Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 2: The Outrageous Okona

Airdate: December 12, 1988
29 of 176 produced
29 of 176 aired


While... cruising around, or something, in the territory of the Medina Coalition, the crew of the Enterprise encounters lovable rogue Thadiun Okona. It turns out, unbeknownst to them (but knownst to us), Okona is embroiled in a conflict between two factions of this coalition - accused of theft by one group and of sexual impropriety by the other. Will our crew see the resolution of this conflict through to the end, before they all lapse into fits of boredom catatonia? And will any of the female crew members escape with their space hymens intact?
The preponderance of Google Image results featuring Teri Hatcher for this episode was... outrageous.


Matthew: This episode suffers from something I had hoped was banished back in Season One - a plot dictated entirely by a squabble between one political group and another. After an utterly inconsequential teaser (which ends on the cliffhanger of Okona agreeing amiably to beam over), we find out about the planets Straleb and Atlec of the Coalition of Madena, who are embroiled in ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ... oh, sorry, I lapsed into a brief narcoleptic coma while typing that sentence. Who cares!!! I certainly don't. The "A" story of this turd hinges on a comedy of manners, some star-crossed lovers of two antagonistic states, and a lovable rogue. All of it fails to hold my interest. It is reminiscent of a lot of 80's television writing, in which a romantic plot lurches through obvious scene after obvious scene, until the "secret" is revealed and everyone laughs to the credits. I think the best that can be said of this plot is that it has a recognizable beginning, middle and end. It is a competently constructed cliche, for better or worse.

Kevin: It certainly doesn't help that both ships' first encounter with the Enterprise establish that they could do no more than throw stones at the Enterprise. Maybe if the players were established Trek powers or something more than ego were at stake, it would have given the plot a little more meaning. The crew of the Enterprise has absolutely no interest in how this plot is resolved, so it's hard to care about them not caring about it.

Matthew: The "B" story revolves around Data attempting to understand humor. He seeks out Guinan's help, which turns out to be just about the worst possible help, given her wretched taste in jokes ("Droid? 'Noid?" OMFG!). So instead, he heads down to the holodeck, where Joe Piscopo takes over in his tutelage. There, Data listens to another unfunny routine (seeing a Joe Piscopo/Jerry Lewis impression on Trek was not high on my list of hopes and dreams), and then delivers his own monologue to a canned holo-audience of THE MOST 80'S PEOPLE EVER that turns out to be a bomb, as well. The takeaway lesson? Data should just be himself. Woo - didn't see that one coming. If the holodeck has multiple comedians and can judge the relative humorousness of each, why would it fail to recognize the timing of punchlines for Data's jokes? Also, if Data fails to understand humor, how would he recognize that the audience was programmed to laugh at the wrong times?

Kevin: No offense to Mr. Piscopo, but I flatly refuse to even entertain the notion that he is the best comedian ever. I would have accepted any other piece of stunt casting. I would have been fine if the holodeck comic were Whoopi Goldberg playing herself and having some in jokes about where Whoopi Goldberg is really Guinan. And yeah, I never found that droid/noid bit funny, and I always wondered if something was wrong with me. Thank you for validating me, Matthew.

Matthew: Picard and Troi reference the father's feelings over his dishonored daughter as "ancient" "arcane" and "meaningless." This seemed a bit heavy-handed, especially given that we're supposed to care about this plot. Troi particularly is saddled with obvious and awful dialogue such as "the word that best describes him is 'rogue'" and "now we're hearing the truth." well, DUH!

Kevin: This episode evidences one of my most hated sins of writing. Telling me, and not showing me. Ooooh...Okona's outrageous. Why? Says so right in the title. What does he do that's outrageous? Nothing. That's what. Sleeping with Teri Hatcher is not outrageous. Sleeping with Wesley. THAT would have been outrageous. Not Teri Hatcher. Wesley.

Acting

Matthew: Well, we get William O. Campbell, pre "Rocketeer," as Okona. He was the runner-up for the Riker role, and it's easy to see why. He is certainly charming, and has a mirthful warmth that really works. He is reminiscent of a nicer Clark Gable in "Gone with the Wind." He woos a pre-gross-cougar Teri Hatcher, as well as the redhead we see every once in a while in background shots. The rest of the guest cast (the lovers and dads) are pretty bad, but then their dialogue was pretty bad, too. They didn't elevate things like Campbell did.

