Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Royale"

1 star

Air date: 3/27/1989
Written by Keith Mills
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The most interesting aspect of "The Royale" is its math-history footnote concerning Fermat's Last Theorem, still unproved in 1989 when the episode was made, and still allegedly unproved in the 24th century. Who would've guessed then that the theorem, after more than 350 years, would be proved in 1995?

I mention that footnote in an episode that otherwise exhibits almost no interest or merit. After the Enterprise crew finds a piece of NASA space debris from the mid-21st century and traces it to a nearby planet, Riker, Data, and Worf beam down and enter a mysterious building. Inside they find an alien representation of a 20th-century casino hotel as based on a "second-rate novel" owned by the NASA astronaut that had survived, and used as a template by aliens to build him an oasis in the middle of a barren, unlivable environment. It makes for a classic TNG Pointless Period Piece.

The first sentence of the novel was, "It was a dark and stormy night," and the episode makes much of the fact that the novel is a piece of trash with shallow characters and endless clichés. I suppose this is to cover the fact that "The Royale," as an episode of TNG, has shallow characters and endless clichés. Seriously, it must've been a hell of a writers' meeting: "Let's do an episode that's about bad clichés and lame dialog so we don't have to write something that's actually good!" (Apparently, they figured that by pointing out that the storyline is dreck, that somehow excuses it.) The away team becomes trapped in the hotel and can't escape, for no reason except that this is a Twilight Zone-style mystery that has arbitrary rules and no satisfactory explanations.

I suppose I could excuse a fantasy show if it were entertaining, but not this one. There's no mystery or wonder or suspense, but merely bad clichés, pointless guest characters, aimless dialog, and a plodding premise that never comes close to justifying its fantasy elements. (And, no, Data playing craps isn't enough.)

Previous episode: Contagion
Next episode: Time Squared

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86 comments on this post

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AeC
Sat, Jun 20, 2009, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
Am I the only person on the planet who's always gotten a big kick out of "The Royale?" Sure, it's thin, but intentionally so, and while I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, I usually appreciate things that flat-out revel in their chintziness.
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Hal Berstram
Tue, Feb 9, 2010, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
An excellent summary of a very mixed season that nonetheless probably saved TNG. If they'd done another season like season 1 it would probably have been all over. (Nowadays it'd be all over after half a season if they'd started that badly!)

The only rating I'd disagree with in any major way here is 'The Royale' which I love. It feels very much like the kind of crazy plotline that the British sci-fi writer Douglas Adams (of "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" fame) would have written. Some poor astronaut gets trapped in a facsimile of a trashy novel which he was carrying when he was rescued by aliens... it's a hilarious concept and the kind of thing that TNG could have done with a lot more of IMHO.
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CalcBoy
Thu, Mar 31, 2011, 11:58pm (UTC -5)
>>The most interesting aspect of "The Royale" is its math-history footnote concerning Fermat's Last Theorem
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Fanner
Mon, Jul 11, 2011, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Loved Royale. And Captain's Holiday. And the one where they are in Sherwood Forest. And Elementary My Dear, Data.

I sense (and I may be very wrong) a strong dislike from our host here against eps off the Enterprise/Space.

When I was younger, I was the same way. I now really like those eps. Maybe I do BECAUSE they are only twice a season, or thereabouts. I would hate them if they were more common - that wouldn't be Trek.

But as far as the Enterprise, we get being on her bridge and investigating spacial anomilies almost EVERY week. Every now and then a Fish Out Of Water ep is fun and enjoyable to see the actors enjoy doing something a little different. Variety is the...
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Nic
Mon, Sep 26, 2011, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
Don't forget the scene in "The Royale" where the surface of the planet is "MINUS 291 DEGREES CELCIUS"!!!

Uh Huh.
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Rosario
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 11:23am (UTC -5)
Hal: "It feels very much like the kind of crazy plotline that the British sci-fi writer Douglas Adams (of "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" fame) would have written. Some poor astronaut gets trapped in a facsimile of a trashy novel which he was carrying when he was rescued by aliens... it's a hilarious concept and the kind of thing that TNG could have done with a lot more of IMHO."

That certainly is a hilarious concept. Much more hilarious than 'crew finds poor astronaut that was trapped in a fascimile of a trashy novel he was reading and becomes trapped as well.' If only that poor astronaut had been reading 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' perhaps instead of the Royale, we could have had the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and they could have been ushered in to a table next to a dead rock singer and a cow could have run out to explain to our crew just how delicious she was and how badly she wanted to be eaten for their pleasure.

