Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Mind's Eye"


Air date: 5/27/1991
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Ken Schafer and Rene Echevarria
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

En route to Risa for a conference, Geordi is kidnapped by the Romulans and temporarily replaced with a doppelganger while the Romulans go to work torturing and brainwashing Geordi to turn him into an assassin. Let's start with the torture method: It's an ingenious story starting point. The Romulans use Geordi's visor inputs to tap directly into the visual centers of his brain; Geordi is forced to watch whatever horrifying images the Romulans feed him, and he's incapable of looking away. It's like A Clockwork Orange: The Romulans condition Geordi with images to psychologically break him. It's also like The Manchurian Candidate: Geordi is returned to the Enterprise with false memories, completely unaware he has been programmed as an unwitting sleeper agent.

Shortly thereafter, the Enterprise takes Klingon Ambassador Kell (Larry Dobkin) to a Klingon colony facing a rebellion. Vagh (Edward Wiley), the colony's garrison trying to quell the uprising, claims that the rebels are being armed with Federation weapons. Picard suspects Romulan involvement attempting to destabilize the region and drive a wedge between the Klingons and the Federation. That sounds about right for the Romulans. An investigation is launched. (TNG is always launching investigations.)

"The Mind's Eye" is more brawny, devious, and suspenseful than most TNG fare. It features a first-rate intrigue plot that grows from a general theme explored from "Sins of the Father" on to "Reunion," then here, and onward through "Redemption" — the notion of ongoing corruption in the Klingon Empire by conspirators in bed with the Romulans. There's even the establishment of a future major player (to be revealed in "Redemption") in the form of a silhouetted Romulan agent pulling the strings. The revelation that the Klingon conspirator is actually Ambassador Kell is skillfully pulled off (and I had forgotten the twist from my long-ago viewing of the episode). For a time it looks like Kell is a target when in fact he is the one triggering Geordi's mind-control instructions.

The episode works so well because it raises the stakes by making the would-be assassin one of our regular characters. The suspense builds through the last act as it becomes a race for Data to put together the pieces of the puzzle before Geordi carries out his assignment to kill Vagh. "The Mind's Eye" is effective, well-oiled, thriller-genre Trek.

Previous episode: The Host
Next episode: In Theory

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9 comments on this review

Jake - Wed, Apr 2, 2008 - 12:45pm (USA Central)
Re: Data not running when he puts the pieces together at the climax of the superb "The Mind's Eye."
Data does order Worf to neutralize LaForge, and he knows Worf is good, so he figures there's no need to rush.

At least that's the excuse some would give if this had been a DS9 episode.
Patrick - Thu, Jul 5, 2012 - 11:39pm (USA Central)
I wish Alfred HItchcock had lived at least in to the 1990s just to see this episode. He'd be impressed.

It's 21 years later, and this episode is genuinely eerie from the music score to the unusual composition of each shot. John Fleck (before he got the role of Silik on Enterprise 10 years later) is deliciously cold and sadistic as the Romulan programmer. That bit on the Romulan holodeck where they have Geordi kill the holo-Chief O'Brien is so perverse--especially when Geordi just sits down with his holo-friends casually. *shudder*
mephyve - Sat, Jun 22, 2013 - 9:01pm (USA Central)
It's not surprising that there aren't many comments on this episode. It was an excellent episode with crucial future implications. Had this review come before the subsequent episodes, there would be plenty of comments and speculations. Obviously when viewed with hindsight, it loses some of its intended drama.
Corey - Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
I'm with Jammer on this one - an excellent episode - the threads are woven skillfully together. I agree 100% with the star rating he gives for this.

As for comments - this episode doesn't really comment on the human condition (we all don't have implants that hook directly to our brain like Geordi does), nor does it ask hard questions (such as Ethics episode does), so there's not much to say - a lot people could say "Yeah it's a real good episode" but perhaps not much else.

This episode is just a great rendition of a sci-fi story. I do like at the end Geordi is in a counseling session with Troi, and she says this will take a long time (to de-program him). Too bad they don't have him in another session in a later episode for follow-up, you would think it might even take years to completely heal.
Ian - Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 2:51pm (USA Central)
Just watched this episode with my wife, and her response at the end - which accurately described my feelings as well - was just:


La Forge was entirely violated this episode by the Romulans, and everything about the direction, music, and acting reinforced that. It had a grim edge that is so unusual in TNG.

I think this could be realistically labelled a four star episode. I don't usually feel so much from TV, as I feel disturbed right now.
SFKeepay - Thu, Dec 19, 2013 - 7:39am (USA Central)
I agree with Ian, this is probably a four-star outing. The only weakness I can spot being the intransigence and shortsightedness of Governor Vagh, who seems just this side a medication holiday with his crazy-glue quick conviction of Federation munitions mischief. That is easily set aside, however; this is a taute, focussed and self-assured effort without a moment of padding, dropped threads or fanciful physics.

