Star Trek: The Next Generation

“Loud as a Whisper”

2 stars.

Air date: 1/9/1989
Written by Jacqueline Zambrano
Directed by Larry Shaw

Review Text

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.

Previous episode: The Outrageous Okona
Next episode: The Schizoid Man

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

Comment Section

62 comments on this post

    It's a daring episode, and it's also an influence for the to-be sitcom "Herman's Head" that would be created some 4 years later...

    Some conflicts on Earth have lasted decades or longer as well - nobody's managed genocide quite yet...

    I do agree; Riva's solution is too simple... But the overall concept was novel and innovative for sci-fi, right down to the name of Riva's trio, that of "Chorus" (which could have had been influenced by Greek myths)...

    Yeah, it could have been better... 2/4 stars is definitely a good rating, but something about the story hits not the wrong spot for me as well...

    It was hilarious that one energy blast vaporized three people, as if they were fused together. And they all reacted in complete unison.

    At this point, TNG was still "Bad Season 1" when it dared to introduce unorthodox ideas, that means that no matter how good the initial concept was, they couldn't pull it off.

    "Loud as a Whisper" was just boring and featured a lot of Troi counselling, which is never a good thing, imo.

    But the worse is the ending, as Jammer said. It is totally bananas and unrealistic. "Let's all learn sign language. Future world peace. The End."

    @ Jay: They were so tuned with Riva that they became one :P

    One thing which really annoyed me about this episode, and it has been a recurring theme as I make my way through Seasons 1 and 2 on Blu-ray - the use of Counsellor Troi and her empathic abilities.

    In this episode, she practically humiliates Worf in front of Picard and Riker in the transporter room by openly confronting him about his strong discomfort towards Riva. It just strikes me as completely inappropriate for Troi to be describing people's feelings in front of other people. For one, why would anyone trust her as a confidential and non-judgemental therapist if she's willing to disclose people's emotions whenever she sees fit?

    Secondly, it opens up a bit of a can of worms in terms of her role on the ship. We know that the Doctor can relieve the Captain if she feels that he or she is not fit for duty. But the way Troi has confronted Picard in the past about the feelings she has sensed in him makes it seem as if she also has a similar responsibility. Fair enough if she detected feelings of utter despair or loss in a crew member, that might indicate suicidal ideation or trauma, but to question Worf on a personal dislike of someone was very nosy and unprofessional.

    Picard's comments in "The Drumhead", about reconsidering the use of an empathic counsellor when Crewman Tarsus is under suspicion based on a Betazoid's intuition, actually make a lot more sense now. There has been a substantial number of episodes in Season 1 and early Season 2 where Picard has consulted with Troi about a person - even muting the viewscreen so that he can see what she senses in the person. There's something quite under-handed about that, and I don't think I ever realised it until I've gone back and observed the sheer number of times it happens (and I know it continues in later seasons).

    I liked this episode for trying something different, but I agree that the solution was a bit much to stomach and it's hard to believe that Picard would have so much faith in such a plan given that Riva's Chorus were blown away in under 2 minutes of negotiation. I give Riva a day before he's disintegrated by one or both factions (hey, that might actually bring them together!).

    @ ChrisM

    I'm a bit skeptical that empathic powers would work over viewscreens anyways.

    Jammer says he doesn't see how Riva's plan will "...make a dent". So guess I'll explain. Whenever people have problems, alcoholism, drug or porn addiction, etc. the key is the person who has the issue has to WANT your help. If they want help, you can help them, and if they don't, you can't.

    The people of that planet specifically asked for Riva - they WANT his help, a key pre-requisite for success. Therefore, they will do what Riva asks, and he's right, doing something co-operatively will help them learn to live together (though surely Riva isn't saying you don't still have to address various grievances,, land/resources/prisoner exchanges, etc.).

    If they DON'T want Riva's help then yes, his death would seem to be forthcoming. I also think it's rather irresponsible of the Enterprise not to leave communication equipment capable to reaching Federation planet/outpost/starbase and some security personnel, no matter what Riva says. If Riva does end up dying, and Picard could have left security but didn't, and Riva is as famous as the episode says Riva is, won't that be massive egg on the Federation's face?

    Anyways, Marina Sirtis acting didn't bother me here, so overall I give the episode 3/4 stars.

    Like Corey, I think that Jammer underrates this episode. I also think that what is crucial is that the people on the planet do want to end their peace, but can only see themselves interacting with Riva.

    The other important thing is that Riva now has a particular stake in this planet that he didn't before. His chorus was killed by a person on this planet -- and the lead negotiator from the side of the conflict who tried to kill Riva has made it clear that this was an anomaly and punished him immediately. Tragedy has a way of bringing people together, when they recognize that the tragedy is shared. By staying even after his chorus was killed, Riva demonstrates a huge commitment to the peace talks which no one could have anticipated, and so, I think, does the lead negotiator from the side that attacked Riva, by shooting his own. Riva, by indicating that he is willing to move past his chorus being attacked, also removes the excuse that the side who did not attack Riva might otherwise have for pulling out of the negotiations -- if Riva can get past it, than so can they.

