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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S4E24 "The Mind's Eye"

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Geordi gets Brainwashed, and it's every bit as messed up as it looks.

Original air date: May 27, 1991

Geordi is traveling to Risa to attend a cybernetics symposium and for shore leave. While distracted by a trivia game with the computer, he belatedly notices a Romulan warbird decloak dead ahead. Geordi tries to send a distress signal, but nothing works. The shuttlecraft is locked in a tractor beam, and he's immediately transported off.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise is en route to the Klingon colony of Krios, which is in the midst of an insurrection. The Klingon governor, Vagh, has accused the Federation of arming the rebels, and Klingon ambassador Kell is accompanying them to examine the evidence, personally requesting Picard's help.

Aboard the warbird, Geordi is dragged into a room and strapped into a chair, where Romulan Subcommander Taibak "warmly" greets him. After an impersonator is sent to Risa in Geordi's place, Taibak has Geordi's VISOR removed, and connects a device directly to his neural implants. This device sends various images, primarily horrifying, directly to Geordi's visual cortex, making him unable to ignore them. A shadowy figure with a familiar voice asks if there'll be any trace of their conditioning. Taibak assures her that because of Geordi's preexisting implants, any conditioning would be impossible to detect. He changes to another disturbing image as we zoom in to see Geordi screaming in agony.

We return to the Enterprise, where Ambassador Kell probes Worf's loyalty to Picard. Worf stands by Picard and insists that he will do everything he promised to the Klingon Empire. Before Worf leaves, Kell tells him that he did the Klingon Empire a favor in killing Duras. Although Worf retorts that he had his own reasons for doing so, Kell insists that he behaved as a proper Klingon. Worf acknowledges the unexpected compliment.

We cut to Ten Forward, or rather, a holographic recreation, where Geordi, Taibak, and his Romulan subordinates are standing. Taibak orders Geordi to shoot and kill the holographic Chief O'Brien with a phaser, but while walking over, Geordi hesitates. After a little coercion, Geordi shoots and kills "O'Brien." Unsatisfied with his hesitation, Taibak sends Geordi back for another conditioning session. Once Geordi is ready, Taibak plans to have the man's conditioning tested by sending him on a few benign errands before his main mission.

Geordi returns to the Enterprise completely at ease and with no memory of his abduction and brainwashing. He shares stories of Risa, including a romantic interlude. Even Troi is fooled. Shortly afterwards, Data starts to find sporadic E-band emissions.

On Krios, Picard vehemently denies the Federation's involvement until Vagh presents a confiscated phaser rifle taken from a rebel stronghold. It appears to be a Federation rifle; Vagh allows Picard to take one for analysis, saying that he's confiscated hundreds more. Meanwhile, after completing his shift in Engineering, La Forge heads to Ten Forward where we see a setup similar to the Romulan holorecreation. After ordering a drink, Geordi walks up behind O'Brien... but simply spills his drink on the chief's shoulder. When O'Brien leaves to change his uniform, Geordi seems to have no idea why that happened.

Data and Geordi analyze the weapon and determine that it is a Romulan knock-off. Picard presents that evidence to Vagh. The governor is skeptical, but he agrees to have his own people verify the claim. While in the office, La Forge's VISOR receives another distinctive E-band transmission. On the bridge, Data and Riker detect this E-band emission, but note the intensity of this emission has changed meaning that both E-band transmissions originated in different places. Acting under mind control again, Geordi beams down a crate of weapons from a cargo bay to the surface, deleting the transporter logs afterwards. Just as the Enterprise is about to leave, Vagh sends a transmission, telling Picard that they have intercepted the crate, and that they are not to not leave orbit until further notice, as a Vor'cha-class attack cruiser and two Birds-of-Prey decloak and intercept them. Kell is able to convince Vagh to allow for the Enterprise to investigate what exactly happened.

