Thu
Dec 1 2011 12:04pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Price”

“The Price”
Written by Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 3, Episode 8
Production episode 40273-156
Original air date: November 13, 1989
Stardate: 43385.6

Captain’s log: Troi comes back to her quarters after a long day. She’s tired and cranky and in the mood for some chocolate. Picard invites her to come to Ten-Forward for an impromptu reception. Several delegates have reported on board to negotiate with Premier Bhavani of Barzan II for control of an apparently stable wormhole that has been discovered in Barzan space. Barzan’s atmosphere is inhospitable to most lifeforms, so the Enterprise is hosting negotiations. The Barzan don’t have the ability to exploit the wormhole, so they’re taking bids for various nations to take control—in this case, the Chrysalians, the Caldonians, and the Federation.

The wormhole becomes visible every 233 minutes for a few seconds¸ and everyone watches it from Ten-Forward—except for Troi, whose crankiness has been replaced by intrigue regarding Devinoni Ral, a hired negotiator for the Chrysalians.

As the negotiations commence, a delegation of Ferengi arrive, to Picard’s annoyance. However, Bhavani doesn’t wish to refuse anyone a place at the table, so the Ferengi are beamed into the meeting. DaiMon Goss takes his place at the table while his two associates are escorted to guest quarters.

Ral wastes no time hitting on Troi, the Ferengi waste no time trying to sabotage the negotiations by poisoning Mendoza, the Federation representative, and Data wastes no time in volunteering to go through the wormhole to make sure it’s all the Barzan say it is.

When Mendoza takes ill, Picard asks Riker to represent the Federation—he’s the designated host, so he can’t do it. Ral and Riker do a good deal of verbal fencing, and then when the negotiations are in recess, Troi and Ral do some more physical fencing. Ral also reveals that he’s a quarter Betazoid and somewhat empathic as well, which gives him an edge in negotiations.

The Barzan probe showed that the other end of the wormhole is in the Gamma Quadrant. Both the Enterprise and the Ferengi send shuttles through—La Forge and Data on Shuttle 9, Dr. Arridor and Kol, Goss’s aides, on a Ferengi pod. They arrive to discover that they’re in the Delta Quadrant. It’s possible the Barzan probe’s reading were wrong—and also possible that they were right, and the wormhole’s terminus has shifted. La Forge and Data try and fail to convince the Ferengi to go through the wormhole before it becomes visible for fear that it will shift location again. Sure enough, it becomes visible and then shifts position, leaving Arridor and Kol stranded 70,000 light-years from home.

Meanwhile, Ral convinces the Caldonian negotiator to withdraw, with the Chrysalians absorbing their bid. Troi expresses discomfort at Ral’s keeping his empathy a secret, though he points out that she does likewise—she never, for example, tells the Romulan commander they’re facing that she senses he’s bluffing, she just tells Picard. After that argument ends, Ral shares a drink with Riker in Ten-Forward. He claims he’ll make a preemptive bid before Shuttle 9 returns through the wormhole. He also tries to manipulate Riker by throwing his relationship with Troi in his face—which backfires rather spectacularly, as Riker feels that if Ral can make Troi happy, that’ll make him happy.

DaiMon Goss then leaves orbit and fires a missile at the wormhole. Worf destroys it with phasers, and Riker is summoned away from negotiations to the bridge as the ship goes to red alert. Once Riker leaves, Ral points out to Bhavani that the Barzan should not be caught in the middle of the conflict between the Federation and the Ferengi. As Goss and Picard face off, Ral and Bhavani come to the bridge. Ral announces that the Chrysalians have come to an agreement with the Barzan, and he offers Goss Ferengi rights to the wormhole. Goss accepts and stands down.

Troi then points out—to Ral’s agitation—that neither Ral nor Goss were tense during the confrontation. Troi believes that the scene was staged by Ral and Goss to convince Bhavani to go with the Chrysalians.

Right after that, Shuttle 9 comes back, and Data and La Forge report that the other terminus is unstable, and the Barzan end of it will be unstable before long as well. That leaves the Chysalians with a dry well. Ral is recalled, and he asks Troi to come with him—she’s exposed a side of him he doesn’t like, and he wants her help to make him better. She says she already has a job as a counselor, thanks, and off he goes.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: La Forge’s VISOR can see the wormhole before it’s visible to others, and he recognizes the fluctuations that will make the terminus change again. The Ferengi ignore his technobabble to their regret.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi finds herself in a pickle when she has to balance her responsibilities to the ship against her relationship with Ral, though she settles it nicely, to Ral’s disappointment.

