In which it’s a Very Special Episode.
Memory Alpha says: The Enterprise brings a deaf negotiator to mediate the end of a planetary civil war. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
And so I’m back! From outer space! Not quite, but I did visit San Francisco, and I did drink root beer (in a Jack in the Box). Quark and Garak are right about it being cloying, but I don’t know about insidious. I think I’d rather the Federation tasted like iced tea. On to this episode.
This seems to be another one that I don’t really remember. It’s one of those spectacularly awkward episodes that deals with physical handicaps that it’s hard to believe still exist for humanoids in the 24th Century. Now, I don’t want to be a dick about this. I know there are many deaf people who feel that their deafness really isn’t a disadvantage, and would even like their children to be deaf too so that they are part of the same language culture. Plus,
Howie Seago, who played Riva, is in fact deaf and uses American Sign Language. He petitioned the producers to create a show about deaf people, in part to dispel untrue and prejudiced myths about them. In the first draft, Riva learned to speak overnight after a mechanical translator he used to communicate with his chorus failed. Seago suggested the ending used in the finished episode the day prior to shooting. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 73)
And I’m always down with dispelling prejudice. However, let us bear in mind: this is the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so this is bound to be well-meaning, dorky and kind of mealy-mouthed.
‘Riva’ was the name of an excellent Dalmatian café on Mission Bay in Auckland, by the way. Their warm scallop and bacon salad was glorious. Then it got taken over by someone else and has become awful. It’s still CALLED Riva though, and I object to this! Change the name if you’re going to make a thing shitty. That will be all.
- ‘Our orders are transportation only, no interference.’ WE ARE ITCHING TO INTERFERE.
- Oh, a second appearance of Picard’s groovy desktop holoprojector! It makes Riker look uncomfortable.
- Picard, you are being an astronomy nerd who perhaps doesn’t have enough to do. Riker is bored and fiddling with his beard. You know he doesn’t like nerd stuff; why did you show this to him? Data would have been interested. But I do enjoy how awkward early Riker and Picard can be together, and how Picard tries hesitantly to find common ground, and just isn’t very good at it.
- Mr Data, you have the bridge. Make an odd face as you sit down in the big chair, for some reason.
- OH CLUCK CLUCK CLUCK NUMBER ONE.
- ‘all the years of bloodletting’ – you mean they’re using old-fashioned medicine? I think ‘bloodshed’ is a better word here.
- We’re not here to police the galaxy… we just DO IT, all the time, as an extra. It’s very American of us!
- YAY O’BRIEN SIGHTED! And he’s lookin’ competent. I want to bring him a nice Jamaica blend coffee while he works, and hang out leaning my elbows on the transporter console and chin in my hands, chattering. Oh dear, I would be Julian before Julian, and I’m not nearly as cute as he is.
- Troi. You are embarrassing Worf. Whose intense uneasiness about Riva seems odd, since if it weren’t for those treaties he arranged, Worf probably couldn’t hold his current job. Ambivalence, sure, but Troi says he’s super churned up about it. Worf is such a weird little dude.
- No Klingon word for ‘peacemaker’? Not even in a Colt sense?
- Well, there’s nobody here to meet them – and Picard was worried that if he didn’t go on the trip, it would be construed as lack of interest. How obnoxious. This is a really boring way to end the teaser segment.
- Here’s Riva and his big, comfy cardie and his huge thatch of strawberry-blond hair. This man is dramatically hirsute. His beard and Riker’s will surely come to blows.
- And Riva’s Greek chorus – I like how the woman has hair the same colour as Riva’s, and I’d kind of like it if they all did.
- HEYYYYY I’ll just hit on you in front of your boss through one of my interpreters! Smooth, right?
- Riva is a major, high-profile mediator. How has Picard not been aware that he is deaf and communicates via Greek chorus?
- ‘I am passion. The libido. The anarchy of lust.’ What a fantastic job description. How do you get this kind of gig? Auditions? And do these people have time off?
- RIVA. QUIT HITTING ON TROI. SHE JUST LOOKS UNCOMFORTABLE.
- Oh hi, Pulaski! Did you come to the bridge to troll Data a little? (She actually won’t do anything in this scene.)
- Wow, and he didn’t lose any time dissing Riker, either, interrupting the introduction to him and touching him quite unsolicited.
- Why does Riva move his hand over Data’s chest like that? Was he feeling for a heartbeat? Can you feel funny things moving if you touch Data’s chest? Note Troi’s ‘Data is so precious’ face in the background.
- I don’t know why Geordi is even in this room, except to have a friendly chat about being differently abled, and seem kind of attracted to Riva, cf ‘Geordi is gay and doesn’t get it.’
