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(written from a Production point of view)

The USS Enterprise becomes stuck in a nebula that is home to an alien consciousness that traps the crew in a fairy tale.



"Chief medical officer's personal log, stardate 2341.6. The Enterprise is conducting a routine survey of the Jonisian Nebula. There isn't a great deal for sickbay to do, so I've been continuing my own research. The patient's condition has not improved. Months have become days and have become hours. Every minute has become invaluable. She has so little time left."

In his shuttered office, Dr. M'Benga conducts scans of his daughter Rukiya, who begs him to continue reading a story to her. He says it was time for her to re-enter the pattern buffer, but she pleads with him to read to her. He relents, and picks up the storybook – The Kingdom of Elysian by Benny Russell – and begins to read where he left off, telling of King Ridley's battles with Queen Neve, and of the betrayal of Ridley's court chamberlain, Sir Amand Rauth. The only ally Ridley had was Princess Thalia, whose realm had fallen to Neve's forces. As the doctor reaches the point where King Ridley's outnumbered forces are about to do battle, Rukiya interrupts, saying she hated that part. M'Benga reminds her that she had wanted him to read the story, but Rukiya often wishes for a different ending, where the Huntress and Sir Adya joined forces to rescue the King. Though she knows it was not how the story ended, and that Ridley would have to choose between keeping his great weapon, the Mercury Stone, or saving Princess Thalia, she often wished for a different ending. M'Benga is thoughtful for a moment, before saying that someday, when she is grown, she could write her own stories and choose her own ending… but first, she had to get better. She asks if she can see his quarters when she's better, and he promises that he will take her to see the whole ship.

After putting Rukiya back in the buffer, M'Benga returns to work on a variety of chemical compounds, trying to devise a treatment for his daughter. But as he tests one such compound, it produces a violent reaction; the sickbay computer detects the presence of chemical 3-QND and quarantines the test container in a forcefield. Later, he is left standing, staring at his various chemicals, when Una enters, asking why a shuttle crew that had returned several hours before had not yet been cleared from active duty. M'Benga apologizes, saying he had been lost in his research. Una knows what he is researching, and asks if he has gotten any closer. M'Benga admits he hasn't, and indeed the last such attempt literally blew up in his face. Una thinks M'Benga is pushing himself too hard, but the doctor is concerned that Rukiya has lived in a transporter buffer for too long, longer than he anticipated… and even so, her time was running out. He firmly believes there is a cure, and he has to find it. Una is sympathetic to his duties as a father, but gently reminds him of his duties as chief medical officer. M'Benga assures her he will attend to the landing party immediately, but Una suggests he rest first; when he protests that he is fine, she makes it an order, as the crew was not going anywhere... and neither was Rukiya.

USS Enterprise at Jonisian Nebula

The Enterprise surveys the Jonisian Nebula

On the bridge, Spock relays Cadet Uhura's report that all their data buoys have been retrieved, thus completing their survey of the nebula. Captain Pike thinks he could get used to such a mission: "No battles, no chaos, just scanning a nebula and focusing on the science." The captain considers it a "nice change of pace". Spock remarks on how Pike had repeatedly told him of the Human superstition about calling attention to good things by saying them aloud. Pike jokingly replies that he never took Spock for the superstitious type. Taking his chair, Pike orders Ortegas to set a course for McNair Starbase, and adds to the whole bridge crew that he was buying the drinks. Ortegas plots the course, and asks if Pike was going to say "the thing", which he does: "Hit it." But as Ortegas "hits it", nothing happens. Mitchell reports all systems are in the green, but they were frozen in place. Spock's sensors have detected a minor synchrotron flux from the nebula, and he speculates it has affected their warp capabilities… or, he adds, Pike did indeed "jinx it". "Let's hope that's all we have to worry about, Mr. Spock," Pike replies with a smile, as he calls down to engineering. Hemmer reports that they still had warp capability. Spock suggests that the anomaly is affecting their ability to create a stable warp field, and suggests using impulse to move them out of the nebula's gravitational effects. Hemmer concurs with Spock's plan, and Pike so orders it. As Ortegas activates the impulse, however, the ship violently rocks, and the navigator strikes her head on the console as she falls to the floor.

