Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"Loud as a Whisper"

“Loud as a Whisper’ is another episode that has its heart in the right place, but it isso condescendingly dumb, I cannot take it seriously. See if you can keep count of all the inanities.

The Enterprise is set to escort a mediator named Riva who specializes in difficult peace negotiations to Solaris V, a planet which has been at war for generations. Worf expresses a passive aggressive contempt at the mere mention of Riva. Turns out he is the one who negotiated peace between the Klingons and the Federation. There was no Klingon word for peace before Riva. That is implausible enough, but since worf is a member of Starfleet rather than the Klingon Defense force, is not rather odd he hates the idea there is peace between the two? A wee bit on the self-loathing side, are we?

Riva arrives with his entourage in tow, dressed like the William Miller’s Seventh day Adventists waiting for Jesus’ definite return on October 22, 1844. Riva and his assistants will even wind up waiting on a hilltop later in the episode for the warring parties to arrive. Not that I am drawing a connection. I am just on a comparative religions kick at the moment thanks to some of Project savior's expressed expertise on religion in the comments here lately.

Riva is deaf. His assistants are able to relay his communications because each is in tune with a specific aspect of his personality. The three can communicate Riva’s exact thoughts automatically. The deafness and psychic abilities are explained through genetic predisposition. The aliens, like so many others, show an astounding knowledge of what to them would be esoteric Earth history by revealing the condition is like how hemophilia ran through the Hanover family in Europe. I so wanted Picard to remark, ’Oh, you mean like the Reemounk disorder that made the Stamhard family hum Styx songs on Remulak before it was cured eight hundred years ago?” but no such luck.

The worst bit was when one of the assistants asked LaForge about his VISOR. He told her it lets him see. She cheerfully chirps she helps the disabled Riva in the same way. Wow, so both us otherwise worthless cripples do not have to be euthanized? Gee, thanks. Surely there are other places in desperate need of your sunshiny enlightenment right now. Why not go locate one of them?

But on to the mission. Thewarring parties have been fighting so long, they do not even remember why they are fighting. Land, resources, a blood feed. Who knowsat this point. The message is that all war is senseless, but all I could think was the joke from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where they have figured out the meaning of life is 43, but no one can remember the specific question. I am just not in tune with the idealism here.

A peace conference is arranged, but a traitor attempts to kill Riva. He ails, but he manages to--conveniently for the plot--kill all three of his assistants. Riva beams back to the ship in safety. The peace process, such that it is, is in jeopardy.

Now comes the most awful part of the episode. Riva is angrily pacing back and forth, unable to communicate. Picard grasps his hand and reassures him they are all in this together--by speaking very loudly. Riva is deaf. It would not matter if Picard said anything at all since it is aplot point Riva cannot read lips, either. You see, his assistants were a crutch. Without them, the disabled Riva is useless. Great message, there. With Picard patronizing him, to boot.

The solution they all come up with is to leave Riva behind to teach everyone sign language. It will help them bond before negotiating peace. Or strangle rivaandthen start killing each other in frustration, whichever is more likely.

I have never liked this episode. There is too much misguided commentary in it to be enjoyable. If anyone can tell me what the message was here, feel free. I fund it doubly insulting that not only was the disabled guy dismissed in spite of his accomplishments by showing how ineffective he was without lots of help, he is still the one to negotiate peace between factions too stupid to know why they are fighting. After Riva’s emergency beam ot, one even calls out to him like a child crying for his mommy to save him. Riva is a human and, worthlessly crippled or not, is still better than a filthy alien. Ugh.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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