Geordi and Data use power flows to determine that the perpetrator used the replicator power sources to perform the transport. Worf questions Data, Geordi, and O'Brien on their whereabouts during the transport, as both (along with a fourth crewmember) have the expertise to perform such tasks. While Data and O'Brien (along with the fourth crewmember) have alibis during this period, Geordi does not. Geordi and Data relay their findings to Picard, where Ambassador Kell is also present. Kell offers to speak to Vagh, urging him to come to the Enterprise to witness the investigation. At that very moment, Geordi's VISOR picks up a third E-band transmission. Riker notifies Data of this development, and Data explains that the E-band transmissions may be linked to the ongoing insurgency. Before Kell leaves, however, Geordi meets with him in his quarters, where it's revealed that Kell has been conspiring with the Romulans, being the one transmitting the E-band emissions. Kell tells Geordi that the investigation is moving faster than he had expected, risking Geordi's cover. He also informs Geordi that when he returns with Vagh, Geordi is to assassinate him, claiming he is acting on behalf of the Federation in support of the rebels. That night, Geordi has difficulty sleeping, first contacting Chief O'Brien to see if he's okay, then going to sickbay. Crusher notices some odd readings in his optic implants and advises him to have his VISOR checked out next month.

The next morning, Vagh arrives to witness the investigation at Kell's insistence. Kell suggests visiting Cargo Bay 4. Picard agrees. Meanwhile, Data and Riker discuss the E-band transmissions, with Data finding that the first and third emissions happened on board the Enterprise while the second took place on the surface of Krios. After some analysis, Data finds that the E-band transmissions would be compatible with Geordi's VISOR. Meanwhile, Geordi heads to Cargo Bay 4 but before he can perform his task, Chief O'Brien asks La Forge to assist him with a task involving the Cargo Bay transporter.

Data goes to the shuttle bay containing the shuttle that Geordi used to get to Risa. He determines that the memory chips in Geordi's shuttlecraft have been replicated by Romulans, and that the hull has been subjected to stresses consistent with a tractor beam. He tries calling Geordi, but he doesn't respond. Data calls Worf, ordering him to take Geordi into custody immediately.

Geordi finishes helping O'Brien with his work and proceeds to perform his task to assassinate Vagh. Worf spots him and rushes towards him, but he's restrained by Vagh's guards, erroneously mistaking Worf's actions as hostile. Worf yells out a warning to Picard, who stops Geordi. Vagh is now quite convinced of a Federation plot against him, leaving Picard at a loss until Data arrives, revealing that Geordi has been acting under Romulan control. He explains that the E-band transmissions which preceded each suspicious act aboard the Enterprise were transmitted directly to Geordi's brain through his VISOR. The signals would have to have been transmitted in close proximity to Geordi by a Romulan agent. As to who that agent is, Data reveals that only two people were close to Geordi at all three of the times a signal was recorded: Picard and Kell. With the fact that Picard just saved Vagh's life, everyone, including Vagh himself, stares at Kell.

Data suggests that the Romulan agent must be hiding an E-band transmitter on his person. He recommends both Picard and Kell consent to a search. With his cover blown, Kell blusters that, as a representative of the High Council, he will not consent to be body-searched, but Vagh has his bodyguards place the ambassador under arrest, saying they will take him back to the planet and search him there. Kell formally requests asylum aboard the Enterprise. Picard coolly rejoins that he will be happy to grant asylum—after Kell is absolved of any crime. Vagh signals the planet, and the Klingons are beamed away.

Later, Geordi is talking to Troi, where he begins to realize that his memories of his trip to Risa are false. Troi promises to work with him to restore his memory, and she begins by asking Geordi what happened after he saw the Romulan ship — a question that leaves Geordi stumped, and worried as the full horror of the violation against him begins to sink in.

