Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Dark Page"

*1/2

Air date: 11/1/1993
Written by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Lwaxana Troi comes aboard the Enterprise to help facilitate new diplomatic relations between the Federation and the Cairn, a race of telepaths who do not normally use verbal communication. Naturally, this being Lwaxana, she first tries to set up Deanna with the Cairn representative, Maques (Norman Large), a widower who has a daughter (played by a young Kirsten Dunst) who reminds Lwaxana of ... someone. Soon Lwaxana begins exhibiting strange emotional outbursts, before finally collapsing into a coma-like state.

Maques tells Deanna that Lwaxana had previously communicated with him telepathically and he became aware that there was a dark place in her mind — something she was hiding. Deanna, only being half Betazoid, cannot enter her mother's mind to find the truth on her own, and after much setup and jargon concerning telepaths and their abilities, it's decided that Maques will act as a telepathic bridge between Deanna and her mother.

"Dark Page" is the sort of episode that I frequently ask for in theory — an episode that uses sci-fi concepts to tell relatable human stories. But I guess be careful what you wish for, because in practice, this episode is a total dud. It provides a piece of backstory no one was clamoring for (the older sister Deanna never knew she had, who died as a child), and suffers under fairly awful execution. For starters, Maques' constant inability to find the right words in his scenes (which ostensibly stems from his lack of experience with verbal communication) simply makes the storytelling grind to a halt that's infuriating to watch. And consider the utter hokiness of the sequences where Maques creates the telepathic bridge between Deanna and her mother. First the camera tracks in on Lwaxana. Then the camera tracks in on Deanna (who stares straight into it). The technique is hackneyed enough the first time around, but then we get the same series of shots the second time. Okay, we get it. Successful telepathy apparently involves a really good Care Bear Stare. It's hard to become involved in scenes that are so cheesily staged.

When Deanna enters her mother's mind, we get a barrage of Strange Dream Images Shot Through a Fisheye Lens and Signifying Important Things, as if the producers had forgotten they had just made "Phantasms" the week before. "Phantasms" was also a mess, to be sure — but it was a fun and breezy one that didn't take itself so damned seriously. "Dark Page" feels like a bunch of melodrama cliches from the 1950s. The scene where Deanna's long-dead father appears to sing her a lullaby moved me so much that — full confession — I just about wanted to puke. (It's the epitome of false manipulation that fails.) And I love how the story doesn't even let Deanna solve the mystery on her own; it takes Picard's brilliant thinking to find the seven years of deleted entries in Lwaxana's journal. Thanks, captain!

I could maybe overlook all of these problems if the emotional payoff at the end were worth it. Alas, it is not. There's a lot of sobbing and maudlin excess, but I didn't find any of it convincing beyond the most general idea of, well, yeah, it's pretty sad when a child dies. I suppose I'm glad the story actually resolves itself with character and emotion instead of pointless sci-fi and technobabble. But none of this feels necessary or organic. I felt more embarrassed for Majel Barrett's inability to rise to the occasion and deliver a credible performance than I felt invested in this tragedy that Lwaxana has supposedly been repressing for 30 years. I guess the lesson of "Dark Page" is that some storytelling stones are better left unturned.

Previous episode: Phantasms
Next episode: Attached

Season Index

27 comments on this review

Delkazyr - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
I'd say they tried to save Majel Barrett's grace by giving Lwaxana a better backstory. And to me, it worked, both because it had a credible climax I didn't see coming, and because some of her earlier exaggerations made more sense to me after this (like the obsession to get Deanna married to whomever - she already lost two out of three family members, and if Deanna dies in this risky starfleet business without offspring...)

Granted, I haven't seen this ep recently, and I understand your concerns about exaggeration, wooden acting and your dislike for Lwaxana/Barrett (both?). But I remember enjoying this one more than I did with last week's what-did-they-smoke-Phantasms.
lvsxy808 - Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 5:01am (USA Central)
Gotta say, I'm surprised at this. This was always one of my favourite TNG eps, giving Lwaxana some believable motivation for the way she's behaved over the years, and a good solid story for a character who is still one of the show's most neglected. And I thought Majel's performance was just fine.

