Written by Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 3, Episode 8
Production episode 40273-156
Original air date: November 13, 1989
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every 233 minutes for a few seconds¸ and everyone watches it from Ten-Forward—except for Troi, whose crankiness has been replaced by intrigue regarding Devinoni Ral, a hired negotiator for the Chrysalians.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.