WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding this week's TNG episode, "The Mind's Eye". You know the rest. :-)
...and the crowd is going WILD...
This is a keeper, folks. Stick in one of those _high_ quality tapes in the VCR, 'cos you don't want to let this one fade away.
Given that, of course, you should know what's coming next. Yep--one of my high-power, or at least lengthy, synopses. What the hell, I haven't had one since "First Contact", and that was three months ago. :-) Here goes: prepare yourselves.
Geordi's en route to Risa for an artificial intelligence conference and some general R&R. He tries to get comfortable on the shuttle, selecting some appropriate music and playing games with the computer. Suddenly, this idyllic setting is spoiled, when a Romulan Warbird decloaks right off the shuttle's bow. Geordi puts up shields and tries to call for help--but his communications are jammed, and his shields quickly fail. A Romulan transporter beam yanks him off the shuttle...
Several days later. (Geordi's supposed to be gone for quite some time, so there's no concern about where he is.) The Enterprise is heading for the Kriosian system with Klingon Special Emissary Kell. Krios, an outlying Klingon world, is fighting for independence, and there are "enough problems on the home planet" that the Klingons don't want to divert resources to such a trivial rebellion. Why is the Enterprise wanted? Well, the Governor of Krios is claiming that the Federation is arming the rebels, and Kell is heading to look at the proof. It was Kell's idea to bring along the Enterprise, primarily because of the help Picard has lent to the Klingons in the past.
Picard assigns Worf to keep Kell briefed, despite Kell's objections that Worf's discommendation make the situation "awkward."
Meanwhile, Geordi is being broken by the Romulans. Sub-Commander Taibak [note: I'm guessing at his rank, but since his superior is a Commander, it makes sense], with a shadowy partner, welcomes the captive and bound Geordi. After a double for Geordi (not an exact duplicate, but one looking fairly similar) heads off to Risa with instructions not to enjoy himself TOO much, Taibak removes Geordi's VISOR and hooks a machine directly to Geordi's visual cortex. The result of this is that Taibak can beam images directly to Geordi's brain, with all the attendant effects on Geordi's body and psyche. First he is shown suffering, then relief, then suffering again: "When our work is done, LaForge will act normally, totally unaware of his conditioning--a perfect tool for our purpose," says Taibak--and there will be no physical evidence of their work at all. Geordi howls in agony as Taibak alters the settings once more...
Kell and Worf examine the details of the rebellion. Two neutral freighters have been attacked (1 Ferengi, 1 Cardassian), and the pattern would suggest the rebels are hiding in a nearby asteroid belt, which shields them from sensors. After Worf bristles at a suggestion that the Federation may be helping them, Kell apologizes. He then thanks Worf on behalf of "some members of the High Council", for killing Duras. He dismisses the fact that Worf did so for personal reasons, not political ones: "What matters is that you acted
on that day--as a true Klingon."
Geordi then passes his first test, and kills a fake Chief O'Brien in a Romulan mock-up of 10-Forward. Although he eventually does so, he hesitates enough that Taibak orders another session.
Days later. The Enterprise is at Krios, and Geordi has just returned, ostensibly from Risa. He banters with Data a bit (chuckling when Data, true to form, completely misses a joke), and reports back to Picard on the bridge, where Picard tells him they'll need his help shortly in analyzing whatever evidence Governor Vagh comes up with. Picard and Kell leave to beam down, and Data detects a brief "blip" of E-band radiation, which is rare enough that Riker orders him to check it out before Riker too leaves for beam-down.
Governor Vagh is NOT a happy Klingon. He tells Picard, Riker and Kell that Federation medical supplies have been found in rebel strongholds. Riker points out that the Federation has never restricted access to their medical supplies--and Vagh responds by asking about their weapons and tossing a phaser rifle to Picard. It appears to be legitimate Federation issue, and after Vagh agrees to let them take it up to the ship to examine it ("I have hundreds more," he says), he angrily points out that the Federation has much to gain by Kriosian independence, for Krios is the only colony close to the Federation/Klingon border, and would thus be a valuable buffer zone in case of attack. After he accuses Picard of "speaking the lies of a tar-kekh!" and Picard responds in kind, Picard, Riker, and Kell beam up.
Geordi, meanwhile, gets back to Engineering. Everything's running smoothly, so he leaves to "take care of something." That something, as it turns out, is to go to 10-Forward, where he walks up to O'Brien and spills a drink on him. He apologizes, and O'Brien dismisses it with a smile and goes off to change.
Later, Geordi and Data test the phaser rifle. Everything looks legitimate on the first test, but the energy output of the crystal is TOO efficient. They check the waveform pattern, and conclude that the rifle was charged via forced pulse, which is NOT Federation standard. There are 327 systems known that use that method, but Geordi knocks that down with a little common sense. "Who has the most to gain from a conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire?"
Clunk. Geordi tosses the rifle back onto the table down in Vagh's chambers. "The Romulans." His argument is persuasive, but Vagh is still skeptical, and says that he's going to have his own people check it out. The Enterprise people and Kell beam back up. Data calls Riker over, having detected a second E-band "blip", but with a different intensity, thus ruling out a stationary source. Worried that it may be some form of Romulan communication, Riker has Data retune the scatters to pinpoint a direction next time it occurs.
In cargo bay 4, Geordi reprograms some chips, diverts power to the transporters from a secondary system, diverts transporter control to planetary sensors, and beams off a cache of weapons. Once he's ascertained that the computer is erasing all memory of having done this, he leaves--and arrives on the bridge just in time to hear a VERY angry Vagh accuse Picard of smuggling arms to the rebels. Vagh, understandably, will not listen to Picard's claims of innocence, and orders them not to leave orbit, sending up an attack cruiser
and 2 Birds of Prey to punctuate his point.
Data quickly ascertains that there was an unauthorized transport, but nobody can track it down as of yet. After Kell says he's managed to talk Vagh into checking with the High Council (gaining only a few hours at best), Geordi and Data search through the power systems. They eventually find that the power was diverted from a replicator waveguide, and trace it to the cargo bay.
O'Brien checks out the cargo transporter and finds no evidence of any tampering, thus suggesting that the evidence was erased. Worf asks who might be capable of doing this, and Geordi lists only 4 names: himself, Lt. Kosta, Data, and O'Brien. Everybody but Geordi has an alibi, though, and Geordi gives his word that he was in his quarters alone. They begin a detailed scan on every chip to try to hunt down a trail.
Geordi and Data brief Picard and Kell a short time later: the chips were programmed to erase all evidence of operator commands shortly after transport. They're working on the tiny residuals left by the chips to track it down. As Data is called away by Riker (a third E-band blip, which Kell asks about with great curiosity), Picard asks Kell to tell Vagh that they're doing all they can--and that if necessary, he _will_ defend his ship. Kell agrees, and suggests inviting Vagh up to observe the investigation firsthand. Picard agrees to that, and bids the ambassador farewell.
Kell is eating in his quarters, when the door sounds. "Come in, Mr. LaForge." Geordi does. "The investigation is moving faster than we expected; you're in danger of being exposed. I will transport to the surface and when I return, I'll have Governor Vagh with me. Your captain and I will bring him to the cargo bay--I want you to kill him there, in front of witnesses. Use a hand phaser. When he is dead, you will claim that you acted on behals of Starfleet in support of Kriosian independence." "I understand," says Geordi, and leaves
Kell to enjoy his meal.
That evening, Geordi wakes from a nightmare and calls O'Brien--but then doesn't understand why he did so and apologizes. He goes to visit Beverly for insomnia problems, but she finds nothing physically wrong (aside from a very slight, not-at-all serious abnormality in the visual cortex) and gives him a somnetic inducer to help in the short term. Kell and Vagh, with two guards, beam up and are escorted to the cargo bay.
Data, meanwhile, has pinpointed the transmissions. The first and third occurrences came from within the Enterprise itself, while the second was planetside. He speculates that it's being used by Romulan agents somehow, but needs more to go on. Is there any match with any Romulan form of communication? Negative. Any match with ANY known communication? Negative. Any match with ANYTHING? Yes--a human brainwave pattern. "What sort of receiver would be capable of processing these signals?" "A system designed to modify the electromagnetic spectrum and carry those messages directly to the human brain," replies the computer.
In a reflection of Geordi's computer console in his quarters, we see Geordi pick up a phaser and leave his quarters.
Data checks Geordi's shuttle--everything seems to be shipshape. Geordi is in the turbolift.
In the cargo bay, O'Brien certifies that that is the _only_ transporter that has been tampered with. Geordi leaves the lift and walks down the corridor to the bay.
Data examines the shuttle more carefully, and finds evidence of microscopic stresses which suggest a tractor beam. Geordi enters the bay, visually follows Vagh, and is interrupted by O'Brien, who asks him for some help.
Data finds that the computer chips in the shuttle have some subtle flaws. "Probable cause?" "Replication." Further, replication with patterns identical to those used by Romulan replicators. O'Brien leaves Geordi, who begins looking over Vagh again.
Data hails Geordi, but gets no response. After determining that Geordi is in the cargo bay, he hails Worf. "Data to Lt. Worf: Priority One." "Go ahead." "Take Commander LaForge into custody immediately." "Sir?" "That is an order."
Worf attempts to do so, but is stopped by Vagh's guards. He calls out a warning, and Picard deflects Geordi's shot just in time. Vagh is shaken, but convinced the Federation is treacherous, until Data arrives to explain that Geordi was acting under Romulan conditioning: the E-band signals were being sent directly to Geordi's brain. When Kell demands to know who was sending these signals to Geordi, Data replies that the signals must be very close-range. Only two people were with Geordi all three times the signals
were detected: Picard, and Ambassador Kell. Kell refuses to be searched for a transmitter by anyone on board. Vagh agrees--"We will take the ambassador with us...and search him ourselves." Kell requests asylum, which Picard will be happy to grant--"WHEN you have been absolved of this crime." Kell, Vagh, and the two guards depart.
We close with Geordi and Troi. Geordi is visibly shaken by his experience, in part because he vividly remembers his experiences ON RISA. Troi manages to break through the bare surface level of the conditioning, but tells Geordi this will take a long time. But they will reconstruct his memory eventually, together.
Wheeeeeeeeeeewwwww. Just writing the SYNOPSIS wore me out. :-) You can probably guess that I liked this one based on that, huh? Well, let me give some details here.
Wow. I don't even really know where to begin. Wait a sec--here's something.
TNG, folks, has now officially crossed the line. What line is that? The line into serialization. No, I don't mean the continued references to Worf's discommendation, although that's a great part of it. I am referring to the DELIBERATE leaving of loose ends which we know will be tied shortly. Worf's discommendation is one of these--we know it's going to be resolved a scant three weeks from now, in "Redemption". But there are others.
For one thing, we don't know why Kell did what he did. I have very strong suspicions that we'll find this out in three weeks as well, along with a few more answers about the extent of Klingon-Romulan dealings. More on that in a little while.
And then, there's the one, true sign of a serialized show: the introduction of a mystery character whose identity will shortly be revealed. I am referring, of course, to Taibak's mysterious superior, whom we heard speak, but only saw cloaked in darkness. Who is that woman?
Well, I don't know who the character is. However, the voice she spoke with is completely unmistakable. *That*, friends, is Denise Crosby. No ifs, ands, or buts. Accept no substitutes. We've been wondering how she's going to come back to TNG ever since we heard she was returning in "Redemption". Well, now we know at least the beginning of the picture, and damn, I'm happy to see it. (In part, this means we can finally, FINALLY, lay to rest all of this "daughter of the Ent-C Tasha" nonsense.) It is the fact that we MUST see more of this person in "Redemption" if anything we've heard through the grapevine is correct that leads me to my claim of serialization.
Well, I've been campaigning for serialization of TNG for a good long time, so it's a given that any show which manages to unequivocally do so will get praise from me for that alone. But "The Mind's Eye" had more than just that. Oh, boy, did it ever.
I've had a few run-ins with "edge-of-your-seat" TNG before, where the commercial breaks seem to run for two hours rather than two minutes. Some of them were excitement-based, such as "Yesterday's Enterprise". Some of them were mystery-based, such as "The Defector", "Clues", and "Conspiracy". "The Mind's Eye" falls firmly into the latter category, although even after much of the mystery had been revealed I still wanted to see the end. I was wracking my brains for most of the show trying to guess exactly who Geordi was being aimed at. I'm a little smug right now, 'cos I guessed right. (Though, to be fair, there were really only two clear choices: Kell or Vagh, and since Kell was a more obvious one, I chose Vagh. Nice to see that I can think like the writers sometimes.) But man, was it heaven getting there.
The show had one or two minor problems. I thought the scene of Geordi's conditioning was a little too "talky", for instance (possibly my only real objection to the show, but we'll see). Much of Taibak's speechmaking can be chalked up to the fact that he wanted Geordi to hear exactly what was to be done with him, I suspect, but not all of it. A little slow...and Geordi's scream at the end of the scene didn't quite work. But that's a minor flaw in an otherwise terrific show.
Apart from that one scene, LeVar Burton did a terrific job. In fact, I can't think of anyone who did a lousy job for this particular show. Sirtis, for example, had only two real scenes, and surprisingly managed to excel in both of them. Her banter with Geordi early on rang more true to me than most of the "people-talk" scenes (certainly far more so than her girl-talk with Bev in the salon scene in "The Host"), and her therapy session with Geordi at the end did everything but have me on my feet screaming "YES! That's what you keep a counselor like Troi around FOR! Why didn't you show us something like that in the FIRST place?!?!?!?" Bravo.
Special commendations have to go to Larry Dobkin as Ambassador Kell, one of the most three-dimensional guest-stars I've seen in a long time. Among other things, it's often easy to tell who the bad guy is; but I didn't guess that Kell was a Rihan agent until just seconds before Geordi rang at his door. As soon as I saw him eating, I said "that man is looking a little too smug...what the hell is he up to?"; but until that scene, I hadn't a clue that he was up to no good. Rather the reverse: I was starting to like the guy. Very, VERY good work.
