Star Trek: The Next Generation

“Frame of Mind”

4 stars.

Air date: 5/3/1993
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by James L. Conway

Review Text

Riker rehearses the part of a man locked in an insane asylum in a play called "Frame of Mind" that Crusher is directing and he's supposed to perform tomorrow. (Have you ever stopped to consider how weird it is the crew seems to spend so much time staging plays in their free time?) But strange things are happening. Riker keeps slipping into a reality where he actually is institutionalized in an alien mental ward whose holding cell looks exactly like the set of the play. And you thought he had things bad when he couldn't get any sleep in "Schisms."

"Frame of Mind" combines the slowly escalating psychological dread from "Schisms" and the uncertain nature of reality from "Ship in a Bottle" and wraps them into a premise where reality becomes so much an open question that we have no idea what's truly going on until the show is over. It's a brilliant and conceptually driven piece of sci-fi writing from Brannon Braga on one of his better days, featuring a storyline that is simultaneously (and paradoxically) straightforward and labyrinthine, with a protagonist who is put through the terrifying wringer of experiencing two separate lives and not knowing which one of them is real. Facts from each reality spill into the other. Ultimately, Riker must face the possibility that he is losing his mind.

It all has something to do with an undercover mission on an alien world that Riker is (or perhaps already was, in the past) supposed to go on a few days after his play's performance. But the play still hasn't happened, and after spending a day in the alien mental hospital, he wakes up on the Enterprise on the morning he's supposed to perform. He performs the play. He hallucinates (or maybe not) an alien whom in the mental ward is his therapist, Dr. Syrus (David Selburg). He grabs the guy and shouts at him. He's embarrassed. A turbolift door opens and suddenly he's walking the halls of the mental ward. He crosses back into that reality and finds that it seems more and more real, while his memories of the Enterprise, explained to him as delusions by his psychiatrist, seem less and less so.

This might not work as well as it does if Jonathan Frakes' performance didn't carry us through it. But Frakes turns in a solid performance as a protagonist who is slowly broken down by the Kafkaesque weight of not being able distinguish reality from fantasy, slowly losing his grip as things fall apart. (This story would've been perfect for Miles O'Brien.) Like many of Braga's best conceptual stories, the truth lies in the details (see also "Cause and Effect"). In this case, the way little details manifest themselves in each of Riker's realities and subsequently cascade throughout the story (the cut on Riker's temple that never heals, the way he was jumped from behind in an alley in his memories from the supposed murder he committed, etc.) makes for a puzzle that's always intriguing, sometimes dizzying. The production design of the mental ward is appropriately disorienting, hostile, and atmospheric.

The way the plot resolves itself — with the events of the entire episode essentially being a construct of Riker's mind as a defense mechanism attempting to ward off an alien mental probe — means that "Frame of Mind" isn't actually even required to hold together as a plot where you can figure out what's real, what clues have meaning, or why. Because, ultimately, none of it is real, which allows the story to become completely unhinged in its final act. Trying to "solve" it as a puzzle is ultimately not the point — which for some may come as a mild disappointment. But if you examine the pieces and how they were built from Riker's memories of recent events, it still holds up marvelously as a plot. But more important is how "Frame of Mind" exists at a level of dreamlike incoherence, with bizarre imagery and a ground that keeps shifting. This episode is about a concocted reality with cracks in it, which Riker is ultimately able to poke at until the entire surface of the looking glass shatters.

Previous episode: The Chase
Next episode: Suspicions

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98 comments on this post

    Normally I'm a big fan of TNG Brannon Braga. He wrote some of my favorite episodes and he has a knack for remembering the little details and coming up with some well crafted high concept sci fi mystery stories(Cause and Effect, Parallels, Timescape, Identity Crisis, Power Play, Schisms, All Good Things--many of which are classic gems worthy of 4 stars i.e. C&E, Parallels, the upcoming Timescape for instance.

    But this one was ruined by the revelation that it was all just a dream--something similar completely ruins S7's "Eye of the Beholder". Don't get me wrong the atmosphere was certainly creepy especially the final scene where he wants to take down the stage in Ten Forward to give himself peace of mind but the fact that it was a defense mechanism in response to an invasive interrogation procedure to gather information just took all the air out of it for me.

    I'd give it 2.5 stars only.

    When I was younger I used to record episodes of TNG on VHS. I was very adamant about my pausing and resuming during commercials and having them in proper order. Also painstakingly labelling each tape accordingly for future quick viewing. I, of course, recorded other stuff but neither here nor there. Ah those were the days...

    Anyway I remember going back and rewatching some episodes multiple times because they were so intriguing to me. Yesterdays Enterprise, Measure of a Man, Best of Both Worlds, Inner Light, 10111011011000111101, and the episode with the title that was a bunch of numbers etc. I always had thought the oddball episode I kept going back to was Frame of Mind. Every time I saw it I loved it but never thought "oh hey this is classic Trek".

    Now granted this is an episode I haven't seen in years so I do not have a current opinion on it. But from what I read and what I remember I actually found Jammers four stars surprising. But in a good way. I need to watch this one again but I would like to say thanks for the rating. In my head I was expecting to read this review and see maybe a 3 or 3.5 at best.

    Thank you Jammer. (:

    Aside from the excessive Beverly and her idiotic dramatic leanings, I love this episode. Riker carries this, as Jammer said, and the tension of the mystery works very well.

    Even on repeat viewings, my heart drops when that alien talks into her spoon.