If I only had a brain…: When La Forge expresses concern that, if something happens, he’ll be stuck in Shuttle 9 for the rest of his life, Data points out the bright side: “You will have me to talk to.” La Forge is not entirely buoyed by this notion.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Troi and Ral waste no time knocking boots. This being commercial television, it consisted of him giving her an oily footrub, and her mounting him and massaging his barely existent chest hair. Hot stuff.

Much hotter is Crusher and Troi’s girl talk in the gym. Crusher talks about a previous love: “I fell in love in a day, it lasted a week—but what a week!”

Welcome aboard: Matt McCoy is more smarmy than charming as Ral. Scott Thomson and Dan Shor are delightful as Goss and Arridor—Shor in particular has excellent body language. Castulo Guerra is very charming in a very small role as Mendoza, while Kevin Peter Hall and Elizabeth Hoffman are perfectly adequate as the Caldonian negotiator and Bhavani.

Most amusing of all is that Colm Meaney gets guest star billing for saying “Aye, sir” over the intercom. (The script called for another scene with him, but it was cut.)

I believe I said that: “We’ll need chairs.”
“I am Captain Picard of the Enterprise. I am serving as host for these proceedings.”
“Good, then see to it that we get some chairs.”
“Let me explain...”
“Fine, fine! Just have your Klingon servant get us some chairs.”
“I’m in charge of security!”
“Then who gets the chairs?”
“DaiMon, due to the delicate nature of these negotiations, all parties have agreed that one representative will suffice. Now, I will be happy to provide your counsels with accommodations, and you may have my chair.”

DaiMon Goss obsessing over chairs, Picard (and Worf) trying and only partially succeeding in setting him straight

Trivial matters: This episode firmly establishes that the Milky Way galaxy is divided (by the Federation, at least) into four quadrants, with the Federation occupying a portion of the Alpha Quadrant.

This is the final script by Shearer, pretty much the last holdover from the first season’s writing staff. She would later contribute the story to Deep Space Nine’s “Q-Less.”

This episode served as a preview, in many ways, to the next two spinoffs. DS9 would center around a truly stable wormhole, and Voyager would have its main characters trapped in the Delta Quadrant, just like Arridor and Kol. The final fate of the two trapped Ferengi will be chronicled in Voyager’s “False Profits.”

This is the only episode where Ferengi are sensed by telepaths—in “The Last Outpost,” Troi was unable to sense anything from them, and “Ménàge à Troi” will establish firmly that Betazoids can’t read Ferengi, but here, Troi senses Goss’s deception and lack of tension.

Make it so: “Who needs rational when your toes curl up?” Back in the rewatch of “The Emissary,” I pointed out that episodes like this succeed or fail on the backs of their guest stars. Suzie Plakson was perfection in the role of K’Ehleyr. Matt McCoy, though, not so much. He’s slimy when he should be charming, scuzzy when he should be charismatic. He has no chemistry with Marina Sirtis whatsoever.

And if the episode was only about the two of them, it would be a disaster, but luckily the sheer charm of Shearer’s script overcomes this. The Ferengi are a nice balance of comical and dangerous, the Crusher-Troi girl-talk scene is one of the best scenes in Trek history, Picard’s exasperated reaction to the Ferengi is priceless, and the dialogue generally just crackles. (“You’re better than you realize.” “Well, I hope I’m better than you realize.”)

The episode could’ve been a lot better than it was, but is still a great deal of fun.

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido has written many books and comics and you can get autographed copies of several of his novels and comic books directly from him. Autographed copies of the print editions of his fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Dragon Precinct (the latter a trade reissue of the 2004 novel) are also available for preorder. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page,his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio,The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

 

19 comments
Mike S.
1. Mike S.
The love story is terrible. Most TNG-romances were of the 42-minute varitey, and with a few exceptions, they usually stunk. No different here.

The rest of the show is pretty good (the chairs dialouge, Riker asking if poker was a game of some sort, Picard telling Worf to tell Goss to "head for the Delta Quadrent, he may see them again in 80 years").

