Star Trek: The Next Generation: Samaritan Snare   Rewatch 
August 28, 2020 5:58 AM - Season 2, Episode 17 - Subscribe

Picard's heart is broken. Riker, commanding the Enterprise in his absence, makes Geordi go.

Memory Alpha is strong:

• The producers were originally intending to use the captain's yacht in this episode, but budget constraints forced the use of a shuttlecraft instead.

• The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion notes that Riker's "crimson force field" trick is similar to James T. Kirk's "corbomite" bluff in TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Deadly Years".

• The late Christopher Collins' next Star Trek role is as Durg in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Passenger".

• The events of the sixth season episode, "Tapestry", are based on the events in Picard's youth he relates to Wesley in this episode.

• During the scene aboard the shuttle when Wesley and Picard are chatting while the shuttle's autopilot is on, there is an odd exchange of conversation. As Picard begins talking about his fight with the Nausicaans, Wesley asks, "Was this before the Klingons joined the Federation?" to which Picard answers "That's right." This overlooked yet puzzling dialogue has yet to be explained, though Wesley could have been referring to the Klingon-Federation alliance.

• Wesley's Starfleet exams, which he takes in this episode, are most likely the repeat tests of the exams he failed in TNG: "Coming of Age" of which Picard said "and when you take your exams next year, and you will."

Daniel Benzali (the head surgeon) was once engaged to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country actress Kim Cattrall, but the two separated before going through with the marriage.

• According to director Les Landau: "I dealt with a race of what appeared to be ugly and slow people. They have a need for things, which can be a reflection of our society. That's what Star Trek tries to do, take an almost unbelievable situation in an unbelievable time and somehow make all of us realize that's what's happening today, and what we can do to make the planet and the universe a better place. I think that is the essence of Star Trek and the tradition Roddenberry is trying to carry on."

• The Pakleds were created by "Samaritan Snare" writer Robert L. McCullough. He thought them up in the knowledge that, no matter how bizarre the aliens were, the TNG production staff would most likely be able to find some way to portray them. "I wanted to do something fun. In all these space shows, the aliens are so damn smart and sophisticated, I thought, 'How about having them come across as dummies?' As all the aliens were malevolent and intuitive like Q, I felt it would be neat to find some aliens left out of the loop of development," McCullough laughed. "Third world aliens! They appear to be stupid, but they're not: they're just needy. They're so needy, they become desperate." He was extremely pleased to create the "dull, laughable and grossly overweight aliens." Pakleds went on to appear in the background of several Star Trek: Deep Space Nine installments.

• Maurice Hurley remarked: "Very strange but nice. That was very different. It gave Geordi a nice turn, and the more you use LeVar, the happier the show will be, because LeVar is wonderful to work with."

• This episode inspired writers Dennis Russell Bailey, David Bischoff, and Lisa Putman White to write the third season episode "Tin Man". According to Bailey: "The point at which we became serious about trying to write a script for the show was about five minutes after watching 'Samaritan Snare,' which in my personal opinion was the most abysmal piece of Star Trek ever filmed. My objections to it were that it always resorted to idiot plotting to make the story work, and that offended me a great deal worse than some of the awful shows which were done on the original series. I thought the way in which it was plotted and the way it was dealt with was an insult to the intelligence of the people who watched the show and the actors and characters in the show. None of the plot could have happened if all of the characters hadn't suddenly became morons that week."

"What is the nature of your problem?"
"We are far from home."
"Aren't we all. What was the reason for your distress signal?"
"We are Pakleds. Our ship is the Mondor. It is broken."
"What brings you so far from home?"
"We look for things."
"What sort of things?"
"Things we need."
"Can you be more specific?"
"Things to make us go. We need help."
- Riker and Grebnedlog

"There is no greater challenge than the study of philosophy."
"But William James won't be in my Starfleet exams."
"The important things never will be. Anyone can be trained in the mechanics of piloting a starship."
"But Starfleet Academy--"
"It takes more. Open your mind to the past. Art, history, philosophy. And all this may mean something."
- Picard and Wesley

