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The Mind's Eye

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at April 24, 2009 - 8:46 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Mind's Eye' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: LaForge is on his way to a scientific seminar on Risa when a Romulan warbird appears in his path. The Romulans send an impostor to the conference, tractor the shuttle and beam LaForge aboard their ship, where they use the neural interface with LaForge's VISOR to reprogram him to follow their orders. Meanwhile, the Enterprise picks up Klingon envoy Kell, who is trying to put down an uprising in the Kriosian system amidst accusations that the Federation is helping the rebels. Klingon Governor Vagh and his people intercept a cache of weapons that appear to be from Starfleet, but Data and LaForge conclude that the weapons are imperfect duplicates produced by the Romulans. Under mind control, LaForge - who has returned with false memories of the seminar on Risa - tries to transport real Starfleet weapons to Krios. When the Klingons detect the transport, Vagh send warships. Picard believes that the Romulans must be responsible for this attempt to spark a war between the Klingons and the Federation, but he cannot track down the crewmember responsible for using the transporter for the illegal transfer of weapons. Worf concludes that only a handful of officers are capable of reprogramming isolinear chips to erase a transport record, and LaForge proves to be the only one without an alibi. Kell asks Picard to invite Vagh aboard to witness the investigation into the crime; then, in secret, Kell orders LaForge to kill Vagh when the governor arrives and claim that Starfleet gave orders to support the Klingon rebels. All the while, Data is detecting inexplicable e-band emissions of the sort that might interact with a VISOR interface. Suspicious, he examines LaForge's shuttlecraft and discovers that it was subjected to a tractor beam. Just as LaForge is preparing to shoot Vagh, Data orders Worf to apprehend the engineer and stops the asssassination attempt. Only Captain Picard and Ambassador Kell were with LaForge each time the emissions were detected, so Data surmises that one of them must have a transmitter. In order to avoid being searched, Kell asks for asylum on the Enterprise, but Vagh takes him into custody. Later, Troi begins to help LaForge reconstruct his true memories.

Analysis: "The Mind's Eye" is The Next Generation's version of The Manchurian Candidate, and it's a terrific one, maintaining all the suspense of a story in which the compromised agent doesn't realize he's the man that he himself is searching for, plus adding some juicy science fiction that for once makes LaForge's VISOR more than a quirky oddity. Any show can do a sleeper-assassin storyline a la Telefon, but only Star Trek could contribute this uniquie piece of sci-fi tech to give it an unexpected twist, and it's a tribute to how well the show is put together that it can maintain suspense even though the audience knows all along that LaForge will be the one responsible for whatever atrocity is coming, which also means that there can't be permanent consequences like his arrest or execution. It's a neat twist to let the audience see through LaForge's compromised eyepiece, showing us how he views O'Brien in the simulation where the Romulans order him to shoot and kill his friend. It makes matters that much more chilling, later in the episode, when LaForge spots O'Brien in Ten-Forward and approaches just as he did in the Romulan test sequence; this time, LaForge only spills a drink over O'Brian's head, but there's a moment of horrifying unreality where it looks like a smiling Geordi is going to murder the transporter chief.

This is a plot-driven episode much more than a character episode, which means that the pacing is taut and sharp, but there are few moments of introspection where we get any insight into LaForge as a human being. In the thoughts planted in his mind by the Romulans, he had a great time at the artificial intelligence seminar, coming in second in a chess tournament and meeting an attractive woman, but it's hard to say whether the Romulans chose these memories because they thought they'd be in character for Geordi or whether Geordi remembers enjoying those memories because he was brainwashed by the time he received them. It's very hard to convey a sense of how it feels to be different, so even in this episode where we get to see through LaForge's artificial "eyes," we don't get much of a sense of how it sets him apart - the pain he's said before that he feels, the discomfort of knowing that he can perceive far more than a human yet will never see things the way his friends do. I don't think it's odd that he seems to relate better to Data most of the time than his human associates, for Data, too, must live with the knowledge that while he can do things none of the others can do, those very talents set him apart from ordinary people.

In fact, the most dramatic character moment in the episode belongs to Worf. "The Mind's Eye" is the true start of an arc that encompasses the fourth season finale and the fifth season premiere - it introduces Sela in the shadows of the Romulan warbird, though she is never named. I remember getting a thrill the first time I heard her speak, not because I recognized Denise Crosby's voice, but because the Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident was my favorite guest character on the original series and I loved the possibility of another woman commanding the Romulans. It's apparent from the start that the Romulans have been plotting to use LaForge to drive a wedge between the Klingons and Federation - a struggle that has particular significance for Worf. When Kell comes aboard, he tells Picard that he doesn't want to work with someone who suffered discommendation by the Council, but Picard insists that Worf is the best security officer on board and Kell acquiesces. Does he do this because he believes he can manipulate the outcast Klingon, or because he suspects that Worf won't be as aggressive investigating another Klingon? We don't learn that, but it's obvious that Kell's opinion of Worf's actions during the conflict with Duras matter to Worf even though Kell is a stranger. It's impossible to fault Worf for not suspecting Kell - not even Picard suspects Kell - yet the irony of Kell's actions, betraying some of his own people to the Romulans just as Worf's father was accused of doing, ironically resonates more strongly than what the Romulans do to LaForge.

If the episode has a flaw, it's that it doesn't leave time for a denouement. Though we get a few minutes of LaForge working with Troi, realizing that he has conflicting sets of memories of what happened during the voyage to Risa, the series dismisses the long-term implications of his abduction; he's back at job right away, without dealing with either the psychological or political implications of his having been compromised. If he were a real person rather than a television character, I suspect Starfleet would order him to a starbase and spend months studying him, both to determine whether he was chosen for secret Romulan sympathies and to figure out what else the Romulans might have ordered him to do in months or years ahead. They've uncovered a huge flaw in VISOR technology - now LaForge knows to be on guard constantly for e-band transmissions, but surely there are other ways to disrupt the signal between his VISOR and his brain. After what he's been through, once he remembers all of it, that possibility ought to be terrifying, not just to Geordi but to the people serving with him. The chief engineer is perfectly placed to disrupt any system on the Enterprise, then to cover his tracks so well that he and Data are the only people even capable of unraveling the sabotage. I'd love to have seen just a bit more of LaForge coming to terms not just with the personal violation of having had his memories rewritten, but the bigger implication: that the very device making it possible for him to serve on board the Enterprise may also represent the greatest threat to him and the rest of the crew.

As a riff on The Manchurian Candidate, A Clockwork Orange and the original series' "Dagger of the Mind," "The Mind's Eye" is a terrific piece of television. The thriller plot is superbly executed and enhances what becomes the defining arc of the next season - the emerging conflict among the Klingons, Romulans and Federation. Even knowing that the Romulans won't succeed in destroying LaForge for their own ends because that just doesn't happen on Star Trek, this story's a nail-biter.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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