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.)