The Next Generation
Disc No :
First Aired :
2 Apr 1990
Early on in the episode, there's a scene in the turbolift in which the doors change from orange to grey between shots.
Just why would a transporter that's designed to transport people have a "blow up the thing you're transporting" setting? Surely transporters would designed to make this next to impossible to do? Imagine designing a car with a button that detonates a kilo of plastic explosive underneath your seat!
Great Moment :
The crew's increasingly daring efforts to get Picard to go off on holiday.
Body Count :
Zero. Though Sovak is punched in the face and Vash is stunned with a Vorgon weapon.
This is the first episode to have a teaser which was not set on the ship.
The original concept for the story was about Picard finding a sideshow attraction which shows people their greatest fear. He experienced a version of his life in which he was stuck in a boring desk job, with Riker commanding the Enterprise-D. Risa featured very little in the story, being only a location for the sideshow. Roddenberry vetoed the main story but liked the idea of Risa and asked for a different story set around that location.
Notoriously, the main impetus for this episode was that Patrick Stewart asked the writers if Picard could have "more sex and shooting" in episodes.
Max Grodénchik would go on to play another Ferengi in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Quark's brother Rom.
Guest star Jennifer Hetrick would later say she thought of this episodes being a cross between Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Having seen what Grodénchik had to go through to have Ferengi makeup applied, she declared that she was thrilled to have been able to play a human!
The Enterprise-D has just completed a diplomatic mission, in which Captain Picard spent two weeks as a mediator in a trade dispute between the Gemarians and their nearest neighbour, the Dachlyds. An exhausted Picard returns to the ship displaying a short temper and lack of enthusiasm for work in general. Troi recommends he take a vacation, but Picard is resistant. The senior officers begin a good-natured conspiracy to push Picard into taking some shore leave, culminating in Deanna threatening to have her mother visit the ship. Picard bows to the inevitable and takes some time away on Risa.
Once there he plans to spend some time lying in the sun reading and relaxing, but is subjected to a constant stream of interruptions - including being kissed by a woman and threatened by a Ferengi, neither of whom he has ever met before. The Ferengi, Sovak, demands a disc from Picard and informs him that the woman is "his"; Picard, who has no idea what he is talking about, dismisses him.
As he leaves he meets the woman who kissed him again, Vash. She slips the disc into his pocket to hide it from Sovak.
Picard leaves, only to find a pair of aliens scanning his room. They inform him that they are Ajur and Boratus, a pair of Vorgons who have travelled back in time from the 27th century. They are searching for an object called the Tox Uthat, a device created by a scientist named Kal Dano in the mid twenty seventh century. The Uthat is a crystal small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, but it is a tremendously powerful quantum phase inhibitor which is capable of halting all nuclear reactions within an entire star. Criminals attempted to steal the device, so Kal Dano hid it in the 22nd century. Ajur and Boratus have been looking for it ever since, and are here because they happened on a brief account which said that Picard had located the device on Risa in the coming days.
The Vorgons leave, and Picard finds the disc in his pocket. He confronts Vash, who says that the disc was given to her by Professor Samuel Estragon, her former boss, who spent half his life searching for the Tox Uthat. She plans to use the information he uncovered before his death to complete his work. Sovak, who occasionally helped out on slightly less ethical parts of the Professor's research, is now looking for it as well.
Picard agrees to help Vash look for the Uthat, though he doesn't disclose the presence of the Vorgons or their interest in the device. Vash uses the disc to locate the Uthat, about 27 kilometres from the resort, and the two decide to set out to hike there in the morning. Soval confronts them as they leave, brandishing a weapon and claiming that Vash is a greedy thief who sold him the Professor's research and then kept both the money and the disc. She doesn't exactly deny this. When Sovak demands the disc Vash throws her pack at him as a distraction and Picard decks him with a punch.
The two head for the location, stopping in a cave along the way to spend the night. Vash gets Picard to admit that he is enjoying his holiday adventure, and the two have sex. The next day they continue on to the location of the Uthat and start digging for it. The Vorgons beam in to observe, and Picard admits that he is helping them to recover it. Then Sovak arrives, having found the disc Vash attempted to destroy by fire and worked out where to go to find the Uthat. He forces Picard and Vash to dig for hours, but the Uthat is nowhere to be found. Picard and Vash finally give up and leave despite Sovak's threats.
