Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, January 30, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Five "Loud As a Whisper"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Five "Loud As a Whisper"
Production Order: 32
Air Order: 31
Stardate: 42477.2
Original Air Date: January 9, 1989





Picard's Log 24277.2: "So there's this conflict somewhere in the universe (seriously - when is there not?), and Starfleet wants us to go pick up this mediator and take him to talk to both sides of this warring civilization. We're not supposed to get involved at all, but you know that because I'm mentioning it, we'll totally be getting involved somehow."

Picard is dicking around in the ready room over some astrological anomaly when Riker enters to let him know they've arrived at the mediator's planet. They exit into the turbolift after putting Data in command, and once in the lift, Riker reveals that Picard is beaming down with a few people, and he doesn't like that, because remember - captains aren't supposed to go on away missions.
Once more for TOS in the back -
CAPTAINS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO GO ON AWAY MISSIONS.
Picard clarifies that it isn't an away mission so much as a diplomatic thing, and if he doesn't go, it'll be construed as rude.
Riker: "You will be careful, sir?"
Picard Sassy Moment: "Oh, cluck, cluck, cluck, Number One."
Riker: "Sir?"
Picard: "You're being a mother hen."


He thanks Riker for his concern though, and then they talk about how the mediator, Riva, is considered to be the best, and was hand-picked by the warring factions for just that reason.
"We should make sure he's successful," says Picard.


And Riker suggests yet another Starfleet rule that was probably put in place because of Kirk.
Picard responds with another Sassy Moment:


They make it to the transporter room, where still-not-O'Brien is inputting coordinates for a beam-down point. Troi randomly reads Worf, who she reveals as feeling nervous. He denies it.
I probably would, too.
Quit reading people in public, Troi. It's rude.
But the le-matya's out of the bag now, so Worf admits that the thought of Riva puts him on edge, because Riva negotiated treaties between the Federation and the Klingons.


Riker sympathizes, and Picard assures both of them that this is just a ceremonial thing, and nothing will happen.
Picard, Troi and Worf beam down into what I guess is Riva's house, only there's no one to greet them. They look around and notice an empty dais.

Wind chimes! Opening credits break!

A mysterious dude enters. He stands in front of each of them in turn, pausing to look them full in the face. Troi says "Riva" aloud, and the dude nods.



Then he stands on the dais. Picard starts forward to give his diplomatic spiel, but Riva holds up his hand, and three people dressed in white enter. The woman asks if they away team needs anything before they get down to brass tacks, then invites them to come closer.



Picard does his diplomacy thing, and introduces his ship-mates, and the people in white welcome them to the planet. They pause, and the dude on the far right notices that Troi is empathic. She replies in the affirmative, and the people in white move out of the way so that Riva can step up to her again. Riva kind of hits on her, even though the dude on the right is still the guy talking. He says that he (Riva) is looking forward to this trip more now, because he wants to get to know Troi. She admits the same.
Picard remarks that this was not what they were expecting, and the woman in white confirms that Riva is deaf. The three people speaking for him are his chorus, and they have some kind of  telepathic connection. The dude in the hat represents "scholar/artist." The dark-haired guy is "Passion/Warrior." And the woman is "Balance/Harmony."
"Oh, that's kind of cool," says Picard to the chorus.
Riva gets pissed and jumps in Picard's face, with Passion/Warrior yelling at him to speak directly to Riva.
You feel for Picard, who apologizes, because he didn't realize he made a faux-pas. We've all been there.



He expresses interest in how the chorus was formed, and the group responds by saying that none of the people in the ruling class of this planet can hear. It's likened to hemophilia in human royalty. Troi says that's elegant, and Riva hits on her again through Warrior/Passion: "It takes a fine mind to realize that, Counselor Troi."
Damn. Riva is smooth like Tumblr.
"Hey, so, I realize you want to do her, but warring factions? Waiting for us?" interrupts Picard.
They beam up.
No music, but commercial break, anyway.

Man, I love this shot. It looks like an incomplete painting.

The away team, plus Riva & Co, enter the bridge.
"WTH?" Riker asks Picard.
"Riva's deaf," Picard announces. "These people are his interpreters. Address Riva rather than them."
There are more intros done, and Riva puts his hand on Riker's chest to greet him. The meaning isn't made plain until he does the same thing to Data, and it's obvious that the hand-on-chest gesture was meant as a heartbeat search, as he places his hand on several areas of Data's chest before saying, "It's a pleasure to meet such a unique individual."
I like that. He acknowledges that Data is different, but doesn't make a show of it. Data is pleased with the compliment.


Instead of placing his hand on Geordi's chest, he places them around the VISOR and asks what it is. Geordi explains how it works.
"Can you see without it?" asks Riva/Scholar.
"Nope," replies Geordi.
Riva/Scholar suggests that his chorus and the VISOR serve the same function, to which Geordi agrees.
"You don't resent it?" asks Riva/Scholar.
Geordi says he doesn't resent the VISOR or being blind, because both are part of him, and he likes himself, so he doesn't have a reason to resent those things.
"It's a blessing to understand that we are special, each in his own way," says Riva/Balance.
Geordi agrees wholeheartedly, and he and Riva put their hands on each other's chests.
This is great television, you guys.


"We have rooms for you," says Picard.
"Cool," says Riva/Warrior. "Can Counselor Troi take me there?"
"Cool," agrees Picard, and Riva and Warrior follow Troi off the bridge.
"What about you guys?" Riker asks Balance and Scholar.
"Do you have rooms for us?" asks Balance. "Cuz if we go with them, we're just a third fourth and fifth wheel."
Worf escorts them off the bridge.
Also, LOL: they didn't introduce Riva to Pulaski, even though she was right there.

