Imagine living on a starship. Now imagine you have an imaginary friend on that starship. Now imagine that imaginary friend is real and is threatening to kill you! Now imagine… you are not imagining. Actually, you do not have to imagine that last part. This week, John and Ken put Imaginary Friend in the Mission Log.
Tags: arboretum, Brannon Braga, Brian Bonsall, Clara Sutter, Edithe Swensen, Ensign Sutter, FGC 47, Gabrielle Beaumont, hot chocolate, Imaginary Friend, invisible, Isabella, Jean Louise Matthias, Jeff Allin, nebula, Noley Thornton, papalla juice, Patti Yasutake, plasma, pottery, Richard Fliegel, Ronald Wilkerson, Shay Astar, Sheila Franklin, Tarcassian razor beast, The Next Generation, The Next Generation Season 5, TNG
The official, not-at-all-imaginary syndication synopsis for this episode…
It just felt like one too many trips to the child nebula. I don’t even know where to go with this one. It’s just some ideas that sit there, never working. I totally agree that Picard’s speech felt like Picard’s speech. I always enjoy Sir Patrick expositing, but really… what???
It’s a descent enough speech, but the girl/spirit/creature thing buys it too easily.
If only all life’s issues could be solved by a Picard speech.
Picards speech only clicked with me after the podcast: He loves kids, as long they’re really ancient and wise space beings 😉
The speech doesn’t make a whole lotta sense… nor do these nebula tinkerbells. So… they value children. Great. Do they have their own kids? We really don’t know. I don’t even quite get how evolution grants them intelligence, considering they have no technology, no natural enemies, no needs beyond what’s supplied. We do know that they don’t recognize the concept of parental responsibility… including the responsibility to work hard at the expense of quality time with the younglings. Sorry, but that’s part of life. These lightbulbs don’t seem to have that issue. They just threaten to destroy passing ships unless the visitors agree to fork over a lot of tasty energy.
As I said on Facebook, Worf is terrible at his job. As head of Security he should know everyone by sight. Some random kid wandering the corridors, “Hey, where did you come from.” He does not need to be on intimate terms, but at least he should know who is on board.
At least the kids were descent actors, but I wish this show had been imaginary as well.
Why would Ensign Sutter ask Geordi for parenting advice? Geordi, who can’t even get a second date? Geordi, who’s only qualification for the discussion is that he was a Starfleet kid, except…..he was a little boy – he can’t even speak to the possible gender distinctions that Clara may be experiencing, the differences in said parent’s rank (Geordi being a captain’s kid and Clara being a rando’s child) and Geordi had both parents (even if they were on different assignments sometimes). In this case, Sutter seems like a single parent, so no, Geordi, maybe poor little Clara is having an emotional crisis and is done being resiliant and needs immediate help, something in your vast experience as a counselor, husband, parent….oh wait…. 😉 Poor Geordi.
You’d think Geordi could at least recommend some good books for the kid. One hears he does that in his spare time.
Never had an imaginary friend, but then again, I’m a fictional character, so I guess I might be someone else’s.
I wonder how Troi’s powers work with respect to active emotions versus passive ones. In the sense that if Clara is feeling lonely right now, Troi might sense it. But if she had been having lonely feelings (like when she’s alone in her quarters), but not particularly feeling so right now (because she’s currently interacting with Troi), empathic powers may not work.
If you’re gonna do a story based around kids, you either need spectacularly child actors, or a spectacular story. Nothing against these child actors (the guest actors were fine, fairly good even), but they aren’t capable of the heavy lifting required to carry a story. The story itself is just a run of the mill mix of The Child and In Theory and other generic story lines. I think they had an interesting starting point, but never really did anything with it. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t put in an extra story line just to try to justify it being a Star Trek episode, but just let the main story breathe and find it’s own way to create drama.
Gotta wonder if they have someone whose job is to help integrate the families and children into starship life. Like, that seems like a problem most new children on the Enterprise would run into. And how do the spouses of Enterprise personnel spend their time if they themselves aren’t in Starfleet. Let’s say your wife is assistant Operations Manager and you are living aboard the Enterprise with her. What do you do all day? Is there someone aboard whose job is to make sure you’ve got something to do?
Spouses clean up after the dolphins. (Or help look for them, I don’t think we ever resolved that one…)
Thanks for sharing your true fictional identity.
I just watched “Imaginary Friend” three days ago on H&I, which started airing TNG back in June (along with every other Trek series). With this episode, they’ve finally caught up to you.
I never had an imaginary friend, but I liked to pretend that I did. That’s how pathetic I was; I couldn’t have a real imaginary friend, only a fake one. As a kid, I used to draw this anthropomorphic dog and would occasionally pretend I was having actual conversations with the character, but those were more like typical daydreams rather than full-fledged flights of fancy. I guess I thought it would be kind of neat to have an imaginary friend, but by the time I was old enough to be familiar with the concept, it was too late to have one for real.
Going just off the comments here and on Facebook so far, it looks like I’m one of the only people who likes this episode. Not that it’s one of my favorites, but I enjoy it. This is dumb, but I got a tiny bit verklempt watching the end the other day, but since I can’t remember feeling that particularly emotional any of the other times I’ve seen it, that may have had more to do with my general frame of mind at that moment than the story itself since.
I can at least agree that Alexander/ Brian Bonsall is pretty awful in this one. His being annoyed about his stupid cup getting smooshed is somewhat understandable, except accusing Clara of doing it deliberately out of malice just makes him come across as a jerk.
Poor Alexander and his cup. The cup…look, guys, it’s fine. It’s going to be presented to someone who *sits on a ball chair.* Worf has no sense of ergonomics as we humans know it, so the cup’s probably just fine. Really.
Not so much sit as pose . . . um, thoughtfully.
yeah – noticed that here as well. The same day I was listening to “The Perfect Mate” that was the episode on TV. Meh – still didn’t watch it 😉
Heroes & Icons. It’s a digital broadcast channel.
Thanks to H&I I’ve been re-viewing and catching up on missed episodes. Finding little gems and moments I missed on their original run.
I also liked it much more than others comments here; I found it interesting, with some touching moments of child psychology.
And this basic idea could effectively be adapted into a dark horror movie.
My overriding memory of this episode: The station airing TNG and DS9 in this market had an…interesting…flowchart. Unless a switch was flipped to take the chyron (character generator) out of the loop, there was a chance that whoever was working on graphics for next morning’s newscast could accidentally put something live to air over programming.
And so it was.
In the middle of act two, i think. “SPEED KILLS” across the bottom of the screen. Until they hit the next commercial break. I wish I still had the VHS that I faithfully recorded every weekend. The on-screen warning certainly livened things up.
Guess you had to be there.
I really felt like this episode was really close to hitting something important, such as what goes through the mind of a parent on this ship when red alert sounds, or the ship shakes, or the self-destruct timer starts counting down. What goes through the minds of the kids, for that matter? How does this ship’s propensity for coming under attack affect a family dynamic? Are all the kids ushered into a holodeck with its own independent power supply to play with the puppies so they won’t freak out? This episode could have mined that rich, unexplored territory for a lot of relatable drama, but instead we got Misunderstood Creep Child In Space.
Too bad Isabella didn’t decide to be the flower. She would’ve been more dangerous since she would’ve been packing a pistil. (I’ll just get my coat…)
I used to have VHS recording of TNG down to a SCIENCE!! 8 episodes per 6 hour tape. Intro, 8 episodes, no commercials, w trailers for next weeks episodes, Ending credits only for last episode. DONE, about 1-2 minutes of tape left over! MIC DROP!…..lol. This was definitely an episode I would skip, FFW through and it was near “Cost of Living” and “I, Borg”- so that tape was rarely viewed. hahaha. The best was seeing bits of tv I accidentally recorded due to itchy pause button finger…also would record “The Simpsons” religiously and get lots of flashbacks to 90s commercials….good times…lol-
Same here – 8 to a tape if you cut out the opening credits of the second through eighth episodes, and zap all the commercials. Plus you’d get all the “NEXT TIME!…” promos for the following week, usually v/o’ed by the late great Ernie Anderson.
In listening to John and Ken talk about Picard’s speech about taking care of their children made me think immediately of Jeremy Aster, Jono, Alexander (and his cup), Wesley, Worf, Geordi, and the whole of the Association of Wayward Starfleet Children. Jeremy Aster was left alone immediately after his mother died. Alone. I know the narrative reason but even seeing it the first time through the eyes of a 17 year-old, it made no sense.
And the whole discussion between Ensign Sutter and LaForge was totally, “And now you know.” But wait a minute. If humanity is defined by how well it treats its children, why is Ensign Sutter a workaholic? Why are the Children of Starfleet left alone so much of the time? I know the in-universe reason but it makes for bad drama.
Agreed. It does feel like there are trips returning to the well of story ideas, and when you need a quick way to build drama you choose an orphaned kid.
utterly incomprehensible to have children on board…ugh….
And puppies. And dolphins.
Odd episode. The A-story just didn’t have enough weight to carry the episode, despite surprisingly good performances by the two girls. As you mentioned in the podcast, it’s hard to tell a story about imaginary friends when the friend is decidedly NOT imaginary. So what’s the point?
I think this was a missed opportunity to adress the child-sized elephant in the TNG room: what’s it like for a kid to grow up on the Enterprise D? They introduced families in Farpoint, but barely mention it again. It must be horrifying being nearly blown up every week, isolated from any kind of social interactions. Imaginary friends would be a logical step, but somehow they never put those two aspects together.
Two minor points:
– I choose to believe that Alexanders terrible two-week cup is just a desperate plea for attention from his father. I mean, I did better clay crap as a 5yo, what other explanation can there be?
– Why is ten forward only for adults? I get that it’s supposed to be the bar of the Enterprise, but it’s about as rowdy as an office cantina. Speaking of which, what’s the legal age for synthehol? I mean, it’s not addictive, no hangovers… hm.
PS: I can’t recall any imaginary friends from my childhood, but my plushies certainly had a lot of personality. God, how I loved my big plush Garfield.
I always think its interesting when people stop to clarify that their sibling is a ‘half sibling’ Like it matters somehow. Are you only ‘half’ friendly with them or do you ‘half’ care about them? When it doesn’t matter to the story being told it just seems award.
“Isabella” Shay Astar
I wasn’t gonna say anything, but I know how much Jon and Ken love memos from the Corrections Department:
TMBG did an amazing rewrite of ‘Why Does The Sun Shine’ entitled ‘Why Does The Sun Really Shine’ that is scientifically more accurate. Turns out the sun is not made of gas after all…
Absolutely worth checking out.
We now continue with regularly scheduled programming…
That is awesome.
Nice “She’s Actual Size” reference guys. Apollo 18 remains my favourite TMBG album.
I appreciated very much the more academic discussion during the recent episode regarding “Imaginary Friend”. I don’t recall having an imaginary friend, but I do recall having my own little world where I was important, productive, popular and most of all just happy. However, there is one aspect of my childhood as a Trekker that I think about every once in a while.
I’m not sure what kids do now a days, but before personal electronics many of us would sketch. More artistic kids would sketch horses or other examples of nature. Many were into comic book or television characters. Some of us were into war. Like Flounder in Animal House who is sketching a jet fighter in the midst of battle complete with anti-aircraft shells bursting in air when he probably should be taking notes on a lecture to which he should be listening, many of us would sketch the ubiquitous field battle where tanks were rolling toward and firing on each other across enemy lines. The sketches included lines of fire and small explosions where shells had hit their targets. Eventually the drawing was more full of firing lines, explosions and carnage than artillery and tanks that victory had to be declared and a new battle plan needed to be drawn up.
And some of us who had the Sci-Fi gene did exactly the same thing albeit in Federation space with the ships of Star Fleet and those of the Klingon and Romulan empires. Around the same time, I had discovered the Star Fleet Technical manual. Yes, there had been comic books and toys based on Star Trek, and I was too young for conventions, but the Technical Manual was my first exposure to Star Trek other than the syndicated reruns. It was an encyclopedia that I could immerse myself in for hours. With illustrations drawn by hand using the old ink drafting process before computer aided drafting, it contained information and especially drawings of everything from the largest ship in the fleet to the smallest salt shaker in the galley. I was particularly fascinated by the variations of different ships of the fleet. The modular designs were based on taking the saucer-shaped primary hulls and placing the familiar cylinder-shaped warp nacelles onto various dorsal or ventral pylons and maybe a secondary hull here or there.
I went crazy with this creating my own designs that were obviously Star Fleet, but never seen in any episode of Star Trek. At the same time I would occasionally discover a friend who was equally infatuated with the Star Trek universe. One was a friend in elementary school who had a real knack for drawing that familiar profile of the Enterprise like we see in the opening credits of the original series. He helped me hone my technique so I too could sketch a more authentic Constitution class heavy cruiser. However I would like to draw my own creations with a huge primary hulls and half a dozen warp nacelles of various capacities protruding just about everywhere they could. And I wasn’t afraid to create the battle scene with my flagship destroying the Enterprise first taking out its deflector shields with phaser fire one pin-prick at a time until finally breaking through the hull not unlike J.J. Abrams’ somewhat limited creative take on Star Trek.
One day, my friend had noticed one of these drawings and was shocked. He could not believe that I was desecrating the ship, the design and everything that Star Trek stood for with my innocent artistic expression of my inner violent self. He was truly angry. To him the Enterprise was beautiful lady and he loved her, and here I was turning her into space junk that needed to be hauled away as garbage. Fortunately, he and I weren’t the type for twentieth century fisticuffs, but hailing frequencies were definitely closed for some time. I had a hard time understanding his anger, or perhaps I did understand it, I just wasn’t sure how a drawing based on a fictional universe could spark so much passion in an eight or nine year old boy.
A few days later my friend walked up to me and cold-cocked me with not a slap or a punch but his own depiction in pencil on wide ruled, 8 1/2 by 11 inch writing paper of the Enterprise victorious in a completely one-sided throttling of my flag ship creation with many of its nacelles drifting away severed from their pylons and breaches in the primary hull which no ship or crew could have survived. His drawing was accompanied by a nasty and condescending version of, “How do you like them apples?” Even though his drawing hadn’t been his best work and seemed a bit rushed, It was clear to me that I had lost this battle. But it was even more clear to me that some people take Trek very, very seriously. To them it was their alternate universe, their imaginary world where they were in charge and things progressed in their way.
Wow, Daniel, yep that is certainly one example of fans taking that fandom of fiction a little too literally. I admit that I never had the artistic talent, but I too would doodle my own starships (sometimes the Enterprise, sometimes something entirely original), and I never had to face the ire of someone who was that offended!
Thanks for reading, John.