I'd watch it.
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DG
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 2:27am (UTC -5)
After watching DS9's "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang", this episode was going through my head, so I watched it.

They all seem so naive! Picard's been my favorite captain for freaking ever, but after DS9, the thought is 'how do you know it's not an ambush!? wait, wrong show...'

And Worf's hair is ugly! Hideously ugly!
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Cail Corishev
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
I enjoy this one too. Sure, the premise is silly, but no sillier than the notion from the previous episode ("Contagion") that reading the log from an infected ship would infect your own ship.

Once past the thin premise, the rest works fine for me as a light comedy of the Anomaly of the Week variety.
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Patrick
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
"The Royale" is 10x more enjoyable as a "Enterprise crew dealing with old time Earth stuff" than say, "A Fistful of Datas". Noble Willingham nearly steals the episode as Texas.
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TDexter
Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
I've always enjoyed and had a soft spot for this episode.

I think that the allegory is being missed in this review. The allegory is that man makes his own prison. Art is a means of escaping that prison. When art is schlock, there is no real escape. (This episode was schlock, you might counter; fair enough.) But when art somehow transcends that (as in the case of the 'Star Trek' universe, for the most part), and dares to dream bigger, there can be release.

The Enterprise crew is rescued as soon as it recognizes all the clichés of pop art and low-brow culture for what they are, and then is deftly able to navigate them, working them to their own ends. And that's Star Trek in a nutshell: always transcending schlock, while making good use of it at the same time.
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Rikko
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 8:38am (UTC -5)
I'm surprised by the number of positive reactions to this. I find 'The royale' to be somewhat boring and after the teaser I remember thinking :oh, no. Random stuff again.

My interest was lifted a bit when they found out it was all part of a novel and how they managed to get out. But, most of the episode was slow and the guest stars were bad.

@TDexter: That's a magnificent analysis! Never thought of TNG that way.
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William B
Fri, Mar 29, 2013, 2:33am (UTC -5)
This was longer than I'd intended, but cathartic --

I like TDexter's take on this episode and that resonates with the themes I was idly thinking about while rewatching it. I do think that that is likely the intent of the episode.

Alas, I do not think the episode succeeds, to put it mildly. The biggest laugh-out-loud moment for me was this, when Picard was listening to The Royale on audiobook --

TROI: I don’t believe this dialogue, did humans really talk like that?

PICARD: Not in real life. Remember: everything that’s going on down there is taken from what Col. Ritchie called a second-rate novel.

Troi then smiles knowingly.

I love how stilted, unnatural, and pointless this exchange is. I think maybe Troi does remember that, Picard -- if she had forgotten it, maybe she would be wondering why he is spending his time listening to this audiobook at length. The bad dialogue within the 'The Royale' novel and novel-recreation frame is certainly intentional. What is this dialogue's excuse?

The episode's slow pace involves particularly passive protagonists, which can only really work if what is happening to the protagonists is interesting (which it is not): within this hour-long show, the total set of actions which the protagonists take to allow the crew to escape are:

1) find Ritchie and read his diary entry;
2) read the book;
3) see Mickey Dee leave;
4) determine that the way to escape is to "act out" the book;
5) have Data win at craps and buy the casino.

These five steps could be sufficient spine for an episode if there were any intermediate steps, but there are none -- point (2) is stretched out over about half the episode, where Data reads the book instantaneously but never again has his knowledge of the book used, and we see Picard slowly reading the book (leading to that dialogue exchange earlier).

The extent to which our away team sleepwalks through this episode can be felt by comparing this to other shows in the Trek canon. "We are trapped in a story and must play along to get out!" is basically the premise of all Holodeck stories, which grew tiresome yes but which still had some real highlights. The premise of aliens misinterpreting a single book as a guideline for a culture led to TOS' "A Piece of the Action," in which Kirk et al. applied dazzling wit and originality to game the system and win the day. By contrast, in this episode, the *sole* bit of actual inspiration by the crew is to have Data win at craps, and there there is no tension because we know Data can continue rolling sevens ad nauseam.

