In “We’ll Always Have Paris,” we meet Picard’s great past love, Jenice Manheim, after the Enterprise responds to a distress call from her time-experimenting scientist husband.
When Picard realizes he’s going to be reunited with Jenice, Troi confronts him about the repressed feelings she senses from him.
Troi: I don’t want to interfere with your personal life, but unresolved strong emotion can affect judgement.
Picard: Well, thank you for your concern.
Troi: As Ship’s Counsellor, I offer my assistance.
Picard: What do you suggest?
Troi: Confronting deep personal issues is not easy for you. You tend to suppress them. There are a few hours until we arrive. Perhaps you should use this time to analyse your feelings and put them into perspective.
She’s not saying anything really revolutionary but for Season 1 this isn’t a bad Troi scene. She’s using her insight and pro-actively confronting a situation that could become a problem, and offering helpful advice.
Unfortunately, that’s kind of the high-point for women in this episode. The rest of the piece portrays women as motivated primarily by relationships with men. First there are the holographic women Picard encounters while trying to process his feelings. Gabrielle, the woman in the hilarious pink dress, moans, “What did I do to drive him away?” after her beau stands her up. Picard explains that maybe, like he apparently was when he stood up Jenice, Gabrielle’s boyfriend was scared of being tied down.
Then there’s Jenice, who describes what sounds like a near-abusive relationship with Manheim. Even though she stayed with him in practical isolation, he refused to really explain what he was working on or that it was dangerous.
Jenice: The force field, the elaborate security system. Every time he started a new experiment, he insisted that I stay in what he said called a protected room.
Picard: Ah, and that’s why you weren’t affected.
Jenice: Jean-Luc, he would never knowingly do anything to hurt anyone.
Picard: Yes, I believe that.
Jenice: But as he saw his goal getting closer, seeming possible, he became more and more obsessive. Maybe that clouded his judgment.
Mid-episode, Manheim himself admits to Picard that he felt he was treating Jenice unfairly. Cringe-worthily, he asks Picard to “take care of her” if he dies, even though she is ostensibly a competent adult and not a piece of property to be passed from man to man.
Then, at the end, Manheim is determined to put her through more isolation and danger, and she only puts up the most feeble of protests in the face of the great man and his great work.
Jenice: Don’t tell me we’re going back?
Manheim: Oh, Jenice, we are so close. We have learned so much to walk away. Besides, we owe it to the others, our friends. There have been so many sacrifices by so many good people.
Jenice: We’ll be going back.
Most frustratingly, Doctor Crusher’s main motivation is also about a man. She’s jealous of Picard’s feelings for Jenice, in spite of the fact that Jenice is now married and clearly loves her husband, Doctor Manheim.
Crusher: I can’t compete with a ghost from his past. No one could.
Troi: She’s not a ghost. She’s here right now.
Crusher: She may be in the here and now, but it’s the ghost he sees.
As much as I love to ship Picard and Crusher, I don’t like seeing Bev reduced to a stereotype merely so the audience knows how important Jenice is supposed to be to Picard.
But really, what do we know about Jenice? She never gets to be, even for the audience, more than a fantasy: a beautiful, polite, compliant woman who never goes beyond the bounds of the roles set out for her by the men in her life. She is never angry at Picard, or her husband. We don’t know what her interests are because she never asserts him. I found myself wondering how the situation would be different if she was the genius scientist instead of, or as well as, her husband.
As it is, we have no idea what she does with herself all day. Does she read books or paint or work out? Or just look at the sky and wonder why Picard never called?
Bechdel Test: Pass. Crusher and Jenice talk briefly about Jenice’s health.