Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, September 19, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Twenty-Three "Symbiosis"

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Twenty-Three "Symbiosis"
Production Order: 23
Air Order: 22
Stardate: Unknown
Original Air Date: April 18, 1988

Picard on the PA system: "Head's up: gonna be checking out this star up-close. It may fuck up a bunch of stuff while we're studying it and shit. Going to yellow alert."

So I'm two seconds into this episode, and Picard makes this long-winded speech like plane captains make, where they take forever to get to the point ("in the end, this make suck a bit"), and when he's done, he steps up between Yar and Worf, and it's so freaking surreal to see Denise Crosby standing there.
I mean, I know these were filmed out of order, and I wasn't affected at all by her split-second death, but her funeral scene at the end of that crappy episode always catches me off-guard, especially with her end comment to Picard ("Hailing frequencies closed, sir"), which sounds like something Nichelle Nichols will put on her epitaph, and I really just Cannot Even with that. My brain says that Yar is dead, yet here she is, standing at tactical, doing her job as ever before. It's weird. I've watched "Symbiosis" countless times now, and always skip "Skin of Evil," so I never really think about how this episode falls directly before that one, and girlfriend is basically the walking dead.

*shakes self*

They slide up to the star, and you can see the shields working extra-hard to protect them. (That effect was created by trickling salt off a bowling ball and messing with it in special effects.)

I'm pretty sure when Picard has the crew magnify the eruptions on the surface of the star, it is probably footage of the eruptions on the surface of our own sun. The film looks different. But I couldn't find evidence that pointed one way or another, so it'll have remain a guess.

Wes reports that his console is overloading. Scenes are shown that indicate that it's happening all over the ship, and Troi reports to Picard that people are feeling uneasy about this. Data says that they need to get in closer to get more information. They start to move in, but Worf says he's getting a distress signal from nearby.
The message they listen to is garbled from the sun activity, but Data says it's coming from a freighter orbiting the fourth planet in this system and calling to a station on the third.
Picard puts the call onscreen. "Hey, can we help you?"
It's all garbled, and the picture is so pixelated that it might as well be bukake, but they get that the freighter is in some kind of trouble, losing orbit, and about to take a nose-dive into the atmosphere. Picard orders the E turned around to go to the ship's aid.
Dramatic music! Opening credits!

They approach the ship, and Picard asks for more info, but a bunch of people start talking at once. Picard asks for just one answer.
"Hey, I'm T'Jon," says the guy from the first screencap. "I'm the captain of this Ornaran freighter, and like, I dunno, our ship is broken or some shit. We're going down."
Everyone in the bridge crew is weirded out that this guy doesn't seem to know how his own ship works.
"What's the computer say?" Picard tries again.
"Um, like... we're getting that "404, you're fucked" screen."
Picard asks Data to tap into the freighter's computer to see if he can figure out what's going on. Yar says she can give Picard the tractor beam to pull the ship back into orbit. He agrees and tells T'Jon that they're going to tow him out of danger.
"Rad," replies T'Jon. He sounds like he just woke up or had tooth extraction surgery or something. 
Yar tries the tractor beam, but it fizzles out. Too much solar flare interference.
Then Data tells T'Jon that his remote access of the freighter's computer has turned up a misaligned coil. Yar offers to beam one over, but T'Jon reveals that he doesn't know how to install one or align it. In the seven years that he's been captain of this freighter, it's never come up. Nor does anyone else know how to align a coil.
Picard is put off by their lack of knowledge of professionalism.