The backstory provided by Ritchie's journal entry is totally nonsensical -- the idea that he wrote *one* journal entry in all those years (and somehow kept track of the time); the idea that the aliens could communicate in English but could not understand Ritchie's telling them point-blank that he wants out stands up to little scrutiny; most of all, why would the aliens create the entire cast of the novel EXCEPT the "foreign investors," as if waiting for the away team for all time? This is lampshaded by having Riker say that nothing in this episode makes any sense, but pointing at flaws does not remove them or compensate.

And that's the bottom line. If the episode is attempting to make fun of bad art while making a piece that is "good art", it is itself such bad art that the smug dismissal of trash just makes the episode read worse. If the episode is meant to be some sort of commentary on trash by having a terrible TNG episode about a terrible (fictional) novel, it is hard to care. If it is a celebration of the entertainment value found in trash -- paging Pauline Kael! -- then it certainly could have used more scenes of anyone actually enjoying themselves besides having Riker smirk now and again and Data's rather out-of-character response.

Essentially -- if you're going to base an episode around terrible, unbearably bad material, do *something* to lighten that material, rather than gawking, and having characters constantly remind us that the dialogue is *supposed* to be bad.

Despite my general boredom, there are a few moments of meta-humour where I found myself giggling (it is, to be fair, late and I can't sleep) and I couldn't quite tell whether it was the intended effect or not. The biggest two involved Worf's reactions to the Royale's 20th century locale, and in both case the material was *written* as a joke, but it’s a joke so corny and obvious I could hardly believe they went there and that Michael Dorn could keep a straight face, less at the joke and at more at the idea that this is the joke they are doing. The first is Worf’s “Let us use these turbolifts!” and then standing in front of it, waiting for it to open, and declaring “they aren’t working!” I get that Worf is unfamiliar with 20th century casinos, but surely he understands that not everything in the world is automatic. The second is the hysterical way Dorn delivers Worf’s “No!” when answering the phone question if they want room service, after the similarly cheesy joke about the away team not knowing what room service meant. Something about that “No!” cracks me up -- probably because of course Worf would want to refuse whatever they were asking on the phone anyway, and was just waiting for the opportunity to scream it. Definitely this is an episode that needed as much barely restrained impatience from Worf as it could get.

As bad as this is, I think very little of it is as flat-out terrible as “Code of Honour” is; this episode mostly just has the life sapped out of it. For the first twenty minutes or so, before the episode numbed me totally, I didn’t even think it was going to be all that bad -- but then the dullness became more and more toxic. So 1 star sounds about right.
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T'Paul
Sat, May 25, 2013, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
Original and consistent in its own way... and sure does it better than Voyager or Enterprise would, in that it takes itself as seriously as it can and follows its own logic, and tries to have us understand it too, I mean, it treats us as though we had a modicum of intelligence. Not a complete flop I would say.
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langtonian
Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 11:13am (UTC -5)
I understand what most people are saying about this episode, but I have to say I don't mind this one. I wouldn't want this kind of thing all the time, but it tries to do something a bit different, and it's one of the few I remember clearly from watching the first time around.
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Eduardo
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 1:24pm (UTC -5)
"this episode mostly just has the life sapped out of it. For the first twenty minutes or so, before the episode numbed me totally, I didn’t even think it was going to be all that bad -- but then the dullness became more and more toxic. So 1 star sounds about right."

@William B

The reason this episode comes across as numbing is probably because it went through some extensive rewrites thanks to Maurice Hurley, who ended up diluting a lot of the comedy, surrealism and satire present in Tracy Tormé's original draft.

One of the reasons Hurley rewrote it is because he felt it was too similar to A Piece in the Action.

It was so altered, it came to the point of Tormé actually disowning the script and using a pseudonym, Keith Mills. Even director Cliff Bole preferred the original story outline.

More info on the link below:

en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/The_Royale_(episode)
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William B
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
@Eduardo: Thanks for the info. I remembered hearing something about that; Tracy Tormé had that a lot didn't he? (Also, IIRC, Haven and Manhunt.)
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Andrew
Thu, Aug 8, 2013, 8:30pm (UTC -5)
A lot has been said how this episode falls into the "off the ship" category, but I think the real problem is it's in the "crew travels to past-earth" category.

I generally don't like those stories, like "Time's Arrow".(aside from First Contact which was awesome). But I think Royale isn't too bad because it has enough humor in it. "Fistfull of Datas" as well has a good balance of humor.

