May 19 2011 1:01pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Last Outpost”

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch of The Last Outpost“The Last Outpost”
Written by Richard Krzemian and Herbert Wright
Directed by Richard Colla
Season 1, Episode 4
Production episode 40271-107
Original air date: October 19, 1987
Stardate: 41386.4

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise pursues a Ferengi ship that has stolen something from a Federation planet. Starfleet has never seen the Ferengi, and they pursue them to a star system. The Ferengi ship drops out of warp, and then has a power surge. The Enterprise loses power in very short order, and then are held in place by a force field. The crew assumes it’s the Ferengi doing so, even though the Ferengi take no action that they can determine—except search the ship’s computer banks.

They try to break out of the force field, to no effect, then discuss options. They finally decide to offer the Ferengi a surrender, only to discover that they’re also stuck. A probe reveals that the uninhabited planet below has both ships in a force field that is draining power. (Meanwhile, the viewer is wondering why they didn’t think of this sooner when the Ferengi ship didn’t do a damn thing after supposedly immobilizing the Enterprise.) Data does some research and discovers that this was an outpost of the long-dead Tkon Empire.

Picard and the Ferengi DaiMon, Tarr, bicker for a bit, then reluctantly agree to work together. Riker takes a team to the planet, while Picard is left on a ship that is losing power.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch of The Last OutpostThe Ferengi attack the away team, but Yar manages to get the upper hand. A portal from the Tkon Empire shows up to ask why they are petitioning to enter the empire, not realizing that the empire has been dead for centuries. The Ferengi try to cajole the gatekeeper—who is called, somewhat awkwardly, “Portal”—while the Starfleet people are a bit more honest. Eventually Riker and Portal bond over Sun-Tzu while the Ferengi gesticulate like lunatics, power is restored to both ships, and they all go on their merry way.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: “I’m sensing nothing from them.” Snort. Snorfle. (To be fair, Troi actually gives Picard some useful advice in the episode. For one thing, she’s the first person to consider checking the planet.)

Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity?: La Forge goes to engineering and winds up giving a report from there, an image the producers liked enough to give him the chief engineer job in the next season. (He also cries, “woo-WEE!” at a very loud volume for no compellingly good reason.)

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch of The Last OutpostNo Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: When power is restored to the Enterprise, Crusher cups Picard’s cheek and calls him “Jean,” the one and only time that diminutive is ever used.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data gets stuck in a Chinese finger puzzle. He also tries slang to uneven effect.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is taken down by the Ferengi. Twice!

Welcome Aboard: Mike Gomez does a decent job as the first Ferengi we ever see, coming across as sufficiently alien. Darryl Henriques is less than impressive as the Tkon Empire Portal—the role requires more gravitas than Henriques can bring to it. But the big name here is Armin Shimerman, who plays the first of three Ferengi he would portray—Bractor in “Peak Performance,” and, of course, Quark on Deep Space Nine.

I Believe I Said That: “You see? They are demented. Their values are insane. You cannot believe the business opportunities they have destroyed!” Kayron, appalled at Federation values.

Trivial Matters: Greg Cox would show the Tkon Empire in more depth in his novel trilogy The Q Continuum.

Make It So: The Ferengi were introduced in this episode, and Armin Shimerman makes his first appearance on Star Trek, which is the only thing that makes this episode in any way noteworthy, and the former doesn’t really work. The Ferengi come across as alien, which was the intent, but they also are far too comical to be taken in any way seriously as the threat the script desperately wanted them to be.

The rest of the episode isn’t, to quote Data, anything to write home about. The tension is all but nonexistent as the Enterprise crew stand around and talk about what to do. Honestly, The Next Generation’s reputation as a show in which they have meetings rather than doing anything has its roots in this episode.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch of The Last OutpostThere are a few fun moments here and there—the Chinese finger puzzles, the Sun-Tzu quotes, the little kids playing in the observation lounge, the use of holographic briefing images (that would be discontinued for budget reasons), and Picard’s first use of “Merde”—but nothing to really hold together.

Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a mess of stuff about Star Trek. This rewatch is simply adding to the mess. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

1. sofrina
my favorite quark quote: "rule of acquisition #125: you can't make a deal if you're dead."
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
The Ferengi are one of my favorite star trek races and one of the best additions to the star trek universe IMHO. Their society built on trade/capitalism is really interesting and fun. But other than their introduction, I agree this episode is mostly forgettable. Sometimes there are just too many portals belonging to long dead races in the star trek universe
Mouldy Squid
3. Mouldy_Squid
As I understand it, and it is certainly possible that I heard completely wrong, the Ferengi were supposed to be the new "enemy" race for Starfleet to fence with. When it didn't work out (primarily since they were just not scary enough in this episode), the writers invented the Cardassians. Thus the Ferengi went from creepy, alien, unintentionally funny objectivitst trolls to intentionally funny objectivist trolls.
j p
4. sps49
I thought this was going to be "Arena: TNG" (similar to "The Naked Now"), but after the talky talk, phaser whips, and other bleh, I was much less concerned about watching any more TNG. Losing Gates McFadden was no help, and I was lucky to catch a few episodes before "Best of Both Worlds" put the show back on my "must-watch" list.
Joseph Kingsmill
5. JFKingsmill16
I stopped watching the series after seeing this episode. As sps49 said, I didn't come back to the series until after "Best of Both Worlds"

All in all I think ST-TNG is a shining example of why you need to give a ScfiFi show a season or two to find its legs before you cancel it. In today's TV landscape I don't think it would have lasted 13 episodes.
Michael Grosberg
6. Michael_GR
It just occured to me how silly it is to use the main screen of the bridge for video communication. Just look at that huge scary face and wee little Picard... You're just putting yourself at a psychological disadvantage! not to mention blocking your view of the outside...
7. Christopher L. Bennett
Michael_GR, the hugeness of the DaiMon's head on the viewscreen was an intentional story point -- the Ferengi projected their image extra-large to make them appear to be intimidating giants, and then we found out they were really short little guys. It was basically a rehash of Balok from "The Corbomite Maneuver." Normally, faces projected on the screen weren't quite so big.

The problem with Roddenberry's intent to make the Ferengi the Big Bad of TNG is that he was also using them as a caricature of greedy capitalists and deliberately painted them in a condescending way, as whiny little rodent men. Heroes are known by the quality of their enemies. If the bad guys aren't intelligent, powerful, and impressive, then the heroes don't seem impressive when they beat them.

And putting the Ferengi's big reveal in an episode that was about the umpteenth ultra-powerful extinct alien race in the Trek universe was rather incongruous. What did the two ideas have to do with each other? Ultimately the story wasn't about much of anything. I guess the idea was a story where enemies have to learn to cooperate against a common threat, but that could've been done with any antagonist. It's too generic an idea for the big introductory story for the Big Bad of the series. The story introducing the Ferengi should've been materially about the Ferengi, with their distinct culture and attitudes driving the story.

It feels odd in retrospect that Picard has never heard of the Tkon Empire. Clearly Picard's love of archaeology hadn't been conceived of yet.
rob mcCathy
8. roblewmac
I remember thinking "STILL bad but better. I also remember thinking "What the hell is a Yankee Trader and these guys REALLY should be much trouble buy them off and be on your way.
9. Smithcraft
I think the only thing missing from this rewatch is a mention of the holographic display in the conference room. Wasn't it only used in this episode?

I don't think it was ever noticed, but the most important set in TNG wasn't the bridge, or engineering, but it was the conference room. How exciting is that?
Michael Burke
10. Ludon
This episode felt rushed to me - as in feeling that it had been rushed into production. I wonder how mush better the Ferengi episodes of Next Gen could have been if they'd have taken the time to develop the whole character of the Ferengi race. We finally got to learn about them through Quark, Rom and Nog in Deep Space Nine and they became a race I could enjoy seeing in episodes.
Keith DeCandido
11. krad
Quoth Smithcraft: "I think the only thing missing from this rewatch is a mention of the holographic display in the conference room. Wasn't it only used in this episode?"

You mean the thing I mentioned in the last paragraph? :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
12. Smithcraft
Thanks krad! I must be going blind!

I would have thought that it would have merited a better mention, cool as I think it is and all.
13. JasonD
My fave quote from this ep:

"You work with your females, arm them... and allow them to wear clothing!" "Sickening."

