The Rewatch 159: The Loss

Series: Star Trek: TNG
Episode: 4.10 The Loss (12/31/1990)
Rating: 3.5/5
Redshirt Status: 1/1/34

Notable Guest Stars:
Kim Braden (Janet Brooks) – Braden was well known in England for playing Anne Shirley in the 1970 mini series. She would appear later in the series as Elise Picard in the film Star Trek: Generations.
Mary Kohnert (Tess Allenby) – Kohnert played Ensign Tess Allenby for three episodes. The Final Mission, The Loss and then 3 years later Suspicions.  It would be her last credited role according to IMDB.

Review:
 

When I was reading production information on Memory Alpha, there were a few comments about this episode in relation to disabilities and showing them on the screen.  Except I think it failed to do that.  Troi loses her empathic abilities for a few days, then regains full functionality almost instantaneously.  It’s a momentary loss, and while I suppose some might argue that how she explains how she feels might relate to those with disabilities, I don’t feel she was disabled. Impaired, yes, but not disabled.

I suppose one of the problems of episodic television is that they don’t have the time to do long thought-out illness or injury. They wouldn’t be able to show Deanna struggling to regain her full empathic abilities.  They never mention whether she finds she struggles with certain elements of it at all in the aftermath.  So, the assumption is that they were suppressed, not taken away.  She had some brain damage, but it’s never stated later if that healed or was permanent. This weakened the commentary on ableism and disabilities.

To me this is more like when you are in an accident and something is swollen or broken, and you can’t use it for a while.  You eventually return to health and regain function. Disability to me (admittedly an able-bodied person) always seems more permanent.  You adapt to it, rather than cure it.

I would love to hear the opinions of those of you who have disabilities and how this episode felt to you. I realise this is definitely a case of your mileage may vary, and everyone has different opinions.

On the other hand, this episode is a good exercise in Deanna characterization.  She feels her empathic powers are such a part of her job that she doesn’t stop to think that she was well trained to be a counselor without the benefit of empathic abilities.  It takes Guinan and her tried and true reverse psychology methods to get through to Deanna that she is not unsuitable for the job.

I can relate to the anxiety that Deanna feels throughout this episode, trying to figure out if her injury is permanent or fixable. Her empathic abilities have been a big element of her sense of self. Most of her story arc relates more to her empathic abilities than anything else. Also there is her relief when her abilities have returned and she feels more like her usual self. 

I have to remind myself that she was raised Betazoid, and therefore empathic/telepathic abilities are seen as normal ways of functioning.  They often talk without vocalization. Perhaps there it would be seen as something that interferes with your daily life.  Perhaps that is where Deanna’s sense of disability comes from, rather than the earth-based thoughts of the rest of the crew and the audience itself. However, this is never brought up. We never see the reactions of her mother, or any other betazoid who might see her loss of empathic abilities as a disability and something that will keep her from functioning with society.

There is also a scene between Will & Deanna which I found odd.He knows her well enough to know how much to push her, but there is an element of resentment there.  She has always known how he was feeling when he couldn’t know likewise.  He admits it made their relationship a bit uneven at the time, in his opinion.  

As a side note, I was recommended to look up social vs. Medical disability models when I did this review.  So I did.  If you would like more information on that I will leave this: Learning Disabilities UK: Social Model of Disability. It helped me understand better what was going on in Deanna’s head.

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Hilary J. Bader, Alan J. Adler, and Vanessa Greene.
  • Directed by Chip Chalmers
  • Deanna’s empathic abilities were almost permanently lost, but the production team decided against it in the end.
  • I included Janet’s husband’s death as a redshirt.  He wasn’t killed on screen, but they do mention his death so I’m including it.

Pros:

  •  A good character piece for Deanna.
  • Some Imzadi content

Cons:

  •  There has to be a bigger counseling staff.  One person for over a thousand is way too little. 
  • I think this fails overall to represent disability. 

Screencap via CygnusX1.net