Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Gambit, Part II

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Gambit, Part II"
Airdate: October 18, 1993
156 of 176 produced
156 of 176 aired


When last we saw our intrepid heroes, Acting Captain Data was gambling that Riker had a plan in mind in his attempt to use his command codes to disable the Enterprise. Will it pay off? Will Riker and Picard be able to maintain their ruse on the mercenary ship? What is their ultimate goal, and what is their true purpose in hunting down their artifacts?
The Vulcan GameBoy. Now you're playing with POWER!


Kevin: There are many things I like about this episode. For starters, it probably has one of the highest setup/payoff ratios in the series. I was promised a whizbang episode and that's what I got. The same energy is there, as is the fun of watching our characters really thrown out of their comfort zones. Unlike "Unification," which ground to a halt once we found Spock, or "Birthright" which gave us essentially an unrelated episode, here the two-parter actually feels like a really good use of the format. Trying to cram this down our throats in 43 minutes would not have worked as the character moments that really make it gel would not have had time to breathe. I would have barely absorbed Captain Picard's alleged death before finding out he's alive and a badass.

Matthew: I agree that the brisk pace is probably this episode's great strength. I was never bored by anything on screen. I really liked the twists and double crosses, people taking others into their confidence, deceiving others with guile and improvisation. It was just altogether an exciting show, which can't be said of every Trek story.

Kevin: The only downside is that the greatest asset of the episode is also a bit of its Achilles Heel. The twists and turns, particularly Commander Riker's raid on the shuttle bay and the scene in the conference room was great, but it concert, leave the episode a tad unfocused. I've defended many an action or emotion centered stories before despite the lack of a science fiction core, but here, there's not a really a core of any kind. The blah blah about peace at the end felt tacked on and unconvincing. Worf must violently eat oatmeal in the morning, to say nothing of the fact that being told not to think of something is the fastest way to think about it. The solution was just a little too neat for the payoff and it robs the episode of being anything larger than a mere action story. That's not fatal, and I certainly enjoy it immensely, but other episodes (Yesterday's Enterprise or Cause and Effect to name two) manage to have some broader story to tell that the action propels. Even Starship Mine felt like it had a bit more focus in how it used the action genre.

Matthew: Unfortunately, I felt that story problems plagued this episode to a large enough degree to diminish my enjoyment of it. The most glaring and important is the one you mention, that it seems impossible that the Enterprise crew, especially Worf, could simply "empty their minds" of violent thoughts, without years of training and preparation - you know... the years of training and preparation that were necessary for the Vulcans of yore? The second big story problem was how the mercenary crew just beamed on board the ship  in order to steal the remainder of the artifact. Uh, how exactly did this slower, weaker ship beam an intruder party aboard the Enterprise, without regard for shields, without setting off an intruder alert, and then beam itself TO DECK ONE to complete the theft? There are any number of possible explanations - and a grand total of none of them are mentioned. It just happens. That's JJ Story Logic, guys. You can do better. I found the amount of "friendly stunnings" to be annoying - I don't care if a phaser is set to stun - if it knocks you flat on your back, it could still kill your ass. How did Picard "switch the transponder codes" on a piece of machinery that one man jealously guards and that CAN KILL YOU if you look at that guy cockeyed? Again, any number of explanations are possible, and none are shown. As far as sci-fi cred goes, at least this had the ancient alien device of awesome power. Unfortunately, this aspect was also half baked. You know what I would do in the seven seconds (I counted) it took for the slow.... moving... death.... field.... to overtake me? I'd freaking SHOOT someone. That's what I'd do. Tallera's explanation of the Vulcan isolationist movement (which we've never heard of before, nor since) was weak to say the least. Is it just her? Is she a lone kook? Saying that would have been better than just leaving it hanging. What exactly was her plan, anyway? How was she going to take over a planet of emotionless stoics using a weapon that... attacks emotions?

Kevin: The character moments I loved are here in spades. I LOVED the scene between Worf and Data in the Ready Room. Worf was just a little defensive and Data calmly laid out how he was right and Worf apologized. It's a credit to the dimension of the character that Worf is going to be a bit of a dick in these circumstances, but a credit to the quality of his character he'll admit to it and make amends. Rather than just being a supernaturally good person, he's a real, actual good person, who actually has to overcome a character flaw to do the right thing.

Matthew: Although I did find it to be a bit inartfully grafted into the story, I agree that the character tension was interesting. I would have liked to see Troi take Worf aside, instead of just giving him dirty looks.