"Any classified weapons knowledge you share with your captors will be considered treason."
"But I may have no choice."
"You will die without honor."
"Thanks a lot, Worf."
- Worf and La Forge, attempting to deceive the Pakleds

Poster's Log:
The formal (albeit piecemeal) linguistics training in me compels me to remark that, depending on which theory of mind you subscribe to, a clever spacefaring species like the Pakleds having "poor language skills" strains plausibility. But if we suspend an SF-appropriate amount of disbelief, maybe it could be explained thus: verbal language, for the Pakleds, might be supplemental communication, like hand gestures for us. Maybe the real meat of their communication is nonverbal, and if so, I'm gonna guess it's through subtle eyebrow movements, because just look at those damn eyebrows; they had to evolve that way for some reason. Quick, somebody write a fanfic story where a Pakled and a Darmok-alien have to communicate. "We have eyebrows. You do not. Why?"

Riker has a line in here where he says, to the Pakleds' faces, "I think you need to continue to develop." Since it aired, I had always felt that this A- and B-story have nothing to do with each other, and could each have been attached to anything else, but now I wonder if that notion of needing to "develop" is really the core of this episode—whether intended by the writers or not. Riker and Geordi clearly "need to develop" their savvy in looking past initial impressions of new species—and in paying attention to warnings from Worf. Wesley obviously needs to develop his ability to interact with other Starfleet personnel: almost everything out of his mouth on the shuttle trip has the emotional and professional maturity of a 7-year-old (although in his defense I'd probably be just as awkward around Patrick Stewart now). Sonya Gomez is off the ship after this; she must need to develop too if her line about "But Captain Picard's not taking the exams!" is any indication. And Picard's Nausicaan story serves as an example of successful personal development—even a brash punk kid can end up commanding the flagship. I guess Picard's relationship with Pulaski also needs to develop, though it looks like it won't really get a chance to.

I suspect the writers' room was concerned only with putting together a humorous/exciting A-story and a touching Picard-character-development B-story, and so I won't go too deep into the beanplate by speculating about what the Enterprise officers' paternalistic attitude toward the Pakleds means/establishes for the rest of the franchise—though if someone else wants to, go nuts. Bailey's remarks above aren't far off IMO in terms of our main cast being stupider than they should be; this feels like a season 1 episode in at least a couple of ways.

As to the question of whether "big guys being dumb" is funny…well, culturally speaking, we have dozens of successful TV sitcoms apparently based solely on that premise, for whatever that's worth. And I'll admit to being fond of this episode when it came out, largely because of the Pakleds' dialogue—but I wasn't even in high school yet, and thus was deep in the mire of '80s schoolyard humor. But each time I watch this one, the fact that the show clearly intends for us to laugh at the Pakleds (the success of their ploy notwithstanding) causes it to lose ever more luster for the same reason that Homer is no longer my favorite character in my current rewatch of the first few seasons of The Simpsons. YMMV I guess.

Perhaps controversially, I think I would put this on a Must-See TNG list, nevertheless. Apart from just being such an outlier—and I hope we get some comments from folks who'd never seen this one before, because I'd love to hear those reactions!—it's got two of Picard's better speeches. I love this moment: the vagueness, the glimpse into his soul, and the way it's shot—worthy of a Picard highlight reel of some sort. (There are a few cool camera moves in this one, actually; I like the progressively more extreme angle on Riker's low-angle shot while he's approaching the viewscreen.) And not only is the Nausicaan story great (and superbly told, needless to say), it was so cool to actually see in "Tapestry" when it first aired; it looked weirdly close to how I had imagined it after "Samaritan Snare," except for the baldness of course.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I bet I know why Picard's heart operation went so rough. It's all those Uncrustables he's been eating on shuttle trips.