But honestly I think this episode is more fun to watch than DS9's "Far Beyond the Stars." because atleast this episode still involves the crew investigating an alien mystery, and it doesn't take itself overly seriously.
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Reverend Spork
Fri, Aug 23, 2013, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
I never thought that badly of this episode. It's equal parts silly and weird, but the characters handled a weird and silly situation fairly well, and that helped immensely. I'd give it one more star than jammer.
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Kevin
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 10:40pm (UTC -5)
I wonder if anyone else noticed just how much Brent keeps smiling in the early episodes.
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Kevin
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 11:18pm (UTC -5)
You know, after watching it again, it's bad, but it's fun. I have to admit I did smile at Brent out of character and having fun gambling.

It is one of those, so bad it is actually good episodes.
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Liam
Mon, Sep 15, 2014, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
I don't know, I've always had a soft spot for this episode. I like the mystery aspect and the idea that aliens used a trashy novel as the blueprint for creating a suitable environment for the astronaut. There's more going on here plot wise than the standard holodeck gone awry or time travel period piece episode.
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$G
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 7:32am (UTC -5)
Yeah, this one's not all that good. I wouldn't really recommend it to anybody.

But I can't really remove my rose-tinted glasses when it comes to this episode. It's one of the episodes I recorded on VHS when I was a kid and would watch whenever I felt like watching Star Trek.

I still think the skeleton in the bed is creepy.
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RandomThoughts
Thu, May 28, 2015, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
I watched all of Trek with my Mother, two episodes a week (in order) for years, and her favorite character was Data (and later, Quark). She got a big kick out of how Data acted while playing craps, and I must say I did as well. Nice memory.

I always felt bad for the astronaut (but hey, they had room service! Maybe the food was good. :) ).

I have wondered about the aliens, who read the book (?) and made a world for him, but never talked to him about it? They could understand English apparently (read the book), but it never occurred to them to find a way to see if he was okay? They started their (sort of) version of a holodeck, and never came back to see how he was doing, to the point of him being dead for uncounted years with the thing still running? After caring enough to make a 'world' for him? Nah...

Still, if I had to watch a one star episode out of all the Trek's, this would be the one.

Have a great day! :)
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Diamond Dave
Wed, Aug 26, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
"None of this makes any sense" says Riker at the end, and he's not wrong. This is just a desperate mess, a fundamentally boring hour in which there is no peril and a vast amount of time is spent wandering around a single set waiting for something to happen. It's kind of like the worst holodeck episode ever - and it's not even on the holodeck.

The only things to be rescued out of this are an effective pre-title sequence and the discovery of the astronaut, which suggests there was the guts of a decent story in there but that the delivery was fundamentally flawed.

I agree though that there is something in the delivery of Worf's "No!" to the room service phone call that approaches genius. 1 star.
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JMT
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 11:23am (UTC -5)
This was the very first episode of Star Trek I ever saw. I remember I was in a hotel room on a family vacation with my brothers, and while I watched they would explain the characters to me, like Worf was from a race of warriors, and that Data was an android. I didn't find the show particularly interesting, and I had trouble understanding why the space men were in a casino.

Watching this again as an adult, I was struck with how absolutely boring the episode is. Perhaps it is a credit to how well the bland purgatory of the Royale came to life, boring its audience in much the same way it bored the poor astronaut who stumbled into it. As a child I suffered through it attempting to understand the ludicrous, as an adult I suffered through it with smartphone in hand, playing Sudoku.

With the exception of Shades of Grey, this is easily the worst episode of Star Trek for me. It's as bland and boring as my grandmother's pot roast.
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grumpy_otter
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 8:33am (UTC -5)
@JMT -- your description of your first experience with this episode is funnier than the episode itself! I watched "Darmok" with a room full of people who had never seen it before and I was doing the same thing as your brothers--

"That's Deanna, she can sense emotions."

"She's a telepath?"

"No, an empath. She's from Betazed and they can. . . "

lol--I can just imagine how it would have gone! Glad you didn't let this one episode turn you off Trek.

But I still like this one. I am reminded of the "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and how everyone is fascinated by the idea of the land where dreams come true and wants to go there. But then they learn it is where DREAMS come true, and realize how horrifying that would be in reality. No wonder the poor astronaut died of boredom. We've all read some of those kinds of books!

The US flag in this episode has 52 stars starting in 2033. I wonder who will be next?
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grumpy_otter
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 9:07am (UTC -5)
Darnit--hit submit too soon!

One thing I really think is cool is the planet's surface. I know the choice to make it just a dark space with a revolving door was probably a budget decision, but I love it! It seems so eerie and out of place in that dark area. I love the way that looks and the slight echo we hear.

Deanna did a good job in this episode, and it was one of the few times when she was really useful. She is able to report that Will feels "amused" and so everyone relaxes a bit that the away team isn't in danger. Later she reports he has begun to feel anxious. Too bad she forgot this ability on other occasions when crew members were out of contact!

Picard's expression when he reads, "It was a dark and stormy night," and realizes what he in in for when reading this dreck, is great!

And now that I've discussed all that, I don't understand all the hate for this episode. grumpy_otter deems it a fun and fanciful frolic!
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Del_Duio
Tue, May 10, 2016, 5:18am (UTC -5)
Yeah, this episode stinks but it's much better than something like Cost of Living or Profit and Lace. I'll echo the poster above who said its weird watching Brent Spiner play Data in the early seasons: He's giving off too much emotion like smiling and etc. He didn't really nail the character until S3 I think, which of course when this whole show vastly improved overall.
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Robert
Tue, May 10, 2016, 8:00am (UTC -5)
I actually think, and I'd love to ask Brent actually, that the emotion was intentional and empty. Like... I think it was an attempt to mimic people. Smile when he's supposed to, etc. Like somebody who doesn't have emotions trying to act like they fit in.
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Wilt
Sat, May 28, 2016, 4:50am (UTC -5)
I agree that this episode was not classic status. But I always enjoyed. A guilty pleasure? Most definitely.

Couldn't imagine something like this being made in the 2010's. It seemed somewhat old timey even by the early 90's. But it is a snapshot in time of how scripts could be as opposed to how scipts are currently. And truthfully I miss those times just a bit.
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Frank
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 7:56pm (UTC -5)
I recall seeing this episode when it first ran 27 years ago. As a teen, I didn't really care much for it. "The Royale" simply isn't very good, but there it is anyway, stuck in my memory. Some episodes I've entirely forgotten, but this one was unique. Don't know why exactly. Perhaps it was the simplicity of the story, or the stark visuals. The revolving doors spinning in the blackness, the gray skeleton concealed in the white bedding -- both scenes were very, very memorable. 2 stars, maybe 2 1/2.
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Owen Morton
Tue, Nov 15, 2016, 5:48am (UTC -5)
Always a favourite of mine, as it was one of the few I had on VHS back in the 90s. And come on, who can't love an episode with Picard's immortal line: "A revolving door? Proceed with caution, Number One."
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Ant
Thu, Mar 23, 2017, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Ok it's not a rip roaring classic but I've always enjoyed this episode.

As a general point by this time in season 2 it's good to see the cat really into their stride and playing their characters off against each other.
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Black Charlie
Mon, Apr 10, 2017, 4:30pm (UTC -5)
I found it fun. Sort of fish-out-water, Riker, Worf and Data amongst these shallow, stylised characters, Data matter-of-factly stating the rules of blackjack and they have no choice but to simply agree amid playing their roles as shallow cliched characters.

A funny bad sad kind of hell trapped by aliens in what they believed to be your ideal way of living which is actually a really crap pulp novel. Still I enjoyed the setting and the mystery, but I do wonder what became of that planet. Surely they must have put a warning out about it, what if some other poor travellers became trapped in the hotel for eternity but never read the book in order to figure out how to get out.
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borusa
Thu, Apr 13, 2017, 11:13am (UTC -5)
The premise seems partly Twilight Zone and partly Space 1999.
Hey,there's another cartoon Texan-maybe related to the guy in The Neutral Zone.
Given the aliens felt guilty for killing the astronaut's colleagues you'd think they would realise he had actually died and close down the facility 200 years earlier.
If the people in the hotel were not robots and were not alive then what were they?
I know-not worth trying to figure it out cos the writers surely couldn't care.

