What’s a starship without its counselor? The job may not seem as important as, say, security chief or medical doctor, but the USS Enterprise-D’s therapist in residence does certainly come in useful from time to time.
Right from the first season of The Next Generation, Deanna Troi is by Captain Picard’s side, offering advice on how the crew should proceed. Portrayed by Marina Sirtis, the character remains a key part of the crew throughout all seven seasons, as well as the movies that continue the story. During this time, she’s impregnated by an alien life force, gets frustrated at her imposing mother, and eats a hell of a lot of chocolate.
But there’s more to Star Trek‘s Counselor Troi than meets the eye. The psychic Betazoid has some abilities that will surprise you, while the things she got up to after the series ended also add intriguing new layers to her character. On top of all that, several stories from behind the scenes of The Next Generation shine new light on the character of Troi.
So replicate yourself a hot chocolate and prepare to learn everything you never knew about Betazed’s most famous progeny…
15. Deanna Nearly Had Three Breasts
Many of the characters went through changes in development before the producers settled on the Enterprise-D crew we know and love, but one idea for Deanna Troi would have given her character a striking physical change – after initial brainstorms, the writing team wanted her to have three breasts.
This idea was shot down, however, by producer D. C. Fontana, who later recalled: “I objected to Troi having three breasts. I felt women have enough trouble with two. And how are you going to line them up? Vertically, horizontally, or what? I was like, please, don’t go there. And they didn’t, fortunately.”
While the triple boobs would no doubt have pleased some of the show’s hornier young viewers, that was probably a good call from Fontana. Imagine the time it would have taken to give Marina Sirtis the breast prosthetics before every day’s shoot! And besides, the Total Recall movie came out shortly after Next Generation began, with an extra-breasted woman of its own.
14. She’s The Only Betazoid Who Knows How To Kill With The Mind
In the show, Deanna’s extrasensory abilities largely consist of reading the emotions of characters, sometimes not entirely usefully – “I sense anger”, she’ll say as a clearly fuming Romulan commander unleashes full phasers on the Enterprise. One Star Trek novel, however, added an extra ability to the Betazoid’s mental arsenal.
“The Battle of Betazed” is set four years after the end of Next Generation, during the Dominion War, and sees Deanna help liberate Betazed from Cardassian occupation. In a Silence of the Lambs-esque twist, she seeks help from an incarcerated serial killer called Hent Tevren, who has learned ancient techniques that allow him to kill with his mind.
Deanna learns these abilities from him before he dies, but wisely decides not to pass them on to the whole race, instead just teaching them how to use emotion to overwhelm an enemy. This leaves her as the only surviving Betazoid who knows how to kill with her mind. She’s not completely able to use the ability herself, due to being only half Betazoid, but it would still be wise to stay in her good books.
13. Roddenberry Wanted A Counselor To Show The Importance Of Mental Health
It may seem odd that a counselor has such an important role among the command staff of the Enterprise, but there’s a good reasoning behind Troi’s status. The Star Trek universe has always been based on its creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future, and he foresaw that, by the 24th century, mental health would be seen to be equally important as physical health.
This would mean that the ship’s therapist would be as important as its doctor; seeing as in The Original Series, the ship’s doctor was a key advisor and confidante of the captain, The Next Generation should grant the same position to a mental health expert. And thus the role of ship’s counselor was created, with Troi’s role envisioned to be that of an emotional healer to the crew.
Roddenberry’s prediction was no doubt a good one, as even in the thirty years since TNG began, society’s views on the importance of mental health have already started to change. Plus, many stories throughout the series make good use of Troi’s position in order to explore the psyches of other characters.
12. Marina Sirtis Auditioned For Tasha Yar (And Denise Crosby For Deanna!)
Like her or not, Marina Sirtis has defined the role of Deanna Troi, having played her across seven seasons and four films, not forgetting when she popped up in Voyager and Enterprise. But she was not always set to play the ship’s counselor…
In fact, Sirtis originally auditioned for the role of Macha Hernandez, the Enterprise’s chief of security, and was the first choice for the role, while the producers were also set on casting Denise Crosby as Troi. Well, most of the producers were… Gene Roddenberry decided that Sirtis’ look more suited the more exotic, alien character of Troi, and that the warmth she brought to the audition would fit with Troi’s empathetic character.
After finding out she hadn’t been cat as Hernandez after all, Sirtis was ready to return home to England, in debt and with her visa expiring, so was surprised when she then found out she’d in fact landed the Troi role. Denise Crosby, meanwhile, switched over to play the security chief, later renamed Tasha Yar.
