Star Trek: The Next Generation: Gambit, Part I   Rewatch 
September 27, 2021 9:35 AM - Season 7, Episode 4 - Subscribe

While investigating Picard's apparent death, Riker is captured by pirates pillaging Romulan archaeological sites.

You can rest assured I don't necessarily share everything I know with Memory Alpha, either.

Story and script
  • "Gambit" grew out of a spec script submitted by Christopher Hatton back in the sixth season. The story broke one of Gene Roddenberry's long-standing Star Trek taboos – specifically, that there would be no such thing as space pirates. Although initially skeptical, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor later returned to Hatton's story as it provided an opportunity for a "less talky romp". Rick Berman, aware of the taboo but willing to consider the proposal, tied a red bandana around the bust of Gene Roddenberry on his desk while discussing the story. He explained, "I just blindfolded it as a joke one day. Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like I blindfold him when we discuss the story…I take it on and off, depending on who's in here." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 265))
Production
  • The bridge of Arctus Baran's ship is a massive redress of the USS Enterprise-D's battle bridge, with the most notable elements remaining from the original set being the viewscreen and the ceiling. Also, the chairs on the command center were taken from the bridge of the USS Enterprise-A from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
  • The mercenary vessel's bridge is later redressed as the bridge of the USS Pasteur in "All Good Things...". One of the central consoles was a stock set element that also appeared in "All Good Things…" when the Romulan Commander Tomalak leans over it to address Picard through the viewscreen.
  • This episode contains the longest phaser fight shown on screen, with over seventy shots. According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., pp. 265-266), all explosions were done in post-production due to a fire season ban on live explosives on location at Griffith Park's Cedar Grove. Likewise, all damage stains on rocks were done digitally.
  • The large "vest" worn by the alien bartender on Dessica II was later reused as Maquis fatigues worn by Ayala in the Star Trek: Voyager episodes "Caretaker" and "Repression".
Cast and characters
  • On casting Richard Lynch as Arctus Baran, Jeri Taylor commented, "Richard was simply the best person who read for the part. Peter Lauritson who directed the first episode, knew his work, liked him, and really wanted him. It's always a problem to find worthy adversaries for Picard. You need an actor who has the power, stature, and presence to go toe to toe with him and if you don't have that, you don't have an episode. Richard brought all of this and for his campiness and the sort of stereotypical things he has done, he has that undeniable power and I thought it was a good trade." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 292) Robin Curtis (Tallera) previously played Lieutenant Saavik in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
  • Sabrina LeBeauf (Ensign Giusti) is best known for her role as Sondra Huxtable in The Cosby Show. Her character was named for a friend of Naren Shankar. Director Peter Lauritson recalled, "Sabrina was a fan, and though she's a professional, I think sitting down at the controls of the Enterprise kinda unnerved her a bit, but she picked it up and did fine." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 265))
  • Bruce Gray previously played Chekote in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Circle", which aired only six days before this one (it originally aired on 3 October 1993).
  • Caitlin Brown previously played Ty Kajada in DS9: "The Passenger".
Continuity
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 266) notes that Picard may have chosen the name "Galen" in honor of his mentor, Professor Galen, who appeared in "The Chase".
  • The alien race of the Debrune is mentioned as an "ancient offshoot of the Romulans." The Romulans are themselves an ancient offshoot of the Vulcans.
Poster's Log:

I don't have a lot to say about this one. There's an exciting phaser fight with lots of high-speed weaponry, we get to see Picard in something other than his uniform, and the still shot for the "To Be Continued..." placard is a perfect cliffhanger... and that's about it. The rest of this one is pretty much standard season 7 "we're almost done with the show" stodginess.
posted by hanov3r (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
MST3K fans will recognize Richard Lynch as "Grandma" from Werewolf. The Arctus Baran forehead appliance is available for custom-created alien PCs in Star Trek Online.

The mercenary ship's bridge looks waaaaay too clean, well-lit, and functional. Brannon Braga described this ep too close to Buck Rogers for his taste, and of course personal taste isn't really debatable, but I share his opinion only w/r/t Baran's bridge—aaand maybe some of the costumes. (Speaking of: Very good "Fashion It So" for the two-parter.) But silly pirate stuff notwithstanding, I enjoy this two-parter from top to bottom. You can tell that our regulars are having fun here, though maybe moreso in Part II.

Mrs. Cheeses reports that, on account of his Thrawn-like demeanor once he takes command, Data "was never sexier" than in this two-parter.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:12 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I didn't have the problem with space pirates that Roddenberry apparently had--what's the distinction between pirates and mercenaries, except that one mostly just steals stuff and the other mostly just kills people, again?--but, yeah, that bridge was way too clean and well-organized. There should have been a mix of control interfaces, not unlike the pilot's seat of the Delta Flyer on VOY, only even more so, since they'd probably upgrade by buying used and maybe just flat-out stealing some consoles, along with most of their equipment. And I thought that Riker was having a fairly serious nosh on the scenery in the scene with Troi; "The captain died in a bar fight for nothing," cries the man whose captain literally lost his heart in a bar fight over a dom-jot game when he was barely in his twenties.

But the rest of the episode is pretty good for what it is, which is another McGuffin chase in which Patrick Stewart gets to be an action figure. I was surprised to see that Baran wasn't played by the same actor who played Professor Moriarty, because they look so much alike. And I liked that he had something like a remote agonizer, or the remote-control thingy of the Eyemorgs. (I came up with an OC once who was a Klingon smuggler, who disciplined her crew with an antique agonizer; if they didn't heed that "warning", they were tossed out the airlock.) I also liked the plot device of the Vulcan separatist movement, which is an idea that also gets floated in Diane Duane's novel, Spock's World, which is one of three Trek novels that I can recommend without reservation (the others being John M. Ford's The Final Reflection and Andrew Robinson's A Stitch in Time). And, finally, it's fun to see the crew try to fit in the ambiance of your standard-issue alien hive of scum and villainy. Next ep is even more fun, though.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:58 AM on September 27


I also liked the plot device of the Vulcan separatist movement

We don't get that revelation until part II, though.
posted by hanov3r at 11:18 AM on September 27


Sorry, didn't mean to spoil it. (As with many of these two-parters, I watch them back to back, and it's brought up in the MA entry for this part.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:34 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


MST3K fans will recognize Richard Lynch as "Grandma" from Werewolf.

