Star Trek: The Next Generation: Ménage à Troi   Rewatch 
December 7, 2020 6:27 AM - Season 3, Episode 24 - Subscribe

A Ferengi DaiMon kidnaps Riker, Deanna, and Lwaxana Troi.

Shall I compare Memory Alpha to a summer's day?

Story and script
  • The working title of the episode was "Piece of Mind".
  • Co-writer Susan Sackett commented, "It's a comedy. It's not Shakespeare. We pitched a lot of stories and the last one was Mrs. Troi. At first, we were going to do O. Henry's The Ransom of Red Chief and it kind of evolved. We developed the story and the premise with Gene and he helped make the characters believable." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 198)
  • The script received an uncredited rewrite by Melinda Snodgrass, Richard Manning and Hans Beimler. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 198)
  • In 2012, Ronald D. Moore remembered Gene Roddenberry performed a rewrite on "Ménage à Troi" and added a questionable description of fruit during the picnic scene on Betazed; "Mrs. Troi reaches into the picnic basket and brings out an oskoid, which is a long cylindrical piece of fruit with veins going down the side and offers it to Riker to take a bite." (TNG Season 3 Blu-ray "Inside the Writer's Room" special feature)
  • This episode marks the first time that the cochrane, the unit of subspace distortion is mentioned. The term was coined by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda as a reference to Zefram Cochrane. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 144)
  • During Picard's speech he quotes the following Shakespeare verses:
    • "My love is a fever, longing still, For that which longer nurseth the disease…" – Shakespeare Sonnet 147;
    • "In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, For they in thee a thousand errors see [note]; But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise, Who in despite of view are [is] pleased to dote…" -Shakespeare Sonnet 141;
    • "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate…" – Shakespeare Sonnet 18;
    • "Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove." – Shakespeare Sonnet 116;
    • "When I have plucked the [thy] rose, I cannot give it vital growth again It needs must [must needs] wither" Othello, Act V, scene ii
    • "Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." – This is not Shakespeare but from Alfred Tennyson's 'In Memoriam A.H.H.' Canto 27.
  • The title of this episode is a play on the French term, Ménage à trois meaning "household (or party) of three", often in reference to sexual acts among three people.
Production
  • The scenes on Betazed were filmed at the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens in Pasadena, California, where "Justice" was also filmed, two and half years earlier. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 128)
  • The beginning of DaiMon Tog's security code was stated as "Kei-ee Yuri Dah-teh-ee" before being interrupted by his medical officer. This is one of the many references to the Japanese anime Dirty Pair in TNG. The main characters of Dirty Pair are named Kei and Yuri. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 128)
  • After his character's promotion on the show, Gene Roddenberry gave Wil Wheaton the second lieutenant bars he earned in the Army Air Corps (second lieutenant being equivalent to an ensign in the US Navy). Present at the ceremony was General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who later became Secretary of State. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 128)
Continuity
  • Ethan Phillips (Dr. Farek) later played Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager (who pretended to be the Grand Proxy in "False Profits"), as well as a holographic maître d' in Star Trek: First Contact and Ulis in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Acquisition".
  • Lwaxana later tells Odo about this event while they are trapped in a turbolift in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Forsaken".
  • Portions from one of the scenes in Ten Forward were juxtaposed into the Ten Forward scene used in ENT: "These Are the Voyages...".
  • The Ferengi hand phaser makes its first appearance in this episode.
  • The Ferengi sexual practice of oo-mox also makes its first appearance in this episode.
  • Despite previous instances where Troi indicates that she is able to empathically sense Ferengi, ("The Last Outpost") this episode establishes that Betazoids cannot read Ferengi. This inability is later referenced in "The Loss" and "The Forsaken".
Poster's Log:
I love the blocking of the garden scene with Troi and Riker in the foreground while Lwaxana and Mr. Homn find a place for their picnic in the background. It's a rare bit of visual comedy in the series.

Poor Mr. Homn. It seems that he's not more than a couple of dozen paces away, but doesn't hear or see the Ferengi transporter?

Is it intentional that Dr. Farek is more 'bluster' than 'menace', or does Ethan Phillips just have a problem portraying 'menacing'?

Lwaxana 'broadcasting' her encounter with Daimon Tog to Deanna is... pretty gross, actually, in an episode that occasionally lends itself to the most sophomoric of humor.

