(written from a Production point of view)
Counselor Troi loses her empathic powers; the Enterprise is slowly pulled off course by an unknown force existing in two-dimensional form into a deadly cosmic string.
The USS Enterprise-D is heading to T'lli Beta and won't arrive for several days. On the bridge, Lieutenant Worf temporarily sees strange readings. After being unable to pinpoint the source of the strange patterns (initially thought to be sensor "ghosts"), Data suddenly detects an aggregate field of plane-polarized objects, but the reading also disappears. Captain Picard orders a full stop to confirm the readings.
Meanwhile, Counselor Deanna Troi is conducting a session in her office with Ensign Janet Brooks, who recently lost her husband Marc and has buried herself in work to avoid grieving. Troi reminds Ensign Brooks that her husband would have had his 38th birthday today. Brooks remarks that Troi keeps excellent records. The other night, she admits she dreamed that she was celebrating with him. She then woke up and knew he was dead, for the first time, she realized. Brooks tried looking around for anything that belonged to her husband and forgot that after his funeral, she asked that his belongings be taken away. She wonders what she was thinking when she did this. Troi walks over to a cabinet and takes out a music box belonging to Marc Brooks. Ensign Brooks tearfully asks how Troi could have known and starts to cry into the counselor's shoulder while Troi holds her.
As Troi sees Brooks out of her office, however, Troi comes under an intense pain. Stumbling about in her office, it becomes increasingly painful, and she loses consciousness.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 44356.9. Sensor diagnostics have been completed and indicate that all systems are normal. There remains no explanation for the images which appeared in our path."
Picard decides to resume their course. Ensign Allenby tries to reengage warp drive but the ship lurches due to a collapse of the warp field. Allenby then finds the ship is being dragged along at one-tenth impulse with no way to break free. Picard orders the ship moving in several different directions and speeds, with no success. La Forge in engineering reports the engines are working normally, so it must be an external effect.
During this initial encounter, several crew members, including Troi, report potent headaches. Troi taps her combadge and calls Dr. Crusher in the midst of this, but she can't get to her right away. However, Troi says she feels a bit better once she arrives, but then suddenly gets a strange feeling. Her examination of Troi is cut short as Captain Picard calls a staff meeting to discuss the ship's predicament. With Worf, La Forge, and Data all giving uncertain answers, Picard asks Troi in the observation lounge if she senses intelligence. She responds no, not because she is certain the beings lack intelligence but because she has lost her empathic abilities and cannot get readings on the beings or any of the Enterprise's crew members.
Dr. Crusher conducts a more thorough scan of Troi, including an inner nuncial series, but says all she can find are unresponsive neural cells. It's brain damage, but she eliminates a concussion as the cause. She'll need to review Betazoid physiology. Troi insists she may be fine tomorrow, and that the Betazoid brain heals itself naturally, but Crusher cautions that she is only half-Betazoid, and there is potential cause for concern. She advises Troi to seek a therapist, and Troi reluctantly agrees to consider it, but prefers to return to duty for now. Concerned, Commander Riker goes to Troi in her office later and attempts to talk. Troi is irritated, and lectures about how people treat a person differently when a disability occurs. Riker tells her he has never seen her quite this scared before. He finally leaves her alone when she tells him she has appointments scheduled for the afternoon.
Troi continues her session with Ensign Brooks. Feeling like a new woman, Brooks is happy to tell Troi about getting over her husband's death overnight. Troi is frank about losing her empathic sense but suggests that one night of crying can't be the end resolution for months of denial. Brooks says she is wrong twice, and Troi drops it.
Data presents the findings from La Forge's and his study in engineering earlier. They found a large number of particles that only exist in two dimensions, explaining why the crew of the Enterprise was unable to consistently see the beings when they first approached. Due to the non-naturally occurring motion, Data suggests they are alive. They are able to polarize the graviton field, catching the ship in its wake. La Forge suggests a controlled overload of the warp engine to jump directly to warp 6, but it's not obvious it will work in the presence of a two-dimensional universe.
While first exhibiting signs of denial and believing that the loss of her abilities is only temporary, Troi becomes increasingly angry at her situation, including launching into a tirade after Crusher admits she cannot tell if the brain damage revealed by medical scans is a temporary phenomenon.
Deciding that she can no longer effectively serve as ship's counselor without her empathic abilities, Troi tenders her resignation to Picard. She later confesses to Riker that she feels trapped in a two-dimensional world of her own, as everyone around her are as flat and hollow as holodeck projections because she cannot share their emotions; although concerned for his imzadi, Riker points out that her empathy gave her a sense of comfort and control that let her "aristocratic" Betazoid half dominate and effectively shunt her Human half to the side.
Riker leaves to the bridge to observe the direct warp jump and assures Troi he will be back to check on her, even when she tells him that will not be necessary. Allenby reports no change in their location. After a shaky few seconds, Picard orders to discontinue the engines. La Forge reports that the energy needed for warp was absorbed into the graviton wake instead, creating a torsional wave that rebounded to the ship. Data, though, notices a temporary change in the movement of the two-dimensional beings. Picard tells him to follow up on it, hoping it's an attempt at communication.
Troi winds up alone in Ten Forward, when Guinan approaches and reveals that she will be applying to the position of ship's counselor, given the job's similarities with her bartending duties. Troi, relying on her Human intuition, instinctively knows that Guinan really had no interest in the job and realizes that she could still serve the ship with only her Human abilities and intuition.
Faced with greater urgency, Worf fires photon torpedoes in front of and into the two-dimensional beings, but the weapons are totally ineffective. The beings still move toward the string, and their path is not altered. Left with few alternatives, Picard calls Troi to his ready room to work with Data on efforts to communicate with the beings.
Meanwhile, Troi is packing up her things when Brooks comes in for her next appointment. Saying she has resigned as counselor and meant to cancel, as she is no longer effective, Brooks disagrees and says she has discovered Troi was right to question her believing in a newfound self. She was still avoiding the grief and admitted that Troi perfectly read her true emotions about the death of her husband Marc even without the use of her empathic abilities.
Troi comes to Picard's ready room. Picard asks her to communicate with Data, saying that, despite what's happened to her, she is still the most qualified person to communicate. There's little time and they need her.
""Captain's log, supplemental. If our speed and course remain unchanged, in one hour the Enterprise will be torn apart by the gravitational forces of the cosmic string fragment."
Still uncertain of how she can contribute, Troi realizes that the Enterprise needs to think two-dimensionally and speculates that the two-dimensional beings are moving toward the cosmic string by instinct. With this in mind, Data proposes imitating the vibrations of the cosmic string, which might cause enough of a response in the beings to allow the ship to break free. Moments before the ship is drawn into the string, La Forge and Data successfully mimic the vibrations of the string, which causes the beings to pause, disabling the graviton field, which gives the Enterprise the opportunity to move away from the string.
Now on the bridge as the Enterprise accelerates away from the two-dimensional beings, Troi experiences another apparent headache; this one, however, heralds the return of her empathic abilities, reflected in her revelation that the beings were intentionally heading "home" toward the cosmic string, which wouldn't cause any harm to them. She realizes that the high number of two-dimensional beings sharing the emotion of happiness at approaching their home had briefly overwhelmed her empathic abilities and her brain "short-circuited" in order to protect its higher functions from permanent damage. Now fully restored, Troi informs Guinan in Ten Forward that the position of ship's counselor has been filled and resumes her post.
"Death is a normal part of life. Maybe some of us are better at facing that than others."
- - Janet Brooks, hiding her pain over the loss of her husband Marc
"Therapists are always the worst patients. Except for doctors, of course."
- - Beverly Crusher
"They say when one loses a sense, the other senses become stronger to compensate. Uh, a blind man develops better hearing…"
"With all due respect Captain, you don't know what you're talking about."
- - Picard, trying to comfort Troi when she loses her empathic abilities
"A resumption of our present course at warp six will place us in the T'lli Beta system in six days, thirteen hours, forty-seven minutes."
"What, no seconds?"
"I have discovered, sir, a certain level of impatience when I calculate a lengthy time interval to the nearest second. However, if you wish…"
"No, no. Minutes is fine."
- - Data and Riker
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Good. I get so tired of people coming in with their problems."
- - Guinan and Troi in Ten Forward
"You have no idea! No idea what this is like! How can you know what it's like to lose something you never had?!"
"I don't claim to."
"And yet you're telling me I'm supposed to get used to it!"
"If our positions were reversed, what would you tell me?"
"If our positions were reversed, I wouldn't have been in here treating skinned elbows while you were lying passed out on your office floor! I'd have been there a lot sooner, perhaps in time to prevent this from ever happening!!"
- - Troi and Beverly Crusher
"Is this how you handle all of your personnel problems?"
"Sure. You'd be surprised how far a hug goes with Geordi, or Worf."
- - Troi and Riker
"With all due respect, Captain, you don't know what you're talking about. That is a common belief with no scientific basis, no doubt created by normal people who felt uncomfortable around the disabled. I am disabled, and I'm telling you I cannot perform my duties."
- - Troi, to Captain Picard
"You were right though: there is something to be learned when you are not in control of every situation."
"Welcome to the Human race."
"By the way, the next time you call me aristocratic…"
- - Troi and Riker
"We have to get two dimensional."
- - Troi and Data
"Now, is that counselor position still open aboard ship?"
"It's been taken."
"I just thought I'd ask. Better hours."
- - Guinan, after Troi regains her empathic abilities
- Final draft script: 1 October 1990 
- Premiere airdate: 31 December 1990
- First UK airdate: 8 June 1994
Story and script
- Rick Berman recalled, "I pushed for this episode a lot. It was fascinating to me that someone would lose one of their senses and be unable to explain it to others because they didn't have it in the first place. If you were the only sighted person in a colony of blind people and suddenly you lost your vision and they all said 'So what?'… that's what this was." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- Michael Piller noted, "This basic idea has been pitched to us every season, with Troi losing her sense of empathy. Finally, because we needed a Troi show, we said let's do it here." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- According to Piller, the writing staff briefly considered making Troi's loss of her empathic sense permanent. Piller commented, "The bottom line for me was that these shows work because the journey is interesting and that what she learns and what she goes through has to be interesting and involving and, ultimately, educational in that we are showing off the stages of someone who has a serious disability, and what they go through when they are suffering this." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 212-213)
- The science-fiction subplot was developed by writing intern Hilary J. Bader. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 150))
- T'lli Beta was named after Hilary J. Bader's grandmother, Tillie Bader. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 489))
Cast and characters
- This is the first episode of TNG that did not feature Wil Wheaton as a regular, as his character Wesley Crusher had departed for Starfleet Academy in the previous episode. Wheaton later reprised the role of Wesley in TNG: "The Game", "The First Duty", "Parallels" and "Journey's End".
- The structural integrity field, an important part of a spacecraft's systems, was first referenced in this episode.
- The Breen are also mentioned for the first time in this episode; they are, like the Ferengi, empathically undetectable by Betazoids.
- The counselor's office was slightly modified after its last appearance in "The Price" but its appearance remains pretty much unchanged from this episode on.
- Cosmic strings were later mentioned by Deanna Troi again, in "Disaster", when Miles O'Brien clarified that they are "a completely different phenomenon" from quantum filaments.
- It's implied that Counselor Troi is the only empath on board the Enterprise, at least during the course of this episode, or at least the only one whose biology is affected by proximity to the beings.
- Michael Piller opined, "It was a very different story to get right. I felt the script was adequate, it's not one of my favorites. The problem in conception was that you have a phenomenon that nobody can identify with. We said this is our blind show, but we can't do a blind show like other shows." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- Marina Sirtis recalled that many fans with disabilities reacted warmly to the episode. "The handicapped people came up and thanked me. That's exactly the way they feel, it's the way I expressed their emotion. 'The Loss' was very, very popular." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- Director Chip Chalmers was also fond of the episode, commenting, "An episode with some character conflict. There was that scene where Deanna went storming into sickbay and really got it on with Beverly, 'If I were you, I wouldn't have sat on my butt and would have been trying to do something about this,' and she goes storming out. People who saw that scene loved it. Whoopi Goldberg was also in that episode and of course, she's a gem." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 213)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 15, pp. 57-59.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 42, 9 March 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.4, 2 July 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
Special guest star
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Karen Baxter as operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Debbie David as Russell
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Denise Deuschle as science division officer
- A. Flores as science division officer
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Kai as science division officer
- Mark Kosakura as operations division ensign
- Terry Noel as operations division officer
- Keith Rayve as command division ensign
- Joycelyn Robinson as Gates
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
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- "The Loss" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Loss" at Wikipedia
- "The Loss" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Loss" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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