The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Loss

When the Enterprise encounters a race of two-dimensional beings, it spells double trouble for the ship and its crew. Not only is the Enterprise caught in the wake of the creatures ad unable to escape, but something about the encounter burns out Deanna Troi’s empathic ability, leaving her unable to sense emotions. Can Deanna adjust to losing a sense, and who can she turn to for help?

Star Trek should always try to tackle the big issues, and this episode certainly makes a noble attempt to do just that. Troi loses something that’s integral to who she is, a sense she’s always relied on, and now, not only has it gone, but her closest friends and colleagues can’t even understand because they never had that sense in the first place.

That being said, The Loss loses it somewhat in the execution. Troi is understandably angry and frustrated, but she basically becomes almost completely unbearable, and her only saving grace is that, like when Q came aboard without his powers, she’s basically telling it like it is. Meanwhile, the B-story about the two-dimensional beings isn’t particularly interesting – it’s less “amazing galaxy of wonder” and more “random MacGuffin”.

1000 people, one counsellor

Now, obviously everyone in the 24th century is perfect and evolved, and only needs counselling when bad things happen, but even so, why is Troi the only counsellor aboard the Enterprise? Here are some good reasons why it’s a bad idea.

  • Even assuming that most people aboard don’t want or need regular counselling, it seems like there’s potentially far more clients than Troi can possibly see, especially as she spends a lot of time on the bridge.
  • Who do Riker and the bridge crew talk to when they need counselling? There’s clearly a conflict of interest there – Riker’s her ex-lover, and the other bridge crew may not feel comfortable talking with Troi when they also have to work with her for their day job.
  • Who does Troi see when she needs counselling? In this episode, she’s stuck.
  • Counsellors usually do supervisions – sessions with other counsellors where they anonymously discuss their casework. Does Troi even have this opportunity? Maybe she does it over subspace.

Additionally, Picard implies that the role of ship’s counsellor is always a bridge position, which seems odd. It feels like the job of being a therapist for the crew and of being the person who sits on the bridge and tries to decide if the aliens of the week are lying should be two separate roles.

Things we learn about the characters

  • When Picard gives his little speeches and pontifications, he doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about. Troi calls him out on some utter bullshit.
  • Riker is a bully – when Troi has just lost her empathy and is feeling understandably low, he comes to her quarters and accuses her of always having felt superior to humans because of her extra sense. He even implies that this new development is a good thing, because it will put her in her place. What a stud.
  • Data has given up on quoting timings to seconds-level precision, because people get annoyed with him. In fact, he should give up because it’s largely meaningless for the kind of estimates he usually quotes.
  • Geordi’s hobbies include skin diving.

Other points

When the Enterprise is caught in the wake of the two-dimensional beings, many of the crew go to sickbay because they are experiencing headaches. Remember back in season one, when headaches were so rare that they were basically unheard of? Why doesn’t Crusher seem more concerned about all these headaches if that’s the case?

Summary – The Loss: Deanna Troi as an exemplar of the Kubler-Ross model.

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