    I'm surprised the review didn't mention "Projections" as a similarly themed episode from the same author. Unlike "Projections," "Frame of Mind" doesn't have the character core to punch it through. True, Frakes delivers a marvellous performance, but why this had to be a Riker show is totally absent from the material.

    However, what it lacks in character it makes up for in atmosphere and direction. It reminded me of a "Twilight Zone" ep. with a Star Trek coda that explained how it all took place rather than leaving it a complete mystery. I'd say 4 stars is a bit generous, but not an offensive grade either. Probably would get 3.5* from me.

    This has always been one of my favorite episodes. I have a penchant for mind fuck stories, and this is one of the finer ones I've seen.

    Certainly doesn't hurt that Frakes does one of the finest performances of his career.

    The fact that the plot was a defense invented by Riker's mind takes this down a lot, especially is you know Braga's tendencies to do crap like this.

    Still, I liked Frame of Mind, partly because it gives Riker something to do again. Season six is where Riker really becomes a secondary character, and this is arguably the second-to-last Riker vehicle in TNG (Pegasus is a Riker episode, but Second Chances is more of a TOM Riker episode).

    Frakes isn't the cast's best actor, but he had his moments -- and he's better than Sirtis who becomes a much more central character (regrettably) in seasons six and seven.

    you stated miles o brian would have been a good pick for this episode. But he does get something similar on DS9 when his clone was running loose on the ship and he thinks everyone is against him in DS9 whispers

    Never liked this one. Not as bad as "Suspicions," but a lot of it felt like wasted time. The problem, I think, is stories that reveal their premise in the last act. If the shocking twist comes in the penultimate act, the story has more time to deal with the revelation. That's why I give higher marks to "Night Terrors," where the crew figures out the problem early but takes longer to find a solution. (Then again, I still don't like "Schisms," where the mystery is revealed before the final act.)

    This is one episode I could re-evaluate, and I might enjoy it more, if only for the acting.

    I love this episode. I think it is the only trek episode that reflects modern science fiction literature (post-80s)since trek was a series based mostly in the science fiction of the 50s (yhe era of asimov, simak etc).

    I've never been particularly fond of this episode but it always resonates with me on a personal level. In February of 1993 I was a young Trekkie visiting family in L.A. and I made a pilgrimmage to the Paramount lot in hopes of catching a glimpse of "TNG" - the sets, an actor - something. There were no tours but I managed to sneak on to the lot. (Not through the famous main gates but through the far less secure Gower Street entrance on the side.) I carried a clipboard and mostly walked purposefully in the hope that I'd look like someone who was supposed to be there. After circling the lot a few times (the coolest part for me were the city streets I recognized from "The Untouchables" and countless other productions) I took a stab at entering Stage 8 through yet another side door. Out of nowhere I was spotted by some guy with a headset. I bluffed and pretended to be lost and looking for David Livingston's office (a name I only knew from show credtis!) and he sent me on my way. I was too freaked to try entering the building again so I kept walking near the trailers with the slim hope of seeing a cast member. I was just about to give up when I saw none other than Jonathon Frakes. He had just gone to his trailer and was upset about something. I don't remember what he said but he looked like he was about to tear some poor P.A. a new one. He shot me an angry look and stormed off. Given his apparent mood and my own status as a trespasser it seemed unwise to say anything to him but I was curious why he wasn't wearing his Starfleet uniform costume but instead was dressed completely in black in a kind of informal tunic. I left the lot shortly after and would never have known what episode he was shooting until "Frame of Mind" aired three months later and I saw that he spent most of the show in the same black tunic I had seen that day. In retrospect I'm damned lucky I wasn't arrested but it was thrilling at the time.

    Bravo, Yakko--GREAT story! That took some serious cojones, and I am glad you didn't get into trouble.

    So glad you could identify Frakes costume--he was probably so agitated because of the complexities of the role. lol.

    Thanks Otter. I had the same thought in retrospect about Frakes' agitation. He's in just about every frame of that episode and often doing a lot of yelling and carrying on so I imagine he was working 16 hour days.

    I actually spoke to him at a sci-fi con three years ago and it never occurred to me to tell him that story. Probably for the best - I probably would have come off like Annie Wilkes from "Misery" if I had!

    Loved this episode, I don't even care the ending was dumb, the journey is always better than the destination.

    One thought. I disagree on Frakes being a bad actor. He is no Stewart, but he is top 3. I think the problem is that after BOBW2, the creators just didn't know what to do with him. I think BOBW2 was the worst thing to ever happen to this character. If that could not get him a command, nothing could, and we as the audience knows this. For one thing, how cool would it have been if Riker STAYED as Captain, and Picard was promoted to Fleet admiral? Already by that point TNG was better than TOS, but imagine how much more the rest of the cast could have done in the last few seasons if Picard was fleet admiral, and Riker still had a believable career (and data, worf, etc...)

    BTW, Picard would not even have to leave the enterprise, in the Navy Admirals can stay on ships for years..Why couldn't Picard? BIG missed opportunity.

    Thanks Vylora, for making me realize I wasn't alone in dong this :)

    God, if I had known back then that there would one day be this great invention called DVD where you can have an entire season of television in a tiny box!

    @Nick P: The creators didn't even need to make Picard an admiral. In STV and STVI (the latter of which came out after BOBW), Spock is a captain and is first officer to Kirk, also a captain. Hell, Scotty was a captain, too.

