Dr. Crusher tells Guinan the story of how she found herself involved in the murder of a Ferengi scientist who is attempting to develop a new form of shielding, which led her to disobey orders and get herself relieved of duty. But spurred on by Guinan’s advice, she gets back into the game and discovers the identity of the murderer and determines that the scientist’s invention works.
Written by Joe Menosky & Naren Shankar. Directed by Cliff Bole.
I’m a big fan of Dr. Crusher. I enjoy her character and the actor who plays her, and I think she is often the most human and relate-able character in Next Generation, in terms of her viewpoint and passions. And there are lots of episodes that feature her in a significant role that work very well. However, it seems to me that Next Generation had difficult time creating effective episodes entirely around Beverly’s character, where she is really the star of the story. Suspicions is an example of this, which is a pity as the series has had some really excellent work recently with character’s “vehicle stories” such as Frame of Mind and Face of the Enemy. In contrast to those well-constructed thrillers, Suspicions feels forced, sticking Beverly in a plot that doesn’t really have much depth to it for her, just so that she can have her turn in the spotlight.
Part of the problem is the unusual flashback-style structure for the story–well, unusual for Star Trek anyway. Other than allowing an interesting opening in which we find out that Beverly has been relieved of duty, the approach doesn’t do the episode any favors. It actually disconnects us a bit with what’s happening in the main plot, as it doesn’t strongly ground these events in the normal context that we see in the series–almost like Crusher’s conversations with the scientists isn’t happening on the Enterprise at all. It also means that a lot of the narrative is driven by unsuccessful voice overs of Beverly explaining to Guinan what’s going on. I say unsuccessful because they don’t sound like someone who is talking to someone else (a common problem with such voice overs in movies and TV for decades) and also because they are punctuated by unnecessary comments about how Beverly was feeling, and so on – a cheap way to tell your story, in my opinion. Of course, Star Trek has always had voice overs, but usually they are used to succinctly set the stage or bring the viewer up to speed. An opening like that followed by some character-rich exposition between Beverly and Picard might have gone a long way to improving the presentation of the story.
Because the story itself is by no means terrible. Both the plot and solution are pretty engaging, and the drama of Beverly being in such trouble with Starfleet is worth watching. And there’s a little bit of nice development with Nurse Ogawa, which is good to see. But all that stuff with Guinan! It doesn’t take up much of the story’s run-time but it makes its presence felt throughout. It is easily the most forced element of the story, coming across very much like Whoopi Goldberg was free for a couple of days and the production team didn’t know when that would happen again (turns out the answer was “never”) so they quickly wrote her into the most convenient episode. But the attempt to make her appearance meaningful actually dilutes the strength of Beverly’s character a bit. It feels a bit weak that she should need the sagely bartender to stop by and trick her into not taking things lying down–a bold choice for Beverly in the context of the story, but for the viewer a very obvious story beat. The moment required something more dramatically compelling. (Just spit-balling here, but maybe it should have been an opportunity for Wesley to reappear over a viewscreen to give her mother someone to talk to – not as a framing sequence, but just as an unexpected encounter at a critical point in the story.)
A final note: it’s never explained in the episode how Beverly’s actions at the end prevent her from being court-martialed for disobeying orders and disregarding the Ferengi famiiy’s wishes. The obvious guess would be that they were probably happy to find out their dead relatives invention actually worked, as it opened up new sources of profit for them–but it would have been nice to have acknowledged this is in the episode itself.
• Tricia O’Neill (Kurak) had previously played Captain Rachel Garrett on Yesterday’s Enterprise. She is also credited for appearing in the movie Titanic as “Woman”
• James Horan plays Dr. Jo’Bril. He also appeared in the Season 7 opener of Next Generation, as well as in two episodes of Deep Space Nine as Ikat’Ika, and about half a dozen episodes of Enterprise as “Humanoid Figure.”
• This was John S. Ragin’s last credited acting role. He plays Dr. Christopher. He was a regular for years on Quincey, ME as Dr. Robert Asten.
Shout out to the Past:
There is a reference to Dr. Selar, who appeared only once in the series back in Season Two, but is apparently still serving on board the Enterprise.
• The story opens with Dr. Crusher displaying genuine irritation. She’s always been one of the most human characters on the series, showing real emotions like this.
• It’s Guinan’s last appearance on the series!
• Nice to see Dr. Crusher in civilian clothes
• Dr. Reyga is a nice mixture of scientist but still with Ferengi profit-motivated ethics
• In retrospect, it might have been a good idea for the Enterprise to have some sort of remote control on the shuttle
• “Jean-Luc” – I love it that that’s what Beverly calls Picard
• The picture of Jo’Bril’s body on the medical scanner doesn’t look like his internal systems are spread throughout his body
• Just like Beverly’s voice overs, Data’s line, “I am unable to locate any malfunction. All systems are operating according to your design specifications” sounds definitely like an ADR line (recorded at another time).
• In Deep Space Nine they establish that when the Ferengi die, their body parts are sold off for profit for the family.
• When Beverly is talking to Christopher and T’Pan , there is one of those classic “the doors know when to open or not to open” scenes – Beverly stands close to the door but it doesn’t open
• John S. Ragin does well with his big speech. It’s appropriate for the Quincey actor to turn up in an episode about a Doctor investigating a murder
• Why doesn’t Beverly talk to Worf with all her investigations? Maybe he can’t be involved since there is no evidence
• It’s sort of irritating that we’re going through a fair amount of story without learning anything significant. The audience feels as frustrated as Dr. Crusher does.
• It’s sort of funny how Guinan is talking about her tennis elbow, but of course, typically annoying how perfectly right that she is. But she does get the fun line, “You could be relieved of duty.”
• Data says, “It seems unlikely that Jo’Bril would perform sabotage which would result in his own death.” It’s funny the way the show clearly states the answer outright at that point, but cleverly disguises it.
• Slightly creepy how Riker keeps grabbing Beverly by the arm
• It’s Alyssa Ogawa’s first real contribution to the plot of an episode. “Is that an order, Doctor?” “Yes.” “Too bad you’re not my boss anymore.”
• Another unscheduled shuttle launch. How often have we seen that? Really the Enterprise ought to do something about those.
• Ah, they can override the shuttle’s computer – why didn’t they do that with Jo’Bril? They could have without changing the story at all. Indeed, if they can fly the shuttle by remote, why does anyone need to be on board for the test at all?
• “Sir, we have lost contact” – Thanks, Mr. Worf – that was the problem that I was looking to you to solve in the first place!
• Why doesn’t Jo’Bril just shoot and kill Beverly?
• I’ve always assumed that the climax of the episode–with Beverly fighting Jo’Bril–was a response, in part, to criticism of Q-Pid, where people complained that the female officers didn’t engage in fisticuffs, but instead just smashed guards over the head with vases.
• That looks like a great space-racquet!
Dialogue High Point
Well, I probably best appreciated Beverly’s response to Guinan saying she’s never been to a formal inquiry before.
Well, I’ll see if I can arrange one for you.