What good is a Deanna Troi who can’t “feel” anything? We all found out in “The Loss,” a train wreck of an episode from Season 4 of The Next Generation.
I vividly remember during the early seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation a popular drinking game was taking a drink every time Deanna Troi “felt” something with her empathic abilities. It was so popular because usually you didn’t make it 20 minutes into any given show before you were so drunk you couldn’t see straight.
Thankfully it was a trope the series got rid of fairly early in the third season. While Troi still felt lots and lots of things, they generally better served the story being told. It made the character more than just eye candy, which is exactly what Troi was during those first few seasons.
By Season 4, The Next Generation was firing on all cylinders and had hit its stride. That fourth season is generally considered the best of the entire seven season run with a number of episodes that have become Star Trek classics.
Then there is “The Loss.”
I am always amazed that this disaster of an episode isn’t on more “Worst Star Trek Episodes Ever!” lists. It is by far the most boring, tedious and just out and out bad episode of The Next Generation seen that didn’t air during Season 1.
In “The Loss” the Enterprise gets stuck in a group of two-dimensional beings and as a result is being dragged towards a cosmic string. Then Troi’s empathic abilities vanish, she loses her shit and whines about it for pretty much the entire episode.
And when I say whines, I mean like when Luke Skywalker when he found out he couldn’t go to Tosche Station whines.
“The Loss” is just spectacularly bad. I’m guessing the Borg were busy and the Romulans had other plans because the best Hilary J. Bader, who is credited with the story for the episode, could come up with was 2D aliens. Aliens we never see or hear, just a flat layer of something that the Enterprise is seemingly stuck in. Uh huh.
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But even that is something I could forgive. Some of the best Star Trek has come from story ideas that sound awful on paper. But what really makes “The Loss” just utterly unwatchable is Troi.
Look, I love Marina Sirtis. She is an amazing actor who managed to do some incredible stuff with the limited stories and dialogue she had over the course of seven seasons. But here she is just terrible. Maybe it was the script, which sounded like a piece of fan fiction the producers found in the restroom at a convention. Throughout “The Loss” the viewer just has a no connection what Troi is going through or any reason to really care. Thanks to the lack of any actual enemy, the fact Troi can’t “feel” anything seems more annoying than like any real loss that could cost someone their life.
Michael Piller, who was showrunner for the fourth season, has even said that he felt “The Loss” didn’t work very well. In Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages Piller says:
"“It was a very different story to get right. I felt the script was adequate, it’s not one of my favorites. The problem in conception was that you have a phenomenon that nobody can identify with.”"
Piller also mentions how “The Loss” was done more because they felt they needed a Troi show than anything else. If that’s not a huge red flag, I don’t know what is.
I fully realize that for many fans Star Trek can’t get any worse than “Sub Rosa” and yes, it is very tough to beat Dr. Crusher having kinky ghost sex with a guy who also had intimate relations with her grandmother.
But for me, “The Loss” will always come in a very, very close second. Now just imagine a drinking game where you watch “The Loss” and drink every time Troi doesn’t feel something. Now that’s a party.