Fri
Dec 30 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “A Matter of Perspective”

Due to Christmas there was no rewatch on Monday, and this one’s a bit late due to holiday cheer, but we should be back on track next week/next year with “Yesterday’s Enterprise” on Monday the 2nd and continuing every Monday and Thursday in 2012.

For all of you who’ve been rewatching with me, reading, commenting, and so on, thank you so much. It’s been tremendous fun to re-live the glory days of TNG with you all, and I look forward to continuing it into 2012, assuming the world doesn’t end. (Stupid Mayans...)

Onward:

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”“A Matter of Perspective”
Written by Ed Zuckerman
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 14
Production episode 40273-162
Original air date: February 12, 1990
Stardate: 43610.4

Captain’s Log: Picard is among those attending an art class. Data comes in and reports that the away team has returned from their mission to the Tanuga IV research station. La Forge, however, has beamed back alone — Riker stayed behind because Dr. Apgar, the head researcher, wants to have a word. Just as O’Brien beams Riker back, the station explodes. Apgar was the only one on board.

Krag, an investigator from Tanuga, comes on board wanting to take Riker into custody for murder. Two witnesses have come forward testifying to threats Riker made against Apgar, which, in Tanugan jurisprudence, is enough to arrest.

While they are under Tanugan jurisdiction, it is up to Picard’s discretion to accede to the extradition request. Krag insists he must interrogate Riker and the other witnesses on the surface because he must re-create what happened. Picard suggests a compromise: he use the holodeck to literally re-create the events, which Data assures them can be done, supposedly with a “nominal” eight percent or so margin of error.

Krag agrees. La Forge, Data, and Wes do the holodeck work, programming the holodeck with depositions from all the witnesses. Picard, Troi, and Krag will watch all the re-creations and Picard will judge — with Troi’s help — whether or not extradition is warranted.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

First we get Riker’s story: he and La Forge beam onto the station and meet Apgar and his assistant Tayna and his wife Manua. Apgar resents Riker’s presence, as he’s only suffered a few setbacks — but Riker assures him that they’re just checking up, there’s no pressure.

Manua insists that they share a drink. He mentions that the Enterprise has returned to its scientific mission. Apgar isn’t thrilled that they’re staying overnight, but Riker assures them that they made arrangements on the planet. Manua insists that they stay on the station. Krag makes a point of verifying that it was Manua’s idea that they stay on the station, not Riker’s.

When she shows Riker the guest quarters, Manua immediately starts hitting on Riker, who resists every forward pass. Apgar storms in, unsurprised by his wife’s attempt at infidelity, and he slaps Manua and takes a swing at Riker (and misses completely, Riker having easily ducked it). They both leave; the next morning, Riker insists it was a misunderstanding, but Apgar is completely paranoid about his work, and is concerned that Riker will give Apgar a bad report if Apgar files a grievance regarding Riker’s behavior.

Riker beams back. Krag, however, has a wrinkle: their scans based on the telemetry from the ground computer on Tanuga indicate that a focused energy beam hit the reactor from where Riker was standing. That suggests that he fired his phaser on the reactor just before transport.

La Forge, Data, and Wes verify Krag’s findings, then Worf picks up a radiation burst that puts a hole in a bulkhead. They can’t identify the source or type of radiation.

Next we get Manua’s story: Where Riker’s version of Manua was flirty and frustrated, Manua’s own version is demure and supportive. Also in her version it’s Riker who hits on Manua. Apgar’s concern is more confusion than paranoia. Also, Riker asks to stay on the station. (It’s never mentioned that, if La Forge and Riker made arrangements to stay on the planet, that could be verified with whoever they made arrangements with.)

Riker then tries to rape her, which Riker points out is patently absurd, before Apgar interrupts. He takes a swing, but this time Riker beats the crap out of him and threatens him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

Another radiation burst hits sickbay, exactly five hours, twenty-three minutes, and six seconds after the last one — which was four times that interval after the station exploded. That’s too precise an interval to be coincidence, but they don’t know much beyond that, except that they know when the next burst will probably hit.

Next, Tayna testifies as to what happened in the guest quarters, based on what Apgar told her. Picard and Riker are dubious, as this is hearsay. In this version, Riker and Manua are in a mutual embrace, with neither resisting, and it’s Apgar who beats the crap out of Riker (which is fun to watch, but also patently ridiculous). Riker then threatens Apgar’s life. Apgar goes and tells Tayna what happened, tells her to take Manua to the surface, and stops her from calling the authorities, as he says he’ll take care of everything.

