Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Loss"


Air date: 12/31/1990
Teleplay by Hilary J. Bader and Alan J. Adler & Vanessa Greene
Story by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Chip Chalmers

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise becomes ensnared in a field that pulls the ship along like a boat in a current. It turns out the current is actually a swarm of two-dimensional life forms that exist in space on a flat plane (which, of course, is not unlike how space travel is often depicted in Trek anyway). The crew must figure out how to escape the current without hurting the 2D-beings. The sci-fi gobbledygook surrounding this storyline is not one of TNG's best examples of sci-fi gobbledygook.

Coinciding with this encounter, Counselor Troi's telepathic abilities suddenly vanish. Is there a connection? Gee, what do you think? Will Troi have her abilities back before the hour is up? I wonder. "The Loss" is a better title than "Two-Dimensional Life Forms" and it describes the more relatable of the story's equal-time-shared plot. I had sympathy for Troi's loss of her ability to sense other people's feelings, whom she aptly now describes as "surfaces without depth" and "projections." But the depiction of this just doesn't work. Troi has a meltdown where she snaps on Beverly, and I didn't buy it. And her almost immediately resigning her post borders on silly as knee-jerk overreactions go. Dramatically, the net effect of a helpless Troi feels more shrill than effective. Aren't TNG characters supposed to be more perfect than this?

The 2D-beings plot turns to tedium and forced jeopardy simultaneously. We've got the 2D-beings headed toward a cosmic-string fragment (with the gravity of 1,000 black holes, if I heard right, although one would've been sufficient) and the only way for the Enterprise to escape comes when Troi hits on the idea of "moths to a flame." Of course, creating another "flame" in this instance involves reams of cascading technobabble that … oh, never mind.

Previous episode: Final Mission
Next episode: Data's Day

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17 comments on this review

Jake - Wed, Mar 5, 2008 - 2:50pm (USA Central)
I actually thought the moment in "The Loss" where Troi loses her temper to Crusher & Riker was first-rate.
Josh - Thu, Mar 6, 2008 - 6:42pm (USA Central)
You were nicer to "The Loss" than I would have been. Nice to read some new Trek reviews. Season Four was a great season for TNG.
TH - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
PS: I just thought I'd add, since you didn't seem to touch on it, that the premise of "The Loss" SEEMS to be (and is analogized by Troi in the episode) a sci-fi analogy to a handicap like blindness or deafness, or the loss of a limb or something like that suddenly thrust upon a person, it can be life-changing. I don't think they managed to play this analogy out well enough, however. Perhaps in part due to the obvious reset at the end of the episode, but I think there was something more missing in the writing or performance. I think even having sen the whole series, Troi's empathic ability was not showcased enough (in frequency and in depth) for us to really understand what she was missing, whereas if she had gone blind, we might be able to relate better. It just seems like in her everyday conversations that are shown on the show, she isn't using her power - at least we're not aware of her using it; so it seems odd that she'd feel so lost talking to someone without that power.
Fanner - Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - 2:59pm (USA Central)
The Loss: Marina was never (imo) effective conveying shock/startled loss, spontanaiety etc ... Where she WAS good was doing her job as a counselor (except on the bridge where she was atrocious) ... When someone actually had an appointment with her to be counseled, Marina posessed a calm competence that I liked ... when they needed quick reactions from her, it often came across as vapid/

Data's Day - One of the funniest things ever in television is when Beverley has just finished working so hard with Data on tap dancing (because he had said he needed to learn 'dancing') and then he concludes that he is fit for dancing at the WEDDING! Gates' reactions are HILARIOUS!!!
Tony - Wed, May 23, 2012 - 4:50am (USA Central)
You dislike this episode because of the way Troi's understandable breakdown occurs, yet you gave "Crossfire" 3 stars even though Odo moping for Kira almost got Bajor's First Minister KILLED!
Funny, I don't recall Troi's moping getting anyone killed. Indeed, Picard encourages her to help the crew even though she doesn't have her abilities, whereas Worf saves Odo's shapeshifting ass by catching Shakaar's would-be assassin.
There's goes your DS9 bias again. Sheesh.....
Yaro - Sun, Dec 2, 2012 - 11:39am (USA Central)
Bleh. I've never been a fan of Troi-based episodes. I found the 2D life forms far more engaging in this than MArina Sirtis playing Deanna whining for most of the episode. It just comes off as Troi deciding her problems are more important than the Enterprise being in danger.

Her episodes usually tend to boil down to either falling in love with some Mary Sue of the week or going around whining about her problems in a very self-centered way. Troi is my least favorite character.
William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
I agree with Tony above that while Troi's meltdown is unprofessional, it's still never dangerous to anyone and I think this helps keep her panic in perspective. While it's stupid for Troi to resign as quickly as she does, she also avoids spreading her problems to others after some of her initial freakouts, and in particular she snaps at people mostly when they actually keep pushing her. The one major exception -- which I find hilarious, and I can't tell whether I think it's because it's convincing or because it's so unconvincing -- is when she freaks out at Geordi's saying that he wishes they knew whether the 2D life forms were sentient and she yells "What's THAT supposed to mean?" Ha, great stuff. But no -- when Troi is "whining" it is almost always because someone else has started the conversation, and so while I don't always approve of what she says and I don't always find her behaviour convincing, I don't think she's really indicating that her problems are worse than the ship's overall.