Troi takes Riva and Warrior to some quarters, and Riva/Warrior remarks that he and Troi do kind of the same job. She agrees, and it morphs into a convo ripe with sexual innuendo, but disguised as flowery language about psyches.
Riva asks Troi to dinner.
She accepts and asks if Warrior will be there.
"Yeah, until we figure out how to communicate on our own," replies Riva/Warrior.
"I look forward to that," she smiles.
"Yeah, me too," drawls Riva/Warrior.
And not gonna lie, Warrior is either reeeeally in sync with Riva, or he wants Troi, too. Imagine how creepy that could get.
"Riva says I have to watch, because he isn't capable of yelling "Oh, God!" when he climaxes. I'll do it for him. All in a day's work, you know."


There's a briefing in the observation lounge, and Data starts to tell Riva some background info on the situation with the warring factions, that they've been at war for 15 centuries, and both sides are on the brink of extinction.
"Meh, that's not important," interrupts Riva/Scholar.
Riker is put off. "So we did all this legwork for nothing? You don't want our info?"
"Eh, they'll tell you what the original argument is about, but who gives a shit?"
"They've been fighting for so long that now it's personal," guesses Riker.
"Yeah, so why do they want peace now?" asks Riva/Scholar.
No one has a concrete answer, but Data surmises that it might be the extinction thing, like those two-toned dumbasses from "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
"It's all good. I'll figure it out," shrugs Riva/Scholar.
And Riva gets a tiny bit big for his britches.



Dude, don't brag. Don't you know that's how jinxes work?

Riva and Troi are having dinner while Warrior creeps in the shadows.
Riva/Warrior remarks that he likes the sound of the ship. Troi is surprised to hear this, but then realizes that he's talking about the vibrations, and she says she's gotten used to it, and doesn't notice anymore. He waxes poetic about the sublime for a moment, then she glances at Warrior, and he just quietly slips out of the room.
Troi goes "oops" in noticing that even though she wanted Warrior gone, she now has no way to talk to Riva, as she can't feel all of his emotions completely, and even then, they're not "full-sentence" emotions. He can read lips but she can't figure out what he wants to say.
He tries sign language, which she doesn't know.
But she's actually pretty adept at figuring out what he's saying based on his movements. Better than I'd be, anyway. They talk about the philosophical meanings of words.



Up on the bridge, they've reached the planet of the warring factions, and Worf reports laser fire in one area.
"WTH?" demands Picard. "There's a cease-fire in place."
He opens hailing frequencies but only gets the crappy visual from one side.
"Oi! You fugly mofos! Knock that shit off or I'll cancel your peace meeting!"
Wait, what? You can't do that, Picard. You specifically said at the start of this episode that you guys are strictly an intergalactic Uber, and that you can't interfere. I don't recall any Uber driver ever canceling someone's vacation because the passengers in the backseat won't stop arguing.


When the fugly mofos point this out, Picard barks back that Riva might be in charge of the peace talks, but he's in charge of the ship, and he won't have it in danger.
Yeeeaaahhh, that's a ruse. Remember last week when Debin ans Kushell threatened the E with lasers, and it was all Picard and Riker could do not to laugh?
A guy from the other side breaks through communications, and says that Riva promised that they wouldn't have to talk to anyone besides him.
"Yeah, alright," grouches Picard. "I'll get him."
Riker's comm to Riva's quarters totally cockblocks him, but Riva and the chorus go to the bridge anyway. Worf puts the split-screen up, and Riva and Scholar go to work, spouting some flowery stuff about how they're brave fighters, but they need to be courageous enough to meet and talk. The hostilities go away, according to Worf's scans.


Riva asks for a topographical map to choose a meeting place, and he needs help gathering materials for the setting. Worf offers to form a security team, but Riva/Warrior insists on arriving with mostly just him and the chorus.
When provided with the map, Riva picks out a place for the meeting and requests to be beamed there.
"Gonna stop the killing," says Riva/Warrior.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Riker and Worf comprise the tiny security team, and they strap on phasers "just in case" before beaming down with Riva and the chorus.
The beam-down set is pretty sweet. Raised-platform stage with rock formations and what looks like some kind of rock henge.* 
Also, check out that matte painting! Gorgeous!

*Yeah, I know that the word "henge" refers to the earthen ditch in those monuments and not the rock circles that are sometimes included. I could call them sarsen stones, but that doesn't fit either, as those are named for the kind of upright rock specifically that is used in Stone Henge. Basically, I'm jazzed that the set design suggests some kind of ancient ritual meeting place, and I have to use slightly inaccurate language to describe it because when most people think of henges, they think of the stone circle parts.


Anyway.
Riva checks out the plateau, decides it's perfect, and through Riker, calls Geordi (who is now IKEA), and orders some furniture: two torches and a three-sided table made to look like indigenous rock.
Riker asks Riva how long he thinks this is going to take, like he has somewhere to be. Because I guess peace talks that must heal 1500 years of slaughter will only last a few hours?
The delegates from one side arrive, and Riva/Scholar tells Riker and Worf not to respond to violence, even if provoked.
They agree.



The others arrive, and there's a bit of tentative posturing.
"It's cool," Riva/Balance tells the delegates. "You guys are courageous fighters, and now you're courageous in wanting peace. Good for you for coming today."
This is a bit too much for one of the delegates, and he starts yelling.
"Death before peace!"
He fires his weapon, and Riker tackles Riva to the ground to ensure his safety, but unfortunately, the chorus is standing behind him, and they take the full brunt of the blast.
Looking at this fucking weapon, you guys.
It's like lasers or something, but it melts the flesh off your bones while you're still alive. It happens so quickly that the chorus has no chance to react or cry out, but still.
Then the bloody skeletons disintegrate as well.
That's fucked up.


