Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Menage à Troi"


Air date: 5/28/1990
Written by Fred Bronson & Susan Sackett
Directed by Robert Legato

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The dreaded phrase "Ferengi episode" is probably most associated with the annual hijinks on DS9, but here we have a bona fide "Ferengi episode" for TNG, still years before DS9 was a thought in anyone's mind. While I'm open to the possibility that not all Ferengi episodes are bad (DS9's "The Magnificent Ferengi" was passably amusing), I'm resigned to the fact that most of them suck.

We also have Lwaxana Troi, who is TNG's most intentionally obnoxious semi-recurring character. Lwaxana can be funny and likable in small doses, but she's more often not. Combine Lwaxana, the Ferengi, and a lame-brained kidnapping plot, and you end up with a sort of Perfect Storm of TNG stupidity. The end result is an episode about on par with "Captain's Holiday"; it's not quite absolutely horrific, but it's pretty lousy. It's an attempt to break formula and change up the tone, but in order to do that, the villains must be written as complete idiots.

Riker, Troi, and Lwaxana are picnicking on Betazed when Ferengi DaiMon Tog (Frank Corsentino), who is hopelessly smitten by Lwaxana (in his backward Ferengi ways), kidnaps them all. If he had any sense, he would simply kidnap Lwaxana and be done with it, instead of taking the additional prisoners that will all but guarantee his defeat. (Then again, if the Federation had any sense, it would seal the Ferengi border.) Tog is one of these characters that's too stupid to live. I know, this is "comedy," but it makes for endless sitcom tediousness. Farek (Ethan Phillips) is slightly smarter, but that's not saying much.

Inquiring minds want to know: Is it implied that Tog and Lwaxana have sex? Or is it implied that they just sorta maybe kinda make out? The answer is beyond TNG's scope of information as a family show, for which we should probably be thankful. The show's saving grace is (not surprisingly) Patrick Stewart, who has Picard throwing himself into the role of Lwaxana's jealous ex-lover in order to thwart the Ferengi. Stewart is entertaining even when forced to engage in the silliness that surrounds him. He lowers himself to the material and manages to bring it up a notch as a result.

(Almost forgot: Wesley is scheduled to leave for Starfleet Academy, but he misses his ship in order to decode a message that leads the Enterprise to the Ferengi. Since Wesley can't go to the academy for another year, Picard promotes him to full ensign and gives him a real uniform.)

Previous episode: Sarek
Next episode: Transfigurations

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14 comments on this review

impr - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 4:18pm (USA Central)
What a load of crap. 1st season all over again. "Comedy", yeah right.
baby buddha - Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - 7:43am (USA Central)
I honestly can't believe I spent one hour of my precious life watching this... drivel. It was really, really bad, the plot was predictable and charmless.

Even Picard's poetry was hammy and badly delivered. I am also confused about Wesley's promotion to ensign without having to attend SF academy.

Only redeeming points: Troi- Riker kiss, but this is also a bit 'wrong' as it suggest a re-kindling of their romance, which was not followed up on.
Outrageous gowns for Troi & Lwaxana, the latter who frankly is too old to be showing so much skin.

Would have granted half a star for this utter nonsense.
xaaos - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 6:13am (USA Central)
I knew this would be a lousy episode since I saw the opening scene, with someone ringing a strange instrument, playing the same bland melody over and over again, and a Ferengi expressing his desire for Mrs. Troi.

At least, they could have showed a bit more of Deanna's skin, but I guess it was a family show.

Only worthwhile thing to mention was Neelix's appearance as a Ferengi. Oh, wait...
mitty - Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - 8:58pm (USA Central)
Was a fairly annoying ep, but as a kid who was the same age as Wil Wheaton (and consequently Wesley Crusher), nothing thrilled me more than seeing Wesley in a full uniform. Thats the moment I take away from this episode. Though I still can't help but imagine how some of the junior officers elsewhere on the ship felt when the Doctors son gets to fly the ship while they probably have to scrub conduits somewhere :)
Sal - Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - 10:15pm (USA Central)
The shore leave costumes are ridiculous. Riker's pants are not doing him any favors.
William B - Fri, Jun 7, 2013 - 8:38pm (USA Central)
I think this is the worst of the season. This and "Captain's Holiday" are the only two episodes of the season that don't seem to me to have anything to say about humanity in general; and "Captain's Holiday," while mostly a failure, is fairly important to Picard's character. This episode does have around the edges bits that are important for the characters -- most significantly the Wesley thing -- but overall, it's got nothing interesting to say about humanity globally or these characters. The remaining question is: is it fun? And on that basis, the episode has a few moments of note -- Picard's hammy speech, Riker using Kirk's "fizzbin" technique on the Ferengi -- but far too few to make the episode enjoyable or successful.

It's amazing how low urgency this is for a kidnapping plot, for both the kidnappers and the allies of those kidnapped. Betazed apparently didn't contact anyone besides the Enterprise? The Ferengi never thought that maybe the Federation would notice three citizens gone missing? Apparently Picard has to pretend to be in love with Lwaxana, because, what, Lwaxana has no choice but to be true to her word given to Tog?

I suppose one could say that this episode is meant to be a reversal of the "Manhunt" situation -- Lwaxana was so intent on finding a man, and now she can't get rid of a man -- but that's pretty thin. 1 star, I guess.
SkepticalMI - Mon, Feb 10, 2014 - 8:56pm (USA Central)
If I may ask, who in their right mind thought this was a good idea in the first place? Hey, we've got a great idea for an episode; let's have awkward and unsettling sexual encounters between a middle-aged woman and a creepy troll. It'll be funny! Someone actually thought that?

Oh, and Wesley? There's this thing called a comm badge. "Crusher to bridge. Data, there's something really familiar in that static, can you send it over to the other ship so I can study it? Crusher out. OK, beam me out." Five minutes later.... "Crusher to Captain whoever. Can you contact the Enterprise and tell them that popping noise is the message? Thanks." Voila, problem solved...

Of course, it's a silly problem to begin with. You just saved two high ranking Starfleet officers and a member of the Betazed nobility, and you can't get your orals rescheduled for 2 weeks later? That's harsh...

On the plus side, Ethan Phillips makes a pretty decent Ferengi, and I personally thought Picard hamming it up was hilarious. And makes sense in-universe too. Picard stumbled severely when first acting out his "love" of Lwaxana, before deciding to tap into his inner thespian. Since we know Picard is a fan of Shakespeare, why not just get lost in his favorite plays rather than try to come up with fake love on the fly?
trekmedic - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 - 10:46pm (USA Central)
Does anyone else think it's hilarious that the Ferengi starship's name is "Cretin?"
Ed - Fri, May 30, 2014 - 4:46am (USA Central)
They did have sex. Lwaxana tells the story to Odo in Episode 17 of Deep Space Nine. The quote:

"At first, it was totally a question of expediency when I made love with him."

So there you go.
Robert - Fri, May 30, 2014 - 8:29am (USA Central)
"Of course, it's a silly problem to begin with. You just saved two high ranking Starfleet officers and a member of the Betazed nobility, and you can't get your orals rescheduled for 2 weeks later? That's harsh..."

I'm pretty sure that if WW hadn't left they were doing things like this to set up for an eventual appointed commission. They've done it since -

"(Nog is in a proper uniform, Engineering gold.)
NOG: Chief, I was just coming to see you. Can you believe it? They made me an Ensign.
O'BRIEN: I hadn't realised things were going so bad.
NOG: Scary, isn't it? If my classmates at the Academy could only see me now.
O'BRIEN: They'd be surprised, would they?
NOG: Amazed is more like it. "

"SISKO: I took the liberty of talking to Starfleet Medical. They're willing to waive the rest of your training and give you a commission as a full counsellor with the rank of lieutenant.
EZRI: How'd you talk them into that?
SISKO: I asked them what they thought you might learn in the next few months
EZRI: That I haven't already learned in the last three hundred years.
SISKO: They saw my point. I hope you do, too. "

I have no doubt that after the third time Wesley skipped his exams to save the Enterprise Picard would have just gotten on the line with Starfleet and asked WTF Wesley is going to learn at Starfleet that he hasn't already learned from the last five and a half years of saving the Enterprise and just make him a full ensign. They were inching in that direction before WW left I think anyway.
NCC-1701-Z - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 5:01pm (USA Central)
I like to think of this episode as one long contrived excuse to get Patrick Stewart to recite poetry.

The ending almost makes the episode worth sitting through. Almost.
TDV - Mon, Jul 28, 2014 - 1:33pm (USA Central)
Don't forget this is the episode that spawned the endless annoyed Picard memes/gifs on facebook.
Dusty - Thu, Jan 1, 2015 - 12:40am (USA Central)
I'm seeing a reluctance on Jammer's part to admit that he just doesn't like the Ferengi or any episodes that heavily feature them. He's not alone of course, but on some occasions I think he's been less than fair.

This time, though, I agree with him. The Ferengi were just too one-dimensional and annoying to justify their recurring presence on TNG. DS9 developed them somewhat better, but that was years later, and this episode--featuring not only them but Lwaxana Troi--does not merit a second watch. Lwaxana using Picard to get out of the situation was rather clever, and his theatrical attempt to rescue her was funny, so it's not a total loss. And I recognized Ethan Phillips the moment I heard his voice.
mark - Sat, Jan 3, 2015 - 7:22pm (USA Central)
Hmmm. I don't love this episode, but I don't hate it the way everyone else in this thread seems to, either. I enjoyed seeing Riker and Troi having a romantic moment, and I also enjoyed watching Riker show just why he's supposed to be "the finest officer with whom Picard's ever served": he made pretty quick work of the Ferengi, putting together a plan on the fly to escape using the psychology of his jailer against him, and also coming up with a pretty ingenious way to send a distress signal. It was nice to see Riker demonstrating such intelligence and resourcefulness.

I don't find Lawaxana or the Ferengi as annoying as some people do; I mostly see Lawaxana as a means to an end, with the end being character development for Deanna. The Ferengi are silly adversaries, but at least they're not Pakled-level silly. I think there's room in the galaxy for greedy opportunists who are often recklessly stupid. And Patrick Stewart reciting poetry? Awesome.

But as Jammer is to Lawaxana, I am to Wesley: I tend to judge episodes partly by how much Wesley they feature, with more Wesley being a universally bad thing. The insufferable little kiss-ass saved the day again, unfortunately. I can only imagine how the real (i.e., grown-up) ensigns aboard Enterprise must feel seeing this kid get prime bridge duty while they're all stuck on the night shift down in a maintenance bay somewhere. Wesley's character is the one black mark against TNG for me.

I'd rate this episode 2 stars, myself. Nothing special, but watchable.

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