In the seventeenth episode of the second season of The Next Generation, Picard and Wesley spend hours being awkward around each other, and then no one listens to Worf or Deanna. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Look, I loved this episode for a lot of reasons, and the good easily outweighs the bad. But after jotting down my initial thoughts for this review, I realized there were a few gaping holes in this story that are, at the very least, distracting. (If you’re not familiar with my writing process, I compile a stream-of-conscious list of all the things I want to talk about as well as my observations. I use that to write this part you’re reading now. There was actually a time when I used to use the list-style for all my Double Feature reviews, but I’ve gotten better at time management, so I prefer having a more polished review instead of that one.) It’s the kind of shit I imagine is the product of the writers room or by some form of interference.
BUT I STILL LOVED THIS A GREAT DEAL, SO LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.
Geordi and the Pakleds
My new power pop band, y’all.
So, look. I love any episode with Geordi at the center of it. But I would also love it if the show could give some more attention to both Worf and Deanna. I say that because it’s kind of astounding to me that both of those characters state the obvious, and Riker completely ignores them. Why even have Worf object to sending the chief engineer to an alien ship alone – a completely valid point!!! – just to have Riker dismiss it? Moments later, Deanna Troi rushes to the bridge, demanding that they beam Geordi back because she has a strong sense of danger. Riker OF ALL PEOPLE should understand that because NO ONE KNOWS HER BETTER THAN HIM. So why does he continue to ignore her and push Geordi to stay with the Pakleds? Why would he ask Geordi if he was safe openly and in front of the people he might be in danger from? That seemed so ridiculous!
But I could put that aside, honestly. I was so fascinated by the Pakleds as a race because they’re so weird. They’re aware of their own place within an evolutionary hierarchy, and they aspired to move upwards on that chain quicker than was naturally possible. How did they do that? Adaptation, namely in their behavior. They realized that their simplistic way of speaking made them appear vulnerable, unintelligent, and harmless. This allowed them to create the titular samaritan snare: other aliens would take pity on the Pakleds, be lured in to their ship, and then the Pakleds would steal from them. It’s deceptively brilliant when you think about it, and so what does The Next Generation do with this concept?
THEY MAKE IT UTTERLY TERRIFYING. Look, people on this show don’t really get seriously hurt. (Which I’ll need to talk about in the next section.) Because The Next Generation often does not rely on the threat of violence, it’s hard for some of the risks posed by the narrative to feel real. And I utterly believed the Pakleds would destroy Geordi after one of them senselessly stunned him. I don’t even think that Pakled understood what they were doing. But once they shot Geordi with that phaser? They adapted. And that’s such a scary thing to witness happen in real time, y’all. They realize Geordi’s capabilities, they see what weaponry can do for them, and they change their behavior so they can exploit both things.
So I found it brilliant that Riker’s ultimate plan to take them down involved using that adaptive ability against them. I LOVE CLEVER RUSES, first of all, and the secret message passed along to Geordi through their conversation was MISCHIEVOUS. In the end, the Pakleds so wholly believed that they could steal from Geordi and the Federation that they never once considered that Geordi was promising them a lie. BRILLIANT, Y’ALL.
Picard and Wesley
God, WHAT A BOLD CHOICE TO STICK PICARD IN A SHUTTLE WITH THE ONE CREW MEMBER HE’S STATISTICALLY LIKELY TO HATE THE MOST. Not just that, but we get PICARD BACKSTORY that’s all about how he was a PUNK ROCK ASSHOLE, and I can’t do this.
This episode contains one of my absolute favorite Patrick Stewart moments in the show thus far. That monologue – the one where Picard relates the story of his damaged heart to Wesley – felt monumental to me. It’s not hard to wonder what it was going to be like once Picard and Wesley were stuck in close quarters for six hours, not to mention Picard’s reservations about his heart transplant. The show doesn’t hide the fact that Picard has a massive ego about how he’s perceived and actually makes it the focal point of this journey. So I found it fitting that the one character on the Enterprise who more or less idolizes Picard is the one he ends up opening up to.
I think Wesley was a test. If Picard could reveal his heart condition to Wesley and Wesley could still adore him, then what was he worried about? Of course, the notion is kind of absurd because, as Dr. Pulaski points out, no one would stop thinking of Picard as the captain if they found out he had a prosthetic heart. (DISABLED CAPTAIN PICARD IS NOW CANON, OH MY GOD.) But that’s not easy for Picard to accept because he enjoys the assumption of invulnerability that comes with who he is.
At the same time, I think that this subplot holds a lot of value for Wesley, especially since it humanizes his idol. Welsey is almost uncharacteristically blunt here, though in hindsight I actually do understand his behavior. This is exactly how he’d act because he had resigned himself to believe that Picard didn’t want anything to do with him. Wouldn’t any of us believe the same thing in the presence of someone who behaved as Picard did here? As someone with a ton of social anxiety, it’s very easy for me to read people’s moods and then immediately blame myself for what someone else is feeling. Wesley jumps to that same conclusion, but discovers that something else is responsible for Picard’s mood.
Frankly, it’s just good character building. The story itself kind of falls apart at the end due to a really terrible bout of writing. Am I expected to believe that a Federation medical facility that does a hundred heart transplants a year maintains a staff UNABLE AND UNQUALIFIED TO HELP IN THE EVENT THAT SAID TRANSPLANT GOES WRONG? Like, I get that this twist injects a last-minute thrill into the story, and it allows Dr. Pulaski to show up and gloat, but it’s just… bad. It’s bad storytelling. Thankfully, it’s not nearly bad enough to make me dislike an otherwise great episode.
The video for “Samaritan Snare” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– Please help book/finalize the Mark Does Stuff European Tour!
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the U.K., and Ireland. Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!