The emissaries from Delegation B have broken down. 
"Traitor!" screams the one who didn't shoot, and he promptly shoots his comrade, who also disintegrates.
The emissaries from Delegation A are wondering what the hell they should do - should they shoot the remaining guy from Delegation B?
"Wait!" says emissary B. "I don't think like he does! I'm totally down for peace!"
But we have no idea what happens to them next, because Riker and Worf grab Riva and scream for a beam-up.
Emissary B calls for Riva to come back as they are transported away.


Picard bursts into the observation lounge afterward, where Riva is angrily mouthing words and making hand gestures. Not one person here understands what he's saying, and he's super pissed off, making it worse.
"What the hell happened?" demands Picard.
"One of the emissaries didn't actually want peace," explains Riker. "He attacked, and killed the chorus."
Troi tries to encourage Riva to speak slower, so she can read his thoughts and understand some of his hand gestures, but the whole thing has gone to hell in a handbasket, and he's so flustered that he can't get control over anything.
"Can you write it out?" asks Picard, and Riva makes a gesture that kind of portrays "no."
(An aside: some background info on Riva that didn't make the final broadcast cut was that the members of Riva's family do not read or write. Without this info, Picard's suggestion sounds like a good one that went ignored.)
Picard tries to convey his condolences.


But Riva is still so angry, that this small offering is insignificant, and his gestures become erratic. Picard becomes just as frustrated.
"Data, find out what the fuck gestural language he's using, and learn it!"
He turns to Troi. "Take him to Pulaski and see if she can help!"
Yeah, right. What's she gonna do, make fun of the fact that he's deaf?
Riva is still gesturing angrily, and Picard grabs him.


"We are all in this together - now," says Picard.
Riva, looking defeated, nods a bit, and goes with Troi.
Picard and Riker exchange a "this is so fucked up" look.

Worried music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Laser fire has started up on the surface again. I don't know if they can achieve peace without Riva."

Riker asks Data how his hunt to find Riva's gestural language is going. Data says he's narrowed it down to five, and he's just gonna learn all of them to be certain. Worf approaches and notes that sign language is both silent and covert, which could come in handy. 
You know that he's thinking about battle situations, but he's right - there has been many a time where it's been hard to hear, and I've wished I had known ASL so I could talk to the person next to me.
Data responds by saying that most cultures had some kind of gestural language that they used before spoken languages developed, except for this one alien culture where they developed a written language before spoken. Riker and Worf kind of roll their eyes, because Data has once again given them extra information where it wasn't needed, but they can STFU, because that's really interesting.
Anyway, Data watches the tutorial at a super-accelerated rate, because Data can learn five gestural languages in one afternoon, so why not?


Picard is in his ready room later when Troi comes in with Pulaski. Apparently, Riva got a full medical exam, though I have no idea what that would have done, because I'm sure if there was some way to alter Riva's condition, it would have been discussed with him already. It's pretty egotistical of the crew to think that their medical facilities and science are better than anyone else in the universe. How do we know that the Federation is the be-all, end-all of medical science? Whats more, Riva's really okay with his situation, so why would they even be exploring that option in the first place? When they first found out he was deaf, Riva/Balance replied, "Born, and hope to die." While it's frustrating that no one on the E currently knows how to communicate with him, it isn't his fault, and it's kind of insulting that they'd try to see if they could "fix" him. He doesn't need to be "fixed."

Anyway, Pulaski says that his condition is hereditary (duh, already knew that), and that his brain doesn't receive auditory signals, so any kind of prosthetic she could try wouldn't work.
Pulaski, do you have anything new to tell us?


No shit, Sherlock.

Picard asks Troi for her professional opinion. Troi replies that Riva is withdrawn, because he's always had all the answers, and now he has none.
"You can't help him?" asks Picard.
"His problem is confidence, and one person can't give confidence to another," she replies.
*sigh* Ain't that the truth.
Data enters and announces that he's learned those five languages. He gives an example by building a little story about "two happy people in love walking by the blue ocean at sunset." Picard has to give him a little "That's enough, Data," and they go to see Riva.


Riva is in the observation lounge staring out the window. Picard & Co approach him and Picard tells Riva to talk to Data, who has learned sign language.
"Their deaths were my fault," Data translates. "I was foolish enough to believe that nothing could touch me, because I was the great Riva. They were more than just my interpreters. They were my friends, and I did not realize how much they were a part of me, until now."
"But it wasn't your fault," argues Picard. "That was one desperate person who didn't want peace. The others don't feel that way. They contacted us again. They still want to have the peace talks."
"No way," says Riva/Data. "I'm done."
"WTH?" snaps Troi. "You can still make this alright."
"We have Data now," points out Picard. "He can translate for you."
"No," says Riva/Data. "When Data translates, it is without emotion. It took years for me to sync up with my chorus. Data is awesome, but he cannot take their place. Please take me back home."
"Well that sucks," replies Picard. "More people will die."
Riva gives Picard this scary FUCK YOU! face before storming out.


For some reason, there's a scene here with Pulaski and Geordi in sick bay, and they're having a conversation about how she can do surgery on him to give him new eyes, which would look like eyes, but have the same kind of information as his VISOR. Then she says that option #2 would be for her to operate on his eyes to fix the ocular degeneration, and then build new eyes with the replicator. Geordi is thrown off by this, as he was told that it wouldn't ever be possible for him to have normal vision. She warns him that option #2 comes with risks, and that once he goes down that path, if it doesn't turn out right, he can't make the choice again. He could eliminate the pain he feels from his VISOR, but it could also eliminate his being able to see at all. He decides to think about it, and leaves.
I can see why they would choose to add in this scene. This episode focuses in on the differently-abled, and Geordi having a tiny scene that asks if he'd like to risk his eyesight on the possibility of seeing better blends nicely with Riva's struggle to communicate properly without his chorus. My main complaint with this scene being here is that it's a copy of the conversation Geordi had with Crusher in the first episode: Geordi goes to Crusher to complain about his pain, she offers surgery or painkillers. Neither of these options are good, because they both come with drawbacks, and he decides to keep his VISOR. The only difference is that Pulaski says she could fix his eyesight, and he leaves uncertain as to whether or not he will keep his VISOR.



