Star Trek The Next Generation: Angel One

Riker: "But will you still respect me in the morning?"

Well, this isn't the worst episode of the series, but it's close. At least some of the dialogue is funny. Yet for an episode that is trying to tackle gender politics, it is incredibly sexist.

Ah Riker, the search for a personality. Jonathan Frakes is really trying to be dignified here, at Riker's absolute lowest point. It's clear they want to do something vaguely Kirkian with him, but it really doesn't fit Frakes' style. He's too earnest and straightforward to be a womanizer. I know the point is that she is 'using' him. But in an episode as confused as this one, I don't think it matters.

The only good parts are Data (as usual), Troi getting some much needed attention as someone other than a lie detector (which quickly evaporates when Riker starts sleeping with the leader of Angel One), and pretty much all of Geordi's scenes with Worf and getting to command the Enterprise. He does look good in the chair.

The plot, if you can call it that, centers around four marooned men from a freighter that was destroyed seven years earlier. The problem is that the planet has traditional gender roles reversed, and the show does attempt to illustrate how silly it is to have those roles like that in the first place. But in that attempt, it fails spectacularly. The female-run society is tyrannical and backwards, with harsh cultural limitations (men do not have the vote and are relegated to mostly decorative positions if they want to work), and they use capital punishment to solve problems. Wait... that does sound familiar.

Sure, this gives Riker the opportunity to speechify when the situation with the marooned freighter crew turns ugly (apparently their male-dominant ideas are just too forward thinking for this world), and those forward thinking men (who cling to their adopted world like idiots) are eventually banished to a remote location with their families so that the government doesn't have to change too quickly. If that resolution doesn't explain how bad this episode is, let me finish with the sub-plot.

Somehow, without explanation (I think the Holodeck did it), a strange and extremely virulent virus gets on board the Enterprise and incapacitates the entire crew in a manner of hours, days... they don't really say. This does give Beverly some stuff to do, and Geordi a chance to jump into the captain's chair. But the premise should have either been the focus of the story, or it shouldn't have been used at all. And because the situation on the planet wasn't urgent enough to warrant tension, the Romulans decide to cause a ruckus in the Neutral Zone.

The idea of a virus whittling down the crew to almost nothing could be an interesting plot, especially with a tense situation forcing one of the underutilized crew members to step up, but here the writers just throw this major situation at the wall hoping it sticks alongside the gender backwards away team mission. The Romulan threat just adds insult to injury here -- a significant fan favorite villain is given a throwaway plot thread to remind us they still exist.


I think the actors knew how bad this one was, and just went with it. At one point Tasha and Deanna totally break down in laughter, and that's pretty much how I felt as well. Of course they were reacting to one of the worst outfits we've seen on this show so far (and that's saying something). Actually poor Wesley also had one of the worst outfits as well, but at least he was only in two scenes with it.

The freighter ship was called the Odin. Someone had delusions of grandeur.

Angel One is supposed to be at a twentieth century level of technology, but they have an execution machine that disintegrates people.

The re-mastered version of this episode features Angel One as a predominately green planet, and it's gorgeous.

The gender roles aren't just reversed, the sexism is, too. The women are very Amazonian (but with long hair) and wear dark clothing. The men are all small and wear revealing clothes and jewelry.

Data channels Spock in an early scene, and Riker is impatient with him. By episode's end Data does the same thing in a bad situation and Riker praises him.

I have a theory about the Holodeck. Although the people created are basically illusions, the environments are actually somewhat real. Specifically water, since at one point they explain that the Holodeck uses the some of the same technology as transporters. That is why the snowball that hits the Captain can exist outside of the Holodeck. Or it's just a big continuity error that keeps reoccurring.

We got some more Crusher babying the Captain. At this point their relationship consists of constant flirting with no real desire to consummate those impulses.

There was breast symbolism everywhere on the planet.

I did like that Riker thought to send Data up to take command, since he would be immune to the virus.


Riker: "To travel the distance we did at warp one would have taken the Odin escape pod five months."
Data: "Five months, six days eleven hours two minutes…"
Riker: "Thank you, Data."
Data: "...and 57 seconds."

Geordi: "Ever feel like you're not really wanted?"

Data: "Interesting. An alcohol-based synthetic artificially reproducing floral scent."
Troi: "It's called perfume, Data."
Nice physical comedy by Brent Spiner.

Data: "How does stimulation of the olfactory nerves affect the enjoyment of sex?"

Worf: "I think I may sneeze."
Geordi: "A Klingon sneeze?"
Worf: "Only kind I know."

I almost want to give this episode an A for effort, but it utterly failed in execution. 1 out of 4 Olfactory stimulants, otherwise known as perfume.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.


Billie Doux said...

And it's one of the worst episodes of the series! Thanks so much for doing this one for me, J.D.

I grew to love Riker, but this is so not him. The scenes where Mistress Beata was rubbing his chest hair just made me cringe. The best things about this episode were Data trying to figure out the perfume atomizer and Worf doing a Klingon sneeze. "Only kind I know."

Juliette said...

I love how utterly and completely terrible this episode is - but of course you all know how fond I am of really ridiculously awful episodes!

drnanamom said...

Loved the review JD. @ Juliette there is something to be said for truly horrible episodes. They are enjoyable if you just let the ridiculousness wash over you. I enjoyed the part at the end where Jean Luc had trouble saying 'engage'. I wonder if Patrick Stewart actually had a cold - maybe that would explain the virus sub-plot.