Beneath the stones, the beach; beneath the beach, Cthulhu

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. K. Jones
    December 2, 2015 @ 3:26 pm

    I like the notion that while conventional fandom likes to peg Riker as a second Kirk-figure, what we get here after several years of promising but flawed attempts is actually Frakes as a second Shatner-figure. The double-artifice of the play here is very Shatner, as is the exploration of inner darkness even in a pretty open and bright guy, the psychological bits, even the play itself as a framing device seems somewhat "Conscience of the King". It's as though Frakes knew all along that he didn't want to ape the perceived Kirk, he wanted to borrow from the slightly wry awareness Shatner's performances had, and here's where it pays off for a whole episode.

    That said, I keep falling asleep in this one, too. I've watched it thrice now and only made it halfway or less. But I think it's because this episode is well-trodden ground for me. I've experienced this hour a few too many times for it to keep my interest.


  2. Froborr
    December 3, 2015 @ 6:49 am

    More than somewhat "Conscience of the King"–the climax, in which every line is both part of the play and part of the "real" action, is a clear parallel.


  3. Froborr
    December 3, 2015 @ 6:51 am

    It occurs to me that we could make a case for Crusher being as magical as Guinan. It's just that where Guinan's mastery is over time, which is to say the narrative, Crusher's is over performance and artifice.


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    December 3, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

    That's a really interesting idea to look at in the context of the next TNG episode. Not sure we'll be able to draw much out of it other than superficialities, but still.


  5. Ross
    December 3, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

    The thing that I always found really striking, as it was the first time I think I'd ever seen it, was the triple misdirect. Like, everyone knew up-front that it wasn't going to turn out that the Enterprise was all a dream and Riker was really in a mental hospital the whole time. But as a result, we're primed to assume that the Enterprise sequences are real – but then they keep getting more obviously unreal. Okay, you think, so the mental hospital is real, but it's Evil and they're gaslighting him, and the enterprise bits are Riker's real memories trying to assert themselves but it's all messed up because he's been brainwashed or something.
    But then at the last minute there's the third level of misdirect where it turns out that neither of them is real.

    And they never even actually bother with telling us the story of the "real" situation – we only really get the thinnest of outlines of how Riker ended up getting mind-probed. Because that's just not what the story is about.

    (And OF COURSE it got me again when Stargate SG-1 did the same thing a decade later)


  6. Daru
    December 21, 2015 @ 9:26 am

    "Pretty much nowhere else are you going to get a 200-level course on Jungian psychology and dream theory told through a mini piece of abstract sci-fi cinema on primetime television."

    Utterly love this one again – what a wonderful piece of television. This blew me away when I did my re-watch last year, and I love the idea of TNg attempting to shatter its reality and break beyond its TV bounds.


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