Friday, February 4, 2022

Star Trek: Imaginary Friend

Episode: "Imaginary Friend"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 22
Original Air Date: May 4, 1992

Clara Sutter is a young child adjusting to life aboard the Enterprise after loads of moving around - the lot of military kids the world over.  One day, her imaginary friend, Isabella, becomes real and she's bringing trouble.  Isabella and her fellow nebula-dwelling beings threaten to destroy the Enterprise.

It's a Star Trek story about children so, um, no thanks.  However, I will give credit to Shay Astar (Isabella) for pulling off the Stepford Child Gone Horribly Wrong act quite capably.  Always worth pointing out: it's not the kids' fault that the writing and the direction are inadequate to their needs.

Acting Notes

Noley Thornton (Clara) had a short but reasonably successful acting career over eight years, 1990-98.  She was nominated for two Young Artist Awards: one for the lead in a Heidi miniseries and one for her role in The Martin Short Show.  "Imaginary Friend" is her first of two Trek appearances.  She played Taya in DS9's "Shadowplay."


  1. Is think I recall this one but I am not a fan, for the most part, of child episodes because they grate on my nerves:)

  2. Gotta agree that the episodes with kids were among the worst.

  3. I must admit, this episode reached the dad in me, who found it charming. It had many complications of fictitious physics and dangerous forces at work, but reached resolution in the friendship of a child. This is the sort of episode that put Star Trek light years ahead of lesser space operas.

    1. Fair enough...

      I have no issue with the premise. An imaginary friend becomes real? Sure, why not? But the acting is wooden and the emotional tugs telegraphed.

      Again, it's not the kids' fault and it was a consistent shortcoming across the industry at the time. The producers talk about the "luck" of good casting as if once the child actors were put in front of them, the adults' work was done.

      You watch kids on TV now and they look a lot more comfortable and I have to believe that the work behind the scenes is a lot more sensitive to their needs. Don't write for kids, or direct them, as if they are small adults. They're real people, worthy of realistic portrayal. It takes adult effort to make child characters work on screen.

    2. <3 This was my favorite episode when I was a kid. I was 7 when TNG first started. Any time kids were in an episode, those were always the best. (Wesley doesn't count as a kid. I was 7, and he was 15. From my point of view as a 7-year-old, Wesley was not a kid.) I always wished there was a Star Trek series that was all about the kids who live on the Enterprise D, since early episodes of TNG often pointed out that this was a ship with kids living on it. Each time kids were on an episode, I'd try to find other shows or movies that had those kids - a difficult feat in pre-internet days - so I could watch anything that had them in it. In this episode, we had the girl from Heidi and a girl who would later be on Boy Meets World and Third Rock From The Sun. Of course when Brian Bonsall took over the Alexander part, everyone already knew him as Andy Keaton, so I didn't have to search for him. Anyway, a ST series all about Alexander, Molly, Clara, Marissa, Jay Gordon, Patterson, Katie, Harry, Mason, etc. would have been my dream come true back in the late 80s/early 90s. <3 (The only one I didn't like was Sarjenka because Nikki Cox is creepy. I don't mean she's creepy as Sarjenka. I mean Nikki Cox is just plain creepy. And no, it's not mean for me to call a kid creepy because I'm younger than she is and that's how I felt about that particular "big kid" when I was a little kid.) They really missed an opportunity, because there were a lot of us kids watching, and the show had a lot of awesome child actors who were used only rarely in the show. That would have been the golden time to make a STTNG series for kids, sort of a side-by-side series, for us to see what's going on with the kids on the ship at the same time as what happens in the regular STTNG episodes.

    3. First of all, x, welcome to The Squid! It's a pleasure meeting you.

      I'd be interested to know how you feel about Prodigy, the first Trek series intentionally targeting a child audience. I had my issues with it at first - more Star Wars than Trek in many ways - but it's grown on me. Sometimes I wonder how much children truly prefer child characters to adult ones but it would seem you certainly did yourself.