Really, Troi's reaction to her loss of empathy does make sense -- after all, she has just been disabled. Worf's reaction to finding out he has lost his mobility in "Ethics" is to try to *kill himself*, and so I think Troi going around yelling at people trying to help her and threatening to quit her job are pretty tame in comparison. That said, something still doesn't work for me about this story. For one, it's fairly clear that her powers are likely to come back when the 2D life forms go away, and the episode mostly obscures this point by cheating -- having Beverly announce that Troi has permanent brain damage which might not repair itself, and then having Troi regain her powers instantly when the Enterprise is out of the 2D life forms' wake. That the episode makes no reference at all to the fact that there is a *disabled main character* to whom Troi might possibly talk also annoys me, though yes Geordi's being born blind is different from Troi's loss of her powers. Part of it may be that, in the end, I'm not actually that sure that Troi is very good at her job most of the time -- so many episodes involve Troi being inappropriately pushy, for example -- so that I find an episode devoted to Troi learning how she doesn't need her powers to be a good counselor somewhat unconvincing. Ideally, I wish that Troi had learned from her experience being badgered by Riker and Crusher that going on to someone in pain that they aren't dealing with their pain enough and invading their personal space to do so is not always the best way to get them to realize what they are doing wrong, and that she might become a better counselor simply by realizing what it's like to be the patient. Some elements of the dialogue hit on this -- Beverly's saying that therapists make the worst patients ("except for doctors") and Riker's suggesting that Troi likes being in emotional control of every situation and that she needs to learn to accept lack of control point to this, and those do help the episode work for me; but neither are quite enough.

I do find the attempt to link the two plots thematically especially hamfisted and funny -- "Why, everyone feels as flat to me as those two dimensional life forms!" and whatnot -- and indeed about as far as the episode ever got to developing the "2D life form" idea is "Maybe 2D life forms aren't affected by gravity the same way 3D objects are," which is a fine premise I guess but is not very imaginative. (When they mentioned the cosmic string, I thought they were going to argue that the cosmic string was essentially a one-dimensional object for all intents and purposes, and that that would be relevant somehow, but no dice.) That Troi was able to psychoanalyze these 2D life forms as acting on instinct was meant to prove that she doesn't need empathy to be useful, which is good I guess? But her speculation doesn't feel convincing enough to really establish this thing.

I guess I agree with 2 stars.
William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 1:14pm (USA Central)
That no one in the show suggests that maybe Troi could take a leave of absence as a middle ground between "being competent to return to her job immediately" and "quitting Starfleet forever" is also annoying.
William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 1:35pm (USA Central)
One last point: I love it when Troi responds to Riker saying, "Imzadi..." with an annoyed "Oh, please!", and also her rejection of his kiss at the episode's end. I don't quite know why it's so satisfying -- maybe it's that Riker, more than Troi, acts as if the Riker/Troi relationship could be picked up at any time, but has no actual interest in giving anything up at all for it.
Shane - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 7:25pm (USA Central)
Actually the string has a force of 100 stars. Not unreasonable I think, especially compared to a blackhole.
Moonie - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 7:06am (USA Central)
I think this just might be the single most boring TNG episode I ever watched.

I like Troi, I just think the writers have done a really poor job with her character, her lines and her stories.
"Flat" describes this episode very well.
Tom - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 1:42am (USA Central)
I think it was an interesting idea to see how Troi would react to losing her abilities. However, this show was pretty much a failure. Troi doesn't have the acting ability to carry a show. Her crying scene was not convincing at all. Actually, pretty much all of her scenes were not convincing. When she's finally cured, she just puts on a fake smile.

It's harder to empathize with a character who loses a power that normal humans don't have. As Riker says, there's something aristocratic about it. The show didn't succeed in showing us what it was like for her to lose her sensing abilities and making us care about it. I agree with William that they also missed a great opportunity to have her interact with Geordi.

Also, the 2D life forms plot was pretty bad. I don't find the idea of 2D life forms convincing. Is that even physically possible?
dlpb - Fri, Aug 1, 2014 - 12:31pm (USA Central)
Some good parts to this episode, in interactions between characters. But man is Trek science a load of nonsense. Who is the idiot they hired as a science adviser? Or did they just not bother? It's like high school standard.
dlpb - Fri, Aug 1, 2014 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
Troi's empathic ability was not showcased enough (in frequency and in depth) for us to really understand what she was missing

How do you propose we understand something that has never happened, and will probably never happen? And something we have never experienced. You can't understand qualia if you don't experience it. No matter how "well explained" it is. You also can't go into depth about something that is absolute fiction.
Peremensoe - Tue, Aug 5, 2014 - 4:46pm (USA Central)
DLPB: "How do you propose we understand something that has never happened, and will probably never happen? And something we have never experienced. You can't understand qualia if you don't experience it. No matter how "well explained" it is. You also can't go into depth about something that is absolute fiction."

WHAT? It sounds like you don't believe in the power of (the best) writing to be convincing and transportive.
DLPB - Tue, Sep 2, 2014 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
You aren't understanding. Troi losing her powers can be conveyed as compared to a person losing their sight, but you can never hope to understand it, because it will never happen to a human. It is also not possible for you to really gauge what a loss of sight is like, since it hasn't happened to you.
CPUFP - Tue, Jan 20, 2015 - 9:28am (USA Central)
Well, I suppose that losing her empathic abilities might be devastating for Troi. But Picard is right: They sure are no requirement for her job as ship's counselor. In fact, the only situations where her abilities come in handy are when the Enterprise is looking for life forms which cannot be traced by their ominous "life signs". At any point in the series where real counseling is concerned, they are worthless. In fact, Troi does her best counseling jobs when she didn't use her abilities at all, but focuses on understanding the other person's thoughts (on which their feelings are based), like in this episode, where she senses that her patient is in denial, or in "The Nth Degree", where she helps Barclay by understanding (not feeling) his fears.

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