Tropes featured in "The Mind's Eye" include:

  • The Alibi: Played with. After the investigation uncovers that replicator power was rerouted to secretly beam a crate of weapons to the surface, it is determined that four people aboard the Enterprise have the technical know-how to have pulled it off — including O'Brien, Data and Geordi. Everyone has an alibi except for Geordi, who openly admits as much ("I was alone in my quarters"), but as a trusted member of Picard's senior staff he is automatically placed above suspicion.
  • Answer Cut: Geordi does one for himself when he and Data ponder who created phony Starfleet phaser rifles.
    Geordi: Who has the most to gain from a conflict between the Klingon Empire and the Federation?
    [cut to Geordi presenting the rifle to Governor Vagh]
    Geordi: The Romulans.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Geordi's response to Troi's question about the Romulan ship comes out almost automatically, as if he didn't even have to think about it. And it's at complete odds with his implanted memories, and is the first step toward unraveling what was done to him.
    Geordi: No, the first thing I did was... wait a minute...
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Rather than go to a secure location, Geordi and Data test the phaser rifle right in the middle of the engine room. At least they're shooting away from the warp core.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Initially Subverted by Ambassador Kell, who comes across as a rather amiable Klingon—until it turns out that he's working with the Romulans.
  • Asshole Victim: Vagh agrees that the crew of the Enterprise can't conduct a search of Kell, but he is going to. Kell immediately — and fearfully — asks Picard to grant him asylum, which Picard agrees to, after he has been absolved of any crime. Since Kell is obviously guilty this is a polite way of Picard saying that he's not granting him asylum.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Kell insists Picard's people have no right to search him, Vagh agrees... then adds that he'll have his men do it on the surface. And when Kell requests asylum from Captain Picard, Picard readily agrees to his request, provided that Kell is absolved of all suspicion in the assassination attempt.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Governor Vagh abruptly switches to Klingon to insult Picard, who throws back a counter-insult in Klingon without missing a beat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Data, Worf, and Picard save the day, but Geordi is very shaken up over being a vessel for Romulan conspiracy.
  • Brainwashed: Data uses the term to describe Geordi's state, though says that it's slightly inaccurate.
  • Butt-Monkey: O'Brien, well before DS9 makes him the designated punching bag. Geordi shoots a holographic version of him, and then spills a drink on the real O'Brien's shoulder.
  • Call-Back: Kell tells Worf that he did a service in killing Duras, saying that some High Council members were apprehensive about him getting named Chancellor.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Geordi has one post-brainwashing. We don't get to see what it was about, but it's pretty easy to guess.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Strange looking interface elements appear when we see things from Geordi's point of view. These elements turn out to be the E-band blips from Kell's method of giving Geordi instructions. Not only that, one can see that Kell is in the scene every time that these elements start becoming active. This foreshadows Kell's role in the conspiracy.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: All the Romulans do to La Forge physically is feed his brain images—incredibly disturbing ones of other humans suffering. Geordi is tortured by being Forced to Watch other people being tortured.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: All the better to make sure that The Federation takes the fall.
  • Death Glare:
    • Picard gives one to Vagh during their verbal spat, allowing Vagh to compliment Picard as a Worthy Opponent.
    • When Data gives the names most likely to be the one controlling a brainwashed Geordi (notably Picard and Kell), everyone gives one to Kell. Vagh in particular doesn't even look at Picard, who saved his life not a minute prior.
  • Detective Mole: Geordi is assigned to investigate a tampered cargo transporter that was used to beam Federation rifles to Krios. The person who modified then wiped the transporter is himself, but he doesn't remember it.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Defied. Once Kell gets exposed as a collaborator, he tries to request asylum, and Picard (politely) tells him to shove it.
  • Dirty Coward: When Kell is exposed, he plays the asylum card to avoid the wrath of his fellow Klingons. Picard tells Kell to screw himself:
