Jun 22 2012 4:05pm

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”“The Game”
Written by Susan Sackett & Fred Bronson and Brannon Braga
Directed by Corey Allen
Season 5, Episode 6
Production episode 40275-206
Original air date: October 28, 1991
Stardate: 45208.2

Captain’s Log: Riker is vacationing on Risa, having invited a Ktarian woman named Etana back to his room. She gives him a headset, which she describes as a game that “everyone” is playing. It’s fairly simple: you put a disk into a cup that grows out of what looks like a checkerboard, but when Riker succeeds, he gets a brief feeling of euphoria. Etana encourages him to take it to Level 2—which is two disks and two cups, and presumably twice the euphoria…

Riker returns to the ship while it’s en route to the Phoenix Cluster. Their exploration of the cluster—which requires 15 new science teams to beam on board—has been cut from five weeks to two weeks, which requires a great deal of juggling on the part of Riker, La Forge, and the engineer the latter has promoted to mission specialist, Ensign Robin Lefler.

Riker meets up with Troi, and tells her that he has a game he got on Risa that’s even better than chocolate (which excites Troi very much). Meanwhile, a ship rendezvouses with the Enterprise carrying Cadet Wesley Crusher, who beams on board. After greeting O’Brien, Wes is surprised that no one came to meet him in the transporter room. O’Brien says there’s a senior staff meeting. Wes asks if he can stop by, and O’Brien checks with the bridge, where Worf says he supposes it’ll be okay if he does so.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

Wes goes to a darkened observation lounge, and then the lights go up and he realizes that the “meeting” is a surprise party for him. Picard greets him in Latin, Crusher thinks he wears the uniform well, La Forge assumes the chicks dig the uniform (because who’s a better authority on what women like than Geordi La Forge????), Riker asks him to help out with the Phoenix Cluster survey, and Data asks if he was cool with the surprise. Troi also tells Crusher about an awesome game she’s been playing.

Data and Wes compare awkward Academy stories, from the practical jokes to the agony of the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Wes immediately gets to work, where he meets Lefler (and is introduced to “Lefler’s Laws,” starting with #17: when all else fails, do it yourself), and is totally taken with her—as is she with him.

Crusher calls Data to sickbay, allegedly to help him reprogram a tricorder—then turns him off. Riker and Troi join Crusher and do some sabotaging of Data.

Wes has tea with Picard and the former tells the latter about how he’s doing at the Academy, including his teachers and his meeting with Boothby the groundskeeper (the latter at Picard’s suggestion back in “Final Mission”). Tea is interrupted by Crusher, who reports that Data is malfunctioning.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

La Forge and Riker check Data’s quarters and personal log to try to find some reason why he lapsed into the android equivalent of a coma, but they find nothing. Riker suggests he take a break and play this game he got on Risa…

Lefler and Wes work together and also flirt like mad. Wes invites her to coffee at 1900 in Ten-Forward, which she refuses—instead saying she’ll meet him for dinner. Wes then walks in on Crusher playing the game. She says it was actually meant for Wes, but she couldn’t resist. He declines the option to play the game—Crusher covers her insistence on his playing it with maternal desire to spend time with her son—as he’s focused on getting ready for his date.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

The date starts with Lefler telling Wes about her life, and the conversation later modulates to discussing the game, which a large chunk of the ship is playing. Like true geeks, Wes and Lefler want to know how it works before they play it, so they hook it up to the medical computer. They soon learn that it’s psychotropically addictive, stimulating the pleasure center of the brain, but neutralizing the reasoning center. Wes immediately reports it to Picard, who expresses concern and promises an immediate investigation—then, as soon as Wes leaves, he starts once again playing the game he quickly hid when Wes came in.

The game is going through the ship like wildfire, and Robin and Wes are having a harder time resisting people’s exhortations to play it. It’s also suspicious that Data—who wouldn’t be affected by the game—fell unconscious right when the game started spreading. Wes and Robin discover that Data’s been sabotaged subtly and expertly, which meant it had to be done by La Forge or Crusher.

On the bridge, a ship rendezvouses with the Enterprise, and Picard then advises the bridge crew to make sure everyone on board has a game. Crusher and Worf arrive at the former’s quarters, to find Wes and Robin playing the game—except they’re pretending to, using mockups. It’s enough to fool Worf and Crusher, apparently.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

Etana rendezvouses with the Enterprise, where Picard reports that the ship is secured for her. She starts giving the crew instructions on how to distribute the games further—Riker to the Endeavour, La Forge and Troi to Starbase 67.

Wes goes to engineering, having created a site-to-site transporter program, but Lefler’s been compromised. Worf and Riker are in engineering and chase him, but he activates the program, which brings him to deck six. He tosses his combadge and hides in the Jefferies Tubes—but Worf tracks him and he and Riker are able to grab him and bring him to the bridge. The bridge crew hold him down and Picard places the game on his head, Riker and Worf forcing his eyes open as they activate the game (providing Wes with his very own A Clockwork Orange moment!).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

And then the lights go out on the bridge, and Data strides on through a turbolift, hitting the crew with concentrated light pulses, which breaks the programming. Then he turns the lights back up on the bridge, and orders Worf to secure the alien ship off the starboard bow with a tractor beam.

Wes, it turns out, reconnected Data’s positronic net, and while Wes led everyone on a merry chase, Data was able to reprogram the palm beacon.

The Enterprise rendezvouses with the Merrimack, which will take Wes back to the Academy. He has a kissy-face-filled goodbye with Lefler. She gifts him with a book filled with all 102 of her laws.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The game apparently stimulates the frontal lobe, accessing it through the eyes: every time someone activates the game, beams emit from it into the eyes. It’s never made clear how the game can possibly work on La Forge, whose eyes a) don’t work and b) are blocked by the VISOR. For that matter, Klingon brains are obviously shaped differently, so how does it work on Worf? (Hell, how’d they get him to play it?)

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Riker sees Troi in Ten-Forward with chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate fudge and chocolate chips. She insists she’s not depressed, at which point Riker asks if “you two want to be alone.” But Troi allows him to join “them,” and proceeds to wax rhapsodic (and more than a little erotic) on the subject of the experience of chocolate. (She also didn’t know that Riker doesn’t like fudge. They’re former lovers and have a telepathic bond, how could she not know that?I mean, seriously, I can tell you the chocolate-eating habits of every woman I’ve ever dated, and I didn’t have a telepathic bond with any of them. Sheesh.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf makes Tarvokian pound cake for Wes’s surprise party, a skill he has never demonstrated before or since.

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data was apparently the victim of practical jokes at the Academy, and had difficulty with social interaction. He is also taken out of action early on, as the game won’t work on him.

The Boy!?: Wes comes back for vacation and is immediately put to work, then gets to (surprise!) save the ship. Again. As an added bonus, he gets the girl.

No Sex Please, We’re Starfleet: Wes and Lefler are all over each other pretty much from jump. It’s actually kinda cute, especially since they meet geeky.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

I Believe I Said That: “Well, tell ’em to flip a coin. We’ve got to work together on this mission, otherwise we’re never gonna get it done.”

“A coin. Very good. I will replicate one immediately.”

La Forge making a smartass remark about solving a resource-allocation problem with the sensors, and Data taking him a bit too literally.

Welcome Aboard: Wil Wheaton returns for the first time since departing the main cast in “Final Mission,” the first of four times he’ll reappear on the series following that departure. Ashley Judd returns as Lefler, a much more substantial appearance than her cameo in “Darmok.” Katherine Moffat plays Etana, and is much stronger as Riker’s playmate in the teaser than she is as a threatening presence later on (she’ll also appear, far more effectively, in the Deep Space Nine episode “Necessary Evil”).

Trivial Matters: Lefler will go on to become a regular character in Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier novel series, starting out as ops officer on the U.S.S. Excalibur, later becoming the First Lady (and eventually leader, after her husband’s death) of the New Thallonian Protectorate. The origin of her personal laws was provided in the short story “Lefler’s Logs” by Robert Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”Greenberger in the New Frontier anthology No Limits (which was co-edited by David and your humble rewatcher). Lefler also appeared regularly in the TNG comic book written by Michael Jan Friedman, published by DC in the early 1990s.

Six of Lefler’s laws are established in this episode. Three more will be established in the comics, with another six in various New Frontier novels.

Data references Crusher teaching him to dance in “Data’s Day” (prompting an amused, “the ‘Dancing Doctor’?” comment from Wes), and offers to tutor Wes in dancing.

This is the first onscreen reference to the O’Briens’ daughter’s name, Molly.

This was the first episode to air following Gene Roddenberry’s death. Ironically, the story pitch for the episode was co-written by Roddenberry’s longtime assistant (and illicit lover) Susan Sackett, who was freshly out of a job when it aired. (Anecdotally, Roddenberry’s widow Majel Barrett fired Sackett herself.)

Brannon Braga had been made a full staff writer for the fifth season (after being an intern for the fourth), and turning Sackett and Bronson’s pitch—which had been batting around since the fourth season—into a workable script was his first assignment in that position.

Corey Allen also directed Wes’s first appearance in “Encounter at Farpoint” and his last episode as a regular, “Final Mission.” He will direct Wes’s final appearance on the show, “Journey’s End” in the seventh season.

A rumor started online that Judd would be joining Wheaton for his cameo in Star Trek Nemesis, based on something Judd said on an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman—except Judd didn’t appear on Letterman at any point proximate to when the rumor started. The rumor went so far that IMDB’s listing for Nemesis had Judd in the cast list for some time.

Make it So: “Your neutrinos are drifting.” This episode does have its moments. For starters, Lefler is a wonderful character, and Judd’s chemistry with Wheaton is actually quite excellent. They’re a very convincing couple. Several individual scenes are well played, including the surprise party, Wes and Picard’s talk over tea, Wes and Data’s comparing notes on awkward Academy stuff, and the teaser with Riker and Etana. And the moment when Data walks on board the darkened bridge to save the day is pretty awesome.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on “The Game”

But overall, the episode is simply awful, contriving a ridiculous scenario in order to allow Wes to save the ship. It simply strains credulity that so many people would try the game—and that Wes and Lefler wouldn’t. It’s also impossible to credit that the device as portrayed could possibly work on La Forge, nor how anyone would get Worf to even try it. (Both those things happen conveniently off-screen.) The game itself is pretty doofy, with cheesy graphics that were already dated in 1991, but that actually didn’t bother me so much, as the game itself is just a cover for the brainwashing. Having said that, the brainwashing itself is absurdly convenient. It allows everyone to behave normally when the plot calls for it (like when they’re trying to stop Wes, or when they need to, y’know, operate the ship), but somehow also turns them into drooling idiots who talk like they’ve smoked a ton of weed.

Just a stupid story.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido didn’t do a rewatch on Tuesday because he was finishing his Leverage novel The Zoo Job, which will be out in the spring of 2013. Fitting, since Wil Wheaton plays the recurring role of Ka0s on that show…

1. Rowanblaze
I'm surprised you didn't bring anything up about modern gaming's potentially addictive qualities.
Alan Courchene
2. Majicou
Zynga in the 24th century!

Seriously, though, The Game here manages to out-stupid any real game I've ever seen (yes, including E.T.) I know that TV writers aren't game designers, but this thing is just a big pile of nothing. To think that if they had Internet critics in the Federation, the plan might've been foiled from the start ("It has a Metacritic score of 1.2 x 10^-32? Pass.")

The Ktarians ended up looking different and being apparent Federation allies or even members later on in VOY. I suppose we can imagine that Etana is just a rogue operator, although if she is working for someone else, they'd have great plausible deniability: "Come on, do you really think anybody would come up with such a stupid plan?" Oh, and Kirk apparently cooked Ktarian eggs back in his time. But what's one little attempt to overthrow the Federation compared to 100+ years of contact?
4. Mike Kelm
I have to start with the obligatory... any episode with Ashley Judd gets an immediate bump due to the fact that, well, she's Ashley Judd. How they failed to turn her into a more re-occurring character is beyond me, but she quickly had a series of her own and moved onto bigger and better things. Now pardon me while I mop up the drool.

I agree that Wes and Lefler have good romantic chemistry and are believable as a pair of young officers in puppy love with each other. But I agree with KRAD that the basic plot is a bit dumb. Somehow, everyone on the ship plays the game? Really? We don't see them, but I presume there is at least one Vulcan on board, and an Andorian, and we know there is at least one do we get them all playing and make sure that it affects their brain the same way? And what exactly is the endgame here? Take over the entire fleet and therefore the Federation? As far as diabolical plots to take over the universe, this one was about one step above Pinky and the Brain and several behind your typical Batman villain. Narf.

