Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S07E04 – The Gambit, Part I

In the fourth episode of the seventh season of The Next Generation, this episode is a hot mess, and I DON’T CARE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Look, this episode barely makes any sense. I am not going to sit here and try to rationalize any of this story, because doing so is an exercise in futility. The set-up simply makes no sense at all. At no point is it ever explained to us how Picard ever got to Dessica II. Somehow, he left the Enterprise while studying archaeological sites for…what? Personal entertainment? Was he on a mission? Apparently, this isn’t important information for us! Instead, we just have to accept that Picard somehow disappeared from the Enterprise, and somehow, the rest of the crew were able to track him to that bar where he was “vaporized.”

Now it was 100% impossible that Picard was actually dead, and since this “death” was never shown on screen, it held absolutely no narrative weight. None! I didn’t believe it for a second, and thus, the first act of this episode (until Picard’s reveal) is really fucking weird. It’s not exciting, and all of the scenes have this hokey, odd feel to them because…well, Picard’s not dead. That’s a fact! The show would not take such a huge risk with their main character, and thus, I couldn’t believe the premise. That didn’t make the reveal of him less surprising, sure, but it’s such a strange choice in terms of framing an episode.

And once Riker is kidnapped, everything still doesn’t make much sense. How are these people so familiar with the Federation but not at all able to recognize arguably the most famous commander currently working for Starfleet? Are you telling me that no one recognized him, but were well-versed enough to understand the complications of having Captain Riker onboard their ship? How was it that Picard was able to go from being a nosy archaeologist to a ruthless smuggler in a matter of a few hours? (This is the answer to that question, obviously.) How have these pirates or smugglers or whatever you call them survived so long if they make such categorically bad decisions all the time?

Here’s the thing: I recognize how deeply, deeply flawed this episode is. I spent a good portion of the video yelling random shit at the screen, so I completely agree with that sort of assessment. And at the same time, this is a fucked-up heist involving people who must pretend that they want to be part of the heist, except it’s kind of a reverse heist? The Enterprise crew must steal back their two captains! Who are busy trying to trick the Enterprise! While double-crossing the space pirates! Look, there are many layers here, I can’t even begin to understand them all, and I don’t care. I get to see Patrick Stewart as Picard as a sassy smuggler who is just looking to get ahead of everyone else. IT IS A GIFT FROM THE HEAVENS.

I will also confess that I find the mystery of the artifacts to be pretty compelling. Baran’s plan seems so unnecessarily thorough, but I’m guessing that’s because he’s looking for a Vulcan artifact that’s worth the hassle. What is it? Is it worth destroying a Federation outpost? APPARENTLY SO. But there are too many variables here! What about Narik? She’s got her own interests at work here, too. Will she oppose Baran?

This is certainly an interesting choice for a two-parter, and I’m not quite sure that it was needed. But I definitely want the second half of “Gambit” to be weirder than this one  because that allows me to gloss over all the other shit. Seriously, how did Picard end up in that bar???

The video for “Gambit, Part I” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! 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 Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. 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!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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