The title made me uneasy and I knew before watching that Troi would be involved. There is depiction of sexual assault in the episode and I discuss it here, along with exploration of abusive/predatory tactics.
The Enterprise is hosting a family of telepathic researchers who retrieve forgotten memories from various species to gain insight into their histories. In 10 Forward an audience watches as the Father guides Keiko through a memory of a chipped cup, which turns into a happy recollection of her grandmother. The Father suggests Crusher might want to try next and mentions what she's currently thinking about, his Son (a fully grown man) chides him for peeking into someone's mind without permission, but Father brushes the concern aside with a charming and jokey manner. At a meal with the senior crew Father tries to get more volunteers for memory probing, but everyone declines. Father calls them squeamish, but the Mother says he shouldn't influence people as their volunteers must come willingly. Son gently chides Father again, and after Troi deftly changes the subject father boasts about how his talent far surpasses Son's abilities. Son leaves the room, followed by Troi, and they have a brief rueful conversation about overbearing parents before going their separate ways.
While preparing for bed Troi remembers a romantic encounter with Riker after a poker game, but as she remembers it the mood changes and it turns into a sexual assualt. In her memory Riker is replaced by Son, then she falls unconscious. Troi turns out to be in a coma, which has Crusher stumped, Riker talks to Son as the last person to see Troi. Crusher wants to examine the teleapths in case they're inadvertently carrying something that caused the coma; Son is amenable to this. Riker talks to Troi in her coma until Crusher sends him to rest. In his quarters he remembers an emergency in Engineering where he had to order the blast doors lowered, Ensign Keller was trapped on the other, and all attempts to save her failed. An engineer accuses Riker of killing her, the memory loops as Troi's did and Son appears as different people in the memory, all accusing Riker of killing her.
Crusher can't explain Riker's coma either, both he and Troi look like they have an exisitng syndrome, but the histamine level is wrong and there are odd reading in the part of the brain that deals with memory. Crusher asks the telepaths about examining them in case the memory probe is the issue, Father is disgruntled but agrees. Geordi does a long-winded Computer search for possible causes but finds nothing. Crusher remembers a younger Picard (with hair!) taking her to a morgue to see her husband body. Young!Picard tells her she doesn't have to do it, but she insists she does. The scarred corpse of Jack Crusher suddenly has Son's face, and then so does Young!Picard. Geordi finds Crusher comatose at her desk when he comes to tell her his searches were fruitless. The telepaths seem to be the only potential cause, Picard orders Data to check the planets they previously visited for mysterious comas. Troi wakes up, knows something awful happened to her, but can't remember specifics.
Picard asks telepaths to confine themselves to quarters, they're annoyed by the not-quite accusations and Son suggests they perform a memory probe on Troi to discover the truth. Picard is reluctant to put Troi through that, but Mother says they'll take whatever precautions are needed but should be allowed to prove their innocence. Geordi and Data can't find unexplained comas elsewhere, but Geordi remembers Crusher likened the comas to an existing syndrome. They search for cases of the syndrome coinciding with the telepath's visits. Son guides Troi through a memory probe, with Picard as witness. She recalls remembering a night with Riker from a few years back, she describes the memory changing, becoming an assault. It's not Riker anymore, she sees Father. Picard and Son discuss the crime, which happened centuries ago, but hasn't been reported in modern times. Geordi and Data to keep searching so they can report the truth to medical professionals on the relevant planets. They find a coma where Father wasn't present but Son was. Son visits Troi to apologise and say goodbye, she's very understanding towards him and senses that he's upset. He starts manipulating her memory again, right in front of her, she realises what actually happened and attacks him. They struggle, then Worf bursts in and knocks him out. Data arrives and explains that Son was the only telepath who was always present when comas happened.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard is serious about the threat to his crew and his hosting duties; it's a balancing act. Though the telepaths seem to be the cause he's reluctant to accuse them of anything until the situation is thoroughly investigated. As senior crew are struck down Picard has to take action, even though it's ineffective. If telepaths are to blame it's pointed out that getting them to stay in their quarters does nothing. When the telepaths suggest action that could take the investigation forward Picard is unwilling to put his crew in further danger.
Although Picard is not a very touchy person he puts his hand on Troi's shoulder as comfort when she's distraught after the false revelation about her assault. Through Crusher's altered memory we saw a younger Jean-Luc took newly-widowed Beverly to see her husband's body. He supported her through the morgue trip, and assured her that she didn't have to do it, but didn't question her when she said it was something she needed to do (at least that's my read on it, it's hard to get an accurate idea of what happened because of the looping and distortion of the assault). His concern was partly that she shouldn't remember Jack like that, which suggests to me that he tried to spare her pain he was already experiencing. I like how younger Picard had more hair, but wasn't changed much otherwise; we now know that is basically how Patrick Stewart ages.
Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
While Troi is in a coma Riker talks to her and mentions her helping him through a coma back in Shades of Grey. He talks about mundane stuff, probably because it's easier for him. The ship is mapping stuff, which is what happens when they've got nothing else on. He mentions a personnel report they were working on together. I didn't expect Troi to be involved in that. Is it part of her role as Counsellor (psych profiles? staff requirements?) or her moonlighting as Picard's PA? Or just a way for her and Riker to spend time together?
Riker's memory must be something that senior officers dread, making an emergency decision that saves the ship but causes a death. We don't know whether a distraught crewmember actually did accuse Riker of killing Keller in the moment, or if that's part of the memory distortion.
At a dinner with the telepaths and senior crew Beverley archly suggests Picard has a memory probe. I think she needles him a bit because their old friendship means she's the only one who can.
