Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Loud Message About People With Disabilities: "As Loud As A Whisper"

The Good: Acting, Message, Process, Troi's character
The Bad: Thematically heavy-handed at times, Moments of character awkwardness
The Basics: A fair Troi episode, "Loud As A Whisper" tells a story of the basics of communication and the value of diversity.

By this point in the second season of Star Trek The Next Generation, the avid viewer must be wondering if the same person who remembered Counselor Troi existed forgot that Commander Riker did. By "Loud As A Whisper," the sixth episode of the second season, Troi has been featured in a prominent position in three of those episodes, while Riker - essential in the first season - has, at best, had a peripheral role in one. Troi features heavily in this next episode.

"Loud As A Whisper" sees the Enterprise delivering a renowned ambassador to a war torn planet. His name is Riva and he is revealed almost immediately as a deaf mute. He communicates through a Chorus of three people who are able to express various emotions and thoughts he has. When Riva and his people beam down to the planet, the leaders of the different factions arrive and a crazed fanatic attacks the Chorus, killing them. Returned to the Enterprise, Riva and Troi attempt to figure out how to solve the problems of the war torn planet below.

Basically, this episode is a treatise on how alike everyone is. This is a "people with disabilities are just as unique and wonderful as people who have no obvious disabilities" episode. It's a necessary social message and this episode explores that with a relatively sensible amount of liberalism. The problem is that some of the episode gets heavyhanded, such as when Picard grabs the poor ambassador and shouts "We are all in this together!" There are moments that make the viewer shudder.

The strength of this episode is that it actually gives Troi a decent role. Riva and Troi hit it off in a way that is very sensual. We finally see Troi as a strong, liberated woman and one who is more than simply competent at her job. Here she rises to the challenge of problem solving and communicating and her character works quite well.

The episode suffers upon repeated viewings; we know the message the first time around and so much time is spent belaboring that that upon seeing it again the poignancy is lost. This is a good episode for anyone to watch as it focuses on the nature of communication and it is quite explicit about how and why things work. It is not limited to appealing only to fans of Star Trek The Next Generation. But watching it more than twice? Eh. You'll find it less worthwhile upon those other times. I mean, there are only so many times you can learn the same lesson.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode and film reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing!

© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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