"The Next Phase" is a fifth-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Responding to a distress call from a Romulan science ship, Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge and Ensign Ro Laren are lost in a transporter accident when returning to the Enterprise with a faulty generator from the Romulan ship.
The ship's transporters are taken offline while an investigation is carried out. In the meantime the crew use shuttles to travel back and forth to effect repairs on the Romulan ship.
Ro wakes up in a corridor; she tries to contact the bridge but her communicator seems inoperable. She heads to Sick Bay, where she finds that the doors do not open for her and people behave as though she were not there. She continues to Dr. Crusher's office, where she finds Picard and Dr. Crusher talking about her and La Forge's deaths. Ro attempts to gain the captain's attention, but he doesn't see or hear her. Then, as he exits, he walks right through her.
Ro then attempts to talk to Dr. Crusher, but again she is not heard. Ro slams her fist on the desk in frustration, but instead it goes straight through. She continues to watch Dr. Crusher as she fills out her death certificate. Meanwhile Riker and the away team set up a power transwer to the Romulan ship to help get them up and running. Data, meanwhile, is conducting an investigation of the transporter accident. He asks the captain if he may conduct the remembrance services for Geordi (and Ro), to which Picard agrees.
Ro finds La Forge in Engineering, discovering he is in the same situation as her; they are relieved to discover that at least the two of them can interact. Ro confirms that Dr. Crusher has made out their death certificates listing that they died in a transporter accident. Ro believes they are dead; La Forge does not. She insists that the two of them must make peace with their former lives, but La Forge is certain that they are still alive, and goes to Transporter Room 3 to solve their dilemma without Ro's help.
Data links the cause of the accident to the explosion on the Romulan ship. He detects a chronoton field, which could have affected the transporter beam. Geordi follows Data to investigate. Meanwhile, Ro is on the bridge—to say goodbye. Riker and Picard appear on the bridge and Ro follows them into the captain's ready room, where they discuss the memorial service. Riker says that he plans to talk about Ensign Ro at the service, which surprises her.
Ro then attempts to make peace with the captain, who, she comments, still intimidates her even in "death." She thanks the captain for trusting her when no one else would. La Forge finds Ro and, based on what Data has found, tells her that whatever caused the accident is on the Romulan ship and they need to go over there. She agrees to go with him, and they tag along on a shuttle.
On the shuttle, Data asks Worf for advice on finding an appropriate service for their dead comrades. Worf comments that a solemn, dignified service is the human custom, but Data does not think that this, or the Bajoran "death chant" (leading Ro to groan at the prospect of having to sit through the two-hour-long ceremony), is appropriate. Worf, however, says he is happy for the lost officers, because they died in the line of duty and (in Klingon belief) are enjoying a place among the honored dead.
On the Romulan ship, Data continues his investigation of the chronoton emissions. La Forge is seen peering inside a piece of equipment that, according to him, contains something that looks like a phase inverter. He explains that it, theoretically, could shift matter out of phase thus allowing it to pass through solid objects. He adds that the Klingons had been experimenting with something similar but had abandoned the research after several accidents. Geordi deduces that that's what's happened to them: They're cloaked and out of phase with normal matter, and that it would be possible to be de-phased. Just then they overhear two Romulan officers discussing Data's investigation and that if the Enterprise discovers what they have been doing it could cause serious problems. The senior officer decides to use the transfer beam coming from the Enterprise to cause an overload in the ship's warp core which would result in the ship's destruction upon entering warp speed. Geordi states that must return to the ship and find a way to warn others. As they leave the room, another Romulan, who had been listening to them, follows them, walking through a table and thus indicating to the viewer that he too is out of phase like Geordi and Ro.
La Forge and Ro return to the Enterprise, and the out-of-phase Romulan follows them. La Forge attempts to attract Data's attention as he and a junior officer attempt to track down unusual chronoton emissions in Main Engineering. The locations of the emissions coincide with areas of the ship with solid structures through which Ro and Geordi have passed while in their phased state. Geordi creates more emissions by dipping his hand repeatedly into different parts of the engineering console while urging Data to stop thinking rationally and use his imagination. At one point, Data's "anyon beam" scanner shines on La Forge's hand and partially (but only briefly) de-phases it. Data doesn't notice or hear Geordi, however, and doesn't see any pattern in the chronoton emissions, and abruptly puts down the scanner (to Geordi's great frustration).
The Romulan confronts Ro on the bridge. Armed with a disruptor (which he had been carrying when he was phased), he says he overheard the "science officer" (La Forge) talk about a way to return them to normal, and he demands to know where he is. Ro leads him to quarters on a lower deck. When she passes through the door she quickly moves to one side and then attacks the Romulan when he passes through the door. Ro then flees, running through the wall into the next compartment. The Romulan gives chase, pursuing Ro through several compartments—both of them running through numerous bulkheads along the way. The Romulan fires his disruptor at Ro several times, finally hitting her in the leg. Their activity however has caused elevated chronoton emissions, which attract Data's attention. As Data arrives at the crew quarters where Ro and the Romulan are fighting, Geordi, following Data, sees Ro and the Romulan and sprints into the room, and slamming into the Romulan from behind and sending him through the exterior wall of the room and off into space.
By this time, repairs on the Romulan ship are complete and the Romulan captain thanks an unsuspecting Picard for his assistance. Picard gives the order to engage, which panics La Forge and Ro. However, the transporter chief reports that Data has recommended that the chronoton emissions be eliminated before getting under way. Ro and La Forge hope that the decontamination process might make them visible long enough to attract someone's attention and warn the crew of the Romulan sabotage, but their only hope is to go somewhere with a lot of people—such as their memorial service in the Ten-Forward lounge.
In Ten-Forward, the memorial Data has arranged is much more like a party than a funeral. Data asks Dr. Crusher what she thinks, and she is pleased that everyone is happily sharing their memories of the lost officers. Ro, armed with the disruptor left behind by their out-of-phase Romulan attacker, starts firing at random throughout Ten-Forward, at one point standing in front of Riker and firing through his head. The weapon's fire does cause a large increase in chronoton activity, but the decontamination field does not dephase them enough for them to become visible. In a final effort Ro sets the disruptor to overload which results in a massive increase in chronoton particles. When Data calls for an amplified decontamination sweep with anyon beam, the two become briefly visible to Picard and Data. Data, finally figuring out that La Forge and Ro are still alive and standing in the room, orders an unrestricted anyon flood of Ten-Forward, which finally returns the two officers to the normal phase state. La Forge quickly orders the warp engines to be taken offline—thus averting disaster—and tells Data he's "never been to a better funeral."
After the memorial is over, Ro observes that Geordi (as neither had eaten in two days) has been eating for over an hour. A brooding Ro explains that the experience has left her unsettled and confused regarding life after death and the other traditions of her culture; she then tells Geordi, "I don't know what to believe." La Forge jokes it would be a good idea for the Federation to build its own interphase device: "If it can teach Ro Laren humility, it can do anything."
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