Friday, June 24, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 3: Menage A Troi

The Next Generation, Season 3
Airdate: May 28, 1990
71 of 176 produced
71 of 176 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise is called to Betazed for some reason or other. For some other reason, the Ferengi are also present, and they have dastardly designs on Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, the holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. Hilarity fails to ensue.


Despite their nudity, Lwaxana and Deanna seem bored. So are we, ladies.



Writing

Matthew: This episode is an utter, abysmal failure. And I'll tell you why. Here is a golden opportunity to develop the Betazoids as a people. Worf has seen episodes in which his people are developed. Data has seen the same. But when we get to Deanna, her species and all the attending obvious questions are overlooked. How effective is their telepathy? Do people not trust Betazoids as a rule? Is Lwaxana's lack of political correctness a general trait of the people, or is it hers alone? If the latter, why is she their ambassador? Instead, all we get is a bland administrator, a look at a park, and... well, that's it. We didn't learn squat about Betazed. "Tin Man" told us more, and this episode was set on the freaking planet.


Kevin: A lack of a cohesive theory of Betazoid telepathy has always bothered me. Do they sense only the most discreet conscious thought? Do they sift through the stream of consciousness? I always chose to read Lwaxana's brashness as a mix between being so wrapped up in herself she misinterpreted things and a little bit that she was just tweaking everyone's nose a little. What bothered me was this can't possibly be the first time someone thought to use Betazoids this way commercially given the Enterprise does it professionally all the damn time. No element of this episode was really thought through and it shows.

Matthew: Another lame thing about this show is the treatment of Riker/Troi. Are they an item? Their canoodling on the surface seems to indicate that they are. But of course, this is contradicted by the last two seasons of show, and is never really consummated, whether in thought, word, or deed. LAME. One positive aspect of the story was Wesley's promotion to... uh... acting ensign with a uniform. But even that was bungled, since it was precipitated by Wesley missing his school bus to Starfleet Academy. Why can't he just arrive a week late? Why can't the Enterprise just catch up with the ship en route?


Kevin: It's nice that the acting can carry a lot of the Imzadi stuff, and I'm actually comfortable with the idea of them having a long term "friends with benefits" relationship. Hell, it actually may have been shocking in the late 80s/early 90s to so frankly depict it. Instead, it just comes off inconsistent. Nothing about the Wesley plot made sense. It was a pretty cheap way to keep Wesley on another season, and that showed too. 

Matthew: Finally, it just has to be asked whether the tail is wagging the dog on Lwaxana episodes. Are the stories crap because of some arcane rules or demands from on high? Or are the writers just lazy and inept? This script was the last of a series of pitches by the writers, and received "uncredited" rewrites. Uncredited rewrites are usually a sign of a weak story with big problems. Well, none of them were solved. Lwaxana is not entertaining or endearing here. Instead, she comes off as an out-and-out bigot with her treatment of the Ferengi, a wretched diplomat, and a really annoying person to be around. There was never any sense of peril in this episode, either. The Ferengi didn't really have much of a plot in which to use Lwaxana as a telepathic pawn. Her "sacrifice" was toothless, given her obvious inclination to welsh on the deal. It led to a funny scene with Picard professing his "love," but they even screwed that up, since the Ferengi beamed her directly to the bridge. This indicates that a shield-less Enterprise was standing toe-to-toe in space next to a hostile Ferengi vessel - with its pants down, its fly unzipped, bent over, ready to be taken advantage of.


Kevin: Lwaxana, to date, was at her best in Haven. She was used just often enough to be fun. I'm not saying she can't carry an episode or two, but you really have to work to make her not consume an episode. I would have actually liked a "slice of life" episode for Deanna, like season 4's Data's Day with her mother on board. That could have been fun. I'm going to give the writers enough benefit of the doubt to say that I think a motivation for having her around each season was that she was by all accounts a hoot to be around, and everyone liked filming the episode with her. Even given the less than stellar quality of the episodes she tends to appear in, I still like her as a character a lot. I kind of want to be her when I get old. They just never hit the same groove they did with Q, which even when it was clear they wanted an episode with him in it, his presence served the episode, not the other way around.

Acting

Matthew: Well, as mentioned above, Stewart was funny as a "lovelorn" Picard. A good actor acting like a bad actor is always a treat to see. Further on the good acting front, Wil Wheaton was pretty good in this one. He's mastered the "saving the day," now without the petulant irritation that earned him such fan ire in previous seasons. He also seemed genuinely touched and excited by his "promotion." He still doesn't fill out the uniform... but I can sympathize there, having been a 97-pound weakling myself.


Kevin:  I have a problem with Wesley recognizing a pattern that neither Data nor the computer did, but he acted it well. The end scene with Beverly was a bit brief, but maybe that's because they knew they didn't mean it. Picard's Shakespeare Madlibs were pretty awesome.


Matthew: On the guest acting front, Ethan Philips was a fine enough Ferengi. He didn't get much to do besides being incredulous. Frank Corsentino seemed like he was going for a villainous Ferengi Daimon a la "The Battle," but the script just wasn't there for him. If it hadn't happened already, his script sealed the deal on the Ferengi as buffoons instead of credible villains.


Kevin: No one really got to do anything, so it's hard to judge. As always, though, Mr. Homm is a treat. For some reason I genuinely laugh during the investigation scenes on Betazed.


Matthew: Majel Barrett is a good actress. We know this. We've seen it, in several roles. But this script stinks of vanity casting and writing, and she doesn't surmount it. She is screechy and annoying, and never really sympathetic here.


Kevin: We get into this more at length in the podcast, but I agree. When given good material, she sells it. And even when the episode sucks, I can't quite bring myself to dislike her, which is entirely to her credit.

Production Values

Matthew: The exterior location for Betazed was good. They married it well with a matte painting, showing some sort of mushroom-shaped futuristic buildings. And that was pretty much it. I felt cheated as far as seeing Betazed locations and characters.

Matthew: The Ferengi ship was uninspiring to say the least. We still don't get to see a fully-outfitted Ferengi bridge, and the brig and medical room appeared hastily thrown together. The Ferengi transporter effect also seems inexplicably different than previous uses.

Kevin: It's a sad commentary that in seven sentences, Matt literally said all there is to say in this area.

Conclusion

Matthew: I really, really, really dislike this episode. I frequently skip it on TNG watch-throughs. There is no sci-fi. The characters are not developed. The plot is meandering, action-poor, and lacking in tension. Every redeeming moment was sabotaged by an attack of the dum-dums. This is just a flabby piece of dog doo. It's a 1. 

Kevin: My love of Lwaxana herself may be tainted my opinion, but this is a 2 for me. It's not offensive. It doesn't destroy continuity. I mean, hell...we have Outrageous Okona a 2, and that had Joe Piscopo. I enjoy this marginally more than Outrageous Okona if only for Picard's speech at the end. That's not a lot, but it's enough to hang my hat on. That makes for a total of 3 from the two of us.



3 comments:

  1. Wow that was a painful podcast to listen to. There seemed to be no joy in trashing it. At least the rest of season 3 is going well:-)

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  2. For some reason I thought it would be fun to trash. But really, this is just a sad, sad episode. Like Dollhouse sad.

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  3. It's better in HD. But not much.

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