    "I'll grant you asylum... when you have been absolved of this crime."
  • Dissonant Serenity: Geordi smiles and enjoys a drink after shooting the holographic Chief O'Brien, even taking O'Brien's own chair.
    Geordi: Mind if I join you guys?
    Yellow-Shirt: Sure!
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Data's at it again in response to a facetious comment that Geordi makes.
    Data: It is fortunate we were able to coordinate your return on the Teldarian cruiser.
    Geordi: Yeah, when I heard the Enterprise had been ordered to the Krios system, I thought I might be forced to endure another couple of weeks on Risa.
    Data: I am sorry to hear you did not enjoy yourself.
    Geordi: I was joking.
    Data: Joking? Ah. "Forced to endure Risa." Your actual intent was to emphasize that you did enjoy yourself. Yes, I see how that could be considered quite amusing.
    Geordi: (chuckling) I missed you, Data!
  • Dramatic Irony: When Geordi shares his Fake Memories about Risa to Troi, she says, "Geordi, I get the feeling that something special happened on this vacation, and I'm not talking about computers."
  • Early-Bird Cameo: This is the first appearance of Sela, but since she is only seen very briefly and with her face obscured by shadows, the proper reveal of her identity won't happen until two episodes later.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Although not clearly identified, what we see of Sela suggests she has dark hair like most Vulcans and Romulans, while her eventual onscreen appearance shows she has blonde hair like her mother Tasha. Additionally, we see her wearing the most common pattern on Romulan uniforms while she has her own distinctive pattern in her later appearances.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Part of why the Romulans' plan failed had been that they underestimated how genuinely principled Picard was. During Picard's first meeting with Governor Vagh, Vagh insulted him in Klingon and Picard calmly stood up for himself, showing Vagh that he was strong-willed and honorable. Later, when Data discloses the two likely suspects behind Geordi's assassination attempt, Vagh immediately deduces that Kell was the guilty party, since Picard had already earned his trust earlier in the episode.
  • Exact Words: Kell tries to weasel out of getting searched and revealed, telling Picard, "I will not submit to being searched by you or anyone else on this ship." Vagh agrees—he will have Kell searched down on Krios, instead.
  • Fake Memories: Taibak makes Geordi think he really did go to Risa.
  • Fake Shemp: Sela is seen standing in the shadows to hide the fact it isn't Denise Crosby playing her on-set. The HD remaster makes this more evident.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Taibak while beginning the brainwashing process.
    • For a Klingon, Kell is a remarkably well-tempered and friendly...traitor.
  • Forced to Watch: Because the Romulans hook their brainwashing machine directly into Geordi's VISOR implants, he has no choice to see whatever horrific things they want him to.
  • Hidden Depths: Troi's conversation with Geordi after his return seems gossipy and inconsequential; she's mainly pressing him for romantic details. But given her empathic powers, it's likely that she senses something "off" about him (perhaps only subconsciously) and is gently probing him to learn more.
  • Humble Hero: Picard, when Kell tells him how much respect several high-up Klingons have for him.
    Picard: I have been... pleased to offer occasional assistance to the Klingon people in the past.
    Kell: Your modesty is very human, Captain. I will excuse it.
  • Irony:
    • The first thing we see Geordi ordered to do to test his brainwashing, is to kill a holographic O'Brien. Yet as noted under Spanner in the Works, O'Brien is the one who unwittingly ensures that the plan fails at the last second.
    • Kell informs Worf that he did a service in killing Duras, whose family has been suspected with collaborating with the Romulans. At the end of the episode, Kell is revealed to be working with the Romulans himself.
  • Karma Houdini: Subcommander Taibak gets away with torturing and brainwashing Geordi and almost sparking a war between the Federation and the Klingons.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Geordi is brainwashed by being shown horrifying images sent directly to his visual cortex via his VISOR's neural implants. Literal Eye Scream ensues.
  • Manchurian Agent: Having been brainwashed by Romulans, Geordi La Forge carries out missions fed to him via transmissions his VISOR can pick up. He has no memory of doing these things, and in fact capably investigates himself, forcing his handlers to accelerate their plans.
  • Man Behind the Man: Sela is behind the brainwashing plot.
