The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Frame of Mind

Whilst rehearsing for a play in which he plays a mental patient, Riker feels himself increasingly drawn into the story – to the point where he wakes up in an asylum! The doctors there insist that the Enterprise is a dangerous delusion which he must work to banish – but just what is the true reality behind all this?

Frame of Mind is essentially the mutant lovechild of three previous episodes: there’s “Riker in nested realities” from Future Imperfect, “something is happening to us but we don’t know what” from Schisms and “how can we ever trust what is real?” from Ship in a Bottle. It’s another dark episode, but one which, like so many others, feels like it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

Whilst it’s been done before and will be done again, I liked seeing Riker’s uncertainty as to what was real and what was fake, with him even starting to reject the Enterprise as a delusion. Combining it with his role in Crusher’s play was an obvious trope, but nonetheless one that Frakes pulls off well – whilst Brent Spiner deserves a nod for playing Data-as-creepy-doctor. Yet in some ways that was all the story needed – adding on the “by the way, you’re also a murderer” possibility actually diluted from the main thrust of Riker questioning his sanity. And after this long, elaborate setup, everything is wrapped up relatively swiftly – the curse of the episodic TV series.

Playing a role

  • The ongoing “Picard can’t act” joke continues, as Picard insists that Riker not quit the play for fear that Beverly would be after the captain next. On a ship of 1000 people, only the senior bridge crew are allowed to act?
  • The audience for the play is pretty small considering that Riker and Data are starring – they don’t even have a full house for a show with no repeat performances! You’d think the junior officers would want to attend just for the novelty of it – unless everyone is fed up with seeing them perform plays by now.
  • Riker never questions why he is the only human in this asylum full of Tilonians.
  • One from the previous episode – there are 17 people from non-Federation worlds aboard the Enterprise. Guinan, Ro and Worf are clearly three of those, indicating that the seventeen must be spread across serving Starfleet officers plus civilians.

Summary – Frame of Mind: Wouldn’t it be great if all of TNG was just Riker’s delusion? It would explained why Troi gets violated so much.

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