In my preferred Trek RPG alternate timeline, Harry Kim caught a fatal virus from a Pakled during his visit to DS9 in VOY: "Caretaker," which led to Chakotay being teamed up with Paris in VOY: "Timeless" and thus failing to save Voyager or whatever they did in that episode, which (this was my end goal as DM) prevented VOY: "Endgame" from ever happening.

"Greatest Gen" episode link, and if you're suspecting that this is definitely one to tune into, you're right, but for reasons which might surprise you.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (30 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Teeth are for chewing.
posted by rocketman at 7:47 AM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

So, I have to say that this is one of my favorite episodes, bad plotting be damned. We get to see a rare flash of Picard's ego, and the opportunity for Pulaski to humble him; we have the genesis of his mentorship of Wesley, which is one of my favorite threads of the series; and we have the Pakleds, who are clearly a clever and manipulative species.

"Development" is a theme of this episode, but so is hubris. It's laced everywhere, from the surgeon on the space station, to the bridge crew in their original dealings with the Pakleds, and then extending to the Pakleds once they have what they want. ("You think we are not smart. We are smart. We are strong.")

A whole lot of humble pie gets eaten. And the line I dropped above - "Teeth are for chewing" - goes by so quickly I missed it for years watching this one.

My girlfriend and I holler out "Pakled!" whenever we spot one on the Promenade in DS9.
posted by rocketman at 8:01 AM on August 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

My brother and I love this one just because it is so absurd.

Riker is attempting to lay down the law with the Pakleds. The Pakleds aren't having it. The head Pakled guy turns, levels his phaser at Geordi and Geordi goes flying across the room. Riker's hostage negotiation skills suck.

Is this the first reuse of Angel One from "Angel One"? I don't recall it having shown up before now.

The shot of Picard as he stares off into space while talking about the real subjects worth studying is great.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:24 AM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

This was an interesting experience for me, as it was a first watch of this ep for me--I have seen "Tapestry" already, so I already knew about Picard's wild past, but it was very interesting to see him explain it to Wesley. That aspect of the episode, just seeing a very (even painfully) private man talk about something from his past that he wasn't proud of to a young man who both admired and feared him a little, is almost always a treat even when it's being done by a halfway-decent actor, and Patrick Stewart is far better than that. You're right about Wesley's dialogue; all that it really has to do is set up Picard's story, but just not as much attention was paid to it, I think, which explains the obviously incorrect information about the Klingons.

And not a lot of attention seemed to have been given to the A story, either; I certainly wouldn't rank it as the Worst Episode Ever, nor even the worse one in this series so far, but it sure wasn't great. (The longer quote in the MA article from future "Tin Man" co-writer Dennis Russell Bailey gets some of the problems right, although he's wrong when he says, "A major piece of stupidity is they send him to a medical facility where it turned out that no one was qualified to handle the operation if it went at all wrong. I can't believe they expect viewers to be so stupid as to not ask about that. The fact that the routine was repeatedly said, throughout the show, to be an absolutely routine procedure and when it went wrong, it went wrong for no reason that was mentioned, except that it had to go wrong to have the climax. Then it turns out they have to call the Enterprise to bring Pulaski over to do the operation because she's more qualified and the people there weren't." Unforeseen complications during quote-endquote "routine" medical procedures happen all the time.) There's a very basic problem with the Pakleds: they were faking their emergency, good enough to fool La Forge and the rest of the Starfleet crew, but they're still portrayed as basically dumb and incompetent even after their deception is discovered, and that's never really squared. It was fairly obvious that something was up, even before Troi rushed in to tell them that she sensed grifting, but we never got the scene that I was expecting where Grebnedlog drops the act and tells La Forge that seeing allegedly superior species fall for the con never gets old. I mean, the Pakleds really can't be dumb; if their ship is a hodgepodge of technologies from various aliens that's been made to work together, they have to be smarter than the average Starfleet engineer used to working with nice, clean, orderly Starfleet tech. (In DS9, O'Brien has enough problems with getting Federation and Cardassian tech to work together; the Pakleds have Klingon, Romulan, and something else I didn't catch, along with their own.) But they're fooled by something that, Memory Alpha to the contrary, isn't a real bluff at all, but just a combination of not-that-impressive special effects and La Forge flat out lying to them. I kind of like your theory that maybe their language seems unexpressive and primitive because we're not getting the nuances; it reminds me of the elcor from Mass Effect, who have to preface their sentences with spoken emotional signifiers ("courteously", "with deep regret" etc.) when speaking with non-elcor because only elcor receive the pheromones that add emotional context to their language. But that doesn't really solve the they're-really-dumb-not-really-but-actually-they-are muddle that informs the plot.