    Certainly, this was not stated, and I think it's fair to criticize the episode for acting as if only Riva's sign language can seal the deal. But I find that *myself*, watching the episode, I am very impressed by Riva's ability to get past the death of his chorus and not holding a grudge.

    The episode is certainly slow-paced. That said, I think that the ideas present in this episode are worthy, interesting, and unusual. The relationship between Riva and his chorus, and Riva's realization that he can move on without them and as a person himself, suggest to me issues of both the difficulty integrating different perspectives into one; the relationship between royals and their followers (Riva is identified as a royal, and his willingness to continue his diplomacy without assistants represents a royal recognizing that despite their belief they have the 'right' to have servants following them around all the time, they have to work like others do); and the way disability and apparent "lack" shapes identity. Some of these themes clash in unfortunate ways -- I think that the ideas of Riva-as-nobility with servants whose whole identity is geared toward him, and Riva-as-disabled-person (akin to Geordi-with-visor) interfere with each other. It's hard to know whether we should view the chorus as Riva's friends, or as a lower-class group of people bred to 'serve' royal Riva, or as basically an equivalent to Geordi's visor, and the treatment of them certainly varies depending on which we take. But the episode ultimately produces a fair amount to chew on as well as an optimistic message that I find credible, at least within the confines of a TV narrative where exaggeration (like "warring for 15 centuries") is the norm.

    I do agree with ChrisM's point about Troi humiliating Worf in the transporter room. That is deeply unprofessional and uncalled for. It also has no apparent plot purpose. I also don't quite understand why Worf is so angry that the Klingon/Federation treaty was negotiated, because, hello, he's a Klingon Starfleet officer. Still, I think this is counterbalanced by Troi throughout the rest of the episode -- I like the way she responds with a bit of coyness to Riva's aggressive flirting, the way she and Riva start to communicate as equals in a way that foreshadows the way Riva will connect to others, and the way she turns him around at the end by focusing in on Riva's best qualities (his consideration for others, his ability to find common ground with others). I think that she did a good job of letting Riva know he should stop feeling sorry for himself without saying those exact words. )It's too bad she couldn't use that insight for herself in "The Loss," but I'm getting ahead of myself.) I think this is the best use of Troi doing her job up to and including the episode. (I like Troi in "Haven," but that episode had nothing to do with Troi-as-Starfleet-officer/Troi-as-Counsellor.)

    3 stars from me, though maybe on the low end.

    "We! Are all in this! Together!"

    Sorry, Picard, but this is Riva's show. There are zero stakes for the regular crew. They're not even responsible for bringing peace to the planet; they could leave immediately and nobody would care. Contrast this with "The Host," where the regulars are roped more directly into an otherwise superficially similar plot.

    The woman chorus in this episode is married to the actor who plays the Q character in this series. Just a bit of fun trivia.

    I wasn't as skeptical as Jammer and others were on Riva's final solution. The whole point was to force the two opposing sides to put some effort into the peace treaty. By spending all their efforts trying to learn to talk to Riva, it would make the mediation problem easier.

    Well, at least easier in the Trek sense. I don't buy that two factions who have been waging war for so long just needs to talk to each other and then will become friends no matter how awesome Riva is. Tolerate each other's presence with a cease fire, perhaps. But ideological differences exist in the real world. And actual grievances exist in the real world. And just telling people they need to communicate with each other will not make other problems go away. But that's not Roddenberry's vision, so whatever. I'll accept it in the confines of the show.

    In general though, I found this episode boring. Sure, it's a sci-fi-ish concept, but once again it seems the writers didn't know what to do with it. We had quite a bit of awkward exposition (thankfully very little on the actual conflict, which was irrelevent to the show), particularly in the beginning when Riva explained how his chorus worked. As an aside, if Riva is so freaking famous, wouldn't Picard already know about his chorus? Wouldn't it be in the 24th century Wikipedia article on him?

    So the episode moves slowly. Notice that the stinger ended with Picard et al walking around an empty room. Oooh, exciting.... And so because it moved slowly, the conflict (chorus' death) didn;t happen until literally 60% of the way through the episode (I checked). That leaves little time for Riva to deal with his problem, which probably makes the final resolution feel rushed. Maybe that's why so many don't buy Riva's final solution.

    Another problem I have with this episode (and many others, honestly), are all guests on the Enterprise sex-obsessed? Riva, an accomplished diplomat, starts hitting on Troi in the middle of an official meeting. Such conduct would be completely unbecoming, even today. Can you imagine a diplomat doing that today? And yet it happens all too often in TNG. The one good aspect of it was that Marina Sirtis' acting in response was pretty good as trying to be as diplomatic as possible.

    Personally, I also thought Data's demonstration of sign language to Picard was pretty funny. He seems to be the go-to guy for comedy so far this season. Not as much as the last two episodes, obviously, but it was a good moment.

    A really interesting episode. It really intrigued me with the way Riva communicated with everyone else and that part of the story was, in my opinion, executed very good. The entire concept of his chorus was both well thought out and performed, and I was interested to see what was going to happen.