11. She’s Dead In Four Alternate Timelines
It’s rare that a main character in Star Trek gets killed off for good, so it’s no surprise that Deanna Troi makes it out of both TNG and the film series alive and well – the main version of her, that is. In fact, poor Troi has been killed in no less than four alternate realities, sometimes brutally…
In the darker timeline in which the Federation is at war with the Klingons, seen in the episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, Deanna is notably absent from the Enterprise’s bridge; the novel “Q-Squared” explains that she died when the Klingons destroyed Betazed. And in the future which Picard visits in series finale “All Good Things…”, Troi is long dead from unknown causes – though fortunately, this future is changed.
Her other two deaths occur in spin-off novels. In “The War of the Prophets”, she is aboard the Enterprise-F when it’s destroyed over Earth. And in “Q & A”, an alternate Deanna is abused and strangled to death by Klingons. Fortunately, Star Trek is too optimistic a franchise to hoist such a horrific fate on the main timeline Troi.
10. She Was Almost Written Out At The End Of Season 1
During production of TNG’s first season, Marina Sirtis became increasingly aware that her character wasn’t being used as much as she’d hoped, with Troi being completely sidelined in several episodes, leading her to worry that she might not be brought back for Season 2.
These fears were confirmed when Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry’s wife, confirmed to her that Roddenberry thought there were one too many female regulars on the show, and was considering getting rid of one; with the other two being the security chief and the medical doctor, there was a good argument to be made that psychologist Troi was the least needed.
What actually saved her was the fact that both Denise Crosby and Gates McFadden, who played those other two female characters, decided to leave the show at the end of Season 1. With her being the only one of the women left, the decision was made to keep Sirtis on the cast. This worked to her advantage even more, with Troi getting to take center stage more often from Season 2 on.
9. Her Gradually Changing Accent
A particularly easy aspect of Marina Sirtis’ performance to make fun of is her accent, which is in no way consistent throughout her time in the role of Troi. She starts off TNG with a vaguely Eastern European accent, which gradually fades throughout the series into something more mid-Atlantic, eventually sounding very American in the films.
But what’s the story behind this? When originally auditioning for the security chief role, Sirtis had put on an Eastern European accent, playing the character as if she was from that area of Earth. When she then re-auditioned for Troi, the producers asked her to make a Betazed accent up, so she stuck with the Eastern Europe one and modified it a bit, taking influence from an Israeli friend of hers.
Over time, however, Sirtis came to regret this choice, especially when Deanna’s mother appears and clearly has an American accent, and so she softened the voice she was putting on. If we’re being generous, we can say that it makes sense in character, as Deanna’s accent would gradually soften from being around so many humans of American lineage.
8. Deanna Was Briefly Engaged To Worf
Despite Troi’s main love interest for the first six seasons of the show being Commander Riker, Season 7 makes the odd decision of putting her in a relationship with Worf. By the end of the season, this storyline’s not really gone anywhere, but it was further developed in a spin-off novel, “Triangle: Imzadi II”.
Set after the ending of TNG, this book sees the relationship going so smoothly that Worf proposes to Deanna, and she accepts. However, things go south when Troi and Worf’s son, Alexander, become trapped in a hostage situation. Over the course of this adventure, Troi realizes that she and Worf are too different and that she still has feelings for Riker, who’s part of the team that rescues her. The wedding is called off.
This neatly bridges the gap between where TNG leaves Troi’s love life and the rekindling of her relationship with Riker later in the film series. It’s also a wise choice, both on the part of the novel’s writer and Troi herself – as many fans knew all along, her and Worf just wouldn’t work out.
7. She Was The Hardest Character To Write For
Despite the good meaning behind Roddenberry’s decision to have a counselor as a key part of the Enterprise-D’s crew, many of the Next Generation writers struggled with what to do with Deanna Troi.
This was certainly a problem in the first season, which was very focused on the sci-fi plots rather than characters’ psyches, and so Troi ended up being sidelined a lot, often with very few or even no lines in an episode. In later seasons, she got to lead episodes more often, but writers still struggled to work her into other stories, with Ronald D. Moore admitting: “It is difficult, because you run into a double trap of how much does she know and when. Especially when dealing with powerful aliens. It’s unfortunate because the things she’s had, she’s been wonderful in.”
As the series progressed, Deanna did develop, with an increased focus on character-led stories allowing her to deal with serious mental health-related stories from time to time. But even by the end, there are some outings where you can tell she’s been crowbarred in – “I sense uncertainty, Captain.”
6. Not Just A Counsellor – She Can Pilot The Enterprise
Her role as the ship’s counselor may be important in its own right, but it’s not all she has to offer – not by the end of The Next Generation, at least. It may have been that difficulty to work Deanna’s main job into stories that inspired her sub-plot in Season 7 episode “Thine Own Self”.
In this episode, she decides to take the exams that would qualify her to be a bridge officer. She passes all of them easily, except one simulation in which she must save a severely damaged Enterprise; it’s her empathy that’s her downfall here, as she’s unwilling to sacrifice anyone for the good of the ship. But after a hint from Riker, she finally passes.