Riker suggests taking a team over there to fix the coil for them, but Yar advises against beaming over with the bad interference they've got. They've officially run out of options with only a few minutes before the freighter goes down in flames. 
"Fuck it, we're beaming you over here," Picard tells T'Jon.
"Whatever you think is best," says T'Jon breezily.
Riker and Yar hurry to the transporter room, and Yar shoos the chief away from the display. For some weird reason, he leaves. I mean, I guess they didn't want to pay that actor for him to stand around in the transporter room for several more minutes, but why would the chief just leave his post?
Yar can't get a lock on what she thinks are probably six life-forms.
"Maybe if we both set the coordinates for the transporters on either end, we can sync them up to boost the signal?" she suggests to Riker.
He agrees, and calls T'Jon.
"Oh, wow," says T'Jon conversationally. "I didn't know you could do that. Yeah, we can go to the transporter room. It's right next door."
Yar is losing patience. The freighter is going down fast, but T'Jon and his friends seem to be taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll through their doomed ship.
"Would you PLEASE just get your slow asses to the transporter?"
When they get there with  ninety seconds to go, T'Jon has to confusedly ask Yar to repeat her coordinates. He sounds like he almost doesn't give a shit.
They lock up the transporters, start the process, annnndddd....

"WTF is that?" demands Riker. "Is that their cargo? Why the hell would they send their cargo?"
Picard asks if Yar and Riker got the passengers, but Riker replies that they sent some container instead.
"What the hell is so important that they'd send us their cargo?" asks Picard.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

The E crew takes a WTF? moment to try to figure out why they now have some unknown container instead of six new people, then Riker tells Yar to beam the cargo into a hold and lock onto any life-forms she can find. They get some quasi-locks and begin the process. The freighter explodes. After a moment, four people appear on the pad.
Hey look, you guys! It's Joachim, Khan's BFF from Wrath of Khan!

And look! He was hitching a ride with David Marcus, Kirk's son!

Man, this episode is just chock-full of dead characters.

Riker introduces himself to the four, then gets down to scolding them about sending their damn cargo on before themselves, sacrificing two of their friends in the process.
Immediately, Joachim is all, "Where's our freaking cargo?"
"In the hold," says Riker in irritation. "Why are you guys so involved with this cargo? Do you not give two fucks for those people we couldn't save?" But he gives up, and takes them to the hold.
T'Jon/Joachim and his dark-haired friend rush to the container like lost kids finding their parents at Disneyland. The dark-haired dude Romas actually kind of hugs the container while T'Jon thanks Riker profusely.
But there's a problem. While T'Jon and Romas claim the cargo is theirs, the well-dressed pair, Sobi (David Marcus) and his companion Langor (ugh, that's awful) claim the container also. Seems that T'Jon and Romas offered the others a bunch of goods in exchange for the container, but the goods (whatever they were) went down with the ship. Sobi and Langor are now claiming that because the goods never made it to Brekka (their home planet, and presumably the one we are orbiting), the container cannot pass into the hands of T'Jon and Romas. T'Jon and Romas, of course, are claiming that it's not their fault the goods went down with the ship, and that they paid for the container already.
Sobi then makes a gross comment that kind of insults everyone: "You expect to much of them, Langor. You always have, and you've always been disappointed."
Did he just infantilize his companion and the people they were traveling with? In the smuggest way possible?
T'Jon loses his temper and starts wrestling with Sobi. But it seems they both have this ability to channel electricity through their bodies, and they try to shock one another.

Romas tries to rush forward to help T'Jon, but Langor grabs him with that same electrical charge.
"WTF?" yells Yar, and she shoots at T'Jon and Sobi with her phaser, obviously set really low.
"Behave yourselves... gentlemen."
WTH, Star Trek? You wait until you kill off Yar to give her better lines and parts? From the view of the audience, getting these episodes in air order, Yar finally gets some good lines and juicy head of security bits, then you kill her off. Ugh.
Riker has called in some security golds, and they now escort the four guests to the observation lounge, giving Riker and Yar ample time to make their way basically to the same place, only carving out a few extra minutes to chat about how Yar cannot confiscate a natural electrical charge from these people, should they choose to use it against each other, or someone on the E. I like this convo. It shows Yar doing her job, and Riker interacting with her to discuss how to handle possible problems. Again, Star Trek, you couldn't have done this before now?