    However, the episode is obviously not without its problems, some of which damaged the episode as a whole. First was the part already mentioned by Jammer and some other people in the comments - how didn't anyone know about Riva's condition before they met him? The comment about that being on 24th century Wikipedia made me laugh. But OK, that wasn't really such a big problem. However, the scenes on the planet were. Everything up to the point where they beam down to the planet was done really good, and after that, things just started to make no sense. Why did Riva beam down to a rock in the middle of nowhere? It gave the impression that the planet was about 500 square meters big and that the rock where the planet scenes took place was pretty much all there is to it. Then, the scene where his chorus gets killed. Oh my... To say that it was poorly acted would be an understatement. Furthermore, it was more like I was watching a theatre play which relied on the viewer's imagination to colour up the scene instead of watching a TELEVISION show. I didn't get that sense of alarm when Riker jumped to save Riva, everything about that scene was just bland, slow, and empty. I realise that they had a 42 minute time constraint for the whole episode (and that it was 1988 after all) but come on... It could've been done way better.
    And the final scene when they leave him on the planet also made little sense. Someone already said that it wasn't smart to leave him there without any means of contacting the Federation. I'll add this: what was he going to eat? Where would he sleep? Where would he go to the bathroom and wash himself? Again, it leaves the impression like they were on some rock traveling through space, Riva and three of those guys, sitting at that table for months learning sign language. Literally doing only that and nothing else for months. Come on...

    If you ask me, if the planet scenes had been done better, this would've been a truly great episode. It is still good, I guess the whole aspect of his chorus really sparked my interest.

    I have one nitpick. Riva is not human and has never been to Earth but he communicates with ASL? How did he learn American Sign Language?

    @Mary: Practicality, I'd imagine. The actor playing Riva, Howie Seago, is deaf in real life (and American, therefore he very likely knows ASL), so they were using the resources they had available. It doesn't make sense in-universe, admittedly, but then neither do all the aliens speaking English (yes, universal translator, but why do their lip movements match the English words?).

    I mostly just like watching Howie Seago sign. It's (mostly?) ASL. I'm not sure if the signs I don't recognize are because "I learned sign language from someone with a small vocabulary because her parents were abusive little shits" or because Howie's tweaking ASL to make it "futuristic".

    He almost never goes anywhere near the upper half of his face, and that's... weird. Like the sign for "listen" just seemed off to me.

    I liked is sign for Ramatis, his planet. It's the ASL letter "r", inside a planet. Clever!

    Season 2 started off on a bit of a promising note with The Child and Where Silence Has Lease, after a rather dismal Season 1. Then along comes what I thought was a bad episode about the holodeck going haywire with one of its characters threatening the ship (yawn), followed by that utter disaster The Outrageous Okona (which should have been called The Beyond Annoying You Just Want To Freaking Beat The Sh*t Out Of Him Okona), and then finally this extremely boring, not creative thought whatsoever episode, replete with a bad plot, bad writing, bad acting, and bad directing... I remember by this point in Season 2 I was starting to believe there would be no Season 3, no matter how many letters Trekkers might send in. It was so bad.

    As others have noted, this episode has no stake for the crew of the Enterprise and in the end adds up to a slow placed and ultimately inconsequential episode.

    There were some nice ideas here - the chorus in particular, and I liked the clear implications of when the libidinous chorus member speaks. And the scene where Geordi describes how he embraces his disability, only later to have Pulaski offer him a risky route to sight, sets up a nice tension for his character. But in the end it adds up to a fairly simplistic conclusion - communication is good. 2 stars.

    I thought the plotting of this episode was excellent; this was slow sci-fi with an exploration of an interesting idea--the chorus. My problems with it were that Riva With Chorus was so arrogant he wasn't very likable. I much preferred his personality when he lost the chorus and had some self-doubts. I also thought the solution of teaching the antagonists to speak sign language was inspired. I remember being thrilled with it the first time I saw this episode. We Trekkers might take it for granted, but for most of the world, a violent solution is all they can consider.

    I also didn't like the chorus because Mr. Sexy Pants really creeped me out. When a flirtation begins, the mystery of "is he flirting or not?" is part of the fun. With Riva, when Sexy Pants chorus guy speaks, you know Riva is feeling hot--no mystery. It also wasn't a really good move for Riva to have his passion chorus be better-looking than he was! Riva wasn't unattractive, and I loved his eyes, but having the Latin lover standing next to him all the time made it difficult to appreciate Riva.

    One small thing I liked about this episode was that Troi was going to try and manage the negotiations. That felt like a real and tough effort on her part. She knew she didn't have the experience but she was going to give it her best shot. It felt sincere--and Picard thanking her at the end was a nice touch.

    I agree with Filip about the absurdity of the rock where the negotiations were to be held. No food, no mini-fridge with some beer--it was odd. But I am willing to forgive that because I know the budget constraints of the show. What i didn't like was making the aliens so gooey-looking. Their faces looked like they were about to pop.

    But overall, I think this is one of the better of the early TNG outings. Riva is one of the most memorable guests they have ever had on the show.

