When one scientist dies and another commits suicide after testing a metaphasic shield, Crusher must discover who is responsible.
Plot Summary: While packing to leave the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher tells Guinan that Starfleet has summoned her to an inquiry after she violated orders and caused an interstellar incident. After attending a conference, she had invited a group of scientists aboard to examine the work of Doctor Reyga, a Ferengi who created a metaphasic shield to allow a ship to fly safely into a star’s corona. One of the Enterprise’s shuttles was given such a shield, and although the Klingon, Vulcan, and human scientists feared that its occupant would die, Takaran scientist Jo’Bril offered to pilot the shuttle. The shield appeared to be working until a sudden concentration of baryon particles caused Jo’Bril to lose consciousness. By the time he was rescued, Crusher could not save him, though she also could not determine the cause of his death. LaForge suggested that Reyga failed to anticipate such a problem in the corona, which infuriated Reyga, whose body was later found after the Ferengi apparently committed suicide. Picard refused to allow Crusher to perform an autopsy because the family wished to perform a Ferengi death ritual, but Crusher became increasingly certain that the shuttle had been sabotaged and Reyga murdered, and performed the autopsy despite orders. She found nothing unusual and Picard was forced to relieve her of duty. Guinan suggests that she use her free time to investigate further, so Crusher examines Jo’Bril’s body again, believing there is further evidence of sabotage because it shows traces of tetryon contamination. Believing that Reyga’s shield works, Crusher takes the shuttle without authorization into the star’s corona, but Jo’Bril emerges from a compartment and attacks her, explaining that he put himself into stasis to discredit Reyga, but now he intends to steal the shuttle and its shield. Crusher fights him and grabs his stolen phaser, killing Jo’Bril when she cannot knock him out. Starfleet agrees to reinstate her as chief medical officer.
Analysis: I recalled nothing about “Suspicions” when I started to watch it for this review, so for a few minutes, it was like a new mystery to me. But as soon as Jo’Bril “died,” I remembered what was going to happen…and worse, I remembered that I guessed it the first time I saw the episode. About the only thing I really enjoyed about “Suspicions” was getting to see a storyline focused on Crusher in which she gets to do something besides comfort the wounded and bond with the captain. She deserved a better storyline than this erratic whodunit, and the writers really should have thought twice before unleashing three mystery genre storylines during consecutive weeks late in Next Gen‘s sixth season.
Unfolding a story in flashback is always risky to begin with because there’s so much telling and not enough showing. We don’t get to meet Reyga as Crusher does at a conference, so instead of getting to form our own opinions on his trustworthiness or brilliance, we must accept her beliefs about him as true, and we never get any solid background on why she picks the other scientists or even who she consulted. A metaphasic shield would seem to be something much more of interest to LaForge, Data, even Riker; the fact that they all seem disinterested in her little pet project suggests either that they don’t take her seriously as a scientist outside of medical situations or that they’re afraid she’ll think they’re meddling if they do get involved. In either case, we’re not given a compelling reason to take the research very seriously. Indeed, Picard keeps hinting that Beverly is overly invested in promoting Reyga’s cause.
How funny that it’s Guinan who thinks to get Crusher talking and back on the job. Troi tells Picard that Beverly has been avoiding her, but surely as a counselor she’s clever enough to think of some unusual means of approach? Guinan provides the episode’s only humor, turning up complaining about her tennis elbow when there are two dead bodies on the ship, and in the end it turns out she doesn’t even play tennis. Maybe she has a reason to want the metaphasic shield to succeed or to want Crusher to stay on the ship. Yet even at the end, when we know Reyga succeeded in creating a working shield, we’re never told the stakes that cost him his life. Apart from the excitement everyone feels at glimpsing a star’s corona from the inside, does this research have any application beyond the ability to launch a surprise attack from someplace no one would expect to see a ship? Will it help save people from supernovas or help them stabilize a star that’s threatening life on a planet? The concept doesn’t seem fully formed.
Neither do the Takarans. The concept of a physiology that distributes organ functions throughout the body sounds intriguing, but then why does he look humanoid and why does the scan we see of his torso suggest three hearts and four lungs in the chest cavity? Someone must have decided it would be fun to have Beverly blow a hole straight through his belly and have him keep coming at her, which looks more silly than scary in the execution, but I still don’t buy that her next instinct would be to vaporize him; she could have shot off both his legs below the knee, not only saving his life for its own sake, but keeping him alive to confirm her story. I find it impossible to believe that Starfleet let her off the hook just because she was right about the sabotage. She still disobeyed a direct order and strained Ferengi-Federation relations, not to mention having violated her the trust of her captain and friend.
The climax feels pat and superficial – we never get answers to questions like how an alien got from the morgue onto a shuttlecraft – and I really dislike this season’s new trend in which crewmembers do an awful lot of killing of adversaries. We only ever get glimpses of the visiting scientists, who all seem like stereotypes – the Klingon woman is angry all the time and obsessed with honor (it’s a shame we don’t see her hanging out with Worf), the Vulcan is coldly disapproving, her husband is overprotective and angry, the Ferengi has a temper. Guinan gets a cute send-off, since this is her last appearance in the series before the films, but it would have been so much better if she had been an active participant instead of a sounding board, and if the episode had involved less of Crusher trying to explain things that never come together.