“The Mind’s Eye”
Written by Ken Schafer and René Echevarria
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 24
Production episode 40274-198
Original air date: May 27, 1991
Captain’s Log: La Forge is en route to Risa in a shuttle to attend an artificial intelligence seminar and he’s arriving a few days early for some R&R. While he’s in the middle of playing a word game with the computer to pass the time, a Romulan warbird decloaks, drains the shuttle’s shields, and beams La Forge over. He’s strapped down to a chair on the orders of two Romulans Taibak and a woman who remains in shadow. Another human who looks somewhat like him puts on a fake VISOR and is told by Taibak to try not to have too much fun on Risa.
Taibak removes the VISOR and plugs the chair right into the little doodads on La Forge’s temples that the VISOR hooks up to, enabling him to force La Forge to watch whatever he wishes. The idea is to condition La Forge to the point where he’s their slave, which can be done in a manner that is undetectable thanks to La Forge’s neural implants.
The female commander Taibak is reporting to remains in shadow, but speaks with a very familiar voice.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise is ferrying Ambassador Kell, an emissary from the Klingon High Council, to Krios, a Klingon colony that is rebelling. In the past, they’d just put down a rebellion, but the difficulties on the homeworld make that impractical. Granting them independence is an option “conquer them again later, if we wish” but the reason for this particular trip is because Governor Vagh is accusing the Federation of arming the Kriosian rebels.
La Forge’s conditioning continues. The Romulans re-create Ten-Forward in a holodeck. Taibak points to O’Brien, sitting and chatting with a couple of other guys, and asks who he is. “That’s Chief O’Brien.” “How long have you served with him?” “Almost four years.” “I want you to kill him.” “Okay.”
Sure enough, La Forge walks over to the table and after a few seconds’ hesitation shoots O’Brien, then sits down for a drink. Taibak is not pleased with the hesitation, and orders the equipment prepared for another session.
By the time the Enterprise arrives at Krios, La Forge returns in the same shuttle he was kidnapped from, and he remembers only that he went to Risa. Data detects E-band emissions, which are hard to localize. It might be from a protostar, though there isn’t one close enough.
Picard, Riker, and Kell beam down to Krios to meet with Governor Vagh. Federation medical supplies and phaser rifles have been found in rebel strongholds. The medical supplies aren’t actually a big deal, as they don’t restrict access to them, but the weapons are another matter. Picard takes one back to the ship to examine it (after trading swear words with Vagh).
After checking over engineering, La Forge goes to Ten-Forward. Kell is sharing a drink with Crusher and Riker, while O’Brien is sitting alone. La Forge orders a drink, walks up behind O’Brien, and deliberately dumps his drink on O’Brien’s right shoulder. La Forge immediately apologizes, O’Brien brushes it off as no big deal, and La Forge stands around confused as to why he just did that.
Data and La Forge examine the rifle Picard got from Vagh. It uses a terahertz energy source Starfleet doesn’t use but 327 other systems use that type of feed. One of those 327 is the Romulan Empire. As Picard tells Vagh, while the Romulans have no direct interest in Kriosian independence, they do have an interest in driving a wedge between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, since that alliance is the only thing keeping them in check.
Another E-band emission is detected, one that is greater in intensity, which means it can’t possibly be a protostar. On Riker’s orders, Data continues to search for the source, since he’s now concerned that it’s a covert Romulan transmission.
La Forge performs a bit of sabotage on a cargo transporter, keeping the computer from finding any record of him beaming a container of weapons down to the surface. Shortly thereafter, Vagh contacts the ship spitting fire, as they intercepted the container. Picard knows nothing of this, though Data does detect an unauthorized use of a transporter but they can’t even figure out which one. Vagh sends three ships to keep the Enterprise in orbit. Kell has convinced Vagh to wait to hear from the High Council, but that only buys them a few hours.
Data and La Forge (who has no memory of his own sabotage) try to figure out which transporter was used and how it was used without sensors detecting it. They find a replicator energy pattern that isn’t actually a replicator pattern, that traces back to Cargo Bay 4. There’s no indication that the transporter was used, and O’Brien says that the only way to do that is to physically mess with the chips at several different stations. Only four people on board would even know how to do it: Data, La Forge, O’Brien, and Lieutenant Costa. They all have alibis except for La Forge, who says he was in his quarters alone (ha ha ha). They continue to try to reconstruct what happened, including an attempt to determine whose access code was used, but it will take time.
Kell tells Picard that he will invite Vagh on board the Enterprise to observe the investigation himself. Then he returns to his quarters to enjoy a sumptuous repast; said repast is interrupted by the arrival of La Forge, whom Kell was expecting because, it turns out, he’s another Klingon like J’Dan and probably Duras who is secretly allied with the Romulans.
