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John32070

How would you fix Troi?

29 posts in this topic

Thinking back to 7 years and four films (and 3-4 Voyager and Enterprise appearances), I have to admit Troi is a confusing character to define and her role as Counselor is as well (to me anyway). 

I recall in the early days of TNG fans would complain (in print of course LOL) about her position on the bridge and how often times what she'd say ("he's hiding something") seemed so redundant and quite obvious, and I have to agree with that. I think I understand the idea Gene had creating the position, but I just never believed that the writers really got it right a majority of the time. I also think they overplayed the character having her being a constant presence when it wasn't always needed.

In later years she became less of a Counselor and more of an officer, and I think this was in part due to her being somewhat pigeonholed and they didn't have much choice in what to do to keep her interesting. In the four TNG films, aside from maybe two scenes, she doesn't really do anything Counselor related.

To a smaller degree, Ezri Dax is the same way. While she does her job (helping Garak and Nog for example) and finding that Vulcan officer that was on the killing spree (which was a neat way to use her Counselor role), Ezri was more an officer filling positions. Not to mention the fact that she needed more counseling herself than she needed to give to others.

To be honest, the best representation of a Counselor in Trek is...9de881c1c9246ca5d9f7c94a74fbceae.jpg 

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I tend to think Troi should've been a recurring character like Barclay or something. She just tended not to be needed. And the Betazoid empathic abilities were usually obvious from facial expressions.  But I just think the entire idea of a counselor on the ship seems counter0intuitive to the whole perfect humanity ideal Roddenberry was trying so hard to showcase in TNG.  Part of what makes McKennah work on Continues, is that the creww of that ship are a tad less evolved, still have a lot of those human problems and argue with each other on a variety of topics. I can kind of see a counselor fitting into that version of Star Trek.  It seems totally out of place in this ideal humanity that was so clearly at the forefront of Roddenbery's plan for TNG.  And Ezri was a pretty lousy counselor because, as you said, she was almost always more in need of counseling herself.

I will give one example in Troi's favor though, because you said she did no counseling in the four films, but she most certainly did perform counseling duties in Generations for Picard when he was sad about his family being killed in a fire. 

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Posted (edited)

Actually, I think she could have been a much more interesting and crucial character than she was allowed to be. Two ideas:

1) Put her into a normal officer uniform from the beginning (like the one she got in the middle of season 6), which looked much more professional.

2) Give her a more vital role in addition to "just" counseling and psychology: Make her a full fledged leading diplomatic officer!

I don't mind her being counselor, that was fine -- but too few, IMO. She could also be an expert for first contacts, with a great knowledge about psychology of alien races the Federation has encountered so far, and the prime person to be responsible for arranging first contacts, including protocol and so on. That could perfectly tie in with her psychology and empath skills.

If the Captain has any questions about not just psychology, but also alien psychology, alien cultures, communication issues, protocol, even first contact legalities and so on -- she should have been the first person to ask.

Edited by Sim

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The root of the entire problem is the rampant sexism Troi as a character (AND Marina Sirtis as an actress) had to endure. Storylines such as the one in "Disaster" when Troi suddenly finds herself in command and yet has no idea what to do despite being a Starfleet AND bridge officer were NOT helpful. She also tended to get the Creep Of The Week love story instead of interesting storylines. NOT helpful either.

Marina Sirtis is quite correct when she points out that "once Troi got her uniform back, her brain also magically re-appeared". They did finally realize that the character CAN actually be used for very good storytelling when they gave her the episode "Face Of The Enemy", but that was in season 6 and it was almost too late. I can't really count the TNG movies for anything here, though - they're basically nothing but The Picard And Data Show, most of the "secondary main characters" got shoved more and more into the background as the movies progressed until even Riker got this kind of treatment in Nemesis (and he's supposed to be the ship's FIRST OFFICER). This is a TNG movie problem, not a Troi problem per se.

