Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Outrageous Okona"


Air date: 12/12/1988
Teleplay by Burton Armus
Story by Les Menchen & Lance Dickson and David Landsberg
Directed by Robert Becker

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

I'll start with the good part, which earns the episode its points: The B-story involving Data following Guinan's advice to learn humor and taking lessons from a holographic stand-up comic (Joe Piscopo) ends up working reasonably well. Joe Piscopo isn't funny in these scenes, but Data is by definition an inspired straight man to a (would-be) comic persona. The scene where he gives his performance to an audience that laughs no matter what he does is both funny and sad; Data simply doesn't understand humor and maybe never will.

As for the main story, it's one of the most hoary and forgettable things in TNG's run. The Enterprise rescues Captain Okona (William O. Campbell; where's Bruce Campbell when you need him?) from his disabled ship. Okona spends his time aboard the Enterprise making high-spirited jokes, hitting on women, and in general being the type of Personality that requires a capital letter. (Wesley idolizes him ... which makes Wesley an even bigger nerd than I thought.) I suppose nothing says "swashbuckling scoundrel" like a ponytail and a three-day beard. One woman taken by Okona's charms is Teri Hatcher — yes, Teri Hatcher — whom Okona beds in record time.

The plot is a pedantic bore masquerading as light comedy. Okona is either in the middle of or the cause of a dispute between two feuding families. Is he the father of the pregnant girl whose father is really mad? Did he steal the crown jewel from the other family? Or is there something else here going on involving hopeless rehashed scraps of Romeo and Juliet? The episode makes it impossible for us to care, particularly in the awful climactic scene where all the parties are aboard the Enterprise and the air is finally cleared — in one of the worst-acted and worst-directed scenes I can remember on this series.

Previous episode: Elementary, Dear Data
Next episode: Loud as a Whisper

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16 comments on this review

Daniel - Tue, Dec 11, 2007 - 3:04am (USA Central)
Right on with the "Outrageous Okona" review...that scene with Data and the fake laughter is great; other than that I can't even remember the episode.

I really like the last scene of "Contagion" for some reason, with Picard trying to find his way through the Iconian gate...maybe it's just directed really well.

"Time Squared" is one of my favorite time travel episodes on any series, not just Star Trek. It starts off with the crew seeing their certain doom but no clue how it happens, builds off of this tension well, and everything comes together perfectly in the end. The second Picard slowly coming back to reality is a great touch.
papa - Wed, Apr 13, 2011 - 12:09am (USA Central)
"The Outrageous Okona" is the only TNG episode I caught in first run, and it put me off new Trek for a decade afterwards.
Mike Caracappa - Sun, Sep 16, 2012 - 2:57am (USA Central)
Well...it's Bill Campbell...who was the Rocketeer...so that just makes him awesome in general. I can forgive this episode in that case. :)
Sintek - Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
Of all the great comedians throughout history, Data chooses Joe Piscopo. I guess it could be worse - if the show were being made now it would have been Jeff Dunham.
Rosario - Sun, Nov 4, 2012 - 11:02am (USA Central)
Jeff Dunham with a Data puppet. Pass.
xaaos - Fri, Nov 9, 2012 - 4:36pm (USA Central)
Picard muting the audio, asking Troi what she is thinking about and then Troi sensing everything ("captain he is hiding something, captain he is telling the truth, captain he is lying") has become rather repeatitive and lame. I believe it was a very bad idea to put a Betazoid Counselor on TNG series. Of course Marina Sirtis is a cute actress, but still her role is stupid most of the times. Doesn't fit.
Rikko - Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - 6:04pm (USA Central)
This is it!

This is the worst Trek episode that I've seen so far. Worse than "Code of Honor", "Shades of Grey" and every other weak episode in between. it was so bad that I put TNG on hold for some good six months before I dared to keep watching.

It felt like anything but a TNG episode. Star Trek is not the place for love triangles, "suave" characters and parodies of much better romantic dramas.

On the bright side, the Data vs Humor plot wasn't that bad, but the comedian wasn't funny. At all. It was an embarrassing performance, just like when you ask your average dude to "act" and they do all sort of lame imitations of what they've seen on TV.


@ papa: I know the feeling. :(

While my case wasn't as bad as yours (just 6 months, instead of 10 years :P), this episode is bad enough to scare off any potential fan of the series.

@ Xaaos: I agree. Troi as a character was often more annoying than not, and completely unnecessary most of the times. When she's sensing stuff, she's the master of the obvious. And when she doesn't say a word, why would you like her to be there next to the captain? She's good looking and all, but I don't need a token cleava...woman to remind me the Federation is not exclusively composed of men.

Shane - Wed, Dec 19, 2012 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
Definitely a forgettable episode on the whole but I do have two distinct memories of watching it during the original airing (when I was two years old!). For some reason I always remembered Okana's ship approaching the Enterprise and then being locked on to with the tractor beam, and I also remember Data playing in the holodeck with the comedian.

As for watching it now as an adult, very bland and feels like it belongs on TOS in the 60s rather than TNG. The comedian on the holodeck was dreadful, I'd definitely walk out of his show in real life. Data and his totally tickled holodeck audience was kind of fun, but in the end this episode could never have existed and nothing would have been lost in TNG's canon.
Corey - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
I have to disagree with Jammer's rating, somewhat. First though, my thoughts about the episode:

In other episodes, ("Data's Day" for one) Data mentions that Riker is always telling jokes and making people laugh - well that's who he should be trying to talk to learn about humor then! I too didn't find the comedian funny, though I did find the audience laughing at Data no matter what he did somewhat amusing.

Anyways, whenever I re-watch TNG I NEVER skip this episode. For one, this is one of the few, small, civilian craft that the Enterprise runs into, though you would think that would happen much more often. It's nice to see this angle. While I could do without the womanizing of the guest character, he did have some interesting dialog with some of the main characters of the Enterprise, and I enjoyed their dialog.

I also enjoyed the scene where the Enterprise gets challenged by two much smaller craft. At one point, Picard mentions he needs to know something, in case he needs to surrender to one of the vessels, and we saw a shot of annoyed Worf (No, Worf is not into surrendering to inferior opponents..) - just priceless.

Anyways, the intent of the producers of the show was to entertain, and I've shown above how it has done just that. Therefore, I give 2.5 stars/4.
William B - Wed, Apr 3, 2013 - 7:21am (USA Central)
I do like the Data plot somewhat, but the choice of Joe Piscopo and the material he feeds Data makes it hard to take this plot as particularly conclusive. Mostly it seems to me that Data learned that hacky 20th century comedians don't help him understand humour enough to be funny around 24th-century types, which, duh.

As @Corey mentions above, there is something funny about the situation in which the Enterprise is constantly threatened by ships much less powerful than her. I think Riker references Gulliver's Travels, even (though I might be making that up).

Anyway, yeah, Okona is not anywhere near "outrageous" enough to justify the honorific, and it feels like scenes and scenes are designed to burn into our brain how much of a lovable rogue this guy is. Pass.
Latex Zebra - Thu, Mar 6, 2014 - 9:55am (USA Central)
A little harsh. I'd say this is a 2 at least. Yes Joe Piscopo (I'm a Brit, still never heard of him) is awful but I always figured that was the point.
I really liked the Okona character though. He was fun and I liked the vibe he gave to the crew.
TNG was still finding it's feet but this was a lightweight episode moving in the right direction.
Stan - Tue, Mar 25, 2014 - 3:25am (USA Central)
I thought the episode did a good job of explaining why Okona was a bit outrageous in his actions. His ship was a non-warp interplanetary craft and his work consisted of delevering cargo between the same ole two planets in the same system all the time.

As he explained, he just had to do things to lighten up his otherwise very dull and uninteresting occupation and life.

As far as his rank of captain, a captain is anyone who is charge of a ship. In his case his ship only required himself as crew but he was still the captain of her as he was the one responsible for her.

There was a later episode in which Wesley Crusher was critical of a shuttle pilot who called himself a captain. While the guy was arrogant, he was basically correct. Whoever is charge of a ship, whether it is an old mining shuttle, limited non-warp interplanetary craft, or great big starship is indeed the captain of her.
Elliott - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 2:44pm (USA Central)
I'm just going to say it, I think Wes was gay. Underage twink falls for womanising bearded "straight" man (Okona, Riker...) is a very common trope and the execution in these episodes does little to dissuade this notion. Wes' alleged "romances" with the Dauphin and Ashley Judd were so forced, I actually am getting behind this view...then he ends up leading a virtual monastic life in Journey's End. Yep. I take back what I said about the producers: Wes was Trek's first gay character.
William B - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 6:46pm (USA Central)
@Elliott, point. There's some gay/closet allegory in Wesley's general isolation and there are fairly common "closeted gay can see things others can't" tropes that connect with his Mozart-of-time-and-space, a title conferred onto him by the fairly fey Traveler. In that sense, "The Game" also works as an allegory -- Wesley and Robin (Ashley Judd) connect not because they are romantically attracted to each other, but because they are both actually gay and are able to not get suckered into the game because, I guess, it is a heterosexual sexual desire metaphor (coming as it does from Riker's Risa romp).
$G - Thu, Dec 11, 2014 - 12:31am (USA Central)
Data and the comic doing Jerry Lewis is the worst scene ever filmed. I actually covered my eyes for a moment out of embarrassment.

This episode sucks. The conclusion involves two characters we had no idea existed until about 1 minute prior. Shockingly incompetent all around.
Dave in NC - Thu, Dec 11, 2014 - 1:43am (USA Central)
@ Elliot, Harry Kim gets my vote.

Re this episode: The idea of a lovable space rogue isn't that terrible or implausible, but I found the character of Okona to be unbelievable all the same. He smiles WAY too much. I also found the "drama" surrounding his life and his suitors to be uninteresting, not to mention a tad bit outdated and sexist.

The whole Data/comic thing works if you think about it as anti-humor. That includes Guinan's regrettable annoyed/droid pun.

It is SO profoundly unfunny that I find myself laughing at how inept and off-base it is. Yes, I just said it's so unfunny it's funny. :/

It's like the car accident you can't pull your eyes away from. It's VERY bad, but such in interesting ways!

Two Stars

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