TNG: S7E18: “Eye of the Beholder”

In which they need to switch up that force field and I can’t figure out whether I’m watching CSI or Dallas. 

The plot of this episode is "The Space-EPA goes after Picard for dumping plasma. Oh no wait that was "Force of Nature."

The plot of this episode is “The Space-EPA goes after Picard for dumping plasma. Oh no wait that was “Force of Nature.”

We are in Red Alert. The Nacelles are breaking and the engines are broken. The ship is venting plasma. Worf and Riker are going into the nacelle personally. Which, look, personal responsibility is great and all, not ordering someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself is noble, but seriously? A department head and the first officer? Oh, also it seems that someone has gone crazy, sabotaged the ship, and is now just staring into a plasma fire waiting to jump. If they knew that going in, then I guess sending Riker and Worf kind of makes sense. He’s a people person and they’re both good at tackling people.

Lieutennant Commander Dan is speaking vaguely about some Incident, talking like a crazy person, and then incinerates himself. Apparnetly the force field in that section was the kind that stops heat and/or atmosphere transfer but doesn’t stop bodies. I therefore assume, based on the fact that they didn’t just change the field type so that Dan would bounce off it, that it takes different kind of emitters to create different field strengths.

Riker is self-recriminating because he was’t able to save Dan’s life. Neither Riker nor Troi had noticed anything strange about his behavior. This is also Picard’s first time dealing with a suicide as Captain. If you don’t count Sito, that is. Too soon? Either way, life goes on. The Enterprise has to go take care of an emergency and have been given permission to exceed Warp Speed Limitations, just like every week. You ever get the feeling they’re not entirely serious about this completely provable environmental crisis?

Data is curious about what would drive a being to violate their own instinct for self-preservation, and confesses to Geordi that his own ‘adolescence’ was disorienting. Apparently Data went through an emo phase because personal growth was painful for him. And speaking of painful, Worf and Troi have the duty of going through his quarters. As a Lieutenant Commander, he had his own quarters, decorated with cultural art, a picture of his crush/girlfriend. They also go through his personal logs, and find that he had some plans for the future that were incompatible with jumping into a plasma stream.

In an interview with the girlfriend, we get some background – he had a low-level conflict with his department superior, and he was ‘very sensitive to other people’s moods.’ He was half from an empathic species, so that explains that. Everything agrees that Dan wasn’t the type anyone expected to commit suicide, so the hunt is on. On the one hand, it’s a very naive view of depression that everyone thinks they can spot it. On the other hand, maybe a combination of advances in phsychiatric screening and care, and the selection criteria for Starfleet, have made this not an unreasonable attitude. On the gripping hand, this is the Enterprise and if something seems weird there’s probably a God-like Energy Being behind it. so Troi chats with Dan’s Supervisor.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR FACE?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR FACE?

The Late Lt. Dan’s not-so-late supervisor tells us that he was so good at his job and knew the ship so well because he helped build it. He had lots of ideas, not all of them good ones, but after a while he’d settled down. Troi goes to check out his station, gets an odd look on her face, and goes back to the plasma port to get nauseous.

Later, Troi talks about being overwhelmed with a flood of emotions from the empty room. Nobody knows how this is possible. If psychometry is a thing, it’s apparently not widely known – Troi even dismisses the likelihood of any kind of ‘psychic residue’ from Dan’s death. She wants to go back, but Crusher orders her not to until her telepathy neurotransmitters settle down. Worf offers to escort her back and make sure she’s okay. She and Worf talk about the phenomenon of telepathy, and she tells a cute story about her racist grandfather. Worf leaves Troi to get some rest, and Worf goes to Ten-Forward to have a drink. He sees Will there, and dances around a subject that’s been on his mind for a while, but which he can’t really talk about. Yet.

Well, it's been seven years, but we finally get to see what warp coils look like from the inside.

Well, it’s been seven years, but we finally get to see what warp coils look like from the inside.

Next day, Worf and Troi go back to the nacelle tube to see if she can get another impression. She wants to open the bulkhead, but there’s a safety system that will cause plasma to start venting after 90 seconds so that the force field won’t be degraded and fill the ship with electron soup hot enough to vaporize flesh. However, when Troi stands in front of the open vent, she seens a woman in a different uniform screaming and backing away. She sees a scornful man. She sees the ship inert and full of equipment boxes from the shipyard. I have to wonder whether this is all happening in her mind, or if she’s having a hallucination as she sees the terrified woman making out with someone in a stockroom, and the two of them start laughing as she comes in. Looks like it was a hallucination and some vision masking, because she snaps out of it on the floor, having come down the ladder.

She vaguely recognizes one of the people, the one who appeared by himself behind a video filter. Picard asks her to go through a mugshot book from Utopia Planetia, and Crusher starts to make a gizmo to suppress her telepathic abilities sufficiently that she won’t go crazy. That will take enough time that Troi can search through the crew who both worked on the Enterprise and worked on the Enterprise. That is, who worked on building it and also served aboard the ship on deployment. It seems odd that those populations would overlap much. She does find out who it was in her vision, and he is currently an LtC in Engineering. She and Worf talk about her empathic experience, and if you’ve ever seen an episode of CSI this looks familiar, even though it turns out later that Troi was bluffing. LtC Pierce has some sort of ability to block her senses. Fortunately, Troi is qualified at her job on a mundane level even without her abilities.

Oh, also, Troi and Worf are gonna get it on now. He even replicates her breakfast afterwards. It’s a little funny that he put on his uniform to make breakfast, particularly since Troi is still asleep in her nightie, but what was he going to do, replicate a robe? Oh wait, yes, that’s exactly what he could have done. I am consistently frustrated by all the ways people in the future don’t take advantage of their miracle machines. Also, given how apparently early it is, Crusher ought to be shot for calling Troi and then Worf rather than just texting them. But, you know, shot on stun, because this is the Federation after all.

There’s a moment where Worf has to leave Troi for a moment to help another tech, and Troi looks faintly jealous. Hopefully this is just the lingering effects of whatever’s messing with her head, so off she goes back to the Nacelle tube, and checks out the weird solar panel things all over the room. Troi fixates on these, and a plasma conduit than Dan turns out to have worked on shortly before The Incident. Likely, the first time anyone opened that panel since the ship was built. I’d like to point out how impressive that is, given the ride this ship has been through – outine maintenance on ships components has a longer than seven-year lifecycle.

"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MONTRESOR!"

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MONTRESOR!”

When the panel is open, Troi once again sees the screaming woman and Angry LtC Pierce. Data’s scans indicate organic residue in the wall, and Geordi’s Z-Ray flashlight (that’s two better than X-rays!) reveals a skeleton. Now what I really want from this plot is to find out why whoever did this didn’t a) use any of the high-energy equipment that must have been around to vaporize the remains or b) just transport the corpse anywhere as ‘energy only‘. With the fragments, though, they can run the DNA. And Troi gets more jealousy music briefly before interrupted by advancement of the plot. Do not read anything into the fact that the murder victim had the same hairstyle as the woman Troi seems to think Worf is crushing on, I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

It seems that Troi has been seeing through Lt Pierce’s eyes as he caught the victim and her dude necking in a corridor. There’s probably some imprint that’s making its way out of the psychometry dream. Thankfully, Troi has enough experience with psychically induced negative emotions that she can talk about her feelings like an adult even over the influence. Worf goes to talk to Pierce alone, and Troi goes to her quarters, where Pierce shows up. It’s just enough to make Troi ask the computer where Worf is. He’s in Ensign Calloway’s quarters, where Troi catches him with her, and the scene from her psychic hallucination replays, culminating in Pierce giving her the suggestion that she has to kill herself. Thus we come full circle, with Troi standing in front of the open plasma conduit and all of Lt. Dan’s raving makes sense.

In fact, it turns out that the whole episode since the second act has been a dream. Which explains why the bone fragments were there in a dream. They’re not there in real life, because in real life Pierce got rid of the evidence. But since Worf was thinking about dating Troi, and Troi hints that in her hallucination they boned, maybe he’ll have that talk with Riker after all.

Did we miss something awesome?