Kevin: I agree that Campbell is charming and engaging. I had a crush on him since I saw him in PBS' production of "Tales of the City," and the same charm is on display here. It's actually to his credit that he managed to be so despite some truly awful dialog. No woman, ever, would respond to the canned lines they fed him. The other guest actors were awful. Matt, maybe you can help me settle an internal debate I have been having for almost twenty years now. Are Yanar's lines dubbed? It always looked to me like she was lip-synching, or that they were ADRed over the original actress.

Matthew: I'm pretty sure that's her talking. Random aside, the actress Rosalind Ingledew played one of the doctors on SeaQuest. Now you know. Anyway, Brent Spiner gets the lion's share of everything else, with his B story. Spiner is a funny guy (when he's not trying too hard anyway), and his delivery as Data really works. His inadvertent jokes are genuinely funny, his forced humor is funny in a forced way, and his sadness at still not getting it is touching. He really made the otherwise lame B plot float.

Kevin: Agreed. Spiner's really coming into his own in terms of Data's character. It will be great to see first-rate acting and writing at the same time about a season from now.

Matthew: Joe Piscopo. Joe... freaking... Piscopo. Doing a Jerry Lewis impression. Apparently, he ad libbed much of his comedy. "Tip O'Niel in a dress" was pretty funny, I'll give him that. Unfortunately, nothing else was.

Kevin: Like I said, I would have taken a self-referential in-joke with Whoopi Goldberg over the unfunny schlock we ended up with.

Production Values


Matthew: There's not a lot that marks this show as particularly good. We get an obvious battle bridge redress for the Atlec bridge. All of the alien vessels are oft-used models. Okona's ship looks awfully big for one guy - the scale model shot with Enterprise tractor beam was not great. We also get a silly "dramatic" music cue for when Worf goes to find Okona. What dictated that choice? We've been told the whole episode that Okona is no threat. Also, the Deck 14 "conference room" looks a hell of a lot like the lounge from "The Neutral Zone." Who could possible hold a conference there?

Matthew: The costumes were not great. Okona was sort of a Han Solo lite, while the aliens were two different varieties of 80's badness - stone washed pleather and pastel jammies, respectively. I'm going to say that these costumes were a uniform miss. Sorry, William Ware.


Kevin: I have decided that my lack of anything to contribute to this section is an indictment of the episode's producers, not a lack of ability on my part. Thank you.

Conclusion: 

Matthew: I flirted with giving this episode a 1. But two charming performances and a sort of bland competence lift it to a 2. This show could have just as easily been an episode of Dynasty, MacGuyver, Magnum P.I., Simon & Simon, or whatever other mediocre 80's comedy/drama you'd like to name. There was no science fiction at all. It is probably pretty bad Trek. But it's just below average television. So I give it a 2.

Kevin: I've said it before, but I can handle a lot of crap if the episode is at least fun to watch. This episode is so boring, it hurts. The conflict is centered around stupid ideas and stupid people and there is never any tension of any kind. The B-plot is saved from absolute drudgery by Brent Spiner's innate charm and talent. I agree with Matthew, though. This is not a 1. You almost have a try for a 1.  A 1 is a bizarre form of achievement, in its own way. This episode is doesn't even excel at failure, so I will give a 2 as well, for a total of 4.

2 comments:

  1. I loved, loved, loved the part where the father's feelings over his dishonored daughter are described as "ancient" "arcane" and "meaningless." This is what I love about Star Trek, it really gets it. That they did not make a 21st century problem (especially one of morality) a 24th century issue. It would have been very odd if Picard and Troi were not flabbergasted and rather not puzzled by the nature of the quarrel between these two families. The idea that you "do the right thing" and marry the girl you impregnated, is outdated and backwards even today. I would imagine that it would be even more so in the future as imagined by Roddenberry and Berman. Let's face it, shotgun weddings are not the hallmark of Progressivism. So it made sense that Picard and the others would find it outdated, ancient and provincial, which is why it did not feel heavy-handed to me. Picard and Troi are expressing the kind of enlightened view you would expect from them given everything you know about the world of Star Trek. It shows me that Star Trek and its writers were sensitive to the nuances.

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  2. And damn is Billy Campbell sexy...even at 55.

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