Couldn't we have a negative rating system?-I'd give this three wormholes.
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Derek D
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:28pm (UTC -5)
In my mind I keep going back and forth between 1 star and 2 stars. I mean, it really is bad, but as silly as it is there is something fun about it.
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Markus
Fri, Jan 12, 2018, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Hilarious! I actually like this episode much more than one stars because of its mysterious atmosphere and imagery, but one of the first dialogues has Geordi saying the temperature on the planet were "-291 degree Celsius". Last time I check the absolute zero temperature was -273 something Celsius. Interestingly, the German version differs and says "219".
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Peter Swinkels
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 7:37am (UTC -5)
Oh my was this ever a shallow and pointless episode. Also, how in the world did the aliens get enough information to create The Royale environment from that book? Did it contain appendixes on human anatomy and building construction along with that shallow story? And did the centigrade tempurature scale get redifined? -291 c?! Hello? Absolute zero is at −273.15 °C! And I while I am not sure about it and unwilling to bother looking it up wouldn’t many of the substances mentioned when talking about that planet’s atmosphere be more than liquid, but rather frozen rock solid?

I am all for fictional future science but unless there is some very good reason for it messing with what is well established science is just stupid. This isn’t scifi, it’s fantasy.
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Rahul
Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
This was one lame episode -- slow, boring, largely pointless. If it's about Fermat's Theorem being a puzzle that may never be solved as an analogy to how the astronaut Col. Richey got out to this planet and the unfolding of a novel being the resolution of the episode, that's just overall unambitious and weak. The writer set his bar very low.

I was briefly reminded of "A Piece of the Action" due to an alien culture being set up after an Earth novel, although that's a very thin similarity as this episode had very little substance. It wasn't humorous either.

Plenty of filler material -- Data gambling, interacting with the gamblers. The episode really dragged on without any tension.

The most interesting part (everything is relative) was about how Col. Richey's shuttle was apparently hijacked and ultimately he was left to die in the hotel as some explanation for the bizarre predicament. But the episode doesn't go into more detail about the aliens -- as if it is too immature to come up with something about who they were, what their purpose was etc.

Agree with the 1 star rating here -- just not enough substance, lame, boring. Why did the aliens capture Col. RIchey, kill his crew, and just imprison him? The episode should attempt to give some logic about what took place which sounds like a potentially interesting sci-fi concept in itself. Worf saying "No" on the phone when room service called did manage to make me smile.

Anyhow, another forgettable TNG S2 episode -- chronologically, now out of the 1st 12 TNG S2 episodes, that's 5 I rate lower than 2 stars.
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Dr Lazurus
Sat, Apr 7, 2018, 12:25am (UTC -5)
I liked this episode. If I ever get a chance to travel among the stars, I'm bring a copy of Penthouse with me. An alien race is free to create a holodeck world for me by using the magazine as a template.

This is one of many Star Trek episodes that use the "book" cliche. Old Chicago, the Constitution, Nazi Germany, etc. Not sure if the episode about the Roman Gladiators was from a book. Thank god the Prime Directive finally discouraged a crew from living books laying about for impressionable aliens. You saw what happened with TV waves when the aliens in Galaxy Quest got hold of them.

Not even the death of the Astronaut shut down this simulation. It took 300 years to wait for a group of foreign investors to break the casino to do that.
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Peter H
Fri, Apr 20, 2018, 3:00am (UTC -5)
I will never understand Trek's obsession with "period" episodes and Earth trivia (I'm looking at you Tom Paris). I'm interested in the future, not bland attempts to recreate the past.

However... against all odds I rather like this episode. I think it's something about the idea of being trapped for eternity in such a surreal but cheesy kind of purgatory that really tickles me.
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mephyve
Thu, May 24, 2018, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Riker sums this one up with his final line 'None of this makes any sense.'
A polarizing episode. You either hate it or enjoy the ride. It wasn't meant to be logical nor thought provoking.
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JerJer
Sun, May 27, 2018, 11:03am (UTC -5)
Yet another Star Trek episode that just happens to take place in 20th century Earth, something viewers would be able to relate to...just as Tom Paris is obsessed with 1950s B-rate sci-fi; holodeck mishaps or time travel incidents always ended up putting people on the streets of San Fran or similar sometime in the 20th century...and the future when we did see it, ie. going to 2019 when the show was made in 1990, never looked futuristic.

I remember seeing this show way back in the early-mid 90s, and can still remember it. I have a certain like for it, but I guess that is mostly nostalgia, having read all the comments here it makes the plotholes glare.

