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Lieutenant Barclay faces his fear of transporting, but now he thinks that he's being attacked by a creature inside the transporter beam.



"Captain's log, Stardate 46041.1. We have located the USS Yosemite, a Starfleet science vessel sent to the Igo sector to observe a remote plasma streamer. The ship has not been heard from in several days."

The USS Enterprise-D responds to the stricken vessel USS Yosemite. The crew of the Yosemite all have disappeared and due to its proximity to a plasma streamer, the only way to get there safely is by bridging the transporter systems of the two ships. As the away team prepares to beam over one by one, Transporter Chief O'Brien informs each of them that due to disturbances in the plasma field, they may be experiencing problems during transportation. When Lieutenant Barclay hears this, he becomes very nervous and refuses to transport over, rushing out of the transporter room soon after Worf, Riker, and Doctor Crusher all have beamed over to the Yosemite.

Act One[]

Barclay, who is experiencing some form of transporter phobia, speaks to Counselor Troi in her office about his troubles and she introduces him to a Betazoid relaxation technique known as plexing. However, completely unconvinced and still tapping himself on the neck as he walks out the door he returns to the transporter room, preparing himself for the ride. He's comforted a little by O'Brien, who tells him about his fear of spiders, which he conquered by crawling through a Jefferies tube past twenty Talarian hook spiders, to repair a damaged emitter array on Zayra IV.

On the Yosemite, there's no sign of survivors, yet the escape pods are all in place and the transporter is functional. Dr. Crusher finds a body, ship's engineer Joshua Kelly. When Barclay finally materializes on the Yosemite, Lieutenant Commander La Forge asks him to download the ship's science logs. They collect fragments from a broken container and the body for further analysis on the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Picard communicates with Admiral Hayes, who mentions Ferengi allegations of Cardassian destruction of two freighters and is concerned that, if the Yosemite was attacked as well, it would signal large-scale movements in the sector.

The landing party then beams back to the Enterprise. During transport, Barclay has an awful vision of a worm-like creature swimming around in the matter stream and touching his arm. He steps off of the transporter pad nervous and shaking after O'Brien tells him it wasn't so bad.

Act Two[]

Barclay is in engineering with La Forge while they try putting the logs together. Seeing them too badly damaged, La Forge turns to the broken sample container for clues. Plagued by what he saw, however, he asks La Forge if he had ever seen anything unusual while he was being transported. La Forge says he hasn't. Barclay then tells La Forge of his recent experience and La Forge has the transporter undergo a full diagnostic.

In the transporter room, despite the exhaustive diagnostic of all subsystems and La Forge's and O'Brien's insistence that "transporting really is the safest way to travel", Barclay marvels at the job the transporters do consistently without accidents, but also how easy they are to occur. He thinks back to his Transporter Theory classes at Starfleet Academy taught by Doctor Olafson. The empirical evidence of only a couple accidents in the past ten years is hard to argue with, however. Barclay brings up transporter psychosis, too, but there hasn't been a case of that in the past fifty years since the perfection of multiplex pattern buffers.

Barclay's arm glows in Ten Forward

Barclay starting to glow

In sickbay, Dr. Crusher and Nurse Ogawa examine Kelly's body and determine that it isn't alive, but residual ionization causes muscular activity. The heart starts beating, so Crusher quickly tries a cardio-stimulator, but the activity disappears. Then, neuro-electric activity in the cerebral cortex is detected, then gone. He breathes, then it's gone.

Barclay goes to Ten Forward to try to relax, but then finds his left arm glowing blue like during the transporter. Something must be wrong and he leaves.

Act Three[]

Barclay goes to his quarters, drinking lots of water and even going so far as to diagnose himself with transporter psychosis after asking the computer in his quarters for causes and symptoms from the Starfleet Medical Database. Barclay ascribes his symptoms, especially hallucinations, to his transporter psychosis but keeps quiet about it.

In the observation lounge, Crusher reports her findings, and they suspect that the ship's crew decided to beam aboard a container of plasma from the matter in the streamer which exploded. La Forge and Data go to engineering to examine the container, and find the residual ionization that Dr. Crusher found on the body. Data suggests to re-create the beam-in.

At the end of the conversation, Data and La Forge notice Barclay's preoccupation and La Forge asks him to get some rest. He also asks Counselor Troi to check on him, who then relieves him of duty temporarily when she finds him pacing the corridors and being agitated. However, while trying to sleep in his quarters, he finds his arm glowing again.

Act Four[]

Reginald Barclay in the observation lounge with senior staff

"Let me get this straight, you think this thing was alive?"

