The Enterprise comes across a missing ship, the Brattain, floating in space. Her crew appears to have killed each other — except for the Betazoid counselor, who is catatonic with shock and terror. The ship's systems read normal, but the engines won't start.
When the Enterprise crew begins to start seeing things, hearing things and experiencing free-floating paranoia, Crusher and Troi (and later Picard) begin to think that the same thing is happening to the Enterprise.
Tropes featured in this episode include:
- Apocalyptic Log: Captain Zaheva's last log entry, which shows how far into paranoia and insanity she had fallen.Zaheva: First officer Brink and his men were behind it. They got to the engines, they don't work anymore. Had to eliminate Brink!
- Big "NO!": Picard screams it when he hallucinates that the turbolift ceiling is coming down to crush him.
- Call-Back: A powerful release of energy is needed to escape the Negative Space Wedgie that's draining the engines. With the ability to replicate explosive compounds already lost, Data and Geordi's first idea is to turn the deflector dish into a Wave Motion Gun like they did against the Borg in "The Best of Both Worlds." It works about as well as it did then—the energy isn't strong enough to overcome the drain.
- Distress Call: It turns out the Madness Mantra and nightmare Counselor Troi keeps experiencing is an alien cry for help; there's another ship caught in the Negative Space Wedgie. The aliens' psychic cries have the rather nasty side effect of blocking humanoids' ability to dream and gain rest from sleep, resulting in Sanity Slippage.
- Dream Episode: Deanna Troi has dreams which turn out to be caused by an alien sending her telepathic messages. She needs to lucid dream in order to communicate with the alien and save her crew mates, who have lost their ability to dream.
- Eureka Moment: Troi gets two:
- The first is when, whilst trying to get through to the Brattain's counselor, he mumbles the same Madness Mantra Troi has been dreaming about, and she realizes "It's not a dream, IT'S A MESSAGE!"
- Later, she and Data are going through the ship's chemical database. Troi tells Data to stop on an image, and realizes that "one moon circles" refers to the makeup of a hydrogen atom (one electron circling one proton).
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: The crew of the Brattain murdered each other. The only survivor, a Betazoid, was left catatonic and likely insane.
- Karma Houdini: The aliens who interrupted the dream cycles of the Brattain crew and caused them to all kill one another. Understandable reasons or not—they were just trying to communicate with anybody who could help them out of their situation—they are responsible for the death of an entire crew and are not even given a token chastisement, though somewhat justified as the Enterprise crew were suffering from the same effects that had doomed the Brittain. Also, the aliens genuinely had no idea what effect it was having on them and thus it was an accident at most.
- Madness Mantra: "Eyes in the dark, one moon circles "
- No-Sell: Everyone is driven nearly insane by lack of restful sleep, save Data (because he's an android), Deanna (because of her half-Betazoid physiology), and Guinan, who... just isn't.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: As a result of the Negative Space Wedgie, everyone starts acting off.
- The unflappable Captain Picard screams in terror when he thinks the ceiling is descending toward him.
- Worf is nearly Driven to Suicide.
- O'Brien angrily suspects Keiko of cheating on him.
- One of the engineers, Gillespie, starts to think that the whole situation is some sort of secret Starfleet experiment.
- Sanity Slippage: The Brattain crew fell victim to this, killing each other, and the Enterprise crew's sanity begins slipping as well.
- Stock Footage: The explosion of the "rift" is reused footage of the explosion of the Genesis Device from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
- That's an Order!: Data states to Picard that as his final act as acting captain he is ordering Picard to bed, and that he will do the same for all personnel.
- Two Shots from Behind the Bar: When a brawl starts to develop among the sleep-deprived crew in Ten Forward, Guinan pulls out a BFG and fires a shot into the ceiling.Gillespie: What is that?
Guinan: This is a little souvenir I picked up from Magus III. That was setting number one. Anyone wanna see setting number two?
- Wham Shot: The first thing the away team sees when they beam over to the Brattain is Captain Zaheva in her command chair—with a knife buried in her chest.
- You Are in Command Now: Picard puts Data in command for their escape attempt, as he is the only crewmember unaffected by sleep deprivation.