Suspicions (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 22) Crusher narrates murder-mystery flashbacks

Rewatching ST:TNG

A defeated-looking Crusher tells Guinan her career is over, and, film-noir style, narrates how “it all started when…”

After meeting a Ferengi scientist at a conference, Crusher invites him to the Enterprise-D to demonstrate his unorthodox technobabble technology. Only four scientists accepted Crusher’s invitation to witness the demonstration —  a Klingon (not much respected on her homeworld), a lofty Vulcan expert and her human husband; a member of a species we haven’t seen before, and the Ferengi, Dr. Reyga, who intends to demonstrate his shield technology by piloting a shuttle into a star’s corona.

The visitors are skeptical, except for Jo’Bril, a Takaran, who volunteers to pilot the shuttle. Reyga is humble and generous, and chats comfortably with Crusher about how he doesn’t fit the Ferengi stereotype. 

During the demonstration, good technobabble happens — at first, until the bad technobabble happens, and the pilot ends up dying mysteriously in sickbay. All the evidence suggests the shield failed.

Crusher reluctantly tells Reyga she won’t let him continue his experiments. He goes off in a huff, and shortly thereafter he’s found dead, apparently by suicide. But Crusher has suspicions, and because this week the script requires the tricorders not to be able to solve this puzzle, she plans an autopsy. 

The script serves up the plot obstacle that Ferengi death customs won’t allow an autopsy, so Crusher tries interrogates the remaining scientists, in scenes which help sustain the film-noir trope, but don’t help Crusher solve the mystery. She finds herself back in the morgue.

When she reports to Picard that she performed the autopsy against his orders — and found nothing — her voice-over unnecessarily states “I could tell that he was terribly disappointed in me,” and the flashback ends.

Guinan pretends to be more interested in her tennis injury than in Crusher’s story, and when Crusher complains Guinan isn’t taking it seriously, Guinan points out that if Crusher believes there’s still a murderer on board the ship, why is she moping in her quarters?

A newly motivated Crusher pumps Data for information and gets a new technobabble lead, which prompts a well-meant warning from Riker — she should not “do anything foolish” before the hearing.

Crusher’s current resolve doesn’t get her far because she’s locked out of the medical computer, but Nurse Ogawa cheekily ignores Crusher’s order not to get involved: “Too bad you’re not my boss anymore.”

The medical mystery leads to a few more technobabble clues that motivate Crusher to steal the shuttle and pilot it back into the star’s corona, which we’re asked to believe she can do despite whatever security measures are supposed to prevent that sort of thing.

The final plot twist was impossible to predict, but that’s okay; it works within the genre of noir and, in retrospect, it’s perfectly plausible within the storytelling world of Star Trek (which often asks us to believe six impossible things before breakfast). 

Resolving the final crisis with a hand phaser doesn’t make use of Crusher’s function as a doctor. Everything about this script oozes, “Hey guys, we haven’t done a Crusher story lately; we’ve still got a few hours before the deadline; let’s rewrite the script to feature her!”

What if this story had been part of a multi-episode arc, combining

  • Crusher’s noir murder mystery (the murder of a scientist with controversial technology forms the main framing arc)
  • The brother and sister who want to prove that warp drive is damaging the fabric of space (in the combined story arc, that’s the controversial technology in question, not the solar technobabble shields)
  • Beverly’s gothic ghost romance
    • Early in the combined story arc, she reaches out to her grandmother for advice.
    • After her grandmother dies, she can start having vivid dreams that first seem to be a part of her grieving process, but gradually introduce the ghost plot
    • After being relieved of duty, she requests to be dropped off at her grandmother’s colony until the inquiry
  • LaForge’s episode about accidentally opening a bubble into subspace
    • LaForge can start noticing weird PCPs (plot contrivance particles) as soon as the ghost starts appearing to Crusher
    • When the ship delivers Crusher to the colony he can notice a spike in the PCPs, which leads to the subspace rupture and the discovery of the subspace aliens

The climax to this combined story arc would involve Crusher figuring out something about the physiology of why her subspace ghost lover finds her a fitting host, and using that against him. Crusher could make a personal sacrifice — resolving the climax by sacrificing her ghost-love happiness. Adding a romance to the mystery story would fit perfectly in the noir genre.

Ah, well. Arcs like this were not a thing in the early 90s.