Star Trek: The Next Generation – Cost of Living [5.20]

A newly engaged Lwaxana  Troi comes on board the Enterprise to prepare for her wedding to man she’s never met, something she’s agreed to as she’s feeling old.  Meanwhile, Alexander and Worf run into a lot of tension in their relationship.  Lwaxana bonds with Alexander, to Worf’s concern.  Meanwhile, a strange swarm of space-born organisms innocently threatens the ship.  This threat is eventually neutralized, and Lwaxana’s brash behavior – spurred on by renewed sense of youth that has come from her friendship with Alexander – causes her conservative fiancee to call off the wedding, something nobody regrets.

Written by Peter Allan Fields. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

Previous Episode: The First Duty • Next Episode: The Perfect Mate

There are those episodes of Next Generation that I was looking forward to with eager expectation, ever since I began this process of re-watching the series, like Darmok or The First Duty.  Then there are those episodes I was dreading, such as The Outcast or The Game.  Then there are those episodes that I just had no sense about whatsoever; that even though I know I’ve seen them before, I can barely recollect anything about them.  Cost of Living is an example of that last category.  I know I’ve seen it, or at least part of it, because as I watched it this time I had vague memories of Lwaxana showing up naked at her wedding, and of Worf sitting in that mud bath, but the rest of it is a complete blank.

The story is, I suppose, meant to be a comedy, with humour deriving from Lwaxana’s antics, laced with some serious character-based drama.  And then also a bit of a science fiction procedural (because not every episode can be Family.)  But sadly, almost the entire episode falls flat.  It’s not completely without charm, but it suffers from the twin curses of all the worst Next Generation episodes:  dullness and irrelevance.

The scene where the pre-nuptial discussions break down is supposed to be witty and sharp.  The scenes on the holodeck are supposed to be playful and poetic.  The bit where Lwaxana opens up to Alexander is supposed to be touching and meaningful.  But instead the humour is largely unfunny, and the drama seems forced.  It feels like we’re going through the motions here, because we needed a Lwaxana episode, and we had to “develop” the Worf-Alexander dynamic.  Yet nothing of any real emotional resonance or lasting impact comes from any of this, except perhaps the seeds of the forthcoming (and extremely unsuccessful) Worf-Troi romance continue to be sewn.

Having said all of that, there are a couple of moments of genuine humour.  I found that though Lwaxana’s wedding was predictable, the reactions of the guests were still funny, and the closing bit with Worf in the mud bath (“You’re just supposed to sit here?”) was fairly classic.  And there is that one moment where Lwaxana lets down her guard a bit with Alexander (“I’m alone, Alex. And when you do get older and can no longer pick and choose from whatever may come your way, then you do what we call compromise. It keeps you from being afraid”) wasn’t completely unaffecting.  There are a couple of other nice touches, but all of the potentially good material gets so lost in so much tedium that it fails to have any real impact.

Guest Cast:
• I knew Tony Jay (Third Minister) looked familiar!  He played Nigel St. John, an assistant to Lex Luthor, in Lois and Clark:  The New Adventures of Superman.  He also was in a few episodes of Twin Peaks and Beauty and the Beast, as well as playing the voice of the Supreme Being, apparently, in Time Bandits.

• Albie Selznick (The Juggler) also had a role in an episode of Beauty and the Beast, and was also in Breakin’ 2:  Electric Boogaloo, which I feel is automatically kind of funny.

Shout out to the Past:
• Well, because Alexander is here, there is an inevitable reference to K’Ehleyr.

Setting up the Future:
• As referenced above, it’s easy to see from this episode that how the producers of the show could visualize a more domesticated Worf could end up paired with Troi romantically.

• Kickin’ opening moment, right in the middle of the action.

• The scene near the start with Worf, Troi and Alexander is actually pretty funny.  “When he’s cleaned his room, for instance, then perhaps he’s earned a visit to the holodeck to fight his alien monsters.

• Mr. Woof?  Jerko?  Not as funny as it should be.  Similarly, you’ve got “The great secret is not the variety of life, it’s the variety of us.”  That’s the sort of line that’s supposed to be meaningful, but I’m not sure that it is.

• Worf pops the guard bubble should be funny, but is an example of the humour falling flat, for me.

• What the?!?!?! Naked striped dancer woman??

• Lwaxana says, “I exposed you to all sorts of mixed messages when you were that age. You still turned out deadly dull. What are you so worried about?”  That’s sort of cute.

Geordi and Data talking about the replicators, it’s one of the few normal sounding bits of dialog in the show so far.  “Well, we’d better look into it, whatever it is, before the captain decides to order dinner.”

• Cute moment when Alexander encounters Mr. Homm

• Picard seems completely unprepared to know how to greet this visiting dignitary

• “If you ever have a world, plan ahead. Don’t eat it.”  OK, that’s a little funny.

• Many people seem to find meaning in Lwaxana’s line about being alone extra meaningful because it was recorded not long after Majel Barrett’s husband Gene Roddenberry died.

• Troi looks nice in her wedding dress.

Dialogue High Point
I guess my favourite is after Lwaxana meets her fiance’s protocol master.

Personally I adore all the ostentation I can get, but, Protocol Master?

Previous Episode: The First Duty • Next Episode: The Perfect Mate

2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Cost of Living [5.20]

  1. You’ve always enjoyed Lwaxana more than me, I’ve noticed. For me, she’s just not enough by herself to sell me on a story. In fact, generally, an episode has to rise above her to be worthy, and so far, only “Half a Life” has really managed to do that.

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