What would have solved it, I think, would have been to a) have the Pakleds switch up their act when it was revealed as a con; b) follow through with the computer thing by having the crew give them what they asked for and dumped gigaquads (or however they're measuring computer data at this point) of garbage info into their databanks, completely overwhelming them; and c) instead of making La Forge guess at the existence, never mind the specifics, of their secret plan, communicate with him by putting information in the visuals that they're sending over to the Pakled ship that only he can see, because he basically has superpowers via his VISOR, remember? Like, it was actually a plot device in "Heart of Glory"? Oh, and, in general, learn how people with real cognitive impairments speak, and differentiate that from how people with other problems (like the space junkies in "Symbiosis", who likewise had problems operating their ship, but for entirely different reasons) might talk and behave. (I don't even really want to touch the "third world aliens" thing that Robert L. McCullough is laying down; I don't know that it's necessary to unpack it, as it's pretty much all out there.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Quick, somebody write a fanfic story where a Pakled and a Darmok-alien have to communicate.

In the Star Trek CCG this appears to have happened. The Mondor has a Particle Scattering Device from the Children of Tama, among other stolen equipment.

The main Pakled card cycle appeared in The Trouble With Tribbles set, presumably because it's one of the most farcical episodes of TNG and that's vaguely Tribbley. The Pakled crew includes Greblednog, Reginod, and Danderdag. They look for things. They're fun, they're trek sensible, they're marginally useful if you're playing a Non-Aligned deck or something.

Speaking of Non Aligned decks, the episode is represented by the Samaritan Snare mission, which is both easy and not that valuable to complete. It's one of the first missions your mercenary gold bordered crew can attempt by themselves. You could also meta it and try to force your Federation opponents to attempt it, perhaps.

You can weed out your opponent's pesky engineers with Make Us Go. In the card game, only a really cunning officer can foil a "Crimson Forcefield" so it's a a fairly effective defensive Tactic.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:11 AM on August 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

Count me as someone who didn't like this episode much. I agree with those who criticize the very nature of the Pakleds as clumsy at best, and potentially much worse.

Other criticisms of this episode for me are twofold: the climax and resolution of the A-plot didn't exactly make sense to me, and the general story structure was considerably more expository than usual.

Why did the Pakleds let Geordi go? Maybe the Memory Alpha plot synopsis can help me understand it, but it's a problem if the viewer can't understand the basic resolution of the plot. Why didn't they get angry at Geordi and essentially have the attitude of "we're getting out of here with you and if you don't shape up there will be more phaserin'?" As others have pointed out, the writing couldn't decide if they were unintelligent or canny.

As I rewatched this (although I don't remember watching it when it aired), I was constantly struck by how the various scenes (that were not in the the shuttlecraft) just involved the characters telling each other what the plot was. The surgery scenes were quite bad about this, but the officers gathered in the Observation Lounge were pretty bad, too.

Surgery character 1: Futuristic surgery jargon!
Surgery character 2: Futuristic surgery jargon with even more edge in my voice!
Surgery character 1: This surgery is not going well! We need something to happen here, because so far this scene is filler!

Bridge officer: Well, our story so far is that the Pakleds won't let us have Geordi back.
Bridge officer 2: This seems really difficult because Geordi has been kidnapped.
Bridge officer 3: It just seems like what's happening is that the Pakleds have Geordi and we can't get him back.

