The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Loud as a Whisper

With the warring factions of the planet Solais V finally ready to negotiate for peace, the Enterprise is sent to bring in Riva, a famous mediator. Riva is deaf, but his link with a telepathic chorus of three interpreters has enabled him to conduct many successful negotiations across the galaxy. But will his arrogance spell his undoing on this mission?

Despite the slightly preachy “disability is a strength, not a weakness!” message of the episode, after such a dreadful opening quartet for season two, it’s nice to watch something that’s actually enjoyable. This episode takes a good mix of Star Trek elements – warring factions, an imaginative alien way of coping with physical differences, and the need to deal with adversity, and puts it all together into a coherent and entertaining package. It may not be a masterwork, but it’s a definite turn for the better.

In space, Riva can’t hear you scream

  • Riva and his relatives (described as the ruling family of his home planet) lack the ability to perceive sound, and so instead they are telepathically linked with interpreters who can speak for them. Riva has three interpreters – one for intellectual matters, one for love and passion, and a third to provide balance and harmony. It’s unclear whether they also hear for him and pass back what is being said, whether he just lipreads, or both. He is also able to use sign language, but appears incapable of telepathically communicating with those not of his race – even Troi.
  • Normally I would berate the crew for letting one of the peace delegates show up with a weapon, but since Riva specifically forbade security precautions, I guess we can chalk that one up to his arrogance.
  • The writers seem to have suddenly remembered that Riker disapproves of Picard going on away missions, as the first officer voices his concerns in this episode – having previously slacked off and just let Picard do what he wants.
  • Riva negotiated some treaties between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Worf snarls that before this, they have no word for ‘peacemaker’, even though Worf of all people should appreciate peace between the two sides.
  • Worf seems amazed at the utility of sign language – do the Klingons really lack any concept of it? Even if they kill their deaf children for being too weak, rudimentary hand signals would surely be useful for battles (Worf does indeed say as much, but can he really be the first Klingon to have thought of this?).
  • Why does Data need to visually read through the sign language tutorials? Can’t he just download a sign language module to his brain?
  • Pulaski offers Geordi the possibility of normal vision, either by ocular implants (which would have about 80% of the visual range of a VISOR), or by regenerating his optic nerve and replicating a pair of eyes for him. Geordi had previously thought the latter was impossible; he also claims to be happy with himself and the VISOR, even though we know he secretly longs to be normal.

Summary – Loud as a Whisper: Finally, an improvement in quality.

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