Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Pursuant to the discovery of an unmanned freighter with a missing escape pod, The Enterprise visits the closest nearby planet, Angel One. The planet has a matriarchal government with tall attractive women who are more physically dominant than the men.
Once there, the Enterprise discovers that four men from the escape pod landed on Angel One but are now in hiding. Enterprise scanners find them. After locating the men, and offering them escape, the Away Team learns that the men do not want to leave and that they have wives and family on the planet. The lead official on the planet, Beata, promises to execute the men and their wives after they are discovered. The ruling counsel wants to prevent their heretical beliefs from spreading. Riker manages to talk her into merely sending the people into exile.
Meanwhile, everyone on the Enterprise gets an unexplainable severe respiratory illness. Dr. Crusher learns how to create an inoculate for the strange virus at the last moment before the ship needs to leave to intercept Romulan battle cruisers approaching a Federation outpost.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Captain’s Log Stardate 41636.9
As feared, the Enterprise’s examination of the Federation freighter, Odin, reveals no life signs. Picard narrates that it was damaged in a collision with an asteroid. However, he states that three escape pods are missing from the freighter, suggesting the possibility of survivors. They visit the nearby Class M (habitable) planet “Angel One.” Data tells Picard that the planet has some intelligent life, though sparsely populated, and that the planet is similar technologically to twentieth century earth.
Yar tells Picard that they are receiving a signal from the planet. Picard asks Data for any additional information about the planet. Data tells him that the planet is a constitutional oligarchy, governed by a parliamentary body governed by sixty “mistresses” and headed by a female the planet refers to as “the elected one.” Troi, smiling, notes that this sounds like her own planet. Worf adds that Klingons appreciate strong women. Picard asks how current the Federation’s information on Angel One is and he informs Picard that a Federation vessel last visited the planet sixty-two years earlier.
Picard suggests that Troi make initial contact. She hails the planet. Beata, The Elected One, replies, asking how they might assist her. Troi says that it has been too long since the Federation last made contact. Beata replies that a courtesy call is not necessary nor was it expected. Troi then adds that they also come in search of survivors from one of its freighters. Beata informs her that a brief visit will be tolerated. The planet breaks off its transmission.
Geordi: You ever feel like you’re not really wanted?
Riker runs into Wesley in the hallway. He and another kid his own age are dressed to go skiing in the holodeck. Riker, Yar, Data, and Troi comprise the Away Team to the planet. Picard advises them that the Federation views Angel One as strategically important with a hope that the planet will someday join the Federation. Riker states that they will try to make a good impression.
Picard narrates his log entry to state that the Away Team has beamed down to a society where the female gender is as aggressively dominant as males were on earth hundreds of years ago. Here, the female is the hunter, the soldier, and is larger and stronger than the male.
The Away Team arrives to a city that looks like a 20th century earth city. They kneel before Beata and petition to search her planet for survivors from Odin’s freighter. Everyone on Angel One looks completely human. Beata informs them that even a world as remote as Angel One has heard of Starfleet and she states that searching the galaxy for a small group of survivors seems like a petty task for a mighty vessel. Riker states that they do not consider even one life petty. Beata asks Troi if Riker is implying that they put a lesser value on life than does Starfleet. Troi tells her not at all and informs Beata that the discovery of the freighter was unexpected and that they have a duty to investigate. Beata asks what will happen if they find survivors. Troi tells her that they would take the survivors with them and reunite them with their families.
One of the women standing near Beata asks if they are to take these strangers at their word and Yar replies with a question asking why they would deceive them. Riker asks if the survivors from Odin are on their planet and Beata says she is not prepared to answer. She then instructs one of them men to show them to their quarters.
Inside the room, Yar scans for listening devices or other potentially threatening devices and finds nothing. Troi informs Riker and the rest of the group that there was much fear in the room though the fear, she says, was not focused. As a result, she believes they are all fearful but for varying reasons. Troi states that undoubtedly there are survivors from Odin on the planet and Riker agrees noting that if there were not, the planet’s inhabitants would not have been so circumspect.
On the Enterprise, Picard tells Worf that they are to leave for a Federation outpost, at Warp Six, as soon as the Away Team has completed its mission. He tells Worf that Romulan Battle Cruisers have been detected near one of the Federation outposts and that the Enterprise is needed near that outpost as insurance.
Picard and Worf walk by the holodeck. Picard is inadvertently hit in the face by a snowball as Wesley and his friend leave from their ski trip. Picard notes that he smells something strange, Worf agrees, and Picard tells Mr. Crusher not to allow something like this to happen again.
