Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Last Outpost"
Air date: 10/19/1987
Teleplay by Herbert Wright
Story by Richard Krzemien
Directed by Richard Colla
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The Enterprise attempts to make contact with the mysterious Ferengi, a race known for their deceitful brand of capitalism and known to have technological ability comparable to the Federation. While orbiting a planet that was once part of a long-extinct, massive interstellar empire, the encounter with the Ferengi takes a turn for the worse as the Enterprise becomes ensnared in a powerful forcefield.
For the second time since the premiere, Picard offers an unconditional surrender within the first 20 minutes. (Is this some sort of TNG season one theme?) The Ferengi, meanwhile, believe they are the captives, not the captors, eventually leading both ships to the conclusion that they are being held by a force from the planet. Both send landing parties.
On the planet, Riker's merit is tested by a powerful ancient gatekeeper (Darryl Henriques) who believes his extinct society still exists. It's a familiar theme again borrowed from the original series: that of a powerful superbeing challenging humanity. Fine and good, and there seems to be some substance here. Unfortunately, the dialog between Riker and the gatekeeper is far too obtuse to be useful as philosophical discussion. (Conclusion: "Fear is the only enemy." Huh?) Meanwhile, the Ferengi manage to sabotage any hope of the ending working with their hopelessly hokey and distracting gyrating antics in front of the camera. It just plain looks stupid.
Armin Shimerman plays one of the Ferengi. Fortunately by the time he would play another one (Quark on DS9), his character would at least have depth, even if most of Ferengi society was still a capitalist caricature.
Previous episode: Code of Honor
Next episode: Where No One Has Gone Before
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60 comments on this post
Sun, Mar 15, 2009, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 28, 2011, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Mar 24, 2012, 12:10am (UTC -5)
The first few acts are, admittedly, very well done. The chase/get caught in tractor beam/other subsequent scenes work very well. The cast's acting still lacks energy and urgency, and feels a bit flat, but I could tell that it was improving. And, heck, I kinda liked the first Data finger trap scene. The early moments on the planet, just before the away team encountered the Ferengi, were really well done too. The ep was on its way to becoming a 3 star ep...
At which point the Ferengi showed up and completely derailed it. Klingons, they ain't. I'm glad they got replaced with the Borg later as the main villains for the TNG crew. I'll leave it at that.
And the actual ending with the Portal guy felt anticlimactic and muddled. It just fell completely flat. Too talky even by my standards, and this is a person who enjoyed some of TOS's more "talky" moments. I think the problem was the acting, again, to me at least, J. Frakes was not as dynamic as the scene needed him to be. But the scene was just badly written, too. Sigh...
I keep hoping this series will get better, and I can tell it is slowly getting onto the right track, but it's taking a bit too long for my tastes.
2 or 2.5 stars.
Sun, Apr 15, 2012, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
What do I mean by plot-choices, you say? Think about this. The first half of this ep builds tension between the Enterprise and the yet-to-be-known Ferengi ship, it works quite well, you're tense, anxious to see the real enemy and then...they appear on screen.
To say they are a total joke it's to put it mildly. Total waste of most of this ep's lenght here. If they knew the Ferengi were going to be so pathetic, they shouldn't have created any tense atmosphere to begin with.
The rest of the ep feels very rushed, and by the time "The Last Outpost" finally appears, there are only 10 minutes left. That's not enough time to develop an interesting character, and even less time to go from nothing to BFF with Riker (Quoting what the very Wil Wheaton had to say about this).
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
It's a shame, as the concept is not without merit -I liked the genuinely Alien feel of the 'Portal' character, but have to agree with Rikko. The end of the episode felt like the writers, having wasted so much time with the Ferengi scenes, realised "hey guys, we only have ten minutes left - we need to wrap it up, " so the conclusion is wholly unsatisfactory. The early part of the episode is actually reasonable and the Ferengi commander's scenes across the view screen, although over acted are alright. The scenes on planet with the Ferengi are pour rire, unfortunately, leaving me agreeing with Jammer's 2 star rating as on the money....
Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 9:18am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 8:01am (UTC -5)
1) Picard's unlikely phrasing of his offer of surrender so that the Ferengi think that he is telling them to surrender;
2) the Ferengi on the landing party attacking the Enterprise crew so that they can steal their communicators (with gold in them!), apparently believing that the amount of gold in those communicators is a higher priority than protecting themselves against certain death if they don't get out of the planet's tractor beam thing.
The tension in the first half of the episode is fairly effective, but the second half alternates between flat-out silly and (as Jammer puts it) impenetrable. 1.5 stars from me.
Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Yeah first half quite watchable, second half horrible. Important episode though for introducing the Ferengi. Was that Armin Shimerman? So he was there from the start. On DS9 I thought he was magnificent. He pretty much played the role with his eyes and the tone of voice under all that makeup.
Fri, Aug 30, 2013, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Probably best to discard "...Morn?" altogether. In just about every way.
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jul 25, 2014, 6:20am (UTC -5)
Also, the notion of women being 'less than' seems to be a universal one as it is presented by most of season one & two. Almost every single race sees females as a stereotypical weaker sex, or something to be viewed sexually. Really annoying. Seems the only true feminists on Trek so far are the Klingons. (Later there'd be the whole House of Duras inheritance that would wreck that :/).
This episode works if you see the first half as an action with a mystery story and the second as a comedy. It feels as if the director had a Jekyll and Hyde mental breakdown while working here.
Sun, Sep 21, 2014, 12:51am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 29, 2014, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
Most of everything else this showing has to offer is pretty good by early TNG standards and still rather decent today. The first 75% of it includes some nice execution, pacing, and okay dialogue. Nothing stood out as hit or miss either way. The scene with Data and the finger-torture device was a little too cloying, but cute. I would also imagine he would have the strength to break it, but maybe he didn't want to?
Also the send-off to the episode of Riker wanting to beam over a gift to the Ferengi ship was one of those awesome little moments that I had completely forgotten about until I watched this again. Loved it.
All in all, this was the very definition of middle of the road. Just enough there to warrant a peek but not quite much beyond that.
Sat, Jul 11, 2015, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
This is a prime example of a franchise reordering a recurring character or feature after its first appearance.
Sun, Aug 9, 2015, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Still, it's interesting to see the Ferengi (and Armin Shimmerman) in their earliest development. I enjoyed the Chinese finger trap scene, but it did come a bit out of left field in the overall context of the episode. For the first half, 2 stars.
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 11:44am (UTC -5)
So we were all worked up. And then we saw them. As my friend put it, "Mutant hobbit accountants from outer-space." Oh well. By the end of the season, it was established that the Romulans would take over from the Klingons as the new as the federation's new menacing adversarial race.
Mon, Feb 8, 2016, 8:07am (UTC -5)
The federation is huge, these guys travel at WARP 9!. Humans have been space faring for 200 years; these Ferengi are in the same area of the quadrant and would have had contact with many of the same species the Federation deals with.
How on earth could they have never had contact, and not even know what one another look like! No one ever shared a photo? LIke didn't the Ferengi say "so, this 150+ world federation that is 7000 light years wide.... anyone know what those humans who run the thing look like? anyone think to try to trade with them?"
THen they make them so corny in this episode when they start begging the TKon guy for attention.... made them look pathetic. Strange way to write a species who were intended to be a serious villian.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 6:42am (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 24, 2016, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
1. Brent Spiner is very good-this show really needs his humorous input.
2. Jonathan Frakes is truly dreadful. Riker is like a grotesque caricature of Kirk,throwing his weight around inappropriately shouting at Geordi and others.