    The real problem, as you noted, is that the creators really ran out of things for Riker to do in the last four seasons (particularly the last two). As I've noted elsewhere, he's often akin to Scotty in the original series -- the guy running the ship while Kirk (Picard) and Spock (Data) go have adventures.

    Nowhere is this more apparent than in Nemesis, where Riker has Trek's least important fight scene with Shinzon's viceroy. The fight added nothing to the movie -- a movie where some key character tidbits were cut for time.

    Riker was my favorite character growing up because of the role he played in the early seasons. But they really marginalized him late in the series, which might have coincided with Frakes taking more runs at directing.

    As Riker was marginalized, Picard was more of a focus. That was fine, as long as it didn't go off the deep end (e.g. the stupid Argo part of Nemesis). It also gave more screen time to Troi, which was an unfortunate choice, because Sirtis was the worst actor in the cast and making her more central necessitated some ridiculous plot holes. Good example: She knows everything there is to know about Romulan engine rooms in 'Timescape' about a year after not knowing what a warp core breach was in "Disaster".

    And making Troi a full commander -- when Data was still a Lt. Cmdr -- was just laughable.

    Why is it whenever Riker starts to go insane he stops combing his hair?

    Wow. I absolutely hated this one. Cringe-worthy and hammy, predictable, over-acted and with incredibly lame special effects. I'm quite stunned you liked so much Jammer. I've been reading your reviews for years (on and off) and this is probably the biggest discrepancy between my opinion and yours.

    Half a star.

    Enjoyable stuff, kind of reminded me of room 101. Thought acting was good.

    And me to the list of people who strongly disliked this. I was wondering why in the last scene Riker needed to tear down the sets...over the course of the episode he had already thoroughly chewed the scenery.

    Awful episode, terribly written. As a former mental health patient, there was absolutely no research done, reducing the mental patients and Riker's delusions into a one note cliche. There is no truth in any of Riker's experience, which borrows more from bad TV writing about hospitals and "crazy people" during the time the episode was made.

    I give it half a star however for Data's hilarious advice about Riker's acting: "Humans have a tendency towards irrationality. Perhaps you should tap into that part of your psyche."
    Crusher:"Yes, thank you, Data."

    I've always loved this episode. Even watching it now, I find that for a brief moment, I still seriously start to wonder if the entire TNG series was just a figment of Riker's imagination. Switching the show's main set to a mental ward for the rest of the 6th and 7th season might have been a better idea anyways.

    My only complaint is the same complaint I have for virtually every other decent TNG episode -- a strong, dramatic delivery that is hastily resolved and trivially explained away in the last 3 minutes of the show. It always feels so unrewarding.

    That aside, this one kept me on the edge of my seat.

    Well, that's not entirely true. Inner Light and, to some extent, BoBW 2 had fairly thoughtful, well laid out endings. BoBW 2 somewhat because it had clear continuity into Family.

    This is one of a dozen tng episodes I can watch again and again and not get tired of it. I've always believed the key to good sci-fi is a solid plotline, but "frame of mind" takes me on an entertaining journey through a mental labyrinth that always kept me slightly off-balance. Jammer is exactly right: four stars.

    Wasn't among the worse episodes but not among the best either. Going through that same play repeatedly was tedious.
    Just as an aside, I remember being asked to write a great escape story in high school drama class. It ended with the line 'just as the tiger was about to sink his jaws in me, I woke up.' I got a C.

    Haha, good one, Dirge!

    We could also ask why Data can escape from his monotone when he's acting but not in his day to day life.

    Barely remembered this one but it is very good.
    The final scenes of reality shattering is very well done.
    Frakes is brilliant in this as well. Some top notch acting.

    Fans of episodes like this who are also into gaming could do worse than check out BioShock Infinite. I just finished it, it's an awesome game, and afterwards my mind turned to this episode of TNG.

    Disappointing episode. The concept starts strong as a way to question reality and the examination of mental health. But is not believable because we the audience know the alien reality is fake. A different enterprise reality would have been more believable. The focus of the episode was too much on Riker's emotional outbursts and his ego. Not enough on understanding the ultimate puzzle in the human mind. Very dark episode that was very repetitious with no uplifting nor creative moments.

    I never remember the end of this episode, so it always freaks me out.

    4 stars, I totally agree.

    Jammer, why do you think that this episode would have been perfect for Miles O'Brien?

    @SamSimson: In DS9, he goes through shit like this at least seven times per season. (I may or may not be exaggerating.)

    I like this episode for the trippy scene with the phaser and the concept of the TNG crew putting on stage plays.

    But this episode is kind of exhausting to watch, like being stuck in a fun house for an hour.

    As far as Riker being stuck in a fictional reality, I much prefer Future Imperfect.

    I guess I'm one of the few who actually liked and appreciated the ending resolution. I think it makes total sense, and I applaud the writers/producers for delving deeply into the potential for unconscious representation. I love thinking that everything Riker was seeing was actually meant to help him uncover the truth. It shows us how badass our unconscious minds can be.

    Especially when it's totally obvious near the end, as the play's audience applauds and cheers Riker for pushing against his aggressor. I just love the notion of self-help enacted symbolically, through the reality we "construct" unconsciously for ourselves. I actually prefer this resolution to the "alien controlling everything" reveal.

    So there's some love for the ending!