Pike calls M'Benga to the bridge for a medical emergency. The doctor, who is in his quarters, acknowledges and makes his way up in the turbolift, a tired and distracted look on his face. As he reaches the bridge, however, he finds it adorned with banners and curtains, and the crew dressed in attire reminiscent of Earth's Renaissance period – including M'Benga himself, much to his surprise. Pike notices him and roughly pushes through the crowd before putting on a smile. "All hail the king!" Pike calls out, and the others present take up the cry as they bow before M'Benga.

"What the hell?" is all the bewildered doctor can say in response.

Act One[]

M'Benga says he was called to attend to Ortegas. Pike appears confused for a moment, before he realizes he means Sir Adya, and beckons her forward. The doctor asks if this is some kind of a joke; Pike is prepared to summon the court jester, but M'Benga calls him off. He realizes that they are all dressed as characters from The Kingdom of Elysian, with M'Benga as King Ridley, Ortegas as Adya, and Pike as Sir Amand Rauth, the court chamberlain. Still thinking it all a prank, M'Benga asks if it was Ortegas' idea, and she also seems confused by this. Pike/Rauth suggests that his king should sit, and M'Benga agrees he should, seating himself in the captain's chair, which functions as his throne. Pike/Rauth offers a glass of wine before Ortegas/Adya stops him, asking what he was doing and where the wine came from. He replies that he is helping their "poor, tired king" and that the wineglass came from next to the carafe. Ortegas/Adya reminds him that it was her duty to tend to the king's well-being, and that he would not drink anything she had not tasted first. Pike/Rauth responds that as chamberlain, his job was to ensure the king's good health. Ortegas/Adya tells him that his words could "polish the finest of apples", and sneers that perhaps he was better suited to the kitchen.

M'Benga consults the ship's computer ("the Oracle" as the others know it), seeing if something is somehow affecting the crew. He then thinks to the chemical explosion in sickbay, that perhaps the exposure to 3-QND was causing hallucinations. He heads to return to sickbay, and Pike/Rauth prepares to follow, before asking where this "bay" was and if he had to commandeer a ship, before expressing his belief that the "dreadful fog" was a bad omen the moment he saw it. When M'Benga asks about the fog, Pike/Rauth gestures to the viewscreen, saying that the "mysterious smoky wall" (the nebula) has engulfed the entire kingdom. Ortegas/Adya adds her belief that it was a curse sent by Queen Neve, considering sorcery a "coward's weapon". M'Benga heads back to the turbolift, saying he has to obtain a "magical device" – his tricorder – and asks none of them to follow him.

M'Benga walks the familiar yet altered corridors of the ship, which are strewn with vines, with fireflies dancing through the air. Everyone he passes bows or curtsies before him. He enters sickbay, finding Nurse Chapel there, as Lady Audrey. He obtains his tricorder and sees on the screen that his readings are perfectly normal. Chapel/Audrey, who appears to be some kind of spirit healer, holds out her hands and feels the "king's" pain, saying he should have come to her sooner. He runs the tricorder over her as well, seeing her dopamine levels are elevated. Just then, Ortegas/Adya enters, apologetic about disobeying his order not to follow, but says that Princess Thalia insisted. Thalia is embodied by La'an, and appears to be lost in music only she can hear. La'an/Thalia is extremely glad to see him, telling him that Queen Neve and her Crimson Guard have invaded her kingdom searching for the Mercury Stone, and that she barely escaped with her life..."not to mention my poor little Runa," she laments, hugging her dog close. M'Benga is torn between amusement and bewilderment at the whole situation, as La'an/Thalia goes on to say that she knows he has the stone. Remembering the story, M'Benga replies that indeed, the stone is safe. She urges him to harness the stone, or else Neve would enslave them all. M'Benga runs his tricorder over La'an/Thalia, and finds her dopamine levels are also elevated. Ortegas/Adya offers to lead an attack against the Crimson Guard, but M'Benga hopes to avoid any "unnecessary head chopping". Just then, he hears Hemmer ordering Mitchell to unhand him. Adya thinks it is the Crimson Guard.