The Picard/Wesley scenes were very good (although they had one weird fault to me, which I'll get to in a moment). Patrick Stewart's acting really carries him through the story about the Nausicaans in an amazing way - lots of subtle facial shifts to keep us listening. I've never had any animosity toward the Wesley character, even as a young teen viewer, but on rewatch you can sometimes see that Wil Wheaton needed more acting lessons and coaching than he was getting. It seems to be part of the actor's technique in general, but he holds pauses so long that it doesn't seem like Wesley is thinking or unsure, but rather that Wil is consciously acting his way through the scene. I've also noticed that he had an odd habit of holding his hands in fists, with his arms straight down in lots of scenes, which adds to an unnecessary tenseness when he is on camera. Not that I imagine I could do any better now or then!

The one weird fault about the shuttlecraft scenes - why is there a light flashing in the faces of the people piloting the shuttle? I was distracted by that as a viewer, so I kept thinking about how that would only make piloting a shuttle more difficult to have a light strobing the whole cockpit constantly.
posted by Slothrop at 9:39 AM on August 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

I went and read the Memory Alpha plot synopsis and the Pakled resolution still doesn't make sense. It seems to all be of a piece with the fact that the episode was written backwards to the old storytelling dictum: the writer did "tell, don't show."

I'm kinda going back to an issue that The Underpants Monster raised a few posts back: what is my attitude to TNG? Am I being overly critical? Am I making fun of it MST3K style? They were not explicitly asking me these questions, but it was a good occasion to think of how I wanted to participate in these threads. I can say, that like other posters in these threads, I grew up watching these shows and remember them quite fondly. I can't remember if it was Cheeses or Halloween Jack who wrote this, but I also had the experience of this being the last (and maybe only) show that my whole family watched together. My sister and I still talk about Star Trek to this day, as she was a big enough fan in the period to belong to a small ST club in our mid-sized city. So, I always come from a place of loving the franchise.

I also am branching out in my career to incorporate more narrative and writing in the creative work that I do as a designer and illustrator. So, this episode was a good occasion to think about why I felt the story didn't work through issues with its storytelling mechanics.

What I've come up with is that in the A-plot both sides took turns trying to trick the other. But, rather than concealing and revealing bits and pieces, like a heist movie, or a thriller might, the writer largely relied on the characters to just talk about being tricked or doing some trickery. Troi just announces that the Pakleds might be lying. Data announces that it looks like they have Romulan shields. Riker announces that they will have to trick the Pakleds to get Geordi back. But the story never reveals any clues. It never "shows," the characters just "tell." The Pakleds are treated as completely opaque, and the bridge officers plan is hard to follow. I mean, it's hard for me to say even now what the Enterprise crew's plan was: Geordi did give the Pakleds weapons? (Why did the plan involve actually giving an opponent weapons they didn't have?) And then he took them away? Because the Enterprise fired a fake weapon? I know that you can always pick on any detail of a SFF show, but this was the rising action that the writer is focusing the viewer's attention on.

A key moment, if this had been an episode at all interested in dramatic tension, was the viewer wondering if Geordi understood Riker's message. However, the problem was that the viewer doesn't understand Riker's message! The writer might as well have had the scene go:

Riker: Let's just hope that Geordi understands our message...
Riker: Geordi -- Pizza! Balloons carom through the winds of bananas! Upsy-daisy periwinkle!
Riker: End transmission!
Riker: Ok, let's hope that works.

To me there was no tension because it didn't matter what Riker said. In the actual script, Riker clearly leaned on the word/number "24." The payoff was that there was a countdown clock from 24. No one would guess that and it's not clear how a countdown clock contributed much to the success of what they ended up doing to "rescue" Geordi.