3. Denise Crosby seems embarrassed by most of her lines as well she might be.
4. The Ferengi are a joke.
5. Oh no-still we have this superior utopian human evolution ( 'wack -a-doodle') concept of Rodenberry's as Riker condescendingly tells Portal that they ( the cartoon like Ferengi) are like we were several centuries ago. Is that why we shout at our colleagues ,Will?
Watching these early TNGs is tough going.
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 11:03pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Aug 2, 2017, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the Ferengi debut. I loved the ferengi vessel design. I enjoyed the standing between the two. I enjoyed the mysterious force holding the ships and the sense of jeopardy it created.
The stuff on the planet was fun. Data's Chinese finger puzzle was a hoot. Enjoyed the discussion about Yankee traders and old nation flags.
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 12:07am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jan 30, 2018, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
TNG introduces a new race here that is meant to become something meaningful for the series. The Ferengi are equally technologically advanced and have a different value system but watching how they act is torturous. I suppose they truly are an alien humanoid species that is sufficiently different from Klingons/Romulans with heavier prosthetics, being much shorter. And they have an cool looking ship. Their whip-like phasers are also sufficiently different, which is good.
What's also interesting is Picard choosing not to fire on the Ferengi, who stole a Federation device and who fired on the Enterprise. He again offers to surrender. Very different tactically from say Kirk chasing after the Gorn in "Arena" (not a perfect comparison given the damage inflicted by the Gorn on the base). But Picard proves to be quite an adept negotiator convincing the Ferengi to trust him.
The encounter with the Tkon guardian started out interestingly enough. Interesting idea of a long-dead race having turned the planet into an energy collector and having a guardian. But then he ends up buddy-buddy with Riker... Just how the whole thing was written didn't make a lot of sense. Fine that the Ferengi would try to curry favor but then Riker admits to some of his races mistakes? And then answers a riddle about fear? Kind of silly.
Data was a bit weird here. He should be able to figure out the finger puzzle and he again kept going on about the flag colors -- pissing off Picard again. Hasn't he learned yet? So I didn't find his humor here beneficial to the episode.
1.5 stars for "The Last Outpost" -- the "stalemate" between the Enterprise and Ferengi wasn't suspenseful and went on for too long for my liking. The Ferengi seem to be worthy adversaries but were hugely annoying. This one was tedious to get through and the gravity of the situation didn't resonate sufficiently with me. Tough start so far for TNG S1.
Thu, Mar 8, 2018, 2:57am (UTC -5)
The level of incompetence in their portrayal is so epic it boggles the mind. A lot of people are involved in getting a show from idea to script to filmed.... Nobody at any point yelled out, “What the Hell are we doing here!?!” haha
Why was the background of the Ferengi ship white in the viewscreen? No budget left to construct a set? Why was the Ferengi’s head 9 feet tall and filled the entire viewscreen? Why were the Ferengi wearing fur?? haha
Oy vey... it is an ABSOLUTE MIRACLE that TNG ever got a season 2.
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 6:54am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 9:38am (UTC -5)
You're right, I don't think I can take this episode seriously any more.
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 11:37am (UTC -5)
And another thing - why were the Ferengi so offended about Starfleet officers wearing gold? Wouldn't a society based on personal wealth be cool with its ostentatious display? What would they have done with it, used it for electrical cabling?
Tue, Mar 20, 2018, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
"Wouldn't a society based on personal wealth be cool with its ostentatious display?"
I think you've cracked this one wide open. You've convinced me to change my rating of the episode from "stupid" to "stoopid."
Sat, Apr 14, 2018, 9:39am (UTC -5)
Sat, May 19, 2018, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 18, 2018, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 11:54am (UTC -5)
So very philosophical/political on a Roddenberry level.
The episode itself divides cleanly into two halves, the first a tense bit of ship-board action in which Picard chews scenery as he tries to save his ship (watching Discovery concurrently with this old episode, one forgets the ways in which great acting elevates everything in ways the most expensive FX never will). It's here where we meet the Ferengis, who are so insecure that they communicate via enlarged viewscreen images of their bulbous heads. Watching this episode years ago, I considered this scene silly, but seeing it again in HD and it feels excellent. I love watching Picard try to remain tactful and politically correct when teaching to alien cultures he considers beneath him; this is the second episode in a row in which he's had to do this.
The second half of the episode is where things begin to fall apart, with silly action scenes and silly Ferrengi whips. Bad stuff. But then the episode goes full-TOS, with its Alien Gatekeepers and Super Beings who Test Our Heroes to Determine Their Worth. These are old tropes, but it's all done well here, and in ways that you don't find outside Trek, so they're tropes which manage to cling on to some originality.
My original memory of this episode was quite negative, but having now watched it again in HD, I quite like it (albeit because one now goes into TNG S1 with extremely low expectations).
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
And it is clear after these first few episodes, and I state the obvious, how sexist the writers, and others complicit, were. Seriously why the three main women can`t keep their hands off men?....here we have the Doctor touching "Jean"`s neck...surely not to take his pulse. ha ha! Ugh. Men (and women) keep an eye on your fantasies and don't confuse them with the real world. Women (and men) aren't here to fulfil them or fit your stereotypes...
I much prefer the DS9 portrayal of Ferengi although that was mainly down to Quark. Were these Ferengi representing the equivalent of dumb ensigns?
And why weren't they wearing toques and other warm clothes on the energy drained ship?
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 20, 2019, 1:02am (UTC -5)
Mon, May 20, 2019, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 24, 2019, 9:04am (UTC -5)
The zoomed-in Daimon on the viewscreen with the white background actually had a pretty neat appearance, especially when they shot Picard standing in front of it. I liked that better than if the Ferengi was sitting in a standard bridge set.
Sun, Jun 2, 2019, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Also it is pretty ridiculous and somewhat disrespectful a joke to say that Data can't find his way out of a finger trap. Nonetheless it was a cute little moment but only because every other moment was pure agony. And my goodness has anyone else noticed just how red Brent Spiner's eyes were in S1?? They always looked a little irritated by the contacts, but they're bad here and worse in Justice.
Also official ratings for S1:
Encounter At Farpoint: 6or7/10 it wasn't a perfect pilot by any means but I thought it was cute.
The Naked Now: 4/10 I had no idea what kind if perverted thoughts plaqued the crews minds.
Code Of Honor: 1/10 bro I didn't even know where to begin.
The Last Outpost: 3/10 just narrowly beating out Naked because at least it was amusing to see them trying to keep from tripping over their own feet.
Where No One Has gone Before: 5/10 it had its moments.
Lonely Among Us: 4/10 Data as Sherlock Holmes. That's all.
Justice: 2/10 oh wow.
The Battle: 4/10 more Ferengi. And whatever else was happening.
Hide And Q: 7/10 finally a halfway decent episode. Man Q is HILARIOUS.
Haven: 5/10 Majel Barret is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.
The Big Goodbye: 8/10 it started the endless parade of holodeck madness to come. But it was a darn good episode.
Datalore: 8/10 it introduced Lore. ^-^
Angel One: 2/10 okay I'm fed up now.
11001001: 6or7/10 it was Riker centric and a bit confusing but good compared to the rest of the season.
Too Short A Season: 2/10 someone kill me.
When The Bough Breaks: 3/10 ugh.
Home Soil: 6/10 decent.
Coming Of Age: 4/10 I dont understand the praise of this episode it's Wesley centric for Q's sake.
Heart Of Glory: 5/10 so this is where all the mighty Klingon episodes began. Worf is really good tho.
Arsenal Of Freedom: 6/10 I was honestly astonished.
Symbiosis: 3/10 after school special.
Skin of Evil: 6/10 I never liked Tasha but this seemed a bit much. Although the creepiness of it all was interesting.
We'll Always Have Paris: 5/10 it loses points because Data uses a contraction. Plus it's dull.
Conspiracy: 7/10 duuude total creep factor.
The Neautral Zone: 6/10 decent.
Over all I'd much rather watch S7. It's times like this I'm so glad I watched them out of order. Now off to season 2.
Tue, Jul 9, 2019, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
--Hmm. The introduction of the Ferenghi! A . . . momentous occasion? I don't have high hopes for this one because: Ferenghi. But we'll see.
--"The Last Outpost." Why is this ep name making a Quarky bell go off? Must research later.
--Merde! Lots of establishing Picard's Frenchiness.
--Picard insists on seeing the Ferenghi. He really, really wants a visual. Careful what you wish for there, Picard. Then he suddenly sees them on screen! He diplomatically disguises his revulsion. :)
--The Enterprise is stuck, the Ferenghi ship is stuck, Data's fingers are stuck in a Chinese Finger Trap. He has to stop struggling to get out. Maybe there's a clue there, for Picard.
--The Ferenghi. This stuff on the planet is very tedious. Is that . . . Shimerman? Ok, I'm so bored I googled this, and yes, it is Shimerman.
--I'm also so bored I googled the Quarky bell, and found that "Quark proclaimed that his bar would be the "last outpost" of what made Ferenginar great in "Dogs of War," as a deliberate homage.
--Very dull stuff.
--Lots of references to the Chinese in this ep, and nations+nationalism. Why? I do not care.
Ugh. This is quite the slog through these first few eps. But I persist. :)
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 12:37am (UTC -5)
There is merit in that Picard and Riker each are given opportunities to show that while they are willing to fight, they choose not to fight. There’s entertainment value but there’s not enough meat to the story.
Tue, Jul 21, 2020, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 12:05am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 8:18am (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 29, 2020, 9:57pm (UTC -5)
The reason seems to be they wanted Riker and Data to provide a speechifying info dump on Federation backstory. There’s certainly no sense in them saying all these things to the Keeper.
The claim that the Ferengi were distorting their image in some way made little sense. It’s obviously zoomed tight on a Ferengi face.
One HUGE annoyance is at the very end, Picard gives Geordi orders that Geordi can’t do because his fingers are stuck in the finger trap. Uh, hello? He had seen Data with the puzzle and even laughed at him, so clearly he knows how it works.
Sat, Feb 13, 2021, 3:20am (UTC -5)
I can just imagine the writer's discussions - let's make something like "Arena" - great set up and chase, crappy ending, with some super-entity thrown in for good measure. Oh yeah, and "Arena" had Godzilla. So I guess "Outpost" should have King Kong. Make the Ferengi act likes monkeys. Done, bitches!
Sun, Feb 14, 2021, 2:05pm (UTC -5)
And definitely sci-fi for those who like a big old helping of ham.
Everyone is so shouty ! And thank god they did what they did with the Ferengi after this! Terrible use of Armin Shimerman.
I did not see Wesley at all so cannot comment on his jumper, hope for something good next episode to make up for this omission.
Sun, Feb 14, 2021, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Feb 14, 2021, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
This was the very first episode of TNG that I ever watched. I was 6 years old and I though the Ferengi were stupid. I had no problem with Ewoks, Orko, or even Snarf, but the damn Ferengi were just too much.
Thu, Mar 18, 2021, 2:00pm (UTC -5)
Not to mention their refusal to fire on the Ferengi because "they only did so because we were chasing them." Yeah, after they STOLE from you. How wussified are these people. If you chased a guy after he raped your daughter and he turned around to shoot you, would you say "Oh I was chasing him, so he was in the right."
The Ferengi...*sigh*...not much to say about them. Something that was supposed to be a menacing enemy was quickly reduced to a complete joke and they never really recovered from it. The way they were behaving down on the planet, it would have been less demeaning if they literally started to throw shit at each other.