    I always felt that when Riker is in the fantasy, the scenes on the ship feel different in someway from normal scenes. I always wondered if they used different lighting for those scenes but I've never been able to see anything specific. Maybe the music is enough to produce that eerie feeling. In any case, it all came together with a great performance by Frakes. 4 outta 4 stars for sure.

    I always liked this episode, but I'm currous. Is or has there ever actually been a story or play called Frame Of Mind?
    I only ask because the play Riker was supposedly rehersing. Did seem like it would be a real good one so I'm interested does it exist?

    Well, it seems like a lot of people are willing to be much more generous to "Frame of Mind" than I am. It's an moderately enjoyable episode, but it never once raises above its premise.

    It has a nice creepy atmosphere and a decent performance by Frakes but that is all it has. Unlike "Schisms" it never really achieves take-off velocity. "Schisms" set out to be legitimately frightening and it achieved that goal wonderfully. "Frame of Mind" never ascends beyond the level of mild uneasiness. When the standout sequence is the final "shattering" effect at the end of Riker's delusions (which was some really good F/X work - credit where it's due), you know the story never really went anywhere.

    It's got a good concept, even if it all ends with the cliched "it was just a dream," so it's not "bad," but it could have been much more. Jonathan Frakes deserved a meatier role since, as everyone has been quick to point out, they really weren't doing much with Riker as a character by this point in the show.

    And, just a little tidbit that annoyed me, we once again get the writers confusing anarchy and chaos. The whole plot begins with the assumption that the planet has descended into total anarchy when the government collapsed. But, just like in "Legacy," what we're shown, or lead to believe, is that there are simply several factions on the planet now instead of one world government. That's not anarchy, unless you want to claim that we, here in the real world, live in a state of total anarchy. And, what they seem to be implying is that anarchy = chaos. They did this exact thing back in "Allegiance." These people really need to get a dictionary! Anarchy is the absence of "rulers," not the absence of "rules." That extra "r" in that world makes a world of difference. If you want to see a good representation of anarchy watch "The Lord of the Rings" - hobbits live in a state of anarchy. If you want to see chaos, watch "Mad Max." But, in the end, all of that is pretty minor since the focus of the plot is clearly not on that but on Riker's delusions, so I can't get too upset about it.


    A polarising episode it seems. Colour me among those who were not keen. Conceptually, it's another one that asks 'what is real'. Unfortunately, we're led around the post so many times the episode loses its grounding.

    I thought Frakes' performance was always verging on the affected rather than the brilliant, and for me failed to carry the episode in the way that Patrick Stewart carried The Inner Light, say. 2 stars.

    I grew up with this show, and have been rewatching it, and am happy that the storytelling is often as strong, or stronger, than I remember. This is the first episode that's ever made me feel the need to go out and make an internet comment about Star Trek, though. I'm a work-at-home programmer in a crappy, soft-drink can littered apartment, so I am on my way to full on stereotype status, but I don't care. I watched this with my Dad, and I don't count enjoying this show among one of the problems in my life.

    It's easy to see why this episode is so polarizing. It succeeds brilliantly in some ways, and falls flat in others. For some people, plot trumps atmosphere. An unsatisfactory plot resolution can undercut earlier scenes even if you found them powerful while watching them. I was hooked almost instantly by the first scene, and was disappointed when it seemed like that might just become a minor subplot. Frakes was challenged to show some range, and generally succeeded. There was a "No!!!" moment before a commercial interruption that fell flat, but it's hard to decide where the blame for something like that lies. Frakes turned in a strong performance elsewhere, so maybe editing used a weak take, or the other actor had a negative impact, or something else. I also found some of the special effects a bit cheesy and dated, which I find pretty forgivable in this show.

    I'm not sure what the other self-described former mental patient's objection is, but I think this episode succeeded spectacularly in setting the tone. I believe it's the darkest one I've ever seen, and succeeded in being anxiety provoking and uncomfortable to watch, and I enjoyed seeing a very different, emotionally honest feeling, side to Riker. This story was a lot more about emotion than plot, and their (IMO) huge success with this aspect made it very easy for me to forgive the ones on which that fell short.

    I love this episode, (definitely one of Riker's best), but also because I love the amount of emotion and raw energy being thrown at us. The psychological manipulation, the horrifying treatment, and the amazing monologue Riker gives during the play. But in the opening scene, I felt the most disturbed not when Riker was playing the Insane Person, but how Data was playing the Doctor. His voice was so serene, and so level it was creepy. Brent Spiner has done a lot of things, but never has he made me unsettled. All in all, I love this, and I will always come back to this episode.

    Poor action scenes, alien characters that don't really click, and not a very inspired ending. But it scared the hell out of me (TNG does that more than any other ST series) and I like that it gave Riker something compelling to do. Every moment of it engaged me with one brief exception: Riker shouting "NO!" Some actors just can't pull that off very well.

    I agree with what Lisana said about Data. Brent Spiner not only plays a brilliant android, here he plays a brilliant android who plays a corrupt and menacing psychiatrist. That's really impressive.

    2 Stars.

    Frankly, halfway through the episode I no longer cared what was real and what wasn't.

    Agreed. Too many fakes and it wears on me. By the end, I was exhausted. Frankly, I'm surprised that they didn't do the trick at the end as he's tearing down the stage - e.g. "We have a lot of work to do" - spoken by 10forward's barkeep :P Also, being psychologically tortured immediately following performing a play about being psychologically tortured? C'mon. And how did the rescue of those hostages turn out anyway?? No resolution at all there.

