Star Trek The Next Generation: Ménage à Troi

"I'm sure Counselor Troi appreciates the opportunity to spend time with her mother."


If I were holding a symposium entitled "Sexism in Star Trek", this episode would be prominently featured. And it's not just painfully sexist, it's also outright bad -- which is even sadder because it followed two excellent episodes that had complex and thought-provoking themes. Next Gen could be hit or miss, even in its better seasons.

Yes, I fully realize that Lwaxana is a caricature. She's a woman of a certain age who constantly chases men, and Captain Picard in particular, while he is revolted and uncomfortable and runs away from her as quickly as he can. Lwaxana wants her daughter Deanna to give up her high level professional job on the Starfleet flagship in order to get married and have babies, and no matter how many times Deanna says that she prefers her job, Lwaxana doesn't listen.

And yet, I've always liked Lwaxana. She lives her life with gusto and says outrageous things, plus she travels with the wonderful Mr. Homn. Majel Barrett had range, just in the many Star Trek characters she played: the powerful Number One in "The Cage", Nurse Christine Chapel, Lwaxana Troi, the Enterprise computer. Barrett did a good job making Lwaxana more likable than she ever should have been.

But like Next Gen itself, Lwaxana could be hit or miss, and this episode was a great big miss. Some of it was practically unbearable. DaiMon Tog offered to buy Lwaxana because "every female has her price". We got Lwaxana and Deanna naked because "females do not deserve the honor of clothing". Tog having a bed slide out of the wall was like a bad sex comedy from the sixties. Of course, Lwaxana didn't actually have to have sex with Tog, because this episode was supposed to be funny; she just rubbed his ears and he seemed to be fine with that.

According to the usual sources, they were initially going for a take on "The Ransom of Red Chief", a classic O. Henry story about the kidnapping of an extremely bratty child; the kidnappers eventually pay the parents to take the child back. Lwaxana would be the bratty child in this scenario. I also got a little unreciprocated "Beauty and the Beast" out of this episode, although I can't for the life of me figure out why a Ferengi would find a Betazoid attractive.

But then Lwaxana was actually tortured, and not briefly, by Dr. Farek in a chair that reminded me of "Dagger of the Mind" and "Whom Gods Destroy"). Kidnapping isn't funny, unless it's Bette Midler in Ruthless People. Torture is even less funny. It's also difficult to understand why the kidnapping of two Starfleet officers and a prominent citizen of Betazed wouldn't turn into an interstellar incident, and possibly war.

I always try to discuss what I liked about a bad episode, and there were a few things. I liked that Worf thought Lwaxana was admirable for yelling insults at DaiMon Tog at the reception in Ten Forward. I liked that Lwaxana bargained away her own freedom to free Deanna and Riker, and that she outwitted the Ferengi, all on her own. ("You can't keep killing all my lovers.") And of course, there was Patrick Stewart doing Shakespearean sonnet word salad. I liked how Stewart showed how Picard slowly got into the spirit of the thing as the salad progressed.

This episode's B plot centered on Wesley losing his chance to enter Starfleet Academy (again) so that he could save the ship (again), resulting in a "field promotion" from acting ensign to actual ensign. At least that meant they could retire that ugly gray outfit Wil Wheaton had to wear. No one missed it.


-- Stardate 43930.7. Betazed and the Ferengi ship Krayton.

-- DaiMon Tog was played by Frank Corsentino, who played another Ferengi in the terrible first season episode, "The Battle". The despicable torturer Dr. Farek was played by Ethan Phillips, better known in the Trek universe as Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.

-- The gorgeous location shots on Betazed were played by the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens near Pasadena, a place I've visited several times. It wasn't the first or last time the Huntington was used. Here is Memory Alpha's Huntington page.

-- As Wesley was about to board the Bradbury (great name for a ship), Beverly gave him what looked like a futuristic lunch box.

-- I believe this was our first mention of Ferengi ears being erogenous zones, and oo-mox (is that how it's spelled?).

-- Betazoids cannot mind-read Ferengi. Or else Lwaxana would have known about the kidnapping in advance.

-- Riker got out of lock-up by tricking the Ferengi with three-dimensional chess. This again reminded me of an original series episode. Fizzbin.

-- What Deanna wore might have been her ugliest outfit ever, under an equally ugly smashed hairdo. And I didn't think Marina Sirtis could look bad in anything.


Lwaxana: "Doesn't he realize that I am a daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx?"
Deanna: "The Sacred Chalice of Rixx is an old clay pot with mold growing inside it."

Lwaxana: "My, my. What big ears you have."

Picard: "Mr. Crusher, set course for Betazed. (very softly) Warp nine."

One out of four clay pots with mold growing inside them,

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

1 comment:

Juliette said...

Urgh, this episode is so offensive - a story about attempted rape played for comedy.

Not that I don't love me some Riker/Troi, but why are they having a random dirty weekend? Are they f*** buddies now? They were just randomly getting it on throughout the whole series, weren't they?!

I do like the bit with Picard and the sonnets, and Wesley finally getting to wear a proper uniform. I always liked Wesley anyway, but he definitely benefits from looking (and acting) more like a proper member of the crew.