Back on the planet, Data studies a spray bottle of perfume. Troi explains to him what it is. When Data asks what the purpose of perfume is, Yar tells him that certain cultures consider perfume an aphrodisiac. Data says that he is unfamiliar with the term so Rker explains to him that it is used to stimulate or enhance sexual pleasure.
Data: How does stimulation of the olfactory nerves effect the enjoyment of sex?
Just then, a male enters and tells them that The Elected One will now see them. She tells them that they agree to let them look for survivors. She also tells them that the vote to allow them to do so was not unanimous. Riker says that they do not understand the source of their misgivings but appreciates the faith placed in them. Beata replies to him that he is to make certain their faith is not misplaced.
Beata tells them that there are four survivors on their planet from the ship called Odin – all male. She says their leader is a man who calls himself Ramsey. Troi assures her that if they deliver the men to them, they will remove the men from their planet immediately. Beata says that she cannot deliver the men to them because their hiding place has long eluded them. Yar asks why they are in hiding and Beata replies that the men are fugitives on Angel One.
She tells them that when the men arrived seven years ago, they accepted the planet’s hospitality. However, over time, she says the men became restive and rebelled against the natural order. Troi suggests that they may be able to find the men using the technology of the Enterprise. Beata says that she assumed as much but warns Troi to be careful because the men are dangerous.
Aboard the Enterprise, Wesley and his skiing friend have contracted a respiratory ailment. Dr. Crusher notifies Picard of this with her comms device. He asks her if the disease is contained and she says that she hopes so. She states that she has isolated the twelve students who attending the skiing field trip. He asks her how contagious the disease is and she replies that she is still running tests. She states that she has been unable to learn how the virus is transmitted though she has ruled out person to person contact. As Picard tells her to keep at it, and that he does not fancy the idea of his crew being infected, he rubs the back of his neck and appears to be in some minor physical distress himself.
On the planet’s surface, Data tells Riker that if they can isolate something unique to the Odin survivors, they will be able to use the Enterprise scanners to find them. Riker tells Beata that they will need access to the planet’s library. Beta tells them that the planet’s libraries are too sophisticated for a male to use and Data presents himself as an android, though an anatomically male one. Beata says that this is amusing and sends one of her males with Data to show him the library.
On the Enterprise, Worf uses a comms device to call Picard. He tells the Captain that the Away Team is requesting to use the ship’s scanners to search for platinum on the planet’s surface. Picard gives permission and instructs Geordi to initiate a search pattern.
In the Away Team’s quarters, Troi presents Riker with some indigenous male apparel. It’s shiny and somewhat flimsy. She asks if he is actually going to wear it. He reminds her that this is a diplomatic mission and that he intends to honor the planet’s head of state with appropriate clothing. Yar is appalled. He reminds them of prior diplomatic missions wherein he wore local apparel and asks if their objection is related to the fact that Beata is a woman and an attractive one.
Picard is meeting with Dr. Crusher. She is scanning him. He angrily tells her that he is fine and she replies that he is infected with the virus.
Dr. Crusher: In my opinion, you are no longer physically able to effectively command this vessel.
Picard: That is ridiculous, Doctor! I have an Away Team down there, in less than friendly territory, and in addition I have an appointment with several Romulan battle cruis… [stops to breathe]
Dr. Crusher: You have an appointment in your cabin, Captain, with your bed.
She tells him that this is an order. On the bridge, Worf tells Geordi that he feels as though he is about to sneeze. Geordi is intrigued by the idea of a Klingon sneeze. Picard walks back through the bridge, with Dr. Crusher, and puts Geordi in charge of the ship until further notice. Picard is adamant that the proper log entries be made.
As the episode score swells for the dramatic temporary promotion, Geordi sits down in the Captain’s chair. Worf – who is clearly sick now – tells Geordi that scanners detect a platinum trace and asks if he should notify the Away Team. La Forge tells him to “make it so.”
Back on the planet, Troi is looking in the direction of Riker’s changing room. She whispers “Tasha” and then Riker emerges.
The women look at him in a strange combination of appraisal and amusement.
Riker: What do you think?
Yar: [laughing] Ah, well, ah [she walks around him looking him up and down] I’ve got to say it’s kind of sexy.
Riker: Thank you, Lieutenant. Actually, I’ve got to say it feels quite comfortable.
Riker meets with Beata and she also looks at him… appraisingly. She tells him he looks handsome. Riker informs Beata and another woman with her that the Enterprise has reported a possible location for the survivors. Beata seems impressed and says “so soon” and another woman says that she is suspicious. She tells Riker that she hears the words but not the sincerity. Beata tells the other woman, Ariel, that she had her opportunity to object and that she is in the minority. Ariel leaves and the male attendant also leaves, leaving Riker alone with Beata.
