WARNING: The following post contains some highly suspicious spoilers about this week's TNG, titled "Suspicions". Those not wishing to see these spoilers had better get while the getting is good. Eeeeyugh. I can see what the writers were trying to do here, but it simply didn't work at all. More after a synopsis:
Dr. Crusher, about to have a dishonorable end to her career, tells Guinan how she came to be in those straits. It began at a conference, when she took an interest in the work of the Ferengi scientist Dr. Reyga and decided to help him gain acceptance by inviting him and several other major scientists in subspace shielding research on board the Enterprise to discuss his idea about "metaphasic shielding". Only four others showed up, however: Kurak, a somewhat touchy Klingon; T'Pan, director of the Vulcan Science Academy; T'Pan's husband, Dr. Christopher; and Jo'Bril, a very enigmatic Takaran.
All the scientists are skeptical of Reyga's findings, and only agree to a field-test when Jo'Bril offers to serve as pilot, sending a shuttlecraft into a nearby stellar corona. The test is brought to an abrupt end, however, when Jo'Bril collapses on board the shuttle and dies when returned to sickbay. Beverly is upset enough by this, but even more so when she cannot find a cause of death -- in fact, given Jo'Bril's strange physiology, he should still be alive. Picard tries to get her to take a break, acknowledging that she's knotted up inside about losing someone "on a mission", as it were.
Beverly cancels further tests in light of the circumstances, and shortly thereafter Dr. Reyga is found dead, clutching a plasma inducer. Beverly refuses to believe Reyga committed suicide, however, and hopes the autopsy will reveal another cause of death. Picard puts a stop to her plan, saying that Reyga's family have already been contacted and will not allow an autopsy until the Ferengi death ritual has been performed. Glum, Bev decides to instead question the other scientists about the past day's events.
T'Pan and Christopher do not take kindly to her questioning, with Christopher becoming indignant. Eventually, though, Christopher admits that he heard Kurak and Reyga get into a bitter argument not long before Jo'Bril's death. Bev heads to Kurak's lab to get some answers -- but Kurak is not interested, instead throwing Bev into a bulkhead. Kurak, too, eventually gives out some information, saying that Reyga had falsely accused her of sabotaging the field-test. Bev leaves, no closer to an answer than before -- and against all regulations and medical ethics, performs the autopsy.
It turns up nothing useful, and has the potential of causing a diplomatic incident with the Ferengi government. Beverly is taken off duty and told to prepare for a formal hearing. However, as she concludes this tale of woe to Guinan, Guinan convinces her that if she still thinks there's a murderer on board, she shouldn't be sitting around in her quarters.
Beverly agrees, and snoops around some more. After Data discusses possible methods of sabotage, and adds that a tetryon field would be created by the only possible way, Beverly tries to access the autopsy files on Jo'Bril. She manages (with the help of Nurse Ogawa, who is still on active duty and fiercely loyal), but finds nothing until she rescans Jo'Bril and looks very specifically for tetryon traces.
She finds them, but realizes the only way to prove the device was sabotaged is to retest it herself, and swipes a shuttle to do so. The test is successful, but a very alive Jo'Bril stows away on the shuttle and attempts to take it back to Takara for future development as a weapon. Bev manages to fight him off, killing him in the process, and is fully reinstated.
Well, that takes care of that. (One nice thing about this show -- it was a lot easier to synopsize than the last two.) Now, on to some comments.
There's nothing particularly wrong with the *idea* of a murder mystery with Bev playing detective, or with the two new-to-Trek styles we had here (those two being story-through-flashbacks and "film noir" narration). However, the combination of the two, or at least the combination of the two examples of it we had here, simply fell utterly flat.
