Monday, December 7, 2015

Deanna the Condescending Twerp

Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Loss" 

Deanna Troi is half-Betazoid, a telepathic species; that manifests in her as empathic ability, knowing what others are feeling (as opposed to specific thoughts). She utilizes this "super-power" as Counselor, the ship's psychologist; because she knows what others are feeling, it always gives her a one-up in any situation. 

In this episode, some odd space patterns generated by a two-dimensional species robs Deanna of her empathic abilities. The constantly smooth, calm, wise Counselor goes absolutely to pot. She screams, she rages, she sobs at the loss.
Commander Riker, her on-again-off-again boyfriend who is usually a reliable source of manly understanding, is oddly unmoved.

Troi: I look around me and all I see are surfaces without depth. Colorless and hollow. Nothing seems real. 

Riker: I'm real.

Troi: No, you're not! You're a projection. With no more substance than a character on the Holodeck.

Riker: I don't believe that. 

Troi: You have no idea how frightening it is for me to just be here without sensing you, without sharing your feelings . . . 

Riker: That's it, isn't it? We're on equal footing now.

Troi: What do you mean?

Riker: You've always had an advantage, a little bit of control over every situation. It must have been a very safe position to be in. To be honest, I always thought there was something a little too aristocratic about your Betazoid heritage. It's as if the human aside wasn't quite good enough for you.

Troi: That isn't true.

Riker: Isn't it?

I was taken by this episode. The considerate Deanna Troi, unmasked as a condescending know-it-all who believes herself surrounded by sub-species! Physician, heal thyself. 

Deanna Troi, the counselor for those who have experienced loss, can't help herself. If anything, her true, petty self emerges. 

It is very easy, from a distance, to say what yenem should do. And perhaps, when we are unhinged by sorrow, we require the assistance of someone emotionally unattached. 

But wouldn't we want someone to truly understand? For that's what we seek: empathy, not sympathy.


Daniel Saunders said...

I did a Next Generation marathon earlier in the year, but the Troi-centred episodes tend to blur into one another a bit (except the really good one where she infiltrates a Romulan ship). Is this the one where she basically tells one of her patients to get over herself? Because watching that I did wonder how often my therapist wants to say that to me and restrains herself.

I don't Troi is really petty, she's just traumatised by the SF equivalent of suddenly going blind. The real mussar here is that Troi finds out that she can empathize the hard way, the same way the rest of us do. (And then Star Trek's reset switch means she gets her powers back anyway. Oh well.)

Princess Lea said...

What I took away from it is "physician, heal thyself." A real counselor has to know pain and loss to be able to properly empathize, rather than mouth textbook jargon. Which is what she learned at the end, but only after Riker put on the kabosh on her kvetching.