Original air date: May 18, 1992
The Enterprise arrives to answer the distress beacon of a Romulan vessel. Riker, Worf, La Forge and Ro beam aboard and, after a moment of tension, begin to assess the situation. Geordi determines that the graviton generator needs to be replaced, so he and Ro beam back to replicate a new one. On the way over, however, their patterns become unstable and they fail to materialize. It seems that they have disintegrated.
As the crew struggle to continue their duties while reacting to the apparent deaths of two crew members, Ro and Geordi wake on different parts of the ship. No one can see them, and they pass through solid objects. Ro immediately decides that they're dead, and this is the afterlife, but Geordi isn't convinced. Ro begins saying her goodbyes to the crew, though they cannot hear her, but eventually follows Geordi to the Romulan vessel as he searches for answers.
Geordi peaks into a computer terminal on the Romulan vessel and recognizes it as molecular phase inverter. When combined with a cloaking device, the inverter could cause matter to go out of phase, putting it in much the same position Geordi and Ro find themselves. This proves that the pair are still alive, just out of phase. Before they return to the ship, they overhear two Romulan officers plotting to sabotage the Enterprise's engines to make it explode when it next jumps to warp speed. Geordi and Ro now have to figure out a way to come back into phase before that happens. Little to they know, however, that they themselves are overheard by a Romulan who is out of phase just like they are.
Data begins scanning the ship for strange chroniton fields that have cropped up throughout the ship and nullifying them with anyons. Geordi quickly realizes that he and Ro are creating the fields whenever they pass through matter. When Data errantly passes anyons through Geordi's hand, it becomes slightly more solid. That's the solution he's been seeking: Geordi and Ro need to be doused in anyons to bring them back into phase.
While that is happening, Ro gets attacked by the out-of-phase Romulan, who is armed with an out-of-phase disruptor. They have a fight throughout the ship, passing through the private quarters of various crewmen who go about their lives oblivious to the fight. Finally, Geordi arrives and helps throw the Romulan through the ship's hull, sending him careening through empty space.
Geordi tells Ro the good news, and they head to Ten Forward, where Data has begun their funeral arrangements, to try to materialize long enough for someone to see them. After much consideration, Data has decided to host a funeral that is a celebration of Geordi and Ro's lives. The "deceased" pair begin touching and shooting at objects to flood the room with chronitons, but the resulting anyon blast is still too weak. Picard gets a call that the ship's next mission awaits them, so he prepares to have the ship jump to warp speed. As a last-ditch effort, Ro sets her out-of-phase disruptor to explode, creating a massive dose of chronitons. The crew responds with a commensurate dose of anyons, which cause Geordi and Ro to materialize just long enough to catch the attention of Data and Picard. Data finally is able to figure out what the chroniton fields actually were, and explains it to Picard.
Picard orders a sustained blast of anyons that finally brings Geordi and Ro back into phase. Geordi immediately orders the ship's engines offline, saving the ship from disaster. Afterwards, Geordi gorges himself on his own funeral's food, but Ro isn't hungry. She admits that her brush with the "afterlife" has made her appreciate her culture's religious beliefs more. Geordi jokes that they ought to try to create their own interphase device, since if it can teach Ro humility, then it can do anything. They both laugh.
Tropes provided by "The Next Phase":
- Attending Your Own Funeral: Geordi and Ro do that because it's a large gathering of people, which raises the chance that someone will see them during the short time in which the decontamination is making them visible.
- Big Eater: Geordi in the end. Justified since he and Ro had been out of phase for nearly two days.
- Boom, Headshot!: Played with. When Ro realizes that she will never know what Riker was going to say about her during their "funeral", she "shoots" him in the head with the Romulan Disruptor while she is out of phase.
- Cheerful Funeral: After much consideration on what kind of funeral to hold, Data gets inspiration from Worf to create a funeral that celebrates the departed. When it's discovered that Geordi and Ro are not actually dead, the celebration of their lives turns into a genuine celebration.
- Chekhov's Gunman: After Data and Worf — and, unknown to them, Geordi and Ro — return to the Romulan ship, the camera briefly lingers on a seemingly-innocuous Romulan sitting in a chair, before moving on to Data talking to two Romulans and Geordi discovering the phasing cloak and telling Ro about it. At the end of this scene, it's revealed that this Romulan is also cloaked, and that he heard everything Geordi and Ro were saying to one another.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: When the Romulan trying to kill Ro is tackled by Geordi, the Romulan, being as intangible as Ro and Geordi, is sent through the bulkhead into space.
- The Farmer and the Viper: The Enterprise undertakes a mission of mercy to their enemy, the Romulans, but the rescued Romulans merely use the opportunity to try to destroy the Enterprise.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Though it was only a brief moment, Geordi was previously very vocal about not being happy with Ro joining the crew. The two bond in this episode, though.
