Monday, September 5, 2016

The Next Generation 7x7 "Dark Page"

rating: ***

the story: It seems Lwaxana Troi has been hiding a secret pain...

what it all means: This is the only Lwaxana episode (in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) where Lwaxana herself does not dominate the story.  In some respects, it's the first time her daughter Troi is in control.  Granted, for horrible reasons, but...

"Dark Page" is in some respects the first truly seventh-season episode of the seventh season, the first deep cut into backstory the season allows to fully breathe.  Unlike "Descent, Part 2" or "Interface," this is a truly relevant story of the series, with no qualifications needed.  It even has aliens-of-the-week who go out of their way to help rather than hinder, which is about the one and only time in franchise history this happens.

But you need to be a fan of the series to appreciate it, because without the context, you have no idea what's missing from Lwaxana, and thus why it's so important that this is the rare excursion into taking her seriously ("Half a Life" is the best such example).

Why Troi has two mysteries under her belt this season (the later "Eye of the Beholder" as well) is something of a mystery itself, or just maybe why it took the series so long to let her be featured this way (contrary to what some say, she was always one of the series' strongest characters, when given half a chance, including her standout appearance in the pivotal "Skin of Evil" from the first season).  Too often, she was stuck in lousy episodes with lousy relationships with lousy aliens of the week.  In fact, part of what makes "Dark Page" so refreshing is that it seems to go out of its way to refute that this was ever even necessary, and again, that makes it more a Troi episode than a Lwaxana episode.  We learn Lwaxana's deep, dark secret, but we also learn how strong Troi is entirely on her own.

(I mean, usually she has to be pretty tough around her mother, but not this tough!)

From here, it becomes easier for the season to delve into rich character work, of the kind far removed from the gimmicky early efforts.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Might be baffling for the uninitiated.
  • series - Although perfect for the initiated!
  • character - Good for Lwaxana.
  • essential - Great for Troi!
notable guest-stars:
Majel Roddenberry (Lwaxana Troi)
Kirsten Dunst

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