So, fixing Troi, basically... it would indeed have involved never taking the uniform away from her and treating her like a competent Starfleet officer and psychologist (I like your second idea, Sim) and not like "Picard's Eye Candy Empath". It would also have involved competent writers who knew what to avoid when writing a female character, but then, TNG's treatment of a lot of its female characters is another story altogether.

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I really don't think a counselor was necessary as a bridge officer. Maybe they just didn't know how to write her, but she was Captain Obvious before Captain Obvious.

"Disaster" was a disaster for her. I like the episode, but I simply cannot tolerate her ignorance within it. No command structure would allow someone so clueless about ship operations to be in a position to command. Commodore Stocker was a genius by comparison. Command should rightly have fallen to O'Brien.

It all worked out and that's great, but Troi was completely wrong. 

 

I agree that, at best, she should have been a recurring character who aided the crew or got her own story now and then ("The Loss") Or maybe shave a smidge off of Picard's diplomatic expertise and make her more necessary that way.

Marina's awesome, but Troi was a fifth wheel.

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1 hour ago, kenman said:

I tend to think Troi should've been a recurring character like Barclay or something. She just tended not to be needed. And the Betazoid empathic abilities were usually obvious from facial expressions.  But I just think the entire idea of a counselor on the ship seems counter0intuitive to the whole perfect humanity ideal Roddenberry was trying so hard to showcase in TNG.  Part of what makes McKennah work on Continues, is that the creww of that ship are a tad less evolved, still have a lot of those human problems and argue with each other on a variety of topics. I can kind of see a counselor fitting into that version of Star Trek.  It seems totally out of place in this ideal humanity that was so clearly at the forefront of Roddenbery's plan for TNG.  And Ezri was a pretty lousy counselor because, as you said, she was almost always more in need of counseling herself.

I will give one example in Troi's favor though, because you said she did no counseling in the four films, but she most certainly did perform counseling duties in Generations for Picard when he was sad about his family being killed in a fire. 

On the whole I agree, and while I agree she would've been better served as a recurring character I also think she was starting to come into her own a bit before the series ended.  She had a handful of very memorable episodes (most notably "Face of the Enemy") and yes, I loved her scenes with Picard in GEN.  

That said?  I also agree that McKenna in STC is a better representation of how such an idea works.  McKennna isn't an empath, she doens't have any extraordinary powers or abilities.  She's just a human being offering counseling and occasional medical assistance.  I don't have any objection to an alien counsellor but seriously; did she have to be an empath?  I think that was a bit too on-the-nose.  Arguably so is a Vulcan/android science officer or a Klingon security chief, but a female empath counselor seems a bad stereotypical reinforcement of the 'women-as-caregivers' idea that we already had with Dr. Crusher. 

I also would've had Troi be less of a by-the-book counselor and have her be a bit more sardonic and wily, like Guinan; who often did a far better job at counseling than Troi did, frankly.  Instead of making Troi a telepath/empath whatever, I think maybe I would've made her an older, wiser, more sardonic character like Guinan.  

And FTR, this has NOTHING to do with my opinion of Marina Sirtis; I think she's a marvelous lady, and a lot of fun at conventions.  I met her in 2011 and she was just funny as hell.  Delightful.  I wish Troi had more of Sirtis' humor and wackiness.  Hell, if anything I think Sirtis has more in common with Lwaxanna Troi than Deanna Troi, but that's just my opinion...

47 minutes ago, Mr.Picard said:

The root of the entire problem is the rampant sexism Troi as a character (AND Marina Sirtis as an actress) had to endure. Storylines such as the one in "Disaster" when Troi suddenly finds herself in command and yet has no idea what to do despite being a Starfleet AND bridge officer were NOT helpful. She also tended to get the Creep Of The Week love story instead of interesting storylines. NOT helpful either.

