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Frame of Mind (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"Frame of Mind"
TNG, Episode 6x21
Production number: 40276-247
First aired: 3 May 1993
146th of 176 produced in TNG
146th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
267th of 728 released in all
Riker experiences a schizophrenic episode
Written By
Brannon Braga

Directed By
James L. Conway
46778.1 (2369)
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Riker thinks he is losing his mind when reality keeps shifting between an alien hospital and the Enterprise, where he is rehearsing a play.

Summary

Act One

Commander William T. Riker is in a play, rehearsing on the USS Enterprise-D with Commander Data. It is a dark story of an insane man, who is trapped in an insanity ward, where the doctors torture him. After a short but excellent performance, he expresses doubt, not sure if he is right for the part. Doctor Beverly Crusher reassures him that he is.

He repeats his lines in the corridor, making several other people wonder about him. But when he gets into the turbolift, he sees an alien in a science officer's uniform he has never seen before. He ignores it at the moment.

During his next briefing with Captain Jean-Luc Picard informs them that they will be going to Tilonus IV. Their government has fallen to anarchy, and there was a Federation research team on the planet. Riker's mission is to find where they are hiding from the factions and contact them.

Lieutenant Worf's briefing is informative, but forceful. He wants to make sure Riker knows every single word. During the demonstration of how to perform a blade-waving ceremony, Worf accidentally cuts Riker's face, requiring him to go to sickbay. Doctor Crusher heals the wound perfectly, but is surprised when it continues to pain him. Unfortunately, she has to deal with another medical emergency when a crewman enters who had a plasma torch blow up in his face. As the medical staff are treating him, Riker just looks at him, and sees blame in his eyes.

Later, he tells Counselor Deanna Troi about this and several other times people have been staring at him. He has been feeling restless and uneasy. She advises that it is nothing to worry about; he is not used to the feelings the role requires him to explore. He should not be concerned.

He looks behind her to see the alien again. He asks Troi about him, but she doesn't see him. He decides to check the personnel logs tomorrow.

During the play, Riker performs very well. He uses his emotions to great success. But when everyone applauds for his performance, he sees the alien in the next row, not clapping. Suddenly, as he looks at the background of the room in his ward, the alien appears behind him. When he turns, he is astonished to find he is in the real room.

Act Two

When he asks what happened in an accusing way, the doctor sighs, and attempts to determine the cause of his relapse; he is here for having delusions that he is on the Enterprise. He asks Riker a long list of questions, to find surprising answers. Riker doesn't know who he is but his memories of the ship are vivid. At the doctor's suggestion, he is reminded (and remembers) that they contacted an Admiral at Starbase 29, and they had never heard of him. The doctor standing before him continues reminding him of things that really happened. He tried to escape, and hit his head on the door, which is why it hurts.

But Riker is still wondering about all this. He still doesn't know where he is or why he is here. The doctor, Syrus answers where he is, in ward 47, but will not explain why. He simply compliments Riker on his excellent progress and leaves.

The attendants soon arrive, and take him to the cafeteria for lunch, through a corridor with sounds of screams and angry doctors marching by. In the cafeteria, no one is eating. All are playing games or building crafts. The attendant sits him down, and fetches his lunch.

One of the other inmates comes over to talk to him. She explains that she was also a Starfleet officer and she and several more on the USS Yorktown were captured and brought here. She says she has made a communicator and will ask for a beam out. The communicator however, turns out to be a spoon.

The attendant watches him while he eats and makes jokes about Riker's mental state. Riker begins to remember things but the picture is incomplete, so he asks the guard. He says that Riker was brought in screaming, his hands and clothes covered with blood and that he mutilated someone in addition to killing him.

This event is something Riker doesn't remember. When the guard further provokes him, Riker jumps up and grabs him by the throat, making another guard rush over and sedate him with a very large needle. Riker wakes up in his quarters on the Enterprise.

Act Three

RikerFrameOfMind

Riker in "Frame of Mind".

Riker tells Doctor Crusher about all this. She is astonished; opening night concerns are one thing, but this is quite unusual. She hopes that night they also get a standing ovation. It is one hour before curtain.

