Star Trek: The Next Generation: Manhunt   Rewatch 
September 4, 2020 5:23 AM - Season 2, Episode 19 - Subscribe

Picard calls upon Dixon Hill to help protect him from a relentless black-eyed widow in "The Case of the Phasing Betazoid!"

Watch out nerd, Memory Alpha'll chew you up:

• Tormé's draft was heavily inspired by Raymond Chandler and film noir, including cynical voiceovers for Picard in his role as Hill. The holodeck plot was based on Chandler's novels Farewell, My Lovely and The Little Sister.

• As with "The Royale", Tormé was greatly disappointed with the revisions to his script by Maurice Hurley, and used a pseudonym in protest. "Manhunt" was the last episode written by Tormé as he left following the end of the season.

• According to director Rob Bowman, "They changed it a great deal to accommodate Majel and sacrificed what Tracy and I thought were some of the noir nuances to the show. The emphasis was shifted from the noir to Majel. This is the boss's wife and she only does it once a year, so it should be accommodating for her and that's what you did."

• Bowman recalls, "This one was to be Majel Barrett's episode and she's a fascinating woman. I was asked to make sure that she did her best, so every day that's what we worked on. There's really no story tie between her wants and Picard going to Dixon Hill. It was just a way for us to get to the past."

• Rock star Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac appears in a cameo role under heavy makeup as an Antedian dignitary. Makeup artist Allan A. Apone recalled that Fleetwood was a huge fan of Star Trek, and wasn't bothered by the fact that he would be unidentifiable.

• This episode marks Robert O'Reilly's first Star Trek appearance.


"What a handsome race."
- Worf, on the Antedians

"Last time I saw something like that it was served on a plate."
- Lwaxana Troi, on the Antedians

"Then she actually complimented Captain Picard on his legs?"
"Hmm. I would have thought a telepath would be more discreet, sir."
- Wesley and Data, discussing Lwaxana Troi's openness


Poster's Log:
Like almost every Lwaxana episode, this one's got problems, but even if it's not as objectively bad as one or two others, it may be at the bottom of my own Lwaxana-episode list—DS9 made me like Lwaxana, and it's hard to escape the sense that this script is laughing AT her, not with her. Which is really strange since she's the boss's wife, but as we know, weird things happen in script rewrites. My best guess (based on the MA background) is that this show is still figuring out what it wants to do with Lwaxana. And it may be a couple seasons, if ever, before it does: the next Lwaxana episode is at the end of season 3, and it's also a Ferengi episode, so.

Bowman's remark about getting "to the past" clearly illustrates the fascination with period episodes that TV producers/directors/writers have. It seems so ubiquitous that I wonder where it comes from. Fatigue from all the futuristic stuff? Simple nostalgia/romanticism? The cast wanting a vacation from their usual costumes?

Apparently the Betazoid "phase" becomes a plot point again in a later, non-Lwaxana episode that I don't remember too well (minor spoilers at that link).

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"Greatest Gen" episode link.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
"Less content, more ambiance." That scene where Picard was trying to turn off the storyline was humorous, but it was just kind of weird. There had to be easier ways to turn off everything but the setting. Picard taking Madeline the secretary out for a drink was cute.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:03 AM on September 4


The Lwaxana part is embarrassing and problematic, the Dixon Hill part doesn't really work (I will allow that Hurley may have messed up Tormé's original script for that), and they don't mesh very well at all. In the comments for "Haven", I described Lwaxana as Space Aunt Mame, but the thing is, Mame Dennis was generally portrayed as admirable, even if occasionally embarrassing to her nephew (which role gets taken over by Deanna Troi, with her sighs of exasperation). Someone of Lwaxana's social stature should not have to sign on for a diplomatic mission just to chase after someone who is clearly not interested in her, no matter what she claims he's really thinking; Roddenberry could claim that the show was progressive, and that this was some kind of treat for his wife, but it's really just an obnoxious old stereotype about older women and their sexuality that was dumb and kind of outdated anyway, thanks to The Golden Girls having premiered a couple of years before TNG. (I didn't really watch TGG at any length, and can't really speak to how they dealt with this stereotype--I get the feeling that the character of Blanche sort of played into/around with it--but in general I got the feeling that it was OK for older ladies on the show to get some.) There was still some of this on Lwaxana's appearances on DS9, but it was dialed down quite a bit. (Her flirtations with Odo seem more pro forma than anything, and they ended up developing a genuinely affectionate and touching relationship.) I'm not sure if this part of the episode could have really been fixed; maybe they could have put in a part where Lwaxana finally tells Picard that she's trying to hook up with him in part because it'll give her an excuse to hang around the Enterprise some more and maybe develop a better relationship with her daughter.