And that you gave "Force of Nature" more points than this? I'm mind-boggled.
Paul - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 8:58am (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer, and I am stunned that anyone liked this episode. It's one of the worst of the series.
Ravo - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 10:02am (USA Central)
The worst part of this episode is where they save Lwaxana.

Ugh. I would take a Ferrangi episode anyday over any episode with Lwaxana. It's like watching my mother-in-law ruin space.
Nic - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
This episode certainly had good intentions, but the revelations are, for one, hard to swallow at this point in the series, and also, badly executed. Though I think Barrett's performance was okay, it was a script (and perhaps directing) problem more than anything else. What's more, it was never mentioned again!
Paul - Tue, Oct 30, 2012 - 1:33pm (USA Central)
There's really too much Troi in the seventh season. She's probably the worst character in TNG (and Sirtis is definitely one of Trek's worst actors). Why the creators decided to focus so much of the final season on her -- at least four episodes are extremely Troi heavy, where Riker and La Forge only get an episode each -- is amazing.

BTW, I think it's telling that the TNG actors (except for Stewart, Spiner and to a lesser extent Burton) had almost no major roles after the series ended -- other than Dorn, who jumped ship to DS9.

I bring that up because I can understand when TNG leaned too much on Picard and Data for stories. But leaning on Troi? WTF?
Nick P. - Sun, Nov 4, 2012 - 12:24am (USA Central)
I agree with Paul completely, way to much troi. That being said, there are so many problems with season 7, I think the troi exposure is problem 998.
Johnny - Wed, Nov 7, 2012 - 3:39pm (USA Central)
"Successful telepathy apparently involves a really good Care Bear Stare." LOL!!! That's great!!
Brendan - Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - 6:48pm (USA Central)
I haven't seen this episode in at least a decade but I remember it being decent. I always appreciate when they take an annoying "comic relief" character and give them some real development (like Quark on DS9 or Neelix on Voyager), and I feel that was accomplished here, even if it was sort of left field.
Niall - Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - 6:27pm (USA Central)
This episode really moved me and made me cry as a kid. Haven't seen it since. Will have to rewatch.
Mikael - Thu, Dec 13, 2012 - 3:35am (USA Central)
"Dark Page" has always been a favorite of mine. It is indeed frustrating that they have two somewhat experimental episodes taking place in the inner rather than the outer world back to back.

And of course next came "Attached," which had the same motif on the thematic level even if the execution was much less innovative. And it of course focused on the conscious and left dreamscape alone except for one comic moment.

I bought Barrett's performance, it was on the edge of overboard but stayed in line. And Sirtis is quite convincing here. Overall I feel that Landau's directing is pretty modern here; this reminds me of films like "Mulholland Drive" and "Black Swan" in its creation of subjectivity detached from the real world.
Niall - Tue, May 28, 2013 - 9:02am (USA Central)
Got round to rewatching this and bawled my eyes out again, just like I did as a kid 20 years ago. This is a ****-episode; doesn't put a foot wrong, and the performances sell it.

I totally echo Mikael on Majel Barrett - "it was on the edge of overboard but stayed in line" is the perfect way to put it. I believed it coming from the character. The episode is melodrama but it works, and it does inform Lwaxana's character. Comedy and tragedy often go hand in hand.