I would like to have seen more of the Federation diplomat after the Ferengi poison, and injure him. Crusher indicates that he will make a full recovery, which makes you wonder if the Ferengi are developing more of that stuff, and building up it's effectivness to be deadly to humans, and take over the Federation one day. As it stands in this episode, it just seems like the type of thing the writer forgot to follow up on.

Because of Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, this episode has aged better then some of the others, but it's still really not that good, IMO.
Mike S.
2. JESilverstein
This episode as always been a mixed bag for me, and you pinpointed exactly the reasons why. Ral is smarmy, not charming, so the romance just makes Troi look remarkably . . . naive somehow. That scene between Troi and Crusher totally saved the episode, though, and I wish there had been more of that sort of girl bonding seen in the series. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for conversations between the two of them about Riker, especially in the wake of "The Host."
Mike S.
3. Christopher L. Bennett
Certainly a pivotal episode for reintroducing the concept of wormholes to ST -- or perhaps introducing them as the kind of interstellar shortcut we know them as now, rather than an unexplained type of warp malfunction as in ST:TMP. At the time of TMP, wormholes were an obscure solution of General Relativity that physicists and writers alike paid little attention to, so it's a testament to TMP's technical advisors that the film even mentioned them. The wormhole concept was popularized by Carl Sagan and Kip Thorne in 1985; Sagan asked physicist Thorne to devise a plausible FTL mechanism for his novel Contact, and once Thorne figured out how to make wormholes viable for the book by postulating "exotic matter," it spawned a whole new field of theoretical physics. This episode was only 4 years later, making it pretty cutting-edge for TV science fiction. We never really saw wormholes as a concept in SF film and TV prior to "The Price," at least not under that name (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century had "stargates" for FTL jumps long before Devlin & Emmerich came along, for example), but they became increasingly commonplace afterward, and we even got whole shows built around them -- DS9, Sliders, Stargate, Farscape to an extent. It goes to show how influential TNG was.

I think this episode was also significant in that it helped define the way the Ferengi ended up being portrayed. The original idea of playing them as a serious threat didn't pan out, so here's where we see them evolve into their more successful role of comic antagonists, more wheeler-dealers and con artists than military opponents.

When VGR: "False Profits" brought Arridor & Kol back, they fudged the numbers a bit to make it happen. From what Data said, A&K were stranded no more than 200 light-years from the Gamma-Delta Quadrant border, but Voyager's course through the DQ at that point would've put it thousands of light-years from the GQ. They also cast a different actor as Kol, who was a nonspeaking role in "The Price."

I think Caldonians are an impressive species (and I included one in my TNG novel The Buried Age). It's too bad we didn't see more of them, but there aren't many actors that tall. The late Kevin Peter Hall was, of course, best known for playing the title creature in the first two Predator films and Bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons.
j p
4. sps49
The "quadrant" division irritates me. What is it based on? What volume does Federation + bordering spheres of influence occupy? Not large, galactically speaking, and it feels like a kid playing on the beach dividing the unknown Pacific Ocean into unknowable partitions.

Voyager would build on this crap foundation and make it worse.

Maybe it's just me.
Mike S.
5. Christopher L. Bennett
By the way, on the bit about Deanna reading the Ferengi, all she said was that she sensed no tension from Goss. She didn't say that was a telepathic perception; it could've just come from reading his body language and vocal cues. After all, he was on the viewscreen, transmitting from another starship. I've always assumed that Deanna's "reading" of people on viewscreens has more to do with body language, microexpressions, the sort of cues that any trained observer can pick up on, rather than with psionic senses, because I have a hard time believing that starships' transmitters, receivers, and display equipment are built in such a way that they can pick up and rebroadcast psionic emanations.

sps49 wrote: "The "quadrant" division irritates me. What is it based on? What volume does Federation + bordering spheres of influence occupy? Not large, galactically speaking, and it feels like a kid playing on the beach dividing the unknown Pacific Ocean into unknowable partitions."

