OVERALL RATING: B. ACTING: A. WRITING: C. SPECIAL NOTE: The dinner party scene wherein Lwaxana Troi's extremely tall servant, Mr. Homn (Carel Struycken), quietly gets plastered and Data becomes intrigued with the "petty bickering" among Troi's mother and her prospective in-law's is especially good. Watch for Captain Picard's subtle looks at Data before he attempts to rein the android in.
THE SHOW: Majel Barrett (playing Counselor Troi's mother, Lwaxana Troi) comes on board the Enterprise like a fresh sea breeze after all the claustrophobic in-jokes and overly precious "egghead" writing and blatant racism of the first three scripts. The tall, matronly, and utterly charming and warm Lwaxana is a "full Betazoid" and speaks to her half-human, half-Betazoid daughter, Counselor Deanna Troi, through telepathy--much to Counselor Troi's annoyance. Troi's stiffness and formality are thrown into perspective. (Aha! This is what the tight-ass Counselor Troi is reacting against!) Neither Counselor Troi nor Captain Picard come off very well next to the free-spirited Lwaxana. It is exhilarating and unusual to have such a character on a starship in a science fiction adventure series--a realistically and sympathetically portrayed and very attractive MATRON!!!. I tip my hat to the producers and writers on this one. In a genre that often seems to be an exclusive male club--written by boys for boys--this has to be a first.
Lwaxana's dilemma--that the parents of her daughter's long-ago "bonded" mate, Wyatt Miller (Rob Knepper), have tracked Deanna Troi down and are insisting that this marriage arranged in childhood now go forward--is a good story set-up. Will Troi break Betazoid custom and chuck her "bonded" childhood mate? Will she even like him? What of her liason with the Enterprise's second in command, Will Riker?
Lwaxana makes it clear that she doesn't want to force her daughter into the marriage. She employs the nicely indirect feminine strategy of instigating petty feuding with the Millers regarding wedding arrangements. The pre-wedding dinner party is truly amusing, with the reclusive, unsocial Captain Picard attempting to oversee a dignified and sacred Betazoid social affair for his ship's counselor, that turns into a loud and messy family quarrel with Troi herself finally up-ending the sacred Betazoid music gong and walking out in disgust, with Lwaxana's servant Mr. Homm (all seven-plus feet of him) downing gallons of liquor, and with Data, of all people, getting accused by Captain Picard of "circling the table like a buzzard." Data can't get enough of the "petty bickering"--he's never seen such behavior before. He is fascinated and asks the dinner party guests to please "continue with your petty bickering" even after Troi has walked out.
Lwaxana also provides the viewers with a fresh angle on the stuffy, reclusive Captain Picard. Lwaxana is a brassy, forward female who makes a bee-line for the unmarried Picard, and he retreats like a sandpiper before the tide of mature female desire. One gets the feeling that he really couldn't handle it. She is so likeable, so funny and so lively, she makes him look like a wooden soldier with a toothpick up its ass--humorless, lifeless, paralyzed, sour and full of itself.
The plot saves Troi from this "arranged" marriage. Wyatt has been in love all of his life with a girl he has seen in visions--a blonde, unlike the brunette Troi. Luckily, this girl shows up on a quarrantined ship that the Enterprise encounters. Wyatt's dreams have been a premonition. He has been "drawn," psychically, to the Enterprise, in order to meet his true love. Luckily, the quarrantined ship happens to need his services (he is a doctor). Luckily, once he's beamed himself over there to meet his true love, he can't beam back (because they're quarrantined). And, maybe not so luckily, we are stuck with Deanna Troi as the Enterprise ship's counselor for the next seven years. (Her mother would be a better counselor in her sleep with both hands tied behind her back.)
TERGIVERSATION METER READING: +3. The realistic, affectionate and respectful treatment of an older female character is to be applauded. The idea of "arranged" marriages and associated social manacles is a bit dubious, as to 24th humanism, although it's treated with humor. Humor is also used to soften the notions of "royal blood" (upperclass Betazoids) and "servants" (Mr. Homm.) Although royalist notions are prevalent in Star Trek, one cannot say, of this episode, that Star Trek is advocating them, subliminally or otherwise (as it does in other episodes).
Tergiversate (tur-ji-ver-sat): 1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate. 2. To change sides; to defect; apostatize. The Tergiversation Meter scale runs from -5 (very defective) through +5 (unambiguous, true blue philosophical humanism with no negative subliminal messages).
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