At this point, Picard has to allow extradition. There’s enough evidence to support it, though there is not, in Picard’s opinion, sufficient evidence to prove his innocence.

However, Data then reports that he, Wes, and La Forge have found the source of the radiation bursts. There’s a lambda field generator on the surface that fires an energy burst, then needs five hours, twenty-three minutes, and six seconds to recharge. It was left running after the station exploded.

Everyone is gathered on the holodeck for the final re-creation, from La Forge. It turns out that the radiation that has been hitting the Enterprise are Krieger waves. Far from being delayed in his breakthrough as he claimed, Apgar had already figured out how to create them. The converter that he said didn’t work actually worked just fine — and they re-created it on the holodeck. The bursts from the planet were being altered into Krieger waves by the holographic converter, and striking different points on the Enterprise, depending on their orbital angle relative to the field generator.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

Picard hypothesizes that Apgar and Manua’s talk of great rewards — seen in both Riker’s and Manua’s testimonies — indicated that he had another client in mind besides Starfleet for Krieger waves. La Forge does the end of Riker’s testimony over with the Enterprise in the spot where the space station was, the holographic converter in the same place when the field generator hits it again.

Sure enough, the energy is converted into Krieger waves by the holographic generator and strikes Riker in mid-transport. It was an attempt by Apgar to kill Riker, making it look like a transporter accident, but instead the focused Krieger wave hit the transporter beam and reflected back onto the generator, causing the explosion.

In light of the new evidence, Krag withdraws the extradition request, the Enterprise leaves, and everyone lives happily ever after. Well, except for Manua, who’s lost her husband and then found out he was a traitor and a murderer, and Tayna, who’s out of a job, but hey, at least Starfleet has their Krieger waves…

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The holodeck doesn’t actually create the Krieger waves, simply provides a means by which the energy can be converted into it. The show’s scientific advisor at the time was David Krieger, and he suggested the solution of having the holodeck create a converter so they wouldn’t violate the rule that the holodeck can’t create anything harmful. In return for this assistance, the radiation was named after him.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Riker pleads with Troi after Manua’s testimony that she can’t possibly be telling the truth, but Troi says that she’s telling the truth as she remembers it — as is Riker. She senses no deception from either of them.

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data struggles initially with commenting on Picard’s painting, but then jumps whole hog into a rather brutal critique, to wit...

I Believe I Said That: “While suggesting the free treatment of form usually attributed to Fauvism, this quite inappropriately attempts to juxtapose the disparate Cubistic styles of Picasso and Leger. In addition, the use of color suggests a haphazard mélange of clashing styles. Furthermore, the unsettling overtones of proto-Vulcan influence — ”

Data’s commentary on Picard’s “Nude In an Awkward But Appropriate For Broadcast Standards & Practices Position,” which is interrupted by Picard not really wanting to hear anymore for some odd reason.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: We never do find out how much of the flirting was on Manua’s part, how much on Riker’s, and how much was mutual. Neither Manua’s nor Apgar’s portrayals of Riker were remotely in character, but his discomfort at the beginning of the episode very much gives the impression that he was macking on Manua too. If he was as innocent as he claimed in his deposition, he had no reason to be so concerned.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: The use of the holodeck to re-create events based on depositions is actually a useful tool for this sort of inquiry. It wouldn’t really work as evidence, but it’s good for this grand-jury-style investigation.

Welcome Aboard: Craig Richard Nelson is nicely snotty as Krag, but he’s the only worthy guest star. Mark Margolis is flat as Apgar, though he does manage to convey the differences in tone depending on the deposition in question. Gina Hecht and Juli Donald are relentlessly mediocre as Manua and Tayna.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

Trivial Matters: The model for the research station is a reuse of the Regula I model from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, itself a reuse of an orbital office complex in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

This is the one and only time we see Picard painting. Based on Data’s commentary, that’s probably for the best. (The original script called for Picard to respond to Data’s critique by splashing red paint all over the painting, ruining it, but it was cut — which is for the best, as that’s a very un-Picard-like move.)

Make it So: “She’s lying, that never happened!” One of the greatest films ever made is the 1950 Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon. It has three people sitting in a shelter waiting out a storm. Two of them — a woodcutter and a priest — tell the third person the story of what they just experienced. We then are told the story of a couple (a samurai and his wife) who encounter a bandit in the forest from four different perspectives: that of the bandit, the wife, the samurai (through a medium who speaks to his spirit), and the woodcutter who saw the whole thing go down.

What’s great about the movie is that we don’t know which is the “real” story. There are reasons not to believe aspects of any of the stories, and the truth is likely some combination of all of them.