Marina Sirtis is quite correct when she points out that "once Troi got her uniform back, her brain also magically re-appeared". They did finally realize that the character CAN actually be used for very good storytelling when they gave her the episode "Face Of The Enemy", but that was in season 6 and it was almost too late. I can't really count the TNG movies for anything here, though - they're basically nothing but The Picard And Data Show, most of the "secondary main characters" got shoved more and more into the background as the movies progressed until even Riker got this kind of treatment in Nemesis (and he's supposed to be the ship's FIRST OFFICER). This is a TNG movie problem, not a Troi problem per se.

So, fixing Troi, basically... it would indeed have involved never taking the uniform away from her and treating her like a competent Starfleet officer and psychologist (I like your second idea, Sim) and not like "Picard's Eye Candy Empath". It would also have involved competent writers who knew what to avoid when writing a female character, but then, TNG's treatment of a lot of its female characters is another story altogether.

^. And all of the above.  The uniform MADE the character.  Those lounging outfits were embarrassing...

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26 minutes ago, Sehlat Vie said:

I also would've had Troi be less of a by-the-book counselor and have her be a bit more sardonic and wily, like Guinan; who often did a far better job at counseling than Troi did, frankly.

Pretty much this. Guinan is who Troi should have been pretty much.

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I'd go so far as to say I wish Guinan was more present in the show than Troi had been. 

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40 minutes ago, kenman said:

I'd go so far as to say I wish Guinan was more present in the show than Troi had been. 

This.

I missed Guinan. I can say that I would not have missed Troi.

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Posted (edited)

When I think back to TNG and "female character" i always think of Guinan first because, let's face it, she was the best. She was just a really good character. Besides being an enigmatic alien, Goldberg played her with a warmth that just drew you in and on the few occasions she did something more than simply comment on the plot (such as Time's Arrow) she revealed a whole new set of layers. Love her; wish we'd had more of her. there is of course also Ro Laren who was introduced as a measure to fix the imbalance that occurred once Yar was killed off in S1 and you had two regular female characters both in the caring professions.

Here's the circle I cannot square: I also really like Troi. Again, this is in huge part thanks to Marina Sirtis somehow investing her with more than the awful, dumb dialogue the character was so often given. But what writers did occasionally ascertain was that Deanna was a loyal backbone for the group, often making emotional links where others (da boyz) wouldn't. In later seasons, they got that part right, at least about her listening skills. Even if it's just being Riker's sounding/ moaning board, or mentoring Data, or listening to Picard, there are all these small moments where she provides an empathic glue (no pun intended) for the other characters.

And Sirtis would grab ahold of those small moments and make them work. She always delivered a sympathetic portrayal, which is why i think in the end, she endeared herself to this viewer. On the few occasions they gave her a lead, even if it was a 'creep of the week wants Deanna,' episode, she'd make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If ever they gave her something a little meatier, like in Face of the Enemy, Second Chances, Eye of the Beholder, she was always very watchable. The fact that she came out of every annual Lwaxana story smelling of roses is also a considerable skill, I'd say. She was a really good comidienne (see also Parallels, where she turns on a dime from silly to dramatic and makes it all work). Yes, too little was done with her character too late, but I still think of her a vital part of the chemistry of what made TNG work - the crew as a whole.

Unfortunately I don't feel the same way about Crusher,  who I can, at best, tolerate and who was also saddled with some awful storylines and dialogue (but at least she has Cause and Effect). But, no disrespect to Gates McFadden, she remains easily my least favorite Trek doctor and probably least favorite female character, if we're divvying it up that way. I was one of those people who missed Pulaski.

Deanna was mostly wasted in all the TNG movies... Sirits did what she always did, which was to make the most of what she was given, but it would've been nice to see her considered a more important part of the ensemble at that point. However, arguably, the TNG movies only ever really served Picard and Data as characters, and even then they had to rejig Picard to be an action hero, which he most emphatically is not. And look what they did to Data...