It's a very strong female-centred episode in its themes - I'm reminded of the kind of female-themed shows Jane Espenson has tried to write for various series but consistently failed in, like BSG's histrionic, weird Deadlock. Hilary Bader completely succeeds here on similar territory. Bravo.
J - Mon, Jul 8, 2013 - 9:40pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind this episode, but as Nic hinted above, it isn't really appropriate at this point in the series. I would have enjoyed it as, say, a season 2 or 3 episode, but to concentrate on a Lwaxana back story this late in the game feels a bit empty to me.
Corey - Fri, Jul 19, 2013 - 5:02pm (USA Central)
While I agree with Jammer about the rather hokiness of the "care bear stare", I bought the performance of both Trois. And apparently unlike Jammer, I did cry at the end - in fact every time I see it! I give it a solid 3 stars.
William B - Thu, Oct 17, 2013 - 10:39am (USA Central)
Yeah, I think this is pretty terrible. Quick observation: Data helpfully suggests that maybe they are being too literal in their interpretation of dream imagery, based on his own recent experience with dreams. But this episode pretty much says that, no, everyone was not being literal enough. What does the little girl in Lwaxana's mental landscape represent? "Vulnerability," as Deanna suggests? No, a different little girl. What does the wolf represent? A dog. And Deanna's father represents...Deanna's father, who was also present! Obviously these scenes (the wolf/Troi's father/Picard) are barriers as well, but the choices are entirely literal and unimaginative.
William B - Thu, Oct 17, 2013 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
A bit more: Now that we're in the seventh season and final season of the series, it makes sense to have stories that focus a little bit on what makes main (and supporting) characters tick, and perhaps to tell stories that let us see them in a new light. "Attached," the episode following this one, does some work at explaining Picard and Crusher's emotional motivation toward each other in a way that helps to explain, at least a little bit, something about their relationship in the series. Revealing that Deanna had an older sister who died, ideally, should be done at this stage only if it reveals something about *her*. Deanna is the major character here. But Lwaxana is an important enough supporting character that it makes some sense to discuss a little more of what makes her tick.

The problem is, what does it mean that Lwaxana lost a child? Well, she's sad about it. Yeah. And she avoided dealing with the pain. Great. So. Um. I've got nothing, or at least very little. The one hint of a story here is that Lwaxana says emphatically to Deanna something to the effect of, "Of course I wouldn't let anything happen to YOU," and I think there is the barest suggestion as a result that Lwaxana's overbearing attitude toward Deanna is because she lost her previous child, and could *not* afford to lose another. That maybe makes a tiny sliver of sense, given that she does continue treating Deanna as a child into her adulthood (as Deanna has called her on before). But it goes counter the actual way in which Lwaxana regards life as a perpetual party, in which caution should be thrown to the wind at any opportunity. Lwaxana's primary obsession with Deanna is that she a) get a husband and b) loosen up, not that Deanna is on a starship flying around the galaxy in which she could die any day and in fact even literally has (albeit only for a few moments). If Lwaxana had *not* repressed her daughter's death and had integrated it into herself, it could even be that her experience of losing her child made her more aware of the importance of enjoying every minute of life; but given that she *had* repressed it, well...it doesn't seem as if that could credibly explain much about Lwaxana's character. I think this is why the revelation seems like such a left-field thing. There's nothing about Lwaxana's backstory that makes it impossible that she had another child before Deanna, but there's almost nothing that makes it genuinely fit.

And within the notion that, okay, fine, Lwaxana lost a daughter, there was an opportunity for mother-daughter bonding and Deanna to mention that she's lost a "child" herself in Ian Andrew, and what, if anything, that has meant to her. I'm not wild about revisiting "The Child," but if you're going to go to the child-loss well, it is a bit of a notable omission.

For the most part, Lwaxana stories have been terrible on this show, but the barest hint of genuine pathos of the character is associated with both her loneliness and the fact that she is aging. "Cost of Living" is partly about the loneliness of middle age, and "Half a Life" both about that and about the fear of death over the horizon. In this episode, when Lwaxana's in a coma, Deanna talks to Picard and there is a moment in which she reflects on the fact that she might lose her mother. Yes, she might. Lwaxana is not old, and I presume that in The Future lifespans are pretty long, but if they are going to do a story about death, I think they should do it either about the still-existing ripples from Deanna's father's death, or about the possibility of Lwaxana's somewhere on the horizon. There is nothing that feels necessary or, as Jammer puts it, organic about the story in this episode, nothing that makes it a natural development paying off themes that have been a part of Lwaxana stories. It's not as bad as "Cost of Living," for sure, but it somehow feels even less of a piece with the rest of the Lwaxana episodes than "CoL" did.

