“The Vengeance Factor”
Written by Sam Rolfe
Directed by Timothy Bond
Season 3, Episode 9
Production episode 40273-157
Original air date: November 20, 1989
Captain’s Log: An away team beams down to a research station that’s been looted, the two scientists in charge of it rendered unconscious by multiple phaser hits. Crusher finds blood that turns out to be Acamarian, which means that this and other raids were performed by the Gatherers, a group of Acamarian nomads who have been travelling in packs, raiding outposts and bases.
This is the farthest out the Gatherers have gone, and they’ve been hitting Federation bases. Picard travels to Acamar III to get Sovereign Marouk to try to get the Gatherers to return to their homeworld. A century ago, the Acamarians were engaged in vicious clan warfare. The Gatherers left Acamar to get away from those feuds. Now Acamar is a world of peace, and Marouk has been convinced by Picard to try to bring the Gatherers home.
Marouk brings some aides on board, and the Enterprise goes in search of a Gatherer clan. The sovereign’s cook, Yuta, is a pretty blonde, so of course Riker totally hits on her. She makes a meal for Riker, and he tries to seduce her to only partial success.
Riker, Worf, La Forge, and Data beam down to a Gatherer base, finding all kinds of detritus from all over the sector. They’re ambushed unsuccessfully, with Riker telling the group leader, Brull, at phaser-point that he’s brought Marouk. Brull and the other Gatherers look and act like rejects from an 80s heavy metal band.
Brull reluctantly agrees to sit with Marouk, and he soon comes around to the notion that this might be the right thing for the Gatherers to do. He says he’ll bring it to their leader, Chorgan and have an answer in twenty days. Picard tartly informs Brull that he plans to be as far away from Acamarian space as possible in twenty days. He offers to take Brull along, and the Gatherer reluctantly agrees.
While they’re meeting, Volnoth, an old member of Brull’s group, is approached by Yuta, who says she’s of the Tralesta clan. This shocks Volnoth, as he thought there were no more Tralestas, and then Yuta touches his cheek and he instantly dies.
Brull thinks nothing of an old man dying, but Crusher examines him anyhow. He died of a heart attack—but there’s nothing actually wrong with his heart.
The Enterprise finds Chorgan’s ship, and Chorgan immediately fires on them. Worf manages to disable Chorgan’s shields, at which point he’s willing to talk. Marouk and Picard beam over to discuss with Chorgan the possibility of the Gatherers returning home.
While the very contentious negotiations continue under the watchful and rational eye of Picard, Crusher continues to look into Volnoth’s death. He died of a microvirus that was tailored to particular DNA strands that he only shared with a tiny percentage of other Acamarians. There’s no way this microvirus is naturally occurring.
After gaining access to the Acamarian database, Crusher and Data soon learn that the last person to die of this microvirus was Penthor Mul, a Gatherer who was captured and died during his trial fifty-three years earlier. Data finds a picture of Penthor Mul, and with him in the picture is Yuta—looking exactly the same as she does now, five decades later. Upon realizing this, Riker gets a very peevish expression, though whether it’s due to annoyance at her deception or revulsion at having kissed a really, really old woman is unclear.
Both Volnoth and Penthor Mul were of the Lornak clan—as is Chorgan. And the Lornaks wiped out a clan called Tralesta. Riker beams over to Chorgan’s ship, concerned that Yuta will try to kill Chorgan, who is now the last of the Lornaks. Yuta only denies the truth for about half a second before admitting that she was one of the last five members of the Tralesta clan who survived the massacre. She was chosen to be their final vengeance: genetically engineered to live longer and carry the microvirus that would only kill Lornaks.
Riker shoots her with a phaser, but the stun setting doesn’t actually stop her, so he’s forced to use the kill setting. Chorgan solemnly declares himself in Riker’s debt, and soon there is a truce with the Gatherers pending their reintegration into Acamarian society.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi tells Riker that Brull wants to talk just with Picard and Marouk alone in order to save face—something that the viewer knew from the minute he made the request, so Troi spoonfeeding it two minutes later is overkill.
The Boy!?: Brull feels that having a teenager pilot the ship doesn’t inspire confidence. Picard just stares at him with his Stare of Disapproval until he agrees to provide Wes with the course to where Chorgan is. Later, Brull makes a vague attempt at bonding with Wes—by swiping his homework and not even pretending to understand it, before stunning Wes by revealing that he’s a father.
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data opens a jammed door that Worf can’t open, and also digs up the specifics of Yuta’s background by finding an old photograph.
He also refers to campfires as “small areas of thermal radiation and carbon dioxide emissions, indicative of combustion.”
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf sees Brull’s ambush coming a mile off. In general, he’s a very effective security chief and tactical officer in this episode, which is refreshing.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Riker hits all over Yuta from the microsecond she walks on board. He starts by going for the way-to-a-man-is-through-his-stomach cliché by asking her to prepare an Acamarian meal for him. He and Troi taste the meal in Ten-Forward, and then Troi instantly realizes that she’s a third wheel and leaves. Riker then tries to work his magic, only to watch his crest fall when Marouk calls Yuta away.
Later she goes to Riker’s quarters, but she doesn’t know how to be anything but a servant, where Riker prefers equals.
I Believe I Said That: “Your ambushes would be more successful if you bathed more often.”
Worf offering constructive criticism of Brull’s ambushing techniques.
Welcome Aboard: Joey Aresco and Stephen Lee pretty much do what they’re supposed to do as Brull and Chorgan. Lisa Wilcox is fairly bland as Yuta, though that’s kind of what the role calls for.
But the episode’s awesomeness quotient is raised considerably by having Miss Balbricker herself, Nancy Parsons, best known for her portly gym teacher in the Porky’s movies, as Sovereign Marouk.
Trivial Matters: A directorial choice by Timothy Bond wound up backfiring. He wanted to have Yuta’s disintegration reveal Picard sitting behind her. But in order for that shot to work, Sir Patrick Stewart had to sit stock still, and that meant it seemed like Picard was having no reaction to Riker shooting someone in front of him.
Make it So: “He isn’t any good at math.” I always thought of this episode as “the Attack of the Metalhead Frat Boys.” It’s entertaining to watch the goofball antics of the Gatherers on a show that is usually so staid and stolid. Unfortunately, that’s really all the episode has going for it. It goes through the plot motions with a few entertaining lines here and there, and has a nasty tragic ending for Riker, but that’s about it. Perfectly average.
Warp factor rating: 5
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.