    I just finished watching this episode for the first time. And I have to say that this is probably in my top 10 tng episodes of all time (so far). The fact that the episode took so many twists and turns and truly made me question what was actually going on and really hooked my attention. Makes me love it.

    Jonathan Frakes' perfomance was amazing. I can understand how the "it was all a dream" ending could disappoint people. However, I liked it. It was the first time that there wasnt anything to figure out, there wasnt really anything that pointed to the resolution. The audience is supposed to sit back relax and enjoy the ride. The fact that very little made sense, truly put me in Rikers position and involved me in the experince.

    4 out of 5: The one time that "it was all a dream" is acceptable.

    After you've watched the whole episode, you realise that a few things give away the fact that it wasn't real. For one, the door to his cell in the asylum is exactly the same as the one on the stage. Secondly, during the rescue attempt, Data and Worf are both wearing black, but Data's pale white face sticks out like a sore thumb! If it were a real rescue attempt, someone else would have gone in, or they would have put makeup on Data's face to disguise him better.

    I am surprised at all the dislike for this episode. I guess some people just really need a solid plot. To me, dreams can be just as fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. 😀

    As for Frakes acting, yeah it got a bit hammy, and there were some weaker moments (why any writer ever writes a character to tell "No!" Is beyond me), but he reminded me a lot of shatner and that was kind of fun!

    For me, this one is good but not great, hardly deserving of the 4-star "classic episode" status that Jammer affords it. Unlike "Cause and Effect," it's not the sort of TNG classic that lingers in your memory for very long. Rather, it's an engaging little suspense story that doesn't offer much of lasting substance when it's over.

    We all know that this kind of "events turn out to be imaginary, hit reset button" story becomes cliche in later Trek series. Here it's still highly enjoyable, tautly paced, unpredictable, and compellingly executed -- especially by Frakes in a bravura theater-style performance. And I like the thoughtful idea that the make-believe memories were a mental defense mechanism

    The problem with "Frame of Mind" -- and the reason I would give it 3 1/2 star rather than 4 -- is that the plot doesn't make any sense if think about it too hard. It's all about the surface and moment, very little about believable characters or motivation. Consider: What is Riker's mission on the planet? Why do the aliens want to extract strategic information about the Federation from his mind? How did they know who he was and where to find him? Did Riker or the Federation do anything to give them reasonable cause for villainy? This stuff just doesn't hold together at all. Again, let's ask: Is there a prime directive issue here and did Riker violate it by using the transporter in front of the aliens at the end?

    Like third-season TOS, these questions are all too complex for this black-and-white story. Unlike "Cause and Effect," where the high-concept plot twists didn't depend on stock villains, this show gives us a hostile group of aliens and tells us nothing about them or their motives. Since Braga apparently couldn't be bothered to tell us anything about them, they become one-dimensional baddies without any reason for their actions here. And for me, four-star Trek *always* needs well-rounded characters with at least a token motivation for what they do. So while this show is good, it's not among the best for me.

    I like this episode a lot more than I normally enjoy these trick episodes, but am still quite surprised to see it earn full marks. I was annoyed with it half way through and just wanted the crew to show up in the "real" world already, as by that point you got the basic idea of what was going on.

    But the show managed to fool me with EVERYTHING being a dream in an inception like dream within a dream situation, so I think that's the source for me having a more fond reaction to this than normal.

    re: oddity of plays, yes, but most odd of all is that these plays seemingly involve a cast made of exclusively of senior staff. Riker and Data feature a lot, and there was that time Crusher ambushed Picard wanting him to play a butler in a minor, non-speaking part - there's 1,000 people on this ship, nobody else wants to be involved in these? At least their constant musical recitals often have extras, or at least minor an secondary characters, accompanying Data.

    It's obviously not intentional, but it helps paint the impression of the senior staff as being an elite, higher class than the common background extras. Even their later episode "the lower decks," the characters depicted may be lower rank, but the impression is that these are younger members of that same elite, the people being groomed to step up into the roles of the senior staff, rather than actual generic background crew. Compared to similar episodes of Stargate SG-1 ("the other guys") and Babylon 5 ( escapes me, but they had an ep that followed a couple of minor maintenance workers), they really fail to convey what I think they were aiming for in that one. Heck, in some ways even Voyager did a better job with the ep where Janeway decided to reach out to the overlooked and isolated misfits in the crew.

    ThiS is like, what, the third or fourth episode where Riker is subject to false reality or torture/kidnapping?? I wish they'd give him more action-y roles like he had in previous seasons, or even any roles at all, he's basically a side character now. I don't find the action roles doled out to Picard in the later seasons believable at all, the guy's just too old for it, wish they had stuck to Picard being control room and Riker being ground support. Stewart's a good actor but I'd rather watch Riker than Picard.

    Also wondering, did O'Brien transfer to DS9 back in that one two-parter where Data learns to dream but TNG never mentioned it because they assumed you watched DS9 and having it mentioned twice would be redundant? And is there an explanation for why Guinan is gone or does she just disappear just as suddenly as she appeared?

    "Also wondering, did O'Brien transfer to DS9 back in that one two-parter where Data learns to dream but TNG never mentioned it because they assumed you watched DS9 and having it mentioned twice would be redundant? And is there an explanation for why Guinan is gone or does she just disappear just as suddenly as she appeared?"

    You've got this a little mixed up. The episode you're describing is "Birthright" which is a TNG episode from season 6. As for Guinan not showing up, my guess is that Whoopi Goldberg was filming Sister Act 1 & 2 and didn't have time to appear on TNG as a recurring character.

