(written from a Production point of view)
Riker thinks he is losing his mind when reality keeps shifting between an alien hospital and the Enterprise, where he is rehearsing a play.
Commander William T. Riker is in a play, rehearsing on the USS Enterprise-D with Commander Data. The play, Frame of Mind, is a dark story of a man who may or may not be insane, who is imprisoned in a psychiatric ward where a doctor torments 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 rehearses his lines while walking down the corridor, making several other people look at him strangely. But when he gets into the turbolift, he sees an alien, in a science officer's uniform, whom he has never seen before. Riker ignores the alien at first, but then focuses on him at the moment as the doors close.
During Riker's next briefing with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Picard informs him that they will be going to Tilonus IV. There was a Federation research team on the planet when the local government fell into anarchy. Riker's mission is to find where the scientists are hiding from the factions, and make contact with them.
Lieutenant Worf's briefing in the observation lounge 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 with the nisroh, Worf accidentally cuts Riker's face, requiring him to go to sickbay. Doctor Crusher heals the wound perfectly with a dermal regenerator, 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 in Ten Forward, 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. She says it is sometimes good to explore the darker side of the psyche, and encourages him, joking that he is becoming a good actor. Riker's cut bothers him again, and he notices the alien nearby. He points him out to Troi, but the alien quickly moves away and is gone when Troi turns to see him. Riker decides to check the personnel logs tomorrow.
During the play, Data and Riker perform very well and receive a standing ovation. But after Riker 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, repeating Data's final line from the play, says "I can see we have a lot of work to do."
When Riker asks what happened, in an accusatory way, the alien doctor sighs and attempts to determine the cause of Riker's relapse into delusions that he is a crewmember from the Enterprise-D. He asks Riker a long list of questions, revealing surprising answers. Riker doesn't know who he is, but his memories of the ship are vivid. The doctor reminds him (and he suddenly remembers) that they've already contacted Admiral Budrow at Starbase 29, and they had never heard of him. The doctor continues to remind him of things that allegedly "really" happened. Riker tried to escape, and hit his head on the door, which explains why it hurts.
But Riker still wonders 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 of the Tilonus Institute for Mental Disorders but will not explain why. He simply compliments Riker on his excellent progress and leaves.
Attendants soon arrive and take him to the cafeteria for lunch, through a corridor echoing 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 mean-spirited jokes about Riker's mental state. Riker begins to remember things, like the attendant's name, Mavek, but the picture is incomplete so he asks the guard. The guard says that Riker was brought in screaming, his hands and clothes covered with blood, and that he stabbed someone to death – the exact claims that Data's character makes about Riker's character in the play aboard the Enterprise.
Riker jumps up and grabs the guard 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 making it all seem like a nightmare.
The play has not yet been performed. It is one hour before curtain and Riker is applying dark makeup 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, grabs the man by the shoulders, and demands to know who he is. The man is shocked and says that he is Lieutenant Suna.
In sickbay, Crusher scans Riker but cannot find any explanation for his hallucinations. Other than elevated blood pressure, he is physically fine. At his insistence, she scans his body for drugs but cannot find any traces. Additionally, no one reported anything strange happening during the performance. She tells him to get some rest so that he can recover from all this.Riker 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, Riker's improvisation was an unorthodox but ingenious way to draw the audience in, and it gave a realistic picture of multi-infarct dementia. Riker and Troi continue to converse, but he stops in his tracks when he hears the alien doctor's disembodied voice telling him that he needs another treatment (again echoing Data's lines from the play). Riker excuses himself and heads for his quarters.
When the turbolift door opens, Riker sees the corridor of the hospital leading to his cell in the alien hospital. He closes his eyes, tells himself that it is not real, and when he opens his eyes it has been replaced by the usual corridor of the Enterprise. Turning a corner, he encounters Jaya, the inmate with the "communicator". He runs to his quarters and the doors clank shut. When he turns, he finds he is back in his cell. He screams to be let out and then falls to the floor, quietly asking for help.
In the hospital common area, Riker talks to Dr. Syrus and says 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 legal case against Riker 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 his 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, while Riker 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. Riker runs to the two Tilonians, giving them Worf's phaser and hiding from Worf and Data.
Data and Worf are approached by Mavek and the guard, but they quickly fight them off. Riker tries to run away but they grab him, transporting him against his will to the Enterprise using transport enhancers.
As Crusher gives Riker her diagnosis, he 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 a cut on the left side of his face, identical to the one Worf gave him earlier, but it still hurts. The cut reopens and starts to bleed.
Riker suddenly gets the sense that none of this is real, so he knocks Worf down and grabs his phaser. If it is not real, Riker explains, nothing will happen when he shoots himself. Turning the phaser on himself, he fires and 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 from the cafeteria, 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 apparently can't die, but the illusory people and objects around him seem to be destructible. None of this is real, he concludes. He sets the phaser to level 16, enough to destroy half of the building, and fires into the wall, which shatters.
