Lutan, the leader of a planet that has access to a critical vaccine, kidnaps Tasha Yar and claims her for his wife, leading his current wife Yareena to challenge her to a battle to the death. Picard must carefully navigate through the planet’s strict code of honor to get Tasha back while still acquiring the vaccine.
Written by Katharyn Powers & Michael Baron. Directed by Russ Mayberry
Now this is more like it! A decent story with good characterization, and a plot that is reminiscent of classic Star Trek without actually being lifted directly from it. The story makes a bit of a genuine attempt to show the crew grappling with the realities of the Prime Directive while at the same time accomplishing something that would be obviously for the greater good. The situation is quite contrived, but the Ligon II culture that’s created for this story is well-developed and interesting. And Tasha, as the central character here, comes across much better than she did in the previous episode with her “emotional breakdown”.
The weakest point of the episode is a brief character moment where for some reason Troi feels she has to trick Tasha into admitting to herself and to everyone that she actually finds Lutan attractive and is in part drawn to him. It’s awkward for both of them, and in the end, goes nowhere, and thus is unnecessary.
I’m also not sure what Lutan had to gain out of it by having Tasha fight his “First One”. If women are valuable because of the land they own – than how was Tasha valuable to him? I guess he just wanted her to kill Yareena so he could inherit her lands? Is that how it works? In any case, it’s great to watch Picard “smart-up” when he begins to stop allowing himself to be manipulated and starts instead to work the local culture to his favor.
Wesley literally pops into the story for a bit, and is once again allowed to sit around the bridge with access to important buttons. It’ll almost be a relief to see him become an “acting ensign” in a few episodes just so he can stop lurking in the turbo-lift.
So the story is by no means perfect, but it is the best that the young series has had to offer so far.
Shout Outs to the Past
It’s hard to tell if it’s on purpose or not, but it’s interesting when Data asks Tasha if she is attracted to Lutan, not for her but as a potential Data moment. It’ll be sees that the “interlude” the two of them shared in The Naked Now continued to “mean something” to Data, and you can almost read this moment as Data processing another level of human experience, albeit unemotionally.
Anticipating the Future
Data’s attempts to understand humor and to even tell jokes will feature again in later episodes, and even become the catalyst for a major plot point in the first Next Generation feature film, Star Trek Generations.
• It seems that in this period of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is a bit of a conscious effort to position Tasha Yar as “the sexy one” from amongst the female cast. Later, this role seems to get transferred to Troi.
• Worf doesn’t appear in this episode – the first time someone from the regular cast is missing.
• This episode is the first one where we see Data and Geordi really relating as particular friends.
• Funniest Awkward Data Moment: Data says, during a briefing, “That is from an obscure language known as French.” Hilarious, with a suitably offended response from the Captain.
• At this stage in the series’ history, there’s still quite a big deal being made about whether or not Picard can lead an away team, as the general idea of the First Officer is to take care of those responsibilities while keeping the Captain safe on the ship. There is a scene in this one where Riker is only willing to let Picard lead the dangerous away team when Troi and Data basically team up on him to convince him. During this scene, Picard says very little, as if he does not carry authority in the situation.
Dialogue High Point
Other than the “awkward Data” moment mentioned above, my favorite line comes from the end of the story, after all the complexities of the culture have been navigated, and a more favorable ruler has come into position for the Enterprise to negotiate with. He says,
Well, as you see Captain, you may excel technology, but not in civilized behavior.
It’s great that at the end, there is no white washing this culture and how they see things.