Also (I realize this is 1991 special effects and on a budget) but that has to be the stupidest looking game ever. I was playing Microprose games that had better graphics than that, so from the viewer perspective it just looked dumb. It probably would have been a better decision if we never saw the game and just sort of took it for granted that it was really cool and felt really good beamed into your brain.
5. StrongDreams
The difference between this episode and "The Naked Now" is Ashley Judd. All is forgiven.
6. RobinM
This episode has a stupid premise but can be sumed up with "Aw, it's cute Wesley has a girlfriend." I also found the Lefler's Laws thing annoying both in the books and on screen. Unless your Moses I don't need to know your Laws.
Michael Burstein
7. mabfan
Stories that involve mind control (or similar things) tend to freak me out. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to skip your rewatch of "Frame of Mind" or not...

-- Michael A. Burstein
8. Rowanblaze
I posted witha a link but it got gaught by the spam filter. There's a real game called Mind Flex where you use your brain waves to float a little ball through some hoops. Probably not as addictive as the game in the episode, but despite the cheesiness of the effects I could see it attracting someone at least initally as a curiosity. Not everyone would though, as has been mentioned, not even all the main characters would be easily induced to play the game, much less any number of potential species on the ship.
9. Ender
Aww! I loved this episode! Cheesy, yes, but fun. I guess because I was around Wes's age when it aired, I don't mind so much him getting to save the ship. Even as an adult watching it now, I don't mind. However, I'm sure if they had some kid on Fringe who got to save the universe every 5 episodes, I'd be annoyed by that, so I get it.
11. critter42
Well, considering I just spent the last two hours doing nothing but clicking a "Spin" button on a Facebook game, I think the mechanism makes MORE sense than it did back in 91
Jack Flynn
12. JackofMidworld
Agreed, on the cheesiness of the game (but you have to admit, tho, a lot of people do play Farmville), and congrats on finishing up another novel!
14. Linds
I liked this episode. It was full of cheese, but the game was no more dumb than half the games we play today. Their graphics were awful, but I've spent hours dropping little numbered discs in rows, so the idea that someone could embed an addiction inside a game is not exactly... unheard of. Also, I love any episode with Wesley being adorable,
rob mcCathy
15. roblewmac
is this REALLY about vidieo games or the zillionth rewrite of a script about drugs?
Alan Courchene
16. Majicou
@8: Yeah, those little BCI games have been around a little while. They don't really shore up the episode, though. Back in "The Nth Degree," it was weird that brain-computer interfaces were declared to be beyond Federation technology, given that we have primitive versions now. And, er, that they totally exist in this episode. But from our 21st-century perspective, The Game is made to look even more primitive and stupid.
Joseph Newton
17. crzydroid
I was really bothered that the two of them seemed to know everything there is to know about psychology. Ok, Ensign Engineer, you're a doctor now? You have a PhD in neuroscience, but you decided to be an engineer, because you're good at that too. Even if Wes was a wiz kid that knew all that stuff (I still found it a bit of a stretch), there is no reason to believe that Lefler would know ANY of it.

I also wondered how they would convince the Vulcans to play.
Michael Burstein
18. mabfan
@10. PrinceJvstin

Glad I'm not the only one...

-- Michael A. Burstein
19. Scavenger
I always felt the Game was commentary on TETRIS, which was another very simple game (Stack blocks) that was incredibly addictive and played by everyone at the time.


The story about the rumor about Ashley Judd being in Nemesis is interesting. That's the kind of thing a diabolitical genius would do!
20. Rowanblaze
@16 Oh yeah, today's games do nothing for the episode's plausibility, but they do illustrate that the game in the episode is plausible. Did anybody else get "addicted" to "the glow" of leveling in WoW?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
21. Lisamarie
Well, the game is addictive not because it's an awesome game, but becuase it stimulates your brain directly...I don't think they had to spend much time on making the game good.

I did enjoy this episode despite it being kind of fluffy, and I did like the Leffler/Wesley pairing (I thought it was rather cute how they bonded over wanting to know how the game works) but I ALSO found her laws rather annoying. To be honest, if somebody in real life started telling me all their 'laws' (which aren't even that original) I'd think they were rather pretentious. Plus, for all her 'don't depend on anybody, everybody will let you down' schtick, she really wasn't that way.

I thought the chocolate scene was really akward. I mean, I love chocolate too but I don't treat it like an erotic experience when I eat it.

Count me as another who wondered how this game managed to affect the brains of diverse species and blind men.

No comment on the Sadie Hawkins dance and how ridiculous it is that in the 24th century women asking men out is apparently still seen as a novelty? ;)
22. Christopher L. Bennett
Keith, you and I are in complete agreement about this episode. All I can add to your analysis is that one of the problems of this episode is that it's the only one that really fits the stereotype of "boy genius singlehandedly saves the ship." Sure, there were earlier episodes where Wes had the key insight or innovation that saved the day -- building the tractor emitter in "The Naked Now," suspecting Lore in "Datalore," recognizing Riker's code in "Menage a Troi" -- but in those cases his contribution was actually just one part of the team effort, and at least some of the other characters got to make a contribution. Indeed, after the first season, Wil Wheaton went to the producers and specifically asked them not to do any more "Wesley saves the ship" stories.

Here, though, the plot contrives to neutralize every one of the regulars so that Wes and a guest star we've barely seen before are the only ones who can save the day (sure, Data helps out in the climax, but only after Wes reactivates him). So it's basically a self-fulfilling stereotype, what TV Tropes calls a Flanderization of the character. Heck, throw in the fact that his helper is a hot girl who's crazy about him for no clear reason, and it brings the Wesley Crusher character to critical Mary Sue mass. I'm surprised Wheaton even agreed to do it.
23. Gerry__Quinn
Majicou @ 2:

"Kirk apparently cooked Ktarian eggs"

Maybe that's why they want revenge!
24. Christopher Walsh
This episode came up in a trivia night at a bar. The host asked what the game rewarded you with. Someone yelled "Worst TNG episode ever!" And I yelled back "Come on! It had Ashley Judd in it! Back when she was cool!" The host then said "Bonus point! Who guest-starred in the episode?"

I probably yelled "F***" the loudest I've ever yelled it. I added "I HAVEN'T READ THE QUESTIONS, REALLY."
25. Jeremy M.
"brain-computer interfaces were declared to be beyond Federation technology"

I draw your attention to LAFORGE'S VISOR!

...oh, that's right, we haven't gotten to that episode yet...
26. John R. Ellis
Yeah, this one is pretty boring.

Still, I love the note of convincing shared horror when Data and Wesley discuss the more awkward Academy traditions.
27. PRationality
"Worf makes Tarvokian pound cake for Wes’s surprise party, a skill he has never demonstrated before or since."

Possibly because when he made it before no one survived to tell the tale and the only reason everyone was as doofus as they were was because they had a piece of his cake at the party and thus Starfleet and the Federation made it a new LAW that Worf couldn't bake. Ever again.
Chin Bawambi
28. bawambi
Wow, was this episode terrible. With Ashley Judd this episode rises to a two for me only because I reserve 1 for the clip episode which will not be named.
Chin Bawambi
29. bawambi
Oh and the orgasmic tendencies of Troi related to chocolate are quite accurate and a running joke in the show. Keith nailed it though - there is NO WAY someone with a chocolate obsession doesn't know every detail of a former lover's chocolate obsession level.
Rob Rater
30. Quasarmodo
Maybe Riker started disliking chocolate after his relationship with Troi ended. As Troi was so chocolate obsessed, seeing chocolate reminded him of her, and so he started avoiding it.
Alyssa Tuma
31. AlyssaT
I thought the Riker/Etana opening was a perfect example of how chemistry can make or break these type of corny scenes. Actually, although the episode as a whole is tremendously lame, I thought this little Risa interlude was convincing and kind of charming. Contrast to a couple weeks back during Silicon Avatar where I literally had to fast forward through the awfulness of Riker and Carmen discussing "dessert." Ugh.