    I have mixed feelings about this episode and can see, judging from the comments above, that the ep is quite polarizing.
    The good: Frakes' acting - very convincing for somebody who is questioning why he's in a mental hospital, what is going on etc.; the creepy surroundings of the mental hospital, portrayal of patients; the explanation of Riker's mental defense tendencies that brought about the dreams etc.
    The bad: I thought it was a bit frustrating to watch about half-way through - was unable to see the point; the ending resolution ("it was all a dream") is a bit of a copout and Riker's perfectly fine again. Would have been good to get more resolution about the aliens from the world where Riker was supposed to go undercover. Too much time spent on the back and forth between Riker's dreams and reality and not enough on his undercover mission on the alien world.
    I don't see how Jammer can rate this 4 stars but I don't get what's up with those who crap on this episode. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    It's not an episode I'd like to re-watch although I'd probably pick up on some clever things in it if I did. I think this episode deserves 2.5/4 stars, mainly for what has to be one of Frakes' strongest performances of the series.

    I just can't follow this episode. Usually I'm good with stuff like, but I just cannot figure out, no matter how many rewatches and careful pauses and charts, what's all going on each time his reality changes and which one is what.

    Awesome episode, not hard to follow at all after a few rewatches.

    One of Trek's better mind game episodes. And Trek has quite a few.

    I always gave the Tilonians an alternate name.

    The Macedians, as in the Mickey-"D"-ans, as in McDonalds, as in the golden arches on their foreheads.

    All in good fun of course.

    John gives this half a star and says it is predictable? You would have to be on LSD to think this episode is predictable.

    And Jay you dont like this episode because you were a mental patient? Get tougher skin dude! This episode is about aliens abducting Riker to gain some sort of information. Not to be PC about mental hospitals!

    John gives this half a star and says it is predictable? You would have to be on LSD to think this episode is predictable.

    And Jay you dont like this episode because you were a mental patient? Get tougher skin dude! This episode is about aliens abducting Riker to gain some sort of information. Not to be PC about mental hospitals!


    Kindly fuck off about Jay's experience with mental health. You have no idea what you're talking about, and you're belligerent about it to boot. Two very annoying tendencies to co-occur.

    Great story. It respects the intelligent TNG viewer, at the expense of causing frustration to the other kind...

    O' brien would never pull this off in a million shots.

    This was always a favorite of mine. For once we get to see Riker out of his comfort zone! Also Data was very creepy as the asylum doctor.

    I agree with you Kapages.


    Get over yourself. This is a TV show. We all have problems, and Ive been there before. I didn't disparage him or his "condition" in any way. Maybe you should heed my advice and try not being offended by everything for a change. And quit hiding behind political correctness to the point where you can't even think for yourself.

    3 Stars

    The whole episode is one big, psychotic breakdown, which is both good and bad. Frakes is a good physical actor due to how he "lumbers" around. How cool would it have been if his character still suffered the effects of his mental illness for the rest of the series?

    Someone needs to write the play "Frame of Mind" for real

    I thought it was ok , nothing more nothing less.......hes not a great actor but its what you expect with TV shows there's a lot worse out there than him .......not a bad story , bit different from the norm..... its never going to be your fave episode though because well for me its just not sci fi enough .....6/10

    I was disappointed that we never find out what happened to the people Riker was supposed to rescue. I, for one, wanted to know the outcome.

    Crazy mess. Literally.

    The woman talking to her spoon was a good moment. The rather was rather tiresome.

    At least it was a whole episode of Riker without his damned trombone. Or him trying to bone someone.

    Every time I see Riker leave a room it reminds me of Nathan Lane doing his John Wayne walk in The Birdcage.

    Feakes did good here, but the way he screamed "no!" Was sooooo bad. However, he carried every other scene wonderfully.

    It's just hard to look good next to Patrick Stewart.

    3 star episode. Liked the story and the way it kept me guessing


    This was a good Riker episode. It did feel like a torture theme too close to Picard's episode with torture. The ending was also pretty quick but not bad at all.

    The moody psychological structure worked for me.

    I don't agree with the comments, that this is one of those "it was just a dream" endings. Someone just waking up in the end usually entails undoing a whole lot of story, plot and character developments being gone or something major happening that is undone. This one almost immediately shows you that stuff is happening in Riker's head, so the question is just what is causing it and how he got there.
    We are not lead to believe that what he is experiencing is reality (unless you spend most of your time just simply thinking oh, which one of this is real.

    This definitely isn't a four star episode to me. I was surprised to see that rating on coming to this page. Strong performance, for sure, and as a viewer who's currently damn near the point of hallucination (tl;dr: severe insomnia exacerbated by being expected to work both night shifts and day shifts at unpredictable times; it ain't fun), I can't say Riker didn't ring true. But it got tedious at a point. Yeah, yeah, enough of the reality switches. Cut to the point already.

    The lasting impression I got from the episode wasn't helped by its final scene, which struck me as being *really* bad in its direction. We get Riker destroying the asylum set, and I'm all ready for this to be a cathartic explosion of destructive energy focused squarely on him -- but instead we get a wide shot of him ripping some panelling off, and that's it. Come onnnn.

    (... also, while I'm not usually one to rag on decades-old TV for less-than-optimal effects -- hell, I grew up with bubble-wrap monsters on Doctor Who -- the "glass shattering" on the various settings/people looked like a bad PowerPoint slide transition. Took me out of the scenes.)