I'd fix Troi by removing all that early empathic nonsense and keeping her initially as more of an arc character. if you concentrate on her strengths - her sympathetic nature, the trust the other crew members clearly have in her, you could gradually bring her to the fore in S2 and S3 and employ that low-level telepathy in a more gainful way than have her sit on the bridge stating the obvious. I'd remove Disaster as an element in her character's history entirely and replace that with an earlier arc of her deciding to become a better-trained member of the bridge crew (Disaster's fall girl lines could go to someone different). I'd also bring in Ro Laren sooner, season 4, and make more of the brittle relationship between the two of them, which eventually settled into mutual respect. A lot could be done there.

And either do, or don't have a romance with Worf. That was so stupid. Two great characters, and all those hints, and then nothing (except in parallel universes). Either do it or don't, but don't dance around it. they really could've made something of that - maybe even played up some less-than-perfect-nor-24th century jealousy) but don't dangle it there and then just leave it. all those characters deserved better in season 7.

Edited by Robin Bland

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I think Troi was a great character since ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT.

Sirtis is  acharming actress.

To bad she was completely out of character in the TNG movies (FC, INS and NEMESIS)

They tried to make her funny and I dont think its worked atall.

Gus

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40 minutes ago, GustavoLeao said:

I think Troi was a great character since ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT.

(weepy) Great joy...and gratitude.

Yeah, no. :)

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, GustavoLeao said:

I think Troi was a great character since ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT.

Sirtis is  acharming actress.

To bad she was completely out of character in the TNG movies (FC, INS and NEMESIS)

They tried to make her funny and I dont think its worked atall.

Gus

 

56 minutes ago, prometheus59650 said:

(weepy) Great joy...and gratitude.

Yeah, no. :)

She was terrible in Encounter at Farpoint.

Then again, so was everyone.

Edited by Robin Bland

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Posted (edited)

Dude, I love FARPOINT. I remember seeing it on TV with my dad in 1988 and we loved every minute (Dad was  a TOS fan and it was him who introduced Trek to me 1980 with TMP - its all his fault !) And I liked the TNG seasons 1 and 2 because it brings me good memories off my dad and me in front of the TV late nights just having fun.

I kinda agree that Sirtis was not quite a good actress in FARPOINT, but Patrick Stewart, Spiner, Frakes and Dorn got their characters right away.

Pure nostalgia.

Gus

Edited by GustavoLeao

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I would have reduced the range of her abilities so that she could only read emotions at a short range. Not all characters have to be human or on the same level playing field as a human but her abilities were overpowered and killed drama. She could still say that she thinks the other ship's captain on the viewscreen is being deceptive, but only because she's an expert at reading body language because at short range she gets a lot of practice confirming her body language reads with actual emotions being sensed.

I would have also given her some inter-personal conflicts between the crew to solve. They are on a long term mission through space but everyone treats it like a 9 to 5 job and everyone gets along swimmingly. The night shift was mentioned once I think. There's 24 hours in a day, stuff must happen when the main crew isn't on the bridge and everyone can't get along with everyone. Of course this was a show direction problem, the conflict was mandated to be external only. 

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5 hours ago, GustavoLeao said:

I think Troi was a great character since ENCOUNTER AT FARPOINT.

Sirtis is  acharming actress.

To bad she was completely out of character in the TNG movies (FC, INS and NEMESIS)

They tried to make her funny and I dont think its worked atall.

Gus

Ironic.

I thought the character worked best when she was allowed to be MORE humorous, not less.  

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1 hour ago, Sehlat Vie said:

Ironic.

I thought the character worked best when she was allowed to be MORE humorous, not less.  

Yeah. Once she lost that early, earnest quality she had in S1 and S2, she warmed up a lot. She was great in episodes like A Fistful of Datas.

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I think McKenna works as Counselor because;

1. Vic and Co. I believe as fans themselves saw what was wrong with Troi and so they took that and pretty much said here's what not to do with the character. 

2. She doesn't come off as overly invasive as I think Troi and even Ezri sometimes did. If Troi had been in The White Iris, she would have been hounding the hell out of Kirk and probably on the bridge telling everyone that Colin Baker's character was getting impatient and very worried (again, stating the obvious). But McKenna waits for Kirk to realize that he needs a little guidance from her. 