Pretty much every TV show in the history of the universe has done their own riff on Rashomon, from The Dick Van Dyke Show to All in the Family to Good Times to Farscape to CSI to Leverage. The mistake that far too many of them make is to miss the point of the movie: that every narrator is unreliable. The woodcutter is just as unreliable a narrator in the original as the samurai, the bandit, and the wife, and we don’t know the full story of what happened, though we can take a shot at putting it together.

“A Matter of Perspective” fails utterly in this, made all the worse by the fact that it apes the general structure of Rashomon so meticulously. Riker is the bandit, Apgar is the samurai, Manua is his wife, and Tayna is the medium who provides the dead man’s testimony. The final story is from La Forge who, like the woodcutter, was there also.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

But it misses the point. For starters, we know William Riker after two-and-a-half years, so we know how he’ll behave, so we absolutely know that Manua and Apgar’s portrayals of Riker are wrong. Further, La Forge’s reveal that Apgar tried to kill Riker and failed, killing himself, takes the wind out of the sails of the entire plot. By establishing a final truth, all the sops to unsurety — Troi’s insistence that Riker and Manua are both telling the truth as they remember it, for example — become meaningless.

Worst of all, the issue of Riker’s possible dalliance with Manua is glossed over. Manua’s claim of rape (though Riker’s the only one who uses that word) is never finally addressed, and it’s the one bit of uncertainty that remains: did Manua hit on Riker, as the latter claimed, was it the other way around as Manua claimed, or was it mutual as Apgar claimed?

You’d think this would make the episode more palatable to me, but it doesn’t because we’re going to continue to see Riker for the rest of the series and four movies, and this will never be brought up again. Meanwhile, Manua has lost everything (since, on top of everything else, this gives us the tired, outdated cliché of the scientist with the pretty wife who apparently has no identity beyond that of scientist’s wife that was tiresome in 1950s sci-fi alien invasion flicks) and gets no justice on any level.

The scientific solution to the problem is rather elegant, and Picard’s conflict between duty and friendship provides a few good moments, but ultimately this is a dull, flat episode that doesn’t live up to the movie it’s imitating.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “A Matter of Perspective”

 

Warp factor rating: 1


Keith R.A. DeCandido lists Rashomon as one of his three or four favorite movies of all time, so this episode holds a particularly low place in his regard. Go to his web site for links to his blog, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, not to mention ways in which you can buy his incredibly awesome books like the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct.

23 comments
Mike S.
1. Mike S.
I've never seen Rashomon. You're review makes me want to see it.

One need not have seen that film to realize that this episode is not that good. I liked it more then you, Keith, but that doesn't mean that I liked it overall. This story goes along at a snail's pace, to say the least, and an unstatsfying conclusion (you'd think Apgar would want to kill Geordi too, given his engeneering knowledge, and the fact that he had "full access" to Apgar's records... I guess leaving first may have saved Geordi's life here) does not help matters. If I'm Krag, I'd still ask for more then what Geordi gave me before I drop the extradition, but I guess we only have 42 minutes (he still would have gotten off had Geordi shown Krag the trouble spots on the ship).

I did like Picard denying Riker's request to meet in private. The look on Riker's face after that said it all.

The good news watching this one in reruns, is that we know what is coming up next. Happy New Year to all!
Mike S.
2. Marc G
Hmmm. Seems to me if they'd only used a Lambda Lambda Lambda field generator instead, we could've had a remake of Revenge of the Nerds. Ah, what could have been...
Mike S.
3. critter42
If you've never seen Rashomon, run, don't walk to the DVD store and get it. Kurosawa is rightfully one of the greatest directors (many say THE greatest) that ever lived, and this is one of his masterpieces. I cringe inside whenever I see a Rashomon ripoff

Usually, when a Rashomon episode appears on TV, that usually means the well has run dry - a "jump the shark" moment. Fortunately for TNG, they pull out of it nicely.

That I can recall in recent (ok, almost 2 decades :) ) memory, only the X-Files' Jose Chung's "From Outer Space" does it well. Charles Nelson Reilly rules ;)
Mike S.
4. Seryddwr
Hmm. I haven't seen this one in about ten years, but I can recall really liking it when I first saw it. I always liked the denouement - a massive explosion that reveals the bare walls of the holodeck. Your point is taken about Riker's character - certainly little was done with the possibility that the pair of them were actually involved IIRC - but even so, I felt the sense of his being imperilled was sustained (all the more so, actually, given the fact that Picard was the one doing the arbitrating, and as such had to bend to the laws of another planet). I'm intrigued to watch it again now, to see about the pacing if for no other reason. Only seen one Kurosawa film, but evidently I must watch Rashomon!
Mike S.
5. TerilynnS
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! This episode pissed me off the first time I saw it. I yelled through the whole thing. Where was the phaser that Riker allegedly used to blow up the station? He didn't have one when he beamed back to the Enterprise! Did he have one when he beamed over?! I think not, it wasn't that kind of a mission!