    One of the better performances from Frakes. I don't really expect him to carry high-tension for an episode but he does it.

    It would have been cool if TNG was coming to an end but Berman or somebody wanted to create a sci-fi thriller and this was how they introduced the series. Minus the return to the Enterprise, of course. It turns out Riker is just a murderer with a vivid imagination.

    If it's just a dream and he's going crazy, they could have gotten lewder with Troi. It's not like they never did that before. Maybe even Crusher. I thought I saw a Space Candle in the mental ward common area, let's get down.

    Good high concept Braga.

    But yes, I definitely notice how often the crew is involved in a play. I’ve was never a big fan, but at least this one didn’t have Data talking about method acting.

    Not bad and solid work from Frakes. It looked like the opening scene had Frakes on a two minute long take, playing someone acting. Not bad at all.

    By the way, that’s one crazy weird script Beverly wrote and staged!

    Psychological thriller eh? I hadn't seen this one before and I didn't see it coming. It's genuinely unsettling and really quite clever; the tension and intrigue and mystery builds superbly. I was reminded of The Prisoner, and some of the later UFO episodes.

    That's a real 'wow' moment when Riker fires the phaser on himself and we see that the reality we thought we recognised was just another layer of the illusion. Hitchcock would have been proud.

    A few niggles though - the ending is a bit anti-climactic and perfunctory. The emergency transport is a bit too easy. Frakes acts out of his skin here, but should we really see Riker acting as well as he does, in the play? Frakes is an actor, Riker isn't.

    And on a Starship with a number of serviceable holodecks, why would you have a set constructed and dismantled by a stage crew?

    Anyway - not really the sort of thing I watch TNG for but nonetheless superb for that. Bravo.

    Didn't care for this episode one little bit. After the first ten minutes it was clear that nothing was real and therefore no scene made a darn bit of difference. There was no plot just a lot of yelling and posturing until the final merciful reveal, ending the whole charade. 1.5 stars.

    Always enjoyed this ep. Solid 3 stars for me. One bit I never quite got - did the play actually take place? The ending implies it did as Beverly says the stage crew are going to pull down the set - but I can't see where in episode it would happen if 95% of it was "a dream".

    I might be misremembering if they revealed it explicitly, but I think I figured that the play did happen but before Riker went on the mission.

    Very good theatrical acting and quite a good plot.
    The problem.
    Somehow I did not like it.

    If enterprise knew coordinates to beam riker up why not go back and attack lab or bring abductor to justice?

    I'd give this one 2.5 stars: 2 for the quality of the episode, + a half star for my bias toward fiction where the main character has to question reality. Supposedly, Riker is kidnapped and hooked up to the Mindfuq 2000 machine because his captors want information. But they never try to gain that information. They just spend the whole episode fucking with his head. Which is kinda entertaining, but retroactively diminished by the reveal. I suppose they could have explained that by saying they hadn't reached that stage yet, because Riker was fighting it for the whole episode, which would have taken all of 3 seconds - but they didn't.

    The episode seemed to depend a lot on the viewer's familiarity with hoary clichés about mental institutions and mental health. The unhelpful, condescending doctors, the abusive nurse(s), the confidant-turns-out-to-be-crazy switcheroo, and of course Riker's generic "crazy person" illness. You know, hallucinations (misidentified as delusions), twitchiness, violent emotional outbursts, sweaty heavy breathing, bulging eyes, inability to complete sentences or make commonsense observations...

    I am also of the opinion that Frakes, as much as I respect him as a director and a Trek alumnus, is the weakest actor on the show. He basically has two modes: normal and shouty. I liken his performance in this episode to Adam Sandler's in "Punch Drunk Love." The role leaned heavily into his instincts as an actor, and while adding "twitchy" to his shouty mode represents a 50% increase in his acting modes, I can't quite agree this was a great performance. It was just tailor-made to fit his strengths.

    Anyway, I was relieved to see a few people upthread managed to take this Riker episode as their cue to continue irrationally bashing the women on the show. Solid evidence I'm still in the real world. Whew.

    "But they never try to gain that information. They just spend the whole episode fucking with his head."

    I thought they cleared that up pretty well in the coda with Riker and Troi. The aliens weren't feeding Riker the whole mental hospital shifting reality mind screw, that was created by his brain resisting the mind probe. Much like in The Inner Light, Riker's entire "dream" could've taken place over merely 10 minutes of real time when to him it seemed like days had passed.

    Absolutely brilliant. One of my favourite episodes. A Kafka-esque slide into paranoia, mental fear, questioning the very nature of reality, memory, and identity. Only the fact that it’s an episode of TNG had me knowing that “nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about”. Had it been a movie however, I would really not have known what was real and what was not.

    Frakes is not Patrick Stewart, so his performance can’t be compared with “There… are… FOUR LIGHTS!”. But it’s nevertheless a very solid effort, and better than anything he’d done before as Riker.

    I also loved the effects - the shattering of walls and scenery which was much more effective than the “dissolve” they’d do now using Final Cut Pro.

    The opening was also effective - the close-up on Riker’s face maintaining the illusion of reality, while only Data’s voice as the doctor told us it was a play performance.

    It’s not typical Trek, but it’s worth its 4 stars.


    - … (it was all a dream") …

    No, it wasn’t. It was all Riker’s mind creating constructs as a defence against the effects of an alien mind probe.