As for the Dixon Hill part, I kind of get what Picard was getting at when he kept trying to get the program to stop having guys burst into his office with guns because he just kind of wanted to hang out. One of the fun things about playing MMORPGs is that there's a bunch of people who use them to hang out and socialize instead of being obsessed with grinding and farming. It actually could have been fun to have Lwaxana hang around with the rest of the crew a bit and get to know Picard in that setting, but then they go with the premise that the Keeper of the Sacred Chalice of Whatchamacallit and the Holder of the Five Rings of the Green Lanterns or whatever doesn't know what a holodeck is? Huh?

Fish guys were kind of neat in an off-brand Mon Calamari kind of way. And the bit where Picard hands Mr. Homn the forty-ouncer of Romulan ale (I know that there are other blue liquors, but it's funnier if it's Romulan ale) and he chugs it was pretty funny.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:43 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


they could have put in a part where Lwaxana finally tells Picard that she's trying to hook up with him in part because it'll give her an excuse to hang around the Enterprise some more and maybe develop a better relationship with her daughter.

That would have helped immeasurably. They do a lot better at giving Lwaxana some pathos later on.

Rock star Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac appears in a cameo role under heavy makeup as an Antedian dignitary.

As appears on the only Star Trek CCG card in either version of the game from the episode, Antedian Assassins.. It's very typical of Second Edition starter dilemmas, there's a bunch with this '2x or 2y, else stop x or y' format in the base set, such as Bynars' Password. You get the idea. As they're both commons, a typical strategy throughout the life of the game was AA + Telepathic Deception: stop your oppoent's telepath, then stop the rest.

I'll give an honorable mention here to cards from "The Big Goodbye" we missed the first time around:
There's a cycle in the Holodeck Adventures set including Ultra-Rare Dix, who can solve whatever 'case' you offer him. Filling out the cast are Carlos, Felix, and Cyrus Redblock. Report 'em to your Holoprogram and start requesting "the item".

There's also Dixon Hill's Business Card, with its Piece of the Action style gametext. It was included in an 18 card premium set in '97. Photos online don't do the image cleanup they did on the card text justice - they enhanced it to the point where it was suitable to print on a replica of the business card included in the set.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:14 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


As for the Dixon Hill part, I kind of get what Picard was getting at when he kept trying to get the program to stop having guys burst into his office with guns because he just kind of wanted to hang out.

This is one of my favorite bits of Picard business because he's trying his best to explain to the computer what he wants and the computer is just. Not. Getting it. The escalation of bad guys cracks me up, as is Picard's frantic "Computer, freeze program!" when the last guy bursts in. Picard wanted Animal Crossing and that was outside of the program's scope.
posted by Servo5678 at 2:10 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Like almost every Lwaxana episode, this one's got problems, but even if it's not as objectively bad as one or two others, it may be at the bottom of my own Lwaxana-episode list—DS9 made me like Lwaxana, and it's hard to escape the sense that this script is laughing AT her, not with her. Which is really strange since she's the boss's wife, but as we know, weird things happen in script rewrites.

I found myself thinking of the difference between Lucille Ball's behind-the-scenes work as a producer/tv-innovator versus her Lucy character antics. As a contemporary, I suspect Majel wasn't bothered by Lwaxana the character being the butt of the joke - kind of like the Hattie McDaniels quote about how she'd rather play a maid than have to be one? Like, she was the First Lady of Trekdom, the 'power behind the throne' off camera, so I can imagine her being ok with the jokes made at the expense of the character on-camera.

But, yeah, having seen the character treated so well in the DS9 episodes makes these early episodes pretty grotesque. At this point, Lwaxana's only saving grace is all the fabulous dresses the costume designers created for her, absolutely scrumptious. (Here's the Fashion It So blogpost for Manhunt)
posted by oh yeah! at 5:08 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


I can’t do it. I just can’t. Even for some Picard holodeck action I cannot make myself watch this again.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 5:31 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


This works much better once you realize it's actually an episode of Twin Peaks.
posted by phooky at 5:51 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Truly we’ve experienced bij with this episodes but hey, Robert O’Reilly! I’d know those eyeballs anywhere.
posted by rodlymight at 8:14 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


While I was cleaning the kitchen this morning, I tried to work out a restructuring of this episode. This is what I came up with:

We open with a shot of the Enterprise in space, as usual. There is a voiceover narration, but this time it's an Ensign's Log. We hear the voice of Ensign Gomez! The voiceover narration establishes that the Enterprise is detouring to pick up a Federation ambassador. Early in the VO, we switch to a shot of Captain Picard walking the hallways in his dress uniform, blue bottle in hand, looking frustrated.

Because Ensign Gomez is a less established character, she can say something like:

Gomez VO: I asked Lieutenant LaForge how the Captain felt about this detour, and he just smiled, but didn't say anything. I think the ambassador has something to do with Counselor Troi.

We cut from the Captain walking the hallway to Lwaxana Troi opening the door to her guest quarters, with Captain Picard arriving for dinner. This is the stinger before the episode goes to the opening theme music.

So, the rest of the A-plot is "bottle"-style; the whole Picard/Lwaxana plot takes place in her guest quarters. There can be comedic moments, where characters enter as part of Picard's gambit to deflect Ambassador Troi's attention, but they can only enter and then leave. This can be comedic, as well; perhaps Data successfully bores Ambassador Troi, but then is called to the bridge for an urgent diagnostic. The A-plot has to be more sympathetic to Ambassador-Troi-as-cougar, but it also has to resolve in her guest quarters - the two characters have to reach an equilibrium of some kind. The A-plot establishes that the Federation has specifically requested that Captain Picard assist Ambassador Troi, and that the Ambassador has finagled that assistance into a series of dinner meetings. In this way, the A-plot can always be contained to Ambassador Troi's guest quarters, but can be dilated out over a period of days to better match the B-plot, of which more in a moment. The Betazoid tradition is not to ring the gong after every bite, but to ring the gong at the conclusion of a meal. We cut from the A-plot to the B-plot every time Homn rings the gong.

The B-plot merges the Antedians and the holodeck, while ditching Dixon Hill. Ensign Gomez is experiencing Antedian culture on the holodeck. The thrust of this plot is that Ensign Gomez is getting more and more interested in what it would be like to be an Antedian. Hopefully chopping the Dixon Hill stuff and making the A-plot constrained to one set allows them to spend a bit more on the Antedian costumes and makeup. An action setpiece, if needed, could be Ensign Gomez participating in some Antedian rite of passage. The B-plot climax comes as Ensign Gomez misses some critical task in engineering because she has been spending too much time in the holodeck. Lieutenant LaForge questions what she has been doing and ends up giving her a Shakespeare-by-way-of-Reading-Rainbow "to thine own self be true" speech. Ensign Gomez pushes back however, and points out that maybe to boldly go is to boldly change oneself. Hopefully this can be left hanging without a pat resolution.

The A-plot and the B-plot are now linked by being about women exploring new possibilities in the 24th Century.

One device that could be used would be to have more Ensign Gomez log entries, the content of which, while describing her exploration of Antedian culture, actually end up narrating the interaction between Picard and Ambassador Troi. Her VOs would occur over the cut back to the A-plot, which open each time in awkward silence between Picard and Troi at the outset of a new dinner.
posted by Slothrop at 7:32 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


I apparently broke my link to Antedean Assassins, so i'll try again.

I will say this for the episode, the cast are getting a lot of excellent milage out of the script. The little blink from Wesley when Lwaxana calls him a fine young man, or the bit where Troi and Riker are explaining the facts of life to Picard. "....or more?"

The production is really hitting its stride at this point even if the script has its iffy spots. In full knowledge of how the scene plays out, I still cracked up when the guy bursts in with the tommygun. The noirish framing of Robert O'Reilly's character works nicely. All the texture on Mr Homn and Lwaxana's costumes which can now be seen in HD are pretty cool. It's just so watchable.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:29 PM on September 5 [3 favorites]


I saw the title and thought this was the one where they are trying to catch that super genetically engineered combat vet/criminal, which is a pretty good one, though didn't that have Dr. Crusher? Hmm, then what could--oh, no! This was a terrible episode, it belongs near the bottom of any respectable list of bad Trek. Beside the plot being a mess (again, makes sense now that I know about all the rewrites, it just baffles me that this is how a tv show was run), it's got a full 20 or so minutes of Star Trek dudes freaking out about being pursued by a sexually insatiable woman they don't desire. Even in 1988, why the hell would you make that the basis of an episode of your show? It was such a weird (and well-worn!) trope, it was all over tv when I was growing up, and I found it very confusing, since most of media I was consuming was about how important it was for men to find a sex partner. Anyway, I'm glad Majel Barrett apparently enjoyed it, but that doesn't really make the episode any better for me. It does have a bunch of cute bits, I'll admit, Riker straining to carry the luggage, Worf's admiration of the fish-aliens/assasins, etc.
posted by skewed at 7:15 AM on September 8


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