Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Dark Page”

“Dark Page”
Written by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Les Landau
Season 7, Episode 7
Production episode 40276-259
Original air date: November 1, 1993
Stardate: 47254.1

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is hosting a delegation of Cairn, a telepathic species that never developed speech. They are being trained in how to speak verbally by Lwaxana Troi. Her star pupil is a girl named Hedril (who gets to compare enhancement devices with La Forge; she has a vocal enhancer, he has a VISOR). At one point, looking at Hedril causes Lwaxana distress, but she fobs it off as being tired.

When Troi arrives, Lwaxana immediately introduces her to Maques, with whom she is trying to set her daughter up. (Maques’s wife, Hedril’s mother, has died.) The next morning, the inevitable argument between mother and daughter over the former’s endless attempts to matchmake the latter modulates into concern as Lwaxana once again looks distressed. But once again, she fobs it off.

Maques apologizes to Troi for being forward. He also tells Troi that he discovered, when he communicated telepathically with Lwaxana, that she had a dark part of her mind, a piece that was hidden. Lwaxana called it privacy, and Troi explains to Maques that many species are not as open as the Cairn.

Later, Troi and Riker talk in Ten-Forward. Troi’s worried about her mother—she’s even dressing in a subdued manner. Riker doesn’t think it’s that big a deal, right up until Lwaxana storms into the bar and yells at Riker to get away from her, that it’s all his fault, if he had done the right thing years ago, she’d be married by now.

Troi immediately takes Lwaxana to sickbay. Her psilosynnine levels are low, so Crusher tells her to avoid telepathy for a while. Troi gives the Cairn a tour of the arboretum. Lwaxana is tagging along, and she looks like hammered crap. While Troi shows Maques and two others the flowers, Hedril starts walking around the perimeter of the pond.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

She loses her balance and falls in, recovering immediately, but then Lwaxana collapses. Troi rushes her to sickbay; she’s lapsed into a coma, and there’s no way to bring her out. Picard and Troi talk to Maques, to see if this might be a side effect of Cairn telepathy. Maques tries to explain again about the dark part of her mind, but he can’t do it well with words—finally he speaks telepathically to Troi, who’s momentarily overwhelmed. Eventually, Troi parses through the images Maques provided her: something is affecting Lwaxana’s metaconsciousness, a part of the Betazoid psyche that helps protect them from psychic trauma.

Maques tries to contact Lwaxana telepathically, but all he sees is images that are meaningless to him. He suggests using himself as a telepathic bridge so that Troi can contact her and bring her out of it.

Troi finds herself in a darkened Enterprise corridor. Lwaxana’s voice can be heard in the distance, asking for help. Troi also hears the sound of water.

Picard appears, ordering Troi to sever the connection—but that’s something Maques can do, there’s no reason for Picard to be interpolated into this image. Picard then speaks with Lwaxana’s voice, asking to be left alone. Troi is then chased through corridors by a wolf.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

Entering a door, Troi finds herself in a house on Betazed and is confronted by her father, wearing an older Starfleet uniform. He apologizes for going away when she was so young, and sings “Down in the Valley” to her—but Troi recognizes it as a stall and reluctantly leaves her father behind.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

Reentering the corridor, Troi sees Hedril—but without the exposed flesh that all Cairn have at their temples, and with the darkened eyes of a Betazoid. Lwaxana then angrily tells Troi to go away, and she wakes up unexpectedly.

Troi talks to Hedril, who says that she makes Lwaxana sad. Troi goes through her mother’s things, reads her journals for the past five years, talks to Mr. Homn and all her friends on Betazed, and the only bad thing that seems to have happened to her is Troi’s perpetual not-married state. Picard suggests going back further than five years, and they sit down to start at the beginning of her journal, shortly before she and Ian Troi got married.

To their surprise, there’s a seven-year gap starting about a year after Lwaxana and Ian married, and ending when Troi was about a year old. There were journal entries, but her mother deleted them thirty years ago.

This just increases Troi’s determination to go back into Lwaxana’s mind. She sees Hedril-as-Betazoid again, with the wolf. When Troi calls out to her, she asks, “Who’s Hedril?” Turning a corner, she sees a door open to space, and hears Lwaxana calling for help. Troi jumps through into space—

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

—and winds up in the arboretum. Lwaxana is there, now asking her to go away. Troi gets Lwaxana to finally open up. She sees a picnic: Ian and Lwaxana, an infant Troi, and Hedril-as-Betazoid playing with a dog. Lwaxana calls the girl Kestra, and Troi realizes to her shock that that’s her older sister, who proceeds to accidentally drown chasing after the dog. The trauma of losing her oldest daughter is so great that Lwaxana deletes her journals, erases all traces of Kestra, completely represses any memory of her to avoid the trauma of facing that she let her child die.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

Troi forces her mother to confront her daughter, and Kestra appears, this time not looking at all like Hedril, and Lwaxana apologizes and hugs her. Kestra fades away and Lwaxana finally wakes up.