Hemmer, appearing to be as lucid to the situation as M'Benga, is being dragged down the hall by two others, and warns Mitchell that he will have her court-martialed. He appears to be in some kind of wizard's robe, while Mitchell and her compatriots are in the attire of the Crimson Guard. Mitchell tells Hemmer that he will be punished for his crimes. Hemmer protests his ignorance of the entire situation, calling it "absurd". Just then, La'an/Thalia approaches, with M'Benga, Ortegas/Adya, and Chapel/Audrey behind him. She tells the "evil Crimson Guard" that King Ridley was there to strike fear into their "evil hearts". M'Benga is more confused than anything else, but sees that Hemmer is dressed as the wizard Caster, and tells the Crimson Guards to release him at once. Mitchell replies that she does not answer to the "false king", unless he was there to surrender the Mercury Stone. M'Benga, getting into character, points out that per the Letter of Accords, Lady Audrey's woods were neutral territory by royal agreement. Mitchell sneers that Queen Neve no longer recognized the Letter of Accords, and that she claimed those woods… and would take Ridley's kingdom, too. The Crimson Guards take Hemmer through to the turbolift. When M'Benga addresses the chief engineer by name, Hemmer begs the doctor to help him, as everyone else had lost their minds. Ortegas/Adya thinks it was time to unleash the Mercury Stone. M'Benga, determined to rescue Hemmer, says that he does not actually have it, but that Caster knows where it is.

Kingdom of Elysian

A map of the Enterprise as the "Kingdom of Elysian"

In the conference room, now King Ridley's sanctuary, Pike/Rauth shows a map of the Enterprise, now representing the Kingdom of Elysian. He knows Caster will be held in Queen Neve's dungeons at the center of her realm (just forward of the navigational deflector), where he will be surrounded by Neve's most powerful forces and deadliest weapons. La'an/Thalia pleads with M'Benga not to go, as he would fall prey to Neve's powers. Pike/Rauth agrees, suggesting diplomacy; Ortegas/Adya is disdainful, saying that they needed the Mercury Stone, and it was hard to hear over the sound of the chamberlain's "trembling boots". M'Benga silences them, saying they would try diplomacy first, and if that failed, then Ortegas/Adya could cut something in half. The knight remarks that her sword Starfall is itching for battle, and Pike/Rauth considers that a ridiculous name for a sword. As they get to bickering again, M'Benga regains control, firmly telling them both to escort him to Queen Neve... with as little bickering as possible. La'an/Thalia asks about herself, and Runa. M'Benga suggests Runa should remain behind, and Thalia as well to protect her. This seems to satisfy her, as she will await their return – and if the "king" should fall, she would sing a song of mourning (with the words "of mourning" in song, along with a set of vocalized notes). Pike/Rauth seems to have other ideas, thinking he should remain behind, but M'Benga commands him to come along.

Entering the "forest", Ortegas/Adya remarks on the number of crimson banners, and that Neve grew more bold by the day. She then realizes they were not alone, and holds her king back before drawing her sword, demanding that whoever it was step forward. It is Spock, portraying the wizard Pollux, who expresses surprise on seeing King Ridley there, wondering if it was brave or foolish. M'Benga explains they sought Caster, and Spock/Pollux chuckles at the "fool's errand", knowing he was held by Queen Neve. Ortegas/Adya demands to know what is stopping them from simply marching in and taking Caster. "The Swamp of Infinite Deaths," Spock/Pollux answers, adding that the only route to Queen Neve's realm would take them straight through it. Pike/Rauth is clearly wanting to turn around and go back, and Ortegas/Adya remarks that she would die infinite deaths just to no longer hear his whining. M'Benga asks Spock/Pollux if there was no way he could help them. When the wizard asks why he should, M'Benga answers that he knows Caster is his brother, explaining when asked that he read it in a book. Spock/Pollux asks if he would help Caster, rather than simply use him, and M'Benga promises to free him in exchange for help through the swamp. The wizard agrees to take them on the secret route, a "dark way", around the swamp.

The "dark way" is a Jefferies tube, a "tunnel" leading to Neve's dungeons. As Spock/Pollux enters, Ortegas/Adya asks if they can trust him. M'Benga knows they can't, but also knows it's the only way to reach Caster. The "tunnel" leads them into engineering… which is also the throne room of Queen Neve, portrayed in this story by Uhura. "Welcome to my kingdom," Uhura/Neve greets them. "Now kneel." Pike/Rauth immediately does so, much to Ortegas/Adya's disgust, realizing they had been led into a trap. M'Benga suspected as much, knowing that Neve would enter the story at about this point. Uhura/Neve greets him, then demands the Mercury Stone. M'Benga replies that it could be anywhere. With a sigh, the evil queen decides to have her torturers get the information out of him instead, adding that they loved their work. She also promises to compensate Spock/Pollux for his loyalty. The wizard thanks her, before saying that they had sought his brother... so now they could join him in the dungeon.