He performs the play a second time, except this time, he sees the alien in the window, just for a split second. Doctor Crusher has to remind him of his lines. He then starts hearing noise off the stage as everyone continues to watch. Data continues, and finishes the scene, but Riker sees the alien doctor in the audience again. This time, Riker is feeling bold, so he singles out the alien, and demands to know what is going on. He grabs the audience member by the shoulders to find it is Lt. Suna.

Crusher scans him, and cannot find a cause of the hallucinations. There are no drugs in his system, nothing strange happened in the performance. She tells him to get some rest so that he can recover from all this.

Despite his surprising turn at the end, his performance was excellent. According to Data, they considered it an improvisation to draw in the audience.

On his way to his quarters, he hears the doctor's voice, telling him he needs another treatment, and after the door of the turbolift opens, he sees the corridor of the hospital. He closes his eyes, tells himself that it is not real, and when he opens back his eyes the usual corridor of the Enterprise is there. On his way, he sees Jaya, the inmate. When he runs to his quarters, and the door closes behind him, he turns, and finds he is back in the cell.

Act Four

In the common area, Riker talks to the doctor, explaining that he wants to be here; reality isn't real on the ship. He still isn't sure if he killed someone, but the doctor finds this progress encouraging.

However, the Doctor has bad news. The case must be decided one way or another within the next few days. They will use reflection therapy to determine if he is fit to stand trial. It's not painful, just interacting with holographic projections. If the therapy fails, then synaptic reconstruction will be necessary, a medical procedure that will permanently alter Riker's personality.

As the reflection therapy begins, Riker talks about his feelings. A holographic representation is created from each aspect of his personality; each manifestation being a member of the crew. Troi is Riker's feelings, Worf his actions and Picard is his attempt to rationalize, and the alien – who it is now revealed as Mr. Suna, the hospital administrator – is the one who attacked him.

Riker's reflections then take a left turn. They all try to convince him that the Enterprise is reality, he is in danger, and he is being tricked. He finally tells them no, and they disappear. The doctor says he has made progress, and they will continue later.

Later, when he is eating, Doctor Crusher, dressed in drab clothing, walks over and sits down at his table. He tries to ignore her, telling himself that she is an illusion. Crusher explains that he was on an undercover mission, he supposedly killed someone, and the crew is being blocked at every turn to try and get him back. The crew is attempting to unravel a conspiracy. His instructions are to sit tight. No one else seems to see her, so he tells himself it is not real.

After some sleep, he starts hearing noises. Data and Worf appear in commando gear and try to break him out. He shouts, but they take him by force. Before they can get down the corridor, guards arrive to investigate the disturbance. Data and Worf fight them off, and Riker tries to run away. They grab him, transporting him against his will to the Enterprise.

As Crusher gives him her diagnosis, Riker simply stares. Someone has been accessing his long term memory and he is in neural shock. Picard tells him that he was abducted during a mission, and put in a psychiatric ward, as Crusher heals an identical cut on the left side of his face, which still hurts. It starts bleeding again.

He suddenly gets the sense that none of this is real, so he knocks down Worf and grabs his phaser. If it is not real, Riker explains, when he shoots himself, nothing will happen. Turning the phaser on himself, he fires. The world appears to shatter around him.

He appears to be back in his cell and finds the doctor telling the attendants about his failure to respond to reflection therapy. He broke out of his cell, and ran down the corridor, telling them that he was being taken back to his starship. The doctor concludes he will have to perform the synaptic reconstruction. Riker can't figure out why he still has a phaser. The doctor says it is a knife and asks him to hand it over. Riker clutches his face, which is still painful and bleeding. He shoots Mavek, who shatters. Riker tries to piece it together- he can't die while the illusory people and objects around him appear to be destructible. None of this is real, he concludes. He sets it to level 16, enough to destroy half of the building and fires into the wall.