Barclay decides to take action and goes to the transporter room, ordering O'Brien there very early in the morning. He tells a tired O'Brien that La Forge wanted him to conduct a scan inside the matter stream with a tricorder to obtain readings on the fluctuations. O'Brien informs Barclay that they could do that simply from the transporter console. Barclay says that the sensors may not be sensitive enough and pulls rank on O'Brien, ordering him to do it. O'Brien dutifully follows his orders but tells Barclay that he forgot to bring a tricorder with him. He grimaces and asks the chief that he needs to know if there is something in the stream or if he is going crazy. O'Brien understands and initiates transport. Barclay, inside the matter stream, sees the creature again, and upon materializing, tells O'Brien to wake the senior staff immediately.

In the observation lounge, Barclay reports to the senior staff what has been going on with him and what he saw. Picard orders another diagnostic on the transporter system and asks Worf to initiate a level 3 security alert. Dr. Crusher also wants to run a micro-cellular scan on him, which does confirm the residual ionization like on Lieutenant Kelly's body and the sample container. Barclay is convinced re-creating the beam-in of the material will shed light, and Riker agrees.

Data and La Forge beam in experiment from the Yosemite

Data and La Forge in engineering

They attempt to recreate conditions on the Yosemite. They first take the precaution of setting up a force field around the container. A sample of the plasma streamer is beamed aboard the Enterprise successfully, however, while running a resonance frequency scan, it explodes, though the explosion is contained within the force field. La Forge also detects highly complex patterns of biomagnetic energy. Barclay suddenly collapses, and La Forge and Data rush to him. When they turn him over, they see that multiple parts of his body are now glowing.

Act Five[]

Barclay saves a Yosemite crewmember

Barclay saving a crewmember from the Yosemite

In sickbay, La Forge and Data tells Barclay the plasma is full of quasi-energy microbes, who disliked the scan and thus made the sample container explode. Dr. Crusher discovers some of the microbes from the Yosemite have gotten into Barclay's bloodstream during transport back to the Enterprise and this is what has been causing his symptoms. La Forge and O'Brien decide the transporter could be used, once proper adjustments were made, to filter the microbes from Barclay's body while holding him in a stasis.

In the transporter room, they run the process. Once Barclay is inside the beam, he sees the creatures again. Suddenly Barclay seizes one of the creatures in his arms and doesn't let go. When he rematerializes, he has another person in his grasp, one of the Yosemite crew members. Barclay tells Worf and his security team that there are three more crew members caught in the beam and instructs them how to save the rest of them. Barclay explains to La Forge and Crusher that he realized the crew of the Yosemite was also trying to cleanse themselves of the quasi-energy microbes, which the Yosemite crewman confirms. Lieutenant Kelly had tried to program the biofilter but pushed molecular dispersion past the integrity point, trapping them; Barclay speculates that residual energy from the plasma streamer had amplified the charge in the buffer sufficiently to prevent their patterns from degrading. Worf and the security team then return with three other members of the Yosemite crew.

"Captain's log, Stardate 46043.6. The reprogrammed biofilter was effective in removing the alien microbes from Mister Barclay and the four crewmembers. The microbes have been returned to the plasma streamer."

O'Brien meets Barclay at Ten Forward, and shows him his pet Lycosa tarantula, whom he adopted and named Christina after getting over his arachnophobia. The chief remarks that he almost stepped on her when he discovered her on Titus IV.

He gets up to grab some drinks, while the tarantula crawls up Barclay's arm, who is nervously waiting for O'Brien to return…

Memorable quotes[]

"I'm sorry, I just can't do this!"

- Barclay, refusing to use the transporter to beam over to the Yosemite

"I know, it sounds crazy, but…"
"It's not crazy at all. You are being taken apart molecule by molecule."

- Barclay, discussing his phobia of the transporter with Troi

"I'm going to beam over there. I can do it!"

- Barclay, after Troi teaches him plexing

"See, sir? That wasn't so bad, was it?"

- O'Brien, after Barclay has his first encounter with a quasi-energy microbe in the matter stream

"Reg, transporting really is the safest way to travel."

- La Forge

"Commander La Forge said you seemed a little nervous this morning."
"I'm always nervous. Everybody knows that."

- Troi and Barclay

(Gentle ocean and bird noises playing)
"Mmm… computer, more birds."
(Loud squawking)
(More frustrated) "End stress reduction program. Water."
"Specify temperature."
"I don't care! Just give me water!"

- Barclay, to the computer

"Lieutenant. Glad you could make it. You know, I think this is the first time we've ever spoken outside of the transporter room."
"Well, to be honest, I've always avoided you."
"Because you run the transporters, and I hate the transporters. At least, I used to."

