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Imaginary Friend (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"Imaginary Friend"
TNG, Episode 5x22
Production number: 40275-222
First aired: 4 May 1992
121st of 176 produced in TNG
121st of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
229th of 728 released in all
Isabella
Teleplay By
Edithe Swensen and Brannon Braga

Story By
Jean Louise Matthias & Ronald Wilkerson and Richard Fliegel

Directed By
Gabrielle Beaumont
45832.1 (2368)
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As the Enterprise explores a nebula, a little girl's imaginary friend becomes terrifyingly real.

Summary

"Captain's log, Stardate 45852.1. The Enterprise has arrived at FGC 47, a nebula which has formed around a neutron star. We are eager to investigate this unique formation."

Clara, a little girl who just moved to the USS Enterprise-D with her father, who is stationed there, is lonely and creates an imaginary friend named Isabella to keep her company. One day, to her surprise, her imaginary friend becomes real.

Clara and Isabella spend all their time together. Increasingly, Isabella gets Clara into trouble by leading her into off-limits places and by having her do things she knows are wrong. Generally others on the ship cannot see Isabella although Worf sees her when Clara and Isabella run into him in a corridor when they aren't paying attention. Eventually Isabella gets Clara into enough trouble that Clara leaves her friend alone to go play with others, such as Worf's son Alexander. When she returns, Isabella is angry and says, "When the others come, you can die along with everyone else."

Clara works up the courage to talk to her father, who then talks to the captain. The crew learns that Isabella is actually an energy-based lifeform whose home is the nebula outside the ship. Picard finds Isabella in the arboretum and talks to her about Human parenting. Isabella argues that the adults were cruel to Clara, and Picard explains that rules are for her protection, and even Clara will make some rules for her children when she grows up. Isabella is convinced, and allows the ship to pass safely through the nebula.

Memorable Quotes

"So, what are we gonna call this nebula? FGC 47 just doesn't have the proper ring to it."
"Why don't we call it Sutter's Cloud?"
"No, I was thinking about something more along the lines of the La Forge Nebula. It has sort of a majestic sound, don't you think?"
"Given the selections, I prefer FGC 47."

- Geordi La Forge, Daniel Sutter and Data debating over naming a nebula


"It is interesting that people try to find meaningful patterns in things that are essentially random. I have noticed that the images they perceive can sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that particular moment. Besides, it is clearly a bunny rabbit."

- Data, to Guinan as they stare at the nebula clouds


"Sounds scary!"
"Oh it was! Especially when he smiled."

- Clara and Guinan, talking about Guinan's imaginary Tarcassian razor beast


"Can you only communicate by threatening a small child?"

- Picard, appealing to Isabella to show herself

Background Information

Story and script

  • Rick Berman was an early supporter of this episode's premise. He commented, "Where else but in science fiction could you do an idea about an imaginary friend who turns out not to be imaginary? It's a story about an alien who takes the form of a little girl's imaginary friend and begins to perceive our world through the eyes of a child." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 245)
  • The script for "Imaginary Friend" passed through several freelancers' hands before the final rewrite was given to Brannon Braga. While Isabella was a curious and friendly alien in earlier drafts, Braga took the character in a darker direction. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 201) Braga recalled, "It wasn't quite working in its original guise and Jeri Taylor and Peter Fields and I broke the story and tried to make the imaginary friend more of a bad seed. Before, it was more like Puff the Magic Dragon and it was that the alien was simply curious and didn't have an evil intent. It just kind of laid there and was playful fluff. We decided to make the alien malevolent, where it's mean to the kid." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 245)
  • A working title for this episode was "Invisible Friend". ("The Perfect Mate" call sheet, [1])
  • Earlier scripts did not have Guinan appearing in this episode at all. When Whoopi Goldberg became available, her character was written in only days before shooting began. The cloud-watching scene with Data was originally written for Crusher and Troi, and later Guinan and Troi. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 201)

Production

  • "Imaginary Friend" was filmed between Wednesday 26 February 1992 and Thursday 5 March 1992 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16. Special effects inserts were filmed on Friday 6 March 1992 on Paramount Stage 16.
  • Larry Hankin filmed his scenes as wind dancer for the episode "Cost of Living" during principal photography of this episode on Friday 28 February 1992 at "Image G". ("Imaginary Friend" call sheet)
  • The production meeting for this episode took place on Monday 24 February 1992 at 2:00 p.m. ("The Perfect Mate" call sheet)
  • Several contest winners visited the sets on Wednesday 26 February 1992 and Friday 28 February 1992. On Thursday 27 February 1992 several licensing and merchandising people from Andrea Hein / Neil Newman visited the set between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. and the winner of the Viewers for Quality Television auction Tony Riccardi visited the sets on Monday 2 March 1992 at 9:00 a.m. On the last day of filming, Thursday 5 March 1992, guests from Warner Bros. visited the set as well as personal guests of Leonard Nimoy, namely Irving and Barbara Ostrov and Sybil Nimoy. ("Imaginary Friend" call sheets)
  • First UK airdate: 17 May 1995

Cast

Reception

  • Brannon Braga named this episode's script as the most gratifying he had written in the fifth season. He credited this for the chance to write a show in which children played a large role. He commented, "I've taken to calling it Romper Room: The Next Generation. Kid stories appeal by their very nature. There's an innocence to kids and kids can have conflict. The funny thing about kid shows in the Star Trek universe is you can get conflict with kids because they're not developed yet like our perfect adults. In a strange kind of way, kids can have more problems and conflict than our regulars. They can still be imperfect. It is a fun episode and hopefully people won't be so sick of seeing children on the show." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 245)
  • Rick Berman was pleased with the final episode. "I think it turned out quite nicely, and we got two great performances. It's very difficult to work with kids because they're not as experienced and you only get them for a few hours a day [...] I would not rank this as one of my favorites for the season, but it was a lot of fun."
  • Herbert J. Wright was fond of neither the premise nor the finished episode. He remarked, "It's not a show that dealt with our regulars and not a show that needed to be on Star Trek. I think Michael [Piller] was trying to do E.T., but what made that film work is hard to do on Star Trek aboard the Enterprise. E.T. was an alien in a suburban neighborhood trying to get home. It was like the lost pet that turns out to be a genius alien. But 'Invisible Friend's' problem was how do you have, in effect, an adolescent alien?" Wright was also displeased with the shift in story direction exemplified by this episode. He opined, "I think the problem is that when you narrow your focus to what kind of show you want to do to the point where you're doing 90 percent personal stories and you're trying to do them in outer space on a 24th century starship, you're going to run into a brick wall and there's only so many times you can do that." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 245)
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 21, pp. 37-39.

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And special guest star

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double

Stand-ins & photo double

References

arboretum; Brentalia; Champs Elysees; exozoologist; FGC 47; FGC 47 lifeform; grape juice; graviton field; hot chocolate; Jokri River; Kryonian tiger; La Forge, Edward M.; La Forge, Silva; Maschinenmensch; McClukidge; Mintonian sailing ship; Modean system; nasturtium; neutron star; O'Brien, Keiko; Paris; pancake; papalla juice; purple omelet; rabbit; red alert; Risa; Romulan Neutral Zone; Samarian coral fish; Tavela Minor; Tarcassian razor beast; Ten Forward; thermal interferometry scanner; trionium; turbolift


Previous episode:
"The Perfect Mate"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5
Next episode:
"I Borg"

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