So, in general there was no tension in the A-plot, other than Geordi being phasered, but he always just shook it off. All the tricks were just treated as plot synopsis to be described.
posted by Slothrop at 11:00 AM on August 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

My heart goes out to Worf in this episode, who was absolutely correct when he objected to sending LaForge alone to the Pakled ship. First off, I can buy not sending a security detail if you're really that sure the Pakleds pose no threat, but how about a couple more engineers to be assistants? I get that Geordi is really smart and capable, but having a couple extra hands makes pretty much every repair job go smoother. Secondly, the Enterprise has a crew of 1000 people. is Geordi really the most qualified to go digging around in some broken down alien ship? There's nobody on board that's more familiar with the way Pakled ships are built (assuming this is a Pakled ship and not some generic commercial vessel)? I get that this is TV and it has to be the main characters doing everything but this really stretches the limits of credulity.

The smart thing to do is, no matter who you're dealing with, send a full away team with at least one armed security person.

Quick, somebody write a fanfic story where a Pakled and a Darmok-alien have to communicate. "We have eyebrows. You do not. Why?"

My headcanon (Fanon? Whatever) is that the Pakled and Tamarians are close allies. The Pakled actually have a very similar form of referential language they use with each other and with the Tamarians, but unlike the Tamarians they've developed a trade language they use to communicate with other species. This trade language is very simple and makes them seem less intelligent than they actually are. It's also this contact via the Pakled that allowed Tamarian-adjacent folklore to find its way into the Enterprise computer, which is why Data found that information in "Darmok."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

No one would guess that and it's not clear how a countdown clock contributed much to the success of what they ended up doing to "rescue" Geordi.

Well, if you're thinking like that then you will never attain the twenty-fourth level of awareness.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:27 PM on August 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

Well, if you're thinking like that then you will never attain the twenty-fourth level of awareness.

Servo5678 - I gave you a favorite for that! That's true, that was a good line, well-delivered by Michael Dorn!
posted by Slothrop at 1:15 PM on August 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm kinda going back to an issue that The Underpants Monster raised a few posts back: what is my attitude to TNG?

I think this is a question worth engaging with, for every viewer. I'm willing to forgive *a lot* of error on the part of this show, just because of how much it has been sewn into the fabric of my life. In the end, it's genre fiction that frequently rises to be something greater. Part of why I love it is that something greater, but I don't necessarily need it to be that.

That said, I totally accept - and enjoy! - the deep critical focus others put on the show. It's helped open my eyes to some of my own blind spots and absolutely deepened my appreciation for it.
posted by rocketman at 1:39 PM on August 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

"We have eyebrows. You do not. Why?"

Darmok and Jalad at the salon. Jalad, with a tweezer. Jalad, his hands steady!
posted by traveler_ at 1:57 PM on August 28, 2020 [14 favorites]

Darmok is strong. Eyes are for seeing.
posted by rocketman at 2:03 PM on August 28, 2020 [4 favorites]

"And, today on Federation Tonight, we're going to hear a debate on the topic 'Language is inherently limiting with regards to interspecies communication'; the topic will be debated by a Pakled and a Child of Tama, and will be moderated by a Tak Tak."
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:34 PM on August 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was aware TNG was around when it first came out, but I didn't watch it until the 90s and the last season or two. My primary exposure in my youth were reruns at 10:30 each weeknight on a local station. That was a lot of time watching TNG on schoolnights. :) With those viewings and others over the years (the great TNN marathon when I was in college for instance), I've watched TNG more often than any other show on TV.

When I was first really watching, I was old enough to discern the good and the bad. Obviously committing to watching it that much at that time of the night, I thought there was more good than bad, even in episodes I now see as obviously bad. And there are episodes and elements I have come to appreciate as time has passed. When i come to these threads, I always try to share both good and bad thoughts. But it is hard to really point out the good consistently; you can only say the actors were great when they were given something to do so many times. On the other hand, especially in a rewatch now that we're all older and wiser, it is easy to point out the bad, especially the bad that is bad because it has not aged well now that I'm all grown up.
posted by Fukiyama at 3:48 PM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm going to have to skip the thread on "Darmok" when it comes around then because I don't think I could handle seeing it shit on here.

