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The Nth Degree (episode)

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"The Nth Degree"
TNG, Episode 4x19
Production number: 40274-193
First aired: 1 April 1991
92nd of 176 produced in TNG
92nd of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
199th of 728 released in all
Cytherian
Written By
Joe Menosky

Directed By
Rob Legato
44704.2 (2367)
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After an encounter with a mysterious alien probe, Lieutenant Barclay begins to exhibit signs of profound intelligence, ultimately hooking himself into the ship's computer and hurling the Enterprise into apparent danger.

Summary

Teaser

Reg Barclay and Dr. Crusher perform a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac in the theater room before a handful of crew, including the senior officers. Beverly's performance is great as Cyrano's love interest but who is a woman already in love with another man, Cyrano's compatriot. But Barclay's performance, as Cyrano himself, complete with long prosthetic nose, is awkward, halting and somewhat embarrassing to watch. Despite this lackluster performance, the crew present claps for both Crusher and Barclay. Data joins in after a quick question to Riker about why everyone is clapping and Riker's reply, "because it's polite." Troi compliments Barclay, saying it takes a lot of confidence to put himself out there and act, but Barclay doesn't feel too confident, awkwardly remaining on the play's set after everyone else has left.

The USS Enterprise-D arrives at the Argus Array, a gigantic subspace telescope whose reactors have gone critical. A huge amount of time is estimated for its repair, but of more pressing concern is the probe now holding station near the array, determined to be the cause of its malfunctions. Barclay and Geordi La Forge take a shuttle out to examine the probe, but after a few unsuccessful scans, the probe emits a super-bright flash and knocks Barclay unconscious.

Act One

The Enterprise tries to tow the probe with them back to a starbase to examine it.

Barclay, in sickbay, awakens to the news from Crusher that the flash overloaded his optic nerves, and that was what knocked him unconscious; La Forge's VISOR must have filtered out the bright light.

Because of this incident, Barclay gains a new self-confidence, and the full effects of this are slowly realized by the crew. First he makes a suggestion to Dr. Crusher about how to get a read-out of his semi-aminos. Dr. Crusher brushes him off because she thinks that his suggestion is something that can be applied only to technology and not human scans.

The probe follows the Enterprise. An energy field starts to form around the probe and the Enterprise leaves it because the Enterprise may not have the shields to withstand the intensity of the energy field. Barclay adjusts the phasers before La Forge can tell him to do so. The Enterprise starts dropping to impulse and Picard asks for suggestions. During this time, Barclay has made another adjustment, this time to the shields, reinforcing it by 300%. He tells Capt. Picard to fire full photon torpedoes knowing that the Enterprise will hold. Picard gives the command to fire and destroys the probe. Barclay apologizes for overstepping the bounds of authority to La Forge.

Act Two

Capt. Picard calls a meeting to repair the Argus telescope. La Forge says that it would take approximately 2-3 weeks to repair the telescope. Barclay, who has been called into the meeting because of his recent success, suggests that they could repair all 18 of the telescope's generators simultaneously, instead of one by one. Data says it would take seven weeks to implement Barclay's method, but everyone is incredulous when Barclay confidently says he can have it ready within two days.

Barclay then rehearses another scene from Cyrano de Bergerac with Beverly. This time, his performance is so riveting that there are tears in Beverly's eyes and she momentarily forgets her own lines. Deanna, who has been watching the scene, is also very surprised. She follows him to Ten-Forward, where she tells him that he has improved greatly. Reginald tells Deanna that he is aware that he has changed, and is full of confidence. He then makes a pass for Deanna, who as counselor says that it would be inappropriate for them to have a romantic relationship. Barclay is still insistent that they take a walk in the arboretum, but Deanna ends the conversation with, "Good night, Mr. Barclay."

Act Three

The next morning Barclay is late for the meeting that he called. He is in Holodeck 3 correcting a virtual Albert Einstein. La Forge says that something must have happened from the probe's light in order for him to have suddenly gained the confidence as well as the intelligence.

In addition to gaining self confidence, Barclay's intellect has increased in all areas of study, eventually reaching hypercognitive levels. His new intelligence is caused by neurotransmitters hypersecreting in his brain, and his two cranial hemispheres fusing; in effect, turning Barclay into a savant. There is essentially a 500% increase in Barclay's intelligence quotient. Crusher makes the comment that Barclay must be the most advanced human being ever to live. Reginald seems to take it in stride, as if it were not a surprise.

Act Four

The senior officers are called into the ready room and they discuss how to take care of this new problem that is affecting Barclay. Picard decides that since nothing he has done has been menacing, Barclay will still be allowed to work, especially since he is needed to repair the Argus.

La Forge is called to Engineering because one of the Argus's reactors is about to overload. The crew try everything to stop the overload, and Barclay executes La Forge's commands before he can give them. Finally, Barclay decides he needs a newer, faster interface, so he goes to the holodeck to create a neural scan interface. The computer, however, does not have that kind of program on file. Barclay then instructs the computer how to build one. The Argus is seconds away from overloaded and will take the Enterprise with it, but all of a sudden, the Argus reactors shut down. Riker asks the computer how the reactors shut down, but it is Reginald Barclay's voice which answers. Barclay interfaced with the computer is now running the functions on the Enterprise. In doing so, he locks out the main bridge from using the computer. Barclay now acts as the computer, and this causes discomfort among the crew.

Act Five

Barclay tells the senior officers why he did it. Picard instructs Barclay to remove himself from the computer, but Barclay says that his higher brain functions are now in the computer and that if he is removed from the computer, he will die. Picard calls an emergency meeting, and has La Forge disconnect the audio and visual nodules so that the computer/Barclay cannot monitor their discussion. They decide that they need to bypass certain nodules so that Barclay does not continue to integrate himself into the computer any further.

La Forge crawls into a Jefferies tube and tries to install an ODN bypass. Barclay asks why he is there, and La Forge lies about needing to do the level three diagnostic they discussed. Barclay is now trying new ways of traveling through space. Against Picard's orders, Barclay initiates a subspace distortion that transfers the Enterprise to the center of the galaxy.

Finale

Upon arriving, a Cytherian reveals himself to the bridge crew; he comments in fascination at their physiology and command structure. Barclay (who has removed himself from the apparatus) explains that the Cytherians are on a similar mission to that of the Enterprise, in that they want to explore the galaxy to learn. But instead of the Cytherians traveling away from their home, they bring those they are interested in to them. The probe they had encountered was the instrument of this "summons", but it ran afoul of incompatible Federation technology; however, it had been able to find a suitable vessel: Barclay himself. The crew then realizes they are in no danger, as can be seen by Commander Riker's grin.

After ten days of exchanging information, which Picard notes will take Federation scientists decades to fully analyze and appreciate, the Cytherians send the Enterprise back to Federation space. Later, in Ten-Forward, Barclay is with La Forge and Troi, and they are discussing how Barclay is back to his old self. Barclay can't help but feel a little let down, but Troi reassures him that many people experience moments in their life when they exceed their own limits, and that it is possible to carry something from that experience with them. La Forge then reminds Barclay that he's still a valued member of the crew, and asks for his help with the Level 3 diagnostic. Reg appears cheerfully ready to get back to work, but Troi interrupts, telling him that he owed her a walk in the arboretum. It appears that Barclay is back to normal, as he is nervous about the walk in the arboretum, but he goes up to a group playing three-dimensional chess, and tells them how to force mate in nine moves. Troi exclaims that she did not know Barclay played chess, and Barclay, in his nervous voice, states that he doesn't.

Memorable Quotes

"Worf, I have an opening in my workshop."

- Beverly Crusher to Worf after the Cyrano de Bergerac play


"It just occurred to me that I could set up a frequency harmonic between the deflector and the shield grid... using the warp field generator as a power flow anti-attenuator and that of course naturally created an amplification of the inherent energy output."
"Uh huh, I see that."

- Reginald Barclay and William Riker


"You just spent the entire night arguing grand unification theories with Albert Einstein!"

- Geordi La Forge to Reginald Barclay


"I've finally become the person I've always wanted to be. Do we have to ask why?"

- Reginald Barclay


"Incredible! The production of neurotransmitters in your brain has jumped over 500%! ... I couldn't even guess at your IQ level now."
"Probably somewhere between 1200 and 1450."

- Beverly Crusher and Reginald Barclay


"Has Mister Barclay done anything that could be considered... potentially threatening?"
(a beat, then...)
"Well... he did make a pass at me last night." (looks from Riker and La Forge) "A good one."
"I'd hardly consider that a threat."
"No, but it's certainly unusual behavior for Barclay."

- Picard, Troi and La Forge discuss Barclay with Riker and Crusher


"Tie both consoles into the Enterprise main computer core utilizing neural-scan interface."
"There is no such device on file. "
"No problem, here's how you build it. "

- Reginald Barclay and Enterprise computer


"I'm afraid I can't do that, sir."

- Reginald Barclay (while attached to ship's computer) to Jean-Luc Picard


"I wish I could convey to you what it's like for me now; what I've become... I can conceive almost infinite possibilities and can fully explore each of them in a nanosecond. I perceive the universe as a single equation, and it is so simple. I understand... everything."

- Reginald Barclay


"Emotive electrochemical stimulus response; cranial plate; bipedal locomotion; endo-skeletal contiguous external integument."
"I'm Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the Federation starship Enterprise."
"Hierarchical collective command structure."
"Who are you?"
"Interrogative!"

- Cytherian alien and Jean-Luc Picard


" How do you feel now?"
" Smaller. "
" Just plain old Barclay, huh?"
" It always seems to come back to that, doesn't it? "

- Deanna Troi, Reginald Barclay, and Geordi La Forge


" May I? (moves a piece) Checkmate in nine moves."
" I didn't know you play chess."
" I don't... "

- Reginald Barclay and Deanna Troi

Background Information

Story and production

Legato and McFadden

Director Rob Legato and Gates McFadden

  • "The Nth Degree" was filmed between Monday 28 January 1991 and Tuesday 5 February 1991 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16. Insert shots with Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner were filmed on Friday 22 February 1991 on Paramount Stage 8 and 16.
  • "The Nth Degree" originated as a vehicle to allow popular guest star Dwight Schultz to reprise his role of Reginald Barclay. Michael Piller recalled, "We had sort of put in our laundry list of things we wanted to bring back fourth season. "Hollow Pursuits" was a wonderful episode last year, and [Barclay] is a very interesting character and a great actor. We were having trouble finding something that would make it worthwhile to bring him back. Joe had this concept of somebody who became super intelligent and said, 'Maybe this could be our Barclay show,' and we weren't sure what we were going to do with our premise at first, but we finally got a story together and I was really pleased with the way it turned out. Joe Menosky has said he was really proud to have his name on that show, more so than any other show. That's Rob Legato's second episode and Rob did a masterful job in terms of interpreting the story. I think Rick came up with the idea of doing Cyrano. It was kind of a con on the audience." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218)
  • Brannon Braga remarked, "We struggled for a year with how to have Barclay come back. We didn't want him to play the nervous chap in the holodeck again and Joe Menosky came up with the science-fiction notion of a probe which is essentially a ship in a bottle. It was a good twist on that particular character which you could only get to with a science-fiction gag." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 218-219)
  • According to Legato, the script was constantly being revised, with the final scene only delivered on the day of shooting. In earlier drafts, the Cytherian was more malevolent, but this was changed to avoid the common hostage plot. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 160)
  • The Feynman was named for physicist Richard Feynman. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p 160)
  • Live lasers were used in the scenes where Barclay interfaces with the computer. According to Michael Piller, "We've used laser beams in post production for firing things and lighting effects, and we've had several meetings where we've wanted to use them in production but have never done it. Rob suggested it on this episode and it was a wonderful idea – all those beams coming down and hitting his head are all laser beams and mirrors. It's all live, it's another effect we want to use more of. It's really weird and allows you to move the camera. If it was laid down in post-production, you wouldn't be able to. It has a real immediacy and in terms of technical stuff that was a real advancement in terms of using lasers on stage...Part of it was shot at eight frames per second, and part at six frames. Then we harmonized the voice down to that speed so that the voices work within that eight frames. It was a wild effect. It was a great episode for [Rob] to do so he could draw on all of his tricks." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 218-219)
  • This episode has one of the longest teasers in the franchise, seven minutes and 21 seconds long.
  • First UK airdate: 26 October 1994

Cast

Continuity

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And

Co-star

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

47; alpha-numeric console; ångström; arboretum; Argus Array; baron; corpus callosum; computer core; cornea; cosmological constant; Cyrano de Bergerac; Cytherian; Cytherian probe; de Bergerac, Hercule-Savinien De Cyrano; de Neuvillette, Christien; electromagnetic band; Federation; Feynman; fusion reactor; Galilei, Galileo; Grand Unification theory; graviton field; "Gruss Gott"; helium; iconic display console; intelligence quotient; isolinear chip; isolinear circuits; Jefferies tube; Kohlan system; level 3 diagnostic; Method acting; Milky Way Galaxy; Muon; music school; neural scan interface; neurotransmitter; neutron densitometer; neutrino; nu; ODN bypass; optic nerve; passive high-resolution series; photon torpedo; Porte de Nesle; positron emission test; quantum principle; red alert; Science Station 402; Socrates; sero-amino readout; shield grid; subspace continuum; subspace distortion; theater; Theory of General Relativity; three-dimensional chess; violin; VISOR; warp nacelle; watt; zalnias


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Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
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