Star Trek The Next Generation: The Royale

"There's a female voice asking if we want room service."

Thirty-eight years trapped in a bad novel. One hour trapped in a bad Star Trek episode.

It's never a good sign when something keeps reminding me of other television episodes and movies. Especially the Original Series outing "A Piece of the Action", with an entire alien society based on one stupid human book, or "Spectre of the Gun" where the crew had to figure out a way to outsmart their way out of an already existing story. As the away team trekked down the very white hallway and found a dessicated male corpse in a hotel room, I got some 2001: A Space Odyssey vibes, too. Or maybe it was just a holodeck-gone-wrong story but on a planet, although if they'd done that, they almost certainly would have come up with a more exciting setting than the Hotel Royale.

Dealing with the habitat bubble in the middle of a completely toxic planet (yes, that's also been done before) could have been an interesting way to take the story if escaping the bubble had been addressed more seriously. Cutting into it with phasers and how long Riker and Worf would survive in a freezing ammonia tornado was actually discussed (I assume Data would have lasted a good bit longer).

Although now that I'm thinking about it, going the serious route would have probably made this episode worse. They should have gone full-on comedy because, of course, Brent Spiner stole the episode when Data began playing craps in order to bankrupt the casino. I did enjoy Worf's reaction to the elevators as turbolifts, and the way he gingerly answered the telephone in Richey's room. (I wish they'd actually gotten some room service. What would they have ordered?) I also enjoyed Picard and Troi trying their best to get through the very bad novel, and the little acknowledgement of Bulwer-Lytton ("It was a dark and stormy night.") There could have been more of that.

But the holes in the story were just too plentiful. How could Richey's vessel get so far out in space? Why that particular planet? How come we never got to see the mysterious and kindly alien or aliens that caused it all, or any clue as to where they came from? So hey, let's bring in some clumsy symbolism, with Picard in an opening scene spending his free time with Fermat's Last Theorum, a problem that was never solved. Except according to Wikipedia, it was solved in 1994.

One last question. If the director was smart enough to hire Sam Anderson in a shiny brown suit projecting menace as the sarcastic assistant manager, why didn't they make him the murderer? He was certainly more interesting than Mickey D, who was completely forgettable.

Okay, another question. Did this episode air before Americans started using that nickname for the Golden Arches?

Bits and pieces:

-- Stardate 42625.4. A very nasty planet in the Theta 116 solar system.

-- I liked the imagery of the revolving door in the middle of blackness. But how come the away team didn't immediately try the exit to tell the Enterprise what the situation was? Or why didn't they leave with Mickey D?

-- Ivory-colored Data should always wear an ivory-colored cowboy hat.

-- The U.S. flag on the little piece of the Charybdis had 52 stars. Apparently there will be 52 states in 2033.

-- The Charybdis was a sea monster from Greek mythology. Why would they name an American space vessel after a Greek sea monster?

-- According to Memory Alpha, the original author of this episode was Tracy Torme. He was so unhappy with the changes made in it that he used a pseudonym in the credits.

-- Was anyone else waiting for the character Texas to bring up low-mileage pit woofies?


Riker: "We're from the United Federation of Planets."
Assistant Manager: "Of course you are."

Worf: "This planet. What do you call it?"
Assistant Manager: "Earth. What do you call it?"

Texas: "All right! Time to get down to bidness."
Data: "What sort of 'bidness' do you suppose he is getting down to?"

Riker: "Looks like the poor devil died in his sleep."
Worf: "What a terrible way to die."

Data: "Single digits on each cube are not at all desirable."

Data: "I will make another attempt. Baby needs a new pair of shoes."

Sigh. One out of four golden arches,

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


Mark Greig said...

I've only seen this episode once, many moons ago. I don't remember much about it, only that it was very cheesy and not in a fun way.

Juliette said...

I found this episode really weird, though it had its moments I guess. It was rarely boring, so that's a plus!

Billie Doux said...

You're right that it wasn't boring, Juliette. When it was over, I was thinking it wasn't great, but it wasn't that terrible. And then I started writing about it, and I just went that way. Maybe I was a teeny bit hard on it. :)

JRS said...

To be fair I think this episode aired in 1989! So, they couldn't have known about Fermat getting all solved and stuff. But it's funny how the show ages really!

drnanamom said...

I'm with you Billie, this episode was terrible but that kind of makes sense when it was supposed to be based on a very badly written novel. As you say they could have gone camp and gotten away with it but this was just wishy-washy.