Star Trek: The Next Generation: Angel One   Rewatch 
May 18, 2020 1:38 PM - Season 1, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Riker leads an away team to a planet dominated by women. Picard is sickened. Any connection? Surprisingly, none whatsoever!

Memory Alpha is our guardian angel:

• In Patrick Barry's original story, Beata was named "Victoria" and she imprisoned Riker after he directly addressed her and then touched her hand. Tasha Yar stunned Riker to prevent him being killed and then took over command of the away team.

• "So one of the major issues that we didn't want to do was an Amazon Women kind of thing where the women are six feet tall with steel D cups," co-producer Herbert J. Wright recalled. "I said, 'The hit I want to take on this is apartheid, so that the men are treated as though they are blacks of South Africa. Make it political. Sexual overtones, yes, but political.' Well, that didn't last very long. Everything that Gene got involved with had to have sex in it. It's so perverse that it's hard to believe. The places it was dragged into is absurd. We were talking about how women would react, and Gene was voicing all the right words again, saying, 'Oh, yes, we've got to make sure that women are represented fairly, because, after all, women are probably the superior sex anyway, and it's real important we don't get letters from feminists, because we want to be fair and we don't want to infer that women have to rule by force if they do rule, because men don't have to rule by force.' Very sensible stuff. All of a sudden something kicks in and he changes: 'However, we also don't want to infer that it would be a better society if women ruled.'" His voice becoming increasingly louder, Roddenberry continued that this was because women were untrustworthy, "vicious creatures," which he angrily blurted out in a torrent of hateful verbiage. Concluded Wright, "Then he looks out the window, looks at the outline, and says, 'Okay, on page eight…' and continues like that didn't even happen."

• This was Leonard John Crofoot's first Star Trek appearance. He later appeared in TNG: "The Offspring" as Lal, and in VOY: "Virtuoso".

• The matte painting of the surface of Angel I was reused many times in later Star Trek episodes.

• Maurice Hurley was succinct in his opinion of "Angel One": "Terrible. Just terrible. One of the ones you'd just as soon erase".

• Keith DeCandido reviewed the episode for Tor.com. He described the episode as being "one of the most sexist episodes of Star Trek ever produced under the veneer of feminism", and that the virus subplot was "filler, and boring filler at that". He said that it was "one of the absolute low points of the show", giving it a score of two out of ten.

• Wil Wheaton watched it for AOL TV, and thought that it started well but soon descended into the appearance of an episode from The Original Series with Riker in the Kirk role. He also noted that if the speech that Riker gave towards the end of the episode had been given to Yar or Troi then the overall message would have been more subtle. He gave it a grade of D overall.


"I think I may sneeze."
"A Klingon sneeze?"
"Only kind I know."
- Worf and La Forge discuss matters on the bridge


"I must say, commander, it looks kinda sexy!"
"Thank you. Actually, it feels quite comfortable."
- Yar and Riker, regarding the latter's outfit for his rendezvous with Beata


"After careful consideration this legislature has voted to stay the executions of the prisoners. Their children will be returned to them immediately. Do not rejoice prematurely. Ramsey and his followers are to be exiled to a distant and unpopulated region. Life will be difficult there, with little time for revolutionary or evolutionary upheaval. As some have observed we may not be able to stop evolution, but perhaps we can reduce it to a slow crawl. (aside) For a man, you can be very clever, Commander Riker."
- Beata, informing Ramsey and the Enterprise crew of the vote to stay the executions


Poster's Log:
This is the first one that starts to feel like "baseline" TNG to me, and I attribute that to its talkiness and its (…careful choice of words…) attempt to engage with a social topic. Previous season one episodes felt a lot more tentative, especially w/r/t inter-faction conflict of the type we see here between the Angel-One-ians (Angelenos?) and the away team. I knew that this tentativeness was going to go away right around the second half of season one or maybe the start of season two, but it's nice to see it start happening here, even if the story stumbles and drags.

I also noticed and appreciated some deft touches reflecting gender politics—the way the Angel leaders openly stare at Riker's junk, the way Riker is a lot more deferential toward Beata even than Starfleet types usually are in tense diplomatic situations like this.

Less effective was the fact that Troi (the purported head of the away team) becomes a passive observer of this mission almost immediately, and the fact that Riker's Kirk speech had to coincide with Riker's Kirk liaison. I feel like the script wanted to use this role-reversal society to comment on the injustice and absurdity of the analogous roles in our society, a la TOS: "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", and it came close, but got dragged back down into plain ol' sexism, evidently by the Roddenberry factor.

Also weaksauce: the clunky virus subplot (our third? fourth? virus of the season), which felt like a rewrite artifact. There had to have been a simpler way to postpone beaming up Ramsey's people, but at least the virus stuff didn't get in the way of developing the A-story adequately. Moreover, I thought the idea of an airborne virus smelling nice and thus inducing deep breaths was kind of nifty in a sci-fi way.

