Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Suspicions"

*1/2

Air date: 5/10/1993
Written by Joe Menosky and Naren Shankar
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Crusher plays host to a motley crew of alien scientists she has assembled in the hopes of validating the theoretical work of Ferengi Dr. Reyga (Peter Slutsker), who has developed an unproven new shield technology that can supposedly withstand the heat of a star's corona. His work is not taken seriously, however, because Ferengi are apparently so lowly regarded in scientific circles that most don't even grant that "Ferengi" and "scientist" can be said in the same sentence. That reveals a thinking that would seem awfully implausible (how could the Ferengi have ever developed space flight without scientific minds?) if not for the fact the Ferengi have been portrayed as so relentlessly one-note stupid throughout TNG's run as to have made me think on multiple occasions, well, "How did the Ferengi ever develop space flight, anyway?"

The testing of this shield technology requires a lot of danger, because for some reason the technology cannot be tested on an unmanned shuttle piloted by remote. Because for no other reason than the plot requires it, the shuttle must be piloted by a living person, which seems not simply contrived and implausible, but foolish: If you didn't believe this technology was sound, would you pilot a shuttle into the corona of a star? Just asking.

The volunteer test pilot, the Tarkarian scientist Jo'Bril, ventures into the inferno of the corona, has a sudden gasping fit, pilots the shuttle out, is beamed to sickbay, and dies on the operating table. What went wrong? Did the shield fail? If not, why wasn't the shuttle incinerated? Crusher is suspicious, then things turn even more curious when Reyga turns up dead with clues that indicate possible suicide but point with bright neon arrows to more-possible murrrrrrr-derrrrrrrr. Did one of the other scientists engineer an elaborate plot to sabotage the flight and then kill and discredit Reyga, and perhaps steal his scientific breakthrough for themselves?

"Suspicions" is a who-cares murder mystery told in hackneyed narrated flashback (as if this were some sort of film noir) as Crusher relays to Guinan the details of this somber mess that ultimately will supposedly cost Crusher her career, but actually not. Reyga's death is unsolved, yet no one on the Enterprise seems to care except Crusher, who as the story's lone-wolf heroine must press on even with the world aligned against her. Much is made of the fact that Crusher orders an autopsy of Reyga against the wishes of his family (leading to aforementioned supposed end of Crusher's career, etc.), and yet at the end, having violated the rules apparently means nothing so long as she ultimately proves there was actually a killer in the midst. (One actually has nothing to do with the other and she should still face the ethics panel, but, seriously, why pretend any of this has consequences?)

The characters are paper-thin vessels (the other scientists are a Klingon, a Vulcan, and a human, none of which deserves mention in this review, but I'll do it anyway) carrying only the plot pieces, which assemble into a story of relative nonsense and absolute inconsequence. The big twist is that Jo'Bril is the killer, having earlier faked his own death and who now appears in the show's finale — in which Crusher attempts to prove the initial flight was sabotaged by taking a second flight, using the logic that the shuttle won't burst into flames because this time it wasn't sabotaged, I guess.

Words escape me as to how many silly assumptions this line of thinking requires, but never mind, because Jo'Bril is aboard the shuttle and confronts Crusher and goes into full Talking Killer exposition mode by conveniently explaining to her in the most heavy-handed fashion imaginable every remaining plot question: the motivation behind his faked death, the — yes — murder of the Ferengi, how he intends to now steal the technology for himself (and turn it into a weapon, bwahahaha!), and, for all I know, even why the dog did it in "Aquiel" — which is the only episode of season six more mind-numbing than this one.

Previous episode: Frame of Mind
Next episode: Rightful Heir

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34 comments on this review

Patrick - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 12:08am (USA Central)
The only reason I remember this episode at all is that it is the last appearance of Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan on televised TNG. Finito. She never appears in season 7 at all. In Star Trek: Generations she reveals some major plot points, but her wit and wisdom are absent. And her final appearance ever is in Star Trek: Nemesis is just fluff.

She was pivotal in such classics as "The Measure of a Man"; "Q Who"; "Yesterday's Enterprise"; "The Best of Both Worlds I and II"; "I, Borg". This character deserved a better TV swansong than this.

David - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 12:16am (USA Central)
This was an average episode. I have to think I would have enjoyed this more if I hadn't been spoiled by TVGuide. That was actually my first encounter with spoilers. There was a brief article in TVGuide making a big deal about James Horan who at the time was on a soap opera appearing on TNG and they revealed he played an alien that could slow his body functions to appear as if he was dead. Needless to say it turned what probably could have been an interesting murder mystery into a predictable exercise for me.

Still I dont hate this one like Jammer does. I like Beverly taking center stage and the group of scientists were for the most part interesting enough. I also liked Guinan's role in it at the end when she reveals her coming to Beverly with tennis elbow was just a pretense.

I'd easily give it 2.5 stars.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 5:09am (USA Central)
Patrick--you are so dead on. Such a lame way to end Guinan's appearances on the TV show. She is one of my favorite characters and this was a poor way to send her off.

David--Having Beverly "taking center stage" is enough to make me dislike any episode, but in this one it is especially cloying because the "mystery" is so idiotic. But that's just me.

Jeffrey Bedard - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 7:27am (USA Central)
This episode is about 2.5 for me. OK, but not great. My big problem with this episode is Crusher's motivation. She is a medical officer, yet she becomes enamored with shield technology. No reason for this interest is given. I'd understand it better if somehow there was a medical application to this technology, but clearly there isn't. Anytime I watch this episode I can't get past the fact that Crusher's interest in Reyga's work makes no sense to me.

I did like Picard's dressing down of Crusher for having performed the autopsy. I've never been a huge fan of Crusher myself so I like it on those rare occasions when she gets taken down a peg. :)
GavinJCD - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 8:31am (USA Central)
Just one point I'd like to make regarding the Ferengi that I recall is that they didn't develop spaceflight. They bought it. Can't remember off who but it was mentioned in an episode of DS9.
Elliott - Fri, Aug 31, 2012 - 12:38pm (USA Central)
Like other commentators here, while I do not really like this episode, I don't think it's total trash like "Aquiel." I'd say it's 2 or 2.5*.

In defence of Beverly's motivations here, let me say this: in the later seasons of TNG, the writers strove to wedge a palpably feminist bent into the shows (a trend which would manifest in Kira and Janeway for a few years after, until it finally, thankfully dissolved in both). In "Thine Own Self," Beverly and Deanna discuss the implications of being a command officer and their shared need to do more than their relatively passive roles as medical staff require. Crusher's desire to play a pivotal rĂ´le in the development of an important piece of non-medical technology seems to fit in with that arc quite well. I'm not saying I liked it. Sociopolitical implications aside, TNG worked better before this bent was inserted into the mix.
Paul - Sat, Sep 1, 2012 - 9:31am (USA Central)
@Elliott: Interesting point. But the problem here isn't that Crusher is the story's main character. It's that the story itself is so ham-fisted. Jammer's right about the characters being ridiculous -- to say nothing of Crusher's ridiculous decision to take the shuttle into the star's corona and the lack of consequences after the fact.
Dimitris Kiminas - Sat, Sep 1, 2012 - 5:35pm (USA Central)
This is a nice example of why Jammer's negative reviews have more re-readability than the serious ones -- I certainly had more fun reading this review than seeing the actual episode!
Kevin - Sun, Sep 2, 2012 - 7:50pm (USA Central)
I know no on is a fan of Crusher, but I actually liked her performance in this episode. Yes, the plot would have been better had a three year old written it in poo, but McFadden turned in a solid performance and really made the most of the crap she was given to work with. The character of Crusher shines in this one despite the extremely clumsy writing.

Worst line of the episode is Worf agitatedly asking "Are you through yet doctor?" at the scene of Reyga's death. Completely out of character. Worf sees danger everywhere, (Those fluffy bunnies could be armed, let's just go ahead and shoot them...) but here when Crusher implies murder may have occurred, he just seems like he's got better things to do. After that, the whole question in my mind for the entire rest of the episode isn't who did it, but where the **** is security?

