Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Page [7.7]

During a diplomatic mission on the Enterprise, Lwaxana Troi behaves erratically and eventually collapses when her own telepathy turns in on herself.  With the help of another telepathic species, Deanna is able to visit her mother’s nightmares, and eventually discover that she is repressing a terrible trauma from her years ago:  Deanna’s older sister, whom she never knew existed, drowned in an accident.  With Deanna’s help, Lwaxana is able to recover.

Written by Hilary J. Bader. Directed by Les Landau

Previous Episode: Phantasms • Next Episode:  Attached

Watching this episode right after Phantasms is a bit of a strange experience, as I’m sure it was for the original audiences over twenty years ago.  The plots of the stories are actually different enough, but they both feature as their main storytelling hook stylized footage of nightmares, with some of our main characters utilizing science-fictiony methodology to navigate around in them.  Worse, in both episodes, the dream-scape takes place mostly in the corridors of the Enterprise.  Now, apparently the producers realized it wasn’t great having the two episodes back to back, but didn’t have any choice because of the complexities of making television show.  Still, if there had been any way of changing the story so that the dreams took place in another location, they definitely should have done it.  As it is, the whole thing seems both repetitive and cheap.  Even the Troi’s home looks a lot like some redressed Enterprise quarters, with the shape of it’s lines (admittedly, I don’t actually know if this is the case).

But aside from that, how does the episode fare?  How would it be if it hadn’t come right after the not brilliant but still memorable Phantasms?  I’d have to say it’s a real mixed bag.  Lwaxana is not my favorite character, but she’s reasonably interesting here.  She’s still an extreme personality, but much more sympathetic than I normally find her–maybe because a lot of her excesses are put down to the trauma she’s undergoing, rather than just…because.  I wouldn’t say Majel Barrett’s performance is pitch-perfect, but she mostly does a fine job selling me on the idea of a woman who is emotionally devastated by something that I think we all agree would be one of the worst things one could experience.  Her pain feels very real.

A little less compelling is the way she is “counseled” out of her nightmare.  Everything Deanna says to her is quite true, but it is all so quick, so simple, that it feels like it’s not really doing the experience full justice, and comes across a bit shallow.  So we’re not dealing with something as compelling as Family here.  Even so, maybe it’s to be commended that the series even attempted to deal with a story like this, to bring up such a personal tragedy for someone to have experienced.  It’s rare that the franchise has been as directly “real” as that.

Still, I can’t bring myself to really recommend Dark Page.  It’s not terrible by any means, but doesn’t really hold together as a strong, cohesive story. There’s just too much to explain and to “sell” to the audience, with the aliens who don’t know how to talk but have fully developed vocal chords, Lwaxana’s typical shenanigans, the dream imagery, Troi’s feelings about her father, and Lwaxana’s deep secret.  Add the repetitious quality of the story and the cheap feeling to the episode, and your left with something that never really pulls all its parts together, and the sort of interesting effort that we all hope we won’t see again in another episode of the show.

Guest Cast:
• Normal Large plays Maques.  He appeared in both Voyager and Deep Space Nine, and played Proconsul Neral in both parts of Unification.

• Amick Byram plays Ian Andrew TroiHe had previously appears in Identity Crisis, but he was also apparently the uncredited singing voice for Moses in Prince of Egypt!  And both he and Norman Large, mentioned above, are credited as being part of the Chorus in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure.

• Kirsten Dunst appears as the little Cairn girl Hedril.  She is quite a famous movie star, having played Mary Jane Watson in the first three Spider-Man movies, and also appeared in major roles in Little Women, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and lots of other films.

• This is Majel Barrett’s last appearance as Lwaxana Troi in this series, though she will appear again in Deep Space Nine, and of course she continues to play the voice of the computer.

Shout Out to the Past:
• There are references to Mr. Homm (though he doesn’t appear).  Also, Troi’s father has been mentioned before.

• Data makes a brief reference to his dreaming, basically to just show the audience the producer’s realized what they were doing.

• Cute moment with Picard talking to Ambassador Troi, when she says, “If two Cairn were having this conversation, it would have been over minutes ago.”  “Really?” says Picard eagerly.

•  Hey…that is Kirsten Dunst!

• Another funny moment (that of course is mainly just a distraction) when Maques tells Troi that her mother told him of her need for a husband, while he needs a wife.  It’s a funny opening, belying a sad episode.

• Another funny bit is the guy in the turbolift being confused while the Troi’s argue telepathically.

• I like Troi’s description of poetry:  “Poetry is an art form that uses words, put together in new and unexpected ways, sometimes in rhyme.  Milton was speculating that in Heaven, roses wouldn’t have thorns.”

• Apparently, there are no bridge scene in the episode – making this episode one of only three that has done that.

• Maques’s faltering language gets a little tiring, as well as his telepathic staring.

• Could Troi be endangered, wonders Picard.  Of course she could.

• Even though the dream-corridor sequences are familiar, they are still nicely directed.  I like how Troi is able to see past the fake Picard.  But people in dream worlds saying, “This isn’t real, none of this is real,” is very trite and tired – I’m ready not to have that again.

•  I never noticed  how long Troi’s fingernails are before!

•  It’s a moving moment when Deanna talks to Picard about losing her father.

• It takes Picard about 15 seconds to realize something is wrong with Lwaxana’s journal, which is a little convenient.

• It’s creepy when Troi wakes up to find Maques in sickbay, but it doesn’t end up meaning anything.  Just a little stinger inserted before the credits because they needed one.

• Knowing what the splash sound effect means is creepy and disturbing.  As a father, I’ve had nightmares like that.

• Waking up holding hands is a little hokey, but a nice touch.  I don’t know if I believe Lwaxana waking up with a smile on her face.  But her sadness in the closing scene is very realistic, and something I believe.  “I wish you could have known her, Deanna.  I wish you two could have grown up together.”

Dialogue High Point
It’s a sad episode, but I think I find the most compelling scene the one in which Deanna shares with Picard about losing her father.

Picard: He had a kind face.
Troi: I remember when he died, my mother had to go through all his things and pack them away.  I was seven.  I remember thinking how mad he’d be when he came home and saw what she’d done.  I didn’t understand he wasn’t coming back.

Previous Episode: Phantasms • Next Episode:  Attached


2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Page [7.7]

  1. I’m surprised you’re so hard on the episode. I find it one of the more powerful episodes of the series. I’ve always liked Lwaxana, of course, so maybe that makes a difference. But I love this episode. It always hits me pretty hard, even though I have no kids of my own (and I don’t even like kids).

  2. I don’t hate it, but it’s definitely a mixed bag. I’d say it’s my second favorite treatment of Lwaxana, after the one with David Ogden Stiers (forget the name at this moment), and her pain is very real. But the dream conceit, the red herring of the telepathic alien being threatening, and the relatively shallow counseling (due to lack of time, really) are all points against it. Maybe if I’d watched it out of order with the previous story, that would have helped?

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