I do mostly like Deanna's attempts to reach her mother, even if the execution usually falls flat, and so I think this episode still holds onto 1.5 stars, but it is a pretty weak show.
Jack - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
The guy that plays Maquees looks a lot like Mitt Romney. I can't watch this episode anymore without thinking that, so it's fortunate that the episode is horrid.
Jack - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
Their "house" on Lake Elnar on Betazoid has strange architecture...the walls look like starship bulkheads, right down to the window shape and slope.
Elliott - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
@Jack

I think Mormons actually do have magic powers similar to Maquees'. Since we didn't see his underwear, I guess we can't be certain.
Jack - Thu, Dec 26, 2013 - 3:06pm (USA Central)
Also, midway through the episode, the Kes guy suddenly starts thinking that the Enterprise is working with the Prytt, but then at the end, he still says he wants into the Federation...so...does he think the Enterprise has gone rogue from the Federation then? Logically, this episode was a hot mess.
mephyve - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 7:51am (USA Central)
I really don't hate Mrs. Troi though I do think that she has been in a few stinkers. One example being the time she was in a mud bath with Alexander, ugh! On the other hand I do find her amusing at times, like when she was kidnapped by the Ferengi.
This episode was difficult to watch. For the most part, she has been used for comic relief. It's too late in the game to change the formula. The revelation was pointless, 'Hey Deanna, you had a sister.' If Deanna had found this out three seasons ago they could have shown it having an impact on her character.
Finally, the build up to the 'big reveal' was pure soap opera. With the fainting and the coma, and the trip through the mind, it was just way over the top just to find out that 'Hey Deanna, you had a sister.'
Anyway I found it boring but not as boring as the Geordi's mother episode.
Smith - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 9:33am (USA Central)
Among the worst episodes ever. Boring, slowly paced and emotionally indulgent. It looks backards and good science fiction looks forward. Gene Roddenberry was very specific in that he didn't like mourning episodes (24th century officers are beyond that, plus the concept is simple and boring). This is why he did not like Ron Moore's “dead mother who comes back” episode...and who the other producers weaseled into the lineup regardless. Majel should have said no to this episode. She is a great actress with great episodes (especially the early ones). But her strength is her irrelevance and transparency. None of which is present in this episode. She is just bawling over a dead kid. Boring. The idea of repressed negative emotions causing health effects IS interesting...but needed much more abstraction and a focus that and not the egos/past that represent those emotions.
Joseph S. - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 11:20pm (USA Central)
I'm with Mikael and Niall—I really liked this episode. It made me tear up as a kid, and I never forgot it.

I thought the story was effective because it knew from the beginning what it wanted to say and, in my opinion, wasted no time in getting there. At the same time, it still managed to make balanced use of characters not central to the story.

I have to praise Sirtis' and Barrett's performances, which I found absolutely convincing. "It was on the edge of overboard but stayed in line" sums it up for me. Losing a child has to be a traumatic, melodramatic, and emotional experience so if the episode approached "overboard" at times, kindly remember that real life might rightly have exceeded this.

At times, it was also skillful in its execution. Somewhere along the way, we're led to believe that if Deanna (and, by extension, we) can just see what Lwaxana's hiding, then she will get better. But we never actually see it. *Lwaxana* has to tell it to her daughter. She can't just let the images come before her (like the family picnic scene), nor can she communicate them to her daughter as a mere telepathic bystander (like she communicated with the Cairn). No, she has to confront the event by narrating it herself. She never needed to see it again in detail; simply acknowledging it brings healing and closure. In turn, this preserves Kestra's dignity by not having her tragic death depicted on screen.

All in all, I welcome this added depth to Lwaxana's heretofore annoying character. It made me better understand the probable origin of her overbearing tendencies. The sci-fi aspect of course is fiction, but stories like these sadly do occur in real life.
TS - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 4:36am (USA Central)
Man this episode was dull. Dull dull dull. I'd have more fun watching "The Loss" again... ugh, well maybe not.