He informs her that the Away Team would like to begin their search immediately. She says “by all means” but notes that the other members of his team can see to that without him. She approaches him and reminds Riker that he had a gesture of good will that he wished to give her. [uh huh] Riker replies that the good will gesture can wait until after they recover the survivors. Beata asks if he is suggesting that the women in his party are incapable of accomplishing that task without a man and he replies that he is not. She then tells Riker to inform the women in his party to begin their search and to inform them that he will remain with her. Yar is confused by the instructions but Riker ends the call.
Yar and Data set phasers to stun. They call to the Enterprise and request to be beamed to the location of the platinum trace. Geordi beams them away. They arrive and a man is standing nearby. He welcomes them and states that he has been expecting them.
On the Enterprise, Picard calls to Geordi. Worf sneezes loudly and is still on the bridge. Geordi tells Picard that Dr. Crusher has converted the holodeck into an isolation ward. He further informs Picard that there are eighty-two more reported cases of the illness on the ship. Geordi tells Picard that he has not made recent contact with the Away Team but that he has informed them of the medical situation aboard the ship and the growing Romulan threat to the Federation’s neutral zone outpost. Picard, who is struggling to breath, tells Geordi to keep him advised and states that he has the bridge until Riker returns.
Geordi sends Worf to sick bay. A moment later, Geordi gets a call from Engineering. As he is about to see to the problem himself, Worf reminds him that there are other people to see to that problem. Geordi agrees and tasks Lt. Wong to solve the engineering issue. As Worf leaves, Geordi thanks him for the advice.
On the planet’s surface, Ramsey asks how they found him. They tell him that ship’s scanners located them by the platinum they are wearing. Ramsey then surprises the Enterprise Away Team by telling them that his men have been on Angel One for seven years, they have taken wives, and that they all consider Angel One their home. They do not want to leave.
Riker is alone in a smaller room with Beata and they are drinking champagne or the Angel One version of it. He asks why they were so hesitant to tell his team about the Odin survivors and she says that Ramsey and his men are anarchists. She says that they needed to be sure The Enterprise Away Team is not going to fuel their struggle. Beata compliments Riker’s eyes and she sits down on what appears to be a bed. Riker tells her that the Federation cannot interfere with how other society’s conduct their affairs but Beata notes that they are allowed to interact and Riker says yes, noting that otherwise they could not learn about the places they visit. He then sits beside her on the bed.
Beata: Is that why you’re here with me tonight? To learn?
Beata: About our society?
She tells him that in their society, men are fortunate. They are allowed to enjoy all that life has to offer while women devote themselves to making life work. Riker tells her that in his society, men and women share the responsibilities and the pleasures equally.
Beata runs her fingers through Riker’s gorilla fur thick chest hair.
Riker hesitates and asks if she will still respect him in the morning. She says that she hopes so. They are interrupted when Starfleet’s gift for Beata arrives. It’s some kind of meditation light and she is impressed. Then she states she must repay him in kind… and pulls him down onto the bed.
At the campsite with the Odin survivors, we hear their story. He says after five grueling months on their rescue pod, they arrived to the planet. He says they thought they had died and gone to heaven due to the attractiveness of the local women. He says though that after the newness wore off, he and his men began to notice how poorly the other men on the planet are treated. Ramsey then again reiterates that he will not leave.
Ramsey: Mistress Beata be d*****. You can’t force us to go!
Data: Mr. Ramsey is correct, Counselor. The Odin was not a starship which means their crew was not bound by the Prime Directive. If he and the others wish to stay here there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
On the ship, Geordi calls Dr. Crusher and she informs him that there are now more sick than available beds. She tells him that three hundred have been confined to their quarters. Geordi notes they will be undermanned if forced to engage the Romulans in battle. She tells Geordi that she is struggling to find an inoculant because the virus mutates every twenty minutes. She notes, though, that there have been no fatalities yet.
Geordi: If this continues, there will be no one left to run the ship.
Dr. Crusher: If this continues Lt. La Forge, there will be no one left to care.
Yar calls Geordi and says they plan to beam back aboard the ship after meeting with Commander Riker. He tells her they need to hurry because the Enterprise is going through a medical emergency and that the latest information states that more Romulan vessels are converging at the location where they are slated to be.
Before the Enterprise Away Team leaves Ramsey, Yar asks why he was expecting them and he replies that he cannot tell her. Troi wishes him well. As soon as The Away Team beams away, Ariel emerges from her hiding place and embraces Ramsey.
