Written by Jacqueline Zambrano, Leonard Mlodinow, and Scott Rubenstein
Directed by Larry Shaw
The Enterprise is called on to transport the great mediator, Riva, (portrayed by Howie Seago) from his home planet to Solais V, where a war had been going on for more than 15 centuries. Right from the beginning, the script is almost schizophrenic in regards to Riva. He is purported to be a famous mediator who has brokered several treaties between the Federation and the Klingons, and yet the crew of the Enterprise seems to know little or nothing about him.
This is done, however, so that the viewer may learn the details about Riva. He is part of the royal family on his planet. The family does not carry the gene for hearing, so Riva is deaf. To communicate, he has a “chorus” accompany him. This chorus consists of three people who are so attuned to Riva they are able to convey his thoughts and emotions.
It is a curious way to communicate and fascinating to watch. Riva gets angry when he perceives captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) talking to his chorus instead of directly to him. This is akin to times I have been in a restaurant with a friend in a wheelchair and the waitress turns to talk to me instead of her.
Riva is arrogant and conceited in his ability to mediate a dispute. This all comes crashing down when one of the parties he is supposed to be holding negotiations with attempts to assassinate him, but instead slays the chorus in a particularly graphic scene.
Suddenly, Riva is alone and unable to communicate. Even Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) with whom he had been developing a relationship, is unable to help him despite her empathic abilities. The android Data (Brent Spiner) is asked to learn sign language since he can process and learn things in such a short time.
Riva blames himself and his arrogance for the death of his chorus – his friends. Though the two warring factions still wish to begin mediation, Riva no longer has the self-assurance that he can do it. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) urges Riva to use Data, but Riva points out that Data can convey only his words – not the feelings behind them.
There are some good messages about disabilities in this episode. In addition to the story of Riva, there is also a short part with Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) where he must decide whether or not to try optic nerve regeneration or continue using the VISOR in constant pain. He chooses to keep the VISOR, not willing to risk losing some of the benefits he has with it.
The acting in this episode is good all around. Marina Sirtis gets to shine once again as Troi and we see a bit more of her romantic side with regards to Riva. She conveys the discomfort she feels trying to talk to him with the chorus in the room. This is good in that it shows her not immediately accepting of the differences between them, but that she is very willing to try.
Brent Spiner also gives another wonderful performance as Data when he becomes Riva’s interpreter. It is perfect that the unemotional android interpret so that Riva can convey that there is no way for Data to know or be able to put emotion behind his words.
Patrick Stewart gives a strong performance as well, facing a grim situation when he has been directed not to interfere and only provide transport.
I had made notes for this and the previous episode to write this review, and when I lost them, I did not mind watching this episode again. The script holds up pretty good and it benefits from some great acting. The resolution at the end is believable without being too convenient.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Schizoid Man
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unnatural Selection