The Brekkians and Ornarans are in the observation lounge, arguing over who gets the cargo. Riker and Yar enter the bridge and let Picard know that they are waiting to see him in the lounge. Picard asks Data for some exposition:
The last time the Federation had any kind of info gathering in this system was 200 years earlier. Ornara was on the verge of getting space flight.
"Weird that they didn't get much farther in 200 years," remarks Geordi.
"Weirder still that they care so much about that cargo, but don't have any fucks to give for those people they lost," adds Troi.
Picard decides to check on his guests. They are still bickering. Picard walks in and starts a conversation with T'Jon and Romas about their ship. Data says that they could have most definitely fixed it if given the chance to do so, and the Ornarans are excited, because they only have two ships left for their whole freaking planet and neither works well. They don't know how to fix them. data suggests that they can replicate the coils needed and give them to the Ornarans, so that both ships will work. Picard tells Data to instruct engineering to get on top of it. For some reason, the Brekkians exchange a smile.
They get back to the topic at hand, and the Ornarans reveal that the cargo is actually medicine (called felicium) for a plague that their people have been dying of for centuries.

Picard turns a side-eye on the Brekkians, who start defending themselves right away for denying medicine to a planet full of sick people.
"It's like this," says Langor reasonably. "That medicine only grows in remote spots on our planet, and that huge amount of medicine that we were going to trade took a lot of time and effort to gather and refine. If we just give it away, we lose all that work for nothing."
Romas loses his shit and yells at them that they're condemning his people to death, and that they are going to suffer. Then he adds that the Brekkians will see it soon enough in T'Jon and Romas.
"Hold the motherfucking comm badge," says Picard. "Do you guys have this plague? And you brought that shit onto my ship?"
"Every Ornaran does," Romas admits.
Picard turns to Riker. "Did the bioscan pick up anything when they transported over?"
"Dunno," Riker replies. "The solar flares have wrecked havoc on all of our systems."
"Well, fuck," says Picard. He calls Dr Crusher to the observation lounge on medical emergency.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Down in sick bay, Crusher scans T'Jon and Romas while the Brekkians watch from the sidelines.         Romas is thrashing on the table, and T'Jon sweating profusely, but Sobi and Langor beam a few steps away.
"We're in perfect health, right?" asks Langor.
"Yes, you're fine," mutters Crusher tersely.
T'Jon starts some shit with the Brekkians again, and the Brekkians take the bait, arguing back.
"STFU and get the hell out of my sick bay!" yells Crusher.
"Can we leave?" asks Langor cheerfully.
"Yesterday, bitch." Crusher points to the door.
Picard comes in, and Langor tries to grab him for a chat.
"Did I stutter?" demands Crusher. "I said get out!"

The Brekkians leave, and Crusher pulls Picard into the office.
"The Brekkians are perfectly healthy. The Ornarans show symptoms of some disease, but I can't actually find any."
"Did the biofilter skim it off?" asks Picard.
"Dunno," she replies, same as Riker. "I need more time to check them out, and until I'm able to really get some good examinations, I have no idea if they're a danger to us or not."
"Well, that sucks," replies Picard.
"It does," she agrees. "You know what else sucks? Those asshole Brekkians. They're kind of insufferable, and they have no empathy for the Ornarans."

Picard goes back out to talk to the Ornarans. They're sweaty and shaky. He tells them that his hands are tied here, because he has no jurisdiction. It isn't his decision to make who gets the felicium. (It isn't mentioned, but also worth noting: neither of these planets belong to the Federation. If they were, and asked for his assistance as a mediator.... maybe? But here, he's just some dude who picked up a couple of hitchhikers.)

The boys are not happy with this reply, and T'Jon yells at him that he'll be a party to murder if he doesn't do anything, but then he apologizes for yelling, saying he isn't feeling well. Picard agrees to talk to the Brekkians on their behalf after Crusher says that if the Ornarans believe that they will feel better when they get some meds, they will. 

Picard goes to see the Brekkians in their quarters. They're languidly enjoying some juice at their leisure, and Langor is in a "paint me like one of your French girls" pose.

