Star Trek: The Next Generation – Man of the People [6.3]

Negotiator Ves Alkar comes on board the Enterprise for some delicate peace talks, and forms a connection with Counselor Troi, over the enraged objections from his aged mother.  After his mother dies, Troi participates in a special remembrance ceremony with Alkar, during which he secretly “bonds” with her, causing her to become the recipient of his negative emotions.  Alkar justifies this action because of the benefit it brings him in his work, but the condition causes Troi to prematurely age and lose her inhibitions and self-control.  Dr. Crusher figures out what Alkar is doing (and has done before, including to the woman who he pretended was his mother) and is able to break Alkar’s control by temporarily killing Troi with an injection, and then reviving her.

Written by Frank Abatemarko. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

Previous Episode: Realm of Fear • Next Episode: Relics

Comments:
I’m a bit conflicted about Man of the People.  On one hand, it’s a reasonably well produced episode with an interesting plot and a good and creepy performance from Marina Sirtis.  On the other hand, there is something kind of disturbing and unpleasant–and a bit ridiculous–about a story in which Troi becomes a receptacle for all of a dude’s negative emotions and as a result turns into a vampy seductress.  She displays other negative qualities as well, such as becoming blunt and clingy, but so much of her transformation is demonstrated via extreme sexualization that it somehow comes across to me as a bit of a “guy’s fantasy” version of the character.  And remember, this is Troi we’re talking about, so she’s already pretty highly sexualized as it is.  You can’t really imagine a “Dark Beverly” behaving this way.

This might have made some sort of sense if the deal was that Alkar actually “hooked up” with his victims, but his refusal of Troi’s advances (which genuinely surprised me) makes it clear that’s not part of what’s happening.  For which, I guess, we should all be grateful, as I think about it that would have made the episode far more disturbing than it was.  I guess what Alkar is doing not only turns people into receptacles of his darkness, but also turns them into deranged “addicts” after a fashion, though that’s never really expanded upon.  Or maybe he only targets people who are already attracted to him.  You’d think, though, that if he kept in the constant company of crazy people who are full of evil thoughts and were also obsessed with him, that somebody would have done him in at some point.

What I enjoyed about the story was how absolutely cold-blooded Alkar was about the whole thing–he’s so comfortable being so abusive, it’s chilling.  I fully thought when Picard confronted him that we were nearing the climax, but the episode had another act up its sleeve which I could not predict the details of in advance.  So that was a nice bit of plotting – don’t wait for the last minute to reveal your secrets, but bring them out a bit earlier so that during the climax we can just concentrate on the action and drama of the situation.  Dr. Crusher is maybe a little bit too comfortable with the idea of killing Troi in order to save her, but I guess 24th Century medicine allows you to know exactly how long  you can deliberately cause your patient to stop living and still safely revive her, even if she has an inexplicable degenerative condition.   But then, Crusher is sort of the hero of the episode, doing all the detective work and coming up with all the solutions, so we’ll cut her some slack.

Guest Cast:
• Lucy Boryer, who plays Ensign Janeway (no relation), was a regular on Doogie Howser, M.D.

• Susan French, who plays Sev Maylor, appeared as the older version of Jane Seymour in the movie Somewhere in Time.

Observations:
• Is this the first time we see the Klingon tai-chi class?

• The “bonding” scene between Kev and Troi is a bit spooky and surprising.  Thought I think it’s a bit much that she is already concerned about her wrinkles in the immediate next scene

• Dr. Crusher says that the woman’s death doesn’t appear to pose any threat to the Enterprise, even though it’s unexplained.  If she was ill – with a disease that  Dr. Crusher cannot identify – then surely that’s got to be some sort of threat, right?

• Troi doing her exercise by herself and half-pulling off her clothes – creepy and just a liiiiittle bit inappropriate.  And Troi’s behavior with the young Ensign is also disturbing.

•  Ensign Janeway is a bit blah blah blah.  Troi’s reaction to her is a of course terrible, but also kind of funny.  But even though she’s kind of blunt than maybe she’s actually giving some good advice

• Dr. Crusher is leaning over the engineering station a little bit strangely when she’s talking to Geordi.

• When Troi has her back to the camera, it’s obvious that she’s going to turn around and appear older.

• It takes a long time for the Transporter Chief to respond to Deana’s attack.  You’d think she should call for security even as she runs to help.

• You’d think part of the investigation would be to check out Alkar’s background – you can often find someone’s parents on Wikipedia.  I’m sure those futuristic space computers would have that kind of info.

• Picard’s rebuke of Alkar is well-written, but also pretty par for the course for him:  “Do you think that makes you appear courageous? Because you’re mistaken. You’re a coward, Alkar. You exploit the innocent because you’re unwilling to shoulder the burdens of unpleasant emotions. Well, this time you will be held accountable.”

• No one brings up the obvious possibility of just flying Troi away from Alkar very, very far.  Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, but it would have been nice for someone to mention the idea.

• Alka’s next “victim” is obviously going to be Liva, the nice looking young woman on his team.  Though there’s something a bit silly about listening to Alkar and Liva repeat their little chants.

Dialogue High Point
Nothing great, but it’s sort of funny when Data comments on Deanna’s look in Ten-Forward:

Counselor Troi has altered her appearance.

Previous Episode: Realm of Fear • Next Episode:

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