Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 13, 1989
|via Memory Alpha
The Barzans have discovered what they believe to be a stable wormhole and are selling off the rights to control it. The Federation is one of several bidders and the Enterprise is hosting the negotiations. One of the delegates, Devinoni Ral, representing the Chrysalians, is instantly drawn to Troi and she to him.
The wormhole story is interesting, but this is a Troi episode at its heart. Deanna Troi can be a challenging character. Most of the blame goes on the writers who rarely gave her quality material. I also feel that of all of the principals, Marina Sirtis was the actor who took the longest to settle into her character. Mind you, the writing could also have had a lot to do with that. Good writing will save poor acting far more often than the other way around. All of that said, I generally like the Troi stories. In the better ones, she's given lots of room to be a real person. She is a professional woman trying to find and defend her sense of self in the face of an overbearing mother and the stifling culture she represents and, as in this story, in the face of her lovers. Men fall in love with her at the drop of a hat and it's certainly not difficult to understand why. She is intelligent, compassionate and undeniably beautiful - an irresistible balance of confident and vulnerable. To her credit, she never surrenders herself completely to any of them. I have known a lot of women who live similar dilemmas every day of their lives. This is the Deanna Troi I enjoy the most.
Ral, on the other hand, borders on unwatchable: smarmy, arrogant, deceitful. I find her sexual attraction to him entirely convincing but I cheer the moment when she finally sees through his bullshit.
Matt McCoy (Ral) was born May 20, 1958 in Austin, Texas, though he grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, my part of the world. I had good friends who graduated from his alma mater, Walter Johnson High School. He attended the University of Maryland while working at Harlequin Dinner Theater in Rockville. My buddy Game Designer worked there one summer, too. McCoy ultimately graduated from Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City.
McCoy has had a long and active career since the late '70s. He is best known for three roles: Michael Bartel in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (in which John de Lancie also appears), Sgt. Nick Lassard in the Police Academy film franchise and Lloyd Braun in Seinfeld. Writing is everything. Lloyd, one of Elaine's temporary flames, is every bit as smarmy as Ral but it plays much better within context.
Something very important happened between the airing of the previous episode and this one: the Berlin Wall came down. After 9/11, it was probably the most memorable historical event of my lifetime. It didn't seem possible. My family and I had visited East Berlin only five years before and the facts of the Wall, the Iron Curtain and the paranoia surrounding felt inevitable and permanent. Suddenly, it was all over. The Cold War was on its last legs.
This matters for Star Trek, largely conceived as a philosophical response to Cold War policies and attitudes. How would the show adjust to the geopolitical shifts?
Sadly, we know in hindsight that all hell would soon break loose in the Balkans. The sudden destabilization wreaked havoc in several far flung pockets. Many problems got easier. Others got a lot more complicated. There would be plenty of material for allegorical science fiction. But for an all too brief moment, there was hope.