Season 7 had too much Troi and too many weird dreamy plotlines. Phantasms was the fun kind, sure, but then having to watch this episode right after made me go "Huh? They're doing another one of these episodes?!"
SkeptialMI - Sat, Aug 23, 2014 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
Wow, I'm starting to think that this is not a true utopia after all. The crew is not a bunch of idealistic explorers spreading the good news of Federation, but a bunch of despondent, desperate individuals trying to escape the horror of the hostile, desolate world. Let us look at our crew:

- Jean-Luc Picard: nephew killed in a blazing inferno
- Will Riker: mother died when he was a kid
- Deanna Troi: sister drowned when she was a baby, father died when she was still a kid
- Bev/Wesley Crusher: husband/father died when Wesley was a kid
- Data: all of his numbers were eaten alive, mother died, father murdered, daughter died, forced to kill his own brother
- Worf: parents killed when he was a kid, girlfriend murdered, wife murdered, brother lobotomized
- Tasha Yar: grew up in a supposedly failed, anarchic world just fine, then went to the utopian Federation and promptly got killed
- Ro Laren: escaped a horrid occupation, looked around the Federation, and ran away from that
- Alyssa Ogawa: baby child killed by a paradox
- Geordi LaForge: by being born blind, he satiated the Grim Reaper. As a reward, his mom managed to survive all the way to middle age before dying horribly!

That's part of my annoyance with this episode. It's not necessarily the fault of this episode, but why is there really this much tragedy in these people's lives? Does anyone have a social circle in which EVERYONE had a significant loss in their life like this? While some of these are due to Starfleet, does Starfleet really have that much loss of life during a time of peace? Do people really accept that high of a casualty rate? Tossing out random tragedies is a cheap way of creating drama, and having conveniently dead family members as a way of not introducing them gets a bit stale after a while.

This one also reeks of a bit of silliness. Did Deanna not have any aunts or uncles? No grandparents? We saw Bev's grandmother was still alive despite being over 100, and Bev is older than Troi. No other family members or old friends who would not be ok with keeping this a secret? Or for that matter, once Deanna knew that this was all about a memory Lwaxana was repressing a memory, why couldn't she just ask Homm? Surely we

OK, so besides the melodrama of yet more tragedy in these people's lives, I did like this episode to some extent. I agree with a lot of what Joseph S said; the fact that Lwaxana was forced to narrate the tragedy and forced to confront it directly helped alot. And it was quite emotional to see, and rather tragic. Sirtis and Barrett were excellent in this episode. I also liked the healing scene at the end, where Deanna was able to bring some more healing into her mother by being excited about having had a sister and wondering what she was like. So the last 10 minutes or so of the episode were pretty good. I'd also give Barrett props for her acting through the rest of the episode as well, minus one or two scenes.

But WilliamB also has a point that, if this is supposed to explain some of Lwaxana's behavior, it doesn't really explain why she doesn't seem to mind Deanna being on a starship. I would think that would be a big deal to her.

In the end, while there are some good scenes, most of the episode is a bore, and the concept doesn't really hold up. I don't think it's as bad as some are saying, but it still wasn't that great.

Alex - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 11:18pm (USA Central)
For what it's worth, the final scene made my eyes water last night. It's nice to see Lwaxana's character gain some depth.
Woof - Wed, Nov 12, 2014 - 11:09pm (USA Central)
The best part of this episode is when Mrs. Troi calls Worf Mr. Woof. She did the same thing in Cost of Living. He corrected her in that episode but this time he decides not to. Pretty funny.
The writers really ruined season 7 with all the family episodes. I mean you've got this ep, picards son, Beverly's grandma, worfs brother and data's mother. The best episode was parallel and all good things. They should have written nothing but crazy scifi episodes with plenty of anomolies, time travel and space battles. They went out so soft.

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