Picard enters, and they immediately adhere their lips to his ass. "Oh, captain! This ship is so lovely, and your crew is so efficient and helpful!"
"Yeah, whatever, thanks," he mutters. "The Ornarans have a request."
And the Brekkians slip into "good cop-bad cop."
"No fucking way," says Sobi.
"We want to be reasonable," smiles Langor. "Let's hear out Captain Picard."
You know how, when a certain person gives a friendly smile, you just don't trust that smile, even if you don't fully know what their deal is?

Red Hour is coming, and it's being run by gracious hosts Sobi and Langor.

Let's throw in some of this shit for good measure -

I should start an entirely different blog just for Crazy-Ass Space Bitches of Star Trek.

A nice smile only reigns in the crazy or evil for so long.

"So hey," says Picard. "How about you give T'Jon and Romas only what they need to keep the plague at bay while you guys are on my ship?"
Sobi gets up and starts to give that speech that slimy businessmen give when they want people to believe that they're not slimy businessmen. "We're in business here. We can't just give our products away." And they always use that tone that says they're tired of explaining why they aren't slimy businessmen. 
Pro-tip, Sobi: if you have to keep explaining why you aren't slimy, the odds are good that you actually are. In fact, here's a good "am I a slimy asshole?" test: record your "slimy asshole" speech and play it back. Does your speech sound like any speech delivered by Tim Curry in pretty much any role he's ever played? Because nobody delivers those speeches quite like Tim Curry. And you actually believe him for a while because he comes off as so sincere. But sooner or later, you have to face up to the fact that Tim Curry's character is, in fact, a slimy asshole, because (and here's the hint) he's being played by Tim Curry, and nobody plays the slimy asshole quite like Tim Curry.

He even has the fucking smile, too!

Wait, what the hell was I talking about? 
Oh, right.
Sobi is giving his Tim Curry speech about how he's not a slimy businessman, and no one is buying it. Langor says cheerfully (because that's her default) that they'll agree to give the Ornarans two doses to use right now.
"No charge!" Sobi is quick to add, but his cheerful voice is not quite as believable as Langor's.
Picard says he will alert Crusher, and Langor and Sobi leap to their feet to request that they be present when the meds are handed out.
"Fine, whatever. God, you guys are irritating," mutters Picard as they exit.
Everyone goes to the cargo bay, and Sobi and Langor open the canister to take out a thingy and put in what I can only assume are lentils.

I wonder what that thingy was before it was conscripted into service as a medicine-
measuring device on Star Trek.

Ever the consummate salespeople, Sobi and Langor explain that the dosage is very potent, and the thingy they put the felicium in measures out the individual doses. They then go on to talk about how they've refined the process of making the felicium, and that the canister contains four billion doses. Each dose works at most for 72 hours, then the symptoms return, but fortunately, the felicium inhibits the plague completely. The Ornarans can lead regular lives... so long as they take this shit every 72 hours. Oh, also - there's no cure for the plague, so they have to take more felicium every three days. How fortunate for the Brekkians.
Then they talk about how no one knows how to cure this disease, so they've focused on treating the symptoms instead. Data remarks that they must have been using technology from their other industries to improve their refining process.
"We don't have any other industries," says Sobi stiffly.
"Um, none?" asks Picard.
"Nah. We don't need to make or grow anything, because the Ornarans provide us with everything we need. In exchange, we give them the felicium," says Langor (you guessed it) cheerfully. 

"How convenient that a thing that the Ornarans need to live grows on your planet, and that you are able to devote all of your resources to making it," says Picard.
"We'd be foolish not to take advantage of it," replies Sobi, employing that same tone from earlier.
Wow, thanks for clearing that up, PharmaBro!

Dat smile, tho!
Crusher takes the thingy with the felicium back to sick bay. T'Jon and Romas have this little dohickey that attaches to the top of the thingy, and the whole kit-n-kaboodle glows.
"Hurry up!" says Romas.
When the glowing stops, T'Jon removes the dohickey, and shoots medicine into Romas' palm. Romas looks a bit blissed out. T'Jon does the same to himself.
Crusher is left staring at two blissed-out guys.

