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The Loss (episode)

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"The Loss"
TNG, Episode 4x10
Production number: 40274-184
First aired: 31 December 1990
83rd of 176 produced in TNG
83rd of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
190th of 728 released in all
Cosmic string
Teleplay By
Hilary J. Bader, Alan J. Adler and Vanessa Greene

Story By
Hilary J. Bader

Directed By
Chip Chalmers
44356.9 (2367)
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Deanna loses her empathic powers; the Enterprise is slowly pulled off course by an unknown force existing in two-dimensional form.


After being unable to pinpoint the source of some strange patterns (initially thought to be sensor "ghosts"), the Enterprise tries to reengage warp drive but finds itself being dragged along at one-tenth impulse with no way to break free its present course. During the initial encounter, several crew members, including Deanna Troi, report potent headaches. Dr. Crusher's examination of Troi is cut short as Captain Picard calls a staff meeting to discuss the ship's present situation.

Data reveals that both the strange patterns and the source of the pull on the Enterprise are unknown two-dimensional beings, who have length and width but no height, explaining why the crew was unable to consistently see the beings when they first approached. When Picard asks Troi 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.

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 is like flat 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.

Troi winds up in Ten Forward, when Guinan approaches and reveals that she will be applying to the position of ship's counsellor, 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. Troi's confidence is further bolstered by a crew member who admitted that Troi perfectly read her true emotions even without her empathic abilities.

Meanwhile, Data discovers that the two-dimensional beings are dragging the ship towards a cosmic string, a one-dimensional version of a black hole, spelling certain destruction. Faced with greater urgency, Worf fires photon torpedoes in front of and into the two-dimensional beings, but the weapons are ineffective. Left with few alternatives, Picard asks Troi to work with Data on efforts to communicate with the beings.

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 and 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 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. Now fully restored, Troi informs Guinan that the position of ship's counselor has been filled and resumes her post.

Memorable Quotes

"Therapists are always the worst patients. Except for doctors, of course."

- Beverly Crusher

"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

"Beverly, I'm feeling very dizzy."
"Did you hit your head?"

- Deanna 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."

- Deanna Troi and Riker

"I look around me and all I see are surfaces without depth; colorless, hollow. Nothing seems real."

- Deanna Troi

"You were right though: there is something to be learned when you are not in control of every situation."
"Welcome to the human race..."

- Deanna and Riker

"We have to get two dimensional."

- Deanna and Data

Background Information

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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • The science-fiction subplot was developed by writing intern Hilary J. Bader. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • T'lli Beta was named after Hilary J. Bader's grandmother, Tillie Bader. (Star Trek Encyclopedia)
  • First UK airdate: 8 June 1994

Cast and characters



  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Guest stars


Special guest star

Uncredited co-stars



Aristocratic; Bayesian function; black hole; Bracas V; Betazoid; birthday; brain; Breen; Brooks, Marc; cerebellum; cerebral cortex; cosmic string; counselor; counselor's office; deflector; dizziness; electromagnetic spectrum; empathy; event horizon; Ferengi; frequency scan detector; Gates; ghost; graviton field; headache; Himalayas; holo-programs; horse; Imzadi; internuncial series; Kabul River; kilodyne; language; Martinez; Milky Way Galaxy; medical tricorder; moth; music box; neurophysiology; Newton; nursery; parabolic dish; photon torpedo; probe; proton; psychology; red alert; sensor array; sentience; skin diving; star; Starfleet Academy; structural integrity field; subspace; T'lli Beta; T'lli Beta system; T'lli Betans; tea; tractor beam; two-dimensional lifeforms; violin; wheelchair; yellow alert

Previous episode:
"Final Mission"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4
Next episode:
"Data's Day"

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