Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Man of the People"


Air date: 10/5/1992
Written by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise provides transport for Ambassador Alkar (Chip Lucia), who is on a mission to broker the peace between two warring factions on a distant (or nearby, I guess, if you are traveling on the Enterprise) world. He travels with an elderly woman that he claims is his mother; when Troi meets them in the transporter room, the mother immediately sees Troi as some kind of threat and warns her to stay away from Alkar. Soon after, the mother dies of unknown causes. Alkar asks Troi to perform a sacred ceremony with him, after which Troi starts behaving rather ... bizarrely.

"Man of the People" is a hodgepodge stew of tired Trek cliches, perhaps the most tired one being the perfunctory iteration on the "two warring factions to which the Enterprise is bringing an ambassador." These two cultures, never seen on screen, are completely arbitrary placeholders, giving us no plot to invest in.

The other cliche is the reliable "crew member behaves strangely because of unknown alien influence"; in this case Troi slowly begins to lose her mind and turn into some sort of oversexed crazy person. There is, to the episode's credit, a priceless scene where Riker shows up to Troi's quarters, sees what she is wearing, and starts smiling ... and then just as quickly stops smiling once he sees the random crewman in her bed. The scene at least knows that it's funny — as does the scene where Troi "counsels" a crewwoman and tells her, basically, to stop complaining about trivial crap or transfer off the ship.

The bizarre behavior is about the only real fun to be had here. Much of the rest is a slog and a bore, especially once Troi begins aging rapidly and the crew must then race against the clock to figure out what Alkar has done to her, and why, before she dies. Turns out Alkar is using Troi (as he used the woman before her, who was not his mother) as a "receptacle" to telepathically shunt off all the negative emotions that he experiences during his oh-so-taxing political negotiations. This is a pretty lame plot explanation, if you ask me. It's made no better by the fact that Alkar attempts to justify it with an ends-versus-means speech that's a completely obvious straw-man argument. (And when Picard immediately rejects said straw man, Worf then has his phaser conveniently pickpocketed.)

I also tire of countdown clocks (especially of the Sickbay Suspense [TM] variety) that are so difficult to buy into. The clever solution to the problem is to kill (yes, kill) Deanna long enough that Alkar will be forced to "release" his hold over her. She can then be revived, but only within 30 minutes. Inevitably, we have dialog informing us there's (gasp) only 1 minute and 45 seconds left to revive Deanna! Couldn't the Enterprise simply have warped really far away to break the connection? I guess Alkar can maintain this telepathic connection over light-years of space. Of course, once the telepathic connection is broken, Troi automatically de-ages and is perfectly fine. I should keep that in mind the next time I decide to drink a bottle of bourbon every night for the next 20 years. As long as I stop at year 21, I'll be fine!

Previous episode: Realm of Fear
Next episode: Relics

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19 comments on this review

Ian Whitcombe - Sun, May 27, 2012 - 3:26pm (USA Central)
The scene in the transporter room with Picard getting stabbed has to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes ever done in TNG-era Trek.
Latex Zebra - Mon, May 28, 2012 - 10:10am (USA Central)
This is not a great episode. I couldn't remember what it was by name and only your review has reminded me.
I found Troi episodes more annoying than Wesley.
Jay - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 12:09pm (USA Central)
Yeah, it's a Star Trek staple that the medical officer makes some arbitrary estiamte of how much time something will be, and then suddenly that random spur-of-the-moment estimate becomes to-the-second accurate to accomodate said countdown...
grumpy_otter - Mon, Jun 4, 2012 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
Once again, I rather like this because I like Deanna. Even thought I hate that possessor guy--how dull! He's no Devinoni Ral, that's for sure!

But I disagree, Jammer, that Deanna turns "into some sort of oversexed crazy person." She turns into her MOTHER. And this is why I like this one--we get to see Deanna if she were a bit more loose (until she gets old--yeah I agree there).

