While docked at a starbase for maintenance, Riker is astounded to meet an attractive and extremely realistic holodeck character called Minuet. Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew are tricked into abandoning ship and their ship stolen by the Binars, binary life forms who were supposedly working to upgrade the ship’s computer systems. Only Riker and Picard remain on board, and they must regain control of their ship and figure out of the mystery of the Binars actions.
Written by Maurice Hurley & Robert Lewin. Directed by Paul Lynch.
The episode of Next Generation that is most likely to be spelled wrong, this story starts with a lot of routine life as we see the Enterprise docking, characters heading off to shore leave, and Data trying to learn to paint. This is followed by absurdity with Riker romancing and being romanced by a holodeck woman. This gives way to action and suspense as Riker and Picard realize the plight of their ship, set the auto-destruct, and prepare to storm the bridge. Then, finally, and sadly, it all moves to an underwhelming climax that features Picard and Riker figuring out a simple password and running a computer program. And in the end, we all get along.
So, it’s not a bad episode, per se, but it ultimately fails to impress because there is not really a compelling adversary or threat for our heroes to deal with. In fact, for a good chunk of the story, Picard and Riker don’t really do anything at all, and then all their actions until close to the very end prove to be pointless, except for the aforementioned computer password. And really, if the Binars were counting on Riker restarting their system, why didn’t they make it a bit easier for him? Why deny access to the Bridge at all (at least once the computer transfer process was complete), or have any password of any sort? It’s almost like they did it just to fulfill dramatic conventions.
Carolyn McCormick is fine as Minuet and I can buy the idea that she was a distraction to Riker, but the idea of him beginning to fall for her and having a hard time forgetting her is a bit disturbing. As I have been rewatching these episodes, I had begun to think maybe Riker’s reputation for running after every woman he runs into was an exaggeration, but between this episode and the previous one, I’m seeing the justification.
Aside from that, it’s not a bad episode for Riker, and does give him an opportunity to talk about his love and commitment to his career. It’s already been hinted at in previous episodes, but this will later be seen to be the main reason for the relationship breakdown between Riker and Troi, and in a way helps to justify his string of short but intense romantic relationships.
Shout Outs to the Past
• The damage to the holodeck caused by a probe refers to an incident from The Big Goodbye
Anticipating the Future
• Minuet reappears briefly in Future Imperfect in a couple of years.
• This episode introduces Riker’s interest and ability with jazz trombone, something we’ll see again.
• Carolyn McCormick, who guest stars as Minuet, appears as the recurring Dr. Elizabeth Olivet, on the Law & Order franchise.
• Iva Lane, who plays Binar Zero Zero, appears as a crew member in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
• The Binars act incredibly suspiciously in the scene where Riker talks to them on the Bridge. They are full of so many “umm’s” and “errs” that they read like dialog from the pages of a DC Comic from the early 1960’s.
• The episode features the first mention of Parrises Squares, a game that will crop up again (always off camera, I believe) in the Star Trek universe. The reference here occurs in a scene with Tasha Yar and Worf getting ready to play, and provides one of the best Worf-isms the show will ever have, when he asks, “If winning is not important, than Commander, why keep score?”
• It’s unusual that Data doesn’t do well in his attempts to paint. Usually he is shown to be able to perfectly mimic other people’s skills in such areas. Perhaps it has to do with his attempt to be “purely creative” in this instance.
• There is no on duty in engineering, but really it seems like there is never anyone on duty in engineering.
• Unusually, you hear a male computer voice for part of the time in this story.
• It’s phenomenal that they are able to abandon the entire ship in less than four minutes. People seem to be moving briskly but not racing like you’d imagine in a real crisis. At one point, you see five people beaming away at once, when the transporter can clearly hold six or more. There are lots of people in civilian clothes, which is a good touch.
• I guess because Data is an android, he can make log entries about the ship being abandoned whilst at the same time actually organize the process, all in less than four minutes.
• Counselor Troi is not in this episode. She’s definitely the character who has been missing the most at this point.
• When Data, Tasha, and the others realize the Enterprise is being stolen, the Starbase’s response time is pretty lame. There’s really no reason they shouldn’t have been able to beam people back to the ship before it’s out of range.
• The idea of the auto-distract being set is pretty exciting, but it’s not as dramatic as it was in the original series. Also, the digital read-out for the auto-destruct is pretty cheap looking, and the fact that it can only be set with a five minute timer seems pretty limiting.
• At the end of the story, it’s implied that Minuet’s particular ability to interact with real people is a result of temporary programming from the Binars, but there are lots of holodeck characters in future stories who exhibit similar qualities. Maybe part of the Binars punishment for their actions in this story was community service in which they were required to upgrade all holodeck characters to near-sentience.
Dialogue High Point
Riker jokes about Geordi’s attempts to help Data stretch himself creatively.
A blind man teaching an android how to paint, that’s got to be worth a couple of pages in somebody’s book.