I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. 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.
“Man of the People”
An empath diplomat comes on board the Enterprise with his mother, who is immediately quite hostile towards Counselor Troi. Shortly thereafter, the “mother” dies, and the empath asks Troi to help with a ceremony for the dead, which in fact binds Troi to him and channels his anger and other emotions into her. She begins to age startlingly quickly and also exhibits a strong desire to channel her emotions. The crew realizes something is wrong but doesn’t pinpoint it until Troi is dying and the empath is on a planet in diplomatic talks. They manage to sever the empath’s ties to Troi by using a decoy, which leads to his death.
Find a fuller plot summary here.
Sometimes it seems like Troi is a one-trick pony. She has her moments, but the writers have yet to really cash in on her as well as they could. “Man of the People” is another example of this. I can almost see the brainstorming session: “Okay, we’re gonna have this empath guy who uses his abilities to trap women to absorb his anger and stuff and it ages them and makes them die.”; “Yeah, and because he’s empath and Troi is empath they automatically are attracted to each other and he decides she’s his next victim!” “Yeah! That sounds great!”
We get it. Troi has empathic abilities. Does that mean she is the only one ever who has alien empaths interested in her? It seems like it so far, and “Man of the People” felt distinctly deja vu. It really isn’t a bad episode, because the gradual changes in Troi’s character and appearance are disturbing and the story is pretty solid. The problem is that it is just another example of why it always has to be Troi. But why?
It’s not at all a bad episode. It just feels like one that has been done differently before, many times.
Grade: B “It’s not a bad episode, but it feels very deja vu. Troi is always the target!”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It made me hate the bad guy so well!”
The Enterprise is investigating a wrecked Starfleet ship when they discover that someone is apparently in a transporter loop. When they retrieve the person, it turns out to be Scotty, the chief engineer from the original series! He has been stuck in the loop for decades, and as he struggles to reintegrate with Starfleet life, he talks to Geordi, Data, and Picard (among others). Meanwhile, the Enterprise gets stuck inside the huge sphere-like world that was built around the local star. La Forge and Scotty must resolve their differences and save the Enterprise, which they do, of course! High fives all around.
BEAM ME UP SCOTTY!
Sorry, I had to. It’s what I called out when he first showed up on the transporter pad in the derelict ship. Beth, my wife, really wasn’t expecting to see him, that’s for sure!
It was delightful to see Scotty on board the Enterprise again, but this episode is more than just bringing a guest star back from the previous series. Indeed, it is far more thoughtful than one might expect, as Scotty has to struggle with his own perceived uselessness and his desire to be helpful. There is a surprising amount of melancholy found here, but it is balanced with a good helping of humor and a well-paced plot.
Once again, we realize how much La Forge has come into his own. He is an epic character now, with a full-bodied background and persona. His interactions with Scotty seem so on-target because Geordi really is so by-the-book and precise that we know he would act that way in his interactions with others and his care for anything in engineering. It provides a stark contrast with Scotty’s way of doing things–one that the writers banked on to show how they might learn from each other.
Honestly this is just a fun episode, and it could have gone terribly. The fact that it didn’t is a testament both to how strong the characters have become (here’s looking at you, Geordi!), as well as some good writing. A great episode.
Grade: A “Geordi’s interactions with Scotty were phenomenal character building. Set alongside a great story, this is a fantastic episode.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had a good message and great nostalgia factor.”
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