Her new status isn’t used in any subsequent episodes, though we do see Troi get a chance to pilot the Enterprise in the film Generations. This was something that appealed to Sirtis, as she’d never got to fly the ship on TV, and she asked Brent Spiner for advice as to which buttons to press.
5. Sirtis Hated All The Chocolate
Captain Picard may love his “tea, Earl Grey, hot”, but for Deanna Troi, it’s all about the chocolate. Her drink of choice is hot chocolate, she’s often seen snacking on some kind of cocoa-heavy sundae in Ten Forward, and she even admits in one episode that she’s never encountered a form of chocolate she didn’t like.
For Marina Sirtis, however, this wasn’t one of Troi’s best traits, and constantly having to snack on the sugary stuff while on camera became a struggle: “I usually spat the chocolate out after each take because I wanted to look good in my space suit,” she told one interviewer. “Also, after sitting under the lights for an hour or two, the chocolate often became chocolate soup – hardly an appetizing delicacy.”
That’s fair enough – having to eat the same thing take after take could hardly have been healthy. Nevertheless, if we lived in a world where food can be replicated at will, we think we’d be as uncontrollably chocaholic as Troi.
4. Why She Finally Got A Uniform And Covered Her Cleavage
Despite the intent to have her counseling be central to stories, many early writers and producers saw Troi as the show’s eye candy, hence many of her costumes being designed to show off her cleavage.
It took until the sixth season for producers to decide to drop the “sexy and brainless” side of her character, and this came alongside a change in costume written into the show. In the two-part story “Chain of Command”, Captain Picard is temporarily replaced by Ronny Cox’s Edward Jellico, who orders Troi to change into a more regulation-fitting Starfleet uniform. Even when Picard gets his command back, Troi keeps this smarter, less boob-focused new outfit.
Marina Sirtis praised the change in character that came with this: “I was thrilled when I got my regulation Starfleet uniform… it covered up my cleavage and I got all my brains back, because when you have cleavage you can’t have brains in Hollywood… I was allowed to do things that I hadn’t been allowed to do for five or six years. I went on away teams, I was in charge of staff, I had my pips back, I had phasers, I had all the equipment again, and it was fabulous.”
3. She Was Meant To Marry Riker In Season 7
We’ve already mentioned the oft-criticized romantic storyline which occurred between Troi and Worf in Season 7, but in fact, some of the show’s writers had an idea for a very different way Troi’s love life could have developed in this final season.
René Echevarria and a few other members of the writing staff wanted Troi and Riker, whose past relationship had been drawn upon several times across the course of TNG, to finally get back together and tie the knot at some point in Season 7. This was an idea supported by Marina Sirtis and Riker actor Jonathan Frakes, who both wanted a resolution to their characters’ ongoing romantic tension. The idea was shot down, however, by executive producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller.
This was a strange decision by them, as getting back together with Riker would follow on much more smoothly from Troi’s previous storylines than the Worf relationship did, and so would be a better way to end her character’s time on the small screen. Nevertheless, Troi and Riker do eventually get it on again, and their wedding takes place during the events of the movie Nemesis.
2. Deanna Should Have Knocked Out A Romulan
It’s very rare that we get to see Deanna play a big role in action scenes, with the fighting usually being left to Riker, Worf, and some of the other male characters. The Season 3 episode “The Enemy” changed this… well, it almost did.
The first draft of the episode’s script saw Troi and La Forge trapped on an alien planet together, unable to return to the Enterprise. Here, they encounter a Romulan, and get into a scuffle – which ends when Deanna incapacitates the alien soldier! It would have been a nice change to see Troi taking part in this fight, but it was not to be, as the script was redrafted so that it’s just La Forge and the Romulan on the planet.
Sirtis herself was not impressed with this rewrite. “I felt very excited about this,” she said of the first draft. “I finally got to do something interesting and different and, of course, when the final script came not only was I not on the planet, but I had one line at the end of the show – and that was actually cut.”
1. She Eventually Becomes A Captain
The movies which followed on from The Next Generation end with Deanna marrying Will Riker and transferring alongside him to the USS Titan, but where does she go from there? The answer came in 2010’s MMORPG Star Trek Online, which is set 30 years after the final movie, Nemesis.
Unlike some other TNG chracters, Troi doesn’t actually appear in the game, but some hints at what’s happened to her can be picked up during certain quests. By this point, Troi has departed from the Titan and is now a Captain in her own right. She is, however, still married to Riker; they have a daughter together, Natasha Miana Riker-Troi, as well as three grandchildren.
Well, isn’t that lovely? Sounds like things end up well for Deanna Troi, and her status as a Captain, if a little at odds with her main job as a counselor, does carry on from her earning bridge officer status in Season 7. The name of their daughter is also a nice nod to their tragically killed comrade, Tasha Yar.
Have your psychic abilities allowed you to learn any shocking facts about Deanna Troi that us mere humans have missed? Let us know in the comments!
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