- Foreshadowing: Geordi mentions rumors of the Romulans developing an interphasing cloaking device. In season 7's "The Pegasus," we'll see these rumors were very real.
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": Ro is horrified that Data decided to make their memorial service a New Orleans-style jazz funeral. He got the idea from Worf, who explained that Klingons celebrate when a friend joins the honored dead.
- Funny Background Event:
- Ro's fight with the Romulan spills through various crewmen's quarters, and everyone continues going about their mundane business while Ro is in a fight for her life.
- Ro wandering around her own funeral beam-spamming random objects (and Riker).
- Ghostly Goals: Ro thinks that they're dead and need to settle personal business before moving on to the afterlife.
- Hell of a Heaven: Subtly discussed. Among the chief reasons why Geordi refuses to accept the possibly that he and Ro are both dead and in some of afterlife, is because of the fact that he is still blind. This at the very least implies that Geordi believes that in whatever afterlife there might be, your earthly ailments shouldn't be troubling you anymore, and he finds the notion that they still will unacceptable.
- Intangible Man: Geordi and Ro and Romulan officer Parem.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: Discussed. Geordi and Ro confront the possibility that an accident killed them, and the reason they're invisible to the crew is that they're ghosts. The skeptical Geordi runs headlong into this very trope.Geordi: But my uniform, my visor... are you saying I'm some blind ghost with clothes?
Ro: I don't have all the answers! I've never been dead before!
- Karma Houdini: Even though they nearly kill the folks who saved their lives, the Romulans get away scot-free. Well, except for that one guy flung into space.
- Pan and Scan: This episode notably uses the technique in several of the effects shots, like when Ensign Ro breaks free of the Romulan at the start of the chase sequence. As The Next Generation was shot on 35mm film and then cropped to fit a television's aspect ratio, using pan and scan was an innovative way to give the illusion of a dolly or tracking shot while a special effect was happening.
- The Power of Friendship: Reflecting on Geordi's apparent death:Data: I never knew what a friend was, until I met Geordi. He spoke to me as though I were human. He treated me no differently from anyone else. He accepted me for what I am. And that, I have learned, is friendship.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: This episode is Ghost in space. Too bad Whoopi Goldberg wasn't there that week...
- Religious Bruiser: Ensign Ro had claimed to be raised in Bajoran beliefs and was honestly convinced that she and Cmdr. La Forge were dead.
- Retropected in her recurring appearances no mention was made by her about the Bajoran Prophets as they were not concieved until the debut of Deep Space Nine where her race was the foundation of that show. A good thought that the TNG producers and writers never concieved it at the time.
- Riddle for the Ages: What was Riker going to say about Ro? Considering the events of "Conundrum," it seems Riker's unrevealed funeral speech and Ro's interest in it are foreshadowing a possible future romance between the two. However, since Ro only appears in two more episodes after this one, no such plot development ever happens.
- Skeptic No Longer: As an adult, Ro stopped thinking much of Bajoran religious beliefs, but after apparently dying, becomes more appreciative and understanding of them.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: The phased Romulan ends up getting chucked through a bulkhead and into space.
- Tragic Intangibility: Georgi and Ensign Ro's intangibility makes it impossible for them to interact with their friends and co-workers as they begin to mourn them. The whole incident causes Ro a bit of religious crisis, since she assumes their status is the first stage of passing into the afterlife.
- Trapped on the Astral Plane: Due to a transporter malfunction, Geordi and Ro are phased out of sync with the rest of the universe. They can see everyone else but nobody can see them, so people think they're dead. Eventually, they manage to find a way to contact the rest of their crew members, who then manage to phase them back.
- Ungrateful Bastard: The Romulans "thank" the crew for coming to their aid by sabotaging the Enterprise so that it will explode the next time it enters warp.
- The Unreveal: Riker mentions twice that he is preparing a eulogy for Ro, but only mentions the difficulty in writing it instead of any details, like is mentioned for Geordi. Coincidentally, Ro is present out of phase each time Riker brings up her eulogy. During Ro's beam-spamming of Ten Forward in order to be found, she posits in front of Riker that she'll never find out what he was planning to say, before shooting a beam through his head.
- Wham Shot:
- In sickbay, Ro is frustrated that no one seems to notice her. Then, Picard walks straight through her.
- Later, when Geordi and Ro figure out what's going on, they head back to the Enterprise...and one random Romulan who'd just been sitting in the background the whole time gets up and follows them, phasing through a console as he does so.
- You Can See That, Right?: Picard to Data at the end, when he sees the transparent forms of Ro and Geordi briefly appear in front of him. Data confirms that, yes, he saw it too.