I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. Here, we’re in season 2 and discussing episodes five and six. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
“Loud as a Whisper”
A centuries-long conflict between two factions has come to turn a new leaf as the sides realize they are nearing extinction. They ask for an arbiter for peace talks and the Federation selects Riva, the guy who negotiated the alliance between the Frederation and the Klingon Empire. It turns out Riva communicates through a “chorus” of three people who interpret his thoughts into words. As an empath, he is hot for Troi, and their relationship helps when Riva’s chorus is destroyed by one of the natives on the planet’s surface. Riva is convinced to return to the planet to continue negotiations by turning a weakness into a strength: by teaching sign language, he plans to teach communication to the people.
I’ve enjoyed this episode every time I have seen it. I think the concept of Riva is really cool. His approach to a “disability” as something that makes someone special–and how that resonated with Geordi–was also really awesome. The way he is fairly mysterious while also confident in his approach to diplomacy was also brilliantly overturned by destroying his chorus. The episode forced Riva to confront his own fears and confidence while also trying to unite people desperate to end a conflict. Moreover, the little developments of Geordi, Data, and Troi were interesting–though I’m not sure why Troi must always be reduced to sex appeal or overblown counseling efforts.
As an aside, it is interesting to look at the chorus’ make up: men are reason/lust while a woman is harmony. Does this say anything about gender-essentialism–that men are one way and women another no matter what? I considered this, but the fact is the episode portrays the chorus as being Riva in a kind of symbiotic way, so Riva is all of these “parts” at once, just reflected through words in different people. Something interesting to consider. On the other hand, the predictable thread of having Troi be the center of some random guy’s desires is getting tired. She seems to be a token sex symbol more than a character, which is a shame because there’s a lot of potential with her character.
Anyway, overall a really solid episode with good development of a one-off character and the crew all at once. That’s hard to do, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “The first half was kind of weird, but the second half was better.”
“The Schizoid Man”
A VIP, Dr. Graves, is dying and the Enterprise is sent to provide medical aid. On the way, another ship, the Constantinople, a vessel with a couple thousand people also called needing help. Of course, Picard chooses to help both, so they drop an away team and return after an off-screen solution to the other problem. The VIP, it turns out, is terminal and is also super crotchety, sexist, and abrasive. He takes over Data’s body by transferring his brain into it. Ultimately, he is defeated by his own acknowledgement of his ability to wreak havoc he doesn’t want and puts himself in a computer.
“Women aren’t people…. they’re women.” – I’m still recovering from this line. The premise of this episode actually isn’t terrible. The notion that someone might come along and hijack Data is just as plausible (if not moreso) than the holodeck incidents, though it has been done before. The problem is that Dr. Graves is so chauvinistic and obnoxious that there is absolutely no reason to get emotionally involved in hoping he doesn’t die. Towards the end I found myself just wanting him to go away forever and being upset that he even managed to continue in the computer. So basically, the premise may have worked if the character weren’t so horrible. The whole thing seemed to take too long and I found myself wishing that I’d gotten to see the other incident with the thousands of people on the line–maybe one of them would have been more interesting than a one-dimensional aggravated old man.
Because Dr. Graves was so annoying, I genuinely felt relief at getting Data back, and there was some decent buildup about how the crew would finally figure Graves’ switcheroo out. Overall these saved this episode from being a dumpster-bin episode, but only just.
Troi’s laughing at Data’s beard actually makes it seem like she’s not a very good counselor. I don’t remember why, but I’ve always liked Troi. So far her character hasn’t had much development, nor many good things happening. I’m hoping for a decent Troi episode at some point. Also, what’s with showing the Enterprise at warp speed for every single transition? Seriously, it’s cool once, but if you watch the episode again, you’ll notice that it happens between almost every single change of scene between commercial breaks.
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B/B+ “Interesting and entertaining, but fairly predictable.”
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