Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 2: Loud as a Whisper

The Next Generation, Season 2
"Loud as a Whisper"
Airdate: January 9, 1989
31 of 176 aired
30 of 176 produced

Introduction

The Enterprise is tasked with ferrying a diplomat, Riva, to a war torn planet to negotiate the end of a centuries long war. Upon arriving at Riva's homeworld, they find that he is deaf and communicates via a chorus of three people with whom he shares a telepathic bond. Counselor Troi forms a bond with Riva on the way to their destination. Unfortunately, not all the attendants of the peace delegation want to see an end to the conflict, and Riva's chorus is killed before negotiations can even begin. Riva is mourning his friends and left with no way to communicate. Can the crew of the Enterpise help Riva and the peace mission?
"I am the goddess of empathy. Cast off your inhibitions, sit back, and be bored by this episode."




Writing:

Kevin: This is certainly an interesting idea, but it feels like it never really got off the ground. The concept is there; it's just that the execution is a little flat. On the plus side, I certainly like the moment between Geordi and Riva on the bridge. It was a nice moment for Geordi's character and it reinforces TNG's approach to technology. Current medicine might encourage or even demand more drastic or risky measures to make both Riva and Geordi more normal, in this world, technology serves to make their lives easier, but it doesn't force them to define themselves the way the rest of society might want. I also liked when Riva told Picard to speak directly to him. As someone who works with a lot of people through interpreters, I've caught myself doing the same, and it was nicely portrayed how easily Picard slipped into it, and how Riva felt dismissed by the action. It's hard to carry on a conversation when the person you're talking to isn't looking at you. It felt very real, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the actor, Howard Seago suggested it himself.

Matthew: Frankly, I found the "chorus" concept far too distracting to ever let myself slip into the episode and just feel like I was in the Trek world.  For one thing, how can Riva be so renowned, yet Picard, a Starfleet Captain, know nothing about his "unusual" method of communication? What the heck sorts of reports does Picard get that neglect the "Riva is actually 4 people" fact? This guy negotiated several treaties between the
Federation and the Klingons, for crying out loud. It's just a dumb writing detail that can be fixed with half a line of dialogue - but it portends a hastily put together feel that permeates the rest of the show. Who the hell are these chorus people? All seem perhaps a bit younger than Riva - do they rotate? What a phenomenally boring life choice - follow some beardo around and interpret 1/3 of his thoughts at meetings. Do they have to look like their role? Does Mr. Lusty ever get to bang his own prospects? Does he sit on the sidelines and talk dirty to Riva's bedmate? Doesn't having a chorus with three distinct role tip Riva's hand? You know he wants to bone you if "Passion" speaks up, after all. Again, much of this could be fixed by a line of dialogue. "Oh yeah, we only accompany Riva on diplomatic functions." But it wasn't. And so I'm just left to be annoyed by this aspect of the story.

Kevin: This was also a good Troi episode. I didn't really buy the chemistry between her and Riva, but still, I thought Troi did a good job giving Riva a kick in the ass. It's always nice to get to see her do her job beyond sensing deception. I also enjoyed Picard struggling with trying to communicate with someone. I also really liked Data interpreting for Riva. The actors played well expressing so much emotion and none at all.

Matthew: I agree that the primary benefits of this episode, aside from the message "disabled people can contribute to society," are to the characters. There certainly isn't much science fiction. It's basically "here's a telepathic alien who is different than humans." It could have gotten more sci fi if, perhaps, he had to use a machine to hear for the first time, or if three of the crew were forced by necessity to become his new chorus. Alas, we get none of this. Data and Troi got fun stuff, which would be repeated by the characters to some degree later - research and communication theory.

Kevin: On the downside, this is another episode whose tension rises from a conflict I don't really care about. That being said, I think they laid enough groundwork to make me care about Riva and his chorus so that I did care what happened to them. A few little notes didn't quite work. The tidbit about the Klingon peace process felt a little tacked on. Really? No word for peace maker? It strains credulity that they have no word for the state of not-war. And while Riva's chorus was interesting as an idea, it practice, it doesn't quite come off. If he is just transmitting specific words and ideas, why have three? If they intuit things, how do they express more concrete ideas? What's the emotional telepathic cue for doing mathematics?

Matthew: Solais V was boring. Probably the most boring of the random factions we ever encounter. At least the Brekkians and Ornarans had drugs. These aliens were just sort of surly douchebags who I would have preferred to go extinct. So obviously, I had very little investment in the entire portion of the plot.

Kevin: In the balance, this episode dragged for me. The lofty ideas don't quite gel for a compelling hour. Again, the conflict I don't care about drags the episode down, and apart from feeling sad about the chorus, there's no real tension. Did anyone really think Riva would just leave and that would be that?

Matthew: The episode was slow and talky, no bones about it. Also, what was with the teaser? It just may be the most anticlimactic teaser of all time. They walk into a room in which they expect to be met by someone. No one shows up. They look at each other, puzzled. CUT TO OPENING THEME.

