Season Four - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Loss

Written by Hilary Bader, Alan J. Adler, Vanessa Greene, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Chip Chalmers

Oftentimes when superheroes have super-powers, one of the plot devices that comes up sooner or later is having them lose those powers for a period of time and become “a mere human.” Such is the case in the episode The Loss. The execution of this plot device is not as well-done as I’d expect from the writers of this show.

Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is a from the planet Betazed. On this planet, the people have telepathic abilities. Since Troi is half-Betazoid and half-human, she has empathic abilities which means she can sense how people are feeling. This has helped her a great deal in her counseling abilities. At the start of this episode, she is counseling a woman who’s husband died. The woman seems to display a cavalier “life goes on” attitude, but Troi can sense that inside there is a lot more.

Viewers can easily see through the woman’s outer veneer as well, which in a sense trivializes Troi’s abilities. In a case like this, a good counselor without telepathic abilities should be able to pick up the deep sorrow this woman is covering up.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise‘s sensors detect an unusual pattern of images in space. After a short investigation, the crew finds that it is unable to break free from a cluster of two-dimension lifeforms. It is only then that Troi realizes she cannot sense anything from the lifeforms or her fellow crewmates.

Much of the rest of the episode focuses on Troi’s coping with the disappearance of her empathic powers. At first, she displays the cavalier “life goes on” attitude that the was displayed in the beginning. Little by little she grows increasingly angry and frustrated until finally Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) confronts her and she breaks down.

It’s an interesting premise to the episode. Marina Sirtis does a wonderful acting job as Troi, conveying the frustration and despair while at the same time trying to put on a brave face for everyone else. Frakes is good at displaying a concern above and beyond what is the norm for his former lover, while at the same time keeping a professional appearance in front of the rest of the crew.

The problem really comes with the situations that feel forced around the theme of Troi losing her powers. Into the fourth season, Troi should have encountered (and counseled) quite a few crewmembers who have lost mates. Her instincts and knowledge here should be better honed so that the loss of her empathic abilities is not such a big deal. That it takes an encounter with Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) in the Ten-Forward Lounge to make Troi appreciate her other instincts really does not ring true. She should have been better trained than that. The situation here feels forced and fake.

Likewise, the explanation for her regaining her abilities feels contrived as well. It’s no surprise that she does, although there might have been a possibility that she lost the empathic ability for an episode or two.

Although there is some terrific acting here, it’s an episode that would be easy to miss. There is nothing here that impacts the characters later on, and the story is too weak in certain areas to make it that compelling.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Final Mission

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Data’s Day

4 replies »

  1. I always thought Counselor Troi relied too heavily on her empath abilities and not enough on her education and training… you have put into words what I had thought but not expressed! Thanks!