Crusher high-tails it to the ready room.
"Yeah, no plague," she tells him. "They're drug addicts."
"Say fucking what?" asks Picard.
"Felicium is a narcotic," she spells out. "Everyone on their planet is hooked on drugs."
"Well, shit," he replies. 
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Later on the bridge, Data and Riker have discovered the rest of the backstory on these planets, and they fetch Picard to tell him:
Once upon a time, Ornara was a technologically-driven society. Brekka was kind of backwater. Then, 200 years ago, there was this plague that hit Ornara. Somehow, a cure was found in a plant on Brekka, and they set up a trade agreement, which continues to this day.

They're joined by Dr Crusher.
"It's beneficial to all of them," finished Riker.
"No, just Brekka," sighs Crusher. "At one point, felicium was a medicine. Then it cured the plague, and now it's just a drug that the Ornarans are all hooked on."
She and Picard move down to the captain's seat. "What are you going to do?" she asks.
"There's nothing I can do," he replies. "This is not a new situation, they haven't broken any laws with us. They have a symbiotic relationship with one another."
Crusher is shocked. "Um, the Brekkians have fucked up all of the Ornarans' shit. That doesn't bug you?"
"Sure it does. But I have no jurisdiction here."
"Okay, how about this: I can make a drug to wean the Ornarans off the felicium," she suggests.
"Can't do that, either," Picard answers. "It's none of our business. If the Ornarans want to be hopped up on felicium, that's on them."
"That's fucked up," Crusher concludes. She's pretty pissed off.

Ornara calls. It's their leader, Margan, and now that everyone knows that they're addicts rather than plague patients, it's real obvious that Margan is messed up.
"Hey... um, how's it going? Do you have my guys?"
"Yeah," says Picard.
He starts to tell Yar that she should have T'Jon and Romas brought up to talk to Margan, but he changes his mind and adds quietly, "No... I don't want them to have access to the bridge."
That's kind of shitty, Picard. Would you have let them up when you thought they were plague victims? Did you think they were going to steal anything that isn't nailed down? Or have you suddenly, just this moment, decided that you should be consistent, and not let any guests onto the bridge? Because you've kind of been all over the place as far as that's concerned.
Anyway, he's going to have them take the call in guest quarters, and takes Crusher and Riker with him.

Are you guys ready? Ready for The Scene? The scene that Memory Alpha refers to as "reviled"?

Following in the grand Jewish tradition of "the youngest always asks the questions," Wes turns to Data and says that he understands how this happened to the Ornarans, but doesn't understand how anyone would become voluntarily addicted to a substance.
Yar answers because she comes from a planet that's basically the armpit of the universe, and would know best. 
"Naw, you don't go into it looking to get addicted. You're looking to feel good when everything sucks. After a while, you do it to keep from feeling bad. When you reach that point, it's all about getting your next fix."
Wes shrugs and smiles. "I guess I just don't understand."
She smiles back. "I hope you never do."

Poor Denise Crosby. She didn't hardly get any screen time, but when she did, she ended up being intimately involved in some of season one's biggest POS scenes. Here, she gets stuck delivering Nancy Reagan's Just Say No message. This came near the end of Reagan's presidency, but those programs continued in schools into the early nineties. Nancy actually did quite a few television spots in promoting it. Makes me wonder if someone offered to make her an alien being on Star Trek's drug episode...
At any rate, there's some good and some bad here. First, this is clearly a PSA. They didn't have to include this in this episode. They show-horned it in - did they need to pad out the episode, or was this part always supposed to be there? Then they got a bit heavy-handed. It almost rivals "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." ...almost.
One thing I will give them... they didn't go for the old "drugs are for losers" tack, like I got in every freaking "just say no" class I got stuck in during school. I don't know how many people were explaining the cycle fully at the time, but I mostly got the Mr Mackey Special: "Drugs are bad, mmkaaayy?" I like the approach of "nobody gets into drugs with the intention of getting addicted." You end up with some compassion for those who do get addicted. 
Too bad Wesley sounds like an after school special here.