What I find interesting, as a fan of the series, is how often on these TNG rewatches I come up on an episode and read the synopsis and groan to myself and say "oh not THAT one". Like way more often than I would expect of someone who thinks of themselves as a fan.
posted by some loser at 4:17 PM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

It’s still just season 2. It gets better.

(Not in the short term—I’ve seen the list of episodes. But eventually.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:33 PM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

No one critiques and cracks jokes about a thirty-year-old television show that they don’t love truly and deeply.
posted by EarBucket at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2020 [9 favorites]

I've made the comment "I yell because I care" unironically more than once WRT Trek episode rewatches. I am fully behind the sentiment "let people enjoy things", but some people enjoy things by submitting them to closer examination and analysis, and some people even critique the critiques. (Bernd at Ex Astris Scientia has been linked to many times, and sometimes when I'm writing up a post for FanFare I'll refer back to something that he wrote in order to focus my thoughts on a particular episode, but sometimes that ends up being "why I think that Bernd is wrong on this one.") I love this franchise and I want it to be good, and I have ideas about how it could have been done better, and, having spent a lot of time over more than half a century thinking about Trek, I have a lot of ideas. I am not really offended that someone may not be interested in everything that I have to say; what I wrote at the beginning of my very long comments in "The Measure of a Man" applies to everything. (For what it's worth, I have enjoyed the early seasons of TNG a lot more than I thought I would.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:16 PM on August 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

For a few years, I had my dream job of being a film critic at a sizeable paper back in the days when film critics were a thing, and let me tell you--writing a review of a movie you loved was infinitely more difficult than writing one for something you loathed. You find yourself repeating things and flailing for adequate descriptives when you're impressed. But some of the best writing I ever did was when I truly hated something; the words just seem to flow out of your fingers on to a keyboard along with your bile. There's something about being unhappy that sharpens our focus a little, I think.

That said, this show meant the world to me, but I wasn't unaware of its flaws when I watched it, in particular the sexism, which even then just burned but now, knowing how unbelievably badly the female cast members were treated and the stuff going on in the writers'/producers'/directors' minds, it just sticks in my craw. And it's hard to read things like that comment about Third World countries, ugh. So yeah, I do think it gets complicated when discussing something that is so important to a period of your life but that you're looking at through different eyes now. (But I for one will not be dissing Darmok, some loser!)

This episode, for instance, is one I liked a lot back then, not for the Pakled but I just swooned for the story background with Picard, my heartthrob, I so loved the idea of him being a hell raiser. I think I was a bit more oblivious about most of the flaws people have mentioned, but I do recall being annoyed at the exposition-as-dialog, a thing I have railed about for years.

The mentions of Tapestry are interesting--for some reason, I was always mixing up titles and I absolutely loved Tapestry, but I never remembered the name of the ep. I thought Tapestry belonged to Inner Light, for years and years. I did the same thing with Time Squared--I was certain that was the name of Cause and Effect, and I still have to stop and think about it each time I talk about Cause and Effect. I don't even remember what I thought the title of Yesterday's Enterprise was--might have been Time Squared too.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 5:50 PM on August 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

I just rewatched TOS-- even the third season, see this scar (pulls aside hair to reveal stitches)-- and figured that thirty years was enough time to forgive, forget, and give TNG another try. I've been enjoying it so far, but this episode crystalized for me why I'm finding TOS more entertaining than TNG: it's the A/B plots! It's like the writers don't have enough confidence in either plot to develop it into a full episode, so they sort of underdevelop both. But alas, two half bakes do not a full bake make, and I think I could have enjoyed either of the stories told in this episode if they'd been built out and patched up a bit. As it stands we have one plot full of holes and another that wanders half-heartedly into a corny medical procedural for some reason.

TOS was guilty of a number of sins, but failing to commit is not one of them. It doesn't matter how ridiculous the idea is! If this is going to be an episode where Kirk falls down an alien manhole, bonks his head, gets amnesia for three months, marries into a seriously problematic pastiche of a pre-columbian society, gets his wife pregnant (and then killed), and is mind-melded back to sensibility, then buckle the fuck up because Shatner and company are going ham the hell out of every comedic beat, emotional turn, and significant glance of that stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid plotline. I wish the TNG writers had had half that amount of unearned confidence, because sometimes if you want to entertain you just have to dive right in.
posted by phooky at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

But alas, two half bakes do not a full bake make, and I think I could have enjoyed either of the stories told in this episode if they'd been built out and patched up a bit.