Horribly written, but one of the better Crusher performances, which stands out more against the terrible backdrop.
Jeremy Short - Mon, Sep 3, 2012 - 1:28am (USA Central)
I like to think that since this whole episode was Bev telling it all to Guinan, that maybe she was a bit jaded in her story telling. That would explain a lot of the shallow guest characters, and why several of the regulars were a bit off. Maybe she thought Worf wasn't doing enough and interpreted it as disinterest and that bled over to her storytelling to Guinan. It makes the episode a lot more forgivable.
Dan L. - Mon, Sep 3, 2012 - 11:15am (USA Central)
Jeremy Short-in coming up with your (possible explanation) for why the guest characters were shalow, why the regulars were a bit off, etc., you obviously have showed much more thought than the writer did in concocting this episode.

In my opinion, the writing was just tired. You have the lame flashback plot, the tired introduction of characters about whom we could care less, and a lacklustre mystery that in the end underwhelms because we are given no clues that would give us some kind of investment in the story's resolution.

Also, re: Guinan - this wsan't just a sad swan song for the character. This was the first time where there was absolutely ZERO point to having Guinan on the show. Guinan was there for one reason: so Beverly could relate information about what brought her up to the point at which we saw her at the beginning of the episode. a "Medical Log" series of entries could have done the same thing...

Dull, dull, dull
Dan L - Mon, Sep 3, 2012 - 11:19am (USA Central)
Also, not that anyone is counting, but this is the SECOND time in season six that Crusher's ordering an autopsy against a family/culture's wishes is used as a major plot point (the other time being in that other keeper of an episode, "Man of the People". I guess there is one difference between the two episodes: In "Suspicions", we do not know who the killer is, and we do not care. In "Man of the People", we DO know who the killer is, and we do not care). How tired.
Jay - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
I agree about the often ridiculous length Star Trek goes to pigeon-hole pretty much every racer other than humans. Ferengi scientists and Klingon doctors are presented as virtual contradictions, and in the latter case, without Klingon medical expertise there's no way a racelike theirs could ever have survived to the technological level they now have. They seem to try compensate for that human diversity by making every other race physiologically superior to humans, which is equally ridiculous. How many episodes have there been where some pathogen or anomoly incapacitates everyone on board except for the one or two among the crew who aren't frail humans.
Jay - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
@ Dan L...that's a good point. And all the more appalling considering her shrillness about ethics back in, well, "Ethics".
Jay - Fri, Sep 7, 2012 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
Also, the reasoning why the technology didn't work (although it did) is yet another example of a load of gibberish being presented as "logic" just because the dialogue is delivered by a Vulcan.
Nick P. - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 4:12pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot, interesting point about the feminist bent of TNG, DS9 and VOY, that I had never really noticed until you brought it up. It is a liberal show, so I can excuse a little of it, but at least with TNG the females should at least appear to be capable of command, which neither Troi or Crusher are. I love these characters, but come on, I don't want to see Picard taking a medical course, or Riker taking the bar exam!!!
Nic - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
Yes it is sad the way Guinan's arc was never finished. We got a great revelation of her meeting Picard in "Time's Arrow", and it would have been nice to see how that impacted their relationship now that Picard knew. Instead we got "Rascals" and "Suspicions". And she didn't get any closure in the films either. Too bad.
Paul C - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
@Kevin I'm a fan of Crusher. Awesome bod. Let's not forget she's got 'nice t**s', as said by Jim Belushi in Taking Care of Business. Seriously... this was a good mystery. Enjoyed it.
Yakko - Thu, Sep 13, 2012 - 8:40am (USA Central)
I've always layed that overwrought feminist bent at the feet of Jeri Taylor. The worst example for me was in VOY on "Parallax" when Janeway and Torres sit and spew technobabble back and forth and excitedly figure out the entire plot while the menfolk look on with dull expressions. The early Janeway was almost written as a Mary Sue instead of the nuanced and more believable leader she eventually became. I never thought Major Kira was written as a feminist cipher so much as a hothead. I've always chalked that up to the fact that her role was originally intended for Ro Laren.