- Barclay and O'Brien

"Uh, Chief?"

- Barclay, getting nervous when O'Brien's pet tarantula crawls on his hand

Background information[]

Production history[]

Story and script[]


Dan Curry with Realm of Fear puppet

Dan Curry with the creature puppet

Dan Curry filming Realm of Fear

Dan Curry in a green suit puppeteering the creature


  • This episode marks the first appearance of the Admiral's uniform which was used for the rest of the series and much of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, although Admiral Hayes is seen here without the standard combadge.
  • O'Brien's collar insignia changes from lieutenant (two pips) to chief (one black pip) in this episode. According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 216, this was done to reinforce the plot point that Lieutenant jg Barclay outranks O'Brien. See also: Miles O'Brien - Rank Inconsistencies.
  • A brief insert shot of Barclay getting a glass of water from his replicator is a stock shot from TNG: "The Vengeance Factor", as Riker's Starfleet uniform can be seen reflected from inside the replicator.
  • Barclay mentions in this episode that spiders never bothered him. Later, in "Genesis" (also written by Brannon Braga), Barclay de-evolved into a spider-like creature.
  • This is the first and only time O'Brien's pet tarantula, Christina, is seen or mentioned.
  • This episode is the first to show a first-person perspective of the transport process; the only other time this was done is in "Prototype".
  • While expressing his fear of transporting, Barclay asks La Forge, "Commander, has anything strange ever happened to you during transport… anything out of the ordinary?" La Forge answered dismissively, "No, not really." However, in an episode during the previous season, La Forge himself was involved in a transporter malfunction that transported him and Ensign Ro out of phase with the rest of reality. They were reported missing, and presumed dead. They ultimately rematerialized in the midst of their own memorial service. (TNG: "The Next Phase")


  • As Barclay prepares to transport back to the Enterprise, his rank pips are reversed, placing the black pip closer to the edge of his collar.


  • Jeri Taylor observed, "This was an episode that a lot of people just didn't respond to and I don't know why. I thought it was a wonderful idea. I thought Brannon wrote a terrific script. It just seemed so perfect, Barclay with a transporter phobia just seemed like a marvelous marriage of something people can relate to today and in the future: technology. I just thought everything worked with the exception of the visual effects. The explanation by the end really got painfully detailed. And it's that fine line you try to draw, if we don't say this, is the audience going to be fairly confused and cheated because they don't understand it? But if we do say it, are they going to be overwhelmed by the words? We went one way in "Time's Arrow II," and maybe we tried too hard to explain things in "Realm of Fear," but it's hard to strike that back." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 257)
  • Brannon Braga commented, "The first three acts are fun and then the tech gets in the way […] I envisioned a scarier episode where the creatures in the transporter were a little more frightening, but then again what a tall order to the effects guys, 'Make it amorphous, but terrifying.' What does that mean? It's easy to write that, but difficult to visualize. I just wanted you to feel scared with this guy and you never really did." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 257)

Video and DVD releases[]

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Also starring[]

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Uncredited co-stars[]



2209; 2319; 2347; atom; autonomic system; autopsy; away team; base pair correlation; biofilter; blast analysis; burn; Cardassian; Cardassian warship; cardio-stimulator; career; carotid artery; Celsius; cerebral cortex; Christina; counselor's office; day; Delinia II; dehydration; distortion field; DNA; endorphin; epidermis; explosion; explosive device; eyesight; Ferengi; Ferengi freighters; hallucination; heart; heart rate; Heisenberg compensator; hysteria; ignorance; Igo sector; Igo sector binary stars; imaging scanner; ionic field; ionic interference; Jefferies tube; kiloquad; level 3 security alert; level 5 containment field; Lycosa tarantula; matter-energy conversion; matter stream; medical tricorder; meter; micro-cellular scan; monitoring device; multi-infarct dementia; muscular contraction; myopia; neurochemistry; Oberth-class; Olafson; pattern buffer; phased matter; phase transition coil; plasma streamer; plexing; psychogenic; quasi-energy microbe; resonance frequency scan; safety precaution; sample container; science vessel (aka science ship); sleeplessness; Starfleet Medical Database; stellar cartography; stress reduction program; symptom; systemic contraction; systems engineer; Talarian hook spider; temperature; tissue sample; Titus IV; transport chamber; transport cycle; transporter; transporter accident; transporter beam; transporter chief; transporter platform; transporter psychosis; Transporter Room 3; transporter sensor; transporter system; Transporter Theory; victim; VISOR; water; Yosemite, USS; Zayra IV

External links[]

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Star Trek: The Next Generation
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