I cannot speak highly enough of Patrick Stewart's acting in this one. From his discomfort around Lwaxana at the episode's start to the Shakespearean quotations mixed with his deadpan countdown in the final showdown, it's all stunning. Most of all, though, his ability to hide his evident pride in Wesley until he finishes awarding the field promotion is beautiful. I wish Wil Wheaton had had more on-screen chance to be nervous about what Picard was trying to tell him.
posted by hanov3r (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just watched this last night, the only things that jumped out at me for the first 30 or so minutes were how unmemorable this episode is, and the weird/grossness of Troi being a telepathic witness to . . . whatever was going on between Lwaxana and Tog.

However, the last 5-10 minutes are pretty great fun.
posted by skewed at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think that this may be the episode that made me unimpressed with Lwaxana's character originally, before her appearances on DS9 redeemed her IMO. Even the title is kind of gross; I mean, which three people are stuck together the most in this ep? And, bluntly, this is not Majel Barrett's best acting, even given that she's playing Space Aunt Mame. About the zillionth time she rolled her eyes or acted super-disgusted at Tog, I felt like yelling at the screen, "Sheesh, dial it down, willya?" I have to admit that part of my dislike of this ep is that it comes close after "The Most Toys", also one in which someone is kidnapped and treated like someone else's property, and the fact that Lwaxana is not only threatened with rape but actually tortured--plus Lwaxana's previous and typical disregard of boundaries, never fun--means that I'll probably not watch this one again, ever...

...except for that last scene, which, as skewed says, is great fun. It's been memed to Gre'thor and back, but there's still something about it that's nigh-irresistible. Seeing Stewart fumble his way through various Shakespeare bits, including the sonnets, reminds me of what someone said about Julianne Moore's performance in Boogie Nights: there may be no good actress who does a better job of playing a bad actress (as Moore does when she's playing the porn actress doing the lead-ups to the sex scenes). Of course, Stewart has done tons of Shakespeare, and even recently, he's done readings of the sonnets on Instagram that have entertained millions, but here he's playing someone who is saying these lines with the knowledge that Lwaxana will probably take them at face value, even though he knows that she knows that he's just bluffing to get Tog to give her up willingly. It's a real treat, and by far the best part of the episode.

Is it intentional that Dr. Farek is more 'bluster' than 'menace', or does Ethan Phillips just have a problem portraying 'menacing'?

Maybe? Or maybe he's just pulling back from being Torture Doctor.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:16 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


The effect Riker exploits to contact the Enterprise is described as some kind of warp field bleed-off into subspace. Seems to me that this could be the same phenomenon that led to all the trouble in season seven's "Force of Nature."

I think the only way this episode can be interpreted as overall "acceptable" is if you view it as a 1930s-style sex farce, which also seems to be the only way that DS9's (even worse) episode "Profit and Lace" works at all. So, not in what you'd call good company.

I too enjoy the finale, though—the only point where the laughs weren't those strained "laughs" of discomfort—and it's kind of cool to see Riker in casual mode for a change. But sitting through the rest of it is, yeah, not something I'm apt to repeat. (It took some doing to get Mrs. CoB to agree to watch this again.)

Maybe somebody here with real-life military experience can clarify: does Wesley's field commission now mean he just…can skip the Academy entirely? I mean, I know that's not what happens in his case, but I'm still mildly confused.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:48 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm still mildly confused.
I have no connection to any military other than working with DoD people in a prior job. That said, I'd say your last sentence sums up the writers' relationship to the military on Star Trek, in general.
posted by Alterscape at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2020


My understanding (or, like, a couple of minutes with Google and Wikipedia) is that field-promoted members of US Armed Forces are required to complete any other requirements for their rank once they're no longer in forward posts. If you've received a field promotion to a non-com spot, you have 270 days after returning from a tour to pass the appropriate command course; if you've been promoted to a commissioned officer spot, you need to fulfill the other requirements (say, a bachelor's degree) as soon as possible.
posted by hanov3r at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2020


*Picard promotes Wesley*

Omg, yes, finally we'll see the last of that awkward, ill-fitting uniform

*dramatic music, turbolift opens, camera pans up*

NOOOO WHAT THE HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE TAILORS IN SPACE
posted by phooky at 8:24 AM on December 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Let's acquire cards from the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Premire('94) offers Study Nebula. Very average, nice image though. Dr. Farek was terrible at the time of printing, Greed didn't really do much until...