As for "Suspicions" I agree with every criticism here but I still enjoy it. By the sixth season TNG had become like a comfortable old blanket to me and I just liked spending time on the ship with the characters even if the stories were often mediocre. Probably a hypnotic side effect of the bland boring monotonous sonic wallpaper that passed for musical scoring at that point.
Tim - Sat, Sep 15, 2012 - 2:27pm (USA Central)
Thought this was ok, and an interesting end.
John - Wed, Sep 19, 2012 - 1:49am (USA Central)
According to Nog, the Ferengi had to buy warp technology.

So maybe a Ferengi scientist is indeed a contradiction in terms.
Jay - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 10:56pm (USA Central)
@ John...even if they bought warp technology, there'd still need to be some people with enough science and technology background to be able to comprehend it and do something with it.
TH - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 3:28pm (USA Central)
Reading your reviews has brought up another problematic issue that I hadn't realized. Between The Chase, Frame of Mind and Suspicions, there were THREE consecutive "mystery" episodes in which we are trying to figure something out along with the crew or one specific character. These were few and far between normally (e.g. Clues), but three in a row reminds me of your problem with New Ground and Hero Worship being back to back episodes with kids misbehaving followed by a a disaster plot.

I agree that Frame of Mind was the bset of the three and that this episode suffered from some holes, but I always found this one to be more interesting to me than The Chase. Perhaps it's because at the end of the day, Crusher's quest at least resulted in something (clearing her name, vindication, solving a murder) rather than a lame unbelievable holographic message saying "We are the world, we are the people"
T'Paul - Wed, Jun 19, 2013 - 7:21am (USA Central)
Yes, the alien characters were stereotypes, the Vulcan character was especially pathetic, and of course, how would these species have developed space travel without scientists, doctors, etc.

Bev's narration was very lackluster, as was the acting of the other main characters.

As to the "feminist bent" debate above, I strongly disagree. Having women (strong or otherwise) in the command structure or episodes based on them doesn't mean that there is a feminist bent. There were still fewer women than men, and the main elements of the command structure were also men. I don't think that there was a particular feminist message that was pushed at any time, except perhaps when alien species were surprised by Janeway's command for example. This is in contrast to the messages of certain DS9 episodes about racism (which, by the way, don't bother me, since they are few and pertinent).

As to Kira, she seems to be following in the line of Bajoran female characters, probably due to a traumatic early life, which is probably why they're hotheaded, not because they represent "feminists" everywhere.

And to respond to another comment above, if Janeway and Torres figure out a problem while the male staff look on, that just means that those two are competent crew members that happen to be women who are solving a problem. That doesn't necessarily scream feminism, and the fact that some people think it does suggests that they are unwilling to believe that two women could solve a problem without the help of men without that being some kind of politically correct lecture.

As to their being "capable of command" well, I think that was the point of the later Troi arc, she learns to become capable of command, and I don't think that's an inappropriate story for a series based on a starship.

Now, having said all that, I thought Bev's performance was especially weak in this episode, and Troi's almost always are, but I don't think there's a hidden agenda here.

And no, I'm neither female nor black.
J - Fri, Jul 5, 2013 - 2:54am (USA Central)
Yet another case of Troi mysteriously forgetting her empathic abilities.
Jay - Fri, Sep 13, 2013 - 7:32pm (USA Central)
What's this Ferengi death ritual? Crusher specificly says here that it's a ritual performed "before the body is buried", but DS9 show that their bodies are converted into discs of desecated remains and sold...
William B - Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - 3:54pm (USA Central)
I'm watching this now, and having a hard time getting through it without pausing. So, for now: a few of my favourite instances of redundant voice over in the episode:

1. (scene of scientists reacting unenthusiastically to Dr. Reyga's technology)
CRUSHER [VOICE OVER]: It wasn't exactly an enthusiastic response to Doctor Reyga's technology, but given the circumstances and the scientist's quarrelsome personalities, I was quite pleased.
CRUSHER [in flashback]: I thought that went well, didn't you?

2. CRUSHER [VO]: It was probably the most puzzling autopsy I've ever performed, and the most frustrating, because Jo'Bril's anatomy was unlike any I'd encountered, and I've run into some unusual specimens.
PICARD: How's it going?
CRUSHER: I've never run into a humanoid species like this before. His internal physiology's baffling.

