Star Trek The Next Generation: Frame of Mind

"I may be surrounded by insanity, but I am not insane!"

Number One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

This is the second time this season that the writers have decided to subject one of their main characters to torture. But unlike 'Chain of Command', which was essentially a two-man piece between Patrick Stewart and David Warner, 'Frame of Mind' is a Jonathan Frakes solo showcase, a chance for him to flex his acting muscles. Of course, there's acting and then there's ACTING!!! This episode has some of the former, but a little too much of the latter for my liking.

But a bit of hammy acting is the least of this episode's problems.

Episodes like this work best when we're as much in the dark about what is happening as the central character. There is no question that what is happening to Riker in this episode is all fake. Next Gen is just not the type of show to suddenly tell us six seasons in that Will Riker's entire life is a delusion. The mystery here shouldn't be whether or not this is really happening (we know it isn't), but how and why this is happening. And for that to work we should be just as clueless about how Riker ended up in the asylum as he is. But Brannon Braga, who wrote this episode, fumbles this right from the start, telling us in the second scene that Riker is being sent on an undercover mission to a planet in political turmoil, where people are being subjected to torture. From that point on we're a good three acts ahead of Riker and have to sit and wait impatiently for him to catch up to us.

This episode's other big problem is that for what is clearly meant to be disturbing psychological horror it just isn't really that disturbing. Asylums are popular settings for horror stories because, like convents and children's homes, there's just something inherently terrifying about them. This asylum, though, isn't terrifying at all. Not even a little bit creepy. The whole place is a bland looking as a bank and the staff there are, at worst, a bit mean. Even the torments that Riker is subjected to are pretty tame compared to the ordeal the Cardassians put Picard through earlier this season. Braga really should've just stuck to high-concept sci-fi episode like 'Cause and Effect' because they were clearly what he was best at.

Well, some of the time, at least.

Never forget. 
Notes and Quotes

--What happened to the missing Federation research team on Tilonus IV? They are never mentioned once Riker is returned to the real Enterprise. Were they just part of the delusion? If so, then why the hell was he there in the first place?

--Is Crusher's play something she wrote herself or is it a popular 24th century play by whoever their equivalent of Chekhov or Pinter is?

--The final scenes where Riker literally starts shattering his reality are unintentionally comical due to the primitive computer effects used.

--The inmate with the spoon was played by Susanna Thompson, who later played Lenara Kahn in the Deep Space Nine episode "Rejoined" and took over as the Borg Queen on Voyager.


Mavek: "I hope you're hungry! They're serving spiny lobe-fish today."

Two out of four communicator spoons.
--
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

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