Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Matter of Perspective   Rewatch 
November 2, 2020 9:17 AM - Season 3, Episode 14 - Subscribe

When Riker is charged with the murder of a prominent scientist, each side uses the holodeck to show their side of the story.

I must apologize for Memory Alpha's lack of social graces.

Story and production
  • Scientific consultant David Krieger recalled that this episode was one of the few times that he was invited in person to a story conference. According to Krieger, the main problem faced by the writing staff was how to threaten the ship, while still maintaining the proposition that holodecks should not, of themselves, create dangerous objects. Krieger noted, "At the whiteboard in Michael Piller's office, I explained my idea of making the holodeck construct act merely as a reflector/concentrator for an outside radiation source. The reconstruction of the dead scientist's laboratory was not itself inherently 'dangerous' (as per the series bible), but in combination with an external radiation source, its geometry made it as effective as the real concentrator in creating the destructive phenomenon the scientist had been studying." Pleased with this solution, the writers decided to temporarily call the radiation field Krieger waves. Krieger was surprised when he discovered that the name was retained in the final episode.
  • According to Krieger, he had included a pseudo-scientific explanation on what the waves actually were ("a field that suppressed the strong nuclear force, making any matter exposed to it fissionable"), but the line was cut from the final episode. As a result, the waves ended up as a MacGuffin.
Sets and props
  • The model used for Dr. Apgar's science station is a re-use of the one used as Regula I in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan which in turn was a re-use of the one for an orbital office complex as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was subsequently used again several times in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • The set regularly used for the observation lounge was redressed to serve as the art studio as seen in the teaser. The table and the wall with the models of the ships named Enterprise were removed making the room a lot bigger.
Continuity
  • Picard is never seen painting again. A deleted scene had Picard throw red paint at his painting after Data's crushing criticism of his work.
Poster's Log:
Gina Hecht, seen in this episode as Dr Apgar's wife, Manua, is better known to many viewers as Jeanie DaVinci, half-owner (with her brother Remo) of the "New York Delicatessen" in the last three seasons of "Mork and Mindy".

Craig Richard Nelson (Chief Investigator Krag) would return to Star Trek one more time, as one of the Vaskan arbiters that views the Doctor's testimony in VOY: "Living Witness".

Juliana 'Juli' Donald (Tayna) also appeared as Emi, a young woman willing to trade oo-mox for self-sealing stem bolts, in DS9: "Prophet Motive".

Data's side-eye when Picard invites criticism of his painting is masterful.

Riker's dismissive responses and worried looks on the bridge around the time Krag first arrives does a lot to sell the idea that maybe Manua's version of the story isn't wholly fabricated. Relatedly, Troi is quite clear that Manua believes the story that she's telling, but never gives us that same level of certainty about Riker's story.

As MacGuffins go, this episode has a pretty good one. Descriptions of the holodeck's capabilities had pretty much solidified by this point. We know that the holodeck can't create dangerous things without explicit override, so the idea that a holodeck recreation could interact with an externality and generate deadly energy beams was an intriguing concept.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
As problematic as parts of it are (we are really riding hard on the "Riker is a player" horse in this one), I genuinely love this episode. Adaptations of Kurosawa's works are some of my favorite pieces of media, and this rare homage to "Rashomon" delivers very well. To an objective observer, all of the stories are plausible; to the interested, subjective observer (us, watching our hero Riker), one story is obviously true and the others are base prevarications.
posted by hanov3r (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Riker's dismissive responses and worried looks on the bridge around the time Krag first arrives does a lot to sell the idea that maybe Manua's version of the story isn't wholly fabricated. Relatedly, Troi is quite clear that Manua believes the story that she's telling, but never gives us that same level of certainty about Riker's story.

