Marina Sirtis’ Counselor Troi didn’t work for a lot of people
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was in production, writer David Gerrold and producer Robert Justman discussed the idea of having someone on the ship who would serve as an emotional healer. According to a quote by Gerrold in The Fifty Year Mission The Next Twenty-Five Years, the healer’s job was to “support those aboard the ship in the job of being the best they can be.” And that’s how the character of Counselor Deanna Troi came to be. However, that wasn’t all she was supposed to be nor what she turned out to be.
According to Marina Sirtis, quoted in the same book, Gene Roddenberry had said she was supposed to be the brain on the show with equal the intelligence of Spock. But, instead, the writers went down a different path with her. Sirtis said the writer turnover was so much that she didn’t they could ever “get a hook,” which left Troi just feeling a lot of anguish. The actress admits there wasn’t enough range in Troi.
One writer thought Troi was too touchy-feely
Writer Tracy Torme admitted that the character never worked for him. While he liked Marina Sirtis as a person, he felt Troi was a little too soft and touchy-feely. Added to that, both Brannon Braga and story editor Naren Shankar never understood Troi’s purpose aboard the ship. Braga thought a therapist shouldn’t be needed with characters who were supposed to have moved beyond human foibles. Basically, a counselor wouldn’t have been required. Shankar said the idea of having a psychiatrist on board was weird to him and he didn’t understand what she did all day.
Counselor Troi was very smart when in the right episodes. Unfortunately, Sirtis wasn’t given too many of those right episodes. With Data onboard the Enterprise as the resident “Spock-like” character, perhaps the producers didn’t feel another such character was needed. So, instead, they focused on her empathetic abilities, but too many times, they made those too obvious.
As the seasons went on, Sirtis was given more challenges, like her take as a Romulan in “Face of the Enemy,” but there were a lot of missed opportunities that could have been utilized with the counselor. One of the best episodes that allowed Sirtis to show more range was “Disaster,” where she is forced to take command of the Enterprise, but as many of the best episodes with Troi, this one came in later seasons. I wonder what writers could have done had they really known what to do with the counselor in the first part of the series.