3. (Reyga acts angry)
CRUSHER: Reyga seemed angry.

I also note that at one point, Patrick Stewart pronounces "solar" like "so-LAR," as if to rhyme with "Dr. Selar."
William B - Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
Having finished the episode, I think that it improves a fair amount once the flashback part of the episode stops and Beverly starts investigating in real time. Many of the episode's problems remain, but the pacing is much better and the emotional stakes are clearer. I like Ogawa helping Crusher out, and I like Crusher's decision to test the metaphasic shield directly as her way of getting through to the murder investigation -- it's a bit weakly justified that this is the *only* possible way for Beverly to prove that Reyga was indeed murdered, but if you accept that this is the only way to prove that, then there is a neatness to the plot element wherein proving the worth of Reyga's initial technology is the thing that also proves that he did not commit suicide and that there is still a killer. And somehow this manages to combine the main traits that motivate Beverly in the episode -- her scientific curiosity and enthusiasm and her humanism; she wants to find the truth and she wants to help a man whom she'd (perhaps?) gotten killed.

To get there, you still have to swallow the episode's huge leaps of logic. The Ferengi, just about the least spiritual, most materialistic people in the Star Trek universe, suddenly have a burial ritual which must remain active even if an autopsy could potentially be used in helping to solve a murder investigation. (And, you know, if Reyga was murdered, even if his family didn't care about that, surely they could demand compensation?) The suspicious circumstances of Reyga's death are brushed off by the entire security staff, and neither Worf nor the command officers (Picard/Riker) make the slightest attempt to investigate the other scientists in what is surely standard procedure after a death, even one faked to look like a suicide. And, yep, Jo'Bril's plan makes no sense; I guess no one would have noticed that he disappeared from the morgue, then, and his plan had been to "discredit Reyga," and then to...kill him?...and then go back to the morgue, I guess?

Even so, while the episode doesn't make much sense and the first half is interminable, I think that there is some snap to the last few scenes which allows the character core of the episode to land a little better than it had been otherwise. Of course, what's weird is that the episode's ending -- the doctor risks her life in a shuttlecraft to prove a hypothetical -- is basically ripped from "Unnatural Selection," of all things, which worked to the extent that it did because Diana Muldaur is very good, and so even this episode's "strengths" are weaker than that. On the other hand, this does not end with a magic de-aging transporter, so. I'd give this one 2 stars.
JR - Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - 2:37pm (USA Central)
I know this is just a silly little continuity nit, but didn't Worf's ship in Redemption II fly into a sun's corona? It practically landed on the surface - without metaphasic shields.
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
@ JR...yes

Further, the trick of destroying a ship with a conjured solar flare that some ensign came up with that impressed Beverly immensely in "Descent" was actually something Kurn had already thought up and performed in R2.
mephyve - Sat, Jan 25, 2014 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
I liked the story. Was doctor Crusher acting foolishly throughout the episode? Yes, but that's her character anyway. She did come across as overly suicidal here though; both career wise and literally with her life. 'I'm going to fly into a sun to prove I'm right!' Ok Bev, more power to you.
As for the green guy, he actually sabotaged the shielding of a ship that he was flying into the sun? Was this an episode of Star Trek or 'You bet your life?'
Lapan - Tue, Jan 28, 2014 - 8:07am (USA Central)
I found it funny how all shots from outside the shuttle are of it flying into the corona. That was some of the most blatant reusal of footage so far.

I also wonder how he plans to turn the shield into a weapon or how Beverly plans to prove anything after atomizing his body.
Smith - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 8:05am (USA Central)
Fun episode that I liked. Think Crusher was a good solo actor (Crush vs everybody else) and this reminded me (in a positive way) of the episode in which people vanish one by one on the enterprise. Perhaps the actor could identity after being booted for season 2. The Ferangi actor was a tad too anthropomorphic though. Berman was not happy that this used narration to explain the plot...which just goes to show how clueless he is.
Adara - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
Could have been worth another star if the actors hadn't all phoned it in.

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