with Picard.

Matthew: Yeah, this is a great performance from her, both as a physical actor, as well as in line deliveries. She did her own stunts, moved around the stages well, and really telegraphed her isolation, paranoia, and fear. Combined with her line readings, the performance is really effective. When she plaintively calls "Wesley!" after his disappearance, it really cuts. When she says "I won't forget you," it is disturbing, but believable and effective. This is some of her very best work on the show, and it makes her later under-use all the more galling.

Kevin: I've never been a hardcore Wesley hater, and I will certainly say I've developed a greater affection for him on subsequent viewings, but so far this season, he hasn't been really doing it for me. There's an entry in his blog where Wil Wheaton really rips himself a new one for his performance in Family, and I hate to say it, but I kind of see it here to. Maybe it's the writing, since all he has to do is stand at the pool table and look concerned, but it never really gels for me. Given his final regular appearance is in three episodes means he already had a foot out the door.

Matthew: I think Wesley's stories starting in Season Three tried to cast him as a more realistic teen. While this was a welcome change from Wesley the annoying wunderkind, it is hard for any actor to make a surly teen likable. Because you know, surly teens just aren't likable as a rule. So if we want to fault Wheaton, I think it should be for failing to surmount an almost insurmountable challenge. I enjoyed seeing Erik Menyuk again. It's really too bad they couldn't have found a regular role for him. He has an ethereal, spacey quality that really suits science fiction story telling.

Production Values

Kevin: The camera work for the disappearing crew was handled well, particularly for Picard's disappearance. TNG takes several stabs at psychological thrillers, and this is one of their more sucessful attempts. Everything really accentuated the fear and confusion of the situation.

Matthew: Yeah, for a bottle show, this episode never felt unduly cramped, boring, or staid. Empty sets are always creepy, of course, but this could have been a snoozer, and wasn't. Part of this is also the use of music. There were many eerie silences throughout the show, which were then punctuated by brief bursts of music. And that music effect they create which sounds like the tones of a looking glass shattering in slow motion  (that's the best description I can come up with...)? Goosebumps.

Kevin: The vortices were pretty well done. They felt somehow like more than mere overlays on the film. You also have to give McFadden points for her own stunt work, particularly given she is a few weeks pregnant here.

Matthew: What really sold the vortex effect was the practical additions on set. When papers and objects fly around, and fans blow McFadden's hair all over, it really makes the vortex feel real, and not like some insubstantial green screen apparition. I also liked the re-use of the "11001001" Spacedock shots.


Kevin: Well, this really hits on all cylinders, doesn't it? Great science fiction and emotional plots, some neat effects, a bravura performance by Gates McFadden, all executed in an atmosphere that could go toe to toe with the best episodes of the Twilight Zone. This is a 5.

Matthew: This is one of my all-time favorite Trek shows. As I mention at the outset, it marries a good character story to truly brain-bending science fiction. But as you say, it wouldn't be the same without the acting to deliver the goods. McFadden delivers, and then some. This is an easy 5, if for no other reason than the ultimate T-shirt quote: "If there's nothing wrong with me, then something must be wrong with the universe!" Our ratings combine for a 10, and I will say right now that I'll be lobbying for this episode to make the top ten for the series as a whole.



  1. Hmmm...I thought it uploaded to the server, but I can't find the file. It will be fixed this afternoon. I choose to blame Section 31.

  2. There we go. All fixed. Link tested, and the podcast plays just fine now.

    1. This and several other Podcast (including The Best of Both Worlds podcasts) are broken. They link to
      with the message:
      "Whoops! The website you were trying to get to seems to be missing... It's either hosted with ithought and being moved around, or someone cancelled their hosting and hasn't pointed their domain to a new server yet. Check back, or contact the website owner!"