Star Trek: The Next Generation – Manhunt [2.19]

The Enterprise transports delegates to an important conference, including Lwaxana Troi.  Unfortunately, Ambassador Troi is undergoing a Betazed “menopause” that greatly increases her sex drive, making her determined to find a new mate.  She pursues Picard, who retreats by hiding on the holodeck in a Dixon Hill program.  She then turns her attention to Riker, before becoming attached to a character in Picard’s holodeck program (not realizing his unreal status).  In the end, Lwaxana regains her self control in time to warn Picard of a danger to the conference.

Written by Terry Devereaux.  Directed by Rob Bowman

Previous Episode: Up the Long LadderNext Episode: The Emissary

Comments:
I think I quite like Manhunt.  The reason I express doubt is that a fellow reviewer (uh, “Jasonite” I guess, on the blog “Sage of the Jasonite”) has just cited The Big Goodbye – season one’s “Dixon Hill” episode – as one of the very best episodes of the show from that year (see his review here).  It’s made me wonder if I was too harsh on it my comments (see here).  After re-thinking it (though not re-watching it) I think I still stand by my comments – it looks nice, the character work is good, but the story is slight and unengaging.  Still, it makes me wonder if I’m more inclined to like Manhunt than I would otherwise, as compensation.  This, in spite of the fact that I’ve seen a number of quite negative reviews of the story from other places.

Manhunt doesn’t really have much of a deep plot either, but I found it fun.  Lwaxana Troi – a character I’m not normally too attached to – is a welcome presence with all her mid-life induced lunacy.  The scene where she “corners” Picard in her quarters, and his ingenious use of Data as an escape route – is fairly inspired (“His anecdotes are the stuff of legend aboard this ship.”)  It’s one of the best “played for laughs” uses of Data that the series has had so far. Riker, though in a limited role, is in good form as well, playing his response to the situation with appropriate amusement, as does Dr. Pulaski.

The holodeck scenes work pretty well also.  Rob Bowman’s direction of them is very good, and there is fine production design and characterization.  Picard’s decision to spend time there in this case seems completely justified.  There is a refreshing lack of anything going wrong with the holodeck in general, and even Rex, the holographic barman, displays absolutely no existential angst about realizing that he does not having a last name.

My only nitpick about it would be that it would have been nice to see at least one of the Dixon Hill plots that Picard engages in played out to the end.  It could have easily been worked into the main story:  Rex, the bartender that Lwaxana had become attached to, could have been abruptly gunned down by the bad guy he was worried about, just before Dixon Hill was able to take him out.  Then Rex could have died in Lwaxana’s arms, perhaps even providing some sort of explanation why she is able to suddenly get over her craziness.

Still, there are a lot of good, though surreal, moments strewn through the episode.  Mr. Homm provides some of these, as do, obviously, the Antedean dignitaries.  They are the sort of aliens that would have been terrible in many other episodes, but here they just help to add the loopy quality of it all.  Mr. Worf’s awe of them as physical specimen’s is a fun touch, as well as Lwaxana’s dismissal (“I still say they look better in sauce.”)  The sudden arrival of a brief “action plot” in the last minutes of the program made for a fun and welcome surprise as well.

This episode is credited as written by Terry Devereaux, which according to the internet is a pseudonym for Tracy Torme, who had already written for the show, including being involved in the prior appearances of both Dixon Hill and Lwaxana Troi.  Looking into this, I find that “Keith Mills”, listed as the writer for The Royale, is also a pseudonym for Torme.

Shout-Outs to the Past
There aren’t a lot of direct references to any specific events, but the presence of Lwaxana Troi and Dixon Hill obviously reflect back to Haven and The Big Goodbye.

Guest Cast
Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac, appears in a heavily made-up, largely  catatonic state as one of the Antedean dignitaries.

Robert Costanzo who plays Slade Bender has had many acting roles, including the voice of Detective Harvey Bullock on many incarnations of Batman-related cartoons

Robert O’Reilly plays Scarface.  He is better known as Gowron from both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.  I recognized his eyes instantly.

Rhonda Aldrich (Madeline) and Carel Struycken (Mr. Homm) both played their characters in this episodes antecedents (see “Shout Outs to the Past” above), and will both return to play the characters again.

Obviously, Majel Barrett also appeared before in Star Trek – as Lwaxana Troi, Christine Chapel, Number One, and the voice of the Enterprise Computer.

Observations
• Data’s comment, “Judging a being by his phyisical appearance is the last major human prejudice, Wesley,” is pretty interesting.  It’s nice that Star Trek acknowledges there are any prejudices left.

• Riker’s sharing Ambassador Troi’s comments to Picard publicly on the bridge to Data and Wesley seems a bit inappropriate.

• Troi and Riker speak comfortably of their prior relationship, which is a nice touch of natural characterization.

• Picard’s reaction when one of the holographic characters pulls out a gun coming out feels natural, considering what happened the last time we saw him playing Dixon Hill.

• Lwaxana talks somewhat suggestively toward Wesley – eww.  Highly inappropriate.

• Worf declares boldly that he’s not a man?  Um, I guess so.

• A funny and cute moment when Picard poorly attempts to get a cigarette from Madeline’s pack.  And another one when he realizes that he keeps forgetting to bring money.

• Yes, it’s slightly jarring when the Antedean’s eye moves

• Riker and Data are “Nails from Chicago” and “Carlos from South America” – awesome.

Dialogue High Point
Lwaxana has lots of funny little moments, but my favorite comes when she is in Rex’s bar in the holodeck, and chastises Picard:

I’m surprised you let this part of the ship get this dirty

Previous Episode: Up the Long LadderNext Episode: The Emissary

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2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Manhunt [2.19]

  1. This is definitely a really fun episode. I think having a Dixon Hill plot actually play out would’ve been a mistake – the story didn’t need another story. And it definitely didn’t need drama like Rex “dying.” It’s a fun, silly, light episode, and it works really well as that.

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