Riker and Beata are still in bed with Riker lying on top of her. They are talking. She says that is a refreshing change to be with a man who knows what he wants.
The room’s doorbell rings. Beata scolds the male who enters for intruding upon her privacy. He informs her that the rest of Riker’s Away Team has returned but without Ramsey and the others. Yar enters the room with Data and Troi behind her. The Enterprise women again look at Riker in his… outfit. Beata asks if the Enterprise technology has proven inadequate. Yar informs all that Mr. Ramsey and the other survivors refuse to leave. Riker apologizes and states that there is nothing else he can do. Beata then says she is sorry as well.
Beata: Since you refuse to take them with you then I am left with no choice but to sentence them all to death.
A shirtless and very ill Picard is lying on the bed in his cabin. Dr. Crusher enters. She pours something that she says looks horrible, tastes worse, but is guaranteed to make him feel better. While patting Picard’s cheek, she smells something. Picard whispers that he and Worf smelled the same thing when they ran into Wesley as he exited the holodeck. She gets an epiphany about the virus and runs out states that she has work to do.
Data updates Riker who is now back in his uniform. Dr. Crusher reports her belief that the virus will run through the entire ship and that Geordi has the bridge until Riker’s return. He states that Dr. Crusher has so far been unable to develop a treatment. He also informs Riker that seven Romulan battle cruisers are now approaching the Federation’s border zone outpost.
Riker states his belief that it is time to leave and Troi counters stating that it does not feel right to leave while Beata is determined to execute those people. Riker states that they have evaded capture for years and are likely good at it. Suddenly Troi senses something wrong and Beata enters their room… with a captured Ramsey and his men. Ramsey asks the Enterprise officers why they told Beata their location and Beata replies that one does not need the Enterprise’s technology to have Ariel followed as she sneaks out to warn her husband. Beata encourages Ariel to stand with him because tomorrow they will die together.
Riker approaches Beata to speak privately. He even kneels before her in the fashion of her planet. He asks if a way to avoid executing these people were to present itself, if she would take it, and she implies that she would. Riker then asks to meet with the men from Odin one last time so that he can try to convince them to leave with the Enterprise. She asks if the Enterprise will also include anyone from Angel One who wish to leave with Ramsey and Riker says yes.
Troi approaches the entire group and tells them that Mistress Beata is willing to let all of them leave with the Enterprise. Ramsey says that it is a kind offer but that they are not going. Ramsey says that they do not want to die nor do they want to leave. Riker then tells Ramsey that they are leaving with the Enterprise whether they choose to go or not. Data tells Riker that removing people against their will violates numerous laws and Riker replies that he would rather face a court martial than leave all of those people behind for execution.
Riker calls the ship and Dr. Crusher answers. Geordi is now sick, too. Riker tells her that they have fourteen to beam up and she replies that she cannot allow it due to the virus.
Riker: Doctor, these people are facing their deaths down here.
Dr. Crusher: They might be facing the same thing up here.
Riker asks if the virus will have any effect on Data and Crusher says not likely. He then sends Data back alone with instructions to get the Enterprise into the neutral zone before it is too late. Troi asks what will happen with the members of their group slated for execution and Riker replies that he does not know.
The following day, a male enters the Starfleet officer quarters and informs them that Mistress Beata invites them to witness the reaffirmation of this world’s moral imperative. Yar asks if that is the civilized description of murder on Angel One. The man does not answer and Riker tells him to send Mistress Beata their regrets. Just then, Data communicates with Riker. Riker asks why the Enterprise why the ship is not now on its way to the neutral zone and Data replies that he calculated the time for when it will be too late to leave and that he still has forty-eight minutes until that occurs. The Away Team is enthused that they still have time to convince Mistress Beata not to go through with the executions.
Riker tells the male servant person, named Trent, that they have changed their mind and that they would be honored to witness the planet’s moral imperative in action. Beata says that due to the inability to curtail the revolutionaries’ behavior and heretical teaching, they are left with only one alternative. She displays the execution device to everyone and demonstrates it on a vase. It appears to instantaneously beams people and vases to their deaths. She says that the planet is not without compassion and that the deaths will be swift and painless.
Riker speaks to her. He notes that she referred to the people as revolutionaries and then questions whether or not it is actually revolution she is hoping to stop. He suggests that she is attempting to stop evolution. He suggests to her that Ramsey did not bring about the differing views of men, on Angel One, but rather that they became symbols those with differing views could gather behind.
Riker: You may eliminate those symbols. But that does not mean death to the issues which those symbols represent. No power in the universe can hope to stop the force of evolution. Be warned. The execution of Mr. Ramsey and his followers may elevate them to the status of martyrs. Martyrs cannot be silenced.
