Written by Hannah Louise Scheerer and Richard Danus
Directed by Robert Scheerer
You’d think by the time the Star Trek: The Next Generation writers got around to giving ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) a decent love interest, they’d get it right. Unfortunately, they fail in many areas, except for fulfilling many an adolescent male Star Trek fan’s fantasies.
The Enterprise is the host of negotiations between a group of bidders and the Barzan race, who have discovered what is believed to be the first stable wormhole in space. A wormhole is a “shortcut” from one area of space to another – in this case it is to the Gamma quadrant. The wormhole appears in Barzan space at regular 233 minute intervals.
In the beginning, the negotiations involve the Federation, Caldonians, and the Chrysalians. A reception for all of the negotiating parties is held aboard the Enterprise, which Troi reluctantly attends. There she meets Devinoni Ral (portrayed by Matt McCoy), a “hired gun” to negotiate for the Chrysalians. Ral is considered to be an ace negotiator and someone very difficult to compete with. There is an immediate attraction between the two of them.
A short time later, the Ferengi race, most noted for their profit-above-all-else philosophy, demand to join the negotiations. To that end, they cause the Federation negotiator to have a severe allergic reaction. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) steps into his place.
Much of my problem with this episode is the casting of Devinoni Ral. You may not recognize the name, but I have seen Matt McCoy in a few roles and they all seem to be much the same character in various settings. He has “intense staring” down well and seems to rely on that too much in his portrayals. The character of Ral seems to be very one-dimensional and ruthless. Other than his good-looks, there is nothing upon which I can see Troi basing her intense passion for him on.
Except for one thing – a secret he’s kept hidden until he meets Troi; someone just like him. The empathic capabilities they both share are his ace-in-the-hole. It gives him an edge in negotiations that other negotiators are missing out on; he can sense when another negotiator is having misgivings about a situation.
There is some very good dialogue between these two at the point which Troi finds this out – and that is what saves this from being a terrible episode. As Troi is trying to point out that using his empathic abilities gives him that unfair edge, he points out that she does the same thing when she is helping Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) on the bridge of the Enterprise. It’s a great bit as it shows there are no clear-cut rules in this area, and his greatest transgression to this point probably is that he’s managed to keep it a secret.
Is it cheating? I guess that would depend on which side you’re on, and that is made clear. Ral manipulates the situation several times to try to give himself – and the Chrysalians – the advantage. Having unnerved Troi, will she reveal his secret?
The other question being what was Ral’s intentions? Did he know from the start that she was capable of detecting his capabilities and revealing who he was? Was the romance merely a way of neutralizing her from working for the Federation? Though he does ask her to leave Starfleet and come with him, it feels insincere. Whether this is the actor’s fault or the way it is written is never clear.
I also felt the performance fall flat when Ral tries to play with Riker’s ego by using his relationship with Troi to unnerve him. Riker throws it back in his face, and the two men sitting together seem to be at such different places with their acting abilities it makes it hard to see what Troi would like at all in Ral. He does not come off as charming or intelligent, but rather egotistical and obnoxious. Maybe he’s just good in bed.
Marina Sirtis does a fantastic acting job in an episode that is pretty much hers alone. She takes Troi to a sexy new level for the character, while struggling with ethical questions about the man she cares for. She makes us believe that Troi does care for the man, although logically why, I’ll never understand.
There is another plot going on involving Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) and the android Data (Brent Spiner) exploring the wormhole to insure that all is at it seems. This also involves the Fernegi and brings in a needed relief from the romance.
Better casting of Ral and having him written a bit better would have made this episode a real winner. As it is, it’s average with some good ethical and moral debates.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Enemy
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Vengeance Factor