Interview: Marina Sirtis On Never Really Knowing Troi; Hoping To Return For ‘Star Trek: Picard’ And ‘Gargoyles’

Last weekend Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner participated in the first of two GalaxyCon Star Trek: The Next Generation virtual events—the next event is coming up this weekend, headlined by Jonathan Frakes. After that first event, TrekMovie had a chance to speak with Sirtis about virtual cons, returning to the role of Deanna Troi in Star Trek: Picard, and more.

These virtual conventions are becoming more and more common, do you expect this to continue, or are you hoping to return to the in-person cons?

I think for this year it’s going to be virtual conventions, because even though some promoters are saying that they will hold them later in the year, I am not comfortable traveling to states that have opened up too early. So I am going to take it on a state-by-state basis.

Recently Jonathan Frakes spoke about how he was glad that Picard didn’t have the Rikers still in Starfleet and on the USS Titan. Do you agree, and how do you feel the show handled the character of Troi?

I was torn about this. On the one hand, I was happy that I didn’t have to wear a spacesuit. But on the other hand, I felt that, if things got bad, I couldn’t help win the day.

Sir Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard; Jonathan Frakes as William Riker; Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi in Star Trek: Picard

Jonathan did end up back on a ship for the season finale, but this time without you at his side. Were you hoping to join him for that? And do you expect to return to Picard at some point?

Yes, I was really jealous that Jonathan got to be on a spaceship again. Although the spacesuit question still applies. Hopefully, I will be on Picard again as I had such a good time the first time.

Before Picard, how did you feel about how Troi was characterized on TNG and the movies? Were you satisfied with the arc or was there anything specific about Troi you were hoping to explore?

I’ve always said we didn’t really know very much about Troi. We knew she had a crazy mother, she was from Betazed, she liked working out, but really that was it. The writers would always ask me what I wanted to do, but being a newbie at an American TV, I didn’t realize you could come up with suggestions. The people that did come up with suggestions, those storylines were included. I’m thinking pretty much Brent Spiner [TNG: Data] and Bob Picardo [VOY: The Doctor] who really expanded their parts themselves by taking their ideas to the writers.

Deanna and Lwaxana Troi

Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi with Majel Roddenberry as Lwuxana Troi

The internet lit up after you shared that image from your birthday with your TNG castmates on Zoom. Are you guys still keeping in touch that way during the quarantine?

Yes, we lit up Twitter, didn’t we? I haven’t used Zoom since because I was hacked and lost control of my computer and had to get a new one, so I am off Zoom right now. We are keeping in touch in the old-fashioned way. Phone calls and texts. It sounds funny to say that texts are old-fashioned, but I suppose they are. So, yes, we are keeping in touch and actually much more than we were before this pandemic.

You are in a film with Bob Picardo called The Assassin’s Apprentice that has been doing the festival circuit, including garnering you a recent nomination. What can you tell us about the film and any idea when or where it might be released?

We filmed Assassin’s Apprentice so long ago, that I really don’t remember much about it apart from sitting in front of a green screen. I have no idea when it is going to come out. I hope it’s good. It should be with Bob Picardo in it, he is a lovely actor.

Any other upcoming projects you can talk about?

Apart from Assassin’s Apprentice, I have a movie coming out that I shot last year called A Thousand Little Cuts, which is about domestic abuse. It’s an indie, but I feel a very important topic. And there rumors about Gargoyles, I am putting it out there. Jordan Peele has kind of dropped the ball, but that is okay because now that it is back on [Disney Plus] and the youngsters are finding it again, Gargoyles is getting really popular. I have to be honest, I would love to resuscitate Demona.

More GalaxyCon TNG this weekend

GalaxyCon split their original planned virtual Star Trek: The Next Generation event into two, with Jonathan Frakes (William T. Riker) moving to Saturday, June 13th. He will be joined by co-stars Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher) and Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar). The livestream Q&A starts at 2 pm ET, followed by one-on-one chats.  Tickets for the live stream are $5.00, but you can get a ticket for free using the promo code LIVEFREE. You can also purchase autographs, one-0n-one video chats, and personalized video recordings each of the TNG stars. To purchase tickets to the Q&A and more go to growtix.com.

Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner at the first of two GalaxyCon TNG virtual panels


Keep up with all the Star Trek: Picard news, reviews, and analysis at TrekMovie.com.