No phaser - no story. Done.


*headdeskbeating*
Mike S.
6. don3comp
One review described this episode as "trying to do Columbo."

I can take or leave the episode as a whole, but Data's art critique is priceless.
Robert Evans
7. bobsandiego
First off let me storongly second the suggestion that if you have not seen Rashomon, do so if you have a taste for foreign film and stories that are about life's uncertainties. Rashomon is one of my favorite films and it's always a horror when someone tries to do another serious version. It doesn't do you any good to draw a comparison between yourself and on of the all time great masters. (Comedy is another matter, News Radio did a take of on Rashomon and it was great, but with comedy you know they are not comapring themselves to the originial.)
The fatal flaw in this episode is two fold, firstly Rashomon is character driven the different truths presented all deeply reflect the character of the presenter. It's not Riker's character to assume all women love him so Riker's version feel forced and false. Secondly, Rashomon is about truth being utlimatly unknownable, the supposed objective viewpoint of thewoodcutter is revealed to be just as distorted as the others. There is no final true version presented with the theme that we each live and create our own truths being a very powerful one. SF, being a rationalist artform requires an objective reality and truth, hense Geordi proves Riker's innocence and reveals the 'truth', such an ending is utterly at odds with the very central themes.
(On a Star Trek tangent, There is a film adaptation of Rashomon as a Western staring Paul newman as a Mexican Bandito and a young William Shatner as an idealistic young priest.)
Mike S.
8. Brian Eberhardt
This is probably one of the worse episodes done, marginally better than the clip show of the Riker's memories and the parasite trying to kill him.
Margot Virzana
9. LuvURphleb
I lovE this episode. I think its due to the score. And while i really think o brien should have testified saying, " no the commander did not beam over holding his phaser and i did not detect an active weapon during beam out."
I enjoy watching this one. It should have deserved at least a two.5
Sara H
10. LadyBelaine
Keith,

you have a renewed my faith in humanity for the new year! I loathed this episode and thought it was an offensively bad and basically an exercise in character assassination of poor Will Riker.

I am pleased to itty-bitty bits that you reviled it as much as I did!

Happy New Year!

Bel
Mike S.
11. Laundry Lady
Voyager did this kind of episode a bit better in Ex Post Facto, given Tom Paris as a much more unreliable witness with a checkered past who we haven't known long enough to trust.
Mike S.
12. Scavenger
I don't know...I think the review's a bit harsh....I mean, yes, as you point out, no one checks on the planet side hotel whre Riker and Geordi had reservations and, yes, as Teri Lynn points out that transporter records and O'Brien can testify that there was no phaser, and yes, Riker's version is pretty much going to be the actual truth, because we've seen that despite his man-whorenish self, it doesn't fit he'd start hitting on someone's wife......

where was I going with this comment again?
Michael Burstein
13. mabfan
Keith,

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said this:

"But it misses the point. For starters, we know William Riker after two-and-a-half years, so we know how he’ll behave, so we absolutely know that Manua and Apgar’s portrayals of Riker are wrong."

Exactly. What's the point of placing Riker into this situation when we know that in this case at least his behavoir would be above reproach?

-- Michael A. Burstein
Mike S.
14. bryan rasmussen
I always liked the follow up scene to the data art critique:

Picard: Thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me... fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and haven't thought about you since. Do you know what occurred to me?
Data: No, Captain.
Picard: You're just an Android, you don't have the faintest idea what you're talkin' about.
Data: Why thank you, Captain.
Pickard: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it feels like in the Sistine Chapel. Because you wouldn't have the input to answer. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, even through hair loss. Because you will never lose your hair or know what it feels like. When I look at you... I don't see an intelligent, confident man... I see a really good neural network. You're at genius level, Data. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart?
Mike S.
15. euphbass
I don't agree with most of the other reviewer's at all! I liked this episode because of how it deals with Riker's womanising - we see it all the time, but in this case, we finally see it from the other side. Manua's story didn't seem *too* far fetched given the Riker we've seen in other episodes. I'd say it was only a little extreme, as coloured by her personal interpretation of his advances, and I can see where that could happen given his usual style with the ladies. I'd certainly find him intimidating and probably a bit creepy if he hit on me.

