Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise brings a deaf negotiator to mediate the end of a planetary civil war.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here feels kind of vague, and takes waaay too long to tell its story. The Enterprise is to transport a legendary peace negotiator to a planet to–you guessed it–negotiate peace. Plot A revolves around Riva’s dilemma with the planet, there is no plot B in this episode. Picard picks up Riva, who’s deaf and has a Greek-style chorus speak for him. He walks around for a while, and wonders what’s changed that the two factions that have been fighting for 15 centuries now want to talk peace. He flirts with Troi for a while and then when they get to the planet, something really bad happens. The rest of the plot deals with how Riva copes with it. There’s a random scene in this episode that involves Pulaski telling Geordi she can try operating and give him normal sight. The episode goes on to end in a lackluster way that doesn’t really reward you for watching it.
Favorite Scenes: The scene where the chorus get ganked is the best. Really cool (and graphic) special effects for the time, and it’s maybe the highlight of the whole episode for me. Everything that we thought was gonna happen gets flipped upside down and fails. Unfortunately it also has a bit of the original series feel to it.
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard doesn’t get a lot of development in this episode, but he is used. Riker is used about the same, as is Data and Worf. It was cool to see Picard order Data to go and learn five languages, in about five minutes. It’s a way to make use of his capabilities without having him just give the answer to any question the crew has, which is nice. Geordi and Pulaski get exactly the same amount of use, in part because they have a scene together. It’s establishing a plot line that never gets developed: giving Geordi normal vision. Wes has about three scenes, all of which are flying the ship, he gets a grand total of nothing. Troi gets the most of the regular cast, which is rare. She is the focus of Riva’s attentions and becomes instrumental in relating to him and re-motivating him to take his place as the arbiter of peace again. She comes across as competent and of real use to the mission. Howie Seago plays Riva and he does a pretty decent job. Nothing special, but not bad.
Blu Ray Version: The planet here was reconstructed and is much more detailed. Having said that, they change CGI artist from season one and I much prefer the previous one I’m finding. You can tell they overdid Marina’s make-up, as the close-ups of her face make her look a bit ghostly. A lot of the shots in this episode are grainier than I’m used to. If you frame advance the sign language tutorial Data is reading, one of the hand signs is the Vulcan salute, and the text above are excerpts from things like the Declaration of Independence. Some visual effects were updated and subtly improved in a couple of places. For example, Worf never got the sparkle transporter effect when they beamed down to the planet at the 25-minute mark originally.
Nitpicks: The little discussion in the teaser about some aberrant third planet in a solar system makes absolutely no sense. Also the fade out is just odd, as if the director didn’t know what else to do, or couldn’t think of a better way to end the teaser. Man that Riva has some 80’s hair! He immediately hits on Troi, but just comes across as creepy. She is saying that it’s flattering and she’s interested, but I can’t see it at all in her performance. Later when his chorus is about to be killed, how slow is that guy on the draw that Riker and everyone moving even slower have time to get him out of the way? That’s a sign of bad editing. Later, after Data learns sign language why is he needed to translate when Picard speaks to Riva? They didn’t need him so Riva could understand up until that point? About 11:30 into the episode Geordi is just standing on the bridge for no reason and you can see his shadow on the turbolift doors, obviously from a stage light.
Overall Impression: There’s nothing really special about this episode. It’s not a travesty of an episode like the previous one, but it’s nothing you’ll need to watch again. It was important to the deaf community and that’s cool, but other than that component it’s nothing that I would care to see. The pace is pretty sedate, and I don’t really get drawn in by the drama here. Also, I’ve got to say, whenever I see the chorus get vaporized in the gruesome way they did, all I can think of is the song Freeze Frame. Now you’ll have no choice but to think of it too, heh. I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the 30th episode aired, but it was the 31st episode made. Howie Seago, who plays Riva, is actually deaf in real life. He was involved in this episode quite a bit. He started by petitioning the producers to make an episode about deaf people to dispel many of the stereotypes around them. Seago in fact suggested the ending of the episode the day before shooting. It turns out the reason we have the non sequitur scene with Geordi and Pulaski is because Levar Burton had been campaigning for his character to get normal sight to he can use his eyes in his acting. After this episode, however, the idea was dropped. I’m glad, too, he’s better with the visor. The one female member of Riva’s chorus is played by Marnie Mosiman, who is in fact John DeLancie’s (Q’s) wife. Randy Oglesby, the scholar-chorus member goes on to play several other characters in other Star Trek series, most notably as Degra on ST: Enterprise. Finally, this is the last time we ever see the holographic projector in Picard’s ready room being used.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. Simply missable. The next episode is slightly better, so I guess that’s something.