Act Two[]

Trapped inside the transporter room, serving as Queen Neve's dungeons, Pike/Rauth whines piteously about the walls closing in on him. M'Benga is relieved to see Hemmer, who asks if they were the only members of the crew unaffected. The doctor believes they are, and explains that they were acting out parts from a storybook he had been reading to his daughter. Hemmer is surprised at this revelation, and M'Benga adds it would be a long story. He believes the important question would be to find out why it was only the two of them who were not affected, to which Ortegas/Adya speaks up, thinking the real important question was where the Mercury Stone was. M'Benga explains this part of the story to Hemmer, and that his character, Caster, would help King Ridley find it. He knows Hemmer has no idea, but since he is also unaffected, M'Benga believes he can help him solve the real problem. Hemmer recalls he was in engineering when he suddenly felt a consciousness press against his own, but his telepathic training allowed him to block it. He didn't have time to figure out the source, and speculates that this same entity pulled the story from M'Benga's mind. The "why" was impossible to determine without asking the entity in question. M'Benga asks if he could make contact again. Hemmer is reluctant, having found the contact "unpleasant", comparing it to feeling like his brain was being squeezed through his nose (to which Ortegas/Adya adds she did that to a man once), but was able to determine that the entity did not come from a ship, but from the Jonisian Nebula itself. M'Benga wonders if they could find out more from the ship's scanners, and Hemmer agrees it was possible… but first, they had to escape. Playing the part for a moment, he thinks he could help with the "powerful magic called science", as he produces a laser cutter from under his robe.

As he prepares to cut through the metal door, Hemmer asks what a Human magician would say, and M'Benga answers with "abracadabra", which Hemmer seems to like. He warns the others not to look, as it would blind them; when Pike/Rauth asks about him, the naturally-blind Aenar answers only, "I am a wizard." He cuts through the lock of the door and opens it for them to escape. Pike/Rauth is relieved and immediately pushes through first, followed by the amused M'Benga. Ortegas/Adya compliments the "wizard", saying she likes this "science". A thoroughly satisfied Hemmer blows the tip of his cutter as if it was smoke from a six-shooter.

Uhura/Neve is incensed to learn the prisoners have escaped, with Mitchell explaining Caster "conjured" them out. When the queen asks why she was standing there cowering instead of chasing them, Mitchell replies she was about to. Uhura/Neve angrily replies that she was "about to" lose her head, and that she should be grateful her queen was feeling merciful today, giving her Crimson Guards another chance to regain her favor. She turns to Spock/Pollux, commanding him to lead her guards to hunt down the prisoners, before she put him in the dungeon in their place.

Making their way to engineering, Hemmer explains he can block the door to allow them time to access the ship's scanners, just as Spock/Pollux and the Crimson Guards approach. Ortegas/Adya commands them to get out of the way. "Or what?" Mitchell sneers, as the loyal knight was unarmed. This does not present much trouble for Ortegas/Adya, who takes down one of the Crimson Guards and arms herself with his blade. Pike/Rauth suggests he should retreat to the castle, and quickly runs away. Hemmer is incredulous at the idea of Pike running away, and M'Benga explains that his character was not known for bravery. Meanwhile, Ortegas/Adya is holding her own for a time, but is soon overpowered. As Mitchell is about to come in for the kill, several arrows fly down the corridor. Spock/Pollux wisely decides to retreat. Their rescuer is Una, in character as Z'ymira the Huntress, a friend of Sir Adya. Hemmer impatiently suggests carrying on to engineering, and M'Benga agrees it was time to end the fantasy before someone seriously got hurt.