Mr. Homn saved one picture of Kestra in case Lwaxana ever decided to remember her again, and Troi then asks her mother to tell her about her sister.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Psylosynnine is a neurotransmitter connected to telepathy. Overuse of telepathy can deplete it.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi has a weird-ass reunion with her dead father, finds out she had a sister all these years and didn’t know it, and finally finds out why her mother is such an overprotective bitch.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data is able to contribute to the speculation regarding what happened to Lwaxana thanks to his own recent experiences with dreams (as recent as last episode…).

There is no Honor in Being Pummeled: Lwaxana once again refers to the Klingon security chief as “Mr. Woof,” and Michael Dorn beautifully plays it, starting to open his mouth to correct her, thinking better of it, and then just shaking his head ruefully.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

I Believe I Said That: “If two Cairn were having this conversation, it would have been over minutes ago.”

“Really?!”

Lwaxana describing Cairn telepathy, and Picard wishing that it were so.

Welcome Aboard: Majel Barrett makes her final appearance on TNG as Lwaxana—she’ll appear twice more on Deep Space Nine in “Fascination” and “The Muse.” (Carel Struycken was unavailable to reprise Mr. Homn, and this is the only TNG episode in which the two characters don’t appear together.) Norman Large, having played Proconsul Neral in “Unification” and “Unification II” and a Kobheerian in “Duet” on DS9, returns as Maques; he’ll be back as an Ocampa on Voyager’s “Cold Fire,” and a makeup photo of him from “Unification” will be used as a wanted poster in Odo’s office throughout DS9’s run.

But this episode’s Robert Knepper moment is the very young Kirsten Dunst, a year prior to her career-making turn in Interview with the Vampire (and nine years prior to her role as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man), as Hedril and the image of Kestra.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

Trivial Matters: This is the first sighting of Troi’s father, who was first mentioned way back in “Encounter at Farpoint,” and who was named in “The Child.” Your humble rewatcher made him a primary character in the novel The Art of the Impossible, which also dramatized his death on Raknal V, and which made use of much of the backstory established in this episode.

Troi says at the end that Mr. Homn had kept the picture of Kestra all this time in case Lwaxana decided to remember her. However, “Haven” established that Homn was a new hire. Your humble rewatcher covered this in the short story “The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned” in Tales of the Dominion War, which established that Lwaxana had discovered that Xelo had been hoarding some keepsakes of Kestra. Lwaxana discovered this and grew furious, firing him and destroying those keepsakes, then making up the story about how he thought lewd thoughts at her that she told in “Haven.” Xelo passed on the one picture he was able to save to Homn, which he provides at the end of this episode.

In one of the alternate timelines seen in your humble rewatcher’s Q & A, a grown-up Hedril took over the role of ship’s counselor from Troi after she left to serve on Titan following Star Trek Nemesis.

Finally, just so there’s one note that doesn’t connect to me: Though Bader got sole credit, the script was rewritten by Rene Echevarria for production, and it apparently went through many different central characters before settling on Troi’s mom.

Make it So: “Your brain isn’t sophisticated enough.” It’s an impressive feat to take a character in serial fiction that everyone is familiar with and come up with a surprise revelation that retroactively illuminates their character and explains so much about them. Chris Claremont pulled this off in Uncanny X-Men #161, a comic book published in 1982, some twenty years after the X-Men debuted, revealing that Professor X and Magneto were once close friends before they were separated by philosophical differences. This has become so ingrained in the X-Men mythos—heck, they built an entire movie around it—that people forget that it wasn’t part of the original conception of the characters.

TNG pulled off a similar trick here. (The franchise would do it again on DS9 with the revelation in “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?” that the title character was genetically enhanced.) So much of Lwaxana’s character is pulled into focus here, particularly her almost fanatical overprotectiveness of her daughter. And Barrett is brilliant, never losing Lwaxana’s trademark lunacy, but utterly convincing you of the tremendous pain she’s hiding. Her anguish, her sadness, her fear, they’re all heartbreakingly real. And the moment when mother and daughter wake up in sickbay and are holding hands is just a warm, wonderful bit.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

Les Landau’s direction mostly serves the episode well, using the simple expedient of changed lighting for Lwaxana’s dreamscape (a trick Sir Patrick Stewart could’ve used for Data’s dreams in “Phantasms” the previous week), and not overplaying anything. In particular, he does a good job with Norman Large’s Maques, convincing us of a person who is unused to language without slowing the story down—that sort of stumbling speech pattern can grind an episode to a halt, but Landau and Large pull it off nicely. It almost makes up for the silly intense stare that Large does every time he communicates telepathically.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Dark Page

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido sure has written a lot of stuff about the Troi family, hasn’t he?

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