Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Cost of Living

Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Although the show opens with the Enterprise blowing up a potentially dangerous asteroid before it enters a planet’s atmosphere, giving viewers the impression this will be an action-based show, it’s actually a pretty good character piece.

The Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) is struggling with his relationship with his son. Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is advising them on how to proceed and informs Alexander that one day he will appreciate his father. Her mother, Lwaxana Troi (portrayed by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry) arrives unexpectedly and announces that she is getting married.

These two events collide as Lwaxana befriends Alexander (portrayed by Brian Bonsall) and interferes in many ways with the development of the relationship between Worf and Alexander. It’s also a point though where we see that despite the bravado, Lwaxana has not always enjoyed her life. She has not enjoyed being alone for so long and does not want to stay alone. This is her primary motivation for getting married – not that she loves the man. The man (whom she has not yet met) is completely the opposite of her – very hung up on protocol. It seems she is expected to change her personality to suit him. In the end, she must do some very deep soul-searching to decide if being married to just anyone is worth changing who she is.

With regard to Worf’s relationship with his son, this episode shows the after-effects of Alexander losing his mother – something that was glossed over a bit in the episode Reunion in which she was killed, and the episode New Ground in which Alexander came to live with Worf aboard the Enterprise. Cost of Living also further – but slowly – develops the relationship between Worf and Deanna Troi.

The secondary story really isn’t that interesting. It builds on the opening sequence where the asteroid was destroyed. At first, the replicators begin malfunctioning, soon followed by other systems in the ship. Some type of parasite is eating all of the nitrium present in the ship’s systems. It’s not a very good secondary story and seems to be there just to give the cast that is not involved in the main story something to do.

Lwaxana has always been a very irreverent character in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe, and she’s no different here although there is much more shown of the personality she keeps hidden. Funny moments occur when Lwaxana continues to call Worf “Woof” as she has done in the past. When he is informed that he is expected to give the bride away at her wedding, Picard states that “Nothing will please me more than to give away Mrs. Troi.” The ending with Worf in a mud bath at the end was something Dorn commented on at a convention as not being one of his favorite moments of working on the series.

There are some nice effects where Lwaxana and Alexander visit the recreation of the colony of free-thinkers on the holo-deck (a 24th-century version of a virtual-reality room). In many ways, this place seems modeled on a Dr. Seuss book. The characters’ appearances in various costumes and incarnations that are very reminiscent of his illustrations. That is when they are wearing costumes. There is one scene with “entertainment” in which a woman’s costume seems to mostly be body paint with a few strategic scales (of the fishy kind).

One thing that is never mentioned except after The Best of Both Worlds Part II is how the ship manages to get repaired after being damaged. This is the case here where the metal parasite seems to take a deep toll on the ship and its systems. Yet, all that is mentioned is that “temporary repairs have been completed”. The next episode picks up as if there were no problems with the Enterprise at all.

This is not an episode that will appeal to people who aren’t already fans of the series. Enjoyment of it really hinges on knowledge of the main characters and their history. For fans, it’s not a bad episode as far as the character piece goes. The secondary story could have been either jettisoned completely or something better should have been developed.

Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The First Duty

Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Perfect Mate

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