Troi and Data go to Riva's quarters.
"So Picard will take you home," begins Troi. "But he says I can go down to the surface to try to run the peace talks myself first. The cost for this mission has already been too high to walk away from it. But I need some tips."
"Here's a tip," translates Data. "Don't do it!"
"Yeah, I haven't done this before," argues Troi. "I need to know your tricks."
"There aren't any," says Riva/Data. "Basically, I would look for one thing - anything - that the two 
 sides had in common. Then I would build on that to start a conversation. The hard part was getting them to listen."
"That's true," says Troi. "That part is hard."
"You are good with people,"says Riva/Data, implying that she shouldn't have too hard a time.
"My job is different," she argues.
"The real trick is to turn disadvantage into advantage," he answers.
She gets mad and yells, "Then why can't you do that? Turn your disadvantage into an advantage?"
Riva gets a look on his face. "That is interesting," he and Data say. "That would give them something in common."
Data is confused as to what the plan might be going forward. Riva thanks him, and Troi says she'll tell Picard to tell the dudes on the surface to expect Riva's return.


Everyone meets up in the transporter room again, but this time, it is Data going instead of the chorus. They have still-not-O'Brien check for life signs (none) before they beam back. Once back on the plateau, Geordi beams down the torches and table that they ordered last time.
Riker asks Troi what Riva is going to do, and she fills in the blanks: Riva is going to teach both sides sign language. In this way, they will both learn to communicate with Riva while learning to communicate with each other.
Data points out that it took him an afternoon to learn five gestural languages, but that these people are not androids, and it will take them months.
Riva, through Data, admits that even with his chorus, he would not be able to convince these people to think differently in a day. Teaching these people to communicate was always going to take some time.
Riker is concerned about leaving Riva alone on the planet, but Riva replies that he will be okay, and thanks Riker for his concern. Then he thanks Troi, and they beam up.



Riker's Log 42479.3: "Leaving now. We think Riva will do a bang-up job."

Picard is in his ready room, looking at that holographic model again, when Troi enters and inquires why he asked to see her.
"Yeah," he says. "I know you can read my thoughts and feelings, but I wanted to say in person that I appreciate you."



It's too bad Gene Rod can't make up his mind whether you guys have money or not, cuz ooh, girl. You'd be gettin' a raise about now.


Man, I really like this episode. I mean, I like the fact that we already have a differently-abled crew member in the regular cast (who was named for a wheelchair-bound fan named George LaForge). But then I like that we have a guest star who is also differently-abled. Once again, Star Trek, way ahead of your time. This episode came about when Howard Seago, who plays Riva, suggested to Star Trek that they do an episode about deaf people. Seago himself is a deaf actor and uses ASL. He wanted to dispel the thoughts and misconceptions that generally surround deaf people and thought this might be a good way to do it. In an earlier draft of the script, Riva learns to speak overnight to conclude the conflict, which, in my opinion, would have cheapened the episode overall. It's about living with your own abilities, and find your way with them. Seago suggested the new ending the day before the ending was shot. What's more, Seago's ending makes Geordi's weird little sick bay scene with Pulaski all the stronger. While I'm still a tad bit irked that hey pretty much shot the same scene with two different doctors, I understand how each of them functioned: the one from Encounter at Farpoint served as exposition for Geordi's VISOR, and set up his medical condition for the audience. In this episode, he tells Riva at the start that he does not resent his blindness or the VISOR, because he likes himself just the way he is. But near the end, Pulaski tells him that it's possible for him to see like everyone else, and he finds himself in a conundrum. Does he still like himself, even with his sight being different? Would he jump at the chance to change it? Is he okay with his current eyesight simply because his choices are to be okay with it, or to rage against the machine needlessly?
Riva also expresses the idea that he likes himself, and considers himself and Geordi to be "blessed" because they can all be unique in the world, and that's okay. Riva has a specific way of communicating to make up for a lost ability, but when that method is lost also, is he still okay with the situation? Surely, it would be easier to communicate if he could hear, but it would make him less unique. In the end, both questions are solved when Troi suggests that he make his disadvantage into an advantage, and he does so. he has lost one form of communication, but discovered that his fallback method, which is imperfect in many situations, can be beneficial here.
In the original script, he had some kind of mechanical device that he used with his chorus which malfunctioned, and he learns to speak overnight in order to mediate. This does not show him using his disadvantages to his advantage. It would show him more as being "fixed," which is beside the point. The second ending is better, both story-wise and point-wise.
I only have one teeny-tiny sticking point with this episode, and it's not even that much of an issue: the universal translator works by translating a language through spoken word and hearing. For the purposes of television, everyone speaks English, and it's assumed that lip movements also match. However, even Memory Alpha admits that if the UT were an actual device, everyone you encountered who spoke a different language would appear to be dubbed.
Riva is an alien. He does not speak English (or whatever language they technically speak in the Federation). Yet he reads lips. Which means that in order to talk to the people on the Enterprise, he must have learned English. Also the language of the warring factions on the planet. And every other race he encountered. It kind of doesn't science, but I'm gonna overlook it, because the rest of this episode was excellent.

Also, props to the costume department this week. I love Riva's architectural robes, and Balance's dress is very Jane Austen. Warrior's outfit is different, but not terrible, and Scholar looks like something out of a Shakespeare festival, but that's still okay.




Red deaths: 0
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date:2
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
To date: 4
Sassy Picard Moments: 2
To date: 7
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 3
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 2
To date: 11
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: This whole episode is about that
To date: 7
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 2
To date: 8


Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:



Fun Facts:

- Marnie Mosiman, who plays Balance, is the wife of John de Lancie (Q).
- The holographic image of the Lima Sierra system in the ready room was used in both this episode and The Child, and then never seen again.


