OVERALL RATING: C-. ACTING: Stewart, B+. The Ferengi, D (ludicrously over-acted). Remaining crew, C+. Wil Wheaton, D. The characterization of Wesley Crusher as the clever "boy genius" of Gene Roddenberry's dreams is a heavy handicap on actor Wheaton, which this otherwise fine child actor cannot overcome (whereas we see more experienced actors like Stewart squirm out from under Roddenberry's character edicts.) WRITING: D+.. DIRECTION: D-. Direction of Wil Wheaton is consistently lousy in the series and not any better here. Stewart holds his own, as always. The Ferengi are badly mis-directed.
THE SHOW: The Captain gets "taken over" again, this time by a nefarious mind-control device planted in his quarters by the Ferengi--in an ambitious but glitchy plot involving Picard's personal history, his old ship, the Stargazer, and a battle at a place called Maxia wherein the young Captain Picard had had to destroy an attacking Ferengi vessel and abandon his own ship.
In the present episode, the Ferengi Captain DaiMon Bok contrives to present Picard with the carcass of his old ship, the Stargazer (NCC 2893). Bok represents the item as a diplomatic gift--to the dismay of his fellow Ferengi officers who can't believe their captain is giving away such a valuable object. The logs of the Stargazer have been altered to make it appear that Picard had fired the first shot in the old battle with the Ferengi. In addition, Bok has planted a mind-control device among Picard's old belongings from the Stargazer, which are transferred to Picard's quarters on the Enterprise.
Picard had begun to suffer mysterious headaches at the opening of the episode. As the strange lighted globe in Picard's old trunk from the Stargazer (which somehow evades Enterprise security sensors) does its thing, his headaches worsen. We also see Bok, back on his own ship, manipulating a similar device--it's rather like the crystal ball used by the Wicked Witch of the West in the film "The Wizard of Oz," by which the Witch oversees and inflicts pain and suffering upon Dorothy and her friends. Bok emits an evil laugh much like that of the Wicked Witch, as he inflicts pain on Picard.
As Riker begins an obligatory investigation of Picard's behavior in the old battle (because of the altered logs), Picard beams over to the Stargazer and begins to re-live that battle. His mind becomes so fuzzed that he is about to attack the Enterprise (thinking that it is the old Ferengi ship attacking him). Wesley and Data come to the rescue.
Wesley discovers that the electronic frequencies of Picard's brainscan are identical to those emitted by subspace from the current Ferengi vessel. Wesley almost has a nice moment when his mother and Counselor Troi ignore him and run off the tell Riker of his discovery. Quietly peeved, Wesley says, "You're welcome, ladies." It's a good line. The writers then entirely spoil the moment by having Wesley add a second peeved comment. "Adults!" he sneers. All adult viewers are suppose to smile. All kids are supposed to laugh with sympathy. Ugh.
Data is given the task of devising a defense against the famous "Picard manuever"--the last minute strategy by which the young Picard had originally defeated the Ferengi ship, at Maxia, and which has now become an item in Starfleet textbooks. In that old battle, Picard had suddenly warped forward a short distance, to the bow of the Ferengi ship, and had then hit the ship with "everything I had." The move had been so sudden that an after-image of Picard's ship was left behind. The Ferengi had shot their weapons at the after-image. Data thinks about it a while and figures out how to use the Enterprise sensors to keep track of the real ship versus the phantom ship. Riker and Data have an amusing exchange. Riker says, "I hope you're right, Data." "No question of it, sir," Data mutters half to himself, looking almost offended. (The script doesn't follow up, however; we never do find out if Data is right.)
Riker establishes contact with Picard and tells Picard to destroy the mind-control device (which Bok has placed on the Stargazer bridge--the one in Picard's quarters on the Enterprise is never seen again). It is a rather good dramatic moment, as Picard struggles for control over his perceptions. Picard destroys the mind-control device with his phaser and doesn't attack the Enterprise. The Ferengis remove their Captain from duty and confine him to his quarters, not because of his plot to destroy Captain Picard and the Enterprise but rather because he gave an old starship away--an item that would undoubtedly have brought a fair price at a space travel garage sale.
Although the Ferengi Captain Bok is given the personal motive of revenge (his son died in the Stargazer incident), the Ferengi are portrayed as having the racial characteristic of greed and of having, as a race, the sole motive of gaining money and material objects--to the point that they would judge the giving of a gift as insanity. No doubt some individuals in almost any race are so motivated. It is a form of racism, however, to attribute such a motive to an entire race. It is very like attributing sexual predatoriness, or a special talent for dancing, to the race of Africans; attributing a money motive to all Jews; or attributing racism to all Europeans and Euro-Americans.
The Ferengi, whose large heads and large ears bring to mind a sort of vicious, nightmare image of Mickey Mouse, do obviously stand for something in the unconscious minds of Star Trek writers and producers, and emit a subliminal message on a very distinct frequency: racism. I narrowed the frequency to anti-Oriental racism, in "The Outpost." I hold to that--they certainly represent the "yellow menace" (Euro-American, African-American and Californian-American fear of a Japanese, Korean and other oriental financial prowess). I would add the accusation of general racism, by virtue of the treatment of this race as generically greedy in Star Trek scripts here and elsewhere--as well as anti-Semitism (fear and stereotyping of the "little Jewish money-lender" and Jewish bankers).
Such projections are invariably attached to the deepest self-images of the perpetrators of the projections. Thus, we can safely presume that, by projecting the evil of greed and low-mindedness onto an imagined race of ugly, little, rat-like creatures, Star Trek's creators are telling us something about themselves.
TERGIVERSATION METER READING: -5.
Tergiversate (tur-ji-ver-sat): 1. To use evasions or ambiguities; equivocate. 2. To change sides; to defect; apostatize. The Tergiversation Meter scale runs from -5 (very defective) through +5 (unambiguous, true blue philosophical humanism with no negative subliminal messages).
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