Star Trek: The Next Generation: Man of the People   Rewatch 
June 24, 2021 4:20 AM - Season 6, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Ambassador Alkar comes aboard the Enterprise and helps Deanna get stoned, but not in a good way. [CW: sci-fi assault, Troi episode…but I repeat myself]

Memory Alpha, you are my anchor. I need you more than you can possibly realize:

• The premise for the episode is based upon The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Both Dorian Gray and Ves Alkar maintain a youthful appearance by having something else (in Gray's case, a portrait of himself) bear the burden of their transgressions. The transport at the beginning of the show is named Dorian in reference to the novel.

• "Relics" was initially intended to be filmed in this episode slot, but was pushed back due to the schedule of guest star James Doohan. Consequently, this episode was written in a rush.

• Due to the time crunch, the writing staff 'gangbanged' the script, with each writing an act and Frank Abatemarco tying the acts together.

• Of her performance in this episode, Marina Sirtis recalled, "I played it like these were underlying parts of Troi that she controlled or managed to suppress. And just looking in the mirror was all I needed to change. When I look in the mirror and see Troi, it's a very soft and gentle look. In the scene in Ten Forward where my hair was up, I saw Anne Bancroft in the mirror. I saw Mrs. Robinson and that's what I played. Basically, a lot of the performance is governed by the way that one looks. Some actors say they put the shoes for the characters on first and figure out the walk. I look in the mirror and play whatever I see in the mirror – especially when it's a make-up thing like in 'Man of the People,' where the old person was a witch and that's who was in the mirror, so I played a witch."

• This is one of the few episodes where the vertical blinds in Doctor Crusher's office in sickbay are opened and a corridor can be seen behind the window. In "Encounter at Farpoint", a starfield can be seen out the window.

• Many members of the production staff felt that this episode suffered from the rushed script. Jeri Taylor commented, "[Frank Abatemarco] was a seasoned veteran, but it wasn't a fair introduction for him. It remained for his later work for everybody to realize that perhaps this wasn't for him." In contrast, René Echevarria maintained, "It was a surprisingly good draft considering five different people wrote it. Some shows always do that."

• Brannon Braga had more fundamental problems with the show. He commented, "I would have done it differently. I would have made it darker and much more a story about Troi's dark descent from the psychological point of view. A scene we all wanted to see was Troi giving therapy to a young ensign – but make it twice as long and twice as dark as the one that was filmed, and make it much more of a Hannibal Lecter thing. This was a case where Frank Abatemarco saw a different show. He was focusing in on the show as a Prime Directive issue and looking at the character of the guy who was using Troi as a receptacle. To me, that was the utterly incorrect instinct. After six years, who cares about Prime Directive issues? It's a Star Trek cliché. It should have been all about Troi and he would have been the catalyst in two brief scenes. The first three acts were still fun. It was enjoyable to see Troi acting strange and dressing in skimpy outfits. There was some argument in the structuring sessions. Ultimately, Frank was the writer and he was given the opportunity to do it the way he wanted to do it, and it suffered because he was new to the show."

"So then you deliberately used Deanna."
"She's an empath. I was reasonably certain I could establish a link with her. Frankly, I was amazed when I saw how quickly she'd aged. Usually my receptacles survive for years."
"Come now, Captain. Surely you can see there's a broader canvas here. If I came to these peace talks hindered by unwanted emotions, the Rekags and Seronians would be condemned to go on fighting."
- Picard and Alkar

Poster's Log:
Right around now, the episode titles start to become more vague and Voyager-like.

I wish I could say that the very best Troi episode IMO ("Face of the Enemy," which is midway through this season) didn't involve Troi being violated in any way at all, but it kinda does, inasmuch as she gets kidnapped and surgically altered. Apart from that, "Face of the Enemy" is a fantastic episode and a great—and rare—opportunity for the Troi character to have some goddamn agency. You'll notice I've studiously avoided actually discussing this episode.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
According to MA, this is the second of five TNG appearances of the mok'bara.