- HEYYYY MAYBE THE MEMBER OF YOUR STAFF I’VE BEEN HITTING ON SINCE WE MET COULD ESCORT ME TO MY ROOM, ALONE WITH ME AND MY ‘ANARCHY OF LUST’ GUY, WHILE WE LEAVE THE ‘HAVING A BRAIN’ AND ‘BEING A NICE PERSON’ INTERPRETERS HERE WITH YOU. How does anyone not think that’s shady?
- Nice glassware in this room! I hope being a set-dresser for Star Trek is as much fun as it looks. I imagine awesome shopping trips to find stuff that looks just alien and futuristic enough.
- I like Troi’s bronze lipstick today.
- ‘I look forward to just fucking and not having to have your weird interpreter guy here.’
- Well at least you could listen to Data’s briefing – OH WAIT. Okay, poor Riva can’t appreciate what a lovely voice Data has. He’ll just have to appreciate him visually. Maybe pat his chest some more.
- I dig the female interpreter’s dress, which falls at the intersection of Lizzie Bennet and Princess Serenity. The blogger at Fashion It So didn’t, though. Didn’t like the bronze lipstick, either. Oh well!
- Business as usual on the bridge, Wesley pushes buttons, doot doot doot.
- MORE lovely glassware on the table at Troi and Riva’s dinner date.
- I’m glad that the on-board sound of the Enterprise is more subtle than the on-board sound of an aeroplane. I just flew from San Francisco to Auckland and it was LOUD. I wonder if they have soundproofing in first class so you don’t have to hear that constant obtrusive roar? Or am I overly sensitive to it?
- This is some major hitting-on going on here. With an exit line about ‘to allow it to fill you’ (he’s talking about ambient sound, but HAW) the Anarchy (I like to think this is his nickname, a bit like the Situation) leaves the room, so thank God, he apparently doesn’t just stick around when Riva is getting it on. Trying to make appropriate noises and compliment his partner.
- So they play ASL charades for a bit, and I suppose Deanna guesses well because she’s all psychic and stuff, but it’s ridiculous how much she gets from a series of non-intuitive gestures.
- Troi clearly likes her a beardy man.
- Everyone on the bridge is having a boring week.
- Laser activity! Worf doesn’t seem as contemptuous of lasers as in ‘The Outrageous Okona.’
- These are some butt-ugly aliens.
- The aliens are cross and only want to talk to Riva, because for some reason they have no appreciation for the excellent face, voice and general experience of Patrick Stewart. I mean, if you showed me Howie Seago and Patrick Stewart, I know who I’d pick to talk with.
- In a nice touch, Troi has to relay Riker’s intercom message to Riva, so he can read her lips. They both look bummed but resigned to the date being interrupted. Successful cockblock, Riker.
- Awwww, Riva is all magic and peace-making. Everyone around him just chills. He’s like Manny when he swallowed the Little Book of Calm in Black Books.
- So Riva doesn’t want to ‘add to an already tense situation,’ but he doesn’t think to forewarn the very jumpy, heavily-armed people on the ground that he travels with three companions and they do need to be there for him to help them. This seems like something he should be highly aware of, actually.
- HEYYYY O’BRIEN.
- Nice matte painting planet!
- Riva wants some tiki torches and a table. And maybe a keg, a gas barbecue, some steaks and kebabs.
- Ugly aliens are all tense with caveman body-language – except one guy who just stands there.
- WELL. That guy just ruined things. Mog-Ur One-Eye is very embarrassed and shoots him right back.
- Riva is reacting mostly with anger and frustration, not, visibly, with grief. What was his relationship, emotionally, with the chorus? When Picard, very kindly, says ‘I am so sorry that your friends were killed,’ Riva keeps rant-gesturing and doesn’t look sad. Does he feel as if his friends have been killed or as if his servants have? Riva’s like a prince on his planet, right?
- Aw, I love Picard’s ‘Listen! You are not alone! We are all in this together!’ with careful, LOUD gestures. Even so, perhaps it’s just Seago’s performance, but what I’m getting from Picard is ‘This man is grief-stricken and panicking, I need to reassure and encourage him’ while Riva just seems cross about what’s happened. Maybe I need a close-up on his face or something – but how could I see an expression in between the thatch and the beard? Anyway, Picard’s manly grip seems to have calmed him down, and he slopes off to the sickbay with Deanna to see what Dr Pulaski can do.
- I find it hard to believe that a people as military as the Klingons haven’t used sign language in the field before. Maybe Worf’s just ignorant.
- Data does the usual bit where he starts watching the language-learning software (Rosetta Stone still in business?) at a gentle pace, then fast-forwards it repeatedly. I know the point is to emphasise how fast he can take in information, but once you’ve seen him do it in a few episodes, you start to wonder why he doesn’t have a preset command for this kind of thing – ‘play at android speed’ or something. Does he prefer to take ideas in slowly at first, in case there’s something unexpected, and then speed up once he feels confident? Am I overthinking a minor detail to do with Data? Shocking. I also wonder why Picard orders ‘Tea, Earl Grey, hot’ every time instead of setting up a ‘Picard tea’ shortcut. Save syllables. Get tea faster. Face day. Right?