Riker finds himself back in the play, but Suna is playing Data's role. Riker starts demanding answers, and refuses to answer Suna's questions. But when Suna makes a demand, the cut on Riker's face starts bleeding again, and he figures out that Suna is lying and trying to manipulate him. When Suna pleads, "Let me help you," Riker snaps, "NO!" at which 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.
Riker wakes up on a medical table in an unfamiliar room, with a neural drain probe in the side of his head. Looking around, he soon locates the ceremonial knife and the secret communicator. Suna and another Tilonian quickly realize that Riker's awake, but Riker fights his way back to his feet. He uses the knife to ward 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 attacked from behind and abducted in an alley. As he tried to fight his attackers off with the ceremonial knife, the nisroh Worf gave him, the attackers injected him with something. Picard concludes that they were attempting to extract strategic information.Troi explains that everything he saw was a defense mechanism, which allowed his mind to keep its sanity. Most notably, the bleeding cut on his head exactly corresponded to the point where the neural drain device was attached; it was his body warning him that he was being injured. Picard advises Riker to get some rest, but he has something he must do first. Later on, 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. After Crusher leaves, Riker starts tearing the set down, forcefully, with his bare hands.
"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."
"Well...you're certainly starting to look the part."
- - 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."
"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
- Final draft script: 16 February 1993 
- Premiere airdate: 3 May 1993
- First UK airdate: 29 November 1995
Story and production
- This episode originated from the barest of premises from Brannon Braga. Braga recalled, "I had a notion: What if Riker woke up in an alien insane asylum and had no idea how he got there and was told he was crazy?" In the late season time crunch, the idea was accepted by the skeptical Michael Piller and Rick Berman to replace another story that had failed to materialize. According to Jeri Taylor, "We didn't have time to do a story, so we went ahead and 'broke' this...which is the most risky thing in the world to do. They're painstaking, they take days, and if you lose it you're doomed!" After a torturous three day break session, however, the staff emerged with a workable story that impressed Piller. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Braga noted that dark and surreal imagery was rather appealing to him. "It was fun for me to do. One of my favorite films is Roman Polanski's Repulsion, and I think the influence will show through. I've always wanted to write something about someone doubting their sense of reality and I think it works." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- The use of Riker was in part intended to remedy Braga's perception that the character was underused. "Riker's a friendly character, he's the one Human you can do humor with, you can do action – and here you can jerk him around and drive him crazy!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Due to contemporary mental health trends, Braga briefly reconsidered his frequent use of the word "crazy" in the teleplay. He explained, "People use this word, it's a good word, and I decided to use it. When you get too 'politically correct' it shows, and what's 'PC' today won't be five years from now. Star Trek is a show that transcends time, and we try not to date it." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- This was the first episode directed by James L. Conway since the first season finale "The Neutral Zone". Berman noted Conway's work had been well-received back then, but he had simply been too busy on other projects in the interim. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Andrew Prine and Susanna Thompson later appear in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. They play Turrel (DS9: "Life Support") and Lenara Kahn (DS9: "Rejoined") respectively. Thompson later takes Alice Krige's place as the Borg Queen in two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. David Selburg who plays Dr. Syrus portrayed the historian Whalen in the first season episode "The Big Goodbye".
- 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.
- 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
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 74, 22 November 1993
- As part of the TNG Season 6 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Alternate Realities collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Teda Bracci as Tilonian inmate
- Carl David Burks as Russell
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Inez Edwards as science division officer
- Holiday Freeman as command division officer
- Goldie Ann Gareza as civilian
- Gary Hunter as science division officer
- Arvo Katajisto as Torigan
- David B. Levinson as Tilonian inmate
- Dennis Madalone as Tilonian guard
- Debbie Marsh as civilian
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Keith Rayve as civilian
- Richard Sarstedt as command division ensign
- Unknown performers as
- Rusty McClennon as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Gary Werntz
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Carl David Burks – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Michael Echols – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
47; abduction; administrator; alley; anabolic protoplaser; anarchy; assassination; attendant; bartering ceremony; blood; blood pressure; Bloom; brain; "break a leg"; Budrow; cell; cerebral cortex; common area; communicator; conspiracy; defense mechanism; delusion; dermal regenerator; epidermal; doctor; fatigue; Federation; first year cadet; Frame of Mind; hallucinations; heart rate; hospital; hypospray; insanity; Jung, Carl Gustav; knife; merchant; multi-infarct dementia; mutilate; nerve damage; neural shock; neurochemical; neurodrain; neurosomatic technique; nisroh; number one; opporozine; painting; parietal lobe; patient; pattern enhancer; plasma torch; play; prime minister; protoplaser; reflection therapy; rehearsal; research team; Sanders; sedative; security ward; set; southwest; spiny lobe-fish; spoon; square kilometer; Stafko; stage crew; stage fright; Starbase 29; Starfleet Academy; stasis unit; stress; surgery; synaptic pathway; synaptic reconstruction; Tilonian; Tilonian pendant; Tilonus IV; Tilonus Institute for Mental Disorders; torture; transposition; turbolift; utensil; ward 47; Yorktown, USS; Yosemite, USS
- "Frame of Mind" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Frame of Mind" at Wikipedia
- "Frame of Mind" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Frame of Mind" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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