Also very memorable as the Russian villain opposite Chuck Norris in "Invasion U.S.A." (No, not that one). Given his career, it's really quite incredible he hadn't done a Star Trek role before this.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:35 PM on September 27


I can never figure out what it is that makes me laugh out loud whenever Baran is on screen. Is it the sharpness of the actor's features that makes his appearance so much goofier than all the other Star Wars cantina rejects? Maybe it's the "I just saw Cats on the West End" makeup? Or possibly it's the "Beauty and the Beast is my fave show" absolutely buck wild wig? But man, it's impossible for me to take him seriously at all. Then you throw in the weird outfit (it looks almost like the straps in front of his pants are supposed to function as tie-downs for a weapon, except there are also ass straps as well) and I just can't keep it together.

I also spent a lot of time this viewing really studying Picard's outfit, which, again, doesn't make a whole bunch of sense. What are all those straps for meeting in the middle of his chest? They don't seem to function as anything, they just form a ray pattern harness that doesn't really...harness anything. Why would you give yourself something like that to take on and off every day (which, no one seems to ever have down time or chillaxes in their room when off duty), and make yourself uncomfortable when you're not just standing around? It's kind of cray in a Road Warrior fetishistic way. Obviously I need to read the Fashion It So post. (Also, my never-ending complaint of how brown and beige everything is for anyone not in the Federation.)

Noshing on the scenery is kind of an understatement. Poor Deanna--how she resisted the urge to backhand pouty Riker is beyond me, that woman has the patience of a saint.

Do they never practice shooting, or have to qualify for like ability to use a phaser in a fight? That was a whole lot of missing everything. I would think there'd be the equivalent of firearms training if you're assigned to a starship.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:47 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


You know what those chest straps reminded me of? Intendant Kira's outfit from the Mirror Universe. Which makes me want to believe that the Mirror Universe Picard is, in fact, Galen the space pirate, in the same vein as Mirror Sisko being a privateer.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:20 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Okay, setting aside Picard apparently neglecting to tell his crew that he was going off to a murderous Renaissance festival for the weekend-- Dr. Crusher. Please. We love you, but remember what we were talking about last week? About the death certificates? Not to denigrate the quality of your death certificates; they are impeccable! It's just that we can't help but notice that you keep registering death certificates for people who are discovered to be, well, alive. You can't register someone as dead just because they're out of your field of view for twenty seconds. Speaking of which--

[MEANWHILE, IN THE OBSERVATION LOUNGE]
RIKER: I'm not ready to heal!
TROI: The crew is looking to you for closure.
RIKER: I don't want to say goodbye. Not to the Captain, and not to Worf, either.
WORF: Sir?
RIKER: [swivels around in chair] Worf! You're alive! Buddy, am I glad to see you!
WORF: Commander, I've been here the whole time.
RIKER: And I'm so glad you have been! If only Deanna had lived to see this.
TROI: Will.
RIKER: [swivels around in chair] WOW! WHAT?!?
posted by phooky at 1:22 PM on September 27 [12 favorites]


I remember being very annoyed by Riker & Troi’s reaction to Picard’s ‘death’ back when this episode first aired, since we knew he wasn’t actually dead. But my memory had conflated this episode with the one where Picard was being tortured by Cardassian David Warner, so I was puzzled at that point of the rewatch as to why everyone’s reactions to Jellico declaring Picard as good as dead didn’t trigger the reactions I remembered.

The rest of Gambit is pretty much a blank to me now. Not a fan so far though - it has the feel of a bad fan-fic, what with the pain inducers and Picard slapping Riker around. And, I mean, I love a good hurt/comfort crack-fic of a story, but this feels like when a non-romance writer tries their hand at writing romance/erotica and creates some unsexy 50 Shades of Gray monstrosity.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:13 PM on September 27


Everyone has touched on the points I was going to hit except for one thing...

Did Worf get up on the wrong side of the bed? He's questioning everyone. He seems to think Data is incompetent to command. On a Klingon ship, that kind of questioning of one's superior would be tantamount to challenging for command.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:29 PM on September 27


There's a scene in part two that addresses Worf's behavior towards Data. It is one of my favorite Star Trek scenes.
posted by obol at 8:09 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Plunder Site is reasonable as a Red/Green Archeology mission, the Mercenary Ship comes with somewhat unique equipment aboard that wouldn't make a huge difference. At least it has that matching commander for Captain's Log, or pull him straight to the ship with Ready Room Door.

We got a bit more in Second Edition, including another Mercenary Ship, Non-Aligned skill filler Vekor, and the shiny foil •Jean-Luc Picard, Galen, providing you a gold-bordered Picard that could be slotted in any deck.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:53 PM on September 27


But the rest of the episode is pretty good for what it is, which is another McGuffin chase in which Patrick Stewart gets to be an action figure.

Thanks for the reminder! Galen action figure is totally a thing. Playmates wasn't going to miss the opportunity to re-use a head/create a new copy of a bridge crew character.
posted by StarkRoads at 4:36 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


It's BA-ran? For years I've thought that the leading space pirate was a tribute to the the Soviet space shuttle, Buran.
posted by rodlymight at 6:33 PM on November 30


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