Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Vengeance Factor"


Air date: 11/20/1989
Written by Sam Rolfe
Directed by Timothy Bond

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise is pulled into mediating an agreement involving the Acamarians and their renegade subculture of "Gatherers" (a better word would be "pirates"), who broke off from mainstream Acamarian society a century ago and now live as criminal exiles. Acamarian leader Marouk (Nancy Parsons) reluctantly agrees to try to bring the Gatherers back into her society now that Acamarian life has given up its warlike ways.

Picard attempts to get everyone to sit down together at the negotiation table, but it won't be easy. The Gatherers open fire at the first sight of anyone that comes near their camp. The leader of this particular clan of Gatherers is Brull (Joey Aresco), who agrees to the negotiations. But there's also a murderer going around killing very specific Gatherer individuals, taking revenge (we eventually learn) in a long-ago blood feud. The killer, unbeknownst to everyone but us, is Yuta (Lisa Wilcox), who is Marouk's personal servant and also a young woman that Riker attempts to romance.

"The Vengeance Factor" is a borderline incoherent mess, with a plot that — okay, it does hold together, but it's a really rough road to get there. There are too many characters and not enough investment in any of them. There is no clear line of drama, making it very difficult to become involved in the story. We get dull negotiation scenes, then lackluster romantic scenes, then halfhearted character scenes. The story initially makes much of Brull, an obnoxious vulgarian who is at first menacing and then kind of likable, and then he becomes irrelevant to the story and disappears. The "romantic" scenes between Riker and Yuta are awkward and ineffective. They serve only to set up the final act, in which Riker is tragically forced to kill Yuta to stop her from carrying out the story's titular vengeance factor. The story's message is acceptable. Its execution is not.

Previous episode: The Price
Next episode: The Defector

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21 comments on this review

Mon, Oct 15, 2012, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this and I'd better get to it before it vanish from my memory.

I couldn't agree more with your review, the whole show was so..uninteresting.

I just felt apathetic. Those people were there doing stuff I didn't care about, and the Enterprise crew was almost like an unwelcomed third party.

The Vengeance Factor can also boast of some really bad guest-actors.

Now I want my 45 minutes back :/
Mon, Nov 26, 2012, 4:29pm (UTC -5)
Why did Riker had to kill Yuta in the end? Couldn't he simply instead shoot her unconscious to the floor?

And Picard was watching her vaporised and he looked passive like watching a boring soap opera...

Worst episode of this season so far and totally forgetable.
Tue, Dec 11, 2012, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
"tragically forced to kill Yuta" What? No, Riker could have just knocked her out with more stun blasts, or tackled her. Or the intended victim could have stood up and ran away. Or one of the people could have been beamed away.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure why, but I've always really liked this one. Marouk made an interesting leader, and the episode painted a detailed picture of the Acamarian civilization. Anyway, agreed about the general stupidity of killing off Yuta.

What struck me more is how transparently Riker hits on Yuta throughout the episode. How often does he get this personally involved? Only a few episodes later his indiscretions (admittedly not all his fault likely) get him put on trial for murder.

On the other hand, that does provide the immortal line - You're a dead man, Apgar! A dead man!
William B
Mon, May 6, 2013, 2:53pm (UTC -5)
It is amazing how Kirkesque Riker is in this episode. He's always a Kirk figure, but somehow his combination of transparent, overbearing flirting with almost willful naivete that other cultures may be different from his own and that he can't actually just save a woman by talking about freedom at her feels like Kirk in some of the worst TOS episodes (though it's not as bad as something like "The Gamesters of Triskelion," which puts these traits of Kirk's on display at the very worst). For the most part, the romance is from Yuta's point of view, not Riker's; we have no real idea why Riker likes her except that she's pretty and servile -- and that makes it tough. Riker is not creepy exactly, because Yuta does respond to his affections pretty fast, but for Riker to ask Yuta to change her behaviour to be a Free Woman "in the ways of love" is deeply frustrating. If you want to meddle in the life of someone who clearly has very little conception of freedom, maybe trying to sleep with them and berate them for responding to that clear desire of yours isn't the best way to go about it. That Riker doesn't talk to anyone else (on screen) about his deeply wounded feelings about Yuta's plight also make his feelings hard to take. If he cares about her plight and he should at least discuss the implications of the fact that Ackamarian society seems to encourage an inappropriate level of servitude with someone else; if it is inappropriate to interfere for Prime Directive reasons he should step away, but if it's not inappropriate to interfere maybe he should try to do something to help Yuta besides bed her, like try to find out whether the Ackamarian society is screwed up in some way Picard et al. don't know about (which would certainly affect the negotiations).

I think the suggestion is that Riker couldn't stun Yuta -- that he tried and kept putting the phaser to different settings in order to stop her, and she just kept coming forward like a Terminator. This is implausible but I assume that it's covered under the same genetic procedure that makes her not age, as she unsubtly exposits in the final scene. Of course, that doesn't explain why Riker didn't consider any other options, like asking O'Brien to beam Yuta up or simply telling the other leader to move. Hell, the fact that the leader sits there staring dumbly makes me feel resentful that she didn't kill him, if that is his level of intelligence/self-preservation.

This episode also is one in which Picard's abilities are exaggerated to the point of parody. Because Picard is annoyed with the Gatherers' raiding parties, enough's enough -- he's going to singlehandedly end a century-long feud in a couple of days, *and does*. Stewart is game, of course, and Picard's diplomacy is entertaining as ever, but it's flatly ridiculous that all it takes is for Picard to decide that the Ackamarians should take the Gatherers back because it's inconvenient for the Gatherers to be hanging about raiding starbases (and for Yuta to be killed) for all the problems to go away.

Plot holes don't bother me all that much except in episodes where I'm already bored or annoyed. This is one of those episodes. The Ackamarians and Gatherers don't look to me like a society who have found out how to genetically engineer immortality, to be frankly honest; but more than that, the idea that Yuta's whole identity is based around the dedication to her vengeance mission, to the point where she has no idea how to make out with someone without single-minded servitude, doesn't really square with the fact that Yuta has somehow been hanging about Ackamar III for fifty years without killing other members of the clan. Are we to believe that Yuta seriously never had personal growth or whatever in the half-century when she was waiting around for an opportunity to kill the other gang members, presumably switching jobs and identities every few years so that others wouldn't catch on that she doesn't age? Was she just, what, waiting around for fifty years in the hopes that eventually Captain Picard would show up to suggest diplomacy?

For all that, I actually like some things about the episode -- Yuta herself has a certain tragedy to her, even if she's horribly underdeveloped. That ultimately she can't set aside her vengeance makes sense, especially when considering that she is the last of a massacred, genocided clan; it is not easy to put that aside and the episode represents a real truth that way. (It's funny to compare the hardline stance Yuta takes with the way Picard can talk Martouk and the various Gatherers out of positions they've held for centuries in a couple of minutes.) Brull is entertaining if ultimately pointless. Still, this is a bad show and near the bottom of season three. 1.5 stars.
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 2:19am (UTC -5)
It's strange, I don't recall ever having seen this episode before today. I found the buildup to the climax interesting enough, but I think William B highlights all the important points. To say Riker 'flirted' with Yuta is putting it mildly, it was practically 'your place or mine' at first glance. I couldn't figure out why Riker vaporized her at the end; I found myself talking to the screen telling the leader of the Gatherers to move! Couldn't all those unaffected by the virus restrain her? But everyone else becomes irrelevant in that final scene. There are interesting ideas, but it was a poorly thought out episode and not one I'm in a hurry to rewatch.
Sat, Jan 25, 2014, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
This episode could fit just fine in either Season 1 or 2, because it's a mess with a good idea executed very poorly. Just like most episodes of those early seasons.

Honestly, one of the worst S3 eps (but not the worst).
Wed, Apr 15, 2015, 9:01am (UTC -5)
This episode felt too much like a remake/update of "The Conscience of the King," with Kirk and Riker both acting out of character but Kirk to a lesser degree but being more moving.
Mon, Apr 20, 2015, 5:07am (UTC -5)
Space diaspora. Interesting I guess. I found the gatherers entertaining and interesting although I don't completely buy why the federation is involved. These guys could make a show in and of themselves but this is Star Trek, not the space gypsy hour.
Thu, May 28, 2015, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
I first became a fan of Star Trek when TNG had just started its final season. That means I missed the first six seasons of it and the first season of DS9 when they originally aired. I also missed the last 2 and a half seasons of DS9 and the last four seasons of VOY (but that's another story). I only got to see the vast bulk of TNG on re-runs and had to wait until Trek was released on DVD to see the rest of DS9 and VOY, not to mention ENT. The point I'm getting at here is that it took me a LONG, LONG time to see every episode, especially of TNG. And "The Vengeance Factor" may very well have been the last one I managed to get ahold of.

Having gone back and re-watched it again now, I have to say that I can understand why the re-runs would often skip this one. "The Vengeance Factor" is DULL, DULL, DULL! Jammer absolutely nails it with - "There are too many characters and not enough investment in any of them. There is no clear line of drama, making it very difficult to become involved in the story."

First we have a story about an attack on a Federation outpost. We almost immediately then shift into a story about reintegration of cultural malcontents (a reintegration that Picard seems to force on them in many ways - that leaves a bad taste in my mouth) (also, the way the Enterprise crew and the Acamarians show open contempt for Gatherer society and cultural norms doesn't really speak well for integration, does it?). That then gets diverted into a romance plot for Riker. After that we're jack-knifed into plodding negotiation scenes that go nowhere. Finally the episode decides to actually have its title have a semblance of relevance and focus on Yuta's blood feud. Good lord, the only episode thus far that comes close to this level of warp-speed plot shifting was "Up the Long Ladder." Thankfully "The Vengeance Factor" isn't that bad. Still, couldn't they have just picked a plot and developed it instead of giving us all these half-hearted ones?

