Thursday, November 16, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 170 (Eye of the Beholder)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away the ending of the episode.  If you haven’t watched it, please take note.

Lt. Daniel Kwan seemed like such a normal person.  Then, he jumped into a plasma stream.  His last words were, “I know what I have to do.”  This leads Worf, chief of security, and Troi, ship’s counselor and resident empath, to investigate.  There seems to be no reason why Kwan did what he did.  He was happy.  He had a girlfriends.   He even had a hot date with her to look forward to.  Why did he have to do what he did?

Troi comes to have an empathic vision of a couple kissing, then subsequently laughing at her, or whoever she’s standing in for.  The only other person she sees is a man in a Starfleet uniform.  She follows the clues and finds that the man, named Lt. Walter Pierce, worked at Utopia Planitia, which is where the Enterprise was built, as did Kwan.  Coincidence?  Probably.  Kwan arrived a few months after Pierce left.

It turns out that the entire thing was a hallucination.  Well, most of it.  I’m not exactly sure, but Pierce murdered the couple that Troi saw, then committed suicide, himself.  All three of them went missing.  Pierce was part Betaziod and left some sort of cellular residue that both Kwan and Troi picked up on.  Much of the episode passed in a few seconds.

There are a few things that bother me about the episode.  First, it’s very subdued.  Since the episode starts with suicide, there could probably be more dealing with the motivations of why someone would do this.  Instead, it’s mostly the obligatory, “but he was so happy.”  Why does everyone always say this?  Because Kwan had a lot going for him, does that mean that he can’t be unhappy?  There was no mention of possible mental illness.

If someone is a miserable loser, does it follow that they must commit suicide?  You never see anyone asking why someone hasn’t jumped yet.  The natures of depression and suicide are far more complicated than that.  No one mentions this.  I’m not a psychologist nor have I ever had such impulses.  It would have been nice to get some understanding about it.  Instead, the episode treats suicide as nothing more than a plot point.

Also, the ending was a little confusing.  I’ve seen the episode several times and I’ve never been certain how much of the episode was in Troi’s head.  Was it from the first visit?  Was it from the second?  How much of the episode was for our benefit?

This was near the end of the final season for The Next Generation.  I’m not sure if the writers were trying to stretch out the season or if they had senioritis.  The writing here could have been a lot better.  This episode had so much potential.  The whole dream thing is kind of clichĂ© at this point.  If you’re going to do it, at least do it well.  This episode could easily be skipped without much loss.

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