    In response to Shannon, who mentioned
    The Beyond Annoying You Just Want To Freaking Beat The Sh*t Out Of Him Okona--ROFL! You aren't kidding! How any woman would find that overgrown child appealing is beyond me! (And a small bit of fun trivia--I went to the same high school as Billy Campbell--he was a few years ahead of me. But all the buzz was that he was a really nice guy, and there were still girls who swooned when mentioning him! Probably guys, too--we just didn't talk about it that openly yet)

    Another example of them writing Troi to be grossly invading people's privacy that would never ever work in the real world.

    I can live with her pulling someone aside privately (which I still don't like because unsolicited counselling based on reading someone's mind is still an invasion of privacy).... however, openly revealing your thoughts among your associates and commanding officers is just a disgrace.

    I wish I could ask the writers back then why they wrote Troi this way. In the real world, nobody would trust her or want to be near her for fear their deepest emotions would be revealed publicy.

    And the best she does for the ship is tell everyone the alien of the week is hiding something or not being honest.

    I remember liking season two a lot than I am right now (re watching alk episodes), the scene between Troi and Worf in the teaser realley bugged me for some reason.

    In a different kind of episode the Troi-Worf 'moment' of professional misconduct could serve as an interesting jumping-off point to study the profound cultural differences that would exist between a species of isolated individuals, and a species of empaths & telepaths.

    It's almost impossible to fathom how the nature of privacy, social boundaries and even 'self' vs 'other' would develop in a race of beings who can read the true thoughts and feelings of the person their dealing with (and visa versa).

    Lwaxana kind of embodies this friction whenever she steps on board the Enterprise, and ironically it's Deanna who has to remind her how different the social and behavior standards are among humans -- Which is a long way of saying that the good Counselor definitely should have known better in this episode.

    Thankfully she does seem to redeem herself as the episode develops.

    But setting aside previous character precedent (and a lack of discretion and common sense on Troi's part), one could imagine just how jarring it would be for a Betazoid to adjust themselves to an emotionally 'blind/deaf/dumb' culture. I suppose in a Betazoid culture, a reaction like Worf's would be immediately evident to everyone...including Worf. He would never think to 'hide' his feelings on this issue, he wouldn't even try.

    If you are an open book to others, you would have to become an open book to yourself as well. Honestly and openly dealing with your emotional foibles, hangups, prejudices, anxieties and so forth would be 'de-rigeur' as there's no hiding from the judgement of others.

    I guess a very stretched parallel is the development of monolithic Social Media in today's 'always connected' society. Virtually everything anyone thinks on a given topic can be transmitted instantly to a huge number of people, who in turn transmit that information to their circle of friends, etc, until everyone 'knows' about a given topic, incident, misdeed, etc. At least in 140 characters or less. How are you feeling at this moment? In the past you may tell a co-worker in the cubicle next to you can 'Share your thoughts' to half the planet with a few clicks of a virtual keyboard.

    Along with that has come an erosion of our boundaries of what information is private and what is public (much to the benefit of certain corporation's bottom lines). Young people today are growing up in a more 'Betazoid' style world where everything is shared, and is expected to be shared, with everyone else. In many cases whether you like it or not (the Internet never forgets...).

    Of course many members of 'older' generations look at this development with a mix of confusion and horror. Boundaries are being broken or at least mutated in ways we could hardly imagine even in 1989.

    Full disclosure, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Troi and I try to avoid dumping on the character every time she tells Picard she's 'sensing something', or 'doesn't think so-and-so is being totally honest'. She's an underdog type and I try to root for her, despite her frequent 'hicups'.

    Ultimately I think the incident in this episode was just the writers trying to shoe-horn in another joke "Worf is a bad-ass warrior who cares little for 'peace'. And did we mention he's Klingon? Rawr!" Hamfisted and a disservice to Troi, unfortunately.

    Hmm maybe Lwaxana, a full telepath and hillariously oblivious to Human social standards, should have been made the ship's counselor so we'd have awkward moments like this every episode. The crew would lose their minds, and Lwaxana would be there to provide a running commentary as it happened....

    "It's a daring episode, and it's also an influence for the to-be sitcom "Herman's Head" that would be created some 4 years later..."

    I'd like to see some actual proof of this.

    I am all for slagging off season 1 and 2 episodes but ,for me, this episode shone as a beacon for what TNG could be.
    It transcended the sterility of/ poor execution of ideas that permeates all that preceeded it.
    I cannot accept Jammer's rating -this was massively better than Elementary Dear Data for example.
    Of course one can be critical of aspects of the plot-Troi flinging herself at Riva, the intrusive interrogation of Worf's feelings in the transporter room( which has no plot purpose whatsoever), the single laser blast conveniently killing all the chorus members but these are nitpicking points.
    Troi really did do well in this story.

    I agree that Troi might seem wrong to question Worf about the emotion she reads from him before they all step onto the transporter. But only a few episodes earlier, in Where Silence Has Lease, Worf had demonstrated that he possibly had not yet completely mastered control over his Klingon impulses. Thus his unchecked state of mind could have had a bad effect on their diplomatic mission. Since there was no time to privately consult with him, Troi might have believed it to be her duty to immediately confront him.