As he conducts the scans in engineering, Hemmer is puzzled by the readings. The scanners detect a single lifeform with neural activity, but no sign of a physical body – a consciousness without physical form, floating in space, with the power to create a new reality. Una/Z'ymira thinks it sounds almost like a god. Hemmer asks M'Benga if he's familiar with the theory of the Boltzmann brain, and the doctor recalls hearing something of it in university. Hemmer explains that it was a spontaneously-generated consciousness, and thinks that they have now encountered one. M'Benga puzzles over this: "So one day, out of nothing, an all-powerful being just... appears? And this consciousness has somehow trapped our ship in the nebula, and turned the crew into characters from a book I've read?" Hemmer points out that at least it made M'Benga the hero of the story. Supposing that Hemmer is right, M'Benga wonders, how do they get it to stop? Hemmer speculates that M'Benga himself is the source of the problem, as their enviroment was created from his reading of the story; perhaps the entity would release them if that connection were somehow severed – if M'Benga were injured, for instance. Ortegas/Adya thinks this a threat to her king, and M'Benga orders her to stand down. Una/Z'ymira offers to shoot him with an arrow, and is confused when she gets a slap on the arm for her suggestion, as she thought they were trying to "hurt the king". They begin to argue about their service – Ortegas/Adya to King Ridley, Una/Z'ymira as Huntress of the Forest – when Hemmer suggests their differences were what brought them together. M'Benga realizes something was wrong – he knew that was not how the story went, as Adya and Z'ymira had never met. He realizes that the entire fantasy is actually based on Rukiya's expressed wish, that Adya and Z'ymira joined forces to save King Ridley. She had said she hated how the story ended, and wanted Adya and Z'ymira to team up. Hemmer incredulously asks if the story was not actually taken from M'Benga himself, but from his daughter, and M'Benga's nod is all the answer needed. "Where is Rukiya?" is Hemmer's next question.

Returning to sickbay, M'Benga checks the transporter, but discovers that the pattern buffer is empty – Rukiya is gone.

Act Three[]

M'Benga discovers Rukiya was taken out of the pattern buffer at 0845 that morning, and beamed somewhere onto the ship, but the computer is not telling him precisely where. He explains to Hemmer that his daughter is very ill, and the longer she is out of the buffer, the faster her illness progresses. Hemmer immediately offers to help; M'Benga thinks that Rukiya is the key to getting them out of the situation. Just outside, Spock/Pollux is listening, and smiles to himself before going to report his findings to Queen Neve.

Uhura/Neve is incredulous at the idea that the Mercury Stone is in fact a girl, but then realizes the implications; if this was true, she would simply take her as her own. When Spock/Pollux asks how, Uhura/Neve gestures to her guards, who bring in Pike/Rauth, gibbering about how he was too young to die, and pleads for mercy. Uhura/Neve tells him that whether he lived or died depended on him. He asks what she wants of him, and she demands his loyalty. He is surprised at the simplicity of her demand, and readily bows before her. She chuckles in satisfaction.

Back in sickbay, Chapel/Audrey is mixing a cauldron, while Una/Z'ymira rushes off, hearing the forest's call, as Ortegas/Adya puts it. M'Benga becomes frustrated with his inability to find Rukiya, and Hemmer suggests that maybe they were looking at it the wrong way, asking where his daughter would want to go. Recalling the last conversation he had with her, M'Benga heads towards his quarters. Pike/Rauth is waiting for them, glad to see his king alive and safe (no thanks to his cowardice, as Ortegas/Adya points out). M'Benga tells them it was not the time to fight, as he had to get inside his quarters. He orders the doors to open, just as Pike/Rauth pulls a knife and holds it to his throat. Uhura/Neve and her Crimson Guards, joined by Spock/Pollux, march down the corridor. Ortegas/Adya reluctantly puts her sword on the floor, and Pike/Rauth mockingly apologizes. "Did you really think I was going to let you destroy everything I've worked for, King Ridley?" Uhura/Neve asks.

Act Four[]

Ortegas/Adya is apologetic, having suspected the chamberlain would betray them. M'Benga ruefully admits he should have remembered that too, as that was what happened in the book. Pike/Rauth mockingly apologizes again, saying that he had been promised Ridley's kingdom in return for his loyalty. As King Ridley would not bend the knee before her, Uhura/Neve found someone who would. Spock/Pollux calls upon his "brother" to surrender, as his powers were greater, and there was no need for any of them to die. The evil queen agrees, and that all she wanted was the Mercury Stone. M'Benga is now wrathful – both in character as King Ridley and as a father – and tells his foe that she will not touch his daughter, or he will bring the full might of his kingdom down upon her. Hemmer, trying to play along, decides to unleash "the full power of his powerful wizard... powers" – and uses a communicator he grabbed in sickbay to beam Uhura/Neve, Spock/Pollux, and the Crimson Guards into a cargo bay. "Once again, the power of science prevails!" he crows dramatically, before asking if it was "too much". M'Benga looks amused as he asks Ortegas/Adya to guard his quarters.

