Scotch and Star Trek

Scotch… the final frontier.

This is a quest I embarked on thanks to the influence of /r/DaystromInstitute and the realization that I have never actually seen much of the original Trek. This provided me with an excuse to go through from the beginning to see the process by which a cohesive, generation-spanning and inspirational setting is presented to viewers. In the end, though, it’s an excuse to get snarky and pick apart a show I’ve loved since childhood.

Why the drinking? Because every time I reflect on the scope of this project I realize there are over five hundred hours of Star Trek ahead of me.

Here’s to you, Scotty. 

Today’s feature:

TNG: S7E07: "Dark Page"

In which Lwaxana is on board, I refuse to accept that the telepathic otherwise-appropriate-romantic-target for Deanna isn’t evil, and shut up don’t look at me. 

See? Calm!

See? Calm!

A delegation of telepathic diplomats with no concept of spoken language have come aboard, and even Lwaxana is having trouble keeping up. And as bombastic as she still is, you’ll note that she seems to have calmed down a little during her adventure in the elevator with Odo. As in, she’s not wearing the kind of dress that would make an 18th century French noblewoman feel underdressed. While Betazoids communicate, even in telepathy, using worms and formed sentences, the Cairn just use direct sensory impressions. Fortunately, science has given us the Thank You For Smoking one-line plot device that lets us skip over this particular tedious mess and let the Cairn adapt to the Federation way of doing things.

Couple of observations here. First, negotiations must have been going on for a while in order to establish relations, design a device to bring full function to what must be at this point a vestigial organ at best in the Cairn. Second, we can infer that Betazoid telepathy developed sometime after spoken language became a dominant factor in their social order. We can’t prove it, but when suddenly presented with a much ‘purer’ method of conveying thoughts it seems like a decent enough assumption.

Hedril, played by one of Spider-Man’s girlfriends, is the youngest of the Cairn and is picking up language the best. And the constant telepathy seems to be getting to even an extrovert like Lwaxana. Worf is also bigoted against telepaths, apparently. And an interesting thing which makes the Federation cultural imperialism a little justified is that the Cairn can only do their montage-telepathy with other telepaths. So learning to speak verbally is more-or-less necessary for joining galactic society at large.

Lwaxana has introduced Deanna to Maques, the chief diplomat. He looks a bit sinister, but that might be the haircut. Also, apparently the elder Troi was trying to set up her daughter with him, thus utterly sabotaging any chance that Deanna would hit it off naturally.

It is a widely-known fact that elevator scenes are bubbling crucibles of human emotion, as anyone who has seen Babylon 5 can readily attest. Pity then poor Lieutenant JG Nemo, stuck in an elevator with Lwaxana and Deanna having a spat about Deanna’s biological clock.  Fortunately, this is interrupted by Lwaxana having another migrane and mild emotional breakdown, which she downplays to stop Troi from worrying.

Cairn have thus far been alone in the galaxy. Lwaxana is the first person to ever learn their telepathy and the first other telepath Maques has ever met. Privacy is not a part of their culture – he describes it as a part of a person that is ‘dark’ and ‘not seen,’ but seems to pick up the concept as normal easily enough. Then again, if he was looking at something abnormal and trying to describe it, how could anyone tell? I mean, besides telepathy.

Deanna seems to have kept the cleavage suits for off-duty hours, and is relaxing in Ten-Forward and chatting with Will when Lwaxana storms in and flies off the handle at Will. Apparently, her telepathy neurotransmitters are depleted, and Lwaxana is suffering from a type of mental exhaustion. Thus, the next stages of their diplomatic encounters will be entirely verbal. Troi makes a great start by just throwing concepts like poetry at the previously non-verbal species. Lwaxana jumps in with ill-advised telepathy to help, and moments later, after everyone is distracted by Hedril falling into a pond, Lwaxana has collapsed into a coma.

"Here, it's perfectly safe, see?"

“Here, it’s perfectly safe, see?”

In an effort to find out if Cairn telepathy has adverse side effects, Picard and Deanna interview Maques, who insists that it’s Lwaxana’s own thoughts that are hurting her. In order to explain himself better, he telepaths at Deanna. Not reassuring, particularly with that haircut. Once Troi is able to unpack the information burst, she figures out that Maques’ ‘Dark Place’ is some sort of buried trauma in the part of Lwaxana’s mind that filters out telepathic signals. To try and parallel with Beverly’s treatment, Deanna is also going to try to telepathically contact comatose Lwaxana, which seems like a great idea. Can you sense the sarcasm? I don’t know what happens if someone runs completely out of neurotransmitters, but it’s probably not great.

"It's simple. We squish the spider-man."

“It’s simple. We squish the spider-man.”

Maques also wants to help. After a hilarious misunderstanding, he explains that Lwaxana is both in a coma and a fugue state which he can access but doesn’t understand. So we’re going to do the Inception thing. But I guess at this point we’re going to look past the haircut and the intense stare that makes him look like Willem DaFoe as the Green Goblin and is backed by intensifying background music and a creepy static sound effect and just accept that he’s a good guy. See? Star Trek is full of good moral lessons.

Whichever camera guy does Data’s dream sequences is running Deanna’s Adventures in Lwaxana’s Brain. Lwaxana’s mind is putting up resistance, including Picard ordering her to go away, a snarling wolf, Pappa Troi… and if anything about this dream is to be believed, Federation planet-bound housing looks exactly like quarters on the Enterprise. But it’s only when Deanna finds Hedril does Lwaxana come storming into the scene and mounting a personal defense. Something about Hedril provokes a deep emotional response. To try and figure out why, Deanna goes though Lwaxana’s stuff, and she and Picard eventually find a gap in Lwaxana’s journals that start just after Lwaxana’s wedding and lasting for seven years until just after Deanna’s birth. Any guesses?

A nice touch that we have time to notice now is that dream-Hedril doesn’t have extracranial brainlobes but does have entirely black irises like a Betazoid. Troi finds herself back in the arboretum, at the pond Hedril fell into, and we discover that Lwaxana had a first daughter, Kestra, who was not actually played by Kirsten Dunst but close enough. Kestra Troi had a dog (the wolf from the dream) which got away, and Kestra got lost and died. The telepathic exhaustion and the young girl that looked like her daughter together seems to have been, as they say, a bit much. Luckily the only person qualified to help at all is also a trained psychiatric professional.

Excuse me, I think one of my roommates is cutting onions at 12:30 AM. Gonna have to talk with them about that.

Did we miss something awesome?