Right, and that's the thing that took me right out of the story, which otherwise is pretty tight. Here's a juxtaposition of Memory Alpha's summary of the two different viewpoints:
The simulation resumes now in the station's guest quarters with Riker and Manua present. Manua shows Riker around the quarters but does not leave and begins to proposition Riker, partially undressing. Riker insists that she leave but as he redresses her, Apgar walks in, catching the two in an extremely uncomfortable position. The scientist reacts furiously, hitting his wife and taking a swing at Riker. But Riker moves out of the way of Apgar's punch, and he falls.
...
During the drink, Riker again shows little interest in what Apgar has to say, continuously looking at Manua, and asks if he and La Forge can remain on the station; Apgar reluctantly agrees. Manua shows Riker the modestly-sized quarters but Riker says that it has her charm, making her feel more uncomfortable with each move he makes. He then closes the door on her and makes more, stronger advances on her. Since she is smaller and much weaker than Riker, Manua is almost powerless to stop him although she resists as much as she can, pleading for him to stop.
How do we reconcile these two different versions of what happened if neither one of them is lying? I half-expected there to be some explanation involving a holosuite on the station. There isn't even enough time elapsed since the events to explain the difference. I think that the uncredited rewrite by the entire writing staff (and, boy, Ron Moore, is describing it as a "gang-bang" a really bad look, given the specific subject of this scene) probably resulted in the mess above. It would have been entirely possible to have done the scene so that what Riker assumed was merely courteous complementing on his part was experienced by Manua as egregriously unprofessional and inappropriate flirting. That would have worked fine for the purposes of the story.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


When I ran a Trek RPG campaign with a Tanugan PC, we established their society as restrictive, conformist, capitalistic (as hinted at in the dialogue between the scientist and his wife), and Victorian w/r/t sexuality—that is, outwardly prim but quietly rambunctious. (The PC, in case you're wondering, was the first Tanugan to join Starfleet and was motivated by a desire to get the hell away from Tanuga.)

I don't dislike this one—I'd even say I have a weird fondness for it—but I always found it a bit dull. On rewatch, it's not as dull as I remembered. The things I do still have a hard time with in this one are (1) we know Riker isn't guilty, which hurts the dramatic tension, and (2) all the Tanugan guest actors are bland as hell. The nasally-read line "I'm not the fool you take me for!" has become a running gag in the OfBrazil household. (Speaking of: the scientist in this is Uncle Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad / Better Call Saul! I did NOT put that together until MA pointed it out.)

On rewatch, I can't imagine Krieger waves as anything but an experiment by Archer's Dr. Krieger, in which case they should've been a lot more destructive.
PICARD: You did remember to turn off the generator on the surface, right?
DR. KRIEGER: …Yyyes?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:59 AM on November 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


Dr. Apgar's actor, Mark Margolis... For a long time, TNG is the only thing I had ever seen him in. Maybe I just wasn't that observant? But then one day I was watching a rerun of The Equalizer and Mark was in it as one of Edward Woodward's colleagues/helpers. Whoa! Then I began to see him in other things from the 80s.

Back to this episode. I agree with Halloween Jack. The two versions, Riker's and Manua's, are kind of irreconcilable. Points of view, matters of perspective, maybe, but...

I knew I should have watched this last night instead of "Deja Q" again. I'll remedy that and come back with more thoughts.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:03 AM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Man, I thought Apgar's actor looked familiar. (I think that it even occurred to me to see who the actor was, but I skipped it because I was eager to watch the ep after it, which, not to jump the gun or anything, I liked immensely.) Too bad that they didn't see fit to have Dr. Apgar survive the accident and deliver his testimony in a TOS-Christopher-Pike-type wheelchair with a single flashing light.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:26 AM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


My mind is so blown away by the Dr. Apgar --> Hector Salamanca thing I'm not sure I can formulate any coherent thoughts about this episode.

