“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
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.
The 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.)
No 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.
There 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