I like the suggestions of how Troi could have just been more of a recurring character that would have also had more more specialized in diplomatic stuff. Maybe a cross of what she was and add in a bit of RJ Blaise from the DC TOS comics. I also don't fault Marina for the character's failures.

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Posted (edited)

Sirtis certainly did a fine job with what she was given.  I think that my biggest problem with Troi as a character stems from the episodes centered on Troi.  

When you look at Worf or Data, each of which have several really great episodes that focus on those characters, they tend to work better after those episodes and as the show goes on.  I assume that those episodes benefited both the actors in understanding their roles ands how to play them as well as the writers in knowing how to best utilize those characters in even small capacities and what kind of situations to best develop them in.  Troi never really got that luxury.  Troi episodes are just about across the board, front to back, bad episodes, some of the worst that TNG had to offer.  Worse, most Troi episodes opted to focus on her mother and not Troi.  That sours my overall impression of the character, because those moments the series took to develop her character were either boring, annoying, or both.  She has her moments, sure, but without the same solid storytelling to lay the kind of groundwork that the other characters received, I get the feeling no one really knew what to do with her, but Sirtis gave it her all anyway.

That could be because the role of ship's councillor isn't fertile ground for storytelling, but I don't know.  Hey, Peter David did a pretty good job telling a Troi story.

Edited by JLook84

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Posted (edited)

I think it literally boils down to the fact that they pretty literally never knew what to do with the character. She rarely actually served as counselor on the bridge in a way that mattered. She either stated the blindingly obvious or she couldn't really use her empathy to put her finger on anything because if she did the episode would last ten minutes ("Survivors": "Captain, I'm sensinsing that Kevin isn't human or Rashan isn't there at all.)

And when they tried showing her counseling random crew it just sounded forced to me.

Edited by prometheus59650

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15 minutes ago, prometheus59650 said:

I think it literally boils down to the fact that they pretty literally never knew what to do with the character. She rarely actually served as counselor on the bridge in a way that mattered. She either stated the blindingly obvious or she couldn't really use her empathy to put her finger on anything because if she did the episode would last ten minutes (Survivors: "Captain, I'm sensinsing that Kevin isn't human or Rashan isn't there at all.)

And when they tried showing her counseling random crew it just sounded forced to me.

Rather than make her counselor, it would've been more interesting to have her serve officially as a captain's advisor; someone to help the captain negotiate or deal with delicate first contact missions (as we saw with the Herada and the Tamarians).   She could've doubled as a counselor in her 'off hours.'   But I agree with the consensus; Sirtis did what she could with the role, and she did much better on later episodes after "Chain of Command" when she finally put on a uniform and Sirtis' own warmth and humor began to seep through the character's pores...

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2 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

Rather than make her counselor, it would've been more interesting to have her serve officially as a captain's advisor; someone to help the captain negotiate or deal with delicate first contact missions (as we saw with the Herada and the Tamarians).   She could've doubled as a counselor in her 'off hours.'   But I agree with the consensus; Sirtis did what she could with the role, and she did much better on later episodes after "Chain of Command" when she finally put on a uniform and Sirtis' own warmth and humor began to seep through the character's pores...

How dare Jellico make her dress like an actual officer.

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I'm not even sure the writers WANTED to bother with her, at least not until Jellico put her back into a uniform. It's like Marina Sirtis says, Troi received a brain the moment they finally gave her the uniform and actually remembered that she's an officer. Before that she gets used (and ABUSED by Creeps of the Week), and the writers pretty much treat her like "the eye candy empath in the tight dress/catsuit needs a scene or two, oh and if we have an episode about her make sure it emphasizes on her physical attractiveness and please not too much science for her". There were still a lot of nice moments for the character, and I do enjoy those... but there weren't nearly enough of them indeed.