Yar gets called into guest quarters to... I dunno, supervise their phone call, or something?
They call back Margan, and he asks if T'Jon has the medicine.
"We do," says T'Jon, "but there's a hang-up..."
"I can't listen anymore!" shouts Margan, who clearly needs a fix. "People are suffering! We need it now!"
He signs off, and T'Jon look piteously at Picard. Picard obviously feels bad for the guy.
"I'm sorry," he says quietly.
T'Jon looks like he's suffering from despair, then he suddenly grabs Riker and sort of... stops his heart with a lightning bolt? I don't know how to describe that. Riker freezes. T'Jon is holding the spot over Riker's heart.
"Give us our meds, or I'm gonna kill this person!"

Picard quietly tells T'Jon that he's not a killer, and after a moment, T'Jon agrees and drops Riker, who is immediately checked out by Crusher.
"Help us," pleads T'Jon.
"I dunno if I can," admits Picard.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

When we return, Riker stands and says he is weak, but fine.
Our Lady of Narcotic Indulgence shows up, and asks for an audience with Picard. He agrees.
"Shit's about to go down," he whispers to Crusher. "Come with me."
They follow Langor back to their quarters.
"We've been talking," they tell Picard and Crusher. "And we know how the Ornarans are suffering, so we want to offer them this shipment for free, to ease their hardship."
Oh, damn! Smile-that-hides-the-evil and I'm-not-a-slimy-asshole speech! They're benevolent, they're kind -

"They're in on it," Picard tells Crusher, and he doesn't bother to keep his voice down. "They fucking know. They know the Ornarans aren't sick, they know that felicium is a drug, and they're offering this shipment for free so that the Ornarans will continue to be addicted, continue to use the drug in the dark. They don't want to lose their only customers."
Crusher makes her guesses, her voice rising as she puts a bunch of stuff together. "But they only know that because the plague hit Brekka as well, and they figured out that the felicium was a medicine, but later, a narcotic! They got the Ornarans hooked on purpose!"
The Brekkians are quiet. They manage to look abashed for half a minute.

Then the tiny smile reappears, and it's business as usual.

Fuck, Langor. You are one cold bitch.
They're not even going to deny it, or act all insulted that Picard would suggest such a thing.
Langor and Sobi are not PharmaBros. They're drug dealers. Brekka is probably covered in McMansions with huge pools shaped like objects that no one ever swims in, and people walking white tigers. It certainly explains why the Brekkians are dressed like they're going to a douchebag rave.
"Are you going to tell them?" asks Langor, still smiling like a subtle psycho.
"No," says Picard. He explains the Prime Directive to them, stating why he can't get involved.
Langor looks so fucking pleased with herself that I start planning the dance I'm going to do when she gets her come-uppance. 
What? It's Star Trek. You know that shit is coming.
"No way!" shouts a frantic Crusher. "Don't let this continue! Deny the Ornarans this shipment, just this one!"
"I can't," says Picard. "They offered it. I can't get involved."
"You're absolutely right, captain," purrs Langor. "It's none of your business."
Fuck this bitch. Fuck her right in the ear with something small and sharp that ruptures her ear drum.

They all go down to the cargo bay. Geordi calls Picard over his comm badge to say that they've made it to Ornara, and are in orbit. 
T'Jon and Romas are there, awed by the new coils. When Picard arrives, they try to appeal to him again about the felicium.
"It's cool," he says. "We're beaming you down with the cargo. The Brekkians are going to give it to you."
T'Jon and Romas are overjoyed. Check out the shade that Yar is throwing the Brekkians in the background.

Suddenly, everyone is friendly again. The Ornarans warmly invite the Brekkians down to Ornara to discuss how they can pay them back for the shipment. The Brekkians graciously accept.
Then T'Jon and Romas tell Picard how grateful they are for the gifts of the new coils, and how things can get back to normal once their ships are fixed.
"Yeah, sorry," says Picard. "Coils stay here. See, I forgot about this thing called the Prime Directive, and that means that I can't give you guys - who are pre-warp - technology that could speed up your progress as a culture. I can't interfere. You'll have to get along without them. Sorry."