Inside M'Benga's quarters, Rukiya is looking out the viewport into the nebula, and is overjoyed to see her father. Taking up his medical tricorder, M'Benga scans Rukiya and is astonished to find no trace of cygnokemia. When he asks how, Rukiya says that her "friend" made her better, looking outside. M'Benga realizes she means the lifeform in the nebula. Rukiya has been watching her father play the role of King Ridley, and asks if he had fun doing it. He admits he did, but asks if things could be brought back to normal. Rukiya asks why, as her friend told her they could play as long as she wanted, but M'Benga tells her that though he's sure her "friend" didn't mean to, it was hurting his friends, and they had to return to their lives. She asks if this meant she had to go back into the buffer, and he admits he doesn't know, as he doesn't fully understand what was going on. He asks to speak to her "friend", but Rukiya explains it didn't work that way. Hemmer decides to offer his assistance there; though he had said it would risk his life, Hemmer thinks that if Rukiya told her "friend" they needed to talk, the entity might be more inclined to cooperate. Rukiya looks out the viewport, and says they would like to talk; Hemmer offers to allow them to speak through him, asking only that they be gentle.

The Aenar's body shudders as the presence enters his mind, before he speaks again in an altered voice. "You must not take the child," the entity says. M'Benga assures them that no harm was meant, but that the fantasy must end, as it was harming the crew. The entity calls the lives of the crew "inconsequential", saying that he must protect the child. M'Benga realizes that the entity has formed an attachment to Rukiya, and they confirm this, saying they were alike. Rukiya explains they were lonely, as she was. M'Benga asks how the entity knew this, and they reply that while they probed the Enterprise, they found Rukiya "imprisoned" in the pattern buffer. They sensed her loneliness, and it matched their own, so they created this world for her – where she would have a piece of her childhood that he had seemingly denied her. M'Benga is indignant at that accusation, saying that he was seeking a cure for her, and everything he did was for her. He again asks the entity to release the ship and crew, but the entity replies that if they leave, Rukiya will die. Their proximity was what made her well, and if they allowed the ship to leave, she would grow sick again. M'Benga is adamant that the ship cannot stay. "Then you must make a choice," the entity replies. "The crew, or your daughter." M'Benga protests that he cannot be forced to make that choice. Rukiya says that she enjoyed being outside the buffer, but would return to it if she had to. M'Benga is adamant there must be another way, and the entity replies that there is: the Enterprise and her crew could leave, but Rukiya had to stay. M'Benga asks how she would live, and the entity replies that it was only her body that was ill; her consciousness would join with the entity, where she would be free of sickness, and would never know death.

Rukiya becomes non-corporeal

"It tickles, daddy."

Seeing the choices he had, M'Benga kneels next to his daughter, and tells her that her "friend" wants her to go with them. She asks if he can come too. M'Benga reminds her about how, in the story, King Ridley wanted to keep the Mercury Stone, as it protected him and made him happy… until he learned it had a soul, and that it would die if he held onto it; he had to let it go, even if it meant he would not be happy anymore. For M'Benga, Rukiya was his Mercury Stone. He recalls how he told her she could write her own stories someday, and perhaps that time was now... but it was up to her. She chooses to go with her "friend", and embraces her father for the last time. Hemmer begins to shake again, and collapses onto M'Benga's bunk. As he does, a swirling energy projects from his body and surrounds Rukiya, who giggles, saying it tickled, before she is taken away into the nebula. M'Benga is left standing alone, staring at where she had been, before the light shimmers and materializes again. M'Benga is shocked to see it is Rukiya again, now a grown woman. She thanks him, saying he was right about the adventures she had had, and all that she had seen. M'Benga is confused, as she had just left mere seconds before, but seconds for him were years for Rukiya and Debra. The doctor is moved to hear that Rukiya named her "friend" for her mother, and how the grown Rukiya looks so much like her. She was happy and safe now, and she assures him that he did the right thing. She knows they will meet again someday, but for now, he had to live his own life, create his own stories, and asks him to promise her that he will be happy. With tears in his eyes, he does. She kisses his cheek, and disappears.