    Some interesting ideas in this episode - Riva speaking with a chorus, even his ideas on negotiating made logical sense to me. But to be honest, this was a boring episode: spent far too much time understanding Riva and his chorus and how he operates, and then his breakdown. I think you really have to appreciate psychological episodes to like "Loud as a Whisper". And I think there are much better psychological episodes in TNG.
    For me, the best part of the episode is Data describing sign language to Picard. All that "here is the sun, here is the ocean, here are 2 people walking on the beach..." That was LOL funny. And what was the point of Pulaski saying she can give Geordi his sight back?
    Anyhow, at the end I couldn't believe the episode ends with Riva all alone on the planet with an idea to teach both sides sign language after the incident when his chorus got zapped. Highly optimistic in my opinion. I'm with Jammer on that one.
    This was just a poorly designed episode that didn't make the best of some interesting ideas. Sounds like an oxymoron but I rate it a strong 1.5 stars out of 4. Perhaps harsh but a lot more bad than good without a doubt IMHO.

    I very seldom find an episode boring, but this one was for me. And I thought the ending was incredibly unrealistic. Before Riva came down to the planet, the two sides were shooting lasers at each other. And it took just one renegade who opposed peace to throw a big wrench into the negotiations by shooting the Chorus. What was going to maintain the peace--and stop those who didn't want peace from messing it up--while a few individuals from each side struggled to learn sign language over many months? 1 1/2 stars for me

    Just caught this randomly on a TV recording from last week.

    Wow it's very "early TNG"... they're so overt with "this is the one who reads emotions" and "this is the warrior" etc.

    I like the disability messages. I have a good friend with physical disabilities and whilst obviously I can't speak for him (unlike Riva's Chorus!) I think the point about addressing them directly is spot on, at least with someone whose mind works perfectly well. The anger was expected. You have no idea how often when I'm with my friend people talk to him "through me" or just talk to me and refer to him in the third person. His brain is fine, talk to him!

    Shame he came across a bit of a creep. I could understand a romance blossoming naturally, but he just basically.... not to be crude but figuratively speaking he's shoving his doodah down her throat from the moment they meet. It's super creepy the way it's so 'forced'

    I like the "Darmok" style moment between him and Troi when they have their date, though.

    Worf commenting on sign language being tactical was interesting -- I know they're a bit "brute force" but they never thought of doing things the SAS way, even as if to say "go"?

    Picard should be advised NOT to interrupt Data's attempt to teach him sign language - you'll be needing this for Darmok in season 5!

    Ah yes it's the season with Pulaski in it. I thought she was pretty good in this one. Very much herself in terms of her determination to make Geordi "normal", but I liked how she showed offer her professional abilities while also outlining the risks and uncertainties.

    I actually like the resolution, yes it's a bit simple but I have enough optimism in me for it to seem like something that "could work".

    I love that Picard knows when to say "well done" - nice touch and good leadership.

    The main problem is it ends too soon. How did it go?!!

    I wouldn't say this episode changed my life, but I took an important lesson from it that has served me well over the decades.

    "Turn disadvantage into advantage."

    I'm naturally a half-glass empty kind of guy. I see what's missing, what's going to be hard. That's where I want to go emotionally when bad things happen to "my chorus."

    I have to work hard sometimes at staying positive and working with what I've got, not what I wished I have. And I have to say, there have been times in my life where "turning disadvantage into advantage" has actually worked well for me.

    Omfg! Them crew iz luvez sekz & reevy iz da idyot & shutin’ & fightin’ iz nat soo booorin’ ROFLMAO!

    Ah wanna seee som shootin’!!! waaah!!!

    For a caveman, you’re really not all that boorish.

    Rather affable, actually.

    I disagree with reevy iz da idyot, but otherwise I am on board with your conclusions.

    The universal translator helps people understand other languages being spoken.

    Riva can read lips, but how can he read the lips of people speaking English? How will he be able to read the lips of the aliens when they speak?

    They'll spend forever just trying to get across the message that he wants to teach them sign language. And then it will still take forever to learn.

    A 'fast' way to learn sign language would be to say "what is the sign for X word?", Riva reads their lips, and shows them the sign. But he can't read their lips, he doesn't know their language...

    The only reason I can see for this story is that they were trying to make Troi seem useful. All they succeeded in doing was to show how boring she was. They would have been better off just letting her be pretty and telling good stories where she is virtually useless. Let's face it, the consensus is that she was virtually useless anyway. She was pretty though.

    I am going to call Jammer cynical on this one. This episode is without a doubt, not enough story to fill the time allotted, but I don't think it's a wasted effort. It presents a new way of looking at things and I agree with Troi's line that Riva's method of communication is quite beautiful. The ending works for me even if the prospect of these people achieving peace by learning sign language is dubious. Star Trek itself is overly optimistic at it's core (before the later seasons of DS9, that is); and that is the point. Will Earth ever be an absolute paradise? Unlikely, but we can hope and strive for it just as the Solari can with Riva's help.

    That scene where Troi reveals what was on Worf’s mind, may have been there to act as a foil to the scene, also on the Enterprise, where Data vocalises the thoughts of Riva. Worf and Riva are, after all, very different characters.

    The place given to Data, and to Riva’s reactions to him, show how Data is growing as a character, and proving, yet again, how versatile and important he is. Troi is clearly secondary to him in this episode. Whatever its flaws may be, some important things happen in it. The episode also provides some “personal growth” for Riva.