I still chuckle at how that line is delivered.
14. Ensign Jayburd
Worf, whilst getting pummeled by the damn Ferengi:


Now THAT'S a funny line...
15. Ensign Jayburd
"the Ferengi projected their image extra-large to make them appear to be intimidating giants"

@Christopher, if that's true then why did Daimon Tar say that visual communication was against their custom?

Chalk it up to being yet another confusing element of the first season. The Ferengi were well conceived, but poorly executed early on. At least in retrospect. They WERE funny at least, but it's true that they didn't fit as an adversary. Eventually they simply became funny and lovable, particularly on DS9.

Another episode with great ideas yet poor execution, but I really liked it when it first aired. I loved the Sun Tzu connection and I loved the idea of the dead Tkon Empire and the guardian that had to be convinced that his Empire no longer existed. It was odd, that they addressed him as "Portal."

He also had a puzzling line: "The universe exists to me to create life. I shall sleep. Until needed again."

What does that mean? Create what life? Is he a guardian or a god? And what conditions would exist wherein he would be needed again? His empire is gone! Isn't he needed now???
16. Ensign Jayburd
Sorry for the multiple posts, but one more thing:

I also loved the admission by Riker and Data that the Federation was flawed and that their politics didn't always live up to their ideals, particularly Data's line:

"They should add that Starfleet has permitted several civilisations to fall. We have at times allowed the strong and violent to overcome the weak."

They weren't just talking about the Prime Directive, they were freely admitting that the Federation was flawed and that there is always room for improvement. I found that refreshing.
17. crzydroid
I have to say, upon the rewatch of this, I was glad to see some of the capitalist aspects of the species were already here. All I remembered from this episode were the crazy monkey Ferengi with the lightning whips that could beat up Worf and Data. My other memories of TNG Ferengi (from such episodes as "Peak Performance") made them seem a somewhat aggressive militaristic race. I often wondered how they went from that to cowardly, bungling businessmen on DS9.
18. Con84
I felt the season was going well up to this point, but this episode turned into a bit of a disaster in the end - mainly due to the inept, overly comical portrayal of the Ferengi and the cheap and lousy storyline. The finger puzzle scene was funny though.
19. Khaalidah
I remember this episode. Its insane. Actually the thing that I recall most about this episode isn't so much the premise but the weirdo Ferengi doing the jig all over the place. A far cry from the more dignified, if not underhanded and double dealing, Quark of DS9!
I may watch tonight.
20. UberMuchly
I like to think of this episode as a blatant tribute to Ray Brabury. The Ferangi reek of Martians. Even their movements mimick the old space shows. Although noy directly from Bradbury, the attitude of "if we destroy them they would learn nothing" has a very Bradbury-esque feel. This isn't my favorite episode, but I don't hate it either. It's a shame they couldn't keep using the holography for briefings. That was a great idea.
21. RPD
How can you respect a big bad that, snivels?
22. Joe the Sergeant
I was just waiting for Quark to break out one of those whips to keep the peace in DS9. The obvious joke is to have Morn mistakenly take a hit-- and topple soundlessly off his stool.
25. Verdantgreen
I'm only just now reading the TNG re-watch and I'm loving the analysis. I just want to add here that Michael Westmore took partial responsibility for the failure of the Ferengi as main villains. In a glossy book on the makeup effects of TNG, he mentioned that the Ferengi were meant to be the new Klingons/Romulans but that whole idea was derailed by this episode.

His admission of guilt stems from his dissatisfaction with the makeup that ultimately came out of the concept sketches. Personally, I think Westmore is being too harsh on himself. His makeup work is fine, the whole concept just doesn't make for good main villains.
Keith DeCandido
26. krad
Verdantgreen: Thanks! Hope you continue to enjoy the rewatches. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
27. Electone
An ok early episode. A few interesting moments but a lot of wasted opportunies, especially the Ferengi. LaForge and Yar are as cringe-inducing as ever here. Horrible acting by both Burton and Crosby.
28. MeMe
Very good and interesting episode. Awesome scenography and plot and the introduction of a newm intriguing race is a huge bonus. 9/10 from me.
29. JohnC
Agree with #2: sometimes there are just too many portals belonging to long dead civilizations in the Star Trek universe. I have always found the episodes featuring the Ferengi to be among the most collectively tiresome and uninteresting. And annoying. And what was the deal with the malfunctioning transporter? Was it ever explained why they all materialized all over the place? Blecch episode. In my top 5 worst all time.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment