Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 147 (Frame of Mind)

Star Trek: The Next Generation tended to show a bright version of the future  Sure, we all had problems, but the episodes were usually pretty light.  Even the more moderate episodes weren’t that scary or much of a downer.  Then comes Frame of Mind.  In it, Riker is starring in a play that Dr. Crusher is directing.  (The play happens to be called Frame of Mind, as well.)  The play seems to be about a man trying to prove his sanity to a psychologist.  We only get to see the last scene of the play, but it’s pretty intense.  Riker’s character is yelling at the doctor about how he’s being yanked around.

The Enterprise is called to Tilonus IV. The government is in disarray after the assassination of a  leader.  Normally, the Federation wouldn’t interfere, but they’ve got a research team there and they want Riker to rescue them.  (While this isn’t Riker’s first solo away mission, it’s never been clearly stated why Riker is the one to do this sort of stuff.)  Before they get there, Riker will be performing in the play.  He gets a standing ovation to which he bows several times.  On the last bow, he arises to find that he’s in the psych ward of the play’s set.

He can’t remember the details of his life on the Enterprise, like his name.  However, Riker is told that it’s all a delusion.  He’s been imagining it all and that Starfleet has no record of him.  Is he crazy?  Riker still looks human.  He still behaves like you’d expect Riker to behave.  Since Riker goes on to finish the series, it’s not spoiling anything to say that Riker’s not crazy.  The question then becomes what’s really going on.

I remember being entertained by the story when it first aired.  It’s odd since we just came off of another episode dealing with layered reality, Ship in a Bottle.  Here, it appears to all be in Riker’s head.  He alternates between the Enterprise and the psych ward, each time thinking that his current location is reality.  It isn’t until Dr. Crusher shows up at the psych ward that things start to get confusing.

The problem, of course, is that you know Riker will work it out.  It would be an interesting way of writing someone out of a show.  How would that even work?  Would there be a real Will Riker?  How would our Riker have known?  Maybe he got mission reports or something.  It’s not the kind of plot device you can realistically use to write an actor out of a show.  Even doing it as a finale is kind of frowned upon by fans, having the entire show be a delusion.

This is probably one to have small children stay away from, or at least have the parents watch it first to decide.  There are some intense emotions shown.  It’s safe for teens and above, who should be able to understand what’s going on.  I don’t know that it would be scary, per se.  I didn’t find it that scary, but like I said, there’s the understanding that it’s not real, even in the context of a TV show.   To see someone yelling and slowly going crazy may be a bit much.

I don’t think I’d recommend this episode as an introduction to the series, mostly because it’s so atypical.  You could watch it without having seen any previous episodes.  You might even enjoy it.  If you were trying to do an abbreviated run, I’d recommend this episode as one that you watched, as it is well written and well acted.

IMDb page

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