Rules of Acquisition('99), the Ferengi-inflected set, which includes our next few cards. Ferengi characters are now printed as members of the Ferengi affiliation, rather than being Non-Aligned. This probably wouldn't have happened if Decipher hadn't picked up the license for DS9. So we see Nibor, Tog, and the Krayton.

Enhanced Premiere('00) provides The Trois, each of whom downloads a card from a different episode. The dual affiliation icons mean they could swap between Fed and Ferengi cards belonging to the same player freely. There was no way to really mix Ferengi cards with other affiliations otherwise.

The Ferengi affiliation returned in Second Edition in Strange New Worlds('05) and this episode is represented by Gozar(cost effective yet low in moral fiber) and the skill sharing Lwaxana Troi, Telepathic Asset, once again providing the affiliation with their only native source of Empathy/Telepathy.

Captain's Log('06) offers Sweet Nothings; Krayton, Trade Envoy; and Tog, Lecherous DaiMon. Nothing too exciting.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2020


WRT Wesley's ill-fitting uniform: Wil Wheaton has talked about how at least the male actors on TNG wore what he called a "muscle suit", which was a sort of foam rubber liner under the visible costume that bulked out the skinny actors a bit. (It also occurred to me that it might have kept nipples and peen from showing through.) Maybe he didn't have the muscle suit yet.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 AM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


I would say maybe Starfleet could invest in uniforms that people could actually wear and function in, but from my experience in the Navy I can say bad uniforms are a near universal problem.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:12 PM on December 7, 2020 [1 favorite]


Speaking of clothing, Riker’s cazh outfit OMG. My eyes, my eyes.

“Do these trousers make my butt look big?”
“Yes. It’s enormous.”

Man, I hate this episode. The baked-in misogyny is so depressing.

It’s interesting, because I was just grumbling at someone about the uniforms for women compared to the ones for men, which the season finale reminded me of so sharply—the guys get two pieces with room and ability to adjust even though they can pee standing up, the women get form-fitting one piece jumpsuits with freaking back zippers that they’ll have to take down completely for the privilege of peeing. They’ll likely need a friend to zip and unzip. Gotta have that male gaze appeal. I bet there’s not even potty parity in the public lavatories either.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:11 PM on December 7, 2020 [2 favorites]


Mr. Homn was so distinctive (and tall) that I had to look him up. Carel Struycken also played Lurch from the Adams Family, which is why he looked so familiar.

(Also not a fan of this episode, despite the Shakespear)
posted by autopilot at 4:00 PM on December 7, 2020


Playmates made a figure based on Lwaxana Troi's costume from the beginning of this episode. It's a 'salt shaker' type - no legs, just a big skirt. I haven't seen this one in person but if it's anything like similar Bareil figure the feet rotate, which is just hilarious. What kid wouldn't want THAT? Most of them? Oh.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:53 PM on December 7, 2020


I remember as a kid being very confused by the title of this episode and not really getting any help to explain it.
posted by ckape at 7:57 AM on December 8, 2020 [3 favorites]


Well, this episode is the origin of 10000 WTF Picard memes, so there’s that.

Surprised the Ferengi ship is so spartan inside. These guys are all about getting rich, so where’s the bling? I mean the holding cell looks more comfortable than the Enterprise’s, but Daimon Tog’s actual bedroom looks like just a slightly larger prison cell.
posted by rodlymight at 6:31 PM on December 8, 2020 [1 favorite]


These guys are all about getting rich, so where’s the bling?

Maybe they're just being good investors and squirreling all their plunder back to Ferenginar ASAP?

Or, maybe the crews on these ships aren't really all that well off? They could be running the missions for a percentage of profits from a cartel who are the real players. This could mean Tog wasn't as big a man as he acts.

(Or, they could be hemmed in by the tv budget and an interior design which was mostly different versions of this thingie.)
posted by StarkRoads at 11:27 PM on December 8, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think there's a lot more "temporarily embarrassed millionaires" in Ferengi culture than they would like to let on. Capitalism doesn't work if everyone's rich.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:54 PM on December 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


I'm mostly just waiting for the next episode to post so I can stop thinking about this one.
posted by rocketman at 5:50 AM on December 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


"NOOOO WHAT THE HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE TAILORS IN SPACE"

Clearly they realized this was a real problem and fixed it in the next spin off series.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:33 PM on December 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


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