You got James "The Prime what now?" Kirk.
And then you got Jean-Luc "Just used my own regulations to fuck over some slimy assholes" Picard.

Come-Uppance Dance time!

Fuck you, Langor. Fuck you, Sobi. Dishonor on you, dishonor on your planet, dishonor on your motherfucking cow.

Oh, noes! Cracks in the veneer!
Like I give a shit.

T'Jon and Romas look devastated and betrayed.
"But... you'll be a party to allowing our ships to break down, and we won't be able to get our meds," they protest.
Sobi and Langor chime in, with that panicked kind of anger.
"Yes, captain. You'll be interfering, and disrupting the lives of the people of both planets, and bringing about the end of a trade agreement that has lasted for generations," they tell him.

"The Prime Directive says I can't give them the coils," shrugs Picard.
"That's absurd!" yells Sobi.
"Really?" asks Picard coolly. "You didn't think so when it worked in your favor."
"Why do you want to hurt us?" demand the Ornarans, who look close to tears.
"I don't," says Picard simply.
"There are other options," says Crusher.
Some very sad-looking Ornarans and pissed off Brekkians get on the transporter pad and beam down.

Picard and Crusher get in the lift.
"Life is going to suck for the Ornarans when the felicium runs out," Crusher remarks.
"Agreed," he says simply.
"I could have made the passing easier," she reminds him.
"Yeah, kinda?" he says. "But here's the thing: every time mankind throws their oar into some less-developed society, we always fuck up all of the shit. Like, every time. That's exactly why the PD exists - to keep us from doing bad, even when we think we're doing good."
"I hope it was the right decision," she puts in.
"Guess we'll never know," he replies.

(Um, you know you can always come back to this system in a few years, Picard. There's nothing barring you from "checking in" on them.)

They get off the lift at the bridge.
"Where to?" asks Geordi, at the conn.
"Anywhere," says Picard. "I don't fucking care. Get us the hell away from these bat-shit crazy people."
"Cool," says Geordi, and he plugs in some coordinates.
"Where are we going?" Riker asks him.
"Opperline System."
"How come?" asks Riker.
"Never been there," says Geordi. "Let's fucking Boldly Go, bitches."
"Nice," says Picard. "Make that shit so."

So this is another one of those episodes that I kind of like, even though everyone else kind of hates it. I feel like it has both good parts and bad parts.
The bad shit:
- Some bad acting. not your run-of-the-mill bad, just weird-bad. Like Riker's paralysis when T'Jon grabs him with the electrical pulse. Or Wes' "just say no" PSA speeches. But I feel like these were partially the actors, and partially the writing. Sometimes an okay actor is given material that is just not up to snuff, but he has to work with it anyway, and there's no completely saving the scene no matter how hard he tries.
- That whole PSA drugs discussion. I don't think the episode needed it at all, but maybe they wanted to further explain things to younger audience members and figured they'd do something simple, accessible through Wesley. Maybe they figured they'd have Yar explain it because she came from someplace where drugs would have been prevalent, and they could have this double as character development/backstory. I think what they were aiming for was to enhance the story by tying it to real-world stuff, like Star Trek will sometimes do. But in trying to add another layer of meaning, it just felt like this tacked-on scene that interrupted the story and became universally hated amongst the fans.