Sun, May 30, 2021, 6:59am (UTC -5)
I do like that Troi is still being used more extensively than in later series, also that Data is still convincingly android, rather than the absurdly conscious-like-a-human being he "evolves" into.
I didn't think the dialogue between Riker and the gatekeeper was at all silly, but was quite philosophical though rather brief given the length constraints of a Trek episode .
I'd award it more than 2.5 stars but not quite 3.
Wed, Nov 17, 2021, 9:34am (UTC -5)
While it's nearly impossible to be frightened by the Ferengi (@Tidd "capering about" captures it perfectly), it pretty much gets the idea across that they're just out for their own good. Not a huge amount of friendly cooperation can be expected there. 'Yankee trader' sobriquet is really off; bigots of stinginess is more like it, and the antisociality of the group stays with them for a while, until broken up by more complex characters like Quark, Nog and yes, even Rom.
Mon, Feb 21, 2022, 4:25pm (UTC -5)
Sat, May 14, 2022, 3:50am (UTC -5)
Fri, Jun 24, 2022, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 25, 2022, 6:01am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 4, 2023, 11:58pm (UTC -5)
DATA: As requested, Captain, library computer information on this planet.
The centre of a huge space federation, a population of trillions.
PICARD: Trillions? I've never heard the word Tkon before.
DATA: Understandable. It has been extinct six hundred thousand of our (his forefingers are stuck in the puzzle) of our years. These planets were once outposts of that empire.
PICARD: Continue, Commander.
DATA: Intriguing. It describes the Empire as being highly advanced and powerful, and capable of actually moving stars.
RIKER: Stars whose planets are their defence system?
DATA: Correct, sir. Outposts. The planet below was possibly one of them.
Stars, plural. Planets, many of them. One supernova: ended their empire. And this planet, "the centre of a huge space federation." Centre, as in, what, geometric center? Whatever.
While there's some merit to the first section of the episode with an unknown new race, the balloon deflates, then spins around, then slaps us in the face, when we meet the Ferengi. Those scenes on the surface...actors can't be that bad by accident If you leave them to their own devices they might be boring, or lack nuance, but they wouldn't do any of those things. Check out Tarr's buddies scooting around behind him in various scenes, crouching and then jumping up, making Thriller hands at Tasha, and doing what generally appears to be deliberate choreography. Someone must have instructed them on all these movements, even designed it, so that it looked like this. The mayhem is too orchestrated to have been totally random, with Mordoc popping up at just the right time and in the right place to say his lines. This was designed, and rehearsed! This is exactly what they wanted. My God.
But hey, here's a curious observation I made while watching. First I heard this exchange:
PICARD: Will? I haven't had your assessment.
RIKER: I believe we've covered every available alternatives, Captain. Are there other options that you want to analyse?
PICARD: The only one remaining is the one that needs no conversation. The only one we must avoid.
PICARD: The one that leads to total annihilation.
This immediately triggered my sound memory, and summoned Dune's Bene Gesserit litany against fear, which has a very memorable line for any Dune fans out there:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
Granted, Picard says "annihilation" rather than "obliteration", but the phrase sounds almost identical. And listen closely as Picard says the line: it's a direct musical quote from Toto's score to David Lynch's Dune, made 3 years prior to this. In case you didn't hear it the first time, the theme repeats. I paused the episode to tell my wife my suspicion, since I've long since been a Dune fanatic, but left it at that. But then we get this ending:
(Portal whirls his staff, bringing it to a sudden stop by Riker's right ear. He doesn't flinch)
PORTAL: Ahhh. You are facing fate with composure. But what is the answer to my challenge?
RIKER: Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy.
So there's no way the earlier line, musical cue, or this final lesson are an accident: they're borrowing from Dune for sure. Even Riker failing to flinch is a riff on Reverend Mother Mohiam testing Paul with the box and the gom jabbar. Check it out, this little Easter egg eluded me for many years.
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 8:47am (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Apr 5, 2023, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
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