"Frame of Mind"

Season Six, Episode 21
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by James L Conway
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
David Selburg as Dr Syrus
Andrew Prine as Suna
Gary Werntz as Mavek
Susanna Thompson as Inmate
Alan Dean Moore as Wounded Crewman

As the Enterprise prepares to rescue Federation hostages on Tilonus IV, Riker takes the lead role in Beverly's new play, "Frame of Mind" in which he plays an asylum inmate. But strange occurances cause Riker to start to question his own sanity -- the asylum set becomes a real hospital and Riker himself a patient. He shifts in and out of realities, before he begins to settle in the asylum, where the doctors try to convince him that his life aboard the Enterprise was all an illusion -- one he must let go of in order to recover. As Riker gradually begins to accept this, Data and Worf try to rescue him from the asylum. But Riker can't accept this as reality -- nor the hospital. He breaks through each illusion as another takes its place, eventually waking up on a lab table, electrodes attached to his head. He escapes by contacting the Enterprise for an emergency beam-out, escaping his captors and returning to real reality.


Another winner. Brannon Braga turns in one of his strongest, most innovative scripts, a gripping and genuinely creepy psychodrama that's just about the top of its league. There are more twists and turns than a country lane and an "inner dreamscape" that is well-drawn, appropriately surreal and truly seems to bend and distort reality. James Conway does an excellent job directing, crafting a tangible sense of atmosphere that's sometimes disturbing and always suspenseful. And although at this point in the show's run the music rarely did little to deserve praise, Jay Chattaway provides a nice, eerie score that befits the episode nicely.

The only real problems are a cliched resolution that's a slight let-down and some problems on the acting front. I really don't like having to say this, but I've always considered Jonathan Frakes a better director than actor. Don't get me wrong, most of the time he carries his role adequately and generally he's quite convincing as the Number One -- and, hell, I like the guy! But to be quite frank, there were times here when the material seemed a little beyond him. This is a dark, introspective, very internal story that should basically have deconstructed the character right before our eyes as he began to seriously question his sanity. Unfortunately, Frakes falls some way short of delivering the nuanced, soul-searching performance that the role demmanded.

Whilst certain aspects were convincing (such as his disorientation and confusion), his idea of exploring Riker's inner angst was basically to scream at the top of his voice, rendering what should have been a very internal performance as something altogether more external. Unfortunately I've never found Frakes' shouting very convincing (to say the least) and there were moments I was just cringing. The role called for a restrained, controlled and subtle performance and sadly I found Frakes' overacting quite painful in spots. I'm very sorry to have to say that, but it's my solemn duty as a reviewer to speak the truth (as I see it, anyway). That aside, this was definitely one of the season's stronger episodes and well worth a look.  

Rating: 9

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