Stirring speech. But one of the female soldiers pushes Ramsey toward the execution device. As the execution device is just about to be used, Ariel shouts “Beata!” The execution stops. She states that they will adjourn to consider Riker’s words. The all-female leadership counsel leaves the room. Ramsey thanks Riker. He states that he does not know if it was enough.
Aboard the ship, Dr. Crusher calls Data – who is alone on the bridge – and tells him she has figured out the inoculant. Data communicates with Riker. Number One informs Data that the Away Team and the prisoners are in the Great Hall. He orders Data to lock in the coordinates to beam them all away but requests that Data stand by for now.
The ruling counsel returns. She states that the legislature has voted to stay the execution of the prisoners. She advises them not to rejoice prematurely She further states that Ramsey and his followers are exiled to a distant and unpopulated region of the planet where life will be difficult with little time for revolutionary or evolutionary upheaval.
Beata: For a man, you can be very clever, Commander Riker.
Riker calls up to the ship and tells him there are now only three to beam up.
On the bridge, a very raspy Captain Picard instructs Data to set coordinates for the neutral zone. Picard is unable to get the word “engage” out and Riker says it instead.
In theory, a “gender role swap” episode should be interesting. But I feel as though there’s almost always an undercurrent, in sci-fi stories like this, that what the matriarchal society *really* wants is a big strong hairy chested man to come take care of things for the women who are… under-served… by their own feeble men. This episode provided some of that undercurrent. The men on this world (poor Trent) were small and almost elfish whereas the women are tall and attractive – though not notably taller and more attractive than a human woman like, say, Lt. Yar. Riker towers over Beata when they are alone together.
The result is that this episode comes across as some kind of male sex fantasy. Riker engages in, uh, diplomatic relations with Beata, while he is wearing a revealing outfit. He even asks if she will “still respect him in the morning.” However, there is never a true sense of a gender role reversal because Riker is only playing at taking the less dominant role. Both Riker and Beata know he is playing at it. There is never a moment when he does not possess all the actual power in his interactions with Beata. Despite what she says, it is clear that Beata *likes* this dynamic with Riker. In fact, she tells him outright that she likes this dynamic after their, uh, diplomatic relations.
Ramsey is the other tall strapping square jawed man he apparently had the same effect on Ariel – one of Angel One’s other women in leadership.
Even at the end of the episode, there is just a hint of “Riker talks sense into the irrational woman” when he monologues about martyrs. I guess to her credit she listens.
The show might have given us a different take on how a matriarchal society might be different than a patriarchal one but instead of putting that much thought into it, we are just presented with a world that looks familiar except that the genders reversed. Alternatively, the episode might have given us a point of view from poor little Trent at some point but it fails to deliver that, too.
I have no doubt that TNG will make another attempt at an episode like this down the road. Hopefully the next effort goes better.
The subplot of Angel One is that the Enterprise is nearly wiped out by a virus. Again. The future of medicine eradicates viruses, bacteria, etc., but the ship seems to have no idea how to handle encountering illness. Picard knew he contacted sick people and continued infecting his bridge officers anyway. Worf stayed on the bridge until WELL after he was obviously sick. The upside of all of this was a somewhat cool moment where Geordi got to sit in the Captain’s Chair. But to get to that moment, you have to endure everyone behaving in an idiotic way.
So how did this happen? We are not told for certain. It seems the holodeck either created a virus and gave it to Wesley. Or maybe the holodeck was kept unclean in such a way that a novel virus appeared there. Maybe someone from the Enterprise developed a 2020 simulation for the holodeck. In any case, Dr. Crusher once more proves that she has no idea how virus containment should work though in her defense Picard went out of his way to make her job impossible.
How did she avoid getting sick herself? We are not told. To be honest, this entire subplot is fairly weak except to make Dr. Crusher look as though she deserves termination papers yet again. Picard does his part to at least merit an admonition from whoever the Admiral might be that should oversee him. The subplot primarily served the purpose of making it impossible for Riker and the Away Team to leave with Ramsey and the prisoners when Riker wanted to do that. Otherwise, the only other purpose it serves is to make everyone on the ship appear to be incompetent. At least Wesley did not save the day from sick bay.
Weirdest moment in the episode: Yar circling Riker in his Angel One outfit (see above) and telling him how sexy he looks.
Irritating continuity issue: Riker – now that Troi has avoided her wedding – is no longer interested in her and more or less openly flaunts sleeping around in front of her.
It appears that we have the big bad Romulans on the horizon. I am psyched about that. As baddies go, my memory tells me they are way better than the Ferengi.