by Billie Doux
Well, it could have been worse. We did get to see Picard in his jammies.
The original series often (some say, way too often) explored the possibility of god-like aliens, or GLAs for short. Interestingly, the script for this episode was intended for an earlier version of Trek that never happened (Star Trek: Phase II back in the 1970s, which would have starred the original cast). Maybe the original-series-ness of this story is why I kept thinking about Trelane, since Ardra also had a well-hidden power source for her tricks that she was ultimately unable to hide from the clever and resourceful Geordi La Forge.
While I thought this episode had its moments, especially the use of the transporter for trickery, and I didn't outright dislike the intergalactic con woman Ardra (played competently enough by Marta Dubois), I wonder if I would have liked it more if it had been rewritten to fit Q? Or maybe the problem was the lack of sexual chemistry? The original script was written for Captain Kirk and his predilection for alien babe sexcapades, not our staid and sober Jean-Luc Picard. I'm one of those women who finds Patrick Stewart very attractive, so Ardra lusting for Picard didn't ring false for me, but honestly? I was soured just a bit by Picard's extreme dislike of Ardra, the way he referred to her as "that woman" and called her "obvious and vulgar." Picard has always had a lot more chemistry with Q; their exchanges sparkle with wit and dislike.
While Ardra's Goth costumes and forehead-alien makeup were somewhat cool, I found it hard to see Ardra as a genuine planetary threat; she looked like she was late for a Halloween party. And seriously, how could she collect on the bargain? I suppose she could make the Ventaxians give her lots and lots of stuff, but how could one person actively enslave an entire planet? And who was the original Ardra, anyway? If that wasn't her a thousand years ago, who was it? Will the "real" Ardra be showing up to collect soon?
Although the rest of the cast was pretty much underutilized, I liked what they did with Data, who was exploring acting, and specifically the emotion of fear, as yet another way to better understand humanity. His bit as the judge of the arbitration was fun. Although you'd think Data would be able to lie when the fate of the Enterprise, her crew, not to mention an entire planet were at stake. I guess it's a good thing he didn't have to. I did like the optimism of the Ventaxians completely fixing their societal and environmental problems, even if it was because of extreme fear. It made me feel slightly more optimistic about the fate of our own planet. And I liked the shots of the planet Ventax with its interesting-looking pyramidal buildings.
The opener with Data playing Scrooge was... okay. I assume it was a petite homage to Patrick Stewart's famous one-man show which I unfortunately never got to see. Frankly, the best part of the Scrooge-ness was Data walking through the corridors in costume and the other crew members walking by as if it were just another day on board. Perhaps the Enterprise crew is so accustomed to the outlandish that seeing an android walk by in a nightcap and robe is no big deal.
-- Stardate 44474.5. The planet Ventax II, and the rescue of Federation scientists from an angry mob.
-- I liked the simple competency of Dr. Clark, and the pink and pale gray-ish lavender jumpsuits that he and the Federation scientists were wearing. I also liked the Klingon devil, Fek'lhr.
-- Why tempt Picard with Deanna Troi? Shouldn't it have been Beverly Crusher?
Picard: "Method acting? I'm vaguely familiar with it."
Riker: "Could she be another refugee from the Q Continuum?"
Crusher: "For that matter, could she be Q?"
Picard: "Q would never bother with contracts."
Troi: "Or economic forecasts."
Picard: "A wise man once said, there's a sucker born every minute."
Ardra: "Oh, Picard. I will enjoy you morning, noon and night."
Data: "The advocate will refrain from expressing personal affections for her opponent."
Laugh out loud. And even better:
Data: "The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear."
I'm torn about rating this one. I mean, it certainly wasn't a classic episode and there was a lack of substance, but I enjoyed watching it. But I also didn't remember it from the original run. Two out of four pink jumpsuits?
Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.