Nice to see some character-building moments with La Forge, Worf, and Yar, whose personality I frankly couldn't really remember getting much of a sense of at all on previous TNG rewatches (where, of course, I skipped season 1 episodes liberally).

Riker mentions a planet that weirdly has the same name (and spelling, in the script and closed-captions) of the tar-monster who'll prove to be the most impactful villain of season one in episode 23, "Skin of Evil."

Why is the diplomatic gift just a mini-Crystalline Entity in amber?

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I put it to you that there are three different categories of Prime Directive Episodes.

A Type-1 Prime Directive Episode violates the PD flagrantly and seems to forget that it exists. We've seen an example already this season ("Justice"); others exist in TNG, VOY, and even DS9 if memory serves.

A Type-2 Prime Directive Episode uses the PD sloppily as a plot complication, citing it only partly or applying it unevenly. "Angel One" would seem to be such an episode, because Riker's Kirk speech/liaison is absolutely interference in the development of this society's internal progress. The fact that the Federation apparently wants Angel One to join might suggest that they are post-warp, yet the events of the story suggest that their tech is well behind Starfleet's. Would've been nice to know whether Angel One is pre- or post-warp! So, again, Type-2.

A Type-3 Prime Directive Episode actually manages to cite, apply, and interpret the PD as accurately as it possibly can given the vagueness with which the PD is defined in aggregate. I'd list TNG "Who Watches the Watchers" and "Homeward" (the Nikolai Rozhenko one) among these.

Those sufficiently interested may read the semicanonical phrasing of the PD here.

"Greatest Generation" episode link.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
'The hit I want to take on this is apartheid, so that the men are treated as though they are blacks of South Africa. Make it political. Sexual overtones, yes, but political.'

Wow that's a terrible take- oh wait- that was BEFORE it was ruined?

'Oh, yes, we've got to make sure that women are represented fairly, because, after all, women are probably the superior sex anyway, and it's real important we don't get letters from feminists, because we want to be fair and we don't want to infer that women have to rule by force if they do rule, because men don't have to rule by force.' Very sensible stuff. All of a sudden something kicks in and he changes: 'However, we also don't want to infer that it would be a better society if women ruled.'" His voice becoming increasingly louder, Roddenberry continued that this was because women were untrustworthy, "vicious creatures," which he angrily blurted out in a torrent of hateful verbiage. Concluded Wright, "Then he looks out the window, looks at the outline, and says, 'Okay, on page eight…' and continues like that didn't even happen."

OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:12 PM on May 18 [6 favorites]


I will say the linked Greatest Gen ep is wonderful (They have so much terrible stuff to work with in season one) but this bit in the podcast "It’s the episode where we argue about Federation immigration policy!" V. good.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:12 PM on May 18


Rewatching all these during a global pandemic makes me painfully aware of how many “virus” episodes there are, and also how lax Starfleet medical procedures are. I understand that they have Magical Space Tech, and also it’s harder to act if the actors are wearing face shields or breathing masks, but, really, not even a hand-waving justification?

Also yes my partner “WHAT?!?” A record number of times during this episode, and I agree with her. So. Much. Facepalm.
posted by Alterscape at 3:10 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Even though Trent had a very unflattering outfit, the camera seemed to want to linger on him. I’m glad someone loved Trent, because none of the characters did. And he was even willing to operate the disintegration ball!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:17 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


That matte painting of Angel One shows up a lot in later episodes as other planets and starbases, and no attempt was made to change it even slightly. It’s so jarring, as if the Superfriends announcer chimes in with “Meanwhile, on the planet Angel One...!”

We will see Angel One again as Starbase 515 next season in “Samaritan Snare”. I think the HD remastered version does change it slightly so it’s not identical.
posted by Servo5678 at 3:20 PM on May 18


In defense (sort of) of this episode: it made me so mad about how it handled a matriarchal society that I finally sat down and wrote my damn novel just to show them how it should have been done. So there's that.
posted by Mogur at 3:40 PM on May 18 [9 favorites]


I did kind of enjoy Geordi's first "Make it so!" though.
posted by zadcat at 3:49 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


I approve of your PD episode classification scheme, as well as citing "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", because this was definitely TNG's version of a season 3 TOS episode; TOS S3 at its preachiest could be incredibly anvilicious [TVTropes]. Ironically, LTBYLB may be one of the least-worst, because, even though I'm not sure how the Cheronians would end up looking like that (especially with the very sharp division of pigment), I absolutely believe that they'd go to war over that. (ENT has an episode where there's a holy war over a relatively minor theological difference.)

Here, even though they're trying to show up sexism in our time by reversing the situation, there are some differences that are kind of odd, such as that the matriarchs are determined to simply execute the male suffragettes (suffragers?), via the method of their standing willingly between the disintegration boxes (?), or that it took aliens from outside their society to call its basis into question. Or, as said, that Riker got the big speech, not Troi or one of the other female crew. I can absolutely believe that Roddenberry's misogyny is the secret ingredient that spoiled this. (I also wonder if the "Amazon Women kind of thing where the women are six feet tall with steel D cups" thing, whether or not that's something that Gene actually proposed, was the secret inspiration behind Futurama's "Amazon Women in the Mood" episode (i.e. the Death by Snu-Snu one).)

Good points? Well, Riker in that outfit, peacocking around, will never not be amusing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:08 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


Pre-(re? don’t recall this at all)-watch, this episode sounds to be in dialog with a recently-cited TAS episode, “The Lorelei Signal”, although that episode didn’t strike me as especially problematic.
posted by mwhybark at 5:29 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


LOLed at Worf exclaiming that Klingons appreciate strong women. Keep it in your uniform, dude. And by dude, I mean Gene. Also, they kind of don’t, at least as they’re depicted in future eps.
posted by rodlymight at 6:15 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Well, eventually we'll meet Worf's girlfriend, just not this season, I think.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 PM on May 18


Well, nearly, sorta.
posted by mwhybark at 7:00 PM on May 18


1) Perhaps this is based entirely upon my prejudices against transport workers in general and the scruffiness of these guys in particular but I totally got the vibe that the marooned Odins weren't persecuted simply because they were men, but because upon arriving they tried to swing their dicks around, literally and figuratively and got slapped down extra hard.
It would have made things more interesting, at least.

2) Because this episode wasn't interesting I think my brain expanded the B-plot to include the virus originating from the Denubian Alps holodeck environment. Virus occurs naturally in the Denubian Alps, so it is present in the recreation, then virus mutates into something else that doesn't dissolve when it leaves the holodeck. The Wiki says originally the virus was contracted in an actual ski trip location, but we never find out where it came from in this episode, do we?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:53 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Dr. Crusher quarantines a number of kids who took a trip, presumably to the viral-hosting ski resort. I think the intent is to portray Wes’ holodeck visit as a sort of extension of the trip. Doesn’t explain the implication that the holodeck has recreated pleasant smelling virally-loaded snow.
posted by mwhybark at 9:27 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Good antidotes to this episode are "Houston.. Houston, Do You Read?,"(James Tiptree Jr.,) and especially "The Matter of Seggri," (Ursula Le Guin).
posted by emjaybee at 4:53 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I think the intent is to portray Wes’ holodeck visit as a sort of extension of the trip. Doesn’t explain the implication that the holodeck has recreated pleasant smelling virally-loaded snow.

But it would be in keeping with Starfleet’s general inability to deal with the Holodeck technology. Every time someone goes in, there is a disaster, but does StarOSHA shut them down?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:03 AM on May 19


Any idea when they really get in the swing of rubber-foreheading their aliens? Presumably the Angelic beings aren't humans, because Roddenberry wouldn't've allowed humans to be sexist in TNG. Similarly the Ligonians and Edo are apparently aliens but didn't have any SFX makeup either.
posted by ckape at 10:42 AM on May 19


Unless you count the return of the Romulans in this season's finale, there aren't any in season one. A quick review suggests that the first genuine rubber-forehead alien that we haven't seen is in season 2 episode 15 ("Pen Pals"), though IIRC they used some more elaborate makeup in that instance. Perhaps the first truly representative forehead-and-not-much-else species is, interestingly, the Pakleds ("Samaritan Snare"), a couple episodes later.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:57 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]


TNG is like ... comfort food for me. I like to put it on in the background while I work on projects. I'm generally familiar enough with the episodes that I can drift in and out of paying attention to it without getting lost.

This is one episode that I always, always skip. I've skipped it so much I forgot the virus subplot.

Apart from being offensive, it's just cringe. It's like a fifteen-year-old boy's first attempt on r/worldbuilding.
I don't want to know that much about your misogynistic sexual hang-ups, Roddendingleberry. They are embarrassing and predictable.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:42 PM on May 19 [7 favorites]


But it would be in keeping with Starfleet’s general inability to deal with the Holodeck technology. Every time someone goes in, there is a disaster, but does StarOSHA shut them down?

In my headcanon the Enterprise is a highly desired posting not because it's the flagship, but because of its sophisticated VR fleshlights Holodecks. I'd like to see StarOSHA try.
posted by sugar and confetti at 4:50 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


I don't want to know that much about your misogynistic sexual hang-ups, Roddendingleberry. They are embarrassing and predictable.

Good news, Gene is well on his way out the door by this episode, although it will take a while. other news, part of my intent here, at least, is to examine stuff in TNG that is embarrassing and predictable. It’s ok to pick apart your comfort food.
posted by mwhybark at 8:37 PM on May 19 [2 favorites]


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