And her clothes are smokin'!
Dan L - Tue, Jun 5, 2012 - 1:00am (USA Central)

This episode provides several moments of unintentional hilarity. The opening scene, with the old woman screaming at Troi.

Ambassador Alkar stating, matter-of-factly, that "most of my receptacles last longer than this...."

Picard's response, with proper English accent: "rrrrrrrrrrrreceptacles!"

And then the talk Picard has with the Ambassador about how the Ambassador's desire to clear his head of negative thoughts does not justify "brrrrrrrrrrutalizing her [Troi]." (The whole notion that a mediator can only be effective without having to deal with all those messy background emotions is patent nonsense, if you think about it - which is more than the writers did). The notion that the Federation would grant the Ambassador immunity from prosecution even if he killed someone is likewise idiotic.

And then Dr. Crusher stating something to the effect of "We haven't got long... He may find another receptacle" (what are the odds she would use the Ambassador's ludicrous description of the people he used to "flood with psychic waste" (another hilarious line).

And then the Ambassador gets his traveling companion to undergo the "receptacle" ceremony with him in such a hurried manner that if she had half a brain she'd realize the guy was a lunatic.....

Unfortunately, the moments of hilarity (even the intentional one with Ensign Janeway) do not make up for the fact that this episode is essentially on auto-pilot, with no sense of urgency, poor line readings and complete illogic (how can a mediator empathize with either side if he refuses to invoke any feelings from which to draw upon?)

Ian Whitcombe - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 10:51pm (USA Central)
I think Tim Lynch put it well in his review: *everyone* in this episode seemed they were under alien influence!
Elliott - Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - 4:44pm (USA Central)
This episode was awful, of course---but....it showcases something important about TOS, TNG and Voyager that ENT and DS9 missed out on--namely that the nature of the characters makes even terrible episodes enjoyable to watch. I crack up every time I see Riker's face when he notices the yellow-shirt in Troi's room. It's not because the script is good, it's not really because the acting is great (though it is), it's because of who Riker (and Frakes) is and the self-parody that comes with it. It's the same sense one gets out of episodes like "Captain's Holiday" or movies VII and IX--they aren't good, but it's such a joy to see Picard (Stewart) annoyed, sitting in a speedo, or Data and Worf singing "A British Tar"--it's nerdy, 4th-wall breaking fun! I can say the same for TOS episodes like "The Way to Eden" or VOY episodes like "Body and Soul" or "Tsunkatsi." I cannot make the same indulgence for episodes like "Dramatis Personæ," "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" or "Bound."

Beyond that, this episode is emblematic of the kind of crap TNG would mostly put out from here until "All Good Things..."
Paul - Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 7:22am (USA Central)
"This episode was awful, of course---but....it showcases something important about TOS, TNG and Voyager that ENT and DS9 missed out on--namely that the nature of the characters makes even terrible episodes enjoyable to watch."

I have to disagree with your opinion where it concerns DS9. I think DS9's character work is unparalleled in Trek. It had an enormous, not to mention great, cast of supporting characters -- even bad episodes were elevated because of it.
Elliott - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 6:27pm (USA Central)
@Paul :

I agree: DS9's large supporting cast was great (for the most part). It's the main cast I take issue with--save Odo and occasionally Quark, anything resembling affection for those people is nothing but artifice.
Nathaniel - Mon, Jul 2, 2012 - 12:13pm (USA Central)

Nothing but artifice? You don't like the characters, so anyone who does like them are pretending or lying?

Same to you, pal.
Niall - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
As a kid I loved this episode because it was completely campy and schlocky. Haven't seen it since.
Rachel - Tue, Aug 21, 2012 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
This episode, which I've watched tonight, was much better than I recall. It's far from a TNG classic, but I think worth more than two stars, and oddly, I enjoyed it more than the highly rated 'Darmok', from earlier in the season.

There are unintentionally funny bits in the episode - the rather hokey and unusable martial arts
- Picard somehow being pushed over and nearly injured by the 'old' Deanna
- the fact that Picard doesn't really know what is going on with Deanna until much later in the story

But it is still good. Riker's face at seeing the dress, and then the crewman, is priceless.

Deanna's blue dress? She looked amazing.

So I rate it higher than two stars. I think Deanna has only one truly stand out episode - when she is made to look like one of the Tal Shiar..otherwise she is rather one dimensional. But I still think she is great.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Feb 15, 2013 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
Just saw this again and noticed something else idiotic about it. Why did Riker have to lsoe 50 IQ points for this one?

If he wasn't suspicious that something was wrong with Deanna when he caught her with the youngster, he certainly would have marched her straight to sick bay after he found her in 10 Forward behaving like a crazy woman.

Instead he seems to think Deanna (who he has known intimately for YEARS) is having a momentary lapse into inappropriate hotness.

I don't think I'd give this even 2 stars.

T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 10:21am (USA Central)
I think the Deanna in her first "transformed" scenes (the crew review with Riker and counselling the ensign) and in the bar would make a good mirror universe Deanna, something which I believe TNG never explored. Using her empathic abilities to humiliate or manipulate others, sensual, etc.
mephyve - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 5:37pm (USA Central)
Yeah, this guy certainly had a lot of bad thoughts for someone who was supposed to have jettisoned his bad thoughts.
William B - Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - 11:47am (USA Central)
So: an update of "The Picture of Dorian Gray," except where the picture is another person. Why not. The title, "Man of the People," identifies this as a political story, and the subtext to the episode is about political leaders and celebrities, primarily men, who have a public image to maintain, and do so by using up and spitting out people in their domestic life, taking out on them whatever anxieties and neuroses they cannot display to the public. That's not a bad concept for an episode or allegory. Alkar's speech to Picard, admittedly on autopilot, does actually have some resonance: how much bad behaviour are we prepared to permit in our leaders and icons in their personal lives, when they accomplish so much in their public lives? Especially if somehow it turns out that their ability to be exactly who they needed to be publicly was *because* of the way they used and discarded people privately?

The episode's failure is that it doesn't push this far enough: we don't get any real sense of why Alkar is as essential as he is to these peace talks, or why his "negative emotions" are so overwhelming to him personally that he can't negotiate without them. It would be possible for the episode to go there: "Sarek" even covers some of the same ground, where Picard essentially consents to take on the role Troi does here, though for whatever reason Picard didn't go around sleeping with goldshirts and scratching Riker's face, as much fun as that might have been. The focus is on how much Troi suffers, which is the correct focus, if we could take any of her suffering seriously. The plot is hokey and half-hearted. My favourite moment of unintentional (?) hilarity that no one mentioned: when Troi, white-haired, runs screaming after Alkar when he leaves his quarters, and a redshirt just walks by without stopping or even seeming to register that anything weird is happening. Just another day on the Enterprise!

But yes, there are some priceless scenes. Troi dragging the goldshirt into her quarters, and his stuttering "yes ma'am" as he leaves the room, with the vague implication that evil!Troi used her rank to control him, as well as Riker's awesome, what-the-hell-okay-awkward reaction. And I love the scene of Troi letting loose on that ensign. Even these moments are ludicrous, but, well, what can you do? 2 stars is still extremely generous for these pleasures; the episode is probably closer to 1.
Esther - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 1:55am (USA Central)
What? And not one mention of the TOS ep this is taken from? Great idea for TOS but Troi makes the whole ep collapse.
Smith - Thu, Feb 20, 2014 - 12:31pm (USA Central)
One of the few I guess who actually liked this episode. It's a great metaphor for how people feed on others psychologically.

Braga wanted to emphasis Troi going evil more, but that would have missed the point and deviated the focus away the receptacle analogy.
Pollyanna - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 12:42pm (USA Central)
I would like to point out that Troi's transformation is accurate physical/emotional portrayal of one besieged by a physical vampire. I hope no one ever encounters one...they take a huge toll. I didn't care for the episode because it reminded me of old injuries.

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