WARNING: This article may contain spoiler information for TNG's "Eye of the Beholder", but only from a certain point of view.

In brief: some intriguing ideas, but not quite what I signed up for.

The ending to "Eye of the Beholder" was a big problem, too. More details, of course, after a synopsis:

Everyone is stunned when Lt. Kwan, serving in the warp nacelle tube, kills himself by jumping into a plasma discharge. It doesn't seem like an action Kwan would do, and Picard wants an explanation he can give to Kwan's parents when he informs them of the tragedy. Worf and Troi get to work on investi- gating the suicide. The pair search his quarters and even his personal logs, but see no evidence of any sort of strain -- in fact, if anything, he appears happy and looking forward to the next days.

Troi then finds Kwan's girlfriend, Ensign Calloway, and speaks to her in sickbay. While she is shocked by his actions, Calloway also can see no reason for him to do what he did. The only potential lead Troi gets is that Kwan felt that his superior, Lt. Nara, felt threatened by his presence. She goes to the nacelle tube to talk to Nara and investigate Kwan's station. Nara shows no signs of antipathy toward Kwan at all, but the surprise comes when Troi stands on the platform from which Kwan leaped. She is suddenly overwhelmed by a flood of emotions, and can barely contain herself long enough to leave the room.

She is mystified by this sensation; the feelings, as she put it, "were just there" -- no person was attached to them. Since her empathic sense is overloaded, in a way, at the moment, Dr. Crusher suggests she not re-enter the room for another few hours. In the meantime, Troi goes to her quarters to rest. Some time later, she talks to Worf there, and muses over the possi- bility raised previously that she might have felt an empathic "echo" left behind by Kwan. Worf encourages the possibility, saying "there are things we do not understand, yet they exist nonetheless," and then leaves to let her get some rest.

After Worf talks to Riker, trying to ask if Riker minds him becoming involved with Troi (but not getting through to an oblivious Will), Worf and Troi return to the nacelle tube. Worf opens the hatch doorway that Kwan jumped through for Troi -- and as soon as he does, she has a vision: she sees a woman, very frightened, backing away and crying "no", and the image of a grim, red-haired man. They fade, and she looks around further, finding equipment bearing the markings of Utopia Planitia (where the Enterprise was built) and sees the woman again, this time laughing with another man when the pair are discovered together in a supply closet.

Worf suddenly snaps her back to the present, and they decide to leave quickly. At a briefing, it's suggested that she was reliving an event from eight years ago, possibly seen through Kwan's eyes, since he was at the shipyards himself. Crusher suggests a neural inhibitor to block out the sensations and let her re-enter the room safely, but notes that it will take sixteen hours to synthesize.

In the meantime, a search of personnel files turns up Lt. Walter Pierce as the red-haired man, currently serving on the Enterprise in engineering. He happened to be Kwan's supervisor, but claims to have no memories of anything unusual happening in the nacelle tube -- or anywhere else. As she and Worf leave, Troi notes with surprise that she couldn't read Pierce at all -- he must be partially telepathic. They begin to call up logs from Utopia Planitia, but those logs will take time to arrive. Worf begins to say good night and leave Troi to rest, but cannot bring himself to go. They clasp hands and begin to kiss fiercely...

The next morning, Worf wakes her with breakfast, only to be interrupted when Crusher calls on each of them in turn to help with a task. Troi gets to sickbay and receives the neural inhibitor, and Worf then arrives and greets her. When Worf is unable to accompany her to the nacelle tube owing to necessary work with Calloway, however, Troi begins to wonder.

In the nacelle tube, Troi (along with Data and Geordi) investigates a plasma conduit that Kwan repaired shortly before he died. As soon as the panel is opened, she again flashes on Pierce and the unknown woman despite the inhibitor. She is certain there is something behind that wall -- and a quick scan shows that it's a long-decayed skeleton.

Calloway searches through personnel files and finds that the bone fragments are those of an ensign, Marla Finn, who is the woman Troi saw in her visions. When Kwan's records show he didn't arrive at the shipyard until months after Finn's disappearance, Troi realizes that the image of Pierce she saw was a reflected image, and that she must have been seeing things through his eyes. She and Worf leave to talk to Pierce again, but Troi is again concerned when Worf behaves very solicitously towards Calloway.

In the turbolift, Troi asks Worf if he regrets this new stage in their relationship, and he reassures her otherwise. Fatigued and stressed, she returns to her quarters to rest, letting Worf talk to Pierce alone. However, after a short while, she is surprised to see Pierce enter her quarters, alone! She immediately calls security and has them hold him in his quarters, but his words to her that Worf "said he had to go somewhere" leave her suspicious, particularly when she cannot talk to him. Hearing from the computer that Worf is in Calloway's quarters, she rushes there and finds Worf and Calloway in a passionate embrace.

Caught, they begin laughing at her. Panicked, Troi screams at them to stop, and eventually phasers Worf, killing him. Shocked at what she has done, she flees through the corridors of the ship. She runs into Pierce, who tells her "you know what you have to do." Suddenly, she does: she runs to the nacelle tube, opens the hatchway, and prepares to jump into the plasma stream...

