Troi falls quickly in love with negotiator Devinoni Ral, who is competing against the Federation for control of a newly discovered stable wormhole. Troi discovers that Ral is secretly empathic, and uses his ability to gain him advantages in his work. Meanwhile, the Ferengi attempt to win control of the wormhole as well, even going as far as to make the Federation negotiator sick, which forces Riker to take his place. Data and Geordi discover that the wormhole is not as stable as it appears, but not until after Ral schemes his way to winning the negotiation. Troi eventually exposes Ral’s secret and methods, and ends their relationship.
Written by Hannah Louise Shearer and Michael Piller. Directed by Robert Scheerer.
It’s been pretty rare that Star Trek, especially the 1980’s / 1990’s Star Trek, has been any good at romance stories. The Price isn’t really bad, by any means, but the romance is a little hard to buy. Troi is so instantly besotted by Devinoni Ral that you sort of assume that he is not just empathic, but somehow controlling her emotions or her mind as well. But it turns out that her attraction is all very real and normal, and that presumably he is just using his empathic abilities to take advantage of that, and figure out exactly how far he can push her or tempt her. It makes Troi a bit insecure for much of the story, as all it takes is for a good looking guy to come close to her and challenge her about being too stuffy, and the next thing you know she’s totally lost herself with him, even allowing what seems like a pretty clear conflict of interest, engaging in “pillow talk” about Riker and the negotiations that Ral is undergoing against the Federation.
The negotiations themselves offer a fairly interesting backdrop to the episode, as it’s the sort of scenario we haven’t really seen before. And the Ferengi actually make a welcome appearance here. They are threatening but not overly so, and still remain funny (“Just have your Klingon servant get us some chairs,” and “Wha?! I was tense! I was ready to blow it up!”), which is really their greatest strength. The Ferengi work best, at least in Next Generation, when they straddle that line between unscrupulously dangerous and comic relief, as these guys do.
There is some weird pacing in the story. I don’t know if I missed something, but I thought that Data talked about it only taking a few minutes to get through the wormhole, but in between the time they leave and the time they arrive on the far side, there’s been time for a whole negotiation scene and a whole bedroom scene, which are not happening simultaneously as Ral is in both. Then, after Geordi recognizes something is wrong with the far end of the wormhole but before they leave, there is time for the Troi/Crusher exercise scene, the bit with Ral talking to Leyor in Ten Forward, and the aftermath when Leyor pulls out of the negotiations. The idea of exploring the wormhole was a good one, and having the Ferengi abandoned on the other side is an interesting choice, but it doesn’t really make any sense to stretch it over half the story as it’s done here.
Aside from Troi, it’s a pretty flat episode for most of the other characters. Riker, however, gets a good moment when Ral tries to manipulate him. I quite like it when he shrugs off the attempt to throw him off his game with talk of how passionate Deanna is, and says, “You know you’re really not such a bad sort, Ral, except you don’t have any values. Beyond the value of today’s bid, that is. Deanna is just the woman to bring some meaning to your sorry exixtence, if you’re smart enough to take her. I doubt that you are. To the last mile.”
And watching Deanna resolve her “conflict of interest” is genuinely enjoyable. Ral is a real jerk and it’s good to see Troi put him in his place. Her last line to him (see below) is particularly effective. Marina Sirtis does a fine job in the episode, even though all the lovey-dovey doe-eyed foot-massaging is a bit much and could certainly have been trimmed down a bit.
Matt McCoy, who plays Devinoni Ral, has appeared in LA Confidential as “Badge of Honor” star Brett Chase. He also appeared in The West Wing as a “doomed” liberal Republican congressman. He also was one of the original stars of the short-lived sitcom We’ve Got it Made, and starred in a couple of the later Police Academy films.
Scott Thomson (Daimon Goss), meanwhile, had appeared in two different Police Academy films. He also shows up in Twister and in the Jonathan Frakes directed film, Clockstoppers.
Elizabeth Hoffman (Premier Bhavani) was a regular in the series Sisters. She also had a couple of significant appearances as Dr. Catherine Langford in Stargate SG-1.
Castulo Guerra (Seth Mendoza) had small parts in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and The Usual Suspects (as the man that Keyser Söze kills on the boat).
Dan Shor, who plays the Ferengi Dr. Arridor, was Ram in the original Tron. He also was a regular in later episodes of Cagney & Lacey, and appeared as Billy the Kid in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Finally, Kevin Peter Hall (Leyor) was a regular on Misfits of Science and in the TV version of Harry and the Hendersons. Most famously, however, he was the title character in the original Predator.
Shout out to the Past
There is a brief reference to Troi’s mother, as well as a couple of references to Troi and Riker’s past relationship.
Setting Up the Future
The idea of a “stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant” eventually became part of the concept for Deep Space Nine.
One imagines that Dan Shor would not have expected to ever reprise the role of Arridor, but that is what he did in an episode of Voyager several years later. His companion Kol also appeared, though played by another actor.
This is the first episode to introduce Troi’s love for chocolate, and to show Troi and Beverly exercising together.
• Troi’s irritation at being summoned by the Captain to her “first look at the wormhole” is a great character bit.
• This and other recent episodes are good examples of how Next Generation was often pretty boring at coming up with episode titles.
• Troi’s basically stalking Ral on Facebook!
• Troi on a date, looking pretty nice.
• “Am I moving too fast for you?” Um, of course you are. This is absurdly fast.
• “You must have had a nice day,” says Ral to Troi, after being told that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him all day. Smooth.
• Often the characters react slowly to situations that you’d think they should have an immediate response to. Here, Dr. Crusher’s moving to help the obviously sick Mendoza is pretty late.
• Some of the shots of Data and Geordi in the shuttle bumping around look a bit hokey, but Data’s line about how Geordi should take consolation in the fact that he’d have Data to talk to is funny.
• OK, to me, the Crusher / Troi stretching scene, with all those mirrors, just reads like an early version of the Seven of Nine jumpsuit, or those awkward “blue light gel scenes” on Enterprise, just done with a level of deniability.
• Ral does make some good points in his argument with Deanna – the fact that people have been reading each other’s emotional states for a long time, for example, and his point about how Troi uses her powers for her side’s advantage.
• There’s no comment at the end about how the failure of the wormhole is pretty bad news for Premier Bhavani and her people.
Dialogue High Point
The best line is the last one, where Ral implores Troi to go with him, so that she can help him and be his conscience. She replies, sensibly…
I already have a job as counselor.
Great moment for her.