Written by Tracy Torme, Leonard Mlodinow, Scott Rubenstein, and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Cliff Bole
The Enterprise happens upon a sizeable piece of space debris. After beaming it on board, we see a fragment of metal bearing the American flag and the NASA insignia.
Sounds like an intriguing episode? Forget it. That’s the best part of the story – it just goes downhill from there.
Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) and the android Data (Brent Spiner) beam down to a nearby planet to see if there’s some connection between a bubble of breathable atmosphere there and the ship’s fragment.
What they find there is The Royale, a recreation of a hotel in the early 20th century on earth. Aliens accidentally killed all of the astronauts on the original NASA vessel except for one. To make up for it, they created The Royale believing it to be a representation of the society and planet he hailed from. Once inside, the trio cannot seem to escape the hotel. None of the doors, windows, or walls will allow them access to the world outside of the hotel. Even their phaser weapons have no effect on their surroundings.
The idea was found in a dime-store novel that one of his fellow crewmen was apparently reading. It is a truly awful novel and that sets up a truly awful story.
It probably could have been funny – imagine being stuck in a bad gangster story and being unable to get out. The problem is the way it is carried out. Too much time is spent on the characters from the book rather than the crew of the Enterprise. For long periods of time, Riker, Worf and Data stand by watching dialogue take place between two of The Royale‘s characters while they say nothing.
Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is still on board the Enterprise, reading the original novel with Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis). The novel appears to be somewhat sizeable, so I cannot picture him being able to plow through the whole thing in a matter of hours. Data had flipped through it earlier and in his android way memorized it, so what was the purpose to Picard having to read it as well? This whole part just made no sense, unless the writers of the script felt they had to show Picard doing something.
The characters we are shown from The Royale are truly awful. I know that they are supposed to be, but it doesn’t help. It just makes the episode more painful to watch. From the Texas gambler and the lady in distress, to the bellboy fighting the gangster over a woman and the assistant manager of the hotel, the characters are all very lackluster. The actors portraying these parts seem to give lackluster performances as well.
Frakes, Dorn and Spiner also seem to be coasting in this episode. Usually fine performers, here they seem to want to get this over with as soon as possible; as if they are being subjected to torture.
Of course, every time the viewer watches this episode, we are subjected to the same torture. If you happen to come across it, turn it off!
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