Star Trek: The Next Generation: Captain's Holiday   Rewatch 
November 20, 2020 4:35 AM - Season 3, Episode 19 - Subscribe

Forced manual labor in a dank cave? Pestering and posturing from a Ferengi rogue? A time-travelling superweapon? Not what Picard expected on his first visit to the pleasure planet Risa.

All that is Memory Alpha's is yours:

• Although Ira Steven Behr had heretofore collaborated on "Yesterday's Enterprise" with the TNG writing staff, this episode represented his first opportunity to write an episode of the show himself. "When I finally got a script of my own to write," he recalled, "I came up with this idea of this pleasure planet."

• The original version of the story, which Ira Steven Behr wrote with some input from Ronald D. Moore, was very different to the finished episode. Risa was only featured as a framing device, with Picard finding a sideshow attraction which showed visitors their greatest fears, and showed Picard a future in which he was now an admiral with a dull desk job, with Captain Riker now in charge of the Enterprise. While Michael Piller liked this idea, Gene Roddenberry vetoed it on the grounds that such fears about one's age and future were not in keeping with his ideal of 24th-century Humanity. However, Roddenberry did like the concept of Risa, and encouraged Behr to come up with another story that could use the location. Elements of the original storyline would later find their way into the following season's "Future Imperfect".

• The storyline that this episode ultimately went with grew out of Patrick Stewart's desire for more "sex and shooting" for Picard. Ira Steven Behr recollected, "Patrick kept saying that the trouble with the show is there's not enough f-ing and f-ing: fighting and fornicating."

• Patrick Stewart took credit for having thought up the idea of Vash. According to Ira Steven Behr, using this episode to introduce the Vash character "was an attempt to bring in a ballsy woman who's not your typical Star Trek woman, a clear thinker both in terms of what she did in her own life and sex and the whole bit."

• Despite liking the inclusion of the pleasure planet, something Roddenberry was keen to see in the episode, however, was copious amounts of erotic activity taking place in the background of the scenes set on Risa, particularly between same-sex partners. Remembered Behr, "He says, 'I like the idea of the pleasure planet and I want it to be a place where you see women fondling and kissing other women, and men hugging and holding hands and kissing, and we can imply that they're having sex in the background.' Huh, really?!" Behr was briefly flummoxed on how to politely tell Roddenberry that such scenes would never make it past network censors. "I'm going, 'Oh, man, I'm in the freakin' Twilight Zone.' I go back to Rick. He goes, 'Pft, pay no attention to that, just get the captain laid.'"

• Max Grodénchik later plays a more famous Ferengi, Rom in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

• Ira Steven Behr later wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", in which Worf, Jadzia Dax, Quark, Julian Bashir and Leeta visit Risa. The script of the DS9 episode notes that Worf and Dax's room is to be similar to Picard's here. The script also tells the production staff to "please lose the ceiling fans" that were seen in this episode.

• This episode marks the second and final appearance of an Andorian in the series, the first having appeared in "The Offspring", as one of Lal's potential android forms. The Andorians' next appearance was in ENT: "The Andorian Incident" eleven years later.

"The place is called Risa and believe me, captain, it is a paradise. Warm tropical breezes, exotic foods, nothing to do but sit around all day, enjoy the quiet and then…"
(Together) "the women."
- Riker, selling the captain on Risa, while Picard knows where it's going

"Do you seek jamaharon?"
"I don't even know what it means."
- Joval and Picard, who was tricked into purchasing a horga'hn by his first officer

"From the moment I met you, I knew you were going to be trouble."
"You look like a man who could handle trouble."
- Picard and Vash

Poster's Log:
For the uninitiated, what precisely "jamaharon" is is never explained nor, of course, seen. It's a running joke on the basis of its mystery, a bit like the Trek equivalent of the Vera and Maris characters from Cheers and Frasier.

