Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Man of the People”

“Man of the People”
Written by Frank Abatemarco
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 6, Episode 3
Production episode 40276-229
Original air date: October 5, 1992
Stardate: 46071.6

Captain’s Log: Rekag-Seronia is a world that is on an important Federation shipping route. It’s also in the midst of a civil war. The Enterprise is answering a distress call from a transport ship, the Dorian (a name that ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE FORESHADOWING AT ALL),that is under attack by two Rekag ships. As soon as the Big E shows up, the Rekag ships turn tail and run. The Dorian is ferrying a mediator to Seronia, which is probably why the ship was targeted. The Dorian’s captain asks Picard to take on the mediator, Vas Alkar, and his mother, Sev Maylor. Troi meets them in the transporter room, and Maylor immediately starts sniping at Troi, saying “he won’t have you.”

Troi brings Alkar to Picard, who loops Admiral Simons in on a discussion over how to proceed. Alkar would prefer not to travel to Rekag-Seronia on so provocative a vessel as Starfleet’s flagship, but the risk is too great that another unarmed transport like the Dorian would be damaged, its crew injured.

Alkar takes Worf’s mok’bara class and flirts with Troi afterward. He discusses his mediation methods—feeling his way through the negotiations, and being patient—and that he wishes he had Troi’s empathic abilities. Lumerians like him are only empathic with each other, not with different species. He asks if she’ll accompany him to Seronia to aid in the negotiations, and she agrees, pending Picard’s authorization.

When they arrive at his quarters, Maylor is there, and snottily asks Troi if she’s mated with him yet, assuring her that if she does, she’ll regret it for the rest of her life. Alkar rushes her inside.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

A bit later, Riker arrives at Troi’s office to do crew evaluations. Troi tells him that the emotions she sensed from Maylor are malevolent well in excess of what’s reasonable. It’s disturbing her greatly. Riker tells her she’s probably just old, sick, and senile, which is a helluva way to make someone feel better, but it seems to work.

Maylor then dies in the guest quarters. Alkar is sad, but says she was 93, and lived a long life, and he should be grateful for that. Alkar asks Troi, as the only other empath on board, to participate in the funeral meditation, which involves each participant holding a stone. At the end, Alkar’s stone glows blue and he touches it to Troi’s stone, at which point her eyes go as wide as saucers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Crusher calls Picard to sickbay. Maylor’s death remains a mystery. Despite Alkar’s comment that she was ill, she can find no evidence of it. However, Alkar has refused to permit her to perform an autopsy, saying it’s against Lumerian custom.

The next morning, Troi is restless, checking herself in the mirror, fiddling about with clothes, and canceling all her morning appointments. She goes to practice mok’bara, but the moves start turning into something very close to masturbation. Then she heads straight to Alkar’s quarters, still in her mok’bara uniform, and tries to jump his bones—and stunningly, he turns her down. She storms out, and sees a good-looking young ensign in the turbolift, and gives him a very seductive smile.

Cut to Riker going to meet Troi in her quarters to finish the crew evals that got interrupted by Maylor dying. She greets him wearing a sexy white outfit (very obviously with nothing on under it), and invites him in—so he’s really surprised to see Ensign Pretty Boy sitting on her bed. The ensign snaps to attention at Riker’s entrance, then grabs his boots and runs away very fast.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Riker tries to do the crew evals, but Troi keeps baiting him, hoping he’ll be jealous or upset. He finally does get upset, saying to let him know when she’s ready to work, and leaving in a huff.

The Enterprise arrives at Rekag-Seronia, where two of Alkar’s staff, Liva and Jarth, had gone ahead. They beam aboard and explain how dire the situation is; the cease-fire has been broken. Alkar refuses to delay, and Picard suggests meeting in a coastal city that has remained neutral during the conflict.

Troi has a counseling session with Ensign Janeway (no relation) (probably), who is having trouble with her CO, Lieutenant Pinder, who constantly criticizes her work. Troi is utterly unsympathetic, and tells her to stop whining and maybe transfer to an assignment where she can be coddled.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Since she can’t do an autopsy, Crusher asks La Forge to call up the biofilter logs for Maylor. When compared to tricorder readings taken three days later, there’s massive physical deterioration. The best way for Crusher to try to explain it is, of course, to do the autopsy she’s not allowed to do.

Troi shows up in Ten-Forward wearing a sexy outfit—and now with a streak of gray in her hair—and makes a scene with Alkar. She accuses Liva of the same thing Alkar’s mother accused Troi of when she beamed on board, and tells Jarth that he’s jealous of Alkar. Alkar tries to get her to leave and fails, but Riker comes to everyone’s rescue, and claims that he and Troi are needed on the bridge.

Riker takes her back to her quarters, where she tries to seduce him—and then scratches him with her fingernails. He runs away, and she yells, “Please!” He goes to sickbay to be treated.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

The next day, Alkar tells Troi—who now looks noticeably older—that he won’t be taking her to the surface. She’s instantly jealous of Liva, thinking that she’s trying to take Alkar away from her, and begs to be taken along, that he needs her. Alkar insists that she’s his anchor and she’s helping him in ways she doesn’t understand, and then leaves her behind.

Alkar, Liva, and Jarth prepare to beam down. Picard tells them that they’re arguing over seating arrangements, but the cease-fire is holding. Troi then comes in, looking even older, and wielding a knife. Picard keeps her from stabbing—well, either Alkar or Liva, it’s not clear who she’s after, but she stabs Picard instead.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Troi’s taken to sickbay, while Alkar and his staff beam down to start the mediations. Troi’s neurotransmitter levels are 300% above normal—Crusher found something similar on Maylor. Reluctantly, Picard tells Crusher to go ahead and perform the autopsy on Maylor, as it might yield a way to help Troi.

To Crusher’s shock, Maylor’s skeleton and vital organs were those of a 30-year-old, and she also is of no blood relation to Alkar, and so can’t be his mother. (Of course, he could be adopted, though that still leaves the question of her possibly only being 30.) There are questions that only Alkar can answer, so Picard and Worf beam down to the surface.

Alkar is pissed that Picard performed an autopsy, but Picard’s a lot more pissed that Alkar lied to them. The ambassador reveals the truth: he is able to project his negative emotions onto other Lumerians, allowing him to remain calm and focused when he negotiates. He wasn’t sure it would work on Troi, and indeed she’s aging faster than his Lumerian receptacles (and hoo hah, does Picard get outraged at the use of that word). Alkar refuses to accompany Picard back to the ship, and it’s backed up by security forces that escort Picard and Worf off the planet.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Crusher hits on the rather unorthodox solution of killing Troi, as that will break the link. Then they have to revive her, obviously, and Picard is concerned about whoever Alkar will turn to next to be his “receptacle.”

A while later, Alkar has successfully completed negotiations—and then he gets weak in the knees. Alkar and his staff beam back to the Enterprise just in time for Troi to die. Alkar insists that her death, while tragic, served a higher purpose. He also has been promised safe passage home by the Federation Council.

Alkar then goes to Liva’s quarters and starts the same funeral meditation with her, while Crusher and Ogawa revive Troi and decontaminate her. Picard beams Liva away before Alkar can complete the ceremony, and Alkar suddenly gets old and decrepit and dies in front of Worf and his security team. This causes Troi’s body to not only de-age, but also her makeup to be reapplied and her hair to be restyled. (Miracle cure!)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Alkar’s trick works by increasing neurotransmitter levels. Of course, there are tons of different neurotransmitters, and they all work differently, and it’s unclear how increasing their activity would make hair gray and skin wrinkle.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: There’s no followup to Troi’s mean counseling session with Ensign Janeway, although there’s an argument to be made that it was her best therapy session ever, as Troi’s advice, while bluntly delivered, had some truth in it.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is a very effective mok’bara teacher and a very ineffective security chief, as two guys with pistols get the drop on him with unconvincing ease.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Having been refused by both Alkar and Riker, Troi has to settle for seducing Ensign Pretty Boy, who had the first officer walk in on their morning after. Yeah, his crew evaluation’s gonna look great.

I Believe I Said That: “Thanks for sticking by me.”

“I always will, even when you’re old and gray.”

Troi and Riker, foreshadowing their eventual marriage.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Man of the People

Welcome Aboard: Quite possibly the most uninspired bunch of guest stars in the show’s history—it’s a rhapsody in bland, from Chip Lucia’s flat portrayal of Alkar (which at least is justifiable in that dumping his negative emotions into pretty women would leave him in a state of equanimity) to Lucy Boryer’s Ensign Janeway (who isn’t as whiny as the script asks her to be) to Stephanie Erb’s stilted line readings as Liva, and on and on.

Trivial Matters: While Frank Abatemarco, who was new to the writing staff (and wouldn’t survive the season), got sole writing credit, and he did the final draft, the script was a group effort of the entire writing staff, necessitated when “Relics” had to be pushed back to accommodate James Doohan’s schedule, so this episode was rushed into production.

Make it So: “You’re a coward.” A riff on The Picture of Dorian Gray that has been keeping Oscar Wilde dizzy for two decades now, this is just an awful episode. It’s tempting to excuse it as a rush job that was gang-written by the staff, and one shouldn’t expect much—except the same was true of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and that one turned out okay.

There’s some mild entertainment value in watching Troi turn first into a sexpot—doing porn-star moves in the mok’bara uniform, jumping Ensign Pretty Boy—then a jealous shrew, but that’s about all this lifeless episode has going for it. Alkar does this for the express purpose of being bland, which isn’t a lot to get worked up over, and the rapid-aging thing is just ridiculous—though not nearly as ridiculous as the way it’s instantly reversed in the end.

We’ve done the Enterprise­-ferries-an-ambassador story before, and this is the worst example of the lot. Where past stories have given us an ambassador we care about who suffers a crisis and/or at least a notion of what’s at stake in the negotiations (“Too Short a Season,” “Loud as a Whisper,” “The Host”), we don’t even see the factions and we don’t care about the ambassador. The notion of killing Troi to save her is an amusing one, but the timing of the scenes don’t work at all, and it’s the worst kind of artificial suspense, as it depends on events that only occur because the script needs them to.

Just a horrible episode.

 

Warp factor rating: 1


Keith R.A. DeCandido is at InfectScranton this weekend. Look for him at the table for HG World, the Parsec Award-winning zombie apocalypse audio drama, for which he provides the voice of Todd Rage.

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