Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Eye of the Beholder”

Sorry for being late with this. Real life, and all that. We’ll be back on track with “Genesis” on Friday.

“Eye of the Beholder”
Written by Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 7, Episode 18
Production episode 40276-270
Original air date: February 28, 1994
Stardate: 47622.1

Captain’s Log: One of the nacelles is malfunctioning. Riker and Worf discover that Lieutenant Daniel Kwan is threatening to jump into the plasma stream. Riker tries to talk him down long enough for Worf and Lieutenant Nara to shut it down, but they’re not fast enough. After rambling on about people laughing at him and such, Kwan says, “I know what I have to do,” jumps into the plasma stream, and is incinerated.

The crew is devastated. Riker wishes he had a few more seconds, and says that Kwan seemed fine just the other day when the nacelle refit was finished. Picard has never had to do a death notification to a family member where it was a suicide. He puts Worf and Troi in charge of the investigation into Kwan’s death.

They find a picture of Ensign Calloway by his bed, and his last personal log is simply expressing pleasure that the nacelle refit was done and he was looking forward to spending time with Calloway. Troi talks to both Calloway and Nara, who was his supervisor, and they are just as shocked and confused by all this. Calloway describes him as sensitive and happy, Nara as ambitious and a good worker; neither has any idea why he killed himself.

When she walks toward the plasma stream, Troi gets an intense empathic impression of fear, rage, and panic from—well, nobody. Kwan’s mother was Napean, a telepathic species, so it’s possible that the impressions are left over from him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

Worf checks on Troi, who still finds nothing in Kwan’s personal logs to indicate why he did this. After the two of them have a pleasant conversation, Worf suddenly gets antsy and leaves, going to Ten-Forward, where he makes the lamest attempt to ask for Riker’s permission to date Troi it’s possible to make.

Later, Troi again visits nacelle control, and this time she sees a man and a woman in engineering jumpsuits, the woman scared and screaming, the man angry—and then Troi finds herself still in nacelle control, but when the Enterprise was still at the shipyards. She walks in on two people making out, one of whom is the woman she saw screaming, but she’s smooching with a different man—they both start laughing—

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

—and then Troi’s back in the present, with Worf getting her attention.

Troi recalls only bits and pieces of what happened, and she has no idea who the woman or the man smooching her are, but the other man looks vaguely familiar. Crusher will synthesize an inhibitor that will allow Troi to go back to nacelle control without being overwhelmed, and then maybe she can pick out more details. But it’ll take time to find, so meanwhile Troi goes through the personnel records of Utopia Planitia from eight years earlier when the Enterprise was being constructed. She finds the angry man, Lieutenant Pierce, who transferred back to the Enterprise six months earlier and is now serving in engineering. He and Kwan both worked together at Utopia Planitia.

Worf and Troi question him, and he professes ignorance about anything that might have happened eight years earlier—but they both know he’s holding something back, the former from his security training, the latter from her empathic abilities. Pierce can actually block Troi’s empathy, which is odd from a human. The two retire to Troi’s quarters, and then they smooch and fall into bed together.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

The next morning, Crusher gives Troi the inhibitor, but Worf can’t accompany her to nacelle control right away due to issues with the medical supplies the ship is transporting. Worf is assisting Calloway, and they seem almost flirtatious, which irks Troi a bit.

At nacelle control, Troi asks about a plasma conduit, which it turns out Kwan was working on the day before he died. Nara also says that that was the first time that conduit had been opened since the ship was built.

As soon as La Forge opens the panel at Troi’s request, she sees the woman screaming again, with Pierce standing over her. Data and La Forge detect organic matter in the bulkhead—and they find a skeleton. Extracting it from the wall, the bone fragments are brought to sickbay. Crusher says they’ve been in the wall for seven or eight years, and Calloway starts comparing the DNA profile to Starfleet records. Worf stands over her, again irking Troi.

The DNA matches Ensign Marla Finn, who was declared missing from the shipyards eight years earlier. But Kwan didn’t report to Utopia Planitia until six months after Finn’s death, so Troi can’t have been seeing through Kwan’s eyes. Then she realizes that her impression of Pierce was a reflection—she saw through his eyes. Worf goes to talk to Pierce again while Troi, who’s a bit out of it from the inhibitor, goes to her quarters.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

Then Pierce shows up at her door. Troi calls security, which confuses Pierce, as Worf told him to report to her. Troi asks the computer to locate Worf—who is in Calloway’s quarters. She has the security team that shows up escort Pierce to his quarters to hold him there, and Troi then heads to Calloway’s cabin, only to find Worf and Calloway smooching. And then they laugh at her, the same way Finn and the other man did in her earlier vision. Angry, Troi grabs a phaser and shoots Worf, killing him. Troi runs through the corridors—bumping into Pierce, who smiles and says, “You know what you have to do”—and then heads to nacelle control. Just like Kwan, she says, “I know what I have to do.”