He is back in the play, but Suna is still there. Riker starts demanding answers, and refuses to answer Suna's questions. But when Suna makes a demand, Riker starts bleeding again. He figures out that Suna is lying and trying to manipulate him. When Suna pleads, "Let me help you," Riker replies, "NO!" The audience applauds. He shoves Suna away, and the audience cheers him on as he continues to resist. He pounds the set, and finally he and the scene shatter.

He wakes up on a table, a neural drain probe in the side of his head. Looking around, he soon locates the knife and the secret communicator. Two Tilonians in the room quickly realize he's awake, but Riker fights his way back to his feet. He uses the knife to hold them off and activates the communicator. The Enterprise locks onto Riker and beams him back aboard.

Picard explains what really happened, and Riker remembers it. He was abducted in an alley and attacked him from behind. As he tried to fight them off with the ceremonial knife Worf gave him, Riker's attackers inject him with something. Picard concludes that they were attempting to extract information from him.

Troi explains that everything he saw was a defense mechanism, which allowed his mind to keep its sanity. Most notably, the bleeding coming out of his head exactly corresponded to the point the neural drain device was attached to his head; it was his body warning him he was being injured. Later, Riker returns to the stage where he had previously performed in the play. Crusher tells him that they plan on striking the set in the morning, but he decides to strike the set himself; he couldn't sleep knowing it was still up.

Memorable Quotes

"You're starting to sound angry again. Maybe you need another treatment."
"What I need is to get out of this cell. I've been locked in here for, for days. You've controlled my every move. You've told, you've told me what to eat, and what to think, and what to say, and then when I show a glimmer of independent thought, you strap me down! You inject me with drugs. You call it a treatment!"
"You're becoming agitated."
"You bet I'm agitated! I may be surrounded by insanity, but I'm not insane! And there's nothing you...there isn't...there's nothing...'"" (Riker stops and laughs)
"I'm sorry. Could we go back to, to you're becoming agitated?"
"No. Why don't we take a break for tonight. I think we've made a lot of progress."

- Data, Riker, and Doctor Crusher, rehearsing on the Enterprise


"The ship again?"

- Syrus, to Riker


"I am not that far gone, am I?"
"Of course you are!"

- Riker and Mavek


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

- Mavek, to Riker


"Commander, I must congratulate you on your performance this evening."
"Oh?"
"Your unexpected choice to improvise was an effective method of drawing the audience into the plight of your character. You gave a truly realistic interpretation of multi-infarct dementia."

- Data and Riker

Background Information

Story and production

Frame of Mind set visit

The cast and a set visitor during filming.

Continuity

  • This is the second time that Riker has gotten into trouble and been trapped on an alien world during an undercover mission. The first was in the fourth season episode "First Contact".
  • It is also the second time Riker is trapped in a multi-layered simulation that challenges his memories and perception of reality, as in the episode "Future Imperfect", also of the fourth season.

Reception

  • Jonathan Frakes remarked, ""Frame of Mind" was really dark. It was a terrifying show and was creepy to do. [Director Jim] Conway came back and it was as big a show as I've had to carry. I thought he was very competent at the helm. It was wonderfully dark and I thank Mr. Braga for that." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Naren Shankar commented, "I think this is the best script Brannon has ever written for the series. It was a phenomenally cool first draft and it's an incredibly great episode. It's a darker season this year which is funny because, in general, we're not a very dark bunch. Dark stories are very attractive, they're interesting and the emotions they bring up are attractive because they're powerful and off-putting. We have had some very intense episodes and gut-wrenching stuff. There's not a lot of light moments in "Face of the Enemy" and "Chain of Command"." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

Co-star

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt doubles

Stand-ins

References

Blood; Bloom; communicator; dermal regenerator; Federation; Frame of Mind; neurosomatic process; neurosomatic technique; nisroh; painting; plasma torch; protoplaser; Sanders; spiny lobe-fish; spoon; Stafko; Starfleet Academy; Tilonian; Tilonus IV; Tilonus Institute for Mental Disorders; turbolift; Yorktown, USS; Yosemite, USS


Previous episode:
"The Chase"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6
Next episode:
"Suspicions"

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