This would have been a fun episode except for the takeaway is ultimately "Yeah, Manua 100% sincerely believes Riker tried to rape her, but it was just a different point of view she had."
posted by skewed at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


Two things happened between when I last saw this broadcast and when I saw it on rewatch:

1) I saw Rashomon
2) I listened to a podcast where they had a TV writer on, and he admitted that, along with every other TV writer he knew, he had written a Rashomon episode at least once (among other stock plots).
posted by ckape at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


It's too bad TNG didn't do this with any other classic fiction. In the 1980's, I remember most every kids show did a Wizard of Oz episode, and many did a Frankenstein episode too.
posted by skewed at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2020


Mark Margolis is also the father of Morgan Margolis, who appeared as one of the Vaskan observers in "Living Witness". That means Craig Richard Nelson got to appear with father and son in separate episodes (I wonder how many other instances like that there are in the franchise).
posted by hanov3r at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2020


It's too bad TNG didn't do this with any other classic fiction

There's a whole crowd of Brent Spiner clones in cowboy outfits who'd like to talk to you.
posted by hanov3r at 12:33 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


There's also a Groundhog Day episode, despite predating Groundhog Day.
posted by ckape at 12:38 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


In the 1980's, I remember most every kids show did a Wizard of Oz episode, and many did a Frankenstein episode too.

Dorothy: Wesley
Scarecrow: Barclay
Tin Man: Data
Cowardly Lion: Worf
Wicked Witch of the West: Q
Glinda: Troi
The Wizard: Picard
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2020 [3 favorites]


This episode grossed me out. It's not just that there's a credible assault accusation against Riker that gets dismissed out of hand with a casual "oh, we know Will wouldn't do that"; it's that the rest of the episode proceeds to ignore it. At the end, they're like "ok, you didn't kill this guy, case closed" and no one even mentions it. But even worse is that no one in the crew acts like this is out of character for him. I mean, here you are on the flagship of the Federation, and the second in command is constantly putting everyone in danger because he can't stop hitting on just about every woman he comes into contact with. Is Riker a missing stair?
posted by phooky at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2020 [9 favorites]


I just watched the episode and made some notes based on comments here.

1. Riker claims he made arrangements for Geordi and himself to stay on the planet while Manua claims Riker invited Geordi and himself to stay on the station. If there were arrangements made, surely there is a record of them?

2. The Tanugans claim Riker shot at Apgar with a phaser just before transport. And in Inspector Krag's simulation, Riker pulls out a little Type 1 phaser. Interesting that they don't say anything else about this. Is it standard procedure for Starfleet personnel to take phasers into situations like that where they are doing routine business with Federation associates?

3. Halloween Jack, I'm not sure in your very first post what you mean about the rooms vs. a holosuite. It looked like there were three rooms shown in the various simulations. A) The reflector room, B) Manua and Apgar's "living room" where they talked privately before going to the reflector room and then had drinks with Riker later, and then C) Manua's private room/guest quarters. With C), the Riker and Manua simulations shared a camera angle and the Apgar simulation was to the right, showing a lot less of the room.

Riker was totally suspicious when he first got back to the ship and then when the inspector called up that first time. But Troi declared his version as valid as Manua's, so...
posted by Fukiyama at 6:50 PM on November 2, 2020


The Tanugans claim Riker shot at Apgar with a phaser just before transport. And in Inspector Krag's simulation, Riker pulls out a little Type 1 phaser. Interesting that they don't say anything else about this. Is it standard procedure for Starfleet personnel to take phasers into situations like that where they are doing routine business with Federation associates?

TNG is probably the least consistent on this, but I want to say yes, outside of a specific reference to not beaming down to Starfleet Headquarters armed in Conspiracy, Starfleet Officers seem to always be armed with at least a type 1 phaser, often even on-board the Enterprise when not expecting trouble. It isn't as militaristic as a traditional 'Officer's Sidearm' in that a phaser can also have utilitarian/emergency uses (heat beam, cutting through rock/steel, a signaling device (though I'm not sure they ever do that?)) and defaults to non-lethal, but I'm sure that was an influence.