    I think this episode is a lot better than it’s given credit for being. 3 stars out of 4 seems about right.

    SPEAK TO ME!!" For such a supposedly great negotiator he sure loses his temper easily.

    Some notes made while watching:

    - Picard contemplating weird orbital dynamics in a planetary system they had visited, using a hologram at his desk, doesn't really go anywhere. Was this simply for the purpose of establishing that all of Starfleet's best possess keen intellect and scientific curiosity, even if they don't wear blue? I suppose it's no different from what we saw from Janeway later, but taking it to the point of doing orbital dynamics for fun (but with *no* actual calculations) when you're 1) not an astrophysicist and 2) are the Captain, are on duty, and presumably have a lot of other things you could be doing, seems a stretch.

    - So Worf is uneasy about Riva *because* he negotiated treaties between the Federation and the Klingon Empire? Am I missing something here?? Worf presumably thinks the alliance is a *good* thing, right? He was saved by humans, and he's a Starfleet officer. And we saw in Heart of Glory that unlike Korris and Konmel, he sees no honour in fighting the wrong battles in the wrong places, and pitied them for being unable to adapt to peace with the Federation. So why is he now acting like Riva forcing the Klingons to negotiate and to create a Klingon word for "peacemaker" was some grave attack on the Klingon warrior psyche? (Side note: I am dubious that they did not have such a word before). This writing/characterization makes no sense, as though the writers still hadn't figured out what the hell they were doing as far as defining the nature of the Klingons (and Worf), even *after* Heart of Glory.

    - The teaser ends with Picard's away team beaming down to an empty room, not finding anyone, and not saying anything. Did anyone else find this to be really poor editing? Even if you have nothing dramatic to end on, at least have the characters *say* "we were supposed to be greeted by Riva's entourage. Where is everyone?" As it stood, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to feel uneasy after the teaser, because something was amiss, or whether everything was normal, and the director just decided to have the teaser *stop* in mid-scene for some reason.

    - At first, we aren't given an explanation for why Riva would be excited to meet an empath, and it just ends up seeming like he's perving on Troi (EDIT: nevermind, because he *does* perv on Troi for the rest of the episode...*and* it's always blatant because it's the libido/warrior chorus guy who addresses her and requests her presence as an escort, not the scholar one. Ugh.)

    - PICARD: "There are aspects of Riva of which we've not been informed." Which seems absurd! How could Starfleet not brief their officers on the fact that one of the Galaxy's most famous mediators, whom they've been charged with transporting to a critical negotiation, is deaf? How could it be a secret, for that matter?

    - The expository dialogue is atrocious, both from the 'scholar' and from Riva's other chorus member, the guy who says "I am passion, the libido, the anarchy of lust."

    - Despite it being a very narrow, directed beam, the Solari's weapon somehow disintegrates all three of Riva's chorus members in one shot. And despite it supposedly being a laser, its effect is to vaporize someone from the outside inward, peeling away their tissue layers uniformly over their whole body so that we are treated to some really bad CGI tomography. Okay...sure. Also, this attack happens in the first minute or two of negotiations. This "experienced" mediator has never faced a threatening situation before? Why was there no backup plan? Basically there are only three people in the Galaxy whom Riva is relying on for all communication with other individuals...

    - Picard's approach to consoling and getting through to Riva is to grab his head and shout in his face "LISTEN TO ME! YOU ARE NOT ALONE!" This was a ridiculous scene.

    - Riva's character arc is like the trajectory of NASA's "vomit comet" (the plane that flies in parabolic arcs to simulate weightlessness). He goes from being so self-assured that he doesn't even bother briefing himself on the situation, to so doubtful and self-pitying that he tells Troi "you don't need help from someone like me" when she tells him she's going to attempt the mediation herself. Then he goes back to being confident enough to be left alone on the war-torn planet for months, assuring people that he will be fine. I understand that the death of his chorus and ensuing guilt and grief could create a crisis of confidence and identity. But it isn't portrayed realistically.

    - The resolution of this episode is, of course, absurd. These Neanderthals with ray guns are supposed to have the patience to learn sign language *and* sit down and negotiate with their bitter enemies? They're just going to meet on the top of this stone cliff face that is completely unsecured? Why couldn't the negotiations have taken place on the Enterprise or a dedicated diplomatic vessel? I.e. in a neutral location, where weapons have been removed in advance? Why couldn't they beam down some computers so that the Neanderthals would at least have access to the *the same pictographic dictionary that Data used* when he learned the sign language?

    My main nitpick with this episode is just, how does Riva read lips so accurately, especially when the people saying things aren't even always speaking in his direction? I understand that having people repeat themselves a bunch doesn't make for good television, but he was really so on top of things it often seemed like he was just mute, rather than deaf and mute.

    I was going to dismiss this one as a hohum episode in the TOS style without the charm of the TOS characters. However that changed for me when the three interpreters were killed. My partner is Deaf and I recognized the anguish of Riva both in how anguish is communicated but also the anguish of not being able to communicate. (Deaf people have been treated badly on this continent with the banning of ASL for decades, bad science used to justify this and other misguided treatmentetc. The needless isolation is heartbreaking.) I speak ASL so I think it was well acted.

