Written by Hilary Bader, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Les Landau
The Enterprise is transporting the Cairn, a species of humanoids which communicates through telepathy. Lwaxana Troi (portrayed by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry), mother of Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (marina Sirtis), is recruited to act as interpreter. Lwaxana immediately goes about trying to set her daughter up with the head of the Cairn delegation, Maques (portrayed by Norman Large).
Deanna is annoyed but not surprised by her mother’s usual interference in her personal life. Her annoyance changes to concern when her mother becomes overly emotional during their confrontation. When Maques stops by Deanna’s quarters to apologize for their initial meeting, he informs Deanna that there is a part of Lwaxana’s mind that is shut-off or dark.
Soon after, Lwaxana over-reacts to seeing Deanna and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) holding hands. Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) tells Lwaxana she is worn down from using her telepathy so much.
Deanna takes the Cairn on a tour of the Enterprise, including Maques and his daughter, Hedril (portrayed by Kirsten Dunst). Soon after Hedril falls into a shallow pond, Lwaxana collapses and falls into a coma. When Deanna tries to reach her mother telepathically, she hears her mother crying out for help.
It’s an interesting character piece. The character of Lwaxana has often been used as comic relief. The notable exception to this was the episode Half a Life. Here, she is given a dramatic part. There’s a great deal more under that brazen front Lwaxana puts up, and as the layers are peeled away by Deanna so that she can understand her mother’s pain for the first time, her character becomes more rounded and less one-dimensional than at any other time in the series. Barrett-Roddenberry shows Lwaxana with more range than she has had at any other time. While she showed some sadness and righteous indignation during Half a Life, in Dark Page there is more to what is going on inside of her and why she has possibly used the flamboyance she so often displays as a way over covering up the pain and guilt she feels inside.
It’s nice to see Sirtis get a show where she has more to grab onto than just “sensing” something while standing next to the Captain. Here she has an emotional investment in what’s happening with her mother, as well as reaching out to another species and bridging a huge communication chasm between the two of them. Sirtis conveys this in a believable way that is emotional and poignant.
There are not special effects to really speak of, but there are sequences where Maques helps Deanna “see” images from Lwaxana’s mind. They are well-done, both from a writing and acting perspective as it’s an almost like being in a controlled dream. These moments also help show what a fine actress Sirtis is and how under-used she was throughout the majority of the show.
I was surprised, but immediately recognized, Kirsten Dunst as a guest star on this show. Although her role is somewhat limited, the girl shows the promise of the actress she will become.
Fans looking for great effects might be somewhat disappointed, although it’s a fine character piece. It gives a long-awaited chance for Sirtis to grow the role of Deanna, and turns her mother into much more than a one-trick pony. Fans of the show will appreciate it, while those looking for some deep science-fiction will be somewhat disappointed.