Monday, March 14, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 2: Samaritan Snare

Airdate: May 15, 1989
42 of 176 produced
42 of 176 aired


Wesley is on his way to retake his Starfleet entrance exams, and Captain Picard is going to accompany him by shuttle. He needs a medical procedure at the Starbase to replace his artificial heart, an operation he is not happy about. Meanwhile, the Enterprise received a distress signal from a Pakled ship, and they go to offer assitance. Are the Pakleds hiding something behind a simple, vulnerable veneer? (SPOILER ALERT: Yes.) Will there be complications with Captain Picard's procedure? (SPOILER ALERT: Yes.Will those complications require the Enterprise's presence just when it is trapped dealing with the Pakleds' duplicity? (SPOILER ALERT: Yes.)

A better indicator of the excitement level of this episode, we may not find.


Kevin: Oh...dear. Where to begin? We'll start with the Pakleds themselves. Their portrayal borders on racially offensive. Throwbacks? Really? I understand and even like the idea of a portrayal of a species gathering rather them developing technology. It could have been a nice example of the reasons for the Prime Directive. Instead, they made the mistake of portraying a less technologically developed people as also stupid. They have neither warp drive nor verb tenses, apparently. Once the shock wears off, I have no doubt an ancient human could get their arms around Federation technology enough to use it properly. They didn't just build the Pyramids, they invented the engineering techniques and you know...the math...that allowed then to do so. There are a dozen other ways to portray the ill effects of advancing too far too fast. Making them too stupid to talk was not one of them.

Matthew: This episode bores the effin' life out of me. At regular speed, it's nearly unbearable. Even at 1.5x  speed (for a brisker total of 33 minutes), it drags. Why? Because the Pakled plot is so utterly somnambulent. They talk slow. They are slow. It takes three or four scenes of slow talking to finally get to the kidnapping. Then it takes three or four more to get to the rescue. We don't really learn anything about the Pakleds. What we learn about our crew (as you mention below) is that they took an extra hit of Dum-Dum sauce before this mission. Boring, lame, stupid, irritating.

Kevin: The true tragedy is the only people dumber than the Pakleds are the command staff of the Enterprise. Worf asks if they really need to send their chief engineer. Troi (unsurprisingly) senses deception and tells Riker so. one does anything. Those are both valid questions and concerns which Riker just acts like he didn't hear. This is the pinnacle of the crew having to be stupid to advance the plot.

Matthew: Yep. Maybe this is why Riker doesn't get any more command offers for a while. To be fair, everyone has a bad day now and again. You know what would be interesting? Focusing on that. Riker realizing he's screwed up. Having this dumb turn of events result in some character development. You know what's not interesting? The story we are presented with instead. In short, this A plot is an utter failure.

Kevin: The Picard transplant plot has some faults, which I'll get to, but at least this one had some depth. The conversation between Wesley and Picard in the shuttle is gold. Both characters get some great lines. It's fun to picture Picard as cocky and brash learning humility, especially against Kirk's backstory of bring a bookworm who learned to loosen up. Also, I like the idea of the mechanical heart. By now, it's a real medical advancement, and it's a neat idea that Picard has had it all this time and we never knew. Then we get to the medical center and it all goes to hell. If the doctor couldn't handle the procedure, why was he doing it? Again, the cast has to be stupid to propel the plot. A side note, I have never gotten exercised over Wesley's "Klingons joined the Federation" line. I always took that to be a shorthand for what would eventually be named the Khitomer Accords by the writers.

Matthew: The Wes/Picard stuff was good, and of course presages one of Trek fandom's all time favorite shows, "Tapestry." It is a bit slow and talky, but it's the kind of slow and talky you'd enjoy having with a beloved uncle or grandparent. That's all well and good. The medical aspect of the B plot is more irritating. One of the most annoying things for me, when I'm watching a drama, is when characters are unrealistically expert at everything. It makes characters seem unreal. Take Katherine Pulaski, for instance. In "Unnatural Selection," she is established as a pre-eminent researcher in virology and immunology, and the writer of an industry-standard-setting work, "Linear Models of Viral Propogation." OK, fine. But now, she is also established as the finest cardio-thoracic surgeon in the sector, better than an actual specialist who has performed the operation "a hundred times" on a Starbase, which presumably (based on the matte painting anyway) has a population many times that of the Enterprise. Do you know what this is? Lazy writing, that's what. It can be interesting when characters have a specialty. It can even be interesting when some (SOME!) of them are truly gifted in that field of specialty. But when each and every character is not only the absolute best, but at everything? Boring. Boring, boring, boring. Babe Ruth was a 20-game winner as a pitcher, and also the most dominant offensive force in baseball during his career. One freak is interesting. But a whole team of Babe Ruths? Who would watch? Not me. 