I've also never seen that plotline before, and wasn't aware it was based on something else, so I wasn't disappointed by it in that sense. I thought it did very well at portraying the effect of different viewpoints on the same scenario, and was suitably unresolved re. whether Riker or Manua was the pro-active flirt. Given Manua's testimony, which she believed to be true, it seems to me that Riker hit on her, not realising she wasn't interested and that in her memory, it was quite undesirable and traumatic.

I like the ambiguity of it all, and the fact that it finally considered that not every woman in the galaxy will automatically fall for Riker, and the consequences in such a situation. One would hope he would learn from it...
Justin Devlin
16. EnsignJayburd
This really is a 1, it's a terrible episode even without the failed Kurasawa connection.
Mike S.
17. NullNix
euphbass: quite. A so-so episode of this variety, not brilliant but not awful either: I'd give it a 5. (And I'd give the score a 10. Getting rid of Ron Jones was wrong, wrong, wrong.)
Mike S.
18. Big Joe S.
I dissent. This episode, if viewed as a quasi-trial episode, works-in fact, I'm surprised that you one the one hand analogized it to the Grand Jury and then rejected it without further discussion. Generally, a grand jury is a secret proceeding and the question is: Based on the facts and circumstances and the evidence presented, would a reasonable person, believe that a crime has been committed. Picard is facing that question-Is it more likely than not that Riker has committed crimes on the Tanuga Station such that he should be extradited?
The justice system, particularly, the grand jury, is very fallible. The prosecutor presents in secret. The defendant may appear and testify but otherwise has limited rights. In the words of Judge Sol Wachtler, a "grand jury could indict a ham sandwich." This episode elucidates that fallibility.
Picard, as one-man grand juror (a la a system in Connecticut where Superior Court Judges can sit as investigative one-man grand jurors in the appropriate case) does not have to convict Riker. Picard has to assess Riker's actions-notwithstanding Riker's character-and assess and weigh the evidence to determine if Riker should stand trial. Manua, as Troi points out, truly believes Riker attempted to sexually assault her and had the intent to murder her husband. Manua is fairly comparable to any grand jury complaining witness. Tayna's hearsay would be admissible in the grand jury. Picard, as one-man grand juror, can call Geordi LaForge-or Riker can call him, given that Geordi LaForge has been investigating and would offer relevant information or knowledge. Geordi LaForge's perspective is flawed too-he was there but he is biased to help Riker. And Picard weighs it, and determines that it is not more likely than not that Riker committed a crime-it is quite simply a tragic accident.
All in all, if this episode is viewed as an analog to a Grand Jury, it works-particularly to show the difficulties and fallacies of the process. We also have some ingiths into Picard's character-the tear between duty and friendship.
I enjoy this episode. I suspect that may be the lense of the grand jury I see this episode through. I also never saw Rashomon. But, I still find this episode good storytelling.
So, I respectfully dissent.
Dante Hopkins
19. DanteHopkins
Like euphbass, I disagree with the review. Okay I get its formatted after a movie, but this is broadcast television, 40-odd minutes to work with. I rather enjoyed the completely out-of-character interpretations of Riker from Manua and Tayna in their utter absurdity. And we really don't know what happened between Manua and Riker; as you point out, its some combination of the testimonies. Finally the highly intelligent answer involving the Kreiger waves absolutely is the saving grace of the episode. That alone warrants the episode rated at least a 5 or 6. (I'll see the movie, but I doubt it will change anything. Besides when you're a layman without the fancy movie knowledge, the episode works just fine.)
Dante Hopkins
20. DanteHopkins
Further as Scavenger points out, it does seem out of character for Riker to hit on a married woman, another plot point enjoyable in its absurdity.
Dante Hopkins
21. DanteHopkins
One more thing: Big Joe S' assessment of the episode as an exercise in the grand jury process is truly spot on. That element also gives the episode a very interesting dimension.
Mike S.
22. Electone
This one may not be a classic, but it holds your attention and in my books, that makes it decent. A "1" is a silly rating. It's a solid 7 and better than 90% of Season 7's drivel.
Mike Walk
23. Dingo_Tush
I liked this episode as well, I'm giving it a 7.

I think it was fun to see the different versions of Riker. I loved the different fights, first Riker defends himself, then he slugs the guy, then its Riker that is hitting the deck!

Also the flirting too! Fun stuff.

Plus we get some Sci-Fi with the Krieger waves and the mysterious 5 hour interval. A good mystery, even if the explanation is goofy.

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