Written by Joe Menosky, Naren Shankar, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
There’s sort of an unwritten rule in many series, but in science fiction ensemble series in particular, that each season every character has to have at least one episode which focuses on them. Generally, this gives the characters a chance to stretch a little and show another side of them we haven’t seen before. In some cases that means seeing a character sing or “act”.
In Suspicions, we get to see a side of Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) which is more scientist and then investigator than a doctor. Most of the story is told as a flashback as Dr. Crusher tells Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) about why she’s facing a formal inquiry.
Dr. Crusher gathers together a conference of scientists after hearing about the work of a Ferengi Scientist, Dr. Reyga (Paul Slutsker). Joining her on the Enterprise are a Klingon scientist, a Vulcan, a human (and husband to the female Vulcan), and a Takaran. Reyga’s invention is a metaphasic shield that would allow scientists to travel into a sun’s corona to perform research. Most other scientists dismiss Reyga’s work, but Crusher is intrigued by what she has heard and seen and arranges for a test run of his research.
When the test run of the shuttle goes wrong, one of the scientists who is test-piloting the shuttle dies. Dr. Crusher as well as Dr. Reyga try to learn what went wrong. Before they can figure it out, Reyga apparently commits suicide. Dr. Crusher is not convinced it was suicide.
What follows is Dr. Crusher unraveling the mystery behind the initial shuttle accident and Reyga’s death. It’s easy to believe that Crusher cannot fathom that the Ferengi scientist was suicidal – to her, he seemed utterly convinced of the validity of his work and perplexed as to the initial results when the shuttle mission failed. He does not seem despondent or depressed in the least.
However, the conclusion that he committed suicide would really be a natural one. It does seem that Crusher is in complete denial about the validity of Reyga’s research. This single-mindedness leads to her breaking a direct order of Captain Picard’s (Patrick Stewart).
Gates McFadden does a terrific job with the material she’s given. However, what fails really is the story overall. It’s believable that as a hobby Picard nurtures an interest in archaeology. It’s believable that others in the crew nurture a love of music or acting in their spare time, or re-enacting crime novels or scenes of the old west. However, the depth to which Crusher is involved with the scientist’s research suggests more than a casual, passing interest. Why would a medical doctor on a starship be able to recognize the validity of Reyga’s research more than those in the scientific community?
The other problem is with the investigation. Even if we are to believe that Worf (as the Chief of Security), Captain Picard, Data, Geordi, and the rest of the crew truly believe Reyga committed suicide, wouldn’t they still aid Dr. Crusher in her attempt to prove it wasn’t? It’s been shown before in the past where the Captain or other crew members doubt a story, yet they follow through and help out the person making the assertions.
The scenario set forth here just doesn’t fit in with previous episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the camaraderie of the crew we’ve seen in the past. The story isn’t a horrible one and the mystery is intriguing. However, upon repeated viewing, these flaws stand out and take away from the story itself. McFadden is not to blame for she does a terrific job bringing Dr. Crusher to life in the scientific realm and giving her life above and beyond being the parent to wunderkind Wesley and being trapped in sick bay.
The guest cast is decent, although I found the Klingon and Vulcan scientists to be a bit stiff, especially when acting together. Since I didn’t feel a vested interest in either of them, this also made the mystery somewhat less compelling. If a member of the crew of the Enterprise who is regularly seen was somehow under suspicion, it would make the solving of the mystery more compelling. Instead, it’s just a simple matter of curiosity.
Despite the many misses, this isn’t a horrible episode and for that, I thank the actors. Had this been earlier in the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I don’t think they would have been able to hold the material together enough to form an average episode. It’s not one I would turn off if it came on the television, but there’s no reason to seek it out either.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Frame of Mind
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Rightful Heir