Kevin: The obvious reuse of the Corbomite Maneuver was a bit much. There are also references to both the Mondor and the shuttle moving at sublight speeds. That's just stupid. If the the shuttle is close enough to get to Starbase 515 on anything other that geological time frames, why not have the Enterprise take them? And lastly, this is sadly the last appearance of Sonya Gomez. Why did they drop her? She was fun even when she was supposed to be annoying.

Matthew: "There's no greater challenge than the study of philosophy." Is this line of Picard's enough to push my rating over a 2? (Spoiler Alert: No.) If anything, this dialogue is canceled out by some of the worst technobabble ever, during the OR scene (e.g. "heterocyclic declination"). I did like that the Bussard Collectors were named onscreen, in a nice scienc-ey shout out to scientist Robert Bussard's theory of an interstellar ramjet, designed to collect hydrogen or deuterium and convert it into fusible material for spaceship reactors.


Kevin: The acting was okay, but it certainly never transcended the writing. Picard and Wesley's scenes in the shuttle were really well done by both actors. Christopher Collins plays another doofus with his usual aplomb, and that's about the only other note I have.

Matthew: I think the acting is merely average here. To be sure, the overly talky nature of the extended dialogue scenes was not helped by the set designs (a cramped shuttle isn't terribly dramatic), but the actors didn't exactly inject a lot of verve into it either. The best line readings were of Picard reminiscing about his Nausicaan encounter. The Pakleds, on the other hand, made me want to engage in some experimental self-cutting behavior.

Production Values

Kevin: The shuttle set is a reuse, but I think they added the aft chair and couch from its use in Q Who. Also, Picard seems to be pouring coffee from a French press. Did he brew his own, or did he replicate the whole thing? This is the first time we see the 24th century maroon scrubs, and they look neat. They look particularly fetching on Dr. Crusher in season 5's "Ethics."

Matthew: I have to say I found the OR scrubs to be ridiculous. It was also pretty obvious that, despite six hours in a shuttle, Picard ended up right back on the Enterprise Sickbay set. We get a completely unaltered reuse of the "Angel One" matte. Hey, whatever, it's a hell of a shot. I did like the use of location shooting to indicate the Starbase 515 entrance. 

Kevin: The Mondor was that fairly typical triangular shaped ship that seems to pop up all over TNG, which I suppose makes some sense. This is the first use of the bussard collectors, and independent of plot issues, I enjoyed that part visually.

Matthew: The lighting on the Mondor helped put me in my torpor. Ugh. I understand when you're trying to save money by keeping things dim. But take a page from TOS and use spot lights or color filters to create visual interest. This episode was murky, dim, foggy, boring, and drab. On the plus side, there was a nifty optical shot of Geordi being beamed from one bridge (on the viewscreen) to another (on the bridge). 


Kevin: I looked for things. Things to make this episode go. The episode got lost. This episode is far from home. The writers are not smart. I looked for things. I give this episode a 2.

Matthew: It may be because I have watched it twice now in the past two weeks, but I'm so annoyed I'm flirting with a 1, here. In looking at the rating system, I grudgingly have to give this a 2, for a total of a 4. The shuttle scenes barely redeem this stinker. It's not an utter train wreck, and it doesn't destroy characters or continuity. It's just boring, and I kind of hate it. At least Code of Honor and Angel One are so bad they're funny. 


  1. Yeah the paqleds were freaking annoying. I was impressed btw with your ability to bring up the Babe/Baseball in a blog about Trek. And no a whole team of Babe's would be awesome! World Series here we come.

  2. great site, love the babble! - found this that you might find amusing if a little of topic -

  3. We already had a species who gather technology rather than develop it. They're called Ferengi!

    And WHY can they acquire such technologies? Because what they lack in intelligence and patience, they make up in deceitfulness and meticulousness - not by being completely incompetent.

  4. I'm a little late here, but I'd like to point out that you're giving a 2 (each!) to an episode that manages in that one scene on the bridge to completely urinate all over one of Star Trek's core tenants: that all other species and peoples deserve our respect and tolerance no matter how weird or alien they seem. Unless, of course, they're too close to 20th Century Earth...
    - Carl

  5. It's the Wes/Picard scene that redeems this episode from a 1. I hate almost every aspect of it, but it has redeeming value, unlike a "Code of Honor."

  6. Yeah, without that scene, this is a definite one. But the scene on the shuttle is pretty touching.