    Narratively this is an "it was all a dream" episode, because everything we saw didn't actually happen, save for the last minute or two. It fits the trope, even if it technically wasn't a "dream" per se.

    @Jeffrey Jakucyk

    I understand your point, but the phrase “ it was all a dream” was used specifically in terms of it being a cop out - which it wasn’t of course. Though it was - inevitably - a bit of an anticlimax (how else could they have ended a Trek episode without damage to a regular crew member?)

    @Tyler (2016)

    “I can understand how the ‘it was all a dream’ ending could disappoint people.”

    At least Riker didn’t wake up and find Patrick Duffy in the sonic shower.


    What a mind trip! It gave me tingles down my spine a few times. One of Star Trek's bestest episodes ever!

    I say, jolly good performance by the boy Frakes there. You know, I remember when he was just a young sprog on that show, you know, the one where he tells you it's all made up. What a scamp, pulling the wool over our eyes, just like those dastardly aliens pulled the wool over Riker's eyes, what! Ah, but if it was Jim Kirk in their foul clutches, he'd have seen right through their sham and given them a knuckle sandwich.

    Had this been an episode of an anthology show I would have been gripped throughout. I would have constantly been looking for clues, wondering who the protagonist really was. But this is TNG. We know he is Riker, we know by the end of the episode he will back on the Enterprise. There is no real sense of mystery, the episode is just a waiting game, the story to unravel and reach its inevitable conclusion. 2 stars.

    The one nagging flaw in this episode that leaves it unresolved, is when did Riker actually go down to the planet in reality, assuming the beverly play took place before it (and that's where he got the mental ward from) then that would mean the play was over before he went down, but at the beginning they make it seem that he hasn't done it yet? Was the beginning even real? When captain Picard was briefing him about the mission, we assumed that was real, but just before that, he is in sick bay and Beverly is joking about him trying to get out of doing the play..but didn't the play already happen at that point if everything was still real? Direct contradiction. I also felt the whole fake plot that he killed someone was unnecessary, they could have just kept it as the delusions, it was unclear how that fit in or made it realistic. Maybe it was supposed to connect to his real mission of spying on the planet but that ended up making it more confusing when it turned out to be fake.

    Oh and the other thing was Riker's instant memory loss. He instantly forgets his name when the hospital guy asks him, yet remembers that he was just on a does that work?

    I'd have to watch it again, but I remember having the idea that Riker has already been captured by the start of the episode.

    "He instantly forgets his name when the hospital guy asks him, yet remembers that he was just on a does that work?"

    Because the whole thing was in his mind.

    "I'd have to watch it again, but I remember having the idea that Riker has already been captured by the start of the episode."

    Agreed, we don't see anything in reality until the final few minutes of the episode. As Riker said in the coda, "The preparation for the mission, the play, those were recent experiences, fresh in my mind." Based on some of the earlier dialog, it seems the play probably did happen before Riker's mission (assuming Riker's fantasy incorporates accurate depictions of real conversations). What doesn't make as much sense is that the theater set was just left up for days afterwards. When Riker is finally returned to the Enterprise, Crusher says that she and the stage crew were going to tear down the set "tomorrow morning" which suggests some amount of urgency. Maybe the crew didn't have openings in their duty rosters to tear down the set until the next weekend or something like that.

    Of course, this is a Brannon Braga script, and as I've said numerous times before, he always botches details like this in his mind-screw timey-wimey episodes.

    If Riker was just captured at the start, then where did all the stage fright aspect come in? The timeline still seemed totally off for someone who was just "reliving memories" as a result of the aliens probing his mind. The captain was briefing him on the mission BEFORE any of the insane stuff unfolded, unless we assume even that was fake, which is odd because that gave viewers the entire premise of the episode. I also feel Riker should have realized it was off when Worf accidentally grazed him with that weapon. Such a trained warrior into his precision combat training is that careless? Similar thing with Tuvok accidentally slicing Torres in "Barge of the Dead". I also find the instant teleportations and violations of the laws of physics being reduced to "hallucinations" is a little unbelievable in these types of episodes. That's not how insanity works, nor would it be so coherent. I also found the pattern enhancer scene weird, why would they need that to beam him out of a hospital? Why didn't they just beam him directly out of his cell instead of prying open the door and being captured by security. Riker should have realized both places were fake very early on.

    Just watched it again, definitely the episode starts with him already on the table fighting the mind probe.

    One thing I really like about this one is the set design, which is simple and effective, including the nuances in the set changes. Initially the theatre set looks pretty decent, almost realistic, and then of course we're transported into the mental hospital, where the set and Riker's cell are completely realistic. The shifting back and forth between that cell being somewhat realistic and completely realistic foreshadows what Riker says later, about how the events in the hospital seem more real than those on the Enterprise. The nicest touch in this is that, at the end, when Riker comes to dismantle what turns out to have been the real set from the play, it's by far the least realistic, looking practically hand-painted and barely more than a cardboard wall. I really like that we get this third version of it, even though it only appears very briefly at the end.

    My wife pointed out what should be a glaring plot hole to everyone (in the spirit of Braga scripts), which is that of course Riker is clearly the only human in the facility, which is an elephant in the room that's never addressed.

    Does anyone else think the episode title itself may be a pun, since in Riker's fantasy he's being framed for murder? Rethinking the words in the title, it's a frame-job in his mind, rather than a real one: a frame of mind.

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