Friday, August 21, 2015

ST: TNG - The Last Outpost

In an effort to relive my early teens, I am re-watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is both better and worse than I remembered it, as was my youth most likely.

The Last Outpost

My but this sure was... declarative.
Funny how few of the early episodes I can actually remember. I was too young to catch anything but the last two, maybe three seasons of the series when it aired so most other episodes I saw as reruns, and apparently the early episodes were not being rerun much. I could certainly understand that with the godawful second and third ones but this? This is just classic Star Trek.

It's the episode introducing the Ferengi (yes that's how it's spelled; I Googled it) and in that you already have the new civilizations angle covered. Then of course there's the unexplored planet inhabited solely by a single godlike energy being and by the end we get a big moralizing speech on tolerance and the nature of civilization. Good, clean fun. It's pretty clear that by this point the new series was still running largely on "second verse, same as the first" because the look of the wild-eyed, Einstein-haired portal alien, the cardboard "crystals" and the whole staged feel of the planet-side conflict all scream 1970.
That's either Emperor Palpatine and his back-scratcher or something out of The Dark Crystal.
Despite all this it was a surprisingly well-written show. The dialogue flows much more smoothly as does the pedantic SciFi social commentary, the characters begin to show some personality and the technobabble's laid on just thick enough to make you stop trying to scrape under it for any meaning. Sure you could ask silly questions like "why would the guardian wait until ten minutes before the end of the episode to show himself" but then you already know you're watching Star Trek. If you like that sort of thing this is the sort of thing you'll like.

Data's comic relief moment with the finger-trap was just enough to remind you why you slap your computer's case every once in a while. It added to the character's sympathetic Pinocchio appeal while maintaining his dignity.

As for the Ferengi... they were always too ridiculous to make a good alien race. Too much effort was put into making them despicable. Especially in this first appearance their nature as cavorting medieval court jesters comes through much too strongly: hobbling, sneering, greedy, drooling, lying, randy, cowardly bald chimps calling you hu-mon who disrespect your women! Were this a marketplace stage show centuries ago, this would be the cue for the audience to throw rotten fruit at Pantalone. Unfortunately, Star Trek was a plot-based series and not an endlessly re-iterated half-improvised sketch so such cathartic derision could not make for worthwhile long-term characters. If they'd remained a one-shot alien encounter for this one episode, it would've been enough.

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