After they get back to the resort, Picard contacts the Enterprise and tells them to prepare to execute "transporter code fourteen" on his order. He intercepts Vash as she is leaving the resort and challenges her - there is no way she would have failed to destroy the disc if she'd really meant to, so obviously she intended Sovak to find the location of the Uthat. Which meant she must have been trying to throw him off her trail, a plan that would only work if she had already retrieved the Uthat and then staged the entire series of events on Risa to convince everybody else that it was never there. Vash admits this and retrieves the device from a nearby hiding place.
The Vorgons arrive to reclaim the device, and Vash points out that according to the Professors research it was a pair of Vorgon criminals who were trying to steal it in the first place. For all anybody knows, Ajur and Boratus could be them. The Vorgons pull a weapon and demand that Picard turn over the device. He places it on the floor and backs off - with his combadge on top of it. A quick call to the Enterprise and the transporter is used to destroy the device once and for all.
The Borgons note that according to historical records Picard had indeed been the one to destroy the Uthat. With history now fulfilled they depart.
Despite her treachery, Vash and Picard part on good terms. He returns to the ship in a much happier mood and proceeds to their next assignment.
I really like this episode! It's common amongst Trek fans to wax lyrical about the philosophical bent of the show, how it was "too cerebral" for the studio execs, all that. In truth Trek is that... sometimes. It's also an action show, a comedy show, and a just plain old goofy show. And that's not a bad thing! One of the great aspects of Trek is that the format allows the writers to write almost any kind of show they like, which helps keep it from getting stale. So yeah, this isn't one of the deep philosophical ones, but it is a fun romp. A good old-fashioned adventure with a few fun twists and turns along the way.
Positives; the comedic banter the crew use to get Picard to go on holiday is a definite plus, culminating in the Doomsday Threat of a visit by Deanna's mother. Picard's desperate attempts to relax whilst all around him irritate him immensely is also fun. You have to love Stewart's delivery of "Riker..." when he realises how his First Officer has set him up with the horga'hn, his polite but aggravated treatment of everyone who interrupts him, right up until Sovak crosses the line - never was a slammed book so intense as when Picard slams his!
Vash is also a great character. On the face of it she's a contradiction in this perfect future where "material needs no longer exist" and Humanity has evolved beyond greed selfishness. But then, how seriously should we take those lines? I wrote a whole article about money in Trek, but whatever your take on the way the Federation's economic system works, or whether it even really has
an economic system at all, surely we can't assume that every single person in the Federation or even just on Earth thinks in lock-step on their culture?
As an analogy; you might expect an American in England to say "well in America we've evolved beyond the idea of a monarchy, we understand that Democracy is a more advanced system of government." And fair enough, that's a statement we might reasonably expect an American to make. But even if it were true, would it seriously be expected to mean that you couldn't find one single person in the whole of America who wouldn't say "Hell no, I'd love a monarchy!" Of course not, because in a nation of three hundred million people you're gonna have outliers with every belief you can imagine. And that's what Vash could be, even if we accepted that her own culture is firmly against greed and has no concept of money. She's an outlier, one of the tiny fraction of Humanity that says hell no, we'll have some of that money thank you very much!
That aside, Vash is also just plain fun to watch. She's smart, determined, ruthless in her own way - but also clearly having a blast on her great adventure. She's not evil, she's just out to accumulate some of that wealth and have a good time along the way.
It is perhaps a little odd that the macguffin for this episode was a colossally powerful weapon capable of destroying entire stars. Those stakes seem a little high for this kind of lighthearted episode. Personally I'd rather it had been some culturally important artefact. In fact, make it something odd and slightly comic - like Lwaxana Troi's Sacred Chalice of Rixx, which according to Deanna was actually "an old clay pot with mold growing inside it". Wouldn't it fit the episode's tone a little better if all this ado had been about something that turned out to be an unimpressive little clay pot, important to people purely for religious or cultural reasons? I guess they wanted to put something serious into the ending to up the stakes, but if you're going to have serious stakes it sits a little at odds with the idea of the episode being fun and lighthearted - given what he knows, we would expect Picard to beam down a few security teams and make sure he has the upper hand in the final confrontation.
The remastered version has the usual upgraded image quality.