Some good shit:
- I like the story here. Two planets, one doing well, the other kind of meh. By a weird twist of fate, the planet doing well gets a plague, and the meh planet profits. Now, two centuries later, the well-off planet is the meh planet, and the meh planet is well-off. I mean, the meh planet is well-off because they're all opportunistic motherfuckers, but still. What interests me here is not only the story, but the potential story hiding behind it: what happens after the E leaves? Supposedly, the felicium only lasts three days, and who knows how many people are on Ornara. Maybe they have only one dose for each man, woman and child on the planet. Then it will wear off in three days, and they'll go through withdrawal. But maybe there are fewer people on the planet, which means more doses. It could be months before they figure out the truth. Will they start a war? Decide to return to their previous way of life and just bankrupt Brekka? Are the Ornarans vengeful people? The part that really tickles me - and maybe the writers didn't think about this - Picard basically marooned Langor and Sobi on Ornara. The Ornarans have two ships, but neither works right, and they have no idea how to fix them. If neither was working well enough to get the Brekkians back to their home planet, then Langor and Sobi would be stuck there... while the Ornarans went through withdrawal, realized the truth, and became angry. Maybe they would receive a fair trial. Or maybe the Ornarans have an oubliette. Lawl, I'm hoping oubliette.
- Picard's use of the Prime Directive. Let's not kid ourselves: he broke the damn thing the second he offered them the coils in the first place. Which means that he would need to abide by it again in order to rectify that slip-up. Technically, that's all he ever did: break the PD, then say "sorry, my bad," and take back the gifts he was (illegally) offering. In the meantime, he had found out that one planet was fucking over the other, and there was nothing he could do about that part, but in following the PD, he managed to fix both issues. Here's the kicker: by following the PD and withdrawing his assistance, he has not interfered with the development of Ornara and Brekka. But by encountering these people in the first place, and not offering help, he has also interfered with their development. Had he simply let the freighter go down with all hands, things might have proceeded as usual. They might have taken one of the other busted ships out to Brekka and been able to collect more. There's no way that the Brekkians didn't have a shit-ton of that stuff in reserve. He both interfered and did not at the same time. Schrodinger's Prime Directive. But that's the brilliance of that plan. No, I don't think he had that planned from the beginning - he seemed pretty frustrated with the fact that he couldn't do anything about the situation. But once the Brekkians decided to give up the shipment and he knew he couldn't interfere. He could expose the Brekkians, probably get the Ornarans off felicium, and still be following the Prime Directive. Slow clap, sir. Slow clap.
- Also, seriously: House points to whoever came up with the name "felicium." The Latin root means "happy," which those Ornarans certainly were when high on the stuff. But it also sounds like "fleecing 'em," which the Brekkians were happily doing.

Red deaths: 0
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
Sassy Yar Moments: 0
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 0
Sassy Crusher Moments: 0
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 0
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 2
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0

Huh. No sassy moments this week.

Fun Facts:

- Because this was the last episode for Denise Crosby, she was encouraged by the crew to wave to the camera during the filming of her last scene. She does so in the extreme background of a shot where Picard and Crusher leave the cargo bay after the Brekkians and Ornarans transport off. It's quick and easy to miss, because you're paying attention to Picard and Crusher, and the somber mood they're in.

- This was Merritt Butrick's final Star Trek appearance before his death of AIDS in 1989. Butrick played David Marcus in "Wrath of Khan" and T'Jon in this episode.
- Judson Scott, who played Joachim in WoK and Sobi in this episode, will later appear in Voyager.
- Richard Lineback (Romas) will appear in DS9 and Enterprise.
- Kenneth Tigar (Margan) will appear again in Voyager.
- This is the first time that we see the E's transporter beam interlock with an alien transporter to relocate people and objects. However, something similar was used in "Assignment: Earth" where an Enterprise transporter beam intersected with an alien beam to redirect the person (Gary Seven) to their ship.
- This is the only season one episode without a stardate, and one of five without a stardate.
- Scenes and bloopers from this episode appeared in an episode of LeVar Burton's PBS kids' show "Reading Rainbow."



  1. Man, this episode is just chock-full of dead characters.

    It took three minutes to explain to my wife why I was laughing so hard.

    1. And my loud-ass laughter at your comment just startled a small kitten.
      It's the Circle of Laaaauugh, and it moves us aaallllll...

  2. Tasha seems to talk with the experience of a former addict.

    1. Yeah, I thought so, too. Once again, stuff that might have been able to save the character if they had given her that trait BEFORE killing her off. :P