Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Samaritan Snare"


Air date: 5/15/1989
Written by Robert L. McCullough
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Wesley must complete his Starfleet Academy entrance exams and is booked by shuttle to travel to a nearby starbase. Picard goes along with him when Pulaski orders him to have heart surgery at the starbase's medical facility, for reasons Picard would like to keep as quiet as possible. With Riker in command, the Enterprise answers the distress call from a disabled ship of Pakleds, a race of humanoids that might best be described as ... slow. Riker agrees to send Geordi to repair their engines.

Our attention is flagged when Worf repeatedly urges caution in answering a call from a race the Enterprise knows nothing about. The Pakleds seem harmless, even stupid, but it might all be a ruse. Then again, maybe not. The fact that they feel confident (as Troi intuits) and not helpless might be beside the point when considering their intelligence. Riker finds himself managing a potentially deadly standoff when the Pakleds take Geordi's phaser and hold him hostage, demanding all of the data in the Enterprise's computer.

Even though the episode is always watchable, the problem is that the Pakleds should never have gotten the upper hand in the first place — not based on what we see of their intelligence. The standoff is created by the Enterprise's own shortsightedness: For example, why would they send Geordi over with a phaser just so it can be used against him? Besides, I find the plausibility of the Pakleds dubious. They're either too smart or too dumb to be behaving this way, and for a long time the episode doesn't know which. How could they have stolen so many others' technology using similar ruses? Somehow, I don't see the Klingons or Romulans caving in to a hostage standoff, or even being Good Samaritans that could become the victim of such a ruse in the first place. The Enterprise's solution to the problem is an elaborate con that proves my point: If the Pakleds are dumb enough to be taken in by such ham-handed trickery, they couldn't possibly be able to travel through space in the first place.

The subplot involving Wesley and Picard is actually pretty good, mostly because of the issue of Picard's image. He doesn't want to have surgery on the Enterprise — and, for that matter, his whole dilemma involving his artificial heart is established with a wonderfully told piece of backstory that brings a whole new dimension to his character.

Previous episode: Q Who
Next episode: Up the Long Ladder

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31 comments on this review

Tue, Oct 4, 2011, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Samaritan Snare gets 2.5 stars? LOL! the Pakleds are the dumbest and most ridiculous species ever seen in Trek. "Down Syndrome" aliens, no? I would probably give it 2.5 stars, though, for the absolute hilarity. One of the funniest episodes I have ever seen. Our ship, it is broken!
Latex Zebra
Thu, Apr 19, 2012, 2:46am (UTC -5)
Another reviewer once described the Pakled's as 'The Forest Gump's of the Universe).
Love this episode and think this was a good choice after the rather ominous Q Who.
Amongst my friends and even my Wife, if we have car trouble someone will always say 'My ship is broke, can you make it go.' and if we're on Holiday someone will usually say 'We are far from home.'

As quatablity goes this is the Ron Burgundy of Star Trek.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 2:57am (UTC -5)
Just seen that Captain Thomas Halloway was original choice of Captain and designer of the Enterprise D. This only came out in the books though.
Got to love the authors of Trek novels, they do mine some obscurities.
Mike Caracappa
Mon, Sep 24, 2012, 4:04am (UTC -5)
Rikers command of the situation is a little confusing. For instance why does he not listen to his officers when they tell him it might be a trap? Of all people especially, why does Riker ignore Troi when she flat out tells him the aliens are deceiving them, especially since the two of them have a bond and a trust? Why does he not listen to her?
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Riker obviously knew just how hilarious seeing Geordi rag-dolled around with a phaser would be to watch so that's obviously the reason he ignored all the precautions and sent him alone and unnecesarily armed. I mean really, that phaser was just throwing Geordi around haha He'll be fine!
Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
Wes didn't want the sandwich Picard offered, but he ate two afterall...
Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 1:24am (UTC -5)
This episode is a bit sloppy in the script department and as far as editing does but I do enjoy it immensely. It is quite absurd that Riker would be duped by the Pakleds and that they themselves could travel through space without being killing by an accident or ticking off the Romulans or Klingons.

I've got to agree with an earlier reviewer on the quotability front. My Trek friends and I all enjoy imitating the Pakleds. "It is broken!" "We are not strong." :-)

Although a stronger element to the show, I was a bit bothered by Picard's retelling of his incident getting stabbed in the heart. Suddenly he takes a new way of speaking "My mates and I..."

I suppose in all fairness 2.5 stars is a fair rating but as far as enjoyment I'd probably give it 4 stars, perhaps a bit more.
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
So whose space does this take place in...Federation space? I can't imagine there is "Pakled space" to speak of.
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
"We are smart"! The Pakleds are some hilariously stupid race, aren't they?

That part with them was the kind that's so bad it's good, and totally overshadowed the real good stuff with Picard and Wesley.

You said it guys, quotability is off the charts!