The plot was, in my opinion, virtually airtight. (It was certainly riveting, but it can be riveting and still filled with holes.) I can think of one and only one thing which people might object to (which probably means there'll be around 15 :-) ), which is this: why didn't Data order Worf to get Geordi out of the way as soon as he realized the signals could only be beamed to a VISOR, rather than going to the shuttle as he did? I'm not entirely sure I have an answer to that, but it would hardly have changed the situation all THAT much, so it's a minor problem. (Besides, it made wonderful dramatic sense to have things unfold the way they did, but I'll get to that in a second.)
Now for the directing: whew. David Livingston is a rookie TNG director, although he's been a producer for a while. But if this isn't just a fluke for him, then keep him directing until he drops. Many of the scenes were put together so very well...took my breath away. Some of it was actor-dependent, of course; the cuts back and forth at the end wouldn't have worked half as well as they did if Spiner hadn't given the good performance he did during those scenes ("That is an order." Brr...), but those shots strike me as VERY difficult to pull off correctly. (I tried to get across in my synop just how "blam-blam-blam" they were in their pacing, but I doubt I succeeded; it's just not something you can do with letters on a page.) The shot of Geordi from inside the cargo bay chip compartment (for want of a better phrase :-) ) was good as well, and the shots of Geordi during his journey to the lift were downright eerie. (If they'd just used this guy for "Identity Crisis", I'd probably have loved it to ribbons.) Exceedingly nice.
Now, some short points (some whimsical, some not):
--Hmm. Ambassador Kell. Romulan Sub-Commander Taibak. Anybody else get the feeling that Echevarria and Schafer just finished reading a heavy dose of David Eddings? :-)
--Now, a more serious point. Kell thanks Worf on behalf of "some members" of the High Council for killing Duras. That could be completely legitimate, and that could also just have been small talk to put Worf off his guard. But suppose it's more subtle than that. Suppose that Kell and his friends on the Council are ALL Romulan agents. Why might they have been happy to see Duras dead? Could it be that Duras was not only not entirely guilty of the crimes he was accused of in "Reunion", but that he was completely INNOCENT? (I'm not going so far as to say he's innocent of K'Ehleyr's murder, because if nothing else that would offend my own personal sense of satisfaction when he was killed.) Could it be that Duras's father's disgrace had made Duras all the more anti-Romulan, and that Duras would have been a diligent seeker-out of the traitors on the Council? Could it be that Gowron is one of Kell's associates, and that Worf was indirectly responsible for betraying the Empire as a result of his own personal prejudices and vengeance? I don't know, but it sounds to me like there's the makings of a really meaty story in there. We can but watch, and wait.
--Dennis McCarthy turned in some nice music this go-round. I particularly liked the low, dark theme that played as the final sequence of Data-Geordi-Data-Geordi-O'Brien-Geordi-etc. scenes began.
--Okay. I wasn't the only one screaming "stock footage!" when they had the attack cruiser and the two Birds o'Prey on-screen, was I? :-) But they made up for it with the nice shot of the shuttle trapped under the Warbird, and with both the Romulan and Klingon transporters. (Particularly the Klingon ones--they seem a lot faster, more brusque, than the Fed transporters. Makes sense to me.)
--It would only take a few hours to talk to the Council via subspace from Krios? Wow...either Klinzhai is way out of the physical center of the Empire [hardly unheard-of...Terminus ran the Federation from one edge of the galaxy in Asimov's Foundation series], or the Empire is a LOT smaller than the Federation. Mighty intriguing either way...
--And in the "speak of the devil" department...just after a rerun of "The Wounded", in comes a reference to the Cardassians. You know, if real problems do develop with the Romulans and Klingons, this would be a really lousy time for the Cardassians to open up another front...
I think I'll stop now. It's late, and besides, this is coming up on record length, if it hasn't already reached it. I'll just say: see this. Now. TNG has now firmly put itself on the serialized path, and I for one am mighty pleased.
Now, for the numbers:
Plot: 9. A smidgeon off for the "why didn't Data act earlier" question, but that's all.
Plot Handling: 9.5. An even smidgier smidgeon off for the talkiness of the conditioning sequence.
Characterization: 9.5, for the same reason.
TOTAL: after rounding up half a point for good effects and music, we have a 10...is that the first 10 since "The Nth Degree"? Might be. Nice work.
Data's in wuvvv...I'll wait and see. (Like I have a choice in the matter...:-) )
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
"Motives? Who cares of motives? Humans, perhaps."
Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...