Kevin: A few tiny problems: Aside from my problem with mechanic of the resonator, I am also sadly disappointed that Data consented to such an obvious abuse of search and seizure powers. Worf practically suggested dropping a dime bag at his feet and asking where they got it. I understand the need for urgency, but we know he is waiting on the mercenary. Why not just wait for them to come and catch them both in the act?

Matthew: Maybe Data was still recovering from having his ethical subroutine turned off and going all Josef Mengele on his best friend in the world. Maybe he can turn it off at will? Either way, I agree. It seems inconsistent with every portrayal of the character outside of "Descent."


Kevin: Everyone really brought their A-game today, didn't they? The scenes with Troi, Data, and Koral were golden, as were the scenes in the shuttle bay and conference rooms with the mercenaries. For all the whizzing around the plot does, the actors never lost control of what they were doing and it helped anchor the frenetic pace.

Matthew: I liked Spiner's performance in this episode better than the last, with the exception of his quick stage turn in the ready room. I just don't think the character has the emotional awareness for stuff like that. But it's better than tenting fingers, that's for sure. I liked on the bridge how Troi was shooting Worf dirty looks over his general douchiness. Good story or not, it was good acting.

Kevin: Robin Curtis really nailed crazy eyes, didn't she? You can tell she thought of herself as completely rational even when she was totally batshit. It made her final scenes a lot of fun. I loved her feeble last attempt to get Picard and the way she showed physical exhaustion in the process. It really is a shame that she was not brought back as Saavik in TUC. It would have made the plot 100 times more interesting and, as we can see here, the woman can nail duplicitous Vulcan like nobody's business.

Matthew: The fact that we can talk about Robin Curtis' good acting, despite a relatively weak script for her character, shows us how good she is. She just has a certain magnetism, and the way she delivers her lines is impeccable. She's got a great voice.

Kevin: At 6'9", NBA star James Worthy portrays the tallest Klingon to date, which is good since that's pretty much all the script demanded of him. He was an admirable, if not unremarkable straight man, though I do chuckle at the scene when he is standing next to Crusher. Gates McFadden is a tall woman, and she looked humorously tiny next to him. Apparently Robert O'Reilly met him on a plane (presumably a plane with very high ceilings) and convinced him to guest star, which is amusing, though frustrating, as it means something like that can actually happen on a plane flight, but has just not happened to me.

Matthew: Inasmuch as he played a stolid, taciturn wall of a man, I thought Worthy did a great job. His delivery was among the funniest stuff in the show. The wine glass? Quite funny. It was a well played comic scene all around. What I'd like to know is why Worthy was even talking to O'Reilly. Nothing against O'Reilly, but he doesn't strike me as a guy with whom NBA stars hang around. I could very well be wrong, though.

Production Values

Kevin: I liked the abandoned monastery. It had a lot of nice detailing and didn't show its soundstage-ness. Beyond that there was not a lot here that was not in the first episode. The Klingon shuttle is an obvious redress, but that almost makes sense in continutiy. These come off an assembly line somewhere, and but for some cosmetic differences, function should dictate form here. The detail work on the Stone of Gol was nice as well. It has a nice texture to it.

Matthew: I just wish the stone of Gol had been bigger, and less hollow. Maybe it could have looked more like the antikythera mechanism. But I guess that hadn't been discovered yet. Maybe the Tox Uthat?

Kevin: One other bit of praise. The shot of the mercenary ship crossing over the Enterprise while firing its weapons was stunning. I can't wait for the Bluray, as even in standard definition, the shot was exquisite in terms of artistic composition and technical skill.

Matthew: I agree on ship shots, but there were several shots of planets that were much less pretty than the previous episode. I liked the mercenary ready room/lounge. It made for a nice scene between Baran and Riker. I didn't really dig Tallera's wardrobe. We know that Robin Curtis is a svelte, sexy woman. The way they went for a semi-Romulan look for her was not flattering. Speaking of odd wardrobe, where did Picard get his pirate ensemble, anyway?


Kevin: This is another solid 4. I got the second half that was promised in the first half, and despite a lack of narrative ambition, the episode manage to ably juggle a few story lines and be frenetic without being messy. Some top notch acting and some very nice effects work round this out to an upper quartile episode for me.

Matthew: I'm stuck at a 3. The story problems bug me too much. I agree that this was just as exciting as the first part. But it flubbed the explanations for most of what part one set up. There were just too many holes in this plot for me to turn off my brain and enjoy the ride. Still, it's a fun watch - just an average watch. That brings our total to a 7.

No comments:

Post a Comment