Plot Synopsis: Counselor Troi loses her empathic powers; the Enterprise is slowly pulled off course by an unknown two-dimensional force into a deadly cosmic string.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is brief: counselor Troi is showing us what an awesome counselor she is, while on the bridge Worf thinks he sees something ahead but it vanishes, then Troi gets a headache so severe she passes out. Plot A is about Troi’s loss of her empathic Betazoid abilities, plot B is about the Enterprise’s predicament. Plot B, with the two-dimensional beings who have the ship caught in their ‘field’, is nothing but a contrivance to enable plot A, and there’s no real sense of jeopardy from it, even from the ridiculous ‘cosmic string fragment.’ Plot A plods along with Troi trying to cope (not very well) and eventually learning she can still be useful to the crew, saving the ship.
Favorite Scenes: I’d say the scene about 20 minutes in when Deanna charges into sick bay and demands help from Beverly, and her fear turns to anger as she lashes out at her. Marina played it pretty believably, and I suppose we can relate to her fear and helplessness. Slim pickings this episode, though.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard, Geordi, Worf, Data, they’re simply background in this episode, not contributing much more than their positions on the ship. Riker engages with Troi and we see shades of their past relationship as he calls her Imzadi for the first time since the first season. He fails to help. In fact everyone fails, from Picard to Guinan, who has a couple of scenes. This is Troi’s episode from beginning to end, and we see her start to spin out of control, from denial to fear and anger, to resignation, and nobody can help her until a patient that she’s been seeing throughout the episode finally reaches her. That and saving the ship. That always helps. Marina does a creditable job, but the script just isn’t strong enough.
Blu Ray Version: The rendering of the two-dimensional guys and cosmic string fragment in animated form in the 32nd minute is better, as the string seems actually three dimensional now. I’m still not a fan of the graphic overall though.
Nitpicks: As the Enterprise draws nearer the cosmic string fragment, why isn’t any mention made of abandoning ship? They’ve got escape pods, shuttlecraft, they’ve got options! They were able to launch a probe successfully, they could launch other things too. In fact, they might have even been able to separate the drive from the saucer, since it was only the saucer that was caught. Also, (and this is because I’m a therapist) the shot of Troi cradling her patient in the teaser is completely inappropriate. No therapist should do that.
Overall Impression: I hated this episode when I first saw it. I thought Troi just turned into a whiny bitch, and why would I ever want to see that. As an adult I have more grace for it but The Loss is still a disappointing, forgettable experience. The problem with this episode is that while she does lose an ability, it’s not one any of us can relate to. We might have some general sympathy, but as she goes on you get the sense that she thinks being human sucks, which undercuts it. Combine that with two-dimensional beings (which we learn nothing about) and a really generic threat like a cosmic string and you’ve got no reason to stay interested, let alone emotionally invested, in the story.
As much as I don’t generally like this episode, I think Marina’s performance here–showing more fire than anything since Haven–may have set the stage for truly excellent Troi episodes down the line, such as Power Play and Face of the Enemy. Then again there could be no link at all. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Evidently the idea for an episode where Deanna loses her empathic powers had been pitched every season, so they finally did it. This is the very first episode that references the Breen, for those that are Breen fans. If you are you’ll have to until the DS9 episode Indiscretion before we meet them. Rick Berman really pushed for this show, Michael Piller didn’t think it was that great. Shows you the difference between a producer and a writer. In previous episodes the background color of Troi’s office was pink, whereas here it’s blue, which is much better. Cosmic strings are hypothesized to actually exist. They’re still stupid. Hilary Bader, who came up with the story, was a freelance writer at the time. She wrote two other episodes (Hero Worship and Dark Page). She’d go on to write a few DS9 scripts and one script for Voyager. Turns out she was better writing for cartoons as she was nominated 7 times for Daytime Emmy’s, winning twice, while writing for Batman Beyond and The New Batman/Superman Adventures.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable, no question, unless you’re a big Deanna Troi fan. The next episode is a great improvement.