Troi was stupid in this episode. They have no way to communicate or transport anyone, but she can 'sense' Riker? He's a million (or 50,000 or whatever) miles away...it was just a forced way to give her a role. Just as Wesley is reporting on something that he wouldn't have the controls for...
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Wks
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 7:14am (UTC -5)
I going to space I will bring a much better

For example
One hundred years of solitude
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NCC-1701-Z
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 9:20am (UTC -5)
@Wks

If I go to space I'm bringing my copy of Asimov's Foundation trilogy.
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chuck V
Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 12:20am (UTC -5)
I would bring Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos. Underrated, I suggest y'all check it out.
I enjoy the creepy mysteriousness of this one, although some scenes get a little too campy for me.
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Notes
Sun, Jul 22, 2018, 12:29am (UTC -5)
Worf's quote "Phasers are ineffective on all surfaces" seems to imply that he phasered the hotel staff and guests, and so forth. Otherwise, he didn't really try *all surfaces*.
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Ari Paul
Mon, Sep 3, 2018, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode! It's certainly a guilty pleasure! I just appreciate all the ironic humor ("room service?" "It was a dark and stormy night----not a very good start" etc.) Plus it's got an upbeat tone to it. But most of all I do genuinely feel a good deal of suspense here. This place is purgatory, and the desire to get out, and the sense of danger, is just so wonderfully palpable.

Having said all that I know that there are flaws and that the story is pretty simple without any big morality issues etc. Nevertheless, it's a load of good fun.

2 stars.
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Domzer
Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 3:10am (UTC -5)
worst review ever... this is a super fun episode... loved it as a kid and still do... silly yes but who cares?
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wolfstar
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
Picard: "Is penetration possible?"
Georgi: "I don't know just yet, it may be an option."

0 stars, what even is this? Worse than Okona, Code Of Honor or Shades Of Grey.
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Burger
Thu, Feb 28, 2019, 6:56am (UTC -5)
A number of the comments above state that the 'skeleton in the bed' sequence was really creepy & well done. I've always thought this scene is suspiciously like a very similar scene in the 1971 film 'The Omega Man' with Charlton Heston (scared the cr*p out of me as a kid). I find it very difficult to believe that the writers/producers weren't aware of this sequence - it had been a major film & Heston had been a huge star thanks to 'Planet of the Apes' etc. So - plagiarism anyone?
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meister
Sat, Mar 9, 2019, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
5/10

I never liked this one. It is like a holodeck episode but mostly pointless. I didn't find the time inside the hotel as tedious as memory served but still...

I think the writers had a thing for period plays. Why introduce them at all whether holodeck or this sort of plot?

and another thing...after the previous episode shouldn't they have been more cautious in their actions?
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SC
Sat, Mar 30, 2019, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Just adding my name to the list of people who disagree with this review. I really like this fun - fantasy adventure - episode. It's a clever idea with a decent mystery.

I'm not having a go at Jammer, he's entitled to his opinion, I just disagree with it.
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SC
Sat, Mar 30, 2019, 11:39am (UTC -5)
@meister

This is where we disagree. Some of my favourite episodes are the holodeck / period play episodes.
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Springy
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 6:12am (UTC -5)
I loved it.

Note how Picard ends the last ep feeling all peppy and alive because he's broken out of his routine, and we move right into an ep where we find guy who welcomed Death because his Life had become nothing but routine.

It's fun: The snooty hotel clerk is well done, Data is great in his Cowboy hat, and he tells us that the people, who look alive, really aren't. Cowboy points out that Data has no room to talk.

I liked the look of the place, all that darkness and that one revolving door . . . the living Death inside The Royale.

The Enterprise can barely communicate with them - there's a feel, here, of the Enterprise having to break through the barrier like a medium at a seance, trying to make contact.

I found this one memorable enough to remember it across the years.

Just fun, kept my interest throughout.
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Fenn
Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 9:13am (UTC -5)
I'm here to throw in my lot with the "absolutely pointless, but pretty fun" commenters. Definitely did drag though. I'm not sure how much of my half-asleepness during it I wanna attribute to the episode's entertainment quality or to the fact that it was 4am.

One thing, though. They put Worf there, and then they don't even have him have a go at anything there? The "no" to room service is hilarious, but c'mon Trek, I know you can go further. Where's that fearsome Klingon battle spirit applied to an unassuming game of blackjack with three elderly Texans?
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Fenn
Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 9:18am (UTC -5)
(I still can't stop thinking about "what if they'd done more with Worf here". Missed opportunity for Worf to gain a terrifying new opponent: 76-year-old Marjorie Smalls, who just *will not stop getting natural blackjacks*. I think I'm feeling the urge to write fanfiction.)
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Colin Campbