Written by Ronald D. Moore, Naren Shankar, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer
In Gambit Part I we left Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in the hands of mercenaries while the android, Data (Brent Spiner) attempted to figure out how to respond to the situation and their actions with the help of the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.
The mercenaries are trying to locate various archaeological artifacts. Picard is using his affinity for the subject to attempt to decipher exactly what it is they are trying to achieve. The leader of the mercenaries is a brutal, controlling man named Baran (portrayed by Richard Lynch). He keeps those around him subjugated by using a device which can hurt or even kill the crew.
The story overall is a good one. There is a good bit of cat-and-mouse as well as mystery in regards to exactly what purpose the artifact Baran is searching for serves, as well as who exactly wants to get their hands on it. Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes do an excellent job transforming their characters into very different roles than viewers are used to seeing, as well as working together to solve the mystery. It’s refreshing to see the two men act as adversaries. Especially for Frakes, he seems to evolve naturally into the insolent Officer jettisoning his whole career to preserve his life. It’s a good performance for him and not as wooden as some of his appearances in the series.
What really doesn’t work is the whole byplay back on the Enterprise between Data and the Klingon, Worf (Michael Dorn). With all the times Data has “malfunctioned” and taken an action that is questionable as well as putting his friends and crewmates in danger, I wouldn’t blame Worf at all for questioning Data’s decisions when they don’t always seem like a good idea. This whole storyline should have been jettisoned. There is enough ground to cover without this confrontation between the two.
The Enterprise must intercept a Klingon shuttle believed to be meeting with the mercenaries and try to figure out exactly what role it’s pilot, Koral (portrayed by James Worthy) plays in the whole puzzle slowly being fitted together. There are some great humorous moments as the Enterprise brings his shuttle on board under the guise of a “health and safety inspection.”
In the end, though, what really makes this episode work is the guest cast. The mercenaries Picard and Riker are among are believable and convincing in their roles. Caitlin Brown who portrays Vekor and Robin Curtis who portrays Tallera are both familiar to science fiction and Star Trek fans. Brown portrayed Na’Toth in the early seasons of Babylon 5 and Robin Curtis is known for her portrayal of the Vulcan Saavik in the third Star Trek film. Together with Richard Lynch, they make a very believable and cohesive crew of mercenaries. The guest cast not being convincing in their roles has been a problem at various times throughout the series, but not here.
Unlike so many other two-part Star Trek episodes, this doesn’t have the feeling of the first half being written without resolution, nor does it have the feeling of an episode that ran a bit long so was padded. Except for the Data/Worf controversy, it’s a well-done episode that doesn’t feel contrived.
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