Acting

Kevin: Howard Seago as Riva did a pretty good job in my opinion. It shouldn't really be surprising that a person who spends his life communicating non-verbally would do a good job acting without words, but still. he was pretty compelling. His emotional state came through loud and clear. The chorus didn't get a whole helluva lot to say that didn't come off as scripted, but that was an artifact of the set up. Trivia for everyone, the Harmony/Balance lady is Marrie Mosiman is John DeLancie's wife.The Solari were not too impressive, but again, they weren't exactly given Shakespeare to do.

Matthew: I thought Stewart was pretty bad, actually. When he was shouting "We are all in this TOGETHER" I just wanted to facepalm. He's deaf, dude! Although Seago ably portrayed the frustration of deafness, no doubt from personal experience, he came off as kind of brusque and douchey. I guess this fits a member of a planetary ruling family. But it's not fun to watch, and it's hard to empathize with someone who doesn't talk. It was a bad writing choice that Riva did not overcome. Also, I just have to say it - the beard was ridiculous.

Production Values


Kevin: I liked Riva's robe, but the chorus outfits feel too 80s and a little too on point for the script. They're already referred to explicitly as a chorus. Do we need to dress them in drapey, layered white linen? I always found the chorus' death a touch too graphic. A simple vaporization would have sufficed, the skeletons that appear for a moment was just a little too unnerving for ten-year-old Kevin.

Matthew: The skeleton effect was the highlight for me! :-) Kind of like a Varon-T disruptor, eh? It actually kind of makes sense for a race that has been fighting a personal Israeli/Palestine-style war for 15 centuries - they want to make it hurt. I also thought he costumes were pretty good, actually. They weren't spectacular, but they didn't fall into 80s cliche. They were variations on a theme - sort of like an Ivy Higa Project Runway collection. And no, internet, I am not gay.

Kevin: This was also not Westmore's best work, either. The Solari felt pretty generic and nondescript, like they just added some drool and growling to some Planet of the Apes costumes.  Classic TOS and not in a good way.

Conclusion

Kevin: This is between a 2 and a 3 for me. It's certainly not a bad episode. It's just not terribly exciting. This may have been a concept better left to a novel, where the telepathic chorus concept could be more slowly and more conceptually explored. I think in the balance it makes it into average territory though. The episode is certainly thoughtful, and I don't think its failures are due to overt mistakes. It's just one of those ideas that doesn't translate well from page to screen. As it stands, the central conflict doesn't really pull me in, but some solid to good guest acting and some nice character moments for the main cast pull this up to a 3.

Matthew: I think, in a knee jerk way, I feel bad about giving this a less than average score. But sympathy for the deaf aside, this just isn't a terribly entertaining episode. It has little to no science fiction, an incredibly presented telepathic hook, and is paced like a dirge. Character moments don't elevate it beyond a 2. So that makes a total of 5.

4 comments:

  1. Ahhh. First in a long line of Q nepotism!

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  2. What long line of Q neoptism? We get his wife in this episode and his son in one episode of Voyager, and that made sense since the actors look alike and he did a pretty good job. Two points do not make a line. They make a line segment. :P

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  3. What makes me uncomfortable about this episode, and I am surprised you guys did not point it out,is the way Riva only talks to Troi with his "Libido/passion" chorus (i.e. his dick essentially). He talks to the other Enterprise members with his other two choruses, the intellect and philosopher and the mediator that binds all three, but he ONLY talks to Troi with his "lusty" side, so to speak, and I find that both a bit creepy but also just inappropriate and degrading.

    It is inappropriate for obvious reasons and it is degrading as it reinforces the idea that you cant have an intellectual, rational conversation with a woman (even and especially one you are attracted to) and conduct yourself in a professional manner toward her. This whole "women are for fucking and romance, men are for business and intellect".

    He is a diplomat for god's sake, yet he clearly cannot be bothered or expected to maintain a professional demeanor toward a female colleague he is attracted to? It's like Riva is not even trying to hide it in any way. In fact, he completely feels entitled to her, both in the way he talks to her and the way he looks at her, even going so far as to demand that he take her to his quarters.

    I find that very problematic. And from the look on Troi's face in the beginning I reckon she did too. What's worse though is that later the writer makes it so that she actually likes it and finds nothing wrong with being pimped out to him for "the mission". Yikes.

    Imagine if you walk into a meeting and the men in the room look and talk to you like they wanna fuck you on the table, right then and there.

    And then Picard who seems strangely oblivious to Riva's inappropriate behavior totally pimps out Troi to him (to show him his quarters). As her superior he should have stepped in but he was too preoccupied in pleasing HIM and making sure HE gets all he needs, that he didnt even blink twice when he asked her if she could take him TO HIS QUARTERS.

    Again, I really felt sorry for Troi and just uncomfortable watching it.

    There is an episode in Enterprise where Yoshi is supposed to go to spend a few days with this telepathic alien on a planet so they can find the location of a Xindi something, and Archer makes it clear that it would be inappropriate for Yoshi to do so and that he wont make her. In fact, he asks her, he doesnt just volunteer her. Unlike here where Picard does just that, even though it is very clear why Riva is asking.

    As much as i enjoy this episode, these parts always make me cringe and leave me incredibly uncomfortable, especially as a woman who has to navigate a world where this sort of behavior is very common (and illegal may I add).

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    Replies
    1. Time has proved your words quite prescient, eh?

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