Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Eye of the Beholder

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Eye of the Beholder"
Airdate: February 28, 1994
169 of 176 produced
169 of 176 aired


A startling suicide aboard the Enterprise precipitates an unusual investigation - Troi chases an empathic echo of a murder that occurred years ago. With the assistance of Lieutenant Worf, she must determine the cause of this echo, and who was behind the murder, before the past catches up with her in the present.

Ah, the early 90's, back when everyone was crowd surfing in the nacelle tubes.


Matthew: This is a "Good Troi Episode." Why? Because I think it utilizes her powers in an interesting way that can be effectively dramatized. Too often she has been simply sensing deception, or receiving inscrutable "one moon circles" visions, or has been saddled with the story baggage of her mother. Here, her telepathic abilities make her privy to something that other people with similar abilities have experienced, too. Not only do her abilities get a semi-realistic and not-dumb workout, but also her character gets to be intelligent, authoritative, and competent. It's just an overall good show for Troi.

Kevin: Marina Sirtis has said in interviews her favorite roles are "Greek tragedian" stuff, and this episode certainly has that in droves. Both personally and professionally, he responses are credible and organic, even as they get more extreme. Her sadness at the suicide, steeling herself to read his personal logs, and particularly her sense of unease when she inhibits her powers all played very well, and served both the atmosphere and the plot of the episode.

Matthew: I also really like the creepy atmosphere the show builds. The teaser starts off nice and tense, with a potential warp drive disaster. Then, Kwan's trance-like state pre-suicide is creepy as it comes. Watching Troi sink into the same mental hole that Kwan did was  both entertaining and disturbing. When the switch-over takes place (at about minute 20) and you're in Troi's hallucination for the rest of the episode, you don't notice it. But it doesn't feel cheap because it's pretty consistently done. The way they cut to Utopia Planitia was good. The chat between Troi and Worf about seeking visions was a nice nod to his previous continuity as well.

Kevin: The episode does a really great job of weaving in continuity and new facets of the Enterprise, and it really helps sets the stage for the show. Seeing the Enterprise half-finished, like Booby Trap is always an interesting set, and getting a look inside the warp nacelle was inspired. They could have easily had Kwan kill himself with a phaser, but the new and intimidating set really help nail down the uneasy atmosphere of the episode.

Matthew: You know I'm not a fan of Worf/Troi, and this episode's installment, even though it is within an hallucination, is a good indicator of why. They jump into the sack way too quickly, and Worf goes all mushy in a way that seems inconsistent with his character (you know, the palm-sniffing, nail-squashing brute). I get that these scenes were in the context of her hallucination, but that makes them no less squirm inducing. The scene between Worf and Riker was pretty funny, though. I would have preferred more of this kind of build-up to make the consummation seem less jarring.

Kevin: I agree that even in the confines of the hallucination, things got physical pretty quickly, but I think in practice that helped foreshadow the unreality of the hallucination. We know something is wrong. It feels wrong, but we can't articulate why.

Matthew: Overall this was a decent sci-fi angle, a "psychic photograph." Is it a bit pseudo-sciencey? Sure. But anything revolving around telepathy is open to that. The psychic stuff was really just a vehicle to get us to the murder mystery, so it wasn't bad. I might have liked a deeper discussion of how many members of the crew might have been affected, esper potential within humans, and so on.

Kevin: I liked they added Troi telling the story of her maternal grandfather, as it felt both as if it were giving the psychic photograph effect a sense of reality, and tying it to similar experiences that humans describe around the places and objects connected to loved ones. I am curious that this effect has never been observed before, but overall, I agree that as a vehicle for the story there's enough there to get me happily to the meat of the story.


Matthew: Marina Sirtis did a great job taking us on her character's journey down the rabbit hole. What really marks it as good for me was that her unreasonable jealousy did not read the way it did in "Man of the People," as shrill. I was totally with her on this one. Her breakdown near the end was very effective.  Dorn was also quite good - I may not have liked the sensitive take on Worf in the script, but Dorn played it really well. He is quite charming beyond all the Klingon stuff. He really could have been a leading man.

Kevin: Well, the jealously was written better here, and we actually felt she had been wronged by someone she had a genuine connection to, whereas in Man of the People we knew that any perceived connection to Alkar was obviously artificial. I liked watching her investigate Kwan's death. And like I said above, her disquiet at losing her powers (again) was really effective at making the whole sequence feel weird.

Matthew: There were a lot of guest stars in this show, and it was a mixed bag. On the good side are Tim Lounibos as Kwan and Nancy Harewood as Nara. Lounibos did a great job seeming normal in his logs and seeming like an automaton in his death scene. Harewood brought a really interesting ambivalence to Nara. It was a stark contrast to the wooden Johanna McCloy as Maddy Calloway. She didn't seem upset by her lover of two years' death at all, which made me suspicious of her. I don't think that's what they were going for in the story. Mark Rolston was a bit on the nose as the bad guy. I'm surprised they gave such an obvious bad guy a job in Starfleet at all.

Kevin: Rolston should have had a handlebar mustache, really. I agree on Calloway, too. There wasn't a lot of there there and it made the character read oddly. Kwan's logs really got to me as a kid. He seemed genuinely content in his life, and it served to both heighten the mystery and deepen the tragedy.

Production Values

Matthew: The nacelle set was totally cool. It's multi-level, which we always love. It has neat scaffolds and stairs, a col door, and a nice matte painting indicating the shaft of the nacelle. It also was mixed with the vertical Jeffries tube set, which is always neat. I love that metal ladder!

Kevin: The nacelle, particularly when the plasma conduit is powered, is simply one of the best shots in the series. The nacelle felt huge, while the control room felt claustrophobic. It followed what we've seen and been told about how the warp drive functions. It was the perfect new set to add. It is visually stunning, and there isn't a bad angle in the entire room for shooting a creepy psychological thriller.

Matthew: I want to single out the direction. Cliff Bole has directed 25 episodes, some of which show bravura camera work. Like "Remember Me," this episode used subtle camera angle shifts and moves to indicate, almost subconsciously, that things are a little off. He was the perfect director for this story, and it added texture.

Kevin:: The best compliment I can give the director is that once we flipped back to "real" Troi, I rewound my VHS copy to go back and find out where the transition must have been. It was seemless, but not a cheat in any way. It really sells the story.


Matthew: You know what, I'm going with a 4. I think this episode is a great change of pace story, effectively told, with some good performances and one super-cool new set. This one has grown on me over the years, and having watched TNG so much, I really appreciate its off-kilter charms.

Kevin: I agree. The jilted-lover angle didn't grab me quite so hard when I was a kid, but now, the atmosphere and acting alone make this a highlight of season 7. Now all we need to do is to hurl this episode at warp 10 around the sun, so it will go back in time to 1987 so the producers can watch it and start giving Marina Sirtis these episodes six years earlier. I give it a 4 as well, for a total of 8.


  1. If you hurl this episode at warp 10, won't it turn into an episode about lizards?

  2. Can I add that this episode contains possibly the stupidest line in all of Star Trek (possibly TV): "It's not like Dan to take his own life." Really? How it got to be on screen is beyond me.

  3. Sorry, I think "Allamaraine!" tops that.