Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Suspicions:" Killers For The Advancement Of Technology

The Good: Intriguing plot, Nice acting, Interesting character development
The Bad: Some of the direction, Somewhat obvious narrative technique
The Basics: When Dr. Crusher gets involved with a Ferengi scientist determined to prove his worth, she ends up in the middle of a murder mystery in "Suspicions."

When Star Trek The Next Generation tries its hand at a murder mystery, the viewer knows there must be some form of science fiction twist. In "Suspicions," Dr. Crusher becomes both a scientific diplomat and a private investigator. The plus side is, in general, this is a strong episode and it stands up fairly well upon rewatching.

"Suspicions" opens with Dr. Crusher, who has been confined to quarters, being visited by Guinan who is suffering from "tennis elbow." Dr. Crusher reluctantly treats her and Guinan insists on learning how she came to be confined to quarters. Dr. Crusher, it seems, tried to be ambitious and became a "scientific ambassador" to a Ferengi scientist who was working on a technology called metaphasic shielding. This type of shield would allow ships to fly into stars and represents a significant leap forward. Dr. Reyga is ridiculed by most for his ideas, but Dr. Crusher sees his potential and tries to arrange a meeting between him and other, more reputable, scientists. When the first test of the metaphasic shielding kills the alien scientist who attempts to use it, Dr. Reyga apparently kills himself. Crusher, convinced he was not suicidal, wants to do an autopsy, which is denied to her by his family. Unable to find a motive for murder among the remaining suspects, Crusher does the autopsy anyway and finds herself in more jeopardy than she has ever been in.

Dr. Crusher here has a chance to do some great character work. She is a fairly neglected character and here she steps up to both try her hand at being an ambassador and a sleuth. Crusher has never shown any inclination toward either and their inclusion in "Suspicions" feels very organic and realistic. It makes sense that a scientist who needs to be clever to do things like defeat viruses would be willing and able to do some detective work.

What seems terribly contrived is the use of Guinan in the episode. That's not to say it is not a pleasure to see Guinan, but we've never seen her do anything remotely physical save fencing against the captain once. The idea that Guinan plays tennis, especially enough to develop tennis elbow, is somewhat ridiculous. Thus, when we learn at the end of the episode that it is an excuse, we are not surprised and we wonder how Dr. Crusher, who successfully investigates Dr. Reyga's murder, can be so gullible.

Also problematic is some of the direction. The director does fine when doing simple pans around the suspects faces and the last scene where the villain is revealed and is shot repeatedly through the chest comes out looking great. But there are several shots that seem obvious and in your face, like the image is just going to be forced at you no matter what. The one that comes easiest to mind is when Kurak, the Klingon scientist aboard, charges Dr. Crusher. The image seems very forced and it's almost silly in the way her face rushes at the screen. Fortunately, never has a Klingon been shown at such an unflattering angle and lighting again.

Outside that, this episode is a winner. The murderer is an intriguing bit of science fiction and it works well at keeping the viewer intrigued right up until the revelation. Dr. Crusher has a chance to get out of Sickbay and everything adds up in the end. And, as a bonus, metaphasic shielding comes back in future episodes.

This is the chance to see Gates McFadden act at the peak of her game. In "Suspicions," she breathes life into Dr. Crusher, making her more than the bland, "yes man" doctor that she has been since her son, Wesley, left the ship a few seasons back. McFadden has a quality to her that is refreshing to see exhibited. In this episode, she uses her body language well, especially in the scenes she shares with Whoopi Goldberg. She adequately creates a determined character that has been broken somewhat.

Whoopi Goldberg is great as always, though she is trapped working in a script that is poor for her character. Strangely better is actor James Horan. Horan plays the scientist Jo'Bril, who is killed while doing the metaphasic shield test. His brief time on screen is wonderfully acted, with a great sense of presence to infuse the character with real menace. Trapped beneath quite a bit of make-up and prosthetics, Horan uses his deep voice and emotive eyes to bring personality to the alien.

In the end, "Suspicions" is a pretty tight hour of television wherein the viewer is treated to a science fiction murder mystery that has a great deal of character growth in it. As well, the episode is very accessible to those who are not traditionally fans of Star Trek The Next Generation as everything the viewer needs is right in the episode. It's a decent work and one that is entertaining as well as intriguing.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, movie and DVD set reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment