TNG: S4E09: “The Loss”

In which Troi gets disabled again.

The Enterprise is cruising along in uneventful space, so Troi can take a break from pressing crisies to help council a widow on the loss of her husband. Seems the poor lady isn’t really facing the loss, so she can’t really get past it. To help the woman finally face it, Troi reveals that she’s managed to save a music box that belonged to her dead husband.

When was the last time a music box was a good omen? Certainly not in Star Trek.
"You'd better go. I had Andorian curry last night and I'm about to really regret that we all wear jumpsuits."

“You’d better go. I had Andorian curry last night and I’m about to really regret that we all wear jumpsuits.”

It has been so uneventful so far that Picard is in the middle of encouraging Riker to go kayaking or something before the sensors register a something and the ship starts to run into some matter. One short jump-cut later, and that music box is already paying dividends, in the form of a splitting migrane. Data is detecing a field of objects that flickers in and out of existence, and troi lapses into unconsciousness from the pain. I can relate – I may need my wisdom teeth removed.

Also of note – this is the episode where Data mentions that he’s going to try to kick the habit of calculating time intervals of over a week to the nearest second. Oh Data, if only I believed you. They try to kick back into warp, but the warp field collapses and the ship goes lurching off to the left, before beginning to drift at about 1/10th impulse, and nothing they can do will break them free.
Crusher shows up to Troi’s emergency call eventually, mentioning that everyone on the ship is experiencing headaches. Deanna isn’t in pain anymore, but describes herself as ‘foggy’ and gets this look on her face. They get called to a senior staff meeting, and Picard asks troi if she senses a life form out there. She doesn’t sense anything out there, or in the room either.
Here’s a question that’s often bothered me – how do people who aren’t Picard handle things? On his staff, he has a tactical officer who is about as strong as a humanoid biological frame can get, an ops officer who’s about as strong as a mechanical humanoid frame can get and also processes information faster than a Romulan holodeck. He has an engineer who can see exotic forms of radiation that most man-portable equipment can’t. And he has a councelor who can read intentions. It’s no X-men, but let’s face it, most of the senior staff has superpowers. Although not Troi anymore.
"That was really mean! Why would you say that?"

“That was really mean! Why would you say that?”

Sorry, you’re right. I shouldn’t joke. On a brain scan, Crusher finds a series of damaged cells – Troi has brain damage and Crusher has to be Troi’s Troi and prepare the counselor for the possibility of being brain-blind forever. Troi understands the psychology of what’s going to happen to her, but that doesn’t really stop her from being scared of facing the process and lashing out when Riker comes to talk. After Troi kicks Riker out for her appointments, she finds that without her empathic sense, she might not actually be good at her job.

Data is doing various scans and none of them show anything until he looks at virtual particle trajectories, which show the Enterprise in the middle of some sort of current. In fact, they apparently exist only in two dimensions, which is why the forward sensors didn’t register them. Which means that the Enterprise was perfectly aligned with them and also doesn’t have sensors mounted at various points on its Z axis. It’s hard, actually, to come up with a reason why it should, other than ‘in case you run into 2-dimensional swarm creatures that exist on the exact same galactic plane you navigate on.’ Not a use case one would normally think to design for. Still – parallax measurements?

Someone needs to see a counselor.

Someone needs to see a counselor.

The critters are definitely alive and manipulating gravitons in order to move, and somehow interacting with 3-space. Geordi laments the lack of their usual empathic information, and with her earlier failure at psychology as well, Troi is encountering a crisis of purpose, as she feels she’s completely useless. To be fair, at the moment she is completely useless, but that’s mostly because she’s panicked and off her game and pushing away everyone who tries to help her. And not taking the time to adjust to her situation, but rather offering her resignation. Insisting on it, in fact.

This episode is pretty heavy and rather well done so far. We should note that just because Troi is reacting in a way that seems to indicate that, once disabled, she is a lesser person emphatically does not indicate the writers believe it. It’s portrayed as an irrational, if completely understandable, reaction to trauma. She’s had an entire layer of perception stripped away – real people now lack an entire dimension and are as flat as holodeck characters. Which is a really good analogy, actually. Given the presence of machine telepathy in Star Trek, one wonders if Betazoids employ synthetic minds in their holodecks or if they just don’t bother. Also, if someone came up with a prosthetic telepathy harness for Troi, like Geordi’s VISOR, would the rest of the people in the Federation ignore the abilities it offered?

The first informed attempt to escape the colony fails because energy to the warp engines was diverted into the creatures graviton manipualtions. Data notices that the creatures seem to have reacted to this momentarily, and Picard has him load those movements into the Universal Translator some crazy how. It seems likely that this will be the puzzle that gets Troi to realize that she is still a valued member of the crew just before regaining her psychic powers. But for now, it’s time she go talk to the best counselor on the ship.

"Ugh, you were better at my job than I am before I got disabled. Are you here to gloat?"

“Ugh, you were better at my job than I was BEFORE I got disabled. Are you here to gloat?”

In fact, Guinan has heard that Troi is resigning, and claims to have decided to throw her enormous hat into the ring for the job. Really, it’s her oblique way of making Troi realize the power was inside her all along, because Guinan gives you the answer to a question if she can make you run facefirst into it. The way the Enterprise is now being carried into a cosmic string fragment, only not really.

Incidentally, in Star Trek, a cosmic string fragment is a black hole that exists as a line rather than a point. In an effort not to get lasagna-ized, Picard orders, after some moral dithering, a photon torpedo spread, which does nothing.

As it turns out, Deanna was right about her patient after all. Coincidentally, this is followed by Picard calling on Troi’s psychology training to help Data communicate with the 2-d creatures. And, as is so often the case with these things, Troi mutters to herself about a barely-related thing and then relates it back to the problem at hand. If they operate on instinct, maybe their movement is instinctive rather than forced by the gravity. If that movement is by choice, they might be able to simulate the string via SCIENCE and confuse the creatures.

I think I had a counter going regarding deflector dish magic, but I can’t remember where I put it or what it was at. If only this thing had a search function. Anyway, they’re able to simulate the string, the creatures break up their current, the Enterprise escapes, and Troi senses that the creatures actually live inside the cosmic string fragment and won’t have to actually deal with the consequences of her meltdown. Fortunately, as a therapist, she recognizes that she should anyway.

Did we miss something awesome?