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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 he informs him 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, Data and Riker perform very well and receive a standing ovation. But after he bows and looks back at the audience, he sees the alien from the turbolift in the front row, not clapping. Disturbed, Riker bows again. The clapping ceases and, when he looks back up, the audience has been replaced by a wall. He turns around to find an alien standing behind him who says, "I can see we have a lot of work to do."

Act Two

When he asks what happened in an accusing way, the doctor sighs, and attempts to determine the cause of his relapse, of 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. On the way, Riker recognizes a doctor who resembles the same alien he bumped into at the turbolift. 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, Jaya, comes over to talk to him. She explains that she is 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. She then pulls a spoon from her sleeve and talks into it. Riker's eyes sink.

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 stabbed someone to death.

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 board the Enterprise.

Act Three

RikerFrameOfMind

Riker in "Frame of Mind".

The play has not yet occurred. It is one hour before curtain and Riker is applying dark makup under his eyes. Riker tells Crusher about his vivid dream. She is astonished; opening night concerns are one thing, but this is quite unusual. She hopes that night they also get a standing ovation.

As he performs the play he is momentarily distracted by an attendant from the hallucination looking at him through the prop door window. Crusher has to remind him of his lines. He then starts hearing noises off the stage and looks around as everyone continues to watch. Data finishes the scene, but Riker turns around to see the alien from the turbolift and the corridor outside the cell in his dream. Enraged, Riker storms off the stage and into the audience, grabs the man by the shoulders, and demands to know what is going on. He shocked to find it is Lt. Suna.

In sickbay, Crusher scans him, and cannot find a cause of the hallucinations. Other than elevated blood pressure, he is physically fine. At his insistence, she scans his body for drugs but cannot find any traces. Finally, no one reported anything strange happening during the performance. She tells him to get some rest so that he can recover from all this.

He walks with Troi and confesses that he feels like an idiot for his behavior. She tells him that everyone understands the stress he has been under during his preparations for the mission on Tilonus IV. According to Data, it was unorthodox but ingenious to use an improvisation to draw in the audience. He continues his conversation with Troi but stops in his tracks when he hears the doctor's disembodied voice, telling him he needs another treatment. Riker excuses himself and heads for his quarters.

After the door of the turbolift opens, he sees the corridor of the hospital leading to his cell. He closes his eyes, tells himself that it is not real, and when he opens his eyes again the usual corridor of the Enterprise is there. Turning a corner, he encounters Jaya, the inmate with the "communicator". When he runs to his quarters, the doors clank shut. When he turns, he finds he is back in the cell.

Act Four

In the common area, Riker talks to his doctor, explaining that he wants to be here, where things make more sense; 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, but interacting with holographic projections of hidden parts of his psyche can be disturbing. The only other option is synaptic reconstruction, a medical procedure that will permanently alter Riker's personality.

As the reflection therapy begins, Riker examines how he felt before he supposedly became a killer. A holographic representation is created from each aspect of his personality; each manifestation being a member of the crew. Troi is Riker's feelings, and talks about being cold and frightened in the dark. Worf his actions, and talks of being watched and defending himself. Picard is his attempt to rationalize, and fills in more details about the incident. He was in an alley and was attacked from behind. Finally the alien from the turbolift – who it is now revealed as Mr. Suna, the hospital administrator – is the one who apparently attacked him. Both Riker and his doctor are confused as to what this might mean.

Riker's reflections then take a left turn. Troi, Worf, and Picard all try to convince him that the Enterprise is reality, he is in danger, and he is being tricked. He finally tells them to leave him alone, and the holographic projector shuts down. 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 black 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 straight forward. She says someone has been accessing his long term memory and he is in neural shock. Picard tells him that he was abducted during the mission and put in a psychiatric ward. Crusher heals an identical cut on the left side of his face, which still hurts. Yet it reopens and starts to bleed.

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 apart. Riker tries to focus - 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 and it shatters.

He is back in the play, but Suna is where Data should be on stage. 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 apart for the last time.

He wakes up on a table, a neural drain probe in the side of his head. Looking around, he soon locates the ceremonial 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.

"Captain's log, stardate 46778.1: Commander Riker has returned safely from his mission to Tilonus IV. Dr. Crusher has repaired the damage to his long-term memory."

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 last several days, I've felt like everybody's been staring at me or talking about me. It's as if I was in "Frame of Mind"."

- Riker, to Troi


"The play is full of disturbing images. People losing their minds, being tortured by doctors. I can't get it out of my mind."

- Riker, on "Frame of Mind"


"The ship again?"

- Syrus, to Riker


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

- Riker and Mavek


"Well, we have one hour before curtain. How are you feeling?"
"I feel like an actor."

- Crusher and Riker


"NO! LET ME OUT OF HERE! LET ME OUT OF HERE! HELP ME! Help me."

- Riker, in his cell at the Tilonian mental institution


"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

anarchy; 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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