.. and Worf turns her around, very much alive -- in fact, it's been only a few seconds since Troi asked Worf to open the door in the first place. Everything after the door was opened was her hallucination. Further investigating finds that Pierce, Finn and the man seen with Finn were all killed at Utopia Planitia eight years ago in a plasma discharge, but Troi is certain Pierce killed them both and then himself. Pierce's partially telepathic nature caused a psychic "photograph" to be imprinted on the conduit Kwan opened, and Troi's reaction to the energy caused her mind to recreate the events seen in Pierce's last moments, only altered to match her own life. The situation is resolved, but Worf is left puzzled as to why Troi was so surprised to see him alive -- and what she meant by "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."


Now, on to commentary:

Frankly, I'm not sure what to say about this show. The idea of a psychic photograph is an interesting (if well-worn) one, and there were a few bits of energy here and there in the show -- but overall, my basic impression is "yeah, and?"

A particular annoyance I had was with the ending. Now, the "it was all a dream" tactic is one that gets used commonly, and one that can get used to wonderful effect; pretty arguably, "The Inner Light" is one of those shows that demonstrated just how much could be done with that kind of premise. However, "The Inner Light" was a special circumstance, where everything went right. This wasn't.

A big problem I have with the ending here was that it lets the second half of the show completely off the hook as far as everyone except Troi making sense is concerned. If it's just a hallucination (and one specially tailored for her, at that), then it doesn't have to make sense, or mean anything, or "count" in any form except its effect on Troi. If those things did make sense, then I wouldn't have had a problem with it; but a lot of it felt forced, and saying "well, it didn't really happen" is a fairly easy way out.

[Before I get a horde of people pointing out that DS9's "Whispers" had a tactic in some ways similar to this and that I loved it there, let me hasten to point out that there, everyone was real, and everyone's reactions did have to make sense. The events aren't handwaved away by the revelation; on the contrary, they're explained by it. Here, they're handwaved away.]

The "it wasn't real" angle also lent a "safe" way for Worf and Troi to get together without actually having to take the risk of uniting the characters in the true Trek universe. Since there are a lot of hints here that they may get together anyway, I'm reserving judgement -- but if it turns out that this was a way to throw a bone to the "get them in bed!" fans without any relationship to the characters as themselves, I'll be something less than pleased.

The ending was by far my biggest gripe with the story, but more generally I just didn't get brought into it very much (far less so on a second viewing than on the first, though). Part of it is undoubtedly that I had pegged Troi's vision as a murder from the viewpoint of the killer from about three seconds into her first vision, and even figured Pierce had to be the killer. After that, it got a little dull watching them figuring that out.

It didn't help that both Pierce and Calloway were pretty flat, especially Pierce. Pierce is partially excused by being a hallucination every time we saw him :-), but Calloway was real enough, and also stuck with lines like "it's not like Dan to take his own life." [Yes, and he never has a second cup of coffee at home, either. Your point?]

There was really one scene that was great fun to watch, namely Worf attempting to ask Riker if he minds Worf getting involved with Troi. Worf trying to be circumspect seems to me to be like a thunderstorm trying not to make too much noise -- it's just so incredibly foreign to him that it can't work. I think Bev or Picard might have picked up on it in spite of Worf, but given that Riker was not in a position to be thinking with his brain anyway, the scene worked through and through. Alas, it's the only one that really did.

As far as the two main regulars this show went, it's a mixed back. Dorn did a fairly good job with a character that, alas, I think has gotten significantly less interesting in the past year and a half or so (excepting a few gems like "Rightful Heir"). Sirtis was fine when Troi was being calm, such as in her story about her grandfather. The ending moments, though, had Troi in "whimper and moan" mode, which have worked maybe one time in twenty. This wasn't that one.

Other than that, I'm honestly not sure I have very much to say about this show. The ending struck a strong negative chord with me, the Riker/Worf scene had me very amused, and virtually everything else didn't have more than a small impact either way. The whole show really gave me the impression of "let's get Worf and Troi into bed together, but not have to worry about the repercussions". That's no way to build an episode, I'm sorry to say.

So, a few short takes and then I'll close.

  • Time problems yet again: stardate 40-whatever was eight years ago? Now I really am starting to wonder if the Powers That Be are deliberately trying to change the usual understanding of one season = one year. If so, they're making a rough time of it, given the number of glitches they've had go both ways (Riker's beard, for instance, and the interesting point that according to claims in the last month, "The First Duty" must now have happened before "Disaster") -- and I can only hope there's a good reason for it.
  • Very simple question: once Riker was on the catwalk with Kwan in the teaser, why didn't Riker just stun him? It wouldn't work for Worf to do so, because the impact would probably push him through the field anyway, but Riker had the right direction. Isn't that the sensible move?

So, wrapping up:

Plot: Holding up more or less well until the last five minutes, then loses all sense.

Plot handling: Not one of their better efforts. The show seemed to go on for far longer than it really did.

Characterization: Reasonably good for the "real" periods, but after that there were problems.

OVERALL: 4.5. Not the way I wanted to go into a rerun cycle.

NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Dark Page". Enjoy the break!


Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjulie
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"Mr. Worf, you sound like a man who's asking his friend if he can start
dating his sister."
                        -- Riker
--
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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