Picard trying to relax and getting hassled by a dozen different people trying to engage him reminds me of nothing so much as entering a major site in a computer RPG where all I want to do is get the lay of the land but a parade of NPCs keep coming up to me and yanking my POV into inescapable conversations about expansions that I didn't know I installed and that I in my frustration click through too fast and thereby miss huge story beats. ("Only you can save us, Cheeses!" "Yes, thank you." "Only you can save US, Cheeses!" "GOD DAMNIT, SAVE YOUR OWN DAMN SELVES. [ESC ESC ESC]")

I mean, what's Picard thinking here?: he says he wants to be left alone, he's got the entire freakin' planet, and yet he posts up in what seems to be the spaceport mezzanine. (And also: I have to think that whipping out a paper book—in that setting—is a 100% shitty hipster move, so much so that at least one of those passerby NPCs should've laughed at him.)

What a double-edged sword it would have been had Roddenberry gotten his way. On the one hand, obvious non-hetero representation!—something this franchise sorely needed. On the other hand, w/r/t over-the-top on-screen horndog material, did we learn nothing from "Naked Now"? (Roddenberry, it's clear, never did, if The Fifty-Year Mission is any indication.)

Fortunately, the end result remained tasteful and fun. I have a fondness for this episode, mostly because we get some really rich character/relationship stuff here with Picard and between him and his senior staff (and earlier than I expected; I would've sworn this was a season 4 episode). But I must also credit Vash actress Jennifer Hetrick (and whoever cast her) for bringing life to the proceedings.

Vash will return in a season 4 episode whose title I won't name due to spoilers. She also shows up once on DS9 in one of that show's less-successful crossover outings. Risa shows up again in another less-successful DS9 episode, and in an EVEN LESS successful ENT episode; basically, Risa's best moment is its first one.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Riker references the book Ethics, Sophistry, and the Alternate Universe. Note the phrasing: "the alternate universe" is how the Mirror Universe is described in DS9. Could this be TNG's single, veiled reference to the Mirror Universe?! Read the book!

Pointless STO Comparison:
Risa is the origin of possibly the Star Trek Online MMO's most totally boss ship, the Risian corvette. Risa is (or was, last time I checked) also a visitable planet with jetpacks and silly beach games.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
One thing that this episode reminds me of is how, from about the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties or so, there were these places like Club Med and Hedonism that, while based around the traditional holiday resort, were advertised and promoted as places for singles to get laid. (Maybe there still are; I honestly wouldn't know.) Risa seems to be set up as "that, but a whole planet." It's fine to have back-to-back episodes centering around a particular crew member, as we had with Geordi earlier, but this two-fer is a little awkward, with the repeated insistence that Picard needs to take the stick out of his ass and Riker on the bridge being all wink-wink-nudge-nudge about it. I'm also still convinced, as I was for "Let He Who Is Without Sin...", that if Risa really were this super-accommodating vacation planet, they'd have places where people could chill out and read on the beach without constantly having others asking if they want to get their jamaharon on. (Of course, maybe there were such places and Picard was just being a grump about the whole thing so much that he didn't bother to ask; also, that kind of ruins the whole plot.)

And speaking of Star Trek Online, I did do the summer event on Risa this year, and never did figure out how to do the hoverboard or jetpack races, so I ended up just doing the artifact hunting mission that's given by Sovak, who's voice-acted by... Max Grodénchik. It was dead easy (basically, you just run around the island with a scanner that tells you if you're hot or cold), and I got the Risian Weather Control Vessel, a decent Tier 6 science ship that comes with maybe my favorite ship console, Summon Neutronic Eddies, aka the Purple Space Storm, which is just insanely useful for dealing with swarms of attacking ships and can be transferred to other ships. I also got a HIchmey nga'chuq T-shirt, and a swimsuit for my character, although I couldn't figure out how to apply it to the character, which resulted in my female Orion captain ending up being the most-dressed character around at any given time, ironically enough.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:58 AM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

I just enjoy hearing people say "tox uthat."