The ambassador tells La Forge that the investigation’s moving faster than expected, so he wants the engineer to assassinate Governor Vagh in the cargo bay in front of many witnesses, and claim he did it on Starfleet’s behalf in support of Kriosian independence. La Forge says he understands, then leaves. He goes back to his quarters to sleep, but wakes up from a nightmare and immediately contacts O’Brien but can’t remember why he did so. He visits Crusher, concerned that he can’t sleep and wanting her to give him something for it.
Vagh and Kell beam on board, along with the governor’s staff. Vagh makes it clear that this is against his better judgment, but Kell convinced him. At Kell’s suggestion they proceed immediately to the cargo bay.
Data has traced the E-band spikes twice they occurred on the ship, once on the planet’s surface. He also discovers that the E-band emissions bear a similarity to human brainwave patterns, and that a system designed to process the EM spectrum and carry them to the human brain could receive those signals. Data gets a shock of recognition, as that’s how La Forge’s VISOR works. He immediately proceeds to the shuttle bay to examine the shuttle La Forge took to Risa. While he can’t find any discrepancies in the navigation logs, he does detect submicroscopic stresses on the nose consistent with the application of a tractor beam and there’s no indication that the shuttle ever was hit with such a beam on La Forge’s trip to Risa. He then examines the isolinear chips in the shuttle, only to discover that they’ve been replicated by a Romulan replicator.
Picard shows Vagh, Kell, and his staff how the investigation is proceeding. O’Brien verifies that the unit in Cargo Bay 4 is the only one that was tampered with. La Forge shows up, covertly armed with a small hand phaser, and is asked by O’Brien to check over something. After that, he just stares at Vagh.
Data contacts La Forge, but he doesn’t respond. The computer tells him that he’s in Cargo Bay 4, so he contacts Worf and orders him to take La Forge into custody. Worf moves to do so, but is stopped by Vagh’s bodyguards, so he cries out La Forge’s name, which forces Picard and Vagh to turn around just before he can fire. Picard is able to deflect La Forge’s fatal shot at Vagh, and Worf takes him into custody.
Then Data shows up and explains what happened. The only thing left to determine is who provided La Forge with his instructions the E-band emissions that were sent to La Forge’s VISOR had to come to someone in close proximity, and the only people who were close enough to him each of the three times they detected an E-band spike were Picard and Kell.
Kell refuses to be searched by the Enterprise crew and Vagh agrees, saying they’ll search Kell themselves. Kell nervously requests asylum aboard the Enterprise, which Picard says he’ll grant after the ambassador’s been cleared of this crime. Vagh’s bodyguards grab Kell and they all beam down to Krios.
La Forge sits with Troi, frustrated, because he remembers every detail of his trip to Risa. She begins her work with him to restore his memories.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The fake phaser rifle matches a Federation rifle mostly the energy flow from the prefire chamber to the emission aperture, rapid nadion pulse, beam-control assembly, safety interlock, beam-width intensity controls, and energy cell discharge are all normal. But the efficiency reading on the discharge crystal is above Starfleet specifications, and it turns out it’s using terahertz energy, which the Federation doesn’t use. That eventually leads them to the Romulans.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi sees La Forge upon his return from the Romulan ship, and views him as more relaxed than she ever saw him. She pushes him to reveal what he did on Risa, and La Forge lists a whole mess of things we know he didn’t do, like play chess, walk, swim, eat, and spend time with a woman named Jonek. Troi’s pushing for details on what he did comes across a lot more as a friend fishing for gossip than a counselor checking on a patient, which is actually kinda cute….
At the end, though, she’s entirely his counselor as she tries to get La Forge to remember what happened.
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data’s investigation of the E-band emissions eventually leads him to discovering La Forge as the saboteur. He also has an entertaining conversation with La Forge upon the latter’s return to the ship, as La Forge cracks wise, Data expresses confusion, talks through the comment to determine where the humor is, and then agrees that what he said was funny, prompting La Forge to grin and say, “I missed you, Data.”
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: It always irked me that Data was the one who solved the mystery though it had its basis in his detection of the E-band emissions, so it made some sense but this is the sort of thing that should’ve been handled by the chief of security. Oh well.
Just as in “Reunion,” Picard refuses to let Worf’s discommendation get in the way of duty this time, it’s him pretty much forcing Worf down Kell’s throat, as he’s the one best qualified to give Kell a tactical briefing. And then after all of Kell’s bitching and moaning about having to deal with Worf, the ambassador actually pays him a compliment, telling him that there are some on the High Council who are grateful to Worf for killing Duras, and that when he did so, he acted as a true Klingon.
What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Taibak uses a holodeck to re-create Ten-Forward to test to make sure that La Forge’s conditioning is taking effect. If they can get him to kill O’Brien, a friend of four years’ standing, it shouldn’t be any problem killing a total stranger in Vagh.
I Believe I Said That: “Your modesty is very human, Captain, I will excuse it.”
Ambassador Kell, not letting Picard get away with being demure.
Welcome Aboard: Larry Dobkin is appropriately gruff as Ambassador Kell he was also the director of the original series episode “Charlie X” back in 1966 while Edward Wiley is appropriately cranky as Vagh. John Fleck plays the first of six Trek roles as Taibak the magnificently voiced actor will return three times on Deep Space Nine, as a Cardassian, an Ornithar, and another Romulan (Koval, the head of the Tal Shiar), once on Voyager, and have the recurring role of Silik on Enterprise.
And sharp-eared viewers will detect the uncredited voice of Denise Crosby as Taibak’s supervisor, who will be revealed in “Redemption” to be Commander Sela, revealed in “Redemption, Part II” to be the daughter of the alternate Tasha Yar from “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” It was only Crosby’s voice, though Debra Dilley, one of the photo doubles, stood in the shadows next to John Fleck.
Trivial Matters: This is the first of two occasions where La Forge’s VISOR will be used to sabotage the Enterprise it’ll happen again in Star Trek Generations.
Some time between Generations and First Contact, La Forge went from VISOR to bionic implants, and the story The Insolence of Office by William Leisner, part of the eBook miniseries Slings and Arrows (edited by your humble rewatcher), chronicled how that happened: Starfleet ordered him to do it, or be transferred to a less sensitive post. Since the time between films was the height of paranoia over Dominion infiltration (as seen in contemporary episodes of DS9), the security risk of the VISOR was too much for Starfleet to be comfortable with. The events of this episode are at the top of the list of issues.
Although the bulk of the episode takes place on Krios, we won’t actually meet any Kriosians until “The Perfect Mate” in the fifth season; they’ll also be seen in the Enterprise episode “Precious Cargo.”
This episode establishes that Risa has a climate-controlled environment for maximum tourist enjoyment. That system will be seen (and sabotaged) in the DS9 episode “Let He Who Is Without Sin…”
This episode continues the political theme of Romulan sabotage of the Klingon-Federation alliance via sympathetic Klingons that started in “Reunion” (with a Romulan explosive used by an agent of Councillor Duras), and continued in “The Drumhead” (with J’Dan sending Enterprise secrets to the Romulans). It will come to a head in “Redemption.”
Although it’s never stated in the episode, one assumes that the Romulans learned of the VISOR and its vulnerabilities through reports from Centurion Bok’ra following the events of “The Enemy.”
This is the third time we see things from La Forge’s VISOR’d POV (following “Heart of Glory” and “The Enemy“), but this time there are modifications in the visual output in the form of Romulan script.
As with last week, this episode has a first-time directing endeavor from a long-time member of the tech staff in this case David Livingston, who started as a unit production manager on TNG, and remained on the production staff throughout the show’s run. He’ll go on to direct more than 60 episodes of TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise.
Make it So: “A technique referred to historically, and somewhat inaccurately, as ‘brainwashing’.” An open tribute to the John Frankenheimer film The Manchurian Candidate, director Livingston even included some homage shots (and apparently tried to get someone from the film to make a cameo in the episode, but was unsuccessful). And it totally works. La Forge’s VISOR has been used to assist the crew on so many occasions, so it’s nice to see it have some vulnerabilities as well. It fits in perfectly with the occasional theme of the fourth season of a growing conflict among the Klingons, Romulans, and Federation, and just in general is a tight, intense episode.
La Forge is the perfect person for this, because they’ve spent four years establishing him as the affably dorky guy, so he’s the last person anyone would suspect of being an assassin. His casual “okay” when Taibak orders him to shoot O’Brien is chilling.
And the episode is beautifully structured. Just when you figure you know how everything’s going to go, Kell is revealed as the spy, which just adds an extra layer to the whole thing. Tension is nicely built as we intercut between Data gathering evidence that La Forge is the saboteur and La Forge heading to the cargo bay to perform his mission.
The only serious problem with the episode isn’t so much an issue with the story itself as it is TNG‘s structure. The show will continue for another three years (plus four feature films), and this incident will never even be referred to again. The final scene between Troi and La Forge is excellent La Forge’s plaintive “But I remember everything!” is heartbreaking but then it’s never talked about again. This is as damaging an event for La Forge in its own way as Picard’s assimilation in “The Best of Both Worlds” and Worf’s discommendation in “Sins of the Father,” but where those two are at least followed up on, this one isn’t, and that’s a shame.
However, that doesn’t detract from a taut thriller episode, one that nicely sets up the season finale two episodes hence.
Warp factor rating: 8
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest novel, Goblin Precinct, is now available. A high fantasy police procedural (think Law & Order meets The Lord of the Rings), it’s the sequel to Dragon Precinct and Unicorn Precinct, and is available from Dark Quest Books. Go to Keith’s web site for info on how to get the book, whether an eBook or print book from an online dealer, or an autographed copy of the trade paperback directly from Keith.