Star Trek: The Next Generation (1990): S03E14 – A Matter of Perspective


Introduction

“A Matter of Perspective” is the 14th episode of the third season of the American syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), and the 62nd episode of the series overall.

It was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon. The 45-minute episode was broadcast on 12 February 1990 on television. It was written by Ed Zuckerman.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Commander Riker is accused of murdering a scientist and faces an extradition hearing aboard the Enterprise where everyone’s version of what transpired is re-created in the holodeck. There is an additional plot element of Riker possibly attempting to rape the scientist’s wife, or alternatively his wife being guilty of attempting to seduce Riker. In addition, Enterprise is damaged by a mysterious radiation that the rest of crew works to resolve while the holodeck hearings are conducted.

One of the themes is how people perceive reality and how they remember events. Another issue brought up is the idea of innocent until proven guilty, which is also a standard in Star Trek’s Federation, but on the planet they are visiting they practice guilty until proven innocent. A trial with this structure is not actually conducted; rather, the Enterprise’s captain has authority over whether to hand someone over to a different jurisdiction. Another difference between the law of the Federation and that of the planet they are visiting is the weight of secondhand testimony, or in legalese “hearsay”.

In the end the bridge crew uses science and technology not only to prove Riker’s innocence in regard to the alleged murder, but show that the scientist killed himself trying to murder Riker. In addition, it is demonstrated he defrauded the Federation, receiving resources when the goal of the research had already been completed. This is a reason given for attempting to kill Riker; he is concerned that Riker has figured out his scam and wants to keep it from being exposed. The charges for murder are dropped and there is no further trial for an attempted sexual assault.

The episode follows in the tradition of Star Trek episodes that examine law and justice, and some other episodes in the 1989–1990 season dealt with topics in this area. For example, “Sins of the Father” (S03E17) again dealt with Captain Picard helping a crew-member facing death in a foreign law system.

Outline

With a routine planetary survey ahead, the Federation starship Enterprise drops Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Chief Engineer La Forge (LeVar Burton) at the Botanica Four research space station orbiting Tanuga Four to check on the progress of the work of Dr. Nel Apgar (Mark Margolis), a Tanugan who has been working on Krieger waves, a new promised energy source for the Federation. When the Enterprise returns, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is told that Riker stayed behind to have a private meeting with Apgar, and moments after Riker transports back to the ship, the station explodes, killing Apgar, and almost killing Riker due to the explosion disrupting the transporter process. Tanugan investigator Krag (Craig Richard Nelson) comes aboard to accuse Riker of murder; under Tanugan law, Riker is guilty until proven innocent, and Krag demands Riker’s extradition. Captain Picard requests that they hold a hearing aboard the Enterprise to determine Riker’s guilt. This involves the use of a holodeck, recreating the events on the station from data logs and testimony from Riker, Dr. Apgar’s wife Manua (Gina Hecht), and his research assistant, Tayna (Juliana Donald).

In the holodeck recreation, Krag demonstrates that a directed energy beam – from Riker’s location prior to transport – struck the Krieger wave converter, destroying it and the station, but his theory is that Riker fired a phaser just before beaming out. Riker presents his case first, with his simulation showing Apgar highly agitated with a Federation presence before he is ready for them, and Manua openly flirting with Riker. Manua then makes aggressive passes at Riker in the guest quarters when Apgar walks in on them, attempts to attack Riker, but Riker subdues him. Apgar leaves with Manua giving Riker a veiled threat. Riker’s simulation concludes with his final confrontation where Apgar tells Riker that he will lodge a formal complaint about Riker’s behaviour and accuses Riker of potentially damaging the project with baseless information in Riker’s progress report.

In Manua’s version of the events, she is a doting wife, with her husband promising rich rewards coming from the project. From her point of view, Riker is the one making the advances, and when they are alone in the guest quarters, Riker threatens to rape her when her husband storms in to defend her, but Riker overpowers him and threatens to have the project shut down. During a recess, Riker asserts to Counsellor Troi (Marina Sirtis) that he never seduced Manua, and Troi believes him, but she tells him that Manua believes the events happened as described, and that “it is the truth as each of you remembers it”.

Tayna’s testimony is her version of events from Apgar’s point of view as he told her. Picard tries to have the testimony dismissed as hearsay, however, Tanugan law allows such testimony, so they proceed. In her simulation, when Apgar walks in on Riker and Manua, Apgar is the one to successfully subdue Riker, leaving Riker threatening to kill Apgar. Based on the testimonies presented, Picard is not sure Riker’s case is strong enough to avoid extradition.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise find highly focused pulses of an unknown, intense radiation striking parts of the ship, putting holes through the bulkheads. La Forge fears what would happen if this should occur inside the warp reactor. The initial assessment is that the only commonality is the timing of these events, which upon further examination they soon trace to be precisely in time with the wave generator on the surface, which had remained operating after the station’s destruction. Picard comes to realise the truth, and prepares a new simulation on the holodeck.

With Krag, Manua, Tayna, and Riker all present, Picard demonstrates through a combination of the testimonies that Apgar was more interested in the potential financial success of completing the Krieger wave converter; he would not get this through the Federation, and Picard postulates that he in fact was trying to weaponize the project to make money, thus explaining his hostility towards Riker’s presence. Further, Picard suggests that Apgar had successfully built the converter; the holodeck simulation of it, also being fully functional, has been focusing the energy from the generator on the planet, resulting in the damaging radiation experienced on the ship, which La Forge identified as Krieger waves. Picard completes his explanation by running the holodeck simulation of the moment of Riker’s transport, synchronised with the planetary generator – the holodeck simulation shows that Apgar had aimed the Krieger wave generator at Riker, but when the energy beam struck him, the beam bounced off the transporter field and hit the converter, destroying it and the station. Krag agrees with the conclusion that Apgar accidentally killed himself and Riker is exonerated.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Cliff Bole.
  • Writer(s): Ed Zuckerman.
  • Release Date: 12 February 1990.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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