After the light fades, M'Benga is back in uniform, and Hemmer regains consciousness, complaining of "the worst headache", and is confused to be in the doctor's quarters. The last thing he recalls is becoming stuck in the Jonisian Nebula.

"Chief medical officer's personal log, supplemental. None of the crew remember what happened. The entity's doing, my daughter's doing, I'm sure. The surveillance logs are blank. It's as if every one of them lost five hours. Except for me."

As M'Benga reaches the end of The Kingdom of Elysian, Una is standing in the entrance to his office, addressing him by his first name, Joseph. She asks about Rukiya, and he is content to know that she was alive and safe. He has been through something he considers extraordinary, and yet no one on the ship remembers. Una realizes he knows what happened during the missing five hours, and thinks it sounds like "a hell of a story". The doctor smiles, and agrees that it is. "It begins like all good stories," he says. "Once upon a time."

Memorable quotes[]

Log entries[]

  • "Chief medical officer's personal log, stardate 2341.6. The Enterprise is conducting a routine survey of the Jonisian Nebula. There isn't a great deal for sickbay to do, so I've been continuing my own research. The patient's condition has not improved. Months have become days and have become hours. Every minute has become invaluable. She has so little time left."
  • "Chief medical officer's personal log, supplemental. None of the crew remember what happened. The entity's doing, my daughter's doing, I'm sure. The surveillance logs are blank. It's as if every one of them lost five hours. Except for me."

Background information[]


Cast and characters[]


  • This episode is the first to establish Joseph as Dr. M'Benga's first name. The name Joseph was originally listed in the script notes for "Shol", the unproduced episode of Star Trek: The Original Series that introduced the character. (citation needededit) It was incorrectly stated to be "Jabilo", another name that had previously been used for the character. [4]
  • This episode establishes that Benny Russell (DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars", "Shadows and Symbols") was a real, historical person in the show's timeline and not just a fictional identity induced in Benjamin Sisko by the Prophets, a figment of his mind or a Human from a parallel universe or an alternate reality.
  • In 2368, the USS Enterprise-D also encountered a non-corporeal lifeform in a nebula that caused a little girl's fantasies to come true. (TNG: "Imaginary Friend")
  • In 2370, The Enterprise-D also encountered an alien cultural archive that, similarly to Debra, caused Data to take on the personalities of mythological figures and also transformed the interior of the Enterprise-D to recreate the locations from the alien myths. (TNG: "Masks")
    • In another similar incident, in 2369, the telepathic imprint of the Saltah'na, who destroyed themselves in a power struggle, caused the crews of the IKS Toh'Kaht and Deep Space 9 to reenact the events that led to the Saltah'na's destruction, while also taking on the personas of the individuals involved in those events. (DS9: "Dramatis Personae")

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Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]


3-QND; abracadabra; Aenar; all-powerful being; apple; bay; Boltzmann brain; book; boots; bow and arrow; bravery; captain; captain's chair; carafe; Caster; castle; chamberlain; chain; chaos; chief medical officer; children's book; court jester (aka jester); Crimson banner; Crimson Guard (aka Red Guard); cure; cygnokemia; dark realm; death; diplomacy; doctor; dog; dopamine; dungeon; event horizon; fantasy; god; head chopping; healing stone; Hell; horse (aka steed); Human; Illyrian; Jefferies tube; Jonisian Nebula; king; Kingdom of Elysian; Kingdom of Elysian, The (aka The Elysian Kingdom); kiss; kitchen; kneeling; knife; knight; lady; Lady Audrey's Woods; laser cutter; Letter of Accords; liege; magic; magician; McNair Starbase; medical tricorder; Mercury Stone; monster; neurological activity; Once upon a time; pattern buffer; power; princess; quarters queen; Ridley; Russell, Benny; sanctuary; scanner array; science; sire; ship; sir; sire; smoky wall; sorcerer; sorcery; staging a rescue; Starfall; surveillance log; swamp; Swamp of Infinite Deaths, The; sword; synchrotron flux; torturer; transporter; trap; tricorder; university; Vulcan; wine; wizard; Your Highness

External links[]

Previous episode:
"The Serene Squall"
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Season 1
Next episode:
"All Those Who Wander"