Written by Herbert Wright, Richard Krzemien, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Richard Colla
The most wonderful thing about the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Last Outpost is that it introduces us to a race which will be featured not only later on in this series, but very prominently in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
All that is known of the Ferengi at this point are rumors and conjecture. During this episode we learn of their profit above all else philosophy: caveat emptor.
The Enterprise is pursuing the Ferengis after they snatched an energy converter. The ship is stopped in its pursuit and the power is being drained. At first, Picard believes the Ferengi are behind the situation and that the Federation has greatly underestimated the depth of Ferengi technology.
I felt at this point that Picard was written too weak. Too quickly, it seemed that he was willing to discuss terms for surrender with the Ferengi. To compare it to the original Star Trek series, I don’t believe Kirk would have thought of surrendering as quickly. This also does not seem to be the Captain Picard we know later in the series who will battle the Borg and mediate in a Klingon Civil War.
The crew of the Enterprise soon learn that the Ferengi are in the same predicament. Picard negotiates an agreement to work together to solve the problem of the power drain. The two ships were so caught up in the situation between the two of them that they failed to notice what was happening on the planet around which they are orbiting. The planet is believed to be the last outpost of an ancient civilization – the Tkon Empire – which once numbered in the trillions.
Riker, Worf, Tasha, and Geordi beam down to the planet surface. It is at this time they learn of the actual size of the Ferengi – they are quite a bit shorter than humans. This makes for a somewhat humorous bit when the two landing parties begin to scuffle with each other. A guardian of the portal appears and challenges the two landing parties. The Ferengi try to deceive the guardian, but Riker approaches him honestly and manages to get power restored to the Enterprise just in time to prevent the crew from losing life support completely.
There was one well-written subtle analogy in this episode of Data playing with the Chinese yo-yo (or finger toy as it’s called here). With both fingers in as he pulled, neither of his hands would become free. However, when he gave with one side, both managed to free-up. This was a great analogy to the situation. The writers never directly refer to it; there is no time when Picard says, “Hey, this is just like Data’s finger toy!” Rather, it’s just put out there for people to pick up on their own.
The one main inconsistency I found was the value that is placed on gold here. In the Star Trek universe, the emphasis is placed on gold-presses latinum, and not the gold itself. It is said that gold is “worthless” and that the latinum is tremendously valuable.
As far as first-season episodes go, this one was pretty good. The writing is good, even though we know the Enterprise will ultimately escape. Only Picard seems to be out-of-character for a Captain. The rest of the crew seem to be consistently written. There is a hint at a deeper relationship between Picard and Dr. Crusher, but little information other than the continued hints are given here.
This was a great introduction to the Ferengi race, and the writers of Star Trek really made the most of it here and in the future!