But before she can jump, Worf grabs her and pulls her back. It turns out that everything that happened since she first hallucinated Utopia Planitia was in her mind and only took a few seconds of real time. Data digs up the shipyard records, and finds that Pierce, Finn, and the other guy were all killed in what was considered an accident. Pierce is a quarter Betazoid, which makes him telepathic enough to have left an impression in the plasma stream when he died. Troi guesses that Pierce found out that Finn and the other one were having an affair, and he killed them and then staged the accident to a) commit suicide and b) cover up the evidence of his murder.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Apparently, if someone who’s one-quarter telepathic is incinerated by a plasma stream, it leaves enough of a psychic residue to make anyone else who’s telepathic be so overwhelmed by said residue that they will commit suicide also. Which kinda sucks for them.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi spends half the episode in a fugue state where she gets to knock boots with Worf, find him in the arms of another woman, and then kill him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data reveals to La Forge that he, after a fashion, considered suicide. Shortly after his activation, he struggled with sentience, risking cascade failure with each new neural pathway created in his positronic brain. The difficulties led him to contemplate shutting himself down and starting over, but he decided that these were challenges to be overcome rather than obstacles to be avoided.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is seriously considering courting Troi following the events of “Parallels,” but he doesn’t feel comfortable doing so without Riker’s blessing. However, his attempt to get that blessing is awkward and ridiculous and hilarious.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: There’s quite a lot happening sexually in this episode. Kwan and Calloway had a pretty strong relationship, and she’s confused by his suicide (it’s possible she’s also devastated, but Johanna McCloy utterly fails at conveying that). Riker is making the moves on a Lieutenant Corell in Ten-Forward. Worf starts making the first tentative steps toward possibly seeing Troi romantically, which Troi has picked up on enough of to have it influence her hallucination, and she and Worf do the deed. Then, later in the hallucination, Worf and Calloway are smooching. And the whole mishegoss started because of an affair Finn and another guy had when Finn was dating Pierce back on Mars. Wah-hey!

I Believe I Said That: “Well, you know what they say, Mr. Worf: hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Troi’s response to Worf’s question of how he was killed in her hallucination, which she answers by misquoting William Congreve. (The actual quote from The Mourning Bride: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”)

Welcome Aboard: Nancy Harewood and Johanna McCloy are barely adequate as Nara and Calloway, respectively—though I would’ve expected the love of Kwan’s life to be a lot more broken up. I mean, Jonathan Frakes showed more emotion over Kwan’s death than the woman playing his girlfriend. As Kwan, Tim Lounibos does the best he can with a part that just calls for him to stand in place muttering seeming nonsense before jumping. Longtime extra Nora Leonhardt gets something resembling a speaking part—no dialogue, but she gets to scream and laugh—as the image of Finn. (Amusingly, Leonhardt also was Marina Sirtis’s usual stand-in, but her role as Finn kept her from doing that this episode, so that role went to Second Assistant Director Arlene Fukai.)

But this episode’s Robert Knepper moment is longtime character actor Mark Rolston, who has made a career playing hardasses and nasty folks, as Pierce.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

Trivial Matters: The Utopia Planitia Fleet Shipyard was first referenced (and seen in holographic form) in “Booby Trap.”

Troi references talking to Kwan during the crew evaluations, which occurred in “Lower Decks.”

Picard says that the warp speed limits are suspended for their medical mission, yet another reference to “Force of Nature” for the express purpose of working around what that episode established.

Worf mentions seeking visions in fire, something we saw him try in “Rightful Heir,” both in his quarters and on Boreth.

Make it So: “They laughed at me!” This isn’t a bad episode, exactly. It’s an interesting little mystery that has a science fictional twist, though the upshot that telepaths are helpless before the power of eight-year-old psychic residue is a little—odd? I mean, seriously, Kwan and Troi both were driven to take their own lives just from the impressions of Pierce’s murder-suicide?

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Eye of the Beholder

I had misremembered that all of this episode was in Troi’s head, but it’s only about half of it. For one thing, that means that Worf’s awkward conversation with Troi followed by his hilarious attempts to ask for Riker’s permission really did happen, which is a nice bit of progress on that front, and I loved Data’s admission to La Forge that he considered a form of suicide early on after his activation. (I also like the way Data folds his arms the same way La Forge does when he confides in him.) In addition, in a surprising twist for TNG, the ending is kind of unresolved. There’s no way to prove what happened on Utopia Planitia, and it wouldn’t much matter anyhow, since the person responsible is also dead. I would’ve liked to have seen more done with the consequences here—I mean, Pierce managed to, in essence, commit another murder eight years after he died. That would seem to be worth talking about.

Still, overall, I get a sense of meh. The guest casting doesn’t help—Johanna McCloy is pretty nowhere as Calloway, and just the act of casting Mark Rolston kinda points to Pierce being our bad guy.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido has two new books out, neither of which are actually SF/F: the novel Leverage: The Zoo Job, based on the TV series about criminals who help people, and the baseball book In the Dugout: Yankees 2013, which he co-edited with Cecilia M. Tan, all about New York’s American League baseball team.

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