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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S2E5 "Loud As a Whisper"

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Picard talking to Riva.

Original air date: January 9, 1989

The Enterprise gets orders to transport a mediator named Riva to Solais V to bring an end to a bitter war. Upon meeting him, the crew learns that he is deaf and speaks through three interpreters who communicate with him telepathically. Riva immediately finds himself taken with Counselor Troi and bonds with her over dinner.

Upon reaching Solais V, Riva beams down to settle the dispute with only Riker and Worf as security, reasoning that bringing anyone else will only increase tensions. But only moments after arriving (before they even have the table set up) one of the natives becomes angry and fires at Riva, somehow killing all three of his interpreters with one shot when Riker pulls him out of the way. After beaming out, Riva becomes despondent and loses faith in his ability to mediate a peace. Even after Data learns his sign language, he insists that he cannot be an effective mediator without his interpreters.


Counselor Troi tells Riva that she will handle the negotiations herself and asks his advice. He tells her that he didn’t have a secret trick to negotiating; he merely found something in common between the two sides and worked from there. He also says that he liked to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. Troi asks why he can’t do that now, and it gives him an idea. He beams down to the planet again to renew the negotiations. When Riker asks him how the natives will understand him without his interpreters, he explains that he intends to begin the negotiations by teaching the natives his sign language. As they learn to communicate with him, they will learn to communicate with each other, giving them common ground to start from. He gives the Enterprise permission to leave him behind, stating that the peace talks will be a long process, but he believes they will be successful.


This episode provides examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Riva's refusal to return to the negotiations lasts a few hours.
  • Aborted Arc: One scene features Dr. Pulaski offering to grow new human eyes for Geordi, who leaves saying he'll think about it. This is never brought up again. The reason for this was to allow for the possibility of removing Geordi's need of the visor, which was due to a request from Levar Burton to be allowed to use his expressive eyes in the series. The plot point was dropped after the episode, however.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Despite him being from another planet, Riva's sign language is seemingly identical to American Sign Language — which is understandable, as it's Howie Seago's native language, but doesn't make much sense in-universe. Since the Universal Translator doesn't really work as an explanation, we can only guess that Translation Convention may be in effect.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Troi asks Riva why he can't do what he does in his negotiations with himself - turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Riva's signing is all genuine ASL. This unfortunately causes some issues during the scenes of Data's translating, as the differences in sentence structure mean he occasionally says a word before Riva makes the sign for it.
  • Break the Haughty: Okay, it's not like Riva was a dick or anything, but he was pretty overconfident in his abilities to defuse a war (especially considering the warring factions in question had been at it for fifteen centuries). Either way, once his entire chorus gets wiped out right in front of him, his confidence and cool veneer is completely shattered.
  • The Charmer: Riva turns on the ol' charm immediately upon seeing Troi.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Riva is horrified after his chorus gets killed, pacing around the briefing room like a madman. Troi and Picard try desperately to calm him, but of course, that's not happening.
  • Disability Superpower: Riva, who's deaf, is also telepathic. This is apparently a trait of his family, and possibly linked to their deafness (both are hereditary among them).
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: When meeting Riva, Picard attempts to address the chorus instead of Riva, offending him. He later explains to Riker to treat the chorus as interpreters and thus address Riva directly.
  • Forever War: The Solari factions has been fighting for fifteen centuries, leading both of them to the brink of extinction.
  • Get Ahold Of Yourself Man: Picard to Riva, by grabbing his head so Riva can read his lips and tell him he's not alone, after Riva's chorus is killed. With a bit of Translation by Volume with Picard shouting "LISTEN TO ME!!" to a deaf guy.
  • Hive Mind: Consisting of only four people. Riva's chorus represent his Ego, Superego and Id, with each speaking Riva's thoughts that most closely correspond to those aspects of his mind. It can also be turned off and on at will—Riva brings only the Id voice to his dinner date with Troi, then dismisses him to communicate alone.
  • It's All My Fault: Riva blames himself for his chorus' untimely deaths.
  • It's Personal: Riva tells the Enterprise crew not to even bother investigating the reasons for the war provided in the background they've been given. It'll say that it's about some piece of land, or wealth, or something, but it doesn't matter. After fifteen centuries of fighting, nobody really cares about the original reason anymore. It's just personal now.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Worf is intrigued by the concept of sign language, observing that a form of communication which is both silent and covert could have other uses. (Of course, he's hardly the first person to have this thought.)
  • Language Equals Thought: Before Riva negotiated several treaties with the Klingons, the Klingon language had no word for peacemaker.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode takes a deliberately slow pace in the first half to build up the mystique around Riva and his chorus. The result is that the tragedy that happens in the first negotiation attempt becomes that much more of a shock.
  • Never Learned to Talk: Riva is deaf due to a congenital defect among the nobles of his planet. He has a group of interpreters who are telepathically linked to him, but otherwise can only communicate through sign language.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Riva isn't the same after his chorus is gone, but he does decide to give the peace negotiations one more try - by teaching the two factions sign language. The theory is, while they learn to speak to him, they'll learn to speak to each other. It's clearly going to be a process, but that's fine with Riva.
  • Reading Lips: Riva certainly has no problem with this.
  • Reconcile the Bitter Foes: After fifteen centuries of war, the Solari calls for Riva to lead the peace negotiations. The episode ends with Riva intending to teach both sides his sign language to communicate with him, and hopefully with each other.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The representative that shoots at Riva to try and prevent peace is apparently from one of these. He is immediately shot dead as a traitor by the other representative of his supposed faction.
  • The Speechless: Riva's deafness is hereditary, and having grown up with his chorus, he doesn't speak. In the script it's said he doesn't even know how to read or write either, which is why he ignores Picard's suggestion that he write his thoughts down.
  • Super-Speed Reading: Basically how Data learns all known sign language for Riva.
  • Voice for the Voiceless: Riva's chorus telepathically conveys his thoughts. It's a hereditary position for them, corresponding to the equally hereditary condition of Riva's family.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Averted. Riker expressed some concern about allowing Picard to beam down to the planet to meet Riva. Picard points out that he's just going to greet a dignitary and there's no danger. It seems like the perfect set up for something to go horribly wrong. But other than a minor faux pas that was immediately forgiven, nothing went wrong at all.