Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Eye of the Beholder"

**1/2

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.

Previous episode: Masks
Next episode: Genesis

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16 comments on this review

Ian Whitcombe - Tue, Dec 4, 2012 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
Huh, clever indeed. I always though this was a one-and-a-half-or-lower episode, but your review put in a surprising amount of thought into it!
Paul - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 8:23am (USA Central)
This is another Troi-heavy episode in a Troi-heavy season. And, Jammer, it has the no-consequences reset button that you used to rail about (rightly) in your Voyager reviews.

And, sorry, but the Troi-Worf stuff is just preposterous.

Maybe 1 1/2 stars would be appropriate.
Chris - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Literally the only thing I remember from this episode is the awesome fact that we get to see the inside of the warm nacelle. The fact that it's basically a big old neon tube just makes my day.
Jay - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 3:09pm (USA Central)
Paul is right.

This episode is ultimately as much of a cheat as DS9's "The Search 2", but surprisingly, Jammer actually gives DS9 the lower score for it, although his reviews for the two are coming many years apart.

This gets more stars than "Thine Own Self"...neither is anything to write home about, but this is certainly the worse of the two. This one is about as bad as "Liaisons".
Josh - Fri, Dec 7, 2012 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
C'mon, Jay - as bad as "Love me!"?

I do think that this episode is genuinely creepy, even if I don't enjoy it *that* much.
grumpy_otter - Sat, Dec 8, 2012 - 9:09pm (USA Central)
I disagree on the reset button here--because Deanna remembers the delusion and that has on impact on her feelings. But then, I like the Deanna/Worf pairing and was mad the movies abandoned it.

I also find the mystery of this one interesting and compelling--I'd give it three.
John the younger - Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - 2:25am (USA Central)
I'm with Paul and Jay - 1 star from me.
Mikael - Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - 4:44am (USA Central)
The Troi-out-of-character finale was pretty silly, even if it makes sense on the plot level. It might have been more interesting if the imposition of a different persona was played further, a sort of deconstruction of Troi's self and her reality. Still, I think this is a cleverly structured episode.
Sanagi - Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 11:20pm (USA Central)
I do like that this episode puts Troi to work on an interesting task that makes sense for her to do. If the episode had come in season two or three, it could've been a turning point for the character instead of the nail in the coffin.
Sintek - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 3:41am (USA Central)
Riker getting back with Troi after she was with Worf? Talk about hotdog in a hallway.
J - Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - 11:13pm (USA Central)
Apparently phasers on stun don't work on suicidal people.
J - Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
"It's not like Dan to take his own life," is one of the more amusing comments in this episode.

Yeah, thanks. You know, Dan doesn't usually take his own life like that -- I'd say this is a first.
William B - Tue, Oct 29, 2013 - 6:23am (USA Central)
@J, thanks for pointing out that line. It really cracks me up.

I kind of wish Calloway had continued, "Unlike you, Lieutenant!" It occurs to me that if the episode had to happen, and that the basic plot of teasing Worf/Troi getting serious and then being broken up by cheating and then murder and then attempted suicide, it actually might have made more story and character sense to make Worf the POV character and not Troi. Imagine: Worf gets the courage to ask Troi out, and they mate, and then he finds her and Riker together after all, he kills Troi, and his only response as a warrior for his great crime is to kill himself. Then he is snapped out of it. I don't know that it'd be a great episode, and somehow I have trouble with Worf picking that kind of suicide -- I mean, a blade is more his style. But flip the protagonist of the episode and the story actually makes a lot more sense. Worf is afraid of the Troi/Riker bond and what it means to step into it (and it is basically given as the reason Worf and Troi never got together in the "All Good Things" future), Worf is emotionally sensitive when it comes to love, has a ferocious temper and is deeply violent when provoked and he only manages to deal with it by carefully guarding his emotions, and has wanted to commit suicide before. Worf's actions could be genuinely, and frighteningly, plausible, and could tie into the story -- because it makes his hesitation and the way Worf-Riker have split apart in the AGT future even more understandable.

I bring this up in part because I think my big problem is that this story doesn't say anything about Troi. This is the last Troi episode, our last chance to take a long look at her character. Troi doesn't even get to show up in the future in "All Good Things." Troi is emotional and can get very upset when someone crosses her. And I do think it's possible that seeing Riker date a bunch of junior officers and random aliens over the years while still staying really close to the edge of a romantic connection to Troi might make her prone to jealousy. But, well, Another Woman isn't what broke her and Riker up, unless that Other Woman was the ship the Potemkin. And I don't think jealousy was ever her issue. Nor do I see her as all that vindictive or suicidal. For the episode to work, I think it does have to tie into real fears that seem to be Troi's. And it does present a scenario which, yes, would definitely suck for anyone, and so would upset anyone; but it doesn't seem to be the type of scenario which seems to represent actual fears Troi seems likely to have about a relationship with Worf.

I think this episode is a particularly annoying to me coming so close to the end of the series. Either have Worf/Troi actually be on the table as a romance or don't. Don't pretend to go somewhere and then back out at the last moment. There's less than ten episodes left, and the show continues going nowhere.

That said, I do think some of this episode does work. Jammer lays it all out pretty well. The mystery is somewhat engaging, the atmosphere is pretty strong, the twist that it's a murder mystery where the killer has been dead for decades is pretty good. In fact, that the episode establishes the empathic echo concept early on by having Troi get Kwan's experience helps make the ending pretty well set up. As a piece of entertainment, there are good moments -- Worf trying to talk to Riker and Riker telling him he sounds like he's asking a man if he can date his sister, Geordi and Data's conversation about Data's initial encounter with the risk of cascade failure and temptation to shut down (a nod to what happened to Lal as well), the crew's sympathy at the shocking suicide that happens -- and some bad ones -- the melodramatic excess in the last act, and much of the fake Worf/Troi romance scenes, which are "justified" by the twist but are not any more fun to watch as a result. As others have mentioned above it's good to see Troi actually doing an important job, and I like the idea that she becomes emotionally involved in Kwan's life, to a degree -- inserting Calloway into her nightmare. Maybe the key thing we learn in our last long look at Troi is that her empathy is a blessing and a curse; her devoting herself to figuring out why Kwan died means she does eventually solve the mystery. She even helps solve an eight year old murder that no one knew was still a mystery. But that level of emotional connection with others comes at real risk, and she could easily have gone the way Kwan did as a result of his encounter with the empathic echo, ridden off on someone else's emotional wave into death. On the balance, I'd give this 2 stars.
mephyve - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 6:16am (USA Central)
"I see dead people." Troi, with her 6TH Sense, sees dead people and attempts to commit murder/suicide. Unfortunately she fails to succeed before the shows allotted time runs out.
Smith - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 12:30pm (USA Central)
It had a fun mystery aspect to it with a great twist at the end...but the script was a little flat.

The Worf/Troi thing was horrendous. It anthropomorphized Worf from a Klingon to a human.

Worf is a great lens for issues of self-control and violence. Especially as a humorous foil to contrast ideal behavior with anti-ideal behavior. When you domesticate him into a silly soap opera in space, he turns into a klingon in makeup only.
Sonya - Tue, Jul 29, 2014 - 8:09pm (USA Central)
During the scene where Geordi and Data have a conversation about suicide, Data observes Geordi sigh, lean back, and cross his arms to prepare for discussing a heavy topic. Data crosses his arms in the same way while checking Geordi's form to make sure he gets the gesture correct. It's like you can see the wheels turning in his positronic brain. Brent Spiner really did make small scenes a joy to watch.

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