  • Mind Rape: Taibak's method for brainwashing Geordi includes hooking a machine to his VISOR connector implants and feeding horrific images directly into his visual cortex.
  • The Mole: Ambassador Kell, like J'Dan from "The Drumhead" three episodes prior, appears to be another Klingon who believes the Romulans would make better allies to the Empire than the Federation does.
  • Mood Whiplash: Geordi is on his way to Risa, listening to pleasant guitar music—and a Romulan warbird decloaks. Cue Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Near-Villain Victory: But for Data's ability to detect anomolous readings in the shuttle's memory chips, Geordi may have successfully carried out the Romulans's assassination plan. Even then, Picard just barely managed to deflect the phaser at the last possible second.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We are never told what the Romulans showed Geordi while brainwashing him, but based on Geordi's reactions, we probably don't want to know...
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • As Geordi partakes in a trivia game with the shuttle computer:
      Computer: List the resonances of the sub-quantum states associated with transitional relativity...
      Geordi: That's easy!
      Computer: ... in alphabetical order.
      [Geordi stops smiling]
    • And again a short while later as the Romulan Warbird uncloaks directly ahead.
    • When Geordi is made to shoot a holographic O'Brien's, the hologram's face does this when Geordi walks up to him with a phaser.
    • Vagh has one when Picard barely saves his life from Geordi's assassination attempt.
    • Kell has three in succession. First, when Data announces the suspects in the assassination plot, directly accusing Kell. Then, when Vagh announces they're going to be searching him themselves. And then when Picard coolly shoots down his request for asylum. The look on his face as he's beamed away shows he knows he's in for a slow and painful death.
  • Pardon My Klingon: Picard vs. Vagh swearing contest. Picard wins.
    Picard: Governor, you speak as if we were enemies, not allies.
    Vagh: And you speak the lies of a taHqeq!translation
    Picard: [Death Glare; slowly walks forward and gets into Vagh's face] Vagh ghay’cha’ baQa’!translation
    Kell: Gentlemen!
    Vagh: You swear well, Picard. You must have Klingon blood in your veins.
  • Realpolitik: When Kell tells Worf that a lot of people in the Klingon government tacitly approve of his killing Duras.
    Worf: My motives in killing Duras were personal, not political.
    Kell: Motives? Who cares for motives? Humans, perhaps. What matters is you acted that day, like a true Klingon.
  • Recycled In Space: The Manchurian Candidate IN SPACE! The scene where Geordi is ordered to kill a holographic Chief O'Brien is in direct homage to the film version.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Of a sort. It's obvious early on that the Romulans are manipulating Geordi to do something against the Klingons, and before the final commercial break we learn the endgame of the plot as well as who their inside man is. The question is whether our heroes will figure it out in time.
  • Say My Name: A variation. When Data orders Worf to take Geordi into custody, he goes to do so, but Vagh's bodyguards block Worf's way thanks to his discommendation. To warn Picard, Worf bellows out "LA FORGE!", allowing Picard to grab his Chief Engineer's arm in the nick of time.
  • Shoot Your Mate: Geordi has to shoot a holographic Chief O'Brien during his programming as an assassin. His brief hesitation leads to more brainwashing.
  • Spanner in the Works: Just as Geordi is unwittingly about to try and kill Governor Vagh, Chief O'Brien comes up to him, asking for a little help. This simple, unwitting act delays Geordi long enough for Data's investigation to conclude, and thus barely avoid the killing shot; without this, it's likely Geordi would've succeeded once he got close enough.
  • Spotting the Thread: Some mysterious E-band transmissions aboard the Enterprise are what set Data on the path to unraveling the whole conspiracy.
  • Stock Footage:
    • The footage of the three Klingon warships is recycled from "Reunion".
    • The matte painting depicting Krios Prime is a reuse of the matte painting from "Angel One", modified to feature Klingon characteristics on the buildings.
  • That's an Order!: Data doesn't have time to explain to Worf why Geordi is a threat, so he invokes this.
  • Villains Want Mercy: Kell was willingly helping in a conspiracy by the Romulans to frame the Federation for an act of war and aided in an attempt to assassinate Vagh so the Federation would be blamed for it. Despite all of that he asks for Picard to grant him asylum. Picard agrees, after he has been absolved of any crime.
  • Wham Line: As Ambassador Kell is enjoying a meal in his quarters, the door chimes.
    Kell: Come in, Mr. LaForge.