Even the technology elements never stray, appearing only in logical support of the greater narritive. As Jammer mentioned, the Romulans' exploitation of Geordi's imbedded visor components was trully inspired. Even more impressive, regular viewers will be able actually keep up with Data during his investigation and recognize at the same moment as Data that he has found a critical piece of the puzzle. Knowing how Geordi's visor is actually supposed to work is suddenly an emotionally rewarding circumstance, and I cheered when the Enterprise conputer gave Data what he needed to connect the dots....a great moment.

Still the story does not let up on us. As we follow Data's brilliant, dogged and methodical investigation, we know what he does not: time is short. This is Trek, I knew when watching Geordi wasn't going to kill anyone...hell, that drink he spilled on O'Brian wasn't even hot! But I was nevertheless on the edge of my seat urging Data to hurry. This is great stuff!

The closing scene with Geordi and Troi was for me the best moment for Troi in the entire series. Say what you will of Marina Sirtis, but she pulls this scene off with subtlty and skill. She is first and foremost being a counselor and projects the professional demeaner-skilled, pattient, caring, but at a necessary remove-that her job would absolutely demand. Yet Sirtis somehow lets us feel the undercurrent of sadness, deep concern, and even a hint of anger at what has been done to a dear friend.

Even the way the show characterizes memory here, much more tentatively then its usual certain jibberjabber about "memory engrams" being erased, or not, etc. stands up surprisingly well in 2013, research having shown how human memory is SO not like a computer, and how we seem not to "retrieve" memories but rather seem to "reconstruct" them, with varying degrees of accuracy and considerable latitude, every time we "remember". It's pretty cool this 20+ year old dialog keeps many doors open, intentionally or not, so as to forestall groans of chagrin from future viewers. "Dark Matter" anyone? How about "spacetime"?

The score too is excellent, operating unannounced with the narritive; together inducing a deepening dread appropriate to the gravity of the harms done and those as yet intended. This is a story about a act of extreme violence perpetrated on a beloved character; the Romulans to me thereafter seemed the more real, more threatening, and the show the more serious.
SkepticalMI - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 - 9:01pm (USA Central)
As others have mentioned, this is a rather dark story, with Geordi being put through hell. Of course, it could have been darker. Tell me, how did the Romulans know so much about Geordi's visor? How did they single him out so easily and seem to have the technology all in place? After all, it's not like they've ever gotten their hands on a VISOR before. It's not like any of them ever tinkered with one before. Well, except for that one guy in The Enemy, who worked with the VISOR enough to hook it up to a tricorder... Oh.

Yes, Bochra, the man who saved Geordi's life, who confided to Geordi that he did not want to die, the person involved in what Geordi cheerfully and triumphantly declared the first Federation-Romulan co-venture... Bochra was the one who caused all of this brainwashing. How's that for a nice swift kick in the gut, La Forge? Although I'm not sure which scenario is darker: Bochra immediately going to the Tal Shiar and offering up all intelligence freely, or Bochra imprisoned by the Tal Shiar and forced to give intel on his new Federation friend...

OK, random speculation aside, this is an excellent episode. There really is a sense of dread, a sense of danger throughout the episode. Of course everything would turn out ok. But Klingon and Romulan episodes tended to be the dark ones, tended to shake up the status quo. Worf killed someone in the last one. Maybe La Forge would too. Probably not, but maybe... Of course, it wouldn't be O'Brien. But that scene in 10-Forward was creepy enough because you knew something was going to happen. And when it ended up just being a spilled drink, it made perfect sense (the Romulans aren't going to call too much attention to themselves for a test) as well as being, well, a bit unexpected. A bit of relief, but then you realize that means he is still being controlled by the Romulans, so not a relief at all.

And then we see him in action, using his brain to wipe the computer memory. And then see him later with no recollection of it. It's painful for the viewer to see, which is undoubtedly the point. And then Data gets on the case, and it's a race to the end...

The end is a little bit contrived, but forgivable. I wasn't bothered by Data not running or anything, he didn't know an assassination attempt was underway. What was a bit of a bother was Worf fighting with the two Klingon bodyguards while Picard and Vagh stand there stupidly and watch him. And then Data seemed to hedge all his bets on Kell still having the transmitter on him. Which was a lucky guess. This was definitely the last order (since La Forge would be imprisoned if successful), and Kell beamed down to the planet after giving the last order. He could have abandoned the doohicky at any time. Yet it was obvious that Kell still had it.

