Written by Tracy Torme and Lan O’Kun
Directed by Richard Compton
On rewatching this episode it was hard to put my finger on just what was wrong with it.
The premise is simple enough. Counselor Deanna Troi was promised in childhood by her father to his best friend’s son. The family is now asking for that Betazoid tradition to be honored. Troi is not happy with the situation but agrees to honor her late father’s promise.
So why does this episode seem to fall so flat?
At first thought, I felt that perhaps it was too early in the series for this type of episode. I would guess the producers had some of the same inklings, since though it was the fifth episode filmed, it was pushed back to actually be the tenth episode aired. We haven’t gotten to know Troi yet – why would we care that she would be leaving the crew of the Enterprise D? We haven’t established too much of the groundwork between Deanna and Riker – why would we care that he is jealous?
I then thought that knowing how things work out in future episodes and that she is not going to leave the Enterprise D was part of the problem. However, episodes such as Yesterday’s Enterprise still hold up so well despite knowing the outcome and the future.
I came to the conclusion that it was not one definitive thing that makes this episode fall flat, but a culmination of factors. Thankfully, the mistakes the writers and producers, made during the first season were mistakes they learned from.
The man to whom Troi has been betrothed (Wyatt) is in search of a woman he has dreamed about all of his life. He urged his father to press for the agreement to be honored because he believe Troi was that woman. She is not. The picture he has of the woman clearly shows that, and at the same time, he will also honor the agreement between the two families.
This is in spite of Troi’s mother, Lwaxana Troi, portrayed by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (yes, the wife of Star Trek‘s creator, Gene Roddenberry). Lwaxana had become either one of the most favorite or most annoying characters in Star Trek, depending on your perspective. As with all Betazoids, she is telepathic and uses this trait of all Betazoids in very irreverent ways which manage to create havoc amongst the crew of the Enterprise, and the families gathered for the impending wedding. (Deanna Troi is merely empathic since her father was human and she is only one-half Betazoid.)
Mixed into all of this, the Enterprise is orbiting the planet Haven (hence the title of the episode), a planet that is rumored to have great healing powers and is a completely peaceful society. A ship containing the last remaining vestiges of the Tarellian society is headed for the planet. The Tarellians were all but wiped out in a terrible act of biological warfare and want to visit Haven for its purported healing powers.
Wyatt is a doctor and believes he can help these people. Once he sees the Tarellians aboard the vessel, he realizes that the woman he dreamed of is one of the survivors. He beams over, thereby contaminating himself.
The woman of Wyatt’s dreams is entirely too perfect – a problem abounding in Hollywood but one that seems glaring to me here. Why is his destiny with someone that “perfect”? The casting director would have done better to find someone who did not come off as a beauty queen, and it might have lent more credibility to the story.
I also think that the actors perhaps did not have a good bead on their characters yet, and that is part of what leaves this episode lacking. In later episodes, as they become more comfortable with their portrayals, I don’t seem to notice the same problems that I do here.
I find myself down-rating so many of the first season episodes and I really try hard to examine what I don’t like about them. The only plus I find here is some of the comic relief provided by the character of Lwaxana, particularly during her interaction with Captain Picard. Since he is a very reserved, straight-laced man, his discomfort is quite evident when confronted with the effervescent Betazoid.
While I understand the reasons why the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was so…underwhelming (and let’s face it, many TV scripted shows have fair-to-middling debut seasons), this episode is among my least favorite. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry is the best part of this otherwise “blecch” episode.
The character here is not as well-honed as she later became, but was a good bit of relief in an episode that was really lacking in anything compelling with the story.