Mon, Dec 2, 2013, 7:39pm (UTC -5)
This race makes me want to slaughter them.
-> I cant stand idiot people in real life either.
: in that regard I may be a klingon where death and weak (and stupid IS weak) are the same word.

the star trek universe often is FAR to meak.
1 : why would I risk my captain for total strangers, what GAIN is there for the Terran Empire?
2 : seing how stupid they are, I most likely would have left them to rot (not worth that mercifull shot)
3 : even IF they offered me something of enough value to offer help (and that should be something worth a whole planet giving their race-not-worth-living) I would not send my CHIEF engineer, it was a simple problem, let ensign cannonfodder go.
4 : the second they attacked my crewman they were dead meat they and their race : you attack one of us, you attack all of us. Dumb AND decietfull : find their planet and sterilse their race.. show the galaxy thou shalth not mess with the Terran Empire.
-> drink bloodwine with our klingon allies afterwards.
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 6:12am (UTC -5)
I enjoy this one. The Pakled are just so ridiculously stupid , you have no choice but to love them. I need to find a good situation where I can utter 'my (insert object here, computer, car, watch, etc) is broken. Can you make it go?'

The plot with Picard and Wes on the shuttle is indeed pretty good. I have only a few small gripes with it. And they're in the script and editing. First of all, the Klingons never joined the Federation! I guess they were still working out some of the finer details of the 24th century universe in the second season. Secondly, Picard eats that sandwich really quickly. He goes from one bite taken out of the sandwich in one shot, to one bite left, in just a few camera angles! The continuity editor was asleep at the wheel.

I can't see the Romulans, Klingons, or Jarada falling for the Pakleds obvious trick.

But aside from a few gripes, it's quite a fun episode, due to the perhaps intentional, perhaps not, hilarity of the Pakleds.
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 6:20am (UTC -5)
The Pakleds are as quotable as the episode 'Darmok'! (Sokath, his eyes uncovered!)

'We look for things'

'He is smart'

'We are far from home'

'Our ship is broken. Can you make it go?'
Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 8:11pm (UTC -5)
@Adam: you're so right! I regularly quote this episode ― or have it quoted to me! :D

Whenever a couple of my friends and I lovingly want to tease one another when one of us is say, stating the obvious ― or actually says or does something useful for a change ― the line "He is smart!" is a classic! :D

In fact, all the lines you quote are. I cannot begin to count the times that I, when asked what I was looking for by my girlfriend, simply answered, goofily, of course: "I look for things. Things that make me go." :) And when ever I'm in need of something or something isn't working, I just have to say: "My [whatever] is broken. Can you make it go?" to see a smile on her face ;) It's a silly, great episode! :)
Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
...reading the comments now, I see we're not alone, Adam :)

@Latex Zebra: I always suspected we were two of a kind :)
@Shane: same here (and what a great film "Shane" is, btw)
@Rikko: ditto

@DutchTrekkie: you have to start smiling a bit more, buddy. Come on, sing along:

"If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.
And... always look on the bright side of life..."

Have a Coke and a smile, DutchTrekkie ;)

Latex Zebra
Tue, Mar 18, 2014, 5:48am (UTC -5)
@Andy's Friend - Haha, got to love a kindred spirit. Especially in a place with as many opposing views as this.
Dave in NC
Wed, May 21, 2014, 11:29am (UTC -5)
An enjoyable, but badly written episode.

At the start of the episode, Worf (as Chief of Security) points out how stupid it is to send the Chief Engineer by himself over to ship of aliens and Riker dismisses his concern. Then he asks why they don't just GIVE the Pakleds the information and let them figure it out and Riker brushes him off.

Later, Troi runs on to the bridge and says point b;lank "The Pakleds are lying and Geordi is in danger" (right before the commercial break, cue the artificial drama). And of course, after the commercials, Riker brushes off her concerns. Riker should have received a reprimand for his actions.

And of course, Geordi is phasered multiple times by the Pakleds, but when he is beamed to the bridge, he acts fine and Dr. Pulaski doesn't pull out a tricorder to examine him. Guess she can diagnose people by glancing at them.

And don't even get me started on the silliness of the fact that we are told that Picard's operation is absolutely 100% routine, yet #1) he has to go to a Starbase for the operation and #2) only Dr.Pulaski can save him in the end. (and Wesley's idiotic question about why someone would have a faulty artificial heart installed).

Someone in the Production office should have given this script another look-see before it went into production. The entire episode revolved around the characters turning into idiots.

Dave in NC
Wed, May 21, 2014, 11:34am (UTC -5)
A final comment:

In retrospect, it's never wise to have a character point out the plot holes at the start of the episode. If Worf hadn't protested, I wouldn't have had it running through my head the whole time.

That's Script Writing #101.
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 3:46am (UTC -5)
Around the turn of the year I was sick in bed for a few weeks, so I had time to rewatch a lot of TNG and spend way too much thoughts about it. In my mind, I came up with a personal category system for TNG episodes, in case I would ever come into a situation where I would "guide" a newcomer into the series. This is one of the episodes which fell into category C: not really worth watching, but includes some developments which will be important for the further course of the series. Episodes like this are not particularly enjoyable, but might be necessary to unterstand future episodes.

In the case of "Samaritan Snare", we get a really stupid A-plot with aliens who should in no way be able to fly a starship, and Riker taking the idiot ball and running away with it (no wonder he is not fit for his own command yet). But in the B-plot, Picard and Wesley receive some welcome character development, and the series will later come back to the events discussed between them. So, all in all it's a "watch at your own risk" episode.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 12:08pm (UTC -5)
I suppose there had to be come down from Q Who, and boy was this it. This would be all well and good if the Pakleds were played for laughs - but they're not. And if you're laughing at a story and not with it, that's never a good sign.

The B-story is decent enough, and it's fun to see Picard wrestle with his vanity. But the scenes in the shuttle are a bit of a struggle, and Picard getting stabbed through the heart by a Nausicaan seems a stretch. 1.5 stars.
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
@Dave - "Picard getting stabbed through the heart by a Nausicaan seems a stretch"

Are you watching the series for the first time by chance?

I really did like the reveal that the man that Wesley idolizes and wants to be like was absolutely NOTHING like him at his age. That was pretty fascinating.
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 6:17pm (UTC -5)
If the Pakled story had been a B plot, sort of as an aside to a stronger episode, that might have been okay. To watch the entire episode focus on them made me want to scratch my eyes out.

And to all you dingbats up above quoting the Pakleds at every opportunity, I say-- The river Temarc, in winter! Zinda, his face black, his eyes red!


Mirab, with sails unfurled.
Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
This episode is an all time family favorite. The scene midway through I could watch over and over and over.

La Forge: The Pakleds seem pretty sincere.
Pakled Captain: We want what we want.
Riker: Our computer banks are non-negotiable.
Pakled Captain: We want them.
La Forge: Believe me, they're nothing if not persistent.
Pakled Captain: We want to be nothing if not persistent.
La Forge: Nobody ever said they were great conversationalists.
Andrew Taylor-Cairns
Wed, Feb 24, 2016, 9:26am (UTC -5)
What a weird episode. The Pakleds are kind of fin at first, but there isn't enough to them to have an entire plot dedicated to them. They're the kind of race that probably would never master space travel, so it's an oddity that they meet the Enterprise here.

The other plot where we learn about Picard and his heart is the most interesting, and is very intriguing.
Thu, May 5, 2016, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
Grwat...not one episodes but two with sonya gomez.
This story just felt set up - like Riker ignoring the crewmembers, Troi not being on the bridge to begin with.
Troi questioning Rikers command seems out of character to me, even for Troi...but thats the only scene I didnt like...
also, hard to believe the pakled captain was the same actor who played the klingon captain in a matter of honor.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Jul 21, 2016, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Our ship is the Mondor!

Well done Pakled's... You managed to make your ship sound dumb as well.

The captain in this also played the Klingon Captain in A Matter of Honour... Who was also pretty stupid. Way to get typecast. ;o)

Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -5)
This was really bad. Not only the unbelievable handling of the situation by Riker (who is the dumb one now?). But also the operation of Picard: no trouble...but then: trouble! And ofcourse the Enterprise must come rushing in because there are just 2 doctors on the Starbase. And Picard just lies there. For everything that happens this episode is still very boring. Bad on all fronts.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 8:25am (UTC -5)
It does have the redeeming shuttle ride with Picard/Wesley... but that was it.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
A more basic question - how far is the Enterprise from where Picard is having his procedure and how fast is Warp 9-point-whatever? They receive a message that Picard is near death, and somehow they have time to get LaForge back from the Pakleds and race off to the medical facility for Pulaski to finish the procedure? And there wasn't any other Starfleet medical officer closer to the starbase who could step in? If it was that close, why didn't the Enterprise just drop Picard and Wesley off by transporter in the first place?
Latex Zebra
Wed, Oct 5, 2016, 2:54am (UTC -5)
Did anyone see Trump's speech about the smart people.

I actually thought a Pakled had taken over the stage.
Wed, Oct 5, 2016, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
His campaign is broken. Can you make it go?
Mon, Nov 21, 2016, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
I guess the episode is good for the backstory on Picard and the Nausicaans which will later become important. As for the main plot point and the aliens du jour, all I can say is I felt great relief every time they switched back to the shuttle craft, and that despite knowing that Wesley would be waiting there!

Though the conclusion of that side plot, with the Enterprise recalled by Picard's bumbling heart surgeons so that Dr. Pulaski could save the day, was groan-worthy. Hurry back, Dr. Crusher.

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