For starters, this fell victim to the same problem the original "Blade Runner" had -- _way too much narration_. Nearly all of Beverly's voiceovers were completely superfluous; they lent nothing to the episode in terms of either information or atmosphere. (For instance, she says something about how the autopsy on Jo'Bril was ineffective because of his strange physiology. Picard then comes in and the Bev on screen tells him what the voice-over Bev just told us. That's really not needed.) A voice-over narrative can certainly work in filmed material -- look at "Apocalypse Now" or the recently-concluded [sigh...] "The Wonder Years". In both of those cases, we got to get inside the narrator's head. Here, it was telling us thoughts and feelings we either could already see or *should* have been able to see rather than be told. No, thank you.
Add to that some utterly _atrocious_ dialogue, and you start seeing something that's almost a parody of old detective movies. For instance: "I also realized that investigating a murder was far more perilous than I expected..." or words to that effect. I mean, come _on_. (Bev's "Is there something you're not telling me?" was also way too obvious, as was Troi's "I'm concerned about Beverly.")
Then, unfortunately, we turn to the story problems, which were also cheap and plentiful this time around. For starters, there is a major, major problem involving just what an autopsy does.
These days, anyone who's been autopsied isn't going to be walking around afterward. In TNG's era, maybe it's not invasive -- but if it isn't, then autopsying Reyga is simply not an issue. "Suspicions" tried to have it both ways: autopsies needed to be invasive enough that Reyga's family wouldn't allow it, yet noninvasive enough that Jo'Bril can remain perfectly intact while feigning death. That's silly, plain and simple.
Then, of course, there's the point that after all the heart-pounding about how Reyga couldn't possibly have killed himself, we never even get to find out whether he did or not. That's an issue Bev certainly needed to see resolved -- why didn't we?
There are lesser issues as well, such as how Beverly got so good at locking out everybody else from computers, but that's minor compared to the above two. Sloppy, sloppy work.
So, that's poor narrative style and poor plotting. What else could there ... oh, yes. Poor acting.
Admittedly, after the tour de force for everyone that was "Frame of Mind" last week, nearly anything would seem disappointing. Even so, though, this was not a top-notch affair in terms of performances. Although Gates McFadden managed to do a nice job much of the time, she couldn't rise above the shoddy material she had to work with (e.g. her big scene with Kurak, which was making me wince all throughout). As has been pointed out in past discussions about TNG actors, that doesn't make her a bad actress, just not one of the absolute top-quality ones that can make any material shine -- after all, she did wonders in "Remember Me" and "Cause and Effect", to name two shows where she's had a prominent role.
Past that, though, there are more problems. Although I quite liked Peter Slutsker as Dr. Reyga, I can barely believe that the same Tricia O'Neil who stunned us as Rachel Garrett in "Yesterday's Enterprise" was reduced to snarling through a semi-Slavic accent here as Kurak. Yick. And as for T'Pan and Christopher, let's just repeat a comment that I made during their questioning:
"Gee, I didn't think Vulcans usually meowed quite so much."
There were elements of this I liked. I thought that the very early stages of the episode _did_ do a decent job with all of the scientists -- it was overdone, but ego has certainly gotten in the way of real scientific advances before. I also particularly liked Reyga's anger at being accused of faking data -- there really *is* no worse accusation to make to a serious scientist. (I'll bet a minor limb that that set of lines came from Naren Shankar rather than Joe Menosky.) I also thought that, even if it was done poorly, the attempt to give Bev something more to do than sit in the medical lab was a much-needed change of pace for the character.
Unfortunately, that change of pace was a stumble right into the ground. There's not much "Suspicions" has going for it -- let's hope "Rightful Heir" gets us back on track.
So, the numbers:
Plot: 2. Where? Plot Handling: 4. Some nice camerawork here and there, but hurt a great deal by heavily excessive narration. Characterization: 4. The intentions were good, I'm sure, but once Reyga was killed I didn't much care about any of it.
OVERALL: 3. The most disappointing piece of work since "Aquiel" -- let's hope it's just as much of a fluke.
NEXT WEEK: Worf has to choose between god and country.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) BITNET: tlynch@citjulie INTERNET: firstname.lastname@example.org UUCP: ...!email@example.com "The director's cut gets rid of the narration." -- me, on "Suspicions", cribbing from "Mystery Science Theater 3000" Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note. This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.