-Thomas Randall Oglesby, who plays Scholar/Artist, will show up again across several Star Trek shows.
- Another cool bit of background info about Riva that did not make the final cut: Riva mediated at peace talks with a race that was highly suspicious of his chorus, and he was forced to learn sign in order to communicate with them instead.
- Wonky continuity: the scene with Geordi and Pulaski may have been brought up as foreshadowing for later, because LeVar Burton kept asking for Geordi to "get some eyes." The idea appears to have been batted around, but then dropped from the series. It will come up later in the films... several times, actually.
- Wonky continuity II: Worf is unnerved over meeting Riva because Riva mediated a peace treaty between the Klingons and the Federation, explaining that partnership satisfactorily for fans thus far. But there will come an episode in season three that involves time travel, which will rewrite that particular bit of history, However, the sixth film will put the alliance even earlier than either of these suggestions. This seems to follow a similar pattern as the answer to why TOS Klingons have no forehead ridges, where it was explained as a surgical procedure previously, and then later changed to say that it was a disease.
- After this episode aired, the show got quite a few complimentary letters from both deaf and hearing people, thanking them for featuring a deaf guest star. As ever, representation matters, friends.







"I couldn't NOT take a picture of this - she looks like an emoji!" - Roomie


Monday, January 23, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Four "The Outrageous Okona"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Four "The Outrageous Okona"
Production Order: 30
Air Order: 30
Stardate: 42402.7
Original Air Date: January 9, 1989



*******




Picard's Log 42402.7: "Just some random crap about where we traveling, and how the planets in this system were colonized by one group which kind of don't like each other but live under a peace treaty."

The E comes up on a busted freighter moving between the two planets in the system, and they waste a few minutes of air time determining that the freighter is empty, that there is one humanoid on board, and what his problem is.
"Eh, let's go get him," suggests Riker.
"Cool," Picard agrees.


They open hailing frequencies, and when the captain of the good ship Erstwhile introduces himself, he's turned around and digging through a box of parts or something, possibly to give the E bridge crew ample time to check out his ass.
Check it out you guys. It's the Rocketeer!
Okona makes a joke about being "alone and empty" and how that's pretty unusual. Basically, he's just a dude with a flat tire, sitting by the roadside and wishing he had AAA membership. Harmless.
Just to be sure, though, Picard mutes the viewscreen to ask Troi about him.
"He's a rogue," she replies, amused.
Data questions this choice of words, then accesses his databanks and begins listing off synonyms.
"Cool, we get it," says Troi.
They turn the sound back on, then tell Okona if he'll turn his engines off, they'll tractor his ship and beam him over, so they can fix his flat tire.
Worf recommends limiting dude's access to the E, and Picard agrees. That's a pretty rude thing to say in front of a stranger. Unless he can't hear them?
Picard over comm: "Transporter room, beam that guy over here, okay?"
Female transporter chief who is not O'Brien: "Okey-doke."
Okona: "Wait, was that a chick?"
Oh, look at that. He totally hears them planning to not let him in certain parts of the ship because he's possibly not trustworthy. That's kind of a douchey thing to say in front of someone, even if it is a reasonable precaution to take.
Anyway, Picard is now annoyed that Okona just made a maybe-sexist comment about one of his crew members, and he tells Okona to hurry up and get his ass over there:


Picard: "Please follow the commander's instructions so we can get back to our normal routine."
Riker: (smiling)
Picard to Riker: "Something funny?"
Riker Sassy Moment: "Well, the unexpected is our normal routine."
Playful music! Commercial break!

Riker brings Data, Worf and Wes to meet Okona in the transporter room. The transporter chief beams him over. Worf pretty much pats him down like 24th century TSA, and takes his weapons. Okona has what is presumably the busted part of his ship, and he requests to help fix it when they do the repairs. Riker agrees and tells him to give the part to the Lt Commander. Okona hands the parts to Wes, who is flattered. He then thoroughly hits on the transporter chief, and hey, it's Teri Hatcher, y'all!


She doesn't buy his bullshit lines at first, but then ends up smiling in appreciation.
Riker seems to be caught between mild amusement and irritation.
"Go fix your thing," he tells Okona, and he and Worf leave.
Okona exits the transporter room with Data and Wes in tow. Wes is still holding the busted park, but he's hugging it to his chest like a lovesick schoolgirl hugging her binder. Clearly, Wes thinks Okona is the shit.
Then Okona says, "Now that's sex appeal," and Wes nods, like Okona just doled out some wisdom, and Wes agrees out of experience.
Seriously? Is Wes getting some while his mother is away?
Data replies with, "I wouldn't know. I'm an android. That's not in my programming."
Subtle, Data.
So Okona answers with a terrible Dad joke.


Wes thinks this is hilarious, probably because Jack Crusher wasn't there to tell him any Dad jokes.


Data is confused. Okona explains that it's a joke, and that it's funny. After a pause, Data replies, "Of course it is," and laughs that creepy fake-ass laugh that makes you think of murderous dolls. 

Okona shares some laughs with Wes and Geordi while Geordi explains the repairs he made. Geordi tells Okona that he replaced one part on his busted machinery with something more sophisticated, and Okona asks how he's supposed to replace said new part if it breaks down, as that part is not available in their star system.
Which makes me wonder: Okona is aware of this tech, but does not have access to it. Could he leave the system to find more? It's kind of moot, as Geordi says he shouldn't have to replace it ever, but is this a light breach of the PD? I think no, but it goes unexplained, leaving it a grey area.

So now we see Okona and Data in the corridor again, this time sans Wes. Okona starts asking Data if he's ever experienced certain things, like being hot or cold.
Dude... of course not.
"Drunk?"
"...not from alcohol," replies Data, referring to The Naked Now, where that illness affected him as well.
"Have you ever experienced love?"
"The act or the emotion?"
And again, Data is forced to ask for clarification, because in his case, the answers are yes, and no.
Okona says they're the same.
"I think you're full of shit," says Data thoughtfully.