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It was great to see Sirtis back as Troi on Picard. I’ve always loved Troi, BUT I’m very biased because I love them all. ;D But her relationship with Riker was always one of the most interesting things about TNG because they handled their break up like mature professional adults. They still had feelings for each other but gave each other room to lead personal lives. I really thought that was great. A lesser show could’ve turned it into a soap opera for seven seasons with a bunch of love triangles and ‘will they or won’t they’ plot lines. We had to wait to get to the films to see them finally together for good and stayed that way.

But I understand what she means when she says Betazoids in general has never really been explored. Certainly not the way we seen others like Borg, Trills, Bajorans and definitely Klingons. In fact I can only think of one episode that showed another Trill she wasn’t related to in Tin Man which is still a great episode. But beyond her mother LWaxana, you never seen or heard about them anywhere else. They got one reference in Discovery in first season but that’s been about it outside of TNG and DS9 so it would be nice to see future Trek shows explore this race more.

I’m pretty sure she will be back next season on Picard. It seems like fans loved all of the returnee characters even if they didn’t completely fall in love with the show itself so I think we will see all the old characters back from season one (who they didn’t kill off ;)) and plus a few more. I’m still hoping someone from DS9 shows up!

I agree Tiger2 that Betazoids weren’t as fully explored as they might have been.

I often felt that in TNG the writers were uneasy with the amount of power that the Troi women had, and did just about anything but face it head on.

You missed Lon Suder in Voyager though. He really showed the potential dark side of Betazoids : a violent, sociopathic killer.

We never really got a sense of how Betazoid society really worked.

You’re right TG47, I did forget about Suder but I don’t think I’ve seen any of those episodes in over a decade now. Just completely forgot about that character. But its a great excuse to watch his first episode again so thanks. :)

But yeah we haven’t really saw Betazoid society in a meaningful way. Besides knowing they like to be naked at their weddings it’s still bare bones on a cultural level.

Oh and I meant ‘Betazoid’ in my OP and not Trill. ;)

If you ask me they completely wasted the Suder character, he was only in 3 episodes. They could’ve done sooo much with him over the course of the series – he was such an interesting character.

Killed him just when I was starting to like him.

Agreed. I think he had amazing potential and was an interesting character. But then again, we don’t really know why he was killed off. The actor playing him was very in demand at the time and he may have only signed up for a few episodes. May not be true at all I’m only saying there could be other reasons.

Power? You mean the telepathic communication and empathic stuff? How were they uneasy about that? No, I really think the reason they didn’t get much into Troi was because it was difficult to find legitimate reasons to involve the ship’s shrink. She really wasn’t very useful is what it came down to.

Voyager had a couple of Betazoids. Not that we learned anything about their culture, but they were there.

Tiger2 Troi is such a likable character. She is one of the reasons why I love TNG so much.

I agree with you about her relationship with Riker. They acted like professional adults the entire time. No love triangles and other nonsense.

Well, there was that bit of nonsense with Worf, Troi, and Riker in “All Good Things.” And Riker, Riker, and Troi in “Second Chances.” But other than that, no love triangles, agreed.

Just the Ro-Riker-Troi-triangle, but who counts?

I don’t really count the scene with Worf, Riker and Troi as a big deal though. I think Riker was just naturally surprised and took him time to adjust but he got over it pretty quickly. He and Worf even agreed not to let it be an issue later. We did see him and Worf stop being friends over it in the alternate future timeline but that was mostly over her death. And Worf and Dax made a much better couple.

That was the one odd things about the movies, it just completely avoided Worf and Troi even had a relationship but I guess the writers were never super happy with it and just pretended like it never happened.

Because they not really had a relationship. They just dated a few times that was all.

Either way, its a TV show. If they are in fact dating, its natural to see them break it off or at least tell us they stopped dating. Its never been a huge deal just odd they spent so much time setting it up and then just ignored it like it never happened.

There were several other Betazoids she wasn’t related to besides Tam Elbrun (“Tin Man”). One of them, Lon Suder, was even a prominent recurring character on Voyager. There were also Sabin Genestra (“The Drumhead”), Reittan Grax (“Ménage à Troi”), Andrus Hagan (“Night Terrors”), Walter Pierce (“Eye of the Beholder”), Devinoni Ral (“The Price”), and Stadi (“Caretaker”), all of whom had meaty parts that helped to develop the Betazoids as a people–particularly Devinoni and Suder.

