Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Loud as a Whisper"
Air date: 1/9/1989
Written by Jacqueline Zambrano
Directed by Larry Shaw
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The Enterprise is assigned to transport renowned mediator Riva (Howie Seago) to a war-torn planet so he can broker a peace between two warring factions trying to overcome 15 centuries of bitter conflict. Riva turns out to be deaf, and he communicates through a "chorus" of three telepaths who speak for him, each one representing a specific facet of his personality.
This is an episode that seems like it was sold on a promising concept that ultimately no one could build enough of a story for. The early scenes set up the story in what by now comes across as formula TNG: lots of exposition, some of it interesting, some of it not, all of it taking up screen time in a very slow-moving story. Then we get back to the Enterprise where we have to sit through another round of introductions to the crew. Given that Riva is so well-known, I don't understand why everyone is surprised to find out he's deaf. (Maybe because if they already knew, the story would have no excuse for its exposition.)
Riva is very confident in his abilities to broker a peace agreement. So confident, indeed, that when a member of one faction tries to sabotage the talks by killing Riva's chorus, Riva's confidence is shattered almost beyond repair. We then get a series of scenes (too many, in my opinion) where the Enterprise crew tries to coax Riva back to the peace process he's supposed to be brokering. Only Counselor Troi is able to get through to him, in part because of their previous romantic overtures.
I'm sorry, but the solution just doesn't work. Riva's argument is that starting from zero and teaching sign language to both sides will become the common ground that will allow the communication and negotiations to flourish. Call me cynical, but I find it more likely that someone's going to pull out a gun and shoot up the place out of sheer frustration during such an arduous process. If these people have been fighting for 15 centuries (shouldn't they all be dead by now?), how is Riva and his simplistic solution honestly going to make a dent? I'm all for TNG optimism, but this is pushing it.