Also, between "the game" and super-complicated-seeming tri-dimensional chess and Dax's brain teaser holographic sphere from DS9, I'm hoping that I can bring my circa 2002 Game Boy Advance when I get my Starfleet appointment. Metroid Fusion has to be way better than these options :)

And Ashley Judd is just adorable.
Justin Devlin
32. EnsignJayburd
As far as diabolical plots to take over the universe, this one was about
one step above Pinky and the Brain and several behind your typical
Batman villain. Narf.
"Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"Errrm...I think so, Brain. Poyt. But 'ow are we gonna get a Klingon, blind man, and a bald Captain to play a video game? NARF!"
33. TBGH
Incredibly surprised at how poorly this episode is perceived. I remember this as the best Wesley-centric episode in the series. It made total sense that the 'users' would focus on the senior officers first and is it so hard to believe Riker could convince his friends to at least try it once if he really insisted? After that we don't know how many people were introduced using physical force. I didn't really have a problem with them infecting Worf or Geordi. I figure that they knew who the officers were beforehand (from Riker if from no other source) and therefore designed it to affect the visor and Klingons as well as normal humans.

As for the brain-linked interface, considering Barkley designed one not too long ago, I figured Star Trek's public stance was that such technology did not exist while they secretly worried about it in the background and repressed it as being too dangerous.

I'm a sucker for episodes that feature minor crewmen in major ways because I was always wondering, "What the heck are the other 1,000 doing there if the senior officers have to solve every problem?"

As such, great episode in my opinion.
Alice Arneson
34. Wetlandernw
Lisamarie @21 - Thank you! Obviously the game-play itself was not terribly good (okay, it was lame!), but it didn't need to be great. It only needed to keep you mildly interested long enough to drop the first disk and get your little jolt, and then you decide to try it again... and next thing you know, you're hooked and it's playing with your brain.
Robbie C
35. leandar
For some reason and I'm not sure why, but when Data first came on the bridge, I was kinda hoping for a bit of confrontation between him and the others trying to possess Wesley, at least them rushing him as he starts to flash the light in their faces.
Keith DeCandido
36. krad
For everyone's information, due to technical difficulties beyond anyone's control (something involving Chris Lough's hat, a rubber chicken, and a horde of angry llamas), the rewatch of "Unification I" will not go up until 10am Wednesday morning. We apologize for the delay, and you can be assured that the llamas have been sacked.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Joseph Newton
37. crzydroid
@16, 25, 33, RE: Starfleet technology and neural interfaces.

I think there is some confusion going around here. In "The Nth Degree," Barclay asked for a specific kind of device, and the computer responded that no such device was on file. It never said such a device was beyond Federation technology. Obviously it wasn't, as Barclay was able to instruct the computer on how to build one. Starfleet had never designed a neural interface device of that sophistication or for that purpose before. Obviously Geordi's VISOR, while have a direct interface to the brain, was a totally different technology.

And TBGH, the event of Barclay creating one is the exact thing that Majicou is mistakenly referencing at 16. So it's not driving a secret public/private stance motive of Starfleet.
Jenny Thrash
38. Sihaya
I kept thinking about the commentary on Troi and chocolate after this article. It seemed to me that at the time it was perfectly common for folks to explicitly and exagerratedly connect food (and especially chocolate) to ecstatic and even sexual experience. Wasn't that a thing in the late eighties and early nineties, or was I wrong? Where did my impression come from? I mean Nine and a Half Weeks and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover both used food erotically, but they didn't exactly bring it the idea to the level of a nonchalantly used middle class meme.

And then Nora Ephron died, and every blog in the country replayed the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally, the one that ends with the line, "I'll have what she's having." Oh yeah, that's where it came from.
39. Ginomo
This episode would have been so much better had we seen Worf playing The Game.
Elizabeth Heckert
40. silhouettepoms
Aw i always loved this one. Probably because I had a crush on Wesley and wanted to be Lefler!! LMAO. Geesh I was 8 when this aired? Really? I remember watching these episodes on Saturday evenings...
41. Llama
@22. Disagree. I really think this is the most/only plausible 'Weasley saves the ship' episode I've yet watched. It makes sense he sort of slips through the net of the game because he's not important and wasn't even expected to be there by the sabeteurs. Besides which, he doesn't save them with his awesome boy genius smarts and ultimately cannot help them at all. The only thing he actually does is reactivate Data and presumably bring him up to speed. Data is the one who saves them.

I found it a reasonably enjoyable episode. It's the incerdibly awkward-to-watch orgasm acting that brings it down, if anything does. Second place going to everyone acting so normal after they were brainwashed. That felt strange.
42. Bernadette S. Marchetti
@40 I'm glad I'm not the only one who had a crush on Wesley Crusher. When I was younger, I wanted to name my son Westley (after the character in The Princess Bride).
Jack Flynn
43. JackofMidworld
I recently (well, finally), upgraded to a smartphone. Was sitting at a red light today and caught myself reaching for my phone to play a game I'd downloaded and all I could think of was this episode.
44. SnookyTLC
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers." No one mentioned this, but the building dread of being isolated as everyone else around you has their mind subsumed by aliens? I've seen and enjoyed this story before. When it comes down to just Wesley and his girlfriend, like in the Body Snatchers, then she's taken over, like in the Body Snatchers, then Wesley alone is running from them as they hunt for him, and they're planning ways to spread the devices (pods) -- all Body Snatchers. Quite fun, actually.

I'm rewatching all the episodes right now, and reading along as I watch. This is the first time I felt compelled to post, since no one else mentioned the Body Snatchers parallels.
Dante Hopkins
45. DanteHopkins
Can't agree, Keith. Any episode that has the crew acting outside the norm of galactic do-gooders is always worth the hour. And Ashley Judd is in it. It was nice to see Wil Wheaton again, and I didn't think of this episode as him saving the day. And Ashley Judd is in it. I liked how the crew is so calm about their planning the takeover of the Federation for the Ktarians. Creepy. And Ashley Judd is in it. Its a bizarre ride from start to finish, which is why I liked this one so much.

Oh, did I forget to mention Ashley Judd was in this one?
46. Parzival
Arise, O thread!

Just re-watched this myself last night (though I've always despised the episode) and had to google to see what others thought. I had completely forgotten the TOR re-watch, so it was a bit of a d'oh moment when it popped up... but I digress.

Put me in the camp of thinking this may be the lamest episode since that horrid Riker flashback thing... (what is it with Riker episodes?)

I shan't list the objections mentioned before, but my biggest objection is this: Why wasn't Riker court-martialled? Because of his personal indiscretions he places not only his ship but Starfleet and the entire Federation in grave danger... and the only response from his superior officer and apparently Starfleet command doesn't even amount to so much as a collective shrug? In a *real* military organization this incident would at least have triggered a formal inquiry (even the nonsensical "quasi-military" that is Starfleet). Yes, one can argue that Riker was an innocent dupe, but after two hundred years of studying espionage and dealing with the deviousness of Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians and Ferengi, nobody ever thinks to warn command level officers about the dangers of a "honey trap"? Picard's first action after securing the criminal should be to haul Riker's butt into the ready room for a dressing down that would power the warp core for three years. Riker's the XO of the flagship, the most powerful ship in the fleet and one that any enemy would love to simply get information about, and he doesn't have the foresight to think "the random women I meet might not be all that random?" Come on, man, the beard's not all that.
And even if dressing-downs aren't Picard's style, there'd be admirals who'd take the role. Riker would count himself lucky to keep his rank, much less his position in the fleet. But no, at the end of this episode all we get is back-to-business-as-usual.
As it is, this episode has all the flavor of a "writers' round table," especially in the scene where Wes and Robin talk through all the convenient little explanations that knock aside everything that should have prevented this nefarious plot from working from the get-go: Objection. Techno-babble counter claim. Objection. Techno-babble counter claim.
And then all that is needed reverse the effects of intense mind control is a flickering flashlight?
Yes, Judd was cute, and she and Wheaton made a believable first crush couple, but that's all this episode has going for it.
The idea should have been struck down as soon as someone said, "There's this addictive game, see, and Riker gets it on Risa..."
Nothing good ever happens on Risa.
48. Ellis K.
I stopped reading these things a while back--the guy who writes them has NO IDEA what he's talking about, and I mean NONE--but in my personal rewatch, I stopped back to check out the total mess the "humble rewatcher" made of this episode. I'm tired of having this incredible television show diminished in my eyes with this guy's petty dreck, so I skipped to the "warp factor" rating, and lo and behold, it was a three. (Shakes head with rueful grin.) Folks, this show is a ten, if not an eleven--the single very best show ever produced by ANY Star Trek franchise. Through the lens of science fiction, it discusses the immense problem we have in our society, which is that people are all being herded like sheep into addictive fascination with our own version of the "game"--personal electronic devices. You can walk down a city street or be hanging around a group of people anywhere and be amazed and horrified at the vast numbers of people who are completely immersed in their devices, with one hand cradling it and the other hand stroking it to produce the desired gratification. And underneath this addiction is a desire to control and dominate, just like with the "game" in this episode. I think of this episode VERY frequently, and it actually gives me wisdom and strength to know that the Star Trek writers saw this happening in it's very infancy and crafted a show about it. But that's not all--not even close. To see Wesley again, MUCH more grown up, MUCH more self-confident, MUCH better written (and with Wil Wheaton now a MUCH better actor)--the way Wesley refuses to go with the flow, this strength that his difference as a person now affords him, where before it was a weakness--just great. And Ashley Judd as Robin Leffler is the single best single-serving guest part in the history of Star Trek, and I ain't kidding. She's so wonderfully adorable, so fully realized as a character (with her ambition, her backstory, and her "laws", sculpted in broad strokes with just enough detail to be compelling), and so marvelously brought to life by the young and exceptional Ms. Judd--she's a delight, and her brief affair with Wesley is touching--my people, if you don't get it about this absolutely marvelous episode, you simply don't understand this show and how wonderful it was. This is the best television ever made, and I feel sorry for anyone who misses out on the magic and wonder of Star Trek TNG, and most especially "The Game."
49. Kellia
Was I the only one absolutely cracking up watching this episode? Such an uncomfortable experience, but worth it for the sheer hilarity. So many dang double entendres. I also agree with Keith that if you ignore the utterly ridiculous, most of the other parts (especially Wesley's talks with Data and Picard) are really well done--shows the maturity of the show, I think.

I also agree with @41 that this is one of the better "Wesley saves the ship!" episodes...or maybe it's just that anything is better than him poking buttons at random on a tricorder to save the day in "Final Mission." Some cool ideas for him to trick the ship's sensors, and the chase scene in the jefferies tube is actually pretty exciting. Data's bit at the end was a lot more deus ex machina than Wesley's--I'm still a little fuzzy on how a blinky light would fix everything, but what do I know.

Imo, the ultimate "so bad it's good" episode.
50. LtCmdrAmart
I loved this episode when it first came out because I was 9 and didn't know any better, and also because it was Wesley's triumphant return (once again, didn't know any better). Amazingly, I still really like this episode as an adult, despite knowing how bad of story it is. The scenes themsleves are good for the most part, and Wesley is a touch less annoying than he was back when he was part of the cast. He follows this up with his best performance in Trek ever, "The First Duty".
51. TDV
Brent Spiner has a hilarious moment in this episode that's easy to miss. During the surprise party, when Wesley quips, "For a minute I thought I was on the wrong ship!" The other officers all chuckle, and Data is caught off-guard by the joke, but quickly recovers and lets out a super corney "ha-ha-ha-ha". It really cracked me up, but I don't remember ever noticing it before this watch.
52. kkhin
So at this point, Wesley has graduated from single handedly saving the ship to single handedly saving all of starfleet (the game was going to be introduced to all starbases and starfleet academy..) When I originally watched TNG I was seriously beginning to wait for the episodes where Wesley saves the entire Q Continuum, then the Universe, and subsequently all multiverses that exist, all in a day's (episode's) work of course. I think they were beginning to work up to that with the "Wesley becomes Superman who traverses time and space with the traveler" thing when Wheaton probably said "this is too much" and mercifully pulled the plug on the character for good.
53. sotexmike
i have never witnessed a man so uncomfortable with a woman as riker was in this episode, the way he squirmed beneath that woman had me rollin. shoulda been a nice showcase for ms, judd, i love her.
54. Steve C.
Come on, Keith, it's a lot of fun, from the great chemistry between Wes and Lefler to Wes being chased down by Roker and Worf in the Jeffries tubes at the end. Data cutting the lights and using his futuristic strobe light is particularly awesome as well. Let's give it a 7.

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