I meant we never saw Troi with any other Betazoids BESIDES her mother. That’s what I was suggesting, we just never saw anyone else that Troi knew from her homeworld the same way we saw plenty of other Klingons Worf knew or Trills that Dax knew, Ferengi’s that Quark knew and on and on. With Troi it was literally just her mother who would pop in over and over again. It would’ve been nice to see her in another dynamic with other characters and flesh her character out more at the same time.

But yes I did forget we saw another developed Betazoid character like Suder as TG47. He and Elbrun Tran were really the only other developed species.

But you’re also right I did forget about others, but thats because most never really developed the species any further in those episodes but mostly there for background or story purposes usually. As you pointed out, all just appeared in one episode and never seen again outside her mother and Suder.

Betazoids are essentially Deltans… they’re a page in the revised ST bible and then largely abandoned afterward (for that matter Troi starts out as basically TNG’s Ilia). You could even say every alien species on ST was set up to be left on autopilot until a writer came along and decided to pick it up again. Somewhere in the ether of possibilities there’s a ST in which Friday’s Child was never written, and Klingons remained just a one-time obscurity.

Perhaps if Betazoids (or Deltans) were more visibly alien, the writers would’ve felt inspired to push their development further (although I don’t know that we needed any more bumpy-headed species on ST).

Actually now that you mentioned it I would like to see more Deltans too lol.

But I always wanted to know more about Betazoids. I do think it may have been hard for the writers to envision a world where everyone was telepathic and why they never really showed them on a larger level.

I think they just didn’t know what to do with her once they’d established her as an empath. She can sense people even over viewscreens, and now were having to keep her abilities vague (often inconsistently so) just so they can get most of their plots to work. Also if she’s mostly a counselor, why is she sitting opposite Riker as though she’s third in command? Once they set that up they were kind of stuck with her in this vaguely undefined place.

(It’s like the transporter problem. It’s a great budget-saving method of quickly getting down and up from planets underbudget, but now almost every other plot -including the last movies- comes up seeming yet like another variation of the “They’ve clunked us over the head and now we have to get our communicators back” episode)

And as Marina said, maybe she could have helped them with her character but didn’t know how to.

I agree with most of this. That’s the problem with many characters who have these type of special mind powers like empaths and psychics. It’s really hard to use them without them feeling over powered and different writers define how it works. Plenty of superhero characters have these kinds of abilities but there is a reason you rarely see main characters with them outside of something like Spider-Man’s spider sense.

But in Troi’s case an entire society has these abilities and she is only half Betazoid. Full Betazoid’s are much more powerful, so I understand why it was hard to show what that would be like on a planet level. I still want to see it though lol.

As for Troi being on the bridge she wasn’t really used as a counselor there but simply as strategic purpose for Picard to use to see if someone they came across were dangerous or if their intentions were sincere or not.

But I always wondered why Starfleet didn’t use more telepathic species in this way? Especially for things like First Contact missions. Troi seem to be the only one we ever saw used like this but maybe there aren’t many Betazoids in Starfleet in general.

But Troi’s strategic purpose on the bridge (sitting next to the captain, no less) was, as you said, relating back to her empathic abilities. It doesn’t explain why that third chair is even there, normally, hypothetically. We know she’s Starfleet, even though she’s exempt from standard issue uniform requirement. So what is her position, officially? Public Relations officer? Is there such a thing? And in her case they just happened to station somebody who was partly empathic and also specialized in psychology? That’s the best I can come up with.

With more of that figured out, maybe they could have utilized her better.

Well you have to ask Roddenberry about the third chair lol. I don’t have a clue. And it’s crazy I never even thought about it until now? Now I’m going to rack my brain trying it figure it out!!!!

But she was officially a ship’s counselor. We saw her counsel many people in the past, I just assume it was by appointment only. ;)

I never an issue with Troi or her position, but it would’ve been nice to see more Betazoid culture. And the thing is we still can, especially since she’s now on Picard. Maybe new writers will go farther with it.

Right, so she has two jobs. She has to keep office hours to be available to the crew by appointment, but still be available to advise command staff during critical operations. So I’m thinking ordinarily it wouldn’t be the ship’s counselor on the bridge advising command staff.

