the story: Data has nightmares that end up helping save the ship.
what it all means: That logline kind of makes "Phantasms" sound as awesome as Voyager's "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," in which the Holographic Doc's daydreams are tapped into by aliens (also known as the debut of the so-called Potato Heads), and while some of "Phantasms" is awesome, it isn't really, on the whole. It's kind of a variation of a Barclay episode, but with Data carving up Troi cake.
In fact, Troi cake is the best part about the episode (cellular peptide, with mint frosting!). The rest of it is kind of a waste of the potential introduced in "Birthright, Part 1," in which Data initially unlocks the ability to dream. There ought to be fans who deride "Phantasms" the way they do "Spock's Brain" (or the later seventh season episode "Genesis," for whatever reason; fans are overly concerned with images they think make Star Trek look cheap, which apparently doesn't include all the horrible choreography of the original series, the Gorn fight being just the tip of the iceberg).
Is it that bad? No. It's not "Sub Rosa," for instance. But it's certainly the seventh season living up to its reputation for disposability (it's got about the same mix as any other season of middling episodes).
For shear kitsch value, though, it's hard to dismiss an episode featuring Freud uttering the advice: "You must kill zem. Kill zem all!"
franchise- Not particularly how you want to represent Star Trek! series- Not the series, either!
- character - Still, it's a fun Data episode.
essential- Though, one you could easily skip!