I don't see it as being any more arbitrary than dividing the Earth into hemispheres. And it certainly makes it more convenient to talk about DS9 and VGR. Imagine if, instead of talking about DS9 stuff in the Gamma Quadrant and VGR stuff in the Delta Quadrant, we had to talk about "way over on the other side of the galaxy" versus "way over on the other half of the other side of the galaxy."
Michael Burke
6. Ludon
Dividing the galaxy into the four quadrants was a map making tool - nothing to do with who owns what. Of course, our divisions and thenames we gave them would be meaningless to members of a race living in a system on the other side of the galaxy. Just as beings evolved and living on a planet circling Alpha Centauri would not call them selves Alpha Centorians.
Mike S.
7. Cradok
This is one of the episodes where I'm proud to say that Riker is my favourite TNG character.
Mike S.
8. Pendard
One scene I really like in this episode is the scene where Ral tries to make Riker jealous about his relationship with Troi, and Riker doesn't take the bait. Riker and Troi's relationship is supposed to be loving but not possessive or jealous, and I think this episode got it right. A lot of other episodes try to shoehorn into a more traditional romance, especially in later years, which always disappoints me because it doesn't fit the characters, and because their relationship is so unique among television couples.
Mike S.
9. ronnyc
“Then who gets the chairs?”

I laugh at that line just reading it, don't even have to pull out the DVD to watch it. Pretty funny scene.
Mike S.
10. Maybelle
My favorite part of this episode is the look on the face of the Ferengi when they realize they have been stranded at the wrong end of the wormhole. Absolutely priceless.
Mike S.
11. JimiJ
Matt McCoy played Lloyd Braun on Seinfeld; it's all I can think of when I see him in this episode now.
Justin Devlin
12. EnsignJayburd
Funny how the events of this episode would end up having seismic repercussions on the future of the Star Trek franchise, and yet all I have to say about this episode is...Serenity Now!!!
Mike S.
13. Electone
I like this one. Perhaps it's Ron Jones truly masterful soundtrack, but this one resonates nicely. The Ral/Troi relationship doesn't make sense as he's a scumbag and you'd think she'd have better taste, but perhaps it was completely physical for her. Troi obviously had little respect for him as a person as she got to know him better. This is one of the few bottle shows that doesn't feel constricted as it makes good use of the ship's many sets and the multiple plot lines intermesh well. Blooper note: watch Ral as he puts an empty fork into his mouth...
Michelle Simpson
14. MSimpsonPhotos
I felt like Troi's facial expressions at the beginning with Ral were pained, not suddenly enraptured with this guy. Maybe I just caught the awkwardness of the Ral character and couldn't see why Deanna would be so intrigued. I also kept expecting her to come up with some instance that she had met him before...
Dante Hopkins
15. DanteHopkins
Aside from the great points in the plot you mentioned, I HATED this episode, when I watched it when I was younger and even more so today. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what Troi saw in that guy Ral, who came off as manipualtive and skeezy. The other parts of the episode were great, but as the whole Ral-Troi relationship was at the center, it sank the whole episode. Overall a terrible episode that made Troi look easy and naive.
Dante Hopkins
16. DanteHopkins
I will say additionally, my favorite scene, and the saving grace of the episode, was when Riker turned the tables on Ral in Ten-Foward, deflating that stupid smug grin on Ral's face. Very satisfying!
Mike S.
17. JohnC
The problem with Ral, which was not evident during the series' first run, is that he looks, sounds, and acts too much like Steve Carell. This is the third episode in a row that underwhelmed me, and the main reason is the lack of chemistry between Ral and Troi. It's almost creepy to watch them together. By the way, Sirtis is a lovely woman, but I hope that was a body double during the oily foot fetish scene. That was not a good looking foot, lol. On the other hand, watching Troi and Crusher bending at the waist with a mirror placed strategically so we can watch the fabric strain against their rear ends was... umm, fun. Respectfully, a Neanderthal TNG fan.
Mike S.
18. Tiddles
It's not only the lack of chemistry or charm, Ral is shown to be an arse right away, by how he treats his female companion. Troi gets her warning what happens when the next plaything comes along proudly presented by himself. Or does this work for anyone as showing him meeting his "one true love"?

His lack of charm and that weird blank stare made me expect him to be revealed as the really bad baddy the whole time.
Mike S.
19. Llama
@14. Exactly what I thought. The first scene where she sees him in 10Foreward, I thought she sensed something ominous from him or she was under some kind of subtle psychic attack. The way he was shot and the music felt nothing but creepy to me. It seemed telegraphed that he was bad news.

Then when he crowds her in her office and says he was hoping she was thinking about him, I was certain they had to have a history together. He could not possibly be acting that way towards her when they were complete strangers without Troi calling him on it.

The fact that they haven't met before and it was supposed to be a sincere, appealing romance the whole time is just mind-boggling. High up the considerable list of worst Trek romances.

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