    I thought there were other subtle touches to this episode (like Geordi saying he wouldn't change himself as he liked himself.) that I (and I assume a lot of able bodied folk) ldidn't understand until I met my partner.

    So 8/10 for that aspect and the first half 5/10

    Watching and commenting

    --Peacemaker. Why should it bother Worf that Riva negotiated Klingon-Federation treaties?

    --Riva's bee line for Troi is very creepy. He's just generally creepy, though the presentation of those three communicators is nicely done.

    --It's hard to buy the idea that Troi is returning the feelings, but I guess she is.

    --Very boring. I literally fell asleep. Will have to try to finish this later.

    Buona Notte, Trekolini.

    So I finished this, but aside from the nice shock of the deaths of the trio, it was truly a snoozer. I think this week's continuing Season 2 exploration of "the nature of being alive and being human" was probably about identity - the need for relationships but the need to have our own independent identity. Lots of stuff about what makes you, you.

    My favorite part was Data doing the "two people at the beach" in sign language.

    I've been enjoying Jammer's review site for years - about 8-9 years ago I watched the entire series of TNG and read every review here as I went along. This is my first time commenting, though.
    I don't want to get political, but I do want to say that as I've started re-watching this series as a way of entertaining myself during this global pandemic and my self-isolation, "Loud as a Whisper" spoke VERY loudly to me. It resonated with me during a time when "different" can be seen as "evil", and the United States is more divided than any time in its history since the Civil War. This episode may be naive in some ways, and I would subtract a star for a very weak and awkward cold opening. However, two factors made this very relevant and powerful for me. One is the use of a disabled actor - Howie Seago is actually deaf - in a time when very few differently-abled actors were being hired. This was very forward-thinking and added a great deal to the episode for me, especially when Data is learning sign language. I do believe that in the future more accommodation for disabilities will occur, and the scene where Picard is struggling to understand Riva seems dated. Couldn't the Universal Translator also translate sign language? But the concept is still very much ahead of its time. Second, Riva's final solution got me thinking about the situation in our country. There is so much anger and fear right now. What is the common thread that brings people of all races, religions and beliefs -- or non-beliefs -- together? Obviously a deadly virus wasn't enough to do it. (Where's Dr. Crusher - or Pulaski, for that matter -- with a vaccine when you need it?) I don't wish to start a political discussion or who's right or who's wrong. I simply want to state that during this time, in this year, that this episode merits a very strong three-star rating from me.

    If these people have been fighting for 15 centuries, shouldn’t they all be dead by now?

    We’re still here.

    I hated the start of this episode and the whole "Troi only does rape or romance storylines" thing.

    I get the idea behind having someone who communicates through others but it just came off as incredibly goofy watching Riva tilt his head constantly while others spoke.

    The episode actually got much, much better after his chorus got lazered because using sign language got rid of the goofy chorus stuff.

    For some reason I started thinking marry, shag avoid ?
    And another candidate for Next Gen ultimate sleazoid list - do you mind if my slave watches ?
    Wesley's jumper - yep he's firmly established in the grey ribbing jumpsuit - 'Ensign'.

    I think it would be a good idea to teach the country's sign language in primary or high school as a subject, if only to give the hearing person a basic vocab when encountering a deaf person. We must learn more languages in school. It brings us into other people's mindsets. The theme of this episode.

    This is very fascinating sci-fi concept, though delivered in a rather slow-moving episode. Personally I think it would make a very readable sci-fi novel rather than a time limited segment in a sci-fi adventure series. The parts where Riva talks to Geordi, and the frustrations of being unable to communicate when his 'chorus' had - in a very stupidly written moment - been killed en masse.

    I can understand Troi's role in this, but I can't help feeling that Guinan could - if the two sides had been transported to Ten-Forward - have sorted them out with her natural wisdom and a few bottles of Betelgeuse Brandy. :)

    Riva lookin' like the frontman of a Kenny Loggins cover band.

    Great comments Davywiz (08/02/20). I agree. 3 out of 4 stars for this episode.
    I would also mention that the music was beautiful.

    So in the 24th century no one in the federation is conversant in Any kind of Sign Language? When his chorus got killed they couldn’t find someone else at Federation headquarters or Starfleet academy to replace them and warp them out to the planet to be interpreter? In the 21st century lots of people are conversant in ASL but everyone in the 24th is flabbergasted by Rivas deafness and unable to communicate with him? Riva never learned sign language himself? So he’s crippled when his chorus is killed? Only Data can figure out a way to communicate with him? Sorry I’m not buying it, that’s a stretch even back in 1987.

    @ Kyle,

    "Riva never learned sign language himself? So he’s crippled when his chorus is killed?

