the story: A visiting alien delegate may be violating people's thoughts.
similar to: "Fusion" (Enterprise)
my thoughts: This is the episode the series had been trying to tell with Troi, as previously attempted in "Tin Man" and the abysmal "Night Terrors." This time, the story serves the empathy, figuring out how to organically integrate her into itself, and still finding compelling material to explain how it fits in with everyone else. While it doesn't do much to explore Troi, it's another in the series of latent continuations of the slice-of-life episodes from the fourth season.
With characters like Keiko O'Brien around to help sell the concept of a telepath with seemingly remarkable abilities helping the whole crew, if they'd like, remember fond memories, the nightmare sets in when many of them begin to experience nightmares from their past, or in Troi's case, something that never happened at all. The whole thing really feels like a direct apology for "Night Terrors," actually, especially in that regard.
Nightmares and dream sequences are another Star Trek trope, one Next Generation regularly mined (with Data in particular, in "Birthright" and "Phantasms"). Yet "Violations" is more akin to Enterprise's "Fusion," in which deviant members of Vulcan society are performing the forbidden mind meld experience, which in their hands is as destructive as what Troi experiences. There's also an echo of what Shinzon and his Viceroy later do to her in Nemesis.
This is an instance of a seemingly minor episode being more significant than it seems. It's one of Troi's better showings, and a sign that she would get better material in the future as well.
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)