The description of the tox uthat makes it sound like basically the same thing that McDowell used on that planet in TNG: Generations. Which is really not that interesting as trivia goes, now that I think about it.
posted by skewed at 7:05 AM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

This episode is so extra. I don't even care about the real story; I am absolutely convinced this was written the night before by two wired screenwriters and a pile of cocaine.
SCREENWRITER 1: We need to punch this up a bit!
SCREENWRITER 2: Yeah, add a little razz-matazz!
SW1: Like how about, how about Picard kisses a dame, and then punches a Ferengi in the face?
SW2: Yeah, yeah! Perfect! Throw it in to the mix!
SW1: [paging through script] yeah no wait wait WAIT.
SW2: What?
SW1: [looks up, awestruck] It's already there.
And there's that whole first act, with Picard flirting with the fourth wall as he realizes that he's surrounded by the smuggest people in the galaxy, that the Enterprise's floors are finished in high-grade smirkoleum, and he'll be lucky to get out alive. Plus, Riker cranking his sexytimes schtick up to twelve to the point that he makes two fellow officers visibly uncomfortable: his commanding officer, and the closest thing the ship has to HR. Troi with the bullshit story about her mom. And the sex totem! What is even happening?
SW2: We need a name for the totem thing.
SW1: Huh. Let's just come up with a placeholder for now. Like, uh, like...
SW2: How about a "whore-a-gon"? Get it? Because it's a shape that... you know--
SW1: Ha ha! A shape that lets people know--
SW2: Oh, that's great, that's great. Do it.
SW1: Yeah, it's so dumb, there's no way we'll forget to change it before shooting starts in [checks watch] four hours.
SW2: Perfect.
[screenwriters kiss]
I also love how the aliens initiate their time/space travel by putting their hands against their temples, which makes it seem like they've just had enough of your shit and need to peace out before they get a migraine.

Stewart and Hetrick really throw themselves into this one, which helps a lot, but by the end the Indy pastiche was bit much. The tox being hidden in one of several identical totems really made it feel like there was a "he chose poorly" ending for the Ferengi that got cut for time.
posted by phooky at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2020 [8 favorites]

I got the Risian Weather Control Vessel

You named it the U.S.S. Fullerton, I trust.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:16 AM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some significant cards from the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Premiere('94): Horga'hn; Tox Uthat; Male's Love Interest; Vash. Owning a Horga'hn lets you take two turns in a row, every round. Of course it does. Broken AF. Meanwhile Tox Uthat lets you blow up missions.

Alternate Universe('95): Jamaharon; Vorgon Raiders; Risa Shore Leave; Ajur; Boratus. Ajur and Boratus could be pretty handy if, say, there are three dilemmas and an artifact under a mission. Mess with the order, with your opponent's combo, solve the mission easier.

Rules of Acquisition('99): Sovak.

Second Edition('02): Captain's Holiday; Vash, Treasure Hunter Tying Vash into Picard feels right as she 'digs up' cards.

Strange New Worlds('05): Sovak, Treasure Hunter Good skills and ability for the cost.

These Are The Voyages('07): Tox Uthat. No blowing up missions in 2E.

What You Leave Behind('07): Risa, Shore Leave. The latter Risa includes the various other affiliations we saw there after this episode.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:06 AM on November 20, 2020

Risa does show up again in TNG! In the episode where Riker is introduced to the mind-control game. Basically, Riker's horndogging is a huge security risk.

This is a fun episode. Vash is a great foil for Picard, drawing out the conflict between his thrill-seeking side and his dull, responsible side (something that comes to a head later in the series in "Tapestry"). And I always like these glimpses into life in the Federation that isn't Starfleet.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:17 AM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

I also find it interesting to compare and contrast the way Star Trek generally treats Quark (petty dealer in minor contraband, for the most part) with the way it treats Vash (who appears to be on an unending spree of cultural crimes).

I find it a little difficult to credit how light Vash gets off with the Enterprise crew, not messing up cultures is like their whole thing. They get all weirded out by just like helping people move out of the way of space flood or asking them to maybe not treat them as gods, much less swiping the last slice of Iconian cheesecake.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:36 AM on November 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

For the uninitiated, what precisely "jamaharon" is is never explained nor, of course, seen. It's a running joke on the basis of its mystery, a bit like the Trek equivalent of the Vera and Maris characters from Cheers and Frasier.

Given all the L.A. Law alums TNG had on over the years (Dr. Pulaski and the other Q before this one, and now Vash), I bet the writers were thinking of the Venus Butterfly.

I really like "Captain's Holiday." Risa isn't fully realized as a planet (not that planets on ST ever are), but what we see of it is very interesting. Jennifer Hetrick is a lot of fun as Vash, the perfect romantic interest for Picard. Sovak is just another greedy Ferengi with a thing for Vash, but Max does great work portraying the character. The time travel angle with the future criminals is kind of muddled, but it's not the central element of the episode, so it's not important.

TNG should have done more of this type of episode.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:50 AM on November 20, 2020

Given all the L.A. Law alums TNG had on over the years (Dr. Pulaski and the other Q before this one, and now Vash)

TiL that Vash is Q's (not that Q or that Q, but the other Q) ex-wife (Jennifer Hetrick played Corrine Becker, ex-wife of Corbin Bernsen's Arnie Becker).
posted by hanov3r at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Risa shows up again, sort of, in the Geordi brainwashing episode. No screen time for the planet, although he talks about the fake memories of his time on vacation there.
posted by autopilot at 2:02 PM on November 20, 2020

I always assumed that Risan planetary culture was sexytimes based.
The way that for the Ferengi, the only reason for interstellar travel is to increase trade? Or those ones that won't even talk to you unless you've got some novel form of mathematics? For Risa, it's 'explore the galaxy, meet interesting new people, and see what their orgasm faces look like'.
posted by bartleby at 3:04 PM on November 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Risa is definitely an example of the Planet of Hats trope [TVTropes], only their hat is "You Can Leave Your Hat On."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:36 PM on November 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

Of COURSE a Ferengi is going to wear the space version of an obnoxious Hawaiian shirt.

It seems like Star Trek also did the “aliens who interact entirely through sex” thing with the Deltans. Gene Rodenberry, bless him, was one of the last of the old-school SF perverts.
posted by MrBadExample at 8:45 PM on November 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

What? No mention of Beefcake Picard?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:06 AM on November 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

If I'm flipping channels looking for something to leave on in the background or actually sit down and watch, this is the only ST:TNG episode that will cause me to put down the remote. Yes, the alien time travel stuff could be much better worked out, but I do love seeing Jean-Luc get all would up by Vash.
posted by sardonyx at 12:46 PM on November 22, 2020

This is a fun one. It’s a lot like one Picard’s Dixon Hill stories, you’ve got your femme fatale, a macguffin, Max Grodénchik as a Peter Lorre analogue… perfect holiday for a hardboiled fan like Jean-Luc.
posted by rodlymight at 7:59 PM on November 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

I don't think I had ever seen this episode before. It was reasonably fun and light. I'm actually not the biggest fan of the character of Picard *ducks*. Patrick Stewart is a very talented actor, obviously, and there's nothing wrong with Picard. I guess I just find him to be a bit too much of a wish fulfillment character sometimes as the wise leader. In some ways, I guess the character of Vash improves Picard in that she's not presented as the most mature (or Starfleet-approved) choice for a love interest and he falls for her anyway.

In any case, I kept thinking the Ferengi character seemed familiar and then finally thought "Boy, he seems like how Max Grodenchik played Rom..." And sure enough, it was Grodenchik! I'm glad he stuck around in the ST universe.
posted by Slothrop at 8:13 AM on November 24, 2020

I keep forgetting that this episode exists and is the introduction of Risa, because through the rest of TNG and DS9 Risa gets referenced in ways that this episode does not live up to (or really any episode that could've aired on 90s broadcast TV could live up to).
posted by ckape at 1:36 PM on November 29, 2020

After the time travelers first spoke with Picard, I was hoping it would turn out that the crew had secretly signed Picard up for some kind of role-playing detective adventure, that being the kind of vacation he'd really enjoy. The fact that the vacation started out so annoying could've been just a set-up to make him more eager to pursue the adventure that was eventually offered to him. I was disappointed when this wasn't revealed to be the case at the end of the episode. It would've partially excused the corny-ness of the story.
posted by polecat at 9:08 PM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

It really threw me that Picard just... believes those future aliens when they say they’re from the future. And the bit at the end where Vash gets him to question it just makes his previous lack of questioning seem all the more ridiculous.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:40 AM on January 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

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