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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S6E2 "Realm of Fear"

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Barclay gets put through his personal hell.
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Part three of the "Barclay Saga"

The Enterprise finds the lost USS Yosemite, which disappeared while studying a plasma stream. Sensors can’t tell if there are life signs aboard because of the plasma’s interference, and any attempts to pull the ship out with the tractor beam would be equally futile, so Picard contacts La Forge to ask if beaming an away team to the Yosemite would be feasible. La Forge is at first hesitant to try it for fear of getting the away team stuck with no way of bringing them back, but Lieutenant Barclay suggests bridging the two transporter systems together to improve the transporter strength. La Forge likes this idea and gives the go-ahead. He asks Barclay to join him on the away team, a prospect that Barclay clearly has trepidations about. Seems he’s got a bit of Bones’ mistrust of the idea of being torn apart and hurled particle by particle across the vacuum of space. He agrees to go along, but before O’Brien can beam him over, he chickens out and dashes out of the room.

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He heads straight to Counselor Troi to talk about it. She agrees that on paper the whole idea of the transporter sounds downright terrifying, but tells him he can overcome his completely rational fear by tapping a sensitive spot behind his ear to stimulate his endorphins and calm down. Armed with this technique, which he constantly uses for the rest of the episode, Barclay faces his fears. O’Brien beams him over to the Yosemite (after a speech that boils down to, "You know what else is scary? Spiders.") The investigation of the ship is going smoothly, but they can’t figure out what happened to it. There are signs of an explosion on the transporter pad, though the transporter is still operating normally. The ship’s engineer is found dead and covered in burns, but Dr. Crusher doesn’t think the burns are what killed him. And there are four crew members completely unaccounted for. Picard gets a tip-off from Starfleet that the Cardassians might have been involved, but they don’t find any evidence that proves it. They all beam back over, but this time while Barclay is mid-transport, he sees a hideous leech-like creature floating in front of him, which draws closer and touches his arm.

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They run a diagnostic on the transporters, but find nothing wrong with them. O’Brien and La Forge try to assure Barclay that transporters are completely safe, citing that only a handful of accidents have ever occurred with them. Barclay counters that there is a condition known as transporter psychosis associated with them, but they tell him that there hasn’t been a case of it in ages. Barclay then notices a strange feeling in his arm. He asks the computer to list the symptoms of transporter psychosis, becoming convinced that he’s suffering from the disorder.

La Forge theorizes that the Yosemite attempted to transport a sample of plasma onto the ship and it exploded. They look into it, but Data notices that Barclay seems preoccupied with his physical condition. They let Counselor Troi know that he’s acting strange, and she responds by temporarily relieving him of duty. He tries to take it easy, but can’t get his mind off the transporter. He checks the transporter logs and finds an ionic fluctuation that occurred during his transport to the Yosemite. He wakes O’Brien in the middle of the night and tells him to beam him to the Yosemite and back again and recreate the fluctuation, claiming that La Forge wants a tricorder reading of the phenomenon. O’Brien notes that Barclay didn’t bring a tricorder with him, and Barclay admits he was lying, but O’Brien understands and does it for him anyway. Barclay sees the leech thing in the matter stream again, and he orders O’Brien to wake the senior staff.

The senior officers hesitantly decide they believe Barclay’s story, and Crusher examines his arm to find traces of ionization similar to what they found on the Yosemite. The engineering crew recreates the accident on the Yosemite, and Geordi’s visor picks up life signs in the plasma. They decide that microbes in the plasma must have gotten into the transporter stream and onto Barclay’s body, and that the life form Barclay saw was probably a magnified image of one of those microbes. They decide to decontaminate Barclay by suspending him in the transporter stream so that the technobabble can technobabble until the technobabble technobabbles.note  Barclay doesn’t like this idea one bit, but they tell him it should be perfectly safe, unless his signal degrades and he’s lost forever, which could totally happen.

They suspend Barclay and run the decontamination. Barclay sees the life form again. This time, he grabs onto it and pulls it out with him. It turns out that it’s one of the crew members of the Yosemite, accidentally lost in the matter stream when they’d tried to decontaminate themselves the way Barclay did (so, uh, yeah... tell me again how safe your plan was, La Forge). After the other missing crew members are retrieved, Barclay chats with O’Brien in Ten Forward, casually mentioning that he’s not afraid of the transporters anymore (if it were me, I’d be more terrified of them than ever after all that, but good for him, I guess). And O’Brien decides that now’s the perfect time to introduce him to his pet tarantula.

Tropes featured in "Realm of Fear":

  • Blatant Lies: Barclay wakes O'Brien up to perform a transporter test, claiming that he needs to take tricorder readings for Geordi. O'Brien quickly points out that Barclay didn't bring a tricorder.
  • Cassandra Truth: Barclay spends much of the episode trying to convince the officers that he saw some strange lifeforms during transport.
  • Face Your Fears:
    • Though deathly scared of transporters, Barclay finds that in order to solve this mystery, he has to have himself transported.
    • O'Brien tells Barclay about how he himself had to face his own arachnophobia.
  • Here We Go Again!: Just after Barclay has overcome his fear of transporters (we hope), O'Brien introduces him to his pet tarantula. O'Brien goes to get a couple drinks...and Barclay's eyes widen at the sight of the spider crawling on his arm.
    Barclay: Uh...chief?
  • Hypochondria: This episode actually predicts something happening before it was reality: hypochondriacs diagnosing themselves over the internet! In this case, Reg Barclay looking up symptoms for various diseases, including transporter psychosis.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The science behind the transporter—being taken apart at the subatomic level and reconstructed, with absolute precision necessary—is this In-Universe for Barclay.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Once again, Geordi and Data conduct a dangerous and potentially explosive experiment within sight of the warp core.
  • Oh, Crap!: Barclay's reaction when Geordi taps him for the repair team on the Yosemite. It's pretty much his default state of mind throughout the episode.
  • P.O.V. Shot: A rare look at what being transported looks like from inside the matter stream.
  • Properly Paranoid: Almost entering the territory of The Complainer Is Always Wrong, Barclay's transporter phobia isn't particularly unreasonable when you remember past transporter malfunctions such as in Star Trek: The Motion Picture or "Hollow Pursuits", Barclay's very first episode (before and after), or "The Next Phase" just a couple episodes earlier, which affected Geordi.
    • It's somewhat comparable to a fear of flying. Yes, planes crash, but the vast majority don't, and pointing out the several cases that would theoretically justify his anxiety leaves out the hundreds of times onscreen (and probably millions of times offscreen) that the transporter works without incident.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Barclay insists there is something wrong with the transporters, even though he lacks any real proof of it. Captain Picard responds by ordering the transporters taken off-line and thoroughly checked down to the individual components.
  • Sequential Symptom Syndrome: While listening to the computer list the symptoms of transporter psychosis, Barclay acts out some of the symptoms, such as excessive thirst.
  • Spiders Are Scary: O'Brien tells Barclay about his arachnophobia, and how he overcame it. At the end, it turns out that Barclay has it too.
  • Teleporter Accident: Lampshaded really. Long-time Trek viewers would know that transporter problems just affecting ships named Enterprise have been common enough as to stand out. There's really no reason to think that other starships have it any better.
  • Worms: The Yosemite crew-members that was "trapped in the beam" looked like worms. Might qualify as Nightmare Fuel - although the worms did not look particularly slimy, one of them looked at points like it were going to eat Barclay.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Fortunately for Barclay, Picard does.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing: Geordi assures Barclay that the transporter decon process won't hurt a bit.
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