(Aside: Okona's wardrobe of puffy shirt with vest, and pants tucked into tall boots, accessorized with belts and weapons is supposed to make us think of air pirates, I guess? Though he's not as cool as these air pirates. No one is as cool as these air pirates.)


Okona then compares life to hauling a cargo of canaries that exceeds the weight restriction on your spaceship. (Does that even science? Surely a ship that never enters the atmosphere of any planet and only exists in space wouldn't have weight restrictions...?) Anyway, Data once again tells him that he's full of shit, and Okona tells him that it's a joke.
"Don't you know what a joke is?"
"Yes." He then starts listing synonyms again, and Okona has to politely tell him to STFU. He insists that Data doesn't understand humor, and why do I get the impression that this is also thinly-veiled robophobia?
Then Okona asks where certain crew quarters are, and Data says they're behind him.
"You probs wouldn't understand that, either," he says cheerfully, though we know this to be crap, because again, The Naked Now.
The door opens, and that transporter-chief-who-is-Teri-Hatcher is there in some red nightie with attached arm warmers...?
Anyway, he's gonna bang her, but you pretty much knew that already.


There's a brief scene where Riker asks Geordi how the repairs are going, and he and Wes discuss Okona's character, but they pretty much just end up talking about how Okona plays by his own rules. Again, we pretty much knew that already.

We switch over to Data and Guinan in Ten Forward. They're talking about humor and Data's struggle to get Okona's jokes. She asks if he laughs.
"When the situation calls for that function." he replies.
Data does another list, and Guinan tells him to stop.
"Why are we here talking about this?" she asks. "Because you're a 'droid, and I'm a 'noid."
"Why are you annoyed?"
She repeats the phrase, emphasizing the words and pointing to each of them in turn.
"Oh. Humanoid. You told a joke."
It was a bad joke.
"I am not laughing."
"No."
"Maybe the joke was not funny," he suggests.
It wasn't.
"No, the joke was funny," Guinan insists.
No, it wasn't.
"Maybe it is me then."
"Yes."
No.


Data decides to go to the holodeck based on Guinan's suggestion to "seek a smarter computer."
Is the Enterprise smarter than Data, or just different? I'm actually kind of interested in knowing which is considered "smarter" here.
Data tells the holodeck computer panel that he wants a program that will tell him what is funny, and he asks who is considered the funniest. Majel tells him that a comedian in the 23rd century who made jokes about quantum physics is considered funniest.
Sigh. Really, Star Trek?
Instead, he selects some kind of Catskills stand-up comic named Ronald B Moore.
He enters, and the comic is Joe Piscopo.
And this is where you nope away from this episode, because from here on out, this episode compares acutely to passing a kidney stone. That is to say, it's not funny, and downright painful to experience.


"Show me what is funny," says Data. "I want to learn."
"Okay!" says Joe. He hops out of his chair. "I'll do Jerry Lewis!"
NO. KILL ME NOW.
He pulls Data onstage and they put in fake teeth and make weird noises and, as Data puts it, "jump around like an idiot."


When they determine that this is not funny and actually totally SUCKS, Joe says he will tell Data how to tell some jokes. Being an android, he speeds up the "tutorial."
Later, he goes to Ten Forward to test his new skills.
In front of Guinan, he pumps his arms back and forth, cigar in hand, and affects when I guess is an accent you could call "Stereotypical Twentieth Century Stand-Up Comic."
He tells what is an okay joke, but he completely fucks up the timing. Guinan doesn't laugh.
"You screwed it up. Your timing was off."
"My timing is digital," he protests, and this time she laughs.
He attempts a second joke, but is paged to the bridge instead.


Up on the bridge, sensors are reporting an unidentified vessel approaching. Data says it's a little interplanetary ship.
"Um, they locked lasers on us?" says Worf.
You can tell they'd like to make "oooh, scary!" jokes. Picard points out that lasers wouldn't even make it through their shields.
"Regulation says we're supposed to go to yellow alert," remarks Riker.
"World's oldest regulation," muses Picard. "Okay, go to yellow alert, I guess. And drop the shields."
"Why?"
"In case we decide to surrender to them."


Worf makes a growly noise, because I guess he doesn't have a sense of humor.

Music of indeterminate mood! Commercial break!

They are hailed by the other ship, and the guy in grey calls the "Federation vessel," so it looks like these guys aren't in the Federation.
"Why are you here?" the guy asks.


"I am Debin of Planet Atlec and I am ordering you to heave to and prepare to be boarded."
Sassy Riker Moment:


"Meh, we're in their space, let's find out what they want," suggests Picard. "Debin, what's good?" he asks
"You're towing the ship of a criminal," replies Debin, who seems to be trying to make himself seem imposing but is only coming off as flustered. "Give me Okona. He committed crimes on my planet."
Picard is surprised. "We were just helping a dude stranded by the side of the... space."
"Another ship coming to this crap-tacular party," announces Worf.
"Like the Altec ship, but with different markings," reads off Data.
They decide to put Debin on hold and check out this new ship, which is identified as a security ship from Straleb, the other planet in this system.
The security ship hails them.
"I am Secretary Kushell from Straleb. I already know who you are, and that Debin wants Okona, because I Big Brothered both your asses," says the d-bag on screen.


"You're gonna give Okona to me instead of Debin."
Picard has Worf mute the convo.
"Are you kidding me with this shit?"
He pages Okona to the bridge.
What's really catching my eye here is that kid to Kushell's left. He simultaneously looks uncomfortable with the situation, and is giving Kushell hella side-eye throughout this whole encounter. At one point, Kushell tells Picard that he only has to comply with "one demand," and Picard makes note of the word "demand." 
"It is a word I have chosen," replies Kushell in a defiant matter, and I swear that kid rolls his eyes so hard I'd thought he hurt himself.


