Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Eye of the Beholder"
Air date: 2/28/1994
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Brannon Braga
Directed by Cliff Bole
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The murder mystery is something Star Trek seems unable to occasionally resist, even though it more often than not seems incapable of successfully pulling it off. The thing about murder is that it requires human failings, and years of TNG have beaten into our minds the idea that such a thing is beyond the capability of elite Starfleet officers. For that matter, the notion of suicide seems almost foreign, and yet "Eye of the Beholder" begins with the unexpected suicide of Lt. Kwan (Tim Lounibos), which prompts an investigation by Troi into the reasons why this seemingly normal man would suddenly decide to kill himself.
"Eye of the Beholder" is a murder mystery with a sci-fi twist, and as is always the case with these sort of things, I wonder why it is that sci-fi explanations aren't the first things the crew looks at investigating when we're talking about someone who seemed perfectly normal until the moment he willfully jumped into a plasma stream and disintegrated. Ensign Calloway (Johanna McCloy), who was dating Kwan, indicates that he was happy, as far as she knew — although being elite Starfleet, Calloway seems amazingly less distraught than a person should be who just found out her boyfriend is dead.
The sci-fi twist is that Kwan was part telepath, as is Troi. Coincidence? I think not. Like "Dark Page," telepathic abilities are a major plot piece, which point to the man who seems to be the key to all of this, Lt. Walter Pierce (Mark Rolston). He also has telepathic abilities and is pointed to with big neon arrows as the bad guy.
But wait, there's more: Worf, after struggling over jeopardizing friendships (with Riker as well as Troi), decides to make a move on Troi. There's a certain hilarity in watching Worf reluctantly, hesitantly, tentatively go in for the kiss. This seems like a random piece of business. It isn't, of course, but the fact that it does makes these scenes play as an awkward segue from the procedural plot points.
Truth be told, "Eye of the Beholder" has a perfectly workable — even at times clever — plot. Where it stumbles in its melodramatic silliness and overall execution. The Worf/Troi romance — which was on shaky ground to begin with because it felt so arbitrary, even when you consider its hinted-at genesis in "Parallels" — devolves into an exercise in absurd jealousy when Troi finds Worf making out with Calloway, who then both laugh at her. By this point things are clearly Not What They Seem, which is made even more clear when Troi kills Worf with a phaser. It turns out all of this is a telepathically induced delusion, which Troi is experiencing in her mind in a matter of seconds, similar to what Kwan experienced right before he killed himself. The telepathic echo came from sci-fi telepathic residue from Pierce, who really did kill two people and then himself back when the Enterprise was being built at the Utopia Planitia shipyards. It's kind of a neat trick: the villain of the piece has been dead for eight years.
Of course, since None of This Really Happened, the episode exists in a logical loophole. To mock the melodramatic excess that occurs in "Eye of the Beholder" is to mock what is actually only happening in the version of the story that takes place in Troi's mind as a result of proxy jealousy that isn't even hers to begin with. See what the writers have done here? They've managed to avoid writing contrived characterization by beaming it into her mind from unimportant characters who have been dead for eight years. Whoa. This episode might be even more clever than I thought.