Star Trek TNG: The Loss
"I look around me and all I see are surfaces without depth; colorless, hollow. Nothing seems real."
- Deanna Troi
Last week, we discussed an excellent episode, Loud as a Whisper. But, what happens when one of the crew members suddenly becomes disabled? In The Loss, Counselor Troi loses her empathic abilities after the Enterprise becomes trapped in a cosmic string of 2-dimensional beings. At first, she is shown to be confident in counseling a woman, but then loses her confidence after she announces that she no longer has her empathic ability.
She becomes frustrated and says that she feels people walking on eggshells around her, or being overbearing in wanting to help. When First Officer Will Riker comforts her at first she’s sarcastic and says he’s “reaching out to help the old blind woman.” and she’d rather be alone. Fittingly, Riker says, “Too bad!” and gives her a hug.
Feeling useless, she offers to resign as counselor. Picard tries to tell her that when one ability is lost, the others grow stronger, but she tells him that is a myth invented by normal people who felt uncomfortable around the disabled. Hearing this expressed by Troi was immensely relieving to me. But, I still felt uncomfortable with how defensive she was; even though it mirrors my own defensiveness. How can the others recognize the depth of her loss? She has in essence become accustomed to superficial judgment, and tries to avoid the pain.
But, if anyone really shines in this episode, it’s Will Riker. He is there for Troi, and helps her because he cares for her, not because she’s disabled. He points out that her empathy gave her a sense of comfort and control that let her "aristocratic" empathic half dominate and effectively shunt her human half to the side. Still unaware of what she can contribute, she goes to Ten Forward, the Enterprise bar, and drowns her sorrows. Guinan the bartender (Whoopi Goldberg) says she’s interested in taking up her position as Counselor, because she talks to people all day like her, and she has instinct. This motivates her to take some interest in the Enterprise’s situation again.
During a briefing with Data, Troi says that she feels like the 2-dimensional beings. This gives her the idea that: “We need to get 2-dimensional.” The creatures are acting on instinct pulling the Enterprise to its destruction in the cosmic string. Communication won’t work, all they need to do is push them out of the way. Data successfully mimics the vibrations of the string and causes them to free the ship. So, all that was happening was she was empathizing with 2-dimensional beings.
Her abilities return, and she senses the beings were trying to get home. Watching this episode, I couldn’t help but think of my own fears of being judged superficially, when I know I have my own special abilities. Thankfully, there are Rikers and Guinans out there, who can see into my depth, even when others can’t. I have even been called “aristocratic” in the past, which I think is due to the “eggshell” feeling I experience daily; so wonderfully expressed here.
My only complaint about this episode is that while it expresses these emotions, its too temporary, and in the end she’s not really disabled. It would’ve been interesting to stretch out that theme, or make her condition permanent: But TV audiences have short memories. Everything is back to normal by the end of the episode.