I feel like you've hit on something that I felt but had not yet articulated... I too find myself a bit frustrated with how cool some of this stuff would have been to explore and flesh out a little more but instead it seems they either seem to stretch out some thin gruel for too long or they mash two potentially really cool things together but are unable to give either the time they deserve? I do seem to recall it gets better later on but like.. my memory has failed me before so who knows.
posted by some loser at 7:15 PM on August 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I felt a bit bad for Wes in the awkward silence of that shuttle but when Picard changed seats to try and politely escape his talkative coworker and read his book it was the most I’ve ever related to captain of the the Enterprise.
posted by rodlymight at 7:37 PM on August 28, 2020 [14 favorites]

it's the A/B plots! It's like the writers don't have enough confidence in either plot to develop it into a full episode, so they sort of underdevelop both. [...] TOS was guilty of a number of sins, but failing to commit is not one of them. [...] I wish the TNG writers had had half that amount of unearned confidence, because sometimes if you want to entertain you just have to dive right in.

Well put. I do think that TNG gets more confident, and does have an occasional "dive right in" episode (the Robin Hood one and the Sexy Devil one come to mind, and perhaps not coincidentally there's no B-story in either IIRC—and I'm quite fond of both, also probably not coincidentally). But it's probably a valid criticism of TNG that it was too often careful/cautious, and IIRC someone (Ron Moore or Ira Behr?) within the Berman stable has said that. (ENT, arguably, was even moreso, to its detriment.)

I too find myself a bit frustrated with how cool some of this stuff would have been to explore and flesh out a little more

Yeah, I found myself wondering what DS9 might've done with an all-Pakled episode a la "Soldiers of the Empire." Really try to figure them out/expand on what we've seen/redeem them (as DS9 did with the Ferengi).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:39 AM on August 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Forgot to add re: A/B stories:
The creators of TNG for at least the first 2 seasons (producers, directors, writers) seem to have been a curious hodgepodge of industry newbies and decades-past TV stalwarts. One or both of those factors is probably a significant contributor to the high recurrence of A/B structure in this show (and I'll be curious now to see how much it diminishes in future seasons—IIRC, not significantly). They often did lack confidence, and the A/B structure may inherently be a consequence of low confidence in a lot of cases, but I'd bet that sometimes they used it only because it was the fashion of their profession at the time. (DS9 and VOY used it a lot too, but ENT much less, IIRC.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:47 AM on August 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Well, if you're thinking like that then you will never attain the twenty-fourth level of awareness.

ALAMARAIN! Twenty-fourth shap!
posted by pykrete jungle at 10:26 PM on August 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

... how cool some of this stuff would have been to explore and flesh out a little more ...

We've had similar discussions over on the Animated Series rewatch. There are a number of episodes that have ideas that would have been great to have seen more depth to that had to be squashed into 22 minutes of air time.
posted by hanov3r at 1:22 PM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Gomez's hair was great, much improved from her previous appearance. I don't have much else to say about the episode.
posted by skewed at 8:54 PM on September 1, 2020

For years after this episode my buddies and I would say "We look for beer. To make us go." So that's a plus.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:44 PM on June 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Behind the scenes realities made it impossible, but the "saving picard's life" bit would have been a great time for Dr. Crusher to make an appearance. It would have made sense for her to be in the area because she planned to spend some time with Wes after he was done with his exams.

The said, I think Pulaski ordering Picard to go get this taken care of was a better scene than it would have been with Crusher. I've really been warming to Pulaski, and it's a real shame we couldn't just have both doctors. In general, the medical team of the Enterprise seems really understaffed.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:34 PM on September 13, 2021

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