(If you ask Roddenberry though, I’m sure he’ll just say that’s the counselor’s chair. I don’t think he had it figured out beyond that. Was Barclay in S3 the first time we saw her office?)

Yeah and I think that’s fine. I’ve always thought being on a starship, 90% of the time they are probably just flying through open space the way most air craft carriers just float around the ocean. We just catch the 10% part of the job where stuff actually happens lol.

So I don’t think it’s really that hard to divide her duties most of the time unless they are coming in contact with new people or aliens every day and that’s not realistic.

As for Betazoids… they’re very empathic (probably too much so to build any meaningful suspense around, which is why Deanna is only part) and they probably don’t have a lot of crime on their planet, unless many of them are also skilled at blocking themselves off from empathic sensory.

I imagine the Betazoid homeworld is the most crime-free place you could live lol. Although apparently it doesn’t stop outsiders like Harry Mudd from trying to break into one of their banks. ;)

I’d like to find the original character Description to see if she was are we supposed to be a psychologist. When TNG first started, I thought she was supposed to be a counsellor/advisor to the captain (for instance, Kellyanne Conway is a counsellor to the president). I wonder if they came up with the shrink idea later.

Although, having a shrink on the bridge does kind of seem like a Roddenberry idea (to be fair, that was an important role for the ship’s doctor on TOS).

Initially, I kind of hoped that she would have more of a diplomatic role – like she was there to advise on interspecies issues. That got hinted at a little: the episode First Contact, for instance.

I always felt that not only was the third chair a bit odd but the 2nd one was as well. But if you have one chair it’s nice visually to have some symmetry. So put another one on the Captain’s other side. As if he has two advisors? I don’t know…

And this brings up something else. I always thought it a bit of an insult to the first series with a female captain to be the only captain who essentially shared the chair with a 2nd. There were TWO Captain’s chairs on Voyager. Why? At least if you have three one is obviously the center and the leader. But if you only have two… Which is the lead especially when neither are centered? It just felt like a subtle snub. Maybe I’m just seeing things but that’s how it looked to me.

The Relaunch novels developed the bridge officer role of “first contact specialist” further. It makes a lot of sense for an exploratory vessel.

Not all them were psychologists. In fact most weren’t and had other academic specialization such as xeno-anthropology.

So, Troi was the senior psychologist on the Enterprise-D, as well as the first contact specialist and diplomatic advisor.

Setting that aside, what is with the discomfort with having a psychologist on a starship?

Going on long isolated missions without a practitioner who can support and treat mental health issues, especially when aliens have traumatized Starfleet officers just seems daft. Would a Starship go anywhere without a medical practitioner? Officers and crew don’t just stay healthy, by happenstance.

But how often do First Contact situations occur? So often that we have a seat next to the captain for such a person? That seems like a waste to have them sitting around on the bridge when they could very well have more important things to do in their office or somewhere else more conducive to their specialty.

Also, the Sr. Psychiatrist would STILL be under the purview of the CHIEF MEDICAL Officer. So she still would be a senior member of Crusher’s staff. Attending the Captain’s Senior meetings only when that person’s specialty was needed to be heard.

I noticed that too, Sam. Her abilities fluctuated all over the map. They never seemed to have any real set of rules regarding how empathic she was. And I have always thought it weird she had a seat on the bridge. Why does the ship’s shrink have a bridge station? Dr. Crusher doesn’t even have a bridge station and quite frankly if Crusher the CHIEF medical officer then she should be Troi’s BOSS!

I really think Troi would have been much better served to NOT be in the main cast. Just be someone who showed up when the script called for a therapist or if Picard wanted someone to confirm what everyone on the bridge was already seeing.

I really enjoyed Troi in Picard. Her relationship with Riker was interesting and realistic. Her daughter is very cute.

Betazoids could be explored more. Not in the same way as Klingons or the Borg. Can’t wait to see more TNG characters in season 2.

Marina Sirtis gave one of the best performances in Star Trek: Picard. She was truly brilliant! I hope she returns again.

Sirtis gave a great performance. Felt strange to see them as civilians, but it was a great episode, from A to Z, it was like Star Trek 4, a good break in the middle. The perfect moment for the whole production.

I hope the Gargoyles reboot will happen. That was a fun show with a lot of Trek stars.

It would be Epic! ❤️