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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Angel One

January 18, 2013

Another TNG Friday! And this week is . . . oh. Oh boy. This isn’t going to go well.

Originally aired January 25, 1988. Stardate 41636.9. The Enterprise is visiting the planet Angel One, looking for possible survivors Federation freighter destroyed seven years, because that’s totally the job for the flagship of the Federation. It’s a female-dominated planet with technology roughly similar to 20th-century Earth, because of course it is. Picard asks Troi to make the first contact with them, marking the only time in this episode where she gets to do anything.

After the credits, Wesley and another boy go into the Holodeck to ski the Denubian Alps, while Riker, Data, Troi and Yar beam down to the planet. They talk to Beata, and Riker asks her point-blank if there are survivors on the planet. She doesn’t want to answer, and has them brought to guest quarters. Troi says she sensed deception, because she’s useful like that. Back on the ship, Picard tells Worf he wants the ship ready to head to the Neutral Zone as far as the Away team is back. Then he gets hit by a snowball. He is not amused.

Back on the planet, Data is confused by perfume. The scene is meant to be funny, but instead, it just makes Data look incredibly stupid. Not just naive, which is normal for him, but stupid. He must have studied human sexuality at some point, so he would understand how perfume works. They’re brought back to Beata, who confirms there are four survivors, all male, led by Ramsey, and that they’ve been fighting for male rights on the planet. An analogy for the struggle for women’s rights, but the writers turned the whole thing on its head! Brilliant! So clever and ingenious!

On the ship, Wesley and his friend are sick. On the planet, they come up with a plan for the Enterprise to scan for the survivors. Riker is given a very revealing outfit to wear to an audience with Beata. Troi and Yar are shocked that he’s going to wear it. On the ship, Picard is sick. La Forge gets to sit in the Captain’s chair, in a nice moment. He clearly enjoys it, but he doesn’t overdo it. When he says “Make it so,” it’s a great character moment, as it shows his humour shining through his sense of awe. When Riker comes out in his outfit, Troi and Yar laugh at him. Unsurprisingly, Beata and Riker do the bow-chicka-wow-wow, while Yar, Troi and Data go to talk to Ramsey and his men.

Ramsey refuses to leave, saying Angel One is his home. They have wives, and some even have children. Data says that since Ramsey and his men weren’t part of the Federation, they’re not bound by the Prime Directive. Which seems a bit odd, to me. Because it means that some mercantile traders could easily mess around with primitive races without any fear of repercussions from the Federation. After the three leave, one of the ladies we saw earlier, Ariel, comes out and kisses Ramsey. The Away team tells Riker and Beata that Ramsey wouldn’t leave, and Beata says she’ll have to sentence Ramsey’s people to death.

Crusher goes to talk to Picard, and figures out how the virus travels. After she leaves, Picard tells her she’s excused. You almost feel sorry for him. He clearly hates not being in command. Down on the planet, Riker makes plans for the Away team to head back to the ship, when Beata brings in Ramsey and his men, and their families. Riker tries to talk Beata out of giving them the death penalty. Ramsey still refuses to leave, and Crusher refuses to let anyone beam up, aside from Data, who Riker sends back to take the Enterprise to the Neutral Zone.

Data contacts them to say they have 47 minutes to do something before the ship will have to leave to reach the Neutral Zone on time. Riker and the ladies go to the execution, and Riker makes one more attempt to convince her, telling her that a gender revolution was already beginning, and that executing Ramsey and his followers might make them martyrs, and wouldn’t stop the push for gender equality going on on Angel One. Beata is convinced, and settles on exile instead. On the ship, Crusher finds an inoculant for the virus with 17 minutes to spare (and about 5 minutes left in the episode). The episode ends on a light note as the ship leaves to the Neutral Zone for a possible battle with the Romulans.

This episode is . . . really not good. At all. First off, there’s a vague sexism and chauvinism to the whole thing. It was meant to be an allegory for gender discrimination and all that, but it instead came off as a deconstruction of feminism. It’s full of clumsy writing. In the ’60s, an episode like this would’ve been effective. In 1988, it wasn’t. In fact, the whole thing actually feels like a rewrite of a TOS script. Riker is obviously Picard. Troi fills the role that Uhura (or, more likely, a female guest character) would’ve had. Data is Spock. As a TOS episode, this actually probably would’ve been pretty good. But this isn’t TOS. This is TNG. And even for a first season TNG, this is bad, largely because it just feels incredibly outdated even for 1988.

Having Riker in command was also a mistake. Troi should’ve been the one to make the final speech convincing Beata. It would’ve made the message of the episode – men and women are equal – a lot more effective if the women in this episode actually got to be equal. But instead, as usual, it was the men driving everything.

The virus plot was also silly. Where did they pick up the virus? The Holodeck? That makes no sense. Apparently the original script explicitly stated it was from a field trip to another planet, which makes some sense, though is still a bit weird. But as it is, it comes across as though Wesley and his friend picked it up from the Holodeck. It’s also a bit of a cliched plot, in an episode full of cliches.

Overall, this episode barely gets a 2/5. It’s not quite a 1, but it’s close. It’s not quite unwatchable, as it does have a few nice moments, like La Forge getting to sit in the Captain’s chair, and Picard’s scenes throughout, which are all done quite well. It’s more than I can say for an episode like The Last Outpost. It’s not quite the worst episode of the series, but it’s up there.

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