There is also the fact that I just don't care about the Acamarians and the Gatherers and that only increases the dullness. If this episode dealt with an established alien species (Andorians or Tellerites come to my mind) it would have been much more interesting. As it is, we've never seen these people before and we'll never see them again, so what's the point?

Diamond Dave
Thu, Sep 3, 2015, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
One of those episodes that turns out to be desperately uninvolving, if not actively bad. The Enterprise crew seem to have nothing to do except bang heads together when necessary, and after having dealt with one uninteresting negotiation scene we then get to do it all again with another.

Riker cracks on to Yuta instantly, and in front of the Sovereign too, but the relationship has to move fast because it's the only bit of the episode that really has a pay off - as he guns her down at the end.

So this has a couple of nice moments but overall - 1.5 stars.
Sat, Sep 19, 2015, 8:56pm (UTC -5)
This episode might work better if there was even a believable chance that these losers could integrate well into the society. Picard seems to be mediating a lost cause, while the audience is being told to shut their brain off.
Sun, Oct 11, 2015, 12:13am (UTC -5)
When the away team's on the planet and Riker calls out for them to vaporise the noranium, he, Geordi and Data shoot the noranium but Worf clearly fires up at the Pirates. Classic Worf. And the only thing good about this episode.
Dan L.
Sun, Feb 28, 2016, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
Not a great episode, but does have that classic Worf line: "Your ambushes would be more successful if you bathed more often!" Funniest Worf line in the whole series
Mon, May 30, 2016, 11:59am (UTC -5)
It seems wierd for the federation to help a society who believes in slavery.
Mon, May 30, 2016, 9:30pm (UTC -5)

"When the away team's on the planet and Riker calls out for them to vaporise the noranium, he, Geordi and Data shoot the noranium but Worf clearly fires up at the Pirates. Classic Worf."

Worf was providing suppressing fire. Riker, Geordi, and Data needed to stand to make their shot at the noranium. If Worf wasn't firing at the Gatherers, the three would've been easy targets.

Also, this one's alright with me. We actually see Riker make some smart command decisions in spite of his libido and it basically saves the mission. 2.5 stars.
Mon, May 30, 2016, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
Oh, and I disagree with Jammer when he says there isn't a line of drama. If Yuta had successfully assassinated Chorgan, the Enterprise's efforts for peace would've fallen apart. The tension was present the whole episode as we were presented with a fragile relationship between the Acamarians and the Gatherers.

Again, Riker had a *chance* to take on a Kirk role in this episode and he passed on it so he could do his job.
Aaron Sweeney
Sun, Jul 10, 2016, 8:26am (UTC -5)
The only thing I remember from this episode was the woman with the (poorly applied) gray streak in her hair. This episode looks and feels like a s2 ep too me -- bad acting, mess of a plot, etc.

Although of course it's never spelled out, I just assumed that what ever the procedure that was done to Yuta gave her a flat affect as a side effect. I agree that Yuta didn't need to be killed. Also, since Crusher mentioned that there were so many ways to distribute the nano-virus (or whatever it's called) Yuta could have just coughed on him and killed him, although that's hardly melodramatic enough for this stinker of an episode. One star (two stars if it had been a season two ep because Dr. Pulaski would have somewhat elevated the material).
Sun, Aug 21, 2016, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
A forgettable muddle for the most part. The Acamarian/Gatherer culture war doesn't interest me much, and out of the characters involved--poor actors all--only Brull and Yuta leave any sort of impression; as Jammer points out Brull did get to be sort of likeable before succumbing to irrelevance, and I find Yuta to be both exceptionally attractive and a rather tragic figure, the last casualty of the "old ways." I liked the fake beam-out trick Riker used on the Gatherers, countering an ambush with another ambush. His nonstop flirting got on my nerves but the scenes with him and Yuta were the best. Two stars is about right for this one.
Walter E. Gough
Tue, Nov 29, 2016, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
The Gatherers looked like an out-of-work 80s metal band. Kept waiting for them to break out the guitars and amps.
Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
LMAO Walter!

I always end up rewatching episodes, like this one. Another thing struck me. What, exactly, do these people offer? If a bunch of savage outcasts wanted to come back to your world after you'd made it nice and homely, you'd only allow it if you needed something. Some sort of mutual benefit. There doesn't appear to be one here. Basically Picard is asking one side to make all the concessions for absolutely nothing! In fact, worse than nothing - because it will cost money and probably lives to get these rockers back integrated.

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