Overall Rating: 2.5
Boring, feckless, and cliche all in one neat little package.
The fascinating details of this fast-paced thriller can be found at Memory Alpha
Patrick Stewart got annoyed with the lack of "action hero" material his character was getting - you know...on a show about a ship of peaceful exploration Captained by one of the Federation's finest diplomats. So the writers decided to throw him a bone by giving him an action adventure script. What they came up with showcases how much of a rod Picard has jammed up his butt for the first thirty minutes, and then how awkward and un-serious he is when tried in an action role.
Not to mention how even a good writer like Ira Steven Behr can spectacularly misfire on an adventure story concept. The elements were theoretically there - Captain in a bad mood and in need of a vacation gets pushed off the ship to relax, lands in the middle of a struggle over a powerful alien artifact along with greedy mercenaries and con artists and outsmarts them all. The big mistake was inserting the FERENGI! as the bad guys. Knowing what I know about Behr, he has an unhealthy obsession with the Ferengi and his attempts to make them both threatening and funny have failed repeatedly because his concept of what they represent is so flawed that no one is buying into it. Not even him.
And do you know how I know he can't even buy into his own goofy writing of Ferengi characters? All he can think of for the Ferengi to say/do is an endless string of cliches and bad slapstick comedy. This episode is no exception. Granted, it does not include the testicle-shrinking ear-breaking cry MOOOOOOOOOOOGIE!!!!!...but it does include a clueless Ferengi who guesses entirely wrong about Picard's intentions at every turn and then (shocking though it may seem) is easily rendered meaningless to the primary plot. Behr...c'mere for a second. I just want to tell you one thing. "YOU SUCK AT WRITING THE FERENGI!!!! LET IT GO!!!!"
*ahem* Sorry about that...it had to be said.
Moving on...to Vash. This is her first appearance on TNG and for all of the potential intrigue it would bring to ruffle Picard's rod-butted life with a bad girl...this one was never well written and the romance developed in a way that...well...just didn't make any sense. Picard is not all that given to falling instantly in love with chicks, nor is he the type to open up to someone without a lot of effort on their part to draw him out. Making matters worse, Behr feeds Vash a string of bad girl cliches as well. Leading to a romance that is not romantic, an action plot that contains no action, and an episode that is 20 minutes short on material (padded out by a string of annoying conversations on the Enterprise before we even got to the setting for the main plot).
I love you, Ira...you've written some goodies in your time. But this one...blows.
No skill demonstrated here...this isn't just a boring script, it's an explicitly bad one.
Stewart plays the first half of this story too coldly and the last half too passionately for the transition to be believable. I love Jennifer Hetrick as an actress, but she isn't given much to work with (though she does sultrify the screen enough in this episode to at least raise some eyebrows, which is her purpose here). Max Grodenchik is better as Rom...which is funny, because Rom is a caricature of a caricature race.
I do not subscribe to Troi's and Crusher's opinion that a Captain needs regular access to alien lady parts to avoid a complete meltdown. But beyond that...I subscribe even less to the idea that a good romance is borne of personality conflict the way it seems to be written in half the Hollywood romances and this bad cliche copy of the same.