Deanna Troi’s role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What’s so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

Is Counselor Troi the “heart” of the Enterprise senior staff? No, I don’t mean the “heart” like the emotional core, I mean the power “heart” from Captain Planet. As in, you’ve got cool powers, like water, earth, wind, fire, and then… what kind of lame power is “heart”, anyway? Whereas characters like Worf and Data get cool positions as tactical/security officer and operations officer respectively, Troi is… the ship’s psychologist.

It’s been written that what dates Star Trek: The Next Generation as an ‘80s show more than anything is the presence of a therapist on the bridge. But what does that mean? Does it mean that therapy became chic in the ‘80s, but is going to fade in importance? I don’t think that’s it. If anything, as we move toward a more biological understanding of psychology and the close link of bodily health and mental health, the latter will remain important. This would especially be the case when you’ve got the equivalent of a small town, families and all, cruising through space on a long-term exploratory mission far from home.

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So perhaps it’s not Troi’s job that’s being questioned, it’s her prominence and location on the ship. Yet on the original series, Dr. McCoy was frequently on the bridge, hanging around for no obvious reason, as well as tagging along on away missions. Yet you don’t see a lot of “Bones is useless, he’s just there to complain and argue with Spock” complaints in Trek fandom, whereas you do see a lot of comments along the lines of “Troi is useless, she’s just there to state the blindingly obvious” (“I sense hostility from that Klingon with the huge, wicked-looking sword!”). Okay, it’s a little bit different, because while McCoy may have used his rank or seniority to hang out with the cool kids, he didn’t get his own spot on the bridge. Also, he dressed in a standard Starfleet medical uniform. He apparently tried to show up on the bridge once in a purple dress, but one icy glare from Kirk dissuaded him from future attempts.

I think the “therapist on the bridge” complaint is misguided for another reason. Though it’s not stated, I’ve always assumed that Troi’s spot derives not so much from her job as from her empathic abilities. In a communication situation, she’s there to act as an early warning of potential deception or hostility. If that’s the case, then criticizing her for being on the bridge as a therapist makes as much sense as criticizing Voyager for having Neelix the cook in staff meetings. He wasn’t at staff meetings as cook, he was there as their Delta Quadrant guide, morale officer, ambassador, ship’s mascot, and whatever else he happened to be in a particular season.

Deanna Troi's role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What's so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

I don’t know how to go about finding a definitive answer to this. None of the other Star Trek shows except for Deep Space Nine had a counselor as a main character, and DS9 didn’t have one until Ezri Dax was introduced in season seven, and that show didn’t even really have “bridge characters”. So I don’t know if it was standard practice in 24th Century Starfleet to have the ship’s counselor on the bridge, or if Picard just had the leeway to put Troi there, like he did with Wesley, despite Wesley not having any formal qualifications. Maybe Picard could have put Mr. Mot, the ship’s barber on the bridge if he felt like it. Rank has its privileges.

Deanna Troi's role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What's so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

Turning from the location issue, there’s the “uselessness” complaint about Troi. This may be a function of a desire for realism as much as problems with writing the character. A ship’s counselor wouldn’t be able to solve psychological issues with the wave of a wand, because psychology isn’t magic. Nevertheless, we see Troi using her skills in a variety of circumstances, be it helping Picard recover from assimilation by the Borg, helping to advise Riker on his career (“Yes, Will, it’s important to your happiness that you stay on the Enterprise for fifteen years, playing second fiddle”), helping Geordi recover from abduction and brainwashing by the Romulans, and so on. When Worf’s son Alexander became a recurring character in later seasons, she helped smooth the transition Worf had to make as a single dad, and from there we can extrapolate how involved she might have been in helping other families on the ship.

Deanna Troi's role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What's so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

I think that some of the criticism came from the earlier seasons and hardened there, becoming impervious to the way the writers changed the character. Early TNG Troi could be annoying, as the writers often had trouble figuring out how to use her. There’s an old, old issue of Trek: The Magazine for Star Trek Fans (and hello to the one other person out there on the internet who’s familiar with this magazine!) that features a review of the TNG pilot “Encounter at Farpoint”. In the article, there’s a review and analysis of each character except Troi, of whom the author only writes something along the lines of “I have little to say, I just hope that the writers of the show change the concept and portrayal of this character very soon.” That was the episode in which Troi’s role involved a good deal of making pained faces and crying in anguish. Writers on early TNG had such difficulty with the character that she was almost written out of the show as a result of under-use. However, Troi got a lot of solid episodes that gave Marina Sirtis interesting stuff to do as the show went on.

Deanna Troi's role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What's so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

I keep going back to the Neelix comparison, which may not be the most flattering one for Troi, but I think it works. Early-seasons Neelix could also be extremely irritating, coming across as needy for approval, as well as insecure, jealous, and possessive toward Kes. Once Kes left, though, and that relationship came to define Neelix’s role less, he grew into a better character, especially as he had to find new positions onboard when he could no longer act as guide due to the distance Voyager covered.

Troi also had a relationship that played a significant role in the early seasons (Riker), but one that the show largely moved away from, at least until the movies, when it didn’t really matter. Similarly, they found Troi opportunities to grow as a character, having her wear a standard uniform to look more professional, and having her take the bridge test (commander test?) to allow her further responsibilities as an officer.

The latter was a nice way of belatedly making up for the idiocy of the episode “Disaster”, which featured Troi in command of the bridge by virtue of formal rank rather than experience or qualifications. (Star Trek has frequently played fast and loose with distinctions between staff officers and command line ones. Troi, as ship’s psychologist in a specialized department, should not have been in a position to take command if she didn’t have that training or background, whatever her rank within her specialized field would be.) Had Troi been through something like the commander test earlier in the show, her place on the bridge might have seemed less odd to fans.

Deanna Troi's role on Star Trek: The Next Generation: What's so bad about a therapist on the bridge?

I can see a place for Troi on the bridge as either ship’s psychologist, as an empath with a special advantage in contact situations, or as a special advisor as a result of whatever training or background she might have. As TNG sought to distance itself from TOS to establish itself as its own vision, having a counselor with the prominence Troi had was a way of doing that that made sense, given the new situation when it came to the show’s setting. The TOS Enterprise was a more austere, no-nonsense ship, whereas TNG had softer edges, and a community with families onboard, one where a captain had to be more of a diplomat and consensus-builder than Kirk ever had to be. Troi’s role fit with that vision well, as does the “therapist on the bridge”.

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  • My guess is that Starfleet requires a bridge counselor on its bigger ships, possibly to take some of the burden for monitoring the large crew’s well-being off the first officer. I have a hard time believing that Captain Jellico would have kept Troi on the bridge if it weren’t for regulations. (Though wearing civilian clothes on duty was no doubt captain’s discretion.)

    That said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Troi got to go with the battle section specifically because of her empathic abilities, whereas you’d think she would normally stay where the bulk of the crew (and all the civilians on the “D”) were.

    • Rj Kietchen

      Heck, in a battle they all could have balanced on her D.

  • Dr. Wheelz

    Should we take a look at some of Troi’s greatest hits?

    Counseled Picard after his Borg experience –> Picard becomes a revenge-crazed Borg killer.
    Counseled Data when he began having negative emotions –> Data turns evil and experiments on Geordi
    Counseled Dr. Crusher when she was having erotic dreams –> Crusher decides to shack up with a Scottish ghost
    Counseled Worf and Alexander when they were having relationship problems –> Worf and Alexander grow so far apart it takes a war to bring them back together
    Counseled the Holodoc and Dr. Zimmerman when they couldn’t work together –> She storms out of the room after about one minute into the session.

    And not ONCE does she ever get called out on any of this. Everyone else learns from their mistakes, but not her. The closest we get is when Q talks about her “nonstop psychobabble.” That’s why Troi was a bad character.

    • Duke_of_Zork

      And don’t forget when she over heard that a core breach was imminent, and had to ask if that was a bad thing.

    • The_Stig

      And when the Enterprise-D crashed on Veridian III, who was driving? Granted that’s on Riker for ordering her to take the helm but she obeyed the order and the results were what you would expect from ordering a therapist who didn’t know the first thing about starship navigation to take the conn.

    • Rj Kietchen

      Exactly, whose thing did she dingaling to get a post on a ship in space. The sorted backstory of her dirty little secret career and who she is blackmailing to keep getting her “paycheck of incompetence” prior to Star Fleet would have made a decent Troi episode.

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Sooo, what should she have done instead?
      “Counselor, I’m traumatized from my Borg-Experience?” “If you wanna cry, put on a skirt, Captain Dickless.”
      “Counselor, I’m having negative emotions.” “Did you want to feel emotions or didn’t you. So go aboard the USS Boo-frakking-hoo and leave me alone.”
      “Counselor, I’m having erotic dreams.” “Well… d’uhh? Who doesn’t? No need to annoy me, Bev.”

  • Gallen_Dugall

    I never had a problem with the character. She was depicted as an adviser they would have on the bridge because of her special insights. It wasn’t until a few seasons into the series she was shown to have a day job, but it was reasonable to assume. Later still she went through the bridge officer training her presence makes even more sense.
    I suspect most of the antipathy boils down to 3 factors 1) bad writing having her state the obvious so often her “special insights” became laughable, 2) modern stigma against mental illness rejecting the notion that these future supermen might need help, 3) DS9 fans who take great joy in tearing down the other series so that they can claim theirs as “TEH BESTEST EVAR!” Trek has a huge problem with fans of one series hating on all the other series, and TNG fans started it by habitually attacking TOS to prove TNG was TBE!

    • Rj Kietchen

      Correct. In fact, any of the men there would have been able to do all of the jobs that the other men did there…simultaneously. ‘Course this is TV, and they want people to think simple jobs are hard so that they won’t compete for them.

  • Muthsarah

    It’s all about bad writing with Troi. I love TNG, and I don’t dismiss Troi completely, but she was still more miss than hit, because the writers usually ignored her empathic abilities for the HUGE potential advantage they could have been. Instead of making her potentially useful (either in-universe, as a boon to the Enterprise crew, or as a fun, mystical/sci-fi way to worm their way around plot holes where technobabble just won’t do), they’d alternatively make her empathic powers the be-all-and-end-all of her character, usually using it as a vulnerability, an excuse to throw her into a crisis that the others had to help her out of.

    – Samaritan Snare: Troi warns Riker about the Pakleds. She is ignored by all. Episode continues on its way as if she had been written out entirely.

    – The Survivors (an excellent episode, all the same): Kevin Uxbridge recognizes the potential threat(ishness, very, very vaguely) she poses, so he uses her empathic nature to torture her into being unable to detect his true nature.

    – The Loss: Troi loses her powers, immediately turns into a panicky, inconsolable child and tries to resign, all because she’s now no more powerful than anyone else.

    – Man of the People: Troi’s empathic nature makes her uniquely compatible for a baddie-of-the-week to use her as a receptacle for his negative thoughts. She becomes nasty and rude overnight (with does admittedly lead to a humorous scene with a patient), then ages forty years, then dies. And comes back later after she’s rescued, of course.

    – Violations: Troi is mind-raped into a coma. Because who else are you gonna mind-rape? (OK, Riker and Beverly get mind-raped too. But Troi’s first.)

    – Nemesis: Troi is mind-raped again. Because she’s again the obvious choice for this, because Troi = empath. Also, because $#!++y movie.

    And I could list other examples, but they’d be redundant. It’s always just one of a few things with her. “Face of the Enemy” is a real standout. Not just for being a good Troi episode (and a great Trek episode, period), but for her whole purpose in the episode being based around her talent (she was chosen because she was empathic, which the Romulan underground recognized as an advantage)*, and with her powers being key to the story at one point. That one episode did more to justify and substantiate her character than…well…maybe not ALL other episodes. But MOST of them, I feel confident in saying.

    I forget the episode, but somewhere in the later seasons, an admiral or captain is debating Picard about the morality of using any tactical advantage against a possible enemy (EDIT: I’m thinking Admiral Pressman in “Pegasus”), specifically pointing out that having an empath on the bridge to “read” people Picard was communicating with constituted a huge advantage, and asking Picard if he had ever utilized Troi in that way. Picard admits that, yes, he had on numerous occasions. Of course, we never really witnessed those occasions, at least none in which Troi’s advice turned out to be useful, other than the “I suggest we not trust too much this person we don’t know who is acting like an obvious villain” fluff.

    The role of Troi as an emotional-center for the crew, in both a comforting role (since Crusher/Pulaski often weren’t given much to do, the ladies tended to share the role of healer/voice of conscience/pathos that used to be McCoy’s alone) and as an especially-astute advisor (consigliere) was fine in concept. The writing staff and producers just couldn’t keep from fumbling the character and her obvious usefulness. Maybe they felt that the more help she provides, the less competent/heroic Picard, Riker, Worf, and Data seem. I think it’s as good an explanation as any. The show could have used her character, certainly; they just didn’t really want her, as anything but a victim, or the occasional spouter-of-the-obvious.

    * – Yes, I know that Troi wasn’t originally supposed to be the lead in this episode. It took the writers a while to realize that she’d be a perfect fit, a testament to how commonly she was overlooked that she wasn’t the original choice.

    • Gallen_Dugall

      I would counter that “psionics” (aka powers of the mind) always ruin settings because they easily abused by bad writers. Yes it’s interesting for a while in a gee-wiz kind of way until the writers screw up and overlook an obvious application (which they frequently did with Troi) or get lazy and expand the powers until that breaks the setting – like they’ve done with virtually every other character who had them.

      • Muthsarah

        I recall you in particular have singled out TNG’s writers for just being…kinda bad. Like good TV writers, but poor sci-fi writers. And that’s something I have been thinking about for some time, whenever I go back and watch an episode.

        TNG’s writers really did miss the mark regarding the show’s more sci-fi qualities. Troi, obviously. Doesn’t need to be repeated again (so soon). Other obvious example: Data. For all intents and purposes, Data should be superhuman. In every way. I’m not just talking about the “Captain, what is X cultural reference?” stuff that any walking dictionary should be able to define for himself without bogging down an episode to ask. But the superhuman physical angle.

        Data can survive leaps/drops that would break a human’s legs and spine (and even a physically-lesser android’s neck). Data is stronger than any Klingon, possibly any Borg. Data is (or at least should) be capable of acting – physically – as quickly as he can think/compute. 100,000, a million, whatever computations a second? Why can’t he then have lightning-quick reflexes? Why shouldn’t he be able to detect Varria’s attempt to incapacitate him in “The Most Toys”, or even to anticipate the “electric” shock in “Power Play”? A well-programmed computer should be able to detect the first signs of a threat and act accordingly, but Data never acts any more quickly than a human, except when he rattles off meaningless computations, a la C-3P0. He demonstrates androidish super strength when the plot demands, but some human nobody pulls a phaser on him (A Matter of Time) or tries to impale him with a spear (Thine Own Self) and his reflexes are worse than mine would be. He’s only as capable or incapable as the plot demands. It is crazy inconsistent. To anyone who expects consistency, at least physically, in their stories, it must be maddening.

        But for a more laid-back audience – casual TV watchers and their less anal-retentive kin – it fits, so long as you are defining the characters in an emotional sense, in how the audience is supposed to FEEL about the characters, not how they’re supposed to analyze them after-the-fact. Data is rather childish, so you have to have him act vulnerable when threatened, and not be a pure, unfeeling silicon killing machine, capable of (literally) running circles around any potential threat. Just as Troi, despite being effectively psychic, is mostly unable to reveal villains at first sight and suss out their plots, because by doing so, the heroes would never be hoodwinked, and thus they wouldn’t have to spend 30-40 minutes getting themselves out of a jam that, theoretically, Troi’s superhuman intuition should have helped them avoid, assuming A) it worked correctly, and B) they even bothered to listen to her.

        1980s television had certain standards, obviously. And TNG wasn’t a show made for the hardest of hardcore sci-fi fans. So, clearly, it’s not fair to hold it against the show that they took these frequent breaks from consistency, “dumbed-down” their characters when they felt it was necessary so that their stories would still feel emotionally-relatable to those who don’t remotely over-think these things. It’s still very disappointing in retrospect that so many episodes fall apart when held to any sort of scrutiny, or continuity. But that just wasn’t a priority for them back then. TNG wasn’t a book, written in full from cover to cover, oft-edited and re-written, polished to shine upon release. It was a living thing, stumbling, bumbling along for years, just trying to get by and be entertaining enough to be renewed. Again, it’s a shame that whole characters come to pieces when held under any scrutiny, but some inconsistency has to be forgiven. It’s just sad that this “margin of inconsistency” basically overwhelmed Troi’s whole character. At least Data surmounted it.

        • Gallen_Dugall

          Good point – it’s the inconsistency that breaks the show for each character, techno-widget, and continuity in general.
          This reminds me of listening to Star Wars fans saying they were glad the Wars wasn’t as obsessed with continuity as Trek is and I just thought to myself “Wars has a Keeper of the Holocron. A guy whose paid job is maintaining continuity and EVERYTHING in the setting has to be approved by him. Make a new game or book – he has to sign off on it that it doesn’t contradict continuity. What did Trek ever have? An obsessive fan base roundly ignored by writers who have continually ignored continuity whenever it suits them, which is ALWAYS. To the point where fans go orgasmic whenever writers do recall something that happened in a previous episode.” That’s what I thought.
          I’ve always held that constraints drive creativity. Creativity has to push against something or it just goes all random-random-random with whatever pops into the mind consecutively. This brings me back around to Rick Berman whose only goal seems to have been filling airtime with stuff and cashing checks. Without a firm hand to guide it the series went off the rails and as exciting as that moment was it soon tipped over and no one has been able to right it since… except the STO people who have managed some entertaining stories largely built around fixing continuity inside that rather mediocre game engine.

        • CaptainCalvinCat

          Hm…. let me put it this way: are you familiar with role-playing games?
          If you’d used Datas and Trois potential to the fullest – him being this super strong super smart super-everything character and her being as equally as smart PLUS able to use her empathic potential for more than just saying “Captain, he’s hiding something” – you’d be ending up godmodding and writing a Mary Sue á la Wesley Crusher.

          Not that I had something against good old Wesley – and if you ask me, the show could’ve used some godmodding from Data or Troi, but then I can see the articles on the ‘Booth, where they ask, why Data was so much hated, when he was able to be basically superman, without the cape.

          Concerning Deanna – I liked her. I had no problem with her whole “Captain, s/he is hiding something. I mean she could’ve been a bit more sarcastic, when she had to state the obvious – something like “Captain, and I know that might shock you, but, imagine this – he’s hiding something.” But all in all – I had no problem with her.
          But then, I had no problem with Wesley. ^^

          • Greenhornet

            Good points, CaptainCC.
            As for “sarcastic Deanna”, it might have been fun to play an episode for laughs with her standing behind an ambassador, waving her hands and mouthing “no. In oh. NO!” plus an eye roll or face palm now and then.

        • Rj Kietchen

          It’s must worse than that. They hired TV writers to write to TV People. The worst possible combination you can have for science fiction. Also, with literally thousands of excellent SF writers and hundreds of thousands of excellent SF books and short stories, they would rather hire some simpletons than throw a few dollars at a story line already laid out. Did they even ask what a short story sells for? It is well below what a studio writer gets paid, lol.

      • Rj Kietchen

        I like how they never try to explain what the energy form is that they are reading/instilling. They are shooting beams of organized electricity from one person to another? That would take many many thousands of volts, frying everything it its path. Or are they so sensitive they can read the microvolts emanating thereby rendering there own brain to mush from any running florescent lighting overhead.

  • NameWithheldByRequest

    Troi suffered as a character when compared to McCoy because her one and only function was to serve as ship’s shrink, whereas McCoy did double duty as physician and shrink. TNG took the main characters of the original series and split them in two: Kirk is split into Picard and Riker, Spock is split into Data and Worf, McCoy is split into Crusher and Troi. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing this, but in Troi’s case, it reduces her character to a one trick pony. And that’s the problem I’ve always had with her: Troi is useless ballast. How often are you going to need a psychologist, on the bridge or on an away team? In contrast, how often are you going to need a medic? Considering that every other Trek series got by quite nicely without having a shrink hanging around, I think it’s safe to say that you don’t need one… ever. And you could have had Crusher doing Troi’s job, and nothing would have fundamentally changed, except maybe that Gates McFadden would have gotten a lot more screen time.

    • That would imply that Dr. Crusher had a caustic personality that would have made her distinct and interesting. She did not.

      • NameWithheldByRequest

        That’s easy to fix. You just write her character to be caustic. And distinct and interesting, too.

        • What I am suggesting is that it was not just her lack of a role, but that many of the TNG crew were under written. And by “many” I mean the women.

          • Gallen_Dugall

            As I’ve said from the moment I heard the complaint from their staff writers that “they didn’t know how to write children” – if you can’t write children you can’t write anyone because the only difference between children and adults are additional layers of experience and maturity. If you don’t have that core you’re just writing caricatures not characters.

        • The_Stig

          Star Trek doesn’t do distinct and interesting.

        • Albert Giesbrecht

          And change her name to Katherine Pulaski.

    • Rj Kietchen

      It’s a great point. They reduced every character down to a caricature. The fact is, the sum of all of these roles is easily done by any normal senior manager. That is how the original series did it, Kirk and Spock understood science, diplomacy, marital arts, management, etc., etc. This is what makes TNG unwatchable now unless you are a Gen X, Y, or Z…. that and Roddenberry banned any scripts related to space battles with Klingons and Romulans. The net result was endless talking and debating about things most people would just instantly resolve in their mind and move to immediate action. Talk, talk, talk, talk-talk. That’s all they did on that show.

    • Sarah

      Dammit, McCoy was a doctor, not a psychologist.

  • maarvarq

    My response to the rhetorical question in the title of this article is, nothing, as long as her presence is dramatically valid. There are many vital aspects to life that don’t make it into storytelling because their inclusion would have a negative impact on the flow of the story, e.g. when did Jack Bauer use a toilet during a series of 24? Real psychological therapy would be extremely difficult to portray in a dramatic fashion, and if the writers couldn’t use Troi in a dramatically valid way, which the record shows that mostly they couldn’t, then she shouldn’t have been there.

  • Cameron Vale

    If you think about it, it was always kind of peculiar that they even had a character that was regularly sensing the emotions of other characters, in a show about space exploration. It’s implied that Troi is passively detecting some kind of emotional byproduct which is constant across all life forms yet remains totally unknown to science, which is bad enough, but it still doesn’t fully explain the situation. She can somehow point to someone that she is watching on live video feed of a different ship, and tell you what that person is currently feeling. Either she senses every mind within her range spatially all the time, or she automatically reads enough of every mind within that range to recognize them individually on sight if pressed to do so. This is assuming that she isn’t dramatically misrepresenting her powers somehow, and that these powers are not magic-based.

    • Ken

      Not magic, something far more powerful. Narrative convenience. (But Star Trek is far from the only show to abuse that.)

  • The_Stig

    I love Deanna Troi. I will always love Deanna Troi. Those boobs helped me through puberty. But speaking purely objectively, her one job was to state the obvious. *enemy ship opens fire* “I sense that they’re angry with us, Captain.” She had her moments but she was useless. Sexy as hell, but useless. Not her fault. She was a victim of bad writing and horrible misuse.

    • Duke_of_Zork

      Not Marina Sirtis’ fault, but it IS Troi’s fault in that the character is what the writers made of her. And what they made was a useless character. At least initially.

  • Duke_of_Zork

    “So perhaps it’s not Troi’s job that’s being questioned, it’s her prominence and location on the ship”

    Well, yeah. That’s what “on the bridge” means. You’ve never heard anyone complain about having a therapist on the ship, have you?

    It’s made worse by the fact that Troi has no specific skills as a therapist, and is only there for her ability to read emotions (which usually means telling everyone what they already know). When we saw her lose her empathic power that time, she was completely out of water. She seemed to have no training to fall back on (believe it or not, most counselors don’t read minds).

    When they put her in a uniform and gave her some actual skills, the character improved, but who decided that those things weren’t needed in the first place?

  • davidcgc

    The novel-verse had an interesting take on Troi, retconning her as doubling as the ship’s contact specialist/diplomatic advisor during TNG to help fill out her character and explain her prominent position. If you squint a bit, it fits with stuff she did giving opinions about the alien-of-the-week and helping Picard brush up on his alien languages and spelling and whatnot. That became her primary role with Riker on the Titan, totally stepping aside from her counseling career.

  • mamba

    Troi was considered useless because people assumed she could read minds oftentimes. she could not, except with other Betazeds like her mom, She was an empath. I know this seems silly, but think about it:

    She can read emotional states. For almost everyone, their emotional states are very obvious (you’re yelling, so you’re mad, you’re laughing, so you’re happy, etc) so in that sense she was identical to a regular human.

    The ONLY way that this is useful outside human experience is to detect deception and to find people. Detecting deception seemed useful, until you realize that Starfleet already knows that odds are the Romulan/Kingon/trader they’re talking to is lying, and Riker being the poker player he is, is probably actually BETTER at detecting the lies that Troi ever seemed able to be. So they COULD have used her in rescue missions, except that the ticorders can find people better than she could anyway. (“Captain, I sense someone’s in the lower deck trapped!” “Yeah Troi, Data’s already brought up their ages, injuries, total number of blood drops i the area, and their total DNA 10 minutes ago on the ship’s vast sensors, but thanks for the insight!”)

    So Troi’s main problem is that as an empath, she lives in an ea that basically renders her obsolete. And as a therapist, people have pointed out that she’s not that good frankly. She’s not as smart or diplomatic or strong as others on the ship, so she feels like a tagalong. and finally as the “voice of reason and caring”, Picard actually had her beat as well, since he was a diplomat captain (as opposed to Kirk/Janeway)

    That brings us to her true purpose…eye candy. She simply has nothing else to offer unique to the group.

    • Rj Kietchen

      The eye candy vanished after season one and she started eating her paychecks. Who actually thought her misshapen bottom was worth looking at after the first season? Certainly not the crew, so I am guessing just Roddenberry or whoever was getting paid to not replace her chubberblubber… or perhaps the 58% of engineers that never, ever get married in life (true stat).

      • 333 SC


        • Rj Kietchen

          Yep, someone had to show what’s what, so I did.

          • 333 SC

            You’re that guy alright.

      • mamba

        Are we still talking about the same Troi? For all her flaws as a character, she always at least looked nice. Maybe you’re thinking of Riker? :)

        • Rj Kietchen

          After the first season she looked like a Kenny Rogers roaster. Nice looking makes her tolerable to view, it does not attract viewership. she was hired for one purpose…ONE purpose, and she blew it…then blew up.

      • Winston O’Boogie

        FYI, this is Sirtis from season 7 of TNG (“Eye of the Beholder”) so I don’t know what you’re babbling about.

        • Rj Kietchen

          …and after season one she started eating her paychecks, it is not difficult to read. Try it, you will enjoy it.

  • I would say that having a therapist on the bridge would be more useful if there were actual interpersonal conflict between the characters. Everyone got along really well and she was never really used as a sounding board to settle issues on the rare occasions when things did get tense.

  • Albert Giesbrecht

    A reasonable assertion; not a lot of laughs though.

  • Rj Kietchen

    The misguided idea that a psychologist was needed on the ship ruined the entire series. These ships were stocked with the best of the best, not some dundering chowderheads with mental issues of any kind. There were children on board, so you may argue for a guidance counselor but why would you add something not needed? To show up even in a single episode seems silly…to be in the entire series reeks of writers and/or directives for writing derived of the mentally ill. I don’t think there would patients operating a ship.

  • Graeme Cree

    “So perhaps it’s not Troi’s job that’s being questioned, it’s her
    prominence and location on the ship. Yet on the original series, Dr.
    McCoy was frequently on the bridge, hanging around for no obvious

    That’s it exactly Her location and prominence. You’re right, McCoy often “hung around” on the Bridge, but he had no official station there, much less a seat right next to the Captain. What makes it quintessentially 80’s is not just that there’s a therapist “on the ship”, but one right there in the nerve center for “Emergency” therapy sessions!

    Add to that the fact that for a long time, Troi is a completely useless character. In one episode she loses her empathic powers and is dead in the water. She seems to have no skills or training to fall back on like most counselors do. In another episode, someone mentions that a core breach is imminent, and she actually has to ask if that’s a bad thing. They didn’t start to remedy this until late in the series when they put her back in a uniform and gave her some actual competencies.

    • Graeme Cree

      “Though it’s not stated, I’ve always assumed that Troi’s spot derives not so much from her job as from her empathic abilities.”

      That would make more sense, but when they were plugging the show, Majel was at conventions plugging the virtues of “a counselor” on the Bridge, rather than an empathic one specifically. What you’re saying makes sense, and we can pretend that that’s the reason, but I don’t think it’s what Roddenberry was thinking.

  • Klaus Stock

    That suffers from being an in-universe analysis (even though not a bad one). However, the TV viewers does have a connection to real life (well, most), and that needs to be taken into account. And that’s where some viewers begin to perceive that Deanna Troi is not a believable character. For example, Marina Sirtis did actually notice that we was, unlike all other crew members,essentially wearing a “cheerleader uniform” (roughly her own words). Deanna Troy didn’t. She is, obviously, regarded as most useless by the rest of the crew. Marina Sirtis thinks that that sucked. Deanna Troi was happy with being ignored and effectively useless. In a believable universe, there might have been a dialog like: “Captain, why am I actually on the bridge when any of my contributions are disregarded? Plus…with this overly revealing (and non-standard uniform), I feel more like an sex object than a crew member!” – “Counselor, that’s because your are easy on the eyes!” – “Captain…I perceive that you are a sexist pig!” – “Counselor, we need to discuss in private…Captain’s quarters, now!” However, the in-universe Troi remained content with her 80s equivalent of a Playboy bunny uniform. Note: I am aware that all that changed later on in the series, but it look five or six years…and that’s plainly ridiculous.