Called to the aid of a transport ship on its way to an important peace summit, the Enterprise-D scatters raiders and beams aboard an ambassador and his elderly mother Maylor, who dramatically warns Troi not to pursue him.
Wishing to be transferred to another civilian transport, Alkar stands his ground against Picard and an admiral, but when his request is denied, he calmly accepts a ride on the Enterprise-D.
After an exercise class, Troi and Alkar chat about her empathy and his tranquility. Their mutual admiration society is interrupted by more hostility from Maylor.
When Riker joins Troi later in her office for routine work, she says the old woman’s feelings are excessively malevolent.
Before long, Maylor is mysteriously dead, and Alkar asks Troi to help him with a “funeral meditation,” which ends with Troi looking shocked. Later in her quarters, she is distracted and distressed. Still later, she shows up at Alkar’s quarters and makes a pass at him, which he diplomatically deflects. When a fresh-faced ensign enters the turbolift with her, she eyes him with approval.
Meanwhile, Crusher notes that Alkar had said his mother was ill, but she found no evidence of any disease. Citing Alkar’s preferences, Picard denies her request to conduct an autopsy.
Riker shows up at Troi’s quarters to continue their crew evaluation reports, and is pleasantly surprised to find her dressed in evening wear. Then he notices the young ensign from the turbolift, who makes a hasty retreat. Troi, fishing for a reaction from Riker, taunts him until he excuses himself.
Two other members of the ambassadorial delegation join Alkar on the Enterprise-D to discuss the latest hostilities. While Picard suggests a cooling off period, Alkar wants to act now. The team members work efficiently.
Troi uncharacteristically tells young Ensign Janeway to quit whining, and, dressed to impress, flounces into Ten Forward to demand Alkar’s attention and to attack his associates.
Riker power-walks her to her quarters, where she kisses him and scratches his neck, leaving a bloody mark.
Later, she’s back in uniform, but her hair is graying and she looks older. (The aging makeup is very good.) Sounding like a total slimeball, Alkar tells Troi that he needs her more than she will ever know, but he must take Liva, one of his staff members, to the negotiations instead.
As the ambassador’s party is getting ready to beam down, Troi shows up with a knife; Picard fights her for it, and gets a minor injury, but sends the ambassador on the mission anyway.
As Troi suffers in sickbay, Picard authorizes the autopsy of Maylor. We learn that despite her elderly appearance she had the body of a thirty year old, and was not Alkar’s mother.
In a talky confrontation scene, we learn that Alkar’s outward calm comes only because he has the habit of dumping his negative emotions on companions he calls “receptacles,” and that he believes the good he accomplishes as an ambassador justifies what he has done, and what he continues to do to Troi.
Because the Enterprise apparently can’t just warp out of orbit to sever whatever hold Alkar has on Troi, the final act is a bit like a Mission Impossible caper. We get a thirty-minute deadline, as Crusher gives med-tech-sounding orders and Ogawa tensely recites a “neurotransmitter level” measurement reading that is somehow important, as Alkar, thinking that Troi is dead, calmly begins a meditation chant with his next target.
The plan works, poetic justice is served, Troi is restored, and the denouement features Riker promising to stick by her “even when you’re old and gray.”
As much as I love a Picard speech, the diplomatic subplot seemed padded, as did the medical mystery. On the good side, TNG seems to have cleverly mixed up its trope of brilliant men supported by devoted female companions.
I would like to have seen more of nice-guy Alkar and a more gradual transition to bad-girl Troi. I’d love to have seen Ro or Guinan react to Troi’s mean-girl behavior.