Kushell then goes on to talk about honor, and how he'll die or let others be killed in order to get what he wants. The kid seems alarmed by this, and Picard says he doesn't want that happening. He says he'll talk to some people, and hangs up on Kushell.
"Where the fuck is Okona?"
Worf reports that Okona hasn't responded, but has been reported as having been in three different crew quarters. He leaves the bridge to fetch Okona personally.

I have two questions here:
One - three crew members have fallen for Okona's bullshit lines in the few hours he's been on board? Seriously? Damn, Starfleet. I thought you picked 'em smarter than that.
Two - is the computer really tracking your movements like that? I mean, yes that makes sense, because you can ask the computer the whereabouts of any person on board, and it will tell you where to find them. But it never occurred to me how invasive that was. It means potentially nothing is a secret, because your whereabouts could be broadcast to anyone who asks, as well as anyone in the vicinity who happens to overhear it.
"Computer, where is Commander Riker located?"
"Commander Riker is in the crew quarters of Counselor Deanna Troi."
And now everyone who heard that is once again wondering if Riker and Troi are an item again, and the rumor mill chugs away, and Riker and Troi start getting weird looks from people, because the Enterprise holds fewer people than your average hospital, and news travels fast.
Really, if you were nosy, you could just sit in your quarters all day and ask the computer where certain people were. You could track their movements across the ship, and stalk people from the comfort of your own quarters.
Much like Worf is doing to Okona right now. With scary music being played.


Then, when he gets to the quarters, the door just opens for him. I know the doors have chimes, and I know that security can override the locks, but he couldn't have just tried the chimes first? Called through the door that there's a security matter at hand? Like, if I was about to hook up with a dude and Worf just busted in unceremoniously, I'd've been pissed.
"Get your ass to the bridge!" barks Worf.


Wait... is that different vest?
It is!
Why the hell is he wearing two vests?


Anyway, he stares Worf down like he's challenging him, but Worf just growls that he'd like to fight, but can't because he's on duty.
Okona turns and gives the red-head a line (one of many, I assume): "Look what it took to drag me from your arms."
Ugh. Shut up, dude. I bet you've got all the space-STIs.

Worf escorts Okona to the bridge.
"Okay," says Picard right off the bat. "I got two ships here with two dudes - Debin and Kushell - telling me that I need to hand you over to them. They say you're a criminal, and that they'll attack my ship if I don't hand you over. What are your crimes?"
"Hell if I know," replies Okona.
"Fine!" snaps Picard.
He barks at Worf to turn on the viewscreen, and there's a snicker moment when Worf asks "Which ship?" and Picard has to remember that many, small annoying ships are threatening to dent his fenders.
He turns on the screen to Debin. 
"I have Okona," says Picard. "What is his crime?"
"None of your beeswax," snaps Debin.
"Then I'm not turning him over to you."
Picard doesn't want to start some intergalactic incident, but he knows that he's in deep shit if he gives Okona to either of these guys and it turns out that he owes them five bucks, and they're going to shoot him in the head.
Debin gives in and drags his very pregnant daughter onto the viewscreen, then he starts yelling about dishonor and bastard children. The daughter seems embarrassed to be related to him.
Okona also rolls his eyes.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!


Picard's Log, supplemental: "Rehash of what you just watched, providing you were in the room before the commercial break."

Picard decides to talk to Troi on the bridge about this, and what's interesting here is that Star Trek is being pretty forward about the fact that Okona being forced into a shotgun marriage is considered to be kind of outdated. They use terms like "ancient" and "arcane," and I wonder if they figure that by the time the 24th century rolls around, having children and marriage will no longer be tied together. Were they predicting for then what is starting to become a social norm now? They also had the same reaction when the whole ship found out that Troi was involved in an arranged marriage.
Troi tells Picard that Debin is totally serious about his honor being at stake and he doesn't care who has to die to set this right.


Okona thinks Troi's assessment is right on the money.
"Why does Kushell want you?" Picard asks.
Okona shrugs.
Picard decides to do a split-screen conference call thingy so everyone can yell at each other.
Turns out Kushell is missing some kind of fancy jewel, "a national treasure," which he believes Okona took after befriending his son Benzan, the kid who has been giving him side-eye. Kushell and Debin yell at each other for a bit, each claiming that his claim is more important than the other's, and Picard finally mutes the screen so they can continue to yell at one another without Picard being forced to listen. He finally shuts it off completely and pulls Okona into the ready room.


"This sucks," says Okona once the door shuts. "No matter what happens, someone will get hurt. I'm sorry you're involved. I didn't want that."
"I have a problem," says Picard, "because they both figure they have a valid claim to you, but if I give you to one of them, the other will declare war."
"Can you just fix my ship and let me go?"
"Your ship is not as fast as theirs are," Picard points out. "But Starfleet regulations would agree that that's what I should do."
"For what it's worth, I didn't take that jewel." Okona pauses. "Also, that other stuff is between me and Yanar."
(Yanar probably being the preggo girl.)

Okona goes down to Engineering while Geordi works on the broken part.
Wes grills him about leaving, and he gives Okona the teenage boy version of the "I'm so disappointed in you" speech that moms give to destroy their kids. They talk about Okona moving from place to place, alone. Okona looks a bit wistful. When Geordi says the part is finally ready, Okona says that maybe he will stick around for a bit.


Okona goes back to the bridge.
"So instead of leaving, I'm gonna surrender," he tells Picard cheerfully.
Picard opens hailing frequencies and invites Debin and Kushell to beam aboard the E to settle the matter. They readily agree to come aboard weaponless.
So they do, and everyone meets up in a meeting room. Right away, Debin and Kushell start arguing about who gets to take him.