I will be away for much of the next week-plus, but Halloween Jack has graciously agreed to post for me next Thursday.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not just that it's an awful episode, but that there's a real missed opportunity. This is sort of a dark mirror to S3's "Sarek", and there's a very proto-MeToo aspect to the idea of the quote-endquote Great Man who argues that his work is too important to worry about the women that he literally uses up along the way. But this is not the episode that could have handled something like that, and more to the point, this is not the writing staff that could have--comments about the script being "gangbanged" (really?!?) and Brannon Braga drooling over Troi in "skimpy outfits" kind of highlight why the ep turned out the way it did. There was one very brief moment that seemed genuinely clever, which was when Troi shows up in Ten Forward in an outfit and hairstyle that was very much like her mom's. It wasn't worth slogging through the rest of this reprehensible ep, frankly. I still don't get why they had to put Alkar's assistant in danger to resolve things, and I sure don't want to rewatch any of this to figure it out. Total waste of a good mok'bara scene.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:24 AM on June 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Due to the time crunch, the writing staff 'gangbanged' the script, with each writing an act and Frank Abatemarco tying the acts together.

Can we, as an entire species, not?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:02 AM on June 24, 2021 [11 favorites]

This episode always reminds me of Friday the Thirteenth: The Series, in which almost every episode is about some guy who has an enchanted item that makes him rich/powerful/extremely good at his job, but sucks the life out of his victims to keep him going. The show ran about the same time as TNG, and it was uniformly terrible, but I watched a number of episodes out of curiosity. Anyway, this felt exactly like an episode of that show in tone and (terrible) pacing.

Also, how busy could Jimmy Doohan really have been?
posted by skewed at 7:41 AM on June 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd have to look at an episode list to be certain, but I believe "Man of the People" is the sole TNG episode I have never watched from start to finish, or even seen significant portions of. 1) Some episodes I seem to catch again and again and again. Some episodes I seem to never catch at all. This is one of those. 2) This episode has never appealed to me at all at first glance. So yeah, the very few times I've caught it on TV, "uh-uh, no thanks."
posted by Stuka at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2021

It just amazes me that they had to rush to write something to fill in a slot when another episode had to be pushed back. What happened to all the scripts that were coming down the pipe or in the backlog? Was there not something of quality in at least rough draft form that could have been quickly polished for production?

The /one/ scene I would have liked to have seen more of was the one where Troi was counseling the young woman. That was some tough love and in a way, Troi was right, even if she was tough about it. The show over the years has made a point that serving on the Enterprise is an honor.

Asdie from Alkar and Troi, two things that stood out...
Troi in Ten Forward and then back in her quarters: major WTF? when Riker didn't take Troi directly to sick bay, especially after she scratched him.

And Worf on the planet: our badass Klingon chief of security allows himself to be flanked by two guards and disarmed. Uh huh.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

the writing staff 'gangbanged' the script,
It was enjoyable to see Troi acting strange and dressing in skimpy outfits.

Pardon me while I claw my face off. Every time I scream to myself "why are there so many of these episodes?" I read these comments from this vile staff and there's my answer!

Troi fondling herself in the mirror reminds me of the twitter account Guy in Your MFA...or, well, basically every man who's ever written about a woman: the required scene of her describing her body while staring in a mirror because that's just how we roll.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Receptacle Stones are kind of expensive to play, but do you want your opponent to also face a Borg Ship when you hit one? Sure ya do. As an Event, it's slow/costly to use. Not a popular tournament card by any means but I can see it being used.

Ves Alkar is like a lot of cards in the Q-Continuum set: strong simulationism, not particularly exciting gameplay effects.

Psychic Receptacle
fatures the Vampire Troi getup and can de-activate your opponent's rare Telepath(appropriately) or Intelligence personnel, or whatever else you'd care to filter...potentially pretty useful.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:30 PM on June 24, 2021

our badass Klingon chief of security allows himself to be flanked by two guards and disarmed. Uh huh.

Came here to point this one out. Not just that he gets flanked and disarmed, but that his whole reaction appears to be "¯\_(ツ)_/¯". Barely even a scowl of embarrassment.

I pretty consistently confuse pieces of this one with the other worst Troi episode, Violations. Luckily, our next Troi-centric episode is a strong one.
posted by hanov3r at 8:15 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

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