STILL. Marina Sirtis said on Twitter the other day that her proudest TNG moment was the one when Gene told her season 2 would open with a Troi episode. Regardless of whether "The Child" is good or bad, I do think it's great that the character still gave the actress something good. She did what she could with Troi, and she put her foot down sometimes (like when she insisted on doing her own stunt in "Power Play" when the away team is knocked down on the planet - it might seem insignificant but given the rampant sexism that often surrounded TNG's writers and producers, this was a small but satisfying victory).

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7 hours ago, Mr.Picard said:

I'm not even sure the writers WANTED to bother with her, at least not until Jellico put her back into a uniform. It's like Marina Sirtis says, Troi received a brain the moment they finally gave her the uniform and actually remembered that she's an officer. Before that she gets used (and ABUSED by Creeps of the Week), and the writers pretty much treat her like "the eye candy empath in the tight dress/catsuit needs a scene or two, oh and if we have an episode about her make sure it emphasizes on her physical attractiveness and please not too much science for her". There were still a lot of nice moments for the character, and I do enjoy those... but there weren't nearly enough of them indeed.

STILL. Marina Sirtis said on Twitter the other day that her proudest TNG moment was the one when Gene told her season 2 would open with a Troi episode. Regardless of whether "The Child" is good or bad, I do think it's great that the character still gave the actress something good. She did what she could with Troi, and she put her foot down sometimes (like when she insisted on doing her own stunt in "Power Play" when the away team is knocked down on the planet - it might seem insignificant but given the rampant sexism that often surrounded TNG's writers and producers, this was a small but satisfying victory).

^
Good point about Troi often used as the femme fatale of the week; there was one-quarter Betazed creep in "The Price", there was evil Dorian Gray-ish creep in "Man of the People", there was eugenics-creep in "Masterpiece Society", etc. etc..  Bad choices doesn't begin to cover it.  For a character that was supposed to have powerful empathy, the writers made her seem very stupid, and it did a tremendous disservice to the actress as well.  In S2, they brought in Guinan, who was a much more effective crew confidante.  And having her lounge about the bridge dressed in the cosmic catsuit or as the lounge hostess on two-drink minimum night did no favors either.

But yes, after she put on a uniform in "Chain of Command"?  Her character began to act like an officer again.  She took the command test, she began to get more assertive, and she even became the "Durango Kid" in her holodeck free time.  Post CoC Troi is so much better than the Troi of previous seasons.   Pre-CoC Troi was a good character in the rough; waiting for the right writers and producers to finally realize some of the character's (and actress') potential. 

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1 hour ago, Sehlat Vie said:

^
Good point about Troi often used as the femme fatale of the week; there was one-quarter Betazed creep in "The Price", there was evil Dorian Gray-ish creep in "Man of the People", there was eugenics-creep in "Masterpiece Society", etc. etc..  Bad choices doesn't begin to cover it.  For a character that was supposed to have powerful empathy, the writers made her seem very stupid, and it did a tremendous disservice to the actress as well.  In S2, they brought in Guinan, who was a much more effective crew confidante.  And having her lounge about the bridge dressed in the cosmic catsuit or as the lounge hostess on two-drink minimum night did no favors either.

But yes, after she put on a uniform in "Chain of Command"?  Her character began to act like an officer again.  She took the command test, she began to get more assertive, and she even became the "Durango Kid" in her holodeck free time.  Post CoC Troi is so much better than the Troi of previous seasons.   Pre-CoC Troi was a good character in the rough; waiting for the right writers and producers to finally realize some of the character's (and actress') potential. 

Counselor Durango happens before she gets the uniform though. ;)

But I agree. Just give her a uniform from the start (Marina Sirtis hated the "cheerleader outfit" from the pilot episode but it was at least a uniform) and hire decent writers who know how to write female characters and things should have a solid basis, at least. The plot problems with the whole "empath on the bridge" idea would probably still have been there but we at least wouldn't have gotten embarrassing moments like the one in "Disaster" when Lieutenant Commander Troi, who sits on the bridge every day, has to be lectured on the simplest ship's proceedings by an ensign and a transporter chief because "we can't give Troi a brain, now can we, here, catsuit lady, just look good over there, will you".

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