This was a flawed episode.
First, why were Picard and Wesley catching a ride in a small shuttlecraft piloted by a civilian? Were all the regular shuttlecrafts in use? Second, I get that Dirgo was a fly by the seat of his pants kind of pilot, but what kind of starship captain relies solely on technology that frequently goes on the fritz (replicators)?At the very least he should have some very basic supplies to last a few days to a week for one person (which can fit easily in a car trunk, so I doubt it would take up that much room on a space ship). Isn't that kind of emergency supplies almost rule number one after making sure there's fuel?
Okay, maybe I can buy that a non-Enterprise shuttle was needed for one reason or another, and Dirgo was an idiot that didn't prepare for the worst. If those were the only nonsensical things about this episode I would probably give it a pass in favor of the couple of good things about it, which I'll get to in a bit. Dirgo's personality was basically just an elaborate set up for an easily disposable character, one the audience wouldn't really care about if they died.
So without the supplies, the whole crux of the plot dealt with the need to get water. It started off okay, with the trio heading towards a mountain range for shelter. Then there was a nice little scene involving Dirgo hording a bottle of a clear alcohol called Dresci that Picard and Wesley initially mistook for water. There was some good dialogue involving strength, and Wesley and Dirgo got to spar off a little. Essentially, those opening few scenes actually work.
Then, after following signs of some mysterious energy readings, they found a cave with a literal fountain of water. The plot quickly became one of convenience, overshadowed by the sheer inane stupidity of the fact that the water was being guarded by a mysterious energy field. The efforts to get past the energy field protecting the water involved using phasers, Picard getting injured, Dirgo dying, and Wesley performing techno-wizardry with a tricorder.
What's kind of sad is that the plot would almost be funny if the show wasn't taking itself so seriously. On the other hand, there would have been more than enough potential conflict being stranded on a desert planet to give us a very dramatic and harrowing fight for survival. I fail to understand the need for the writers to insert a strange alien contrivance like the force field protecting the water, which was never explained, and never mentioned after Wesley defeated it.
Looking at the episode objectively, there was another plot path they could have taken here that I think would have made the episode very strong. In the opening scenes it was hinted at that everything was a final test for Wesley to get into Starfleet Academy. A part of me wonders if the script started out that way and it was re-written during production, since the set up feels slightly artificial but plausible, much like the test Wesley took in a previous episode.
At least the overarching stuff about the relationship between Wesley and Picard was pretty solid. Also, the problem the Enterprise was dealing with, although a bit contrived, was just real enough to work. It felt like the kind of problem the Enterprise might be called to help with on a semi-regular basis. Not terribly exciting, but at least more plausible than the rest of the plot.
Was Dirgo making crazy modifications to his ship a reference to Han Solo?
This was the first time Boothby is mentioned as the groundskeeper of Starfleet Academy and a mentor of Picard's.
This was the final regular appearance of Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher. Apparently he requested to leave because of several movie offers.
The efforts of the Enterprise to move the abandoned ship involved using the tractor beam and adjusting speed to compensate for sheer. As techno-babble goes, it felt spot on.
2 out of 4 Bottles of Dresci
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.