**** (4 stars out of 5)
Shy Reg Barclay performs a scene from Cyrano De Bergerac for Dr. Crusher's acting workshop.
It's not a performance Data finds impressive, and Worf looks as though he'd rather be shanked with a shiv.
Troi praises Barclay for his social efforts. "You're not just acting. You're interacting."
Out by the Argus telescope array, Barclay gets flashed by a probe. The alien device begins to make him smarter. The probe chases the ship, about to flash The Full Iconian. Enterprise cannot torpedo the meddlesome cylinder because it's following too closely.
Barclay comes up with some astounding high-speed gobbledegook to boost the shield strength by 300%. Also boosted is his acting skill: his Cyrano moves Bev 'The Directing Doctor' to tears. And it boosted his confidence: he asks Troi for a walk in the arboretum.
"I've finally become the person I've always wanted to be. Do we have to ask why?"
Barclay guesses his IQ is over 1200 and climbing. To save the Argus array, Barclay invents and builds a neural scan interface in the Holodeck that links him into the main computer. Indeed, he uploads his considerable intellect into the ship's CPU and begins to function as the computer. Anyone who's seen the movie 'Demon Seed' starts to get REALLY nervous.
Picard asks Barclay to withdraw, and he responds 'I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave.' Talking without moving his lips is one thing, but calling the Captain Dave is quite another. Dave's not here, man!
Barclay Big Brain tells Geordi that he understands... everything. That he has been chosen for a great purpose.
Geordi can't stop him. Nor Worf's phaser team.
Without using warp drive, the Reggie-puter creates a subspace bias that stretches them like taffy and drops them off in the centre of the galaxy near the home world of the Cytherians.
Giant Kindly Head restores Barclay to normal.
Cytherians explore the galaxy by bringing other people to them. They wish only an exchange of knowledge. Armchair explorers, Space Mycrofts, Couch Potato Heads. Call them what you will. They chat for 10 days and are sent home with decades worth of knowledge.
"The Nth Degree" is a welcome return for my favorite milquetoast, Mr. Barclay. Kind of a "Neural Relays For Algernon". Like Mr. Barclay, my community theatre endeavors led to some of my favorite interactions, and some of my favorite friendships ever, especially with my wife.
I wonder whether the Cytherians were the ones who imprisoned that Giant Evil God Head from Star Trek V? I only ask because it's the right neighborhood for Big Ol' Floatin' Heads.