"Okay, so y'all are talking about me, but not to me," interrupts Okona. "And with the options of punishment as a thief, or marrying Yanar, I'll take Yanar."
"No fucking way!" yells Benzan, the kid with the side-eye.
"Yeah! He can't be allowed to get away with it!" shouts Debin.
"Everybody shut up!" yells Yanar. "You all think Okona is the dad, then fine. I'll marry him."
"The hell you will!" says Benzan. "Nobody stole that stupid jewel. I was going to give it to Yanar. That's my baby. I was going to give her the jewel to pledge marriage."
"WTF?" Debin demands of Yanar. "You told me the kid belonged to Okona!"
"Okay, let's say I tell you the kid is Benzan's," suggests Yanar. "You would have declared war on Kushell. So I told you it belonged to Okona, because that was easier."
"Yeah," Benzan says to Kushell. "And you'd have done the same if I told you I was giving the jewel to Yanar."
"Everybody threw me under the space-bus," Okona cheerfully tells Picard.


"Why the hell did you say it was Okona?" Kushell asks Benzan.
"I knew you couldn't catch him," shrugs Benzan. "And once she got the jewel, then we would have been married."
Okona admits that he still has the jewel because his ship broke down before he could deliver it.
"Fuck this anyway," says Yanar. "I'm not marrying anyone."

Data and Guinan go back to the holodeck. Data pulls up the comic program again, and dear god, please no more more fucking Jerry Lewis.
Data and Guinan explain to the comic that Data tried to tell a joke and bombed.
The comic suggests trying out jokes in front of an audience instead, and Guinan agrees.


Back in the meeting room, Okona talks to Yanar, reminding her that she loves him, and yeah, the timing sucks, but she probs wants to marry him, and she super should, even though their fathers are complete douche-bags. She agrees and Okona gives the jewel back to Benzan to give to her.


Of course, Kushell and Debin then start arguing about which planets the couple will live on to raise their baby.

Meanwhile, an audience has been assembled in the holodeck, and Data has changed into a tux. The comic introduces Data, and the audience claps. Data does his arm-pumping thing with the cigar, and the audience laughs. He swings a fake golf club, the audience laughs. He tells a quick joke, audience laughs. But then he starts to notice that they laugh at fucking everything. Thumbs up, laughter. Raising his hand, laughter.  Data looks confused and mildly sad. Guinan looks sad for him.


He turns off the audience, then the comic.
"They were programmed to laugh at everything," he tells Guinan.
"Laughter, and being funny, is not all there is to being human," she tells him.
"But there is nothing more human," he argues (which is not quite true, because some apes laugh).

Time for Okona to leave. He's on his own ship and they're ready to turn off the tractor beam. Everyone is exchanging pleasantries via the viewscreen.
"Say goodbye, Data," urges Wes.
"Goodbye, Data," replies the android.
Everyone chuckles.
He's surprised, and accesses his databanks to figure out where that joke came from. He then tries out a few more, much to his own amusement... or whatever Data has that's similar to amusement.
Worf leans over the partition, impatient to leave this crap behind. "Ready to go when you are, sir."
"Take my Worf... please," replies Data.



This episode, you guys.
This episode... is painful.
Now, normally I'm down a good old-fashioned "Data explores______" storyline, because those often pan out and lead to some good moments. But this one was just awful. He's inspired by a stranger coming on board and cracking a bunch of jokes... definitely the kind of class clown that goes nowhere fast. So then data does what data does best - he looks for more information In this case, he conjures Joe Piscopo, who doesn't really teach him much of anything. The "Data learns to be funny" scenes feel tedious and long, and I feel bad for Guinan, having to sit through that crap. It's just... explaining a joke ruins it, so in explaining how or why something is funny, makes it unfunny. Have you ever read Sigmund Freud's writings on humor? They're drier than a toaster oven full of day-old French bread in the Sahara. Watching those Data scenes is like reading those Freud essays, while eating the aforementioned bread. In other words, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Then there's Okona. he's not a terrible character per se, but his lines were so old and cheesy that I thought for sure that no woman on board the flagship of the fucking Federation would fall for that crap. Yet he managed to bed like three women in the few hours he was there.
I'm absolutely not going to say anything about the fact that they meet this guy and immediately sleep with him, because it's totally their right to fuck whomever they like. Hell, even Picard agrees on that point: Okona asks if he's in trouble for screwing round with the crew, Picard waves him off and tells Okona that those are grown-ass women who can do as they please. Naw, my complaint lies in their selection. Dude has been circling the block like a tom, looking for cat strange. Is he clean? Does he carry protection? And most of all, does he say things that are more intelligent than, "You have the majestic carriage and loveliness that could surely be traced back to the noblest of families"? That's a cheeseball line in every century, ladies.

So let's talk about this A-plot that becomes C-plot, the thing with the opposing fathers. (A-plot is the fact that Okona comes on board and shakes things up. B-plot is Data's thing.) The episode does quite a bit to convince us that Okona is bad news bears, but also charmingly amusing: he hits it and quits it, gives data funny life advice; ect. Then we start adding in that he's a deadbeat dad and a thief. But it's okay! He's actually a rogue with a heart of gold. He sleeps around, sure, but he also shuttles young lovers back and forth, supporting their trysts and carrying their jewelry. Okona is space Benvolio - so sweet!

Apparently, I'm not the only one that didn't like this episode - fandom critique site "The Agony Booth" thought that this episode largely followed the awful formula of "colorful character shakes up the Enterprise and changes the actions of those around him," which, to be honest, is a Mary Sue move. Frankly, I have to agree. We never find out who's "behind" the character of Okona, but it certainly feels very Mary Sue-ish to me.


Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:




Red deaths: 0
To date: 1
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 2
Sassy Riker Moments: 2
To date: 4
Sassy Picard Moments: 1
To date: 5
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date:3
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 3
To date: 9
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 3
To date:7
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 5
To date: 6



Sleepy Bueller