    I suspect what they were going for was something like Hellen Keller, where telepathy was the only way for him to communicate. I think it would have been clearer had he been blind as well, but that might have made production too obtrusive. When he loses his chorus I think they want us to understand that it is now so difficult for him to communicate that he has to invent a new way of doing so. The script obviously fails to use much imagination in setting up this premise for us, so it's understandably muddled when a person who is merely deaf and mute acts as if he's cut off from all communication...including writing! But I understand what they wanted, and I think it's fair for us to just accept that premise and evaluate what they do with it...which isn't all that much :/

    So in the 24th century no one in the federation is conversant in Any kind of Sign Language? When his chorus got killed they couldn’t find someone else at Federation headquarters or Starfleet academy to replace them and warp them out to the planet to be interpreter? In the 21st century lots of people are conversant in ASL but everyone in the 24th is flabbergasted by Rivas deafness and unable to communicate with him? Riva never learned sign language himself? So he’s crippled when his chorus is killed? Only Data can figure out a way to communicate with him? Sorry I’m not buying it, that’s a stretch even back in 1987.

    I liked it but it definitely feels undercooked.

    Maybe some sort of hand grenade would have been better that the quite comical way the chorus was killed. And one of them surviving could have been interesting.

    Also, Spiner's sign language was obviously half assed at times. Annoying considering how little actually occurs here.

    Good points above that the tragedy could paradoxically increase the chances of this working.

    The situation on the planet is obviously massively simplified, but hard to do much more in an episode.

    Though I puzzle at how they agreed to bring in Riva if the two sides were unable to even communicate.

    It is hilarious that the teaser ended with the away team in an empty room. Another symptom this wasn't fully cooked.

    Still, overall, I think this flows pretty well considering the casual plot. I never find it boring at all.

    It was interesting to see Riva hitting on Deanna and I liked how Sirtis played it-- seriously creeped out. It kind of makes you wonder how many of those alien women Riker/Kirk jumped in bed with felt.

    The murder of the chorus is really the biggest blight here. It's just so hilarious. All three in one blast, all frozen mid pose while the beam burns off their skin then their skeleton, etc. if ever there was a case for just a flash of light, this was it.

    Also, the dude pulls a gun, then Riker runs over, grabs Riva, pulls him over to Worf, then the dude shoots the chorus, THEN they call for beam out. It's all so goofy. Worf does absolutely nothing but should have had plenty of time to stun the dude.

    And Riker should have jumped on Riva and knocked him out of the way, not go grab him and turn around and pull him away.

    Oh and I'm being a total dork here, but in the final scene with Deanna and Picard, when it cuts to closeup, the 3D planet thing disappears a frame or two too early. I verified in slow motion. ;)

    Fortunately, they eventually stopped with 3D displays because they always looked goofy and had that "ooh, look, we have 3D fx!" vibe.

    Another thing that would have helped is if Worf wasn't on the away team because Riva absolutely forbade it.

    Because Worf looks really flat footed here and does nothing even though he notices the one party is freaking out. Worse, his utter inaction might be read as caused by his discomfort with Riva.

    It would have been better if instead of Worf, Deanna joined the away team. She could have empathicly noticed the traitor's unease and this would also strengthen the later scenes where she considers attempting being mediator.

    She could even have pointed out that she read the other three aliens as being absolutely sincere in wanting peace.

    After all, it's acknowledged by Riva himself that his arrogance prevented him from properly reading the situation.

    That could have even led to a scene where Riva and Deanna talk about how reading people works.

    The end scene. Picard is thanking Tori. It seems he's thanking her for putting up with the creeper. Then they smile about it, like they played Riva to get what they wanted, by using her charms. Creepy.


    LOL...thanks I had to pause-play, pause-play for 5 minutes until I could land on that frame with the missing solar system you mentioned!

    This is a cool episode for me, cuz Riva is my surname (different spelling), so its FULL of awesome answering machine fodder.

    This is another episode where everything Data does is motivated by feelings and emotions...blowing up the weekly narrative that androids can't feel anything.

    Oops wrong episode. I was referring to "Pen Pals" when Data was determined to save an alien world.

    I'm not sure, on this viewing, if I agree with the many who find Troi's revelation of what her empathy has told her about Worf's discomfort an unethical violation of privacy. I mean, yes, it's a violation of privacy, but this is Starfleet, not civilian life. I could imagine it being understood by all concerned, including her and Worf, that she has a duty to reveal whatever may affect the success of the mission or the safety of the ship and crew. If that's embarrassing, uncomfortable, or painful to a crew member, that's just too bad; it's their own duty to accept that she must do her duty. And if a member of the away team is going into a diplomatic greeting with troubled emotions she has previously only known him to exhibit when about to do battle, I can see how she would have such an obligation. "You seem to know something that could put us all in danger. Spill it, Worf." There's no time for calling him aside for a private conference.

    Who knows? I may see it differently on my next viewing.

    Another thought I had on this viewing:

    Troi at first looks to me as if she's uncomfortable with Reva's attentions to her. That's not romantic.


    I don't think Troi is uncomfortable. I think she's not romantically interested in Riva, but is willing to spend a friendly evening with him in conversation.

    For what it's worth, I think Troi looked far more uncomfortable around Ral in "The Price".

    yes Troi's "Speak to me, SPEAK!" was probably something of the worst things she ever done. Even for her standards.
    I mean this is like the mind of a five year old. Who in heavens name had even the slightest thought that Troi would be a good counsellor.

    Submit a comment

    ◄ Season Index