- Pulaski’s variant uniform really is smart. I wonder why it is that, when they did the redesign for Season Three (mostly because Patrick Stewart’s chiropractor said that if he kept wearing a Lycra onesie that constantly pulled his shoulders down and forward he would permanently jigger his back), they went with the sweatshirt-shaped top and pants rather than giving everyone a Pulaski tunic? I have absolutely no problem with the classic TNG pullover, mind you; it’s neat and iconic and I have crushes on people who wore it. I just wonder why they reinvented that particular wheel.
- Why in the world is the first example of sign language that Data decides to give Picard about ‘two happy people in love walking along the beach by the blue ocean at sunset’? Is that the first lesson in the textbook, or did Data make it up himself? Exactly how adorable is this? We must quantify it.
- Anyway, Picard doesn’t want to hear any more, because yuk, mush, and Pulaski has a little smile to herself. Picard turns Data around with his hands on his shoulders in a way that is entirely unnecessary unless he basically thought that was pretty adorable too, and takes him away to talk to Riva. Even though it sounds like Data is better equipped to discuss activities for an anniversary date than diplomacy and conflict resolution. I don’t think he’s quite ready to take over the Anarchy of Lust interpreting role though. Dinner, a seaside walk and some respectful hand-holding sound good, though!
- HA Riva thinks of himself as ‘The Great Riva.’ At least he realises he was a stupid ass not to protect his Chorus more.
- Picard goes on talking several seconds after Data stops gesturing what he’s saying – possibly because Data remembers that Riva can read Picard’s lips and doesn’t need the running translation. It looks like he only signed the ‘You are not to blame’ part.
- Riva manages to look a little bit sad in between his bushes of hair. Data gestures for Picard again, I can’t understand why, because he only actually needs to interpret for Riva.
- YES DATA IS ‘A FINE MACHINE’ AND I’D USE HIM IF I WERE YOU. I mean come on. Be practical. People are going to die if you opt out here. The fact that Data doesn’t understand the feelings in what you say isn’t a fatal handicap. People could still misunderstand things you said through the Chorus; communication is a two-way thing.
- Pulaski and Geordi discuss the artificial eyes he won’t decide to get until the movie era. Pulaski has grown people new eyes! She is the man! LeVar Burton actually did want Geordi to get eyes, because he found the Visor limiting for his acting. I’m glad they didn’t go that way at this stage, though, because I like the distinctively odd look it gives the character, and being charitable, it helps me to think that Geordi is such a petulant dick sometimes because he always has a headache.
- Another instance of Troi working as a diplomatic officer – why wasn’t this an official thing? She would have seemed so much more pointful!
- Data seems perfectly able to interpret the nuances of Riva’s gestures, I must say – there is nothing stilted or machine-translation-sounding about his translation, no ‘no that’s not what I meant’ frustrated expressions from Riva. And he half-smiles rather sweetly when he translates the line ‘You are very good with people.’ There’s some mutual Data-Troi admiration going on in this episode. Data gives Riva sassy-face when Deanna challenges Riva to turn his disadvantage into an advantage. Anyway, Riva’s going to give it the old college try.
- HEY O’BRIEN. You’ve been on duty for a long time today! Let me get you a coffee and a biscuit. You’ve earned a custard cream.
- Belatedly, the tiki torches and barbecue table are beamed down. Worf is able to light the torches just by touching their sticks – is there a switch?
- Deanna is wearing a really sparkly hair accessory!
- Anyway, Riva’s idea is to do a sign-language workshop so that having to learn to communicate with Riva will help them to communicate with each other – you know, I think I can see this working well, but for a slightly different reason. The effort to learn sign language in order to resolve their conflict will distract them from the conflict, leading them to spend time with each other with a common purpose – to figure out what the bushy redhead is trying to say and how to answer him – and hopefully they will realise that the other side is actually pretty tolerable when they’re concentrating on something other than the grievances between them.
- ‘I’m still not comfortable leaving you here alone,’ says Riker, while inwardly thinking ‘oh thank goodness the rival beard will be off the ship and stop hitting on my ex-girlfriend about whom I am still very territorial.’
- And off they fly. Riker once more has the Alpha Beard, and Picard once more puzzles over the desktop projector – and very sweetly praises and thanks Deanna for her work. Awwwwwwww. Kind cuddly twinkly-eyed Picard.
I wrote this whole thing up and then realised I should have been doing a DS9 episode this time. OH WELL. Doesn’t really matter. Next time, then, the DS9 episode ‘Invasive Procedures,’ featuring Tim ‘Tuvok’ Russ as a Klingon.