Before the criminal investigation it's a medical matter, and so Crusher does her checks thoroughly. It's her thoroughness which eventually exposes the breadth of the crimes committed; where other medical professionals went with the easiest explanation Crusher makes sure to search for a correct diagnosis. When Riker exhausts himself staying by Troi's bedside Crusher orders him to go rest, admittedly that's when he's targeted, but she wasn't to know that and it was a sound order from the Chief Medical Officer. Crusher is joined in sickbay by Dr Martin, who he seems to take over when she's in a coma. Again we see sickbay staff operating as a team, Crusher working in collaboration with named subordinates, which isn't the dynamic as much with Engineering or Security.
Crusher's memory is a traumatic, personal one, probably the most horrible experience of her life. She went with Picard to see her husband's body.* As a doctor she isn't squeamish, but it must have been one of the most difficult things she ever did, yet she still knew that she had to do it. The distortion of the assault makes this horrible memory into a full nightmare.
It's Not Easy Being Troi
I knew Troi would have a bad time in this episode because awful stuff like this always happens to Troi (the mysterious pregnancy, that jerk she dated, the kidnapping). Troi is kinda eye candy, and that seems to come with more plotlines that remove agency (not that it's just her, but it is her a lot), so of course an episode called "Violations" is going to involve her. Even though she's not the only victim, she's the first victim and the only one whose assault is explicitly sexual. Unlike the others, Troi's assault involves a pleasant, erotic memory which is twisted to become a sexual assault. She explicitly says no and struggles, her consent as well as her memory is violated. While the other two had bad memories tweaked to become more nightmarish, we don't know how much of Troi's memory is changed. How far did things go with Riker after that poker game a few years before? (Was that near the time Deanna and Lwaxana were kidnapped, cos it seemed like she and Riker were being cuddly around then.) I've said before that Riker is a sex-positive ladies man, so I do not for a moment believe the rapey stuff was him. That Troi is the primary victim is clear when Son assaults her again after saying goodbye. He stupidly gives himself away, but because he's present and Troi now knows what's happening she resists and tries to defend herself.
Future Is Better
The Enterprise crew can access medical records from 11 planets, but they don't have cameras in the corridors of the ship? I suppose the surveillance culture was different when this was made, but it just feels strange to me that they can access and search medical info from various different nations but don't know whether anyone went into Troi's quarters that night.
Geordi getting the Computer to search for anything that could have caused the comas is a really long-winded process. Asking question after question to cover all possible bases with no intuitive searching, it'd be so easy to miss something because you didn't ask a very specific question. It's all vocal too, which makes it worse because it's like having a really irritating conversation. Is this what those home assistant programs are like? I wonder if part of the reason Data seems so impressive is that he can use the consoles to search really quickly, which must seem like magic to humans who have to ask a series of increasingly annoying and specific questions.
It's very uncomfortable watching, but the episode explores the tactics of an abuser/rapist. Son is very careful to present a non-threatening image. He's quiet and stoic in manner, he chides his Father for pushing at people's boundaries, and he downplays his talent so that he seems much less skilled than his father. He plays the long-suffering, less-talented son to a charming-but-overbearing father. The position he puts himself in is what draws Troi to him, to sympathise over their similar parental issues. It's chilling because he's not only disguising himself, he's also placing his father in a position to attract more attention and suspicion. I've heard that serial abusers don't just groom their victims, they also groom communities/observers to build an image around themselves that deflects suspicion. This is pre-meditated and chilling, and this episode is an exploration of such behaviour.
During Troi's assault the dialogue initially sounds like Troi and Riker, but then it sounds like a different conversation being performed through them. The name Imzadi keeps coming up, and I don't know who that is or what that's about. It feels like there's background to Son's assault that got cut, which is fair enough, we don't need a rapist's excuses. His actions at the end show he specifically targeted Deanna, he goes to say goodbye, but tries to assault her again. "Why do you have to be so nice?" It sounds like a compliment, but it's a very weak attempt at victim-blaming. It's telling that he targets Riker and Crusher only after each reveals they're leading the investigation, convenient that his assaults cause memory-loss. No one ever mentions to the telepaths that Geordi is investigating too, so he's never targeted. I wonder how many of the previous assaults were done to cover Son's tracks?
Staff Meetings: 2
1. Crusher explains Troi and Riker's brain scans to senior crew. It looks like a pre-existing syndrome, but can't be that because the histamine levels are wrong. Worf thinks the telepaths should be quarantined (focus on security as befits his role), but Picard thinks it's too soon. Crusher points out that the scans show issues in the part of the brain that deals with memory.
2. After finding Crusher unconscious, Geordi explains that his scans haven't found anything on board. Picard orders him to look into the other planets the telepaths visited. He also suggests they could confine the telepaths to quarters, though the consensus is that nothing will effectively stop a telepath.
Death By Space Misadventure
Ensign Keller (presumably an Engineer) was trapped behind a blast door during an emergency and as far as we can tell she failed to escape and died. She was presumably was overcome by fumes as she didn't respond on comms. We never actually see Keller, and don't know quite when this happened.
Jack Crusher, I guess. It happened years ago, when Picard had hair on top of his head, and he must have died on duty. Again the circumstances are unknown, but it was likely some kind of space-related accident.
Father apologises to Picard (not the victims), saddened and ashamed. He says medical professionals from their world will come to treat the victims, although this type of rape is historical there are records that can help. Picard makes a point that both their cultures have violent histories and as much as they might wish to believe they have put such things behind them the seed of violence remains and can still consume people. This is a point that feels super relevant now.
|Attackers often hide in plain sight|
* This does rather ruin my image of Picard walking to her door cradling Jack's body in his arms, but that was only due to Wesley's odd wording way back in Encounter at Farpoint.