In the seventh episode of the seventh season of The Next Generation, OW MY HEART. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For extended discussion of trauma, grief, and the death of a child.
Well, this was a very difficult episode, but as slow as it felt at times, I think it’s a necessary technique to lead us up to those heartbreaking final moments. Indeed, I don’t think there’s much action in “Dark Page,” but I think that’s necessary. This is a character study for Lwaxana, despite that she spends a great deal of this episode unconscious. Normally, in another context, I’d complain about that, but Lwaxana’s unconsciousness is part of her journey.
And it’s a challenging, upsetting journey for her and for Deanna. There’s a lot to appreciate in “Dark Page” because it’s such a surreal and bizarre episode for the show to do. Most of the action takes place within someone’s mind, and there’s no antagonist whatsoever. The story focuses entirely on one mystery: what is Lwaxana hiding from everyone? Why does it seem worth it to her to keep this secret, even if it means she’ll die doing so? But for me, it’s the willingness of this show to portray trauma as a complicated, painful thing that I appreciate most. If someone doesn’t understand what triggers are, I can point to the moment where Hedril falls into the water in the arboretum. It’s a perfect demonstration of how something can trigger a traumatic event in a person.
At times, “Dark Page” is a little silly, but it means well. Some of the mental imagery is too on the nose or doesn’t come across as threatening as the show wants it to. (That dog clearly just wanted to play fetch and get lots of pets upon its beautiful face.) The camera zooms were almost embarrassing, as if we’d been transported to The Original Series just to use their special effects. But you know what? I can admit that and then forget it. I can do that because I adore the greater story that’s being told here. For some of you, that might not be the case, and I’m not here to convince you otherwise. Sometimes, this shit comes down to a matter of taste, you know?
I suppose for me, it’s not just taste. I do think some of the scenes here are goofy, so why did I like this as much as I did? Time and time again, I find that what I read and watch for this project of mind helps me understand the emotional power of fiction. Sometimes, that’s the only way I can explain why I enjoyed something. Academic criticism and literary criticism can be a stifling place, and after years of presenting about it at conventions and universities, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many people look down on the idea of using personal reasons to engage with media properties. I was once told on a panel last year by another reviewer than any critic who includes personal information in their reviews “damages the craft.” And it struck me as such a short-sighted, cruel thing to say, and I pointed out why it was such a terrible thing to believe.
So, I can note structural problems and pacing issues within “Dark Page,” and I can also say, without a doubt, “This episode is great.” The two aren’t mutually exclusive to me because I can see myself in Lwaxana Troi. I can see all the trauma I went through as a teenager that I kept to myself until it was unlocked and I could start being honest about my past. And it’s kind of fitting that the person who unlocked that all for me?
It was Harry Potter.
This is a short review not because I feel “Dark Page” is unworthy of it. On the contrary, I want to write an essay about the last fifteen minutes of this episode. But the material hits a little close to home, and I need to take care of myself so that I can keep writing today without triggering myself. But I think there are few things in The Next Generation that have resonated more with me than this episode, and I’m so happy that y’all got me to watch this show and that I sat through over six seasons of it just to get to this point.
The video for “Dark Page” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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