2/17/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Loud as a Whisper"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S02E05
Air Date: January 9, 1989
Written by: Jacqueline Zambrano
Directed by: Larry Shaw

Premise
Riva the Mediator, a deaf person who communicates telepathically through a "chorus", learns how to communicate without a "chorus".

Review
Solias V wants peace after fighting among themselves for decades and they request Riva to help them achieve it. Riva is a very famous mediator and Worf says that before he mediated treaties between Klingons and the Federation, there was no Klingon word for "peacemaker". What makes him especially unique is that he is deaf and communicates exclusively telepathically through the use of a chorus. When Picard, Riker and Troi beam down to his planet, they find that the chorus of three people act as his voice, representing aspects of his personality, while Riva just stares meaningfully at people.

Riva takes an immediate liking to Troi. When they get back on the ship, he asks that she show him to his room and they have a nice chat with each other. They share a meal and briefly learn to communicate though hand motions alone. Meanwhile, Picard has discovered that the ceasefire on Solias V has been broken and they're continuing to battle. They are immediately requesting Riva's presence, so no more snoggy time for him. A brash, brazen deaf man, emboldened by his interaction with Troi, beams down to the planet with his chorus and Riker and Worf. He confronts the two sides of the war, but suddenly a rogue member of one of the sides shoots at him, misses, but kills his entire chorus.
Next time you lose your voice, imagine this.
Riva, Worf and Riker immediately beam back up while the rogue's partner tries to salvage the situation since he legitimately wants peace. But Riva has been struck down. His chorus weren't just his aids, they were his friends, and now they're gone forever. And he has no way of communicating because no one on the ship knows sign language. Picard instructs Data to look up every possible sign language he could be using and learn it. Meanwhile, he does what he can to calm and reassure Riva. But Riva is just too distraught and really doesn't want to continue the negotiations.

In the middle of all this, Geordi goes to sick bay for a check up on his VISOR. Pulaski says that she could give him some ocular implants to make him look more normal, but Geordi decides to take time to think about it. It would give him 80% of the vision provided by the VISOR (which, let's be honest, is still more than most sighted people), but it would be provided at a greater risk. This is the start of a great arch for Geordi in which he learns to be comfortable with himself even with his disability.
No eye could look as cool as this VISOR.
Back to Riva, Data has learned five different forms of sign language so that the crew can communicate with Riva, but he still refuses to continue the negotiations. So Troi informs him that she will be conducting the negotiations in his place. She goes to him for advice and help because she's never done anything like this before, but he's all sad and is puzzled as to why she would ever come to him, a seasoned negotiator, for negotiation advice. Through the course of this advice, the idea of "turning a disadvantage into an advantage" is brought up and it inspires Riva. With new found hope, he beams back down to the planet with Troi, Data and Riker.

He sets up a table and two torches to inform the people that negotiations are to continue and then he explains that he is going to turn his disadvantage, only being able to communicate through sign language, into an advantage by teaching the people of Solias V sign language over several months. This will help them to bond over the course of the negotiations and when they're finally able to communicate with Riva, they will have better communicated with themselves.
Negotiator level 9000
With Riva all set up, the crew leaves and they all live happily ever after and learn a valuable lesson about anatomy.

Overall Thoughts
This is a pretty great episode. I like it when they focus on the aspects of a single character, whether it's a recurring part of the crew, or just a negotiator trying to bring peace to a war-torn planet. This episode is simple, but poignant, teaching people to make the best out of whatever disadvantage they find themselves in. The only problem I had was why Troi wasn't able to communicate with Riva telepathically. That seems like something that should at least have been explained.