The following is a 100% real episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Perhaps it doesn't have the sheer infamy of "A Night In Sickbay" or "Threshold" or the cheesy silliness of "Spock's Brain" or "Profit and Lace", but at the very least it goes down in the annals of Trekdom as one of the weirdest episodes the franchise has to offer. Stay with us here.....
We open at the funeral of Felisa Howard, the grandmother - Nana, if you will - of Beverly Crusher, the latter of whom is delivering a heartfelt eulogy surrounded by crew members (including a very uncomfortable looking Picard) and other humans and aliens dressed very Scottish. As dirt and roses are piled on Grandma's casket, funeral goers begin to depart, but not before Beverly happens to glance toward a strange man. Their eyes meet for a moment before he walks off.
The planet they're on, of course, is Caldos, and As You Know, it's one of the first terraforming projects of the Federation, designed to look exactly like the Scottish Highlands. Governor Maturin asks Picard if members of his crew would be willing to look at the weather control infusion systems in exchange for a tour and some home-cooked food, which Picard accepts. Meanwhile, Beverly and Troi wind up in Nana's old house, and Beverly reminisces about growing up with her. Troi fawns over a lamp Nana kept, which is a Howard family heirloom that symbolize "the enduring Howard spirit." Troi heads back to the Enterprise as Beverly looks into Nana's journal and heads upstairs.
At this point, a man named Ned Quint slips into the house and blows out the candle in Nana's lamp. Beverly demands to know what he's doing here, to which he claims (in a dodgy Scottish accent that will make you long for the salad days of Montgomery Scott) that he was Nana's caregiver, and claims that "cawwndle" has been a curse on the Howard family for generations. Beverly doesn't listen and demands he leave, but Quint leaves her with some Cryptic Conversation about how he's not responsible for the consequences (whatever the hell they are), and leaves.
Back on the Enterprise, Data and Geordi are working at fixing the weather control systems with Governor Maturin and running into a few problems, including an unprecedented storm approaching, which hopefully won't interrupt the upcoming caber toss. It's Space Scotland! Beverly arrives back on board and tells Picard about what she found in Nana's journal - she had a lover when she was 100 years old. Picard observes that "the Howard women have exceptionally vigorous libidos" (easy, there, Jean-Luc!) before Beverly reveals that her lover was in his thirties, and believes that it was the man she saw at the funeral earlier. That night, as the doctor falls asleep while reading her grandmother's journals some more, the candle lights up in Nana's lamp, and Beverly's bedsheets and clothes start to be pulled away. "Beverlyyyyy..." says a voice, as she wakes up startled.
Beverly relays this to Troi the next day, and seems to have enjoyed the sensations, as this... "presence," as she calls it, knew how she liked to be touched, and she chalks it up as a dream she had after reading "a particularly erotic chapter in her grandmother's journal." Beverly heads back down to the planet with flowers for Nana's grave, and meets Ned Quint there, where they make peace in light of Beverly's discovery of Nana's close relationship with her. Quint refuses an invitation to stay at the old house, and tries to warn Beverly that the house is haunted, claiming a ghost is bringing storms to the planet, angry at being cast out. Again, friendly reminder that you are, in fact, watching a Star Trek episode.
- Quint: You belieeeve what ya want, lass; just dunnah light that cahhhndle!
Ned Quint walks off as weird green lightning flashes, driving Beverly back into the house. The Enterprise picks up the oncoming storm, puzzling Geordi and Data who'd been working on the weather systems. Beverly wanders into the house again, and finds it covered in flowers. She hears the "presence" again, and we get the old Mirror Scare.
"Beverly... I've come back for you..." says the voice, the same voice she heard the night before while in bed, and he confirms that he's Ronin, the man at the funeral, and Nana's young lover. "I am a spirit," he claims, who was born in 1647 in Glasgow, Scotland, and has spent the last 800 years seducing the women of the Howard family. After some good ol' fashioned haunting and whatnot, we go back to Beverly on the Enterprise. By this point, Beverly is entranced by Ronin and his ghost charms. She tells Troi about her attraction to her grandmother's lover, and Troi admits she finds this "unusual" which has got to be the biggest Understatement of the whole series.
So anyway, the bridge is full of fog. Yes, fog. Worf, who otherwise does shit-all in this episode, says it's due to a malfunction in the ship's environmental control. Also, Ten-Forward's temperature has dropped below freezing, and deck 13 has lost gravity. This is due to feedback coming from a power transfer beam, which Data can't turn off and is forced to deactivate at the substation where it's originating. When Data and Geordi arrive to check it out, Ned Quint is there, trying to stop them from doing whatever they're about to do, before that one lightning effect suddenly kills him.
Beverly Crusher shows up at the station to inspect the body, and determines that it wasn't a plasma discharge that killed Quint, but some other anomaly. Beverly leaves her medical staff to inspect the body, as she has to go back to her grandmother's house and get information out of the sexy (creepy) ghost. This time, Ronin appeals in corporeal form, which he says he can't do for long, while Beverly melts at his touch. He confirms that he can travel along the Enterprise's power transfer beam, and instructs her to get back to the ship and light the candle... but not before a Big Damn Kiss, after which he vanishes!
Beverly gets back on the ship and frantically lights Nana's candle. Sure enough, Ronin shows up, and says she's going to become a part of him, like all the Howard women before her. Beverly is overcome with excitement at this prospect (not immeasurably creeped out), and we cut to her in the transporter room about to beam back down to the planet while dressed like an old woman. Picard comes in, horrified at her request to resign from Starfleet, but Beverly is adamant that she's going to live on Caldos and live like her grandmother did, and she beams down. Picard goes to talk to Troi, who is also concerned about how fast this is happening, and they agree that this Ronin dude holds some power over her. Picard decides he's gonna have a word with Ronin, while Data and Geordi also head down to Caldos to find an energy signature similar to what was found on Quint's body... and it's coming from Nana's grave!
Beverly and Ronin reconvene in Nana's old house, as Ronin attempts to "merge" with her in a big green ghost cloud. Suddenly, Picard walks in on Beverly being ravished by a space ghost. Picard wants answers from a reluctant Beverly, and when he won't stop asking, Ronin appears, proclaiming his love for Beverly, and asking Picard to leave. Data pipes up over the com signal, saying that they're going to exhume Nana's body. Ronin protests (while Beverly's oddly quiet about her Nana's corpse being dug up), but Picard is done with Ronin's bullshit and probes him with questions. Ronin gets mad and gives him the same shock Quint got earlier. This time, Beverly is there to treat him, against Ronin's wishes. After some hypospray, Picard, trusting Beverly's judgement again awfully quickly, tells her to chase after Ronin, who is off to the cemetery.
Data and Geordi beam the casket out of the ground and open the lid to find Beverly's grandmother, who opens her eyes, sits up, and electrocutes Data and Geordi. Beverly gets there to find her dead grandmother looking at her and talking to her, and as a reminder, yes, this is absolutely a real episode of Next Generation.
Ronin de-possesses Nana's corpse, and reappears. Beverly accuses him of giving her the same of anaphasic energy that killed Quint, and Ronin defends his actions. Beverly realizes (infodumps) that he's an anaphasic life form that needs to merge with hosts to maintain cohesion. The cahhhndle, of course, is his receptacle. Ronin resorts to threatening Geordi's life, and Beverly finally grabs a phaser and destroys the lamp. Ronin begs to merge with Beverly again, but she blasts him out of existence for good.
Back on the ship, Geordi and Data are all better, while Beverly confides in Troi that the whole thing made her a little sad, as whatever Ronin might have done, he made Nana "very happy." Ooooookay, roll credits.
This episode provides examples of
- Achilles' Heel: The candle, to Ronin.
- As You Know: We get a pretty straight example of this to learn why there's a Space Scotland.
- Cassandra Truth: Ned. He tries warning Beverly about Ronin and the candle, but she doesn't believe his warnings. He had apparently tried warning her grandmother as well, but she refused to listen as well.
- Color C Oded Eyes: Green eyes are a common trait in the Howard line, excluding Beverly and her mother. The green eyes actually represent Ronin's control over the Howard women.
- A Day in the Limelight: We get some backstory on Beverly Crusher's family history, and this is probably not the way you were expecting to see it.
- Declaration of Protection: Ronin promises to protect and love Beverly like he had done for her grandmother.
- Dramatic Thunder: And green lightning!
- Informed Attractiveness: Ronin gave Beverly a "remarkable look" at the funeral. It's not so much "smolder" as "sad puppy face."
- Interrupted Intimacy: Picard walking into the house and being stunned to find Beverly getting some hot space ghost lovin'. Oh, like your life has been all straight and narrow, Jean-Luc.
- Large Ham: Gates McFadden is quite unusually hammy here, likely as a result of having to spend several long shots all by herself reacting to a disembodied voice.
- The Maiden Name Debate: Paired with Single Line of Descent and a reversal of Lineage Comes from the Father. Apparently Beverly is the first Howard woman to not keep her maiden name and pass it to her children since at least the seventeenth century.
- Mind Manipulation: Ronin is clearly doing something to Beverly, but it's never really clear what the extent of it is. She goes from resisting his advances to so in love that she upends her entire life for him between edits, and towards the end she shakes it off and is furious.
- Night of the Living Mooks: When Ronin briefly possesses the body of Beverly's grandmother.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Strangely, Governor Maturin is decidedly un-Scottish.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: Ronin is a spectral entity made of "anaphasic energy". He's kinda like an alien incubus, feeding off his victims.
- Possessing a Dead Body: The disembodied spirit that has been altering Beverly's mental state to try and get her to sleep with him decides to jump into Bev's dead grandmother's body and use it to try and attack the crew stopping him.
- Scotireland: It's supposed to be a planet of Space Scotsmen, but the accents of the people are hardly Scottish. Amusingly, the actor who plays Ned Quint was actually Irish. May be an in-universe version of The Theme Park Version; many of the citizens aren't even human, they just built their colony on the theme.
- Voodoo Shark: Ronin's getting on-board the Enterprise by travelling through the power transfer beam was such a silly solution to a non-problem — rather than taking the obvious solution and having him jump into Beverly's body right before she's beamed up — that episode writer Brannon Braga later admitted that for years afterwards he was ridiculed by the show's other writers.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Ned Quint isn't so much Scottish as 'Scot-ish.'