This episode came on as I was letting the show play in the background, and basically as soon as the delightful Data/Picard opening scene ended I skipped it. I really don't like any other part of it, and having also recently watched Up The Long Ladder for whatever reason, the Riker is a Horndog theme can get to be pretty dang creepy. Not sure if I'd go full 'Riker is a missing stair', but I don't think it's an unreasonable view. This episode is for sure the most questionable, if I'm not forgetting something.
posted by neonrev at 7:21 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack, I'm not sure in your very first post what you mean about the rooms vs. a holosuite.

That the only way to explain Manua believing that she was telling the truth if what she said didn't actually happen was for her husband to have created a holosimulation of the guest quarters that he somehow got her to enter without her knowledge, in which she was assaulted by a holographic fake Riker. If he was already thinking of killing Riker, that could have been one way to have set him up as the bad guy. I'm not saying it's a great solution to the problem, and neither would be somehow altering her memories, but it's something.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2020


The first time I saw this as a teen I was with several friends and we all excitedly debated the cases during the commercial breaks. None of us had seen Rashomon, so this was our intro to this sort of story, in a televisual medium anyway.

This time watching it, I wanted to make a joke about how investigator Krag kind of resembled John Malkovitch, then I saw Dr Apgar, and holy shit, it’s like there’s a whole planet of John Malkovitch beings. Or maybe it’s just me? I mean, nobody agrees with me that Queen Margherita of pizza fame looks like Brendan Fraser, so my face pattern matching may be a little off.
posted by rodlymight at 7:37 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Starfleet Officers seem to always be armed with at least a type 1 phaser, often even on-board the Enterprise when not expecting trouble.

I kinda of wanted Starfleet to have a Pierson's Puppeteer* attitude of, "We don't carry weapons, just very, very powerful tools. I mean most places don't care if you keep a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket...

*("Pacifistic" aliens from Niven's Known Space collection. Known for making multi-function tools, like laser communicators powerful enough to communicate with a skip in far orbit...pity if anyone were to stand say, 50 meters away...)
posted by happyroach at 9:06 PM on November 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:
At the time of the first expansion set, 1995's Alternate Universe, it wasn't unusual for players not to get an Outpost from their starter deck boxes, so they'd have no place to report their personnel! The Neutral Outpost provided them an accessible alternative, regardless of what faction you play. We'll see another 'neutral' instead of 'non-aligned' card or two down the road.

Speaking of utility cards you can throw in most any deck, 2002's Second Edition gives us Nel Apgar, Temperamental Researcher with a very nice hand-cycling ability for basically free.
posted by StarkRoads at 1:10 AM on November 3, 2020


One factor to consider re: the plausibility of two factually-conflicting memories both being "valid" is that, as those in law enforcement circles know, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Human memories are terrifyingly malleable. And as for Tanugan memories, phh, could be better, could be worse—if we trust Troi's perception of Manua here, maybe a lot worse.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:23 AM on November 3, 2020


My very very first Rashomon encounter was the "Everybody tells the truth" episode of All in the Family, in 1973. Blew my mind at the time, but by the time of this episode my reaction was more "oh lord".
posted by Mogur at 10:37 AM on November 3, 2020


StarkRoads, I love that he's called Temperamental Researcher. Hilar.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:48 AM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]


I kinda of wanted Starfleet to have a Pierson's Puppeteer* attitude of, "We don't carry weapons, just very, very powerful tools. I mean most places don't care if you keep a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket...

*("Pacifistic" aliens from Niven's Known Space collection. Known for making multi-function tools, like laser communicators powerful enough to communicate with a skip in far orbit...pity if anyone were to stand say, 50 meters away...)


The Mass Effect game series had "omni-tools", which were wrist-mounted combo holographic projectors, communicators, tricorders, and nanotech fabricators, ostensibly primarily for doing repairs but also capable of generating offensive and defensive powers for the tech classes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2020


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