Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Loss

Lieutenant Troi goes mind-blind in this week's Star Trek: The Next Generation look-back...

This review contains spoilers.

4.10 The Loss

The episode opens with Troi counselling Ensign Brooks over her unwillingness to deal with her husband’s death (Ensign Brooks’, that is, not Troi. Troi’s totally over it) but as she says goodbye, she’s stricken with a debilitating headache. On the bridge, Worf notices some weird sensor images, but can’t explain what they are. Rather than hang around to find out, the Enterprise tries to leave but stalls immediately, throwing everyone forward slightly. This is what happens when someone other than Wesley does the driving.

In her office, Deanna contacts Crusher complaining of dizziness, but Crusher has a tonne of minor injuries to deal with so she tells Deanna to hang tight. On the bridge, the Enterprise crew are probing their situation and realising that they may well be stuck. Without Wesley to solve the problem, Geordi and Data get down to some serious computer modelling and reveal that the sensor ghosts weren’t ghosts (disarm the Oujia Torpedoes, Mr. Worf) but a swarm of 2-dimensional beings that have trapped the Enterprise in their wake due to some science.

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An urgent meeting of the senior staff is called, but part-way through Troi realises that she can’t sense the usual mixture of boredom of confusion from anyone. Her empathic sense has disappeared! She’s mind-blind! Crusher wastes no time in declaring her situation probably temporary, but also maybe not, and Troi enters the first stage of grief: denial. She insists she’ll be fine.

Minutes later, she discovers that she is not fine. She feels unable to do her work counselling Ensign Brooks and snaps at Geordi in a meeting. She then tenders her resignation to Picard. He tries to give her some inspirational advice but she tells him she’s not buying that claptrap, coming dangerously close to undermining the gossamer reality upon which this show is built in the process.

Since Picard’s attempt to appeal to her failed, Riker turns up to essentially make fun of her condition while she articulates how hard it is for her to operate in a world of cyphers. In sick bay she tells Beverly that it’s probably the Doctor’s fault for not getting to her sooner, then she heads to Ten-Forward to have it out with Guinan who claims she’s planning to apply for her old job. Clearly Troi has entered the next stage of grief: dickishness.

Back on the bridge Picard decides it’s time to try and figure out an exit strategy because the 2D thingies are about to drag the Enterprise into a “cosmic string” (essentially an off-brand black hole). Worf convinces a reluctant Captain to let him shoot the thingies, but it doesn’t work. With no alternatives left, Picard asks Troi to collaborate with Data and figure out the psychology of the beings.

Although she feels useless, Troi talks things through with Data and stumbles upon a working theory: that the 2D thingies are heading towards the string deliberately, like a moth to a flame. All they have to do is make a new flame for them to head towards. Data agrees, and they present the plan to Picard with only minutes to spare. Admittedly Wesley would’ve figured this out a lot quicker, but hey, any space-dilemma you can walk away from is ultimately a good one.

After Geordi some science the 2D thingies move, allowing the Enterprise to break free of the phenomena. As it moves away, Troi’s mind-powers return. She was just overloaded by the number of lifeforms out there! She tells everyone how happy the 2D thingies are that they can go to the cosmic string, which is where they live. The newly restored Troi apologises to her friends for shouting at them all, and Picard reinstates her at vastly reduced pay. A happy ending for everyone!

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TNG WTF: Troi’s counselling remit apparently extends to secreting the personal items of dead crew members around her… office? Studio? Surgery? Whatever the hell that place is. Seems… odd.

And speaking of odd, Riker’s attempt to comfort Troi involves calling her “aristocratic” and bragging about how the playing field has finally become level. I guess that’s why the ship needs a Counsellor at all, if that’s the level of empathy Starfleet’s finest show.

TNG LOL: Troi gives Crusher an ice cold burn about how she was in sickbay “treating skinned elbows” while Deanna was lying passed out on her office floor. Except when she contacted Crusher she described her symptoms as “a little dizzy” with no mention of the extreme, crippling pain she experienced.

Also, a truly immortal moment:  As platitude-spouting feeling-observer Deanna Troi suggests to Data that “we have to get two dimensional.” Troi, we can safely say that if anyone knows anything about being two-dimensional, it’s you. (This isn’t entirely fair. She also has a bad relationship with her mother and a good relationship with chocolate, and that means she has more characters traits than all of the Voyager cast combined.)

To Boldly Go: The Enterprise was heading to the T’lli Beta system when all this 2-dimensional craziness happened. Why they were going and what they were going to do when they got there is unrevealed, and therefore perfect fodder for anyone looking to write a tie-in novel. Call me, Pocket Books?

Mistakes and Minutiae: This is the only episode in which Troi does anything useful for anyone other than herself.

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Who’s That Face?: Ensign Brooks is played by Kim Braden, who also appears as “Elise Picard”, the Captain’s Nexus-wife in Star Trek: Generations.

Time Until Meeting: 10:13. An important meeting about what might be happening.

Captain’s Log: Troi episodes don’t have a great reputation, and this is probably why. She spends most of the episode veering between wildly inconsistent emotional states and acting hugely unreasonably to everyone, so it’s tough to feel much empathy for her (ironic, right?) It’s good that she comes up with the solution to the problem, and it’s not so dumb that it should’ve been obvious to anyone else, but at the same time it’s wildly out of character for Troi to actually solve a problem, much less be asked to do so. But hey, when Wesley’s gone, where else can you look?

And while it’s not an awful episode, by the standards of this season it represents a pretty big drop in quality. No-one acts very sympathetically towards anyone else and the threat to the ship lacks jeopardy for a lot of the story. Troi’s lack of empathy could’ve been conveyed better, too – at one point she says something like “you can’t know what this is like for me” and she’s right. We can’t. And no-one has even tried to come up with a way of showing it. My kingdom for an ambitious director.

Anyway, it was a Troi episode, so what else was there to expect other than disappointment? Just think. Wesley AND Troi episodes back to back. We shall never see the like again, mercifully. At least the next one’s about Data, I suppose.

Read James’ review of the previous episode, Final Mission, here.

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