But it's a minor nitpick. The overall episode was still an excellent, suspense-filled show, a worthy member of the Klingon civil war arc.
dgalvan - Wed, Oct 8, 2014 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
This is the first appearance of Romulan Commander Sela (Tasha Yar's daughter). You don't see her face, but you see her silouhette and you hear Denise Crosby's voice when they are first experimenting on Geordi. Cool that they introduced her as a shadowy figure here, only to bring her out into the light at the end of Redemption, part 1.

I'm impressed at how much continuity there is in TNG's storyline. This is the era of TV before big long story arcs for the most part, but you can certainly see the seeds of long story arc here, and it's not too big a jump to the X-files-style story-arcs that eventually led to things like LOST.
CPUFP - Tue, Jan 27, 2015 - 5:22am (USA Central)
Definetely the darkest episode so far, and another thrilling LaForge-focused story after his holodeck investigation on "Identity Crisis".

Since I'm often unsatisfied with TNG's endings, where plots are usually resolved by technobabble or deus ex machina and the crew flies off into the sunset without any consequences from their adventure, I was very happy with this episode's ending. Of course TNG is far away from today's arc-based drama series, but the last scene at least shows that the events of the episode have some lasting effect on Geordie and he will have to work to achieve some closure. This was a welcome change after the last episode, where a Trill used Riker's body and we were shown no effect at all on the host. I also liked the ending because Troi actually does some real counseling (only for the third time after "The Loss" and "The Nth Degree") instead of just "sensing feelings".

The further development in the Klingon-Romulan alliance arc was excellent, too. In my memory, the Borg were the most menacing TNG villains, but during my recent rewatch I've grown to appreciate the Romulans as much more interesting. Their actions in this episode give us some of what the people over at TV Tropes like to call "fridge horror": SkepticalMI already pointed out that only Bochra could have informed the Romulan command of the VISOR, but there is another thing - how could they have known that LaForge would be attending the conference on Risa and that he would be travelling there by shuttle? Either they had an informant on the Enterprise, or they had access to the ship's communications. The only person aligned with the Romulans who had sufficient access to the ship's computers had been ambassador T'Pel (from "Data's Day"), so it is probable that she had planted a bug there. Anyway, in this episode the Enterprise's crew learns the hard way that the Romulans know much more about the Federation than they had thought. They even employed a human spy who acts as Geordie's double (or was that a surgically altered Romulan?)!

Another interesting aspect for me was the role of the Klingons. TNG had first developed them into a one-dimensional warrior race, but then their society was gradually explored over the course of several episodes and they became more and more fleshed out and believable. Here, we are shown more of the corruption that drives their political elite and which is usually hidden behind big words about honor and glory. We also see that not all Klingons care about the Empire. In fact, a whole colony is fighting for independence!

Starfleet's role in this conflict is of particular interest, because here, their whole non-interference and alliance policy serves to protect an aristocratic empire which crushes its internal resistance with brute force. Even with all the Federation's ideas of cultural exchange and mutual understanding, the Empire's policies are obviously against Federation core values (well, at least against values which Picard likes to uphold in his speeches). Picard, who is usually eager to understand other cultures, doesn't show the slightest interest in the nature of the conflict on the colony. Why do the secessionists want indepence? What are their problems with the Empire? What has either side done in the conflict, and how might a resolution be reached? Instead, Picard's sole interest is in keeping friendly diplomatic relations with the Empire, because they are needed as a military ally against the Romulans. This is in line with his behavior in "The Wounded", where he put the goal of avoiding war with the Cardassians above everything else.

The episode gives an interesting twist to the optimistic portrayal of TNG's non-interference policy in the previous seasons. Here, non-interference is just another word for realpolitik. In that way, the Klingon-UFP alliance reminded me of the relationship between the USA and despotist governments like Saudi-Arabia, whose human rights violations are tolerated by the US as long as they are considered a useful ally against their enemies.

Just some more minor thoughts:
Isn't Troi a little too nosy and fond of gossip to be considered a trustworty counselor? Granted, Geordie is her friend and she'd like to know if he enjoyed his vacation, but he's also her colleague and a potential patient and she should respect some boundaries when asking other crew members about their love life.
Speaking of love life... Wasn't it nice of the Romulans to inject Geordie with the memory of a holiday romance? And wasn't it sad that his love life as shown on the series now consists of one holodeck romance, one fake memory romance, one date where he got stood up and one date which only came to be because he had been given an artificual boost of confidence by an alien?
And another thing about Geordie. It's cool that we see for once what his VISOR shows him, but really: How can he function in the world with this thing? It only gives him blurred infra-red images of his surroundings with some strange blinking symbols going over the screen. No wonder he always complains about headaches! But more importantly: It must be really hard for Geordie to have a convincing holodeck adventure. Unless the holodeck also replicates the infra-red signatures of the images it creates (including the body-warmth patterns of humans), he should only be able to see undefined mass and a lot of light.

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