The Women of TNG part 3: Deanna Troi
So, here I am again, writing the third installment of my four part series on the women of TNG. I think this one, by far, has been the hardest one for me to write because out of the four women I selected, Deanna Troi is actually the one I like the least. In my opinion, her character serves no real purpose except to be “Little Miss Obviouspants” and eye candy” for the geeky guys who end up ogling her. And writing horribly bad Mary Sue fan fiction where they insert themselves as characters for her to practice her empathic skills on.
So what do we know about Deanna Troi? Well, according to Memory Alpha (one of my go-to reference sources for all things Trek) she is a half-human, half-Betazoid woman born in the year 2336 which makes her approximately 27 years old when she begins serving under Captain Picard on the Enterprise-D. We know that her father was Lt. Ian Troi (who died when she was still a child) and her mother was the Betazoid ambassador Lwaxana who was (everybody say it with me! Altogether now!) The daughter of the fifth house, heir to the holy rings of Betazed and keeper of the sacred chalice of Rixx. We know from the episode “Dark Page” that she had a sister, Kestra, who died of accidental drowning when Deanna was, just an infant. We also know that, shortly after she finished her studies and became a counselor full time, she was involved with Will Riker (with whom she would later serve on the Enterprise-D). Memory Alpha also states that because she is half-human, she doesn’t have full use of her Betazoid skills and her extra sensory perception is mainly empathic in nature, instead of fully telepathic as with most Betazoids.
I have to admit, when I first started watching TNG many moons ago during the original run, I didn’t think much of Deanna Troi. She was, as I stated earlier, Little Miss Obviouspants, restating in her dreamy, almost breathy voice in a very simple terminology what exactly the situation was they were involved in. She didn’t seem like she DID much other than hang around the bridge and be eye candy. She had big hair (which, here in Texas is admirable, something we women aspire to have as often as we can manage it) and tight, skin-fitting outfits that usually covered as much as they revealed. As a joke when I was about 13 years old, I went to a church Halloween party dressed as Counselor Troi in a cheap acrylic, dollar bin blue TOS science officer shirt and black stirrup pants. I curled my hair to within an inch of its life, ratted it out (you girls who grew up in the 80’s will know what I’m talking about, sprayed with at least a half dozen cans of Aquanet and pulled it back with a BeDazzled banana clip that I borrowed from my younger (and more fashion conscious) sister. My friends of course all laughed because nobody could really take Deanna seriously with her wide brown doe-eyes, that breathy voice of hers and the lack of depth in her character.
It really wasn’t until about season six (when she finally, like the rest of the crew, starts wearing a uniform) that we see any more development to her character and it’s not until season seven that Deanna takes her test to become a bridge commander and we really see her sort of come into her own. When she orders Holodeck Geordi to his death as part of her final test (“Thine Own Self”), she proves to Riker (who we would assume knew already) and everyone else that she’s not some empty headed, bubble-butted idiot as had been previously assumed. She proves that, underneath the usually serene exterior she presents to the world, she’s got some real balls and she’s not afraid to use them. I think after that particular episode, she’s given more to do than just stand around and look pretty. It’s just a shame that it didn’t come earlier and by the time it does, the season (and the show) is nearly complete.
I have to admit, I fought writing this article even though I was the one who proposed the series in the first place. I put off writing it as long as I possibly could and I had to really buckle down to get something on paper (or rather, in an MS Word document) about Deanna Troi that wasn’t harsh, condescending or snide the way I usually am when I speak about her. To me, up until season six when they put her in a uniform, she was nothing more than eye-candy for the hordes of guys who flocked to the series not just because it was Trek, but because there were some damn fine looking ladies on the Enterprise-D. I think that the reason Deanna never got as much development as she could have was because really, the writers didn’t know what to do with her other than have her make her grand, sweeping pronouncements on what other people were feeling while standing there looking pretty. Which she did very well but her character could’ve been so much more.
I’m guessing the reason they DIDN”T develop her as much as they could have was because they already had one tough woman on the crew (Dr. Crusher) with a handful of others popping in from time to time (Dr. Leah Brahms comes to mind, as does Picard’s love interest Vash). They simply decided to let her be the pretty one which was a great disservice in my opinion.
Deanna Troi had the potential to be one of the best characters on TNG and they simply let her fall by the wayside because Marina Sirtis happens to be a great beauty and that’s a shame. I would’ve really liked to have seen more of Troi being in command, being put in situations that required her to think. But sadly, it was not to be. I don’t think the writers realized what a great character they had with her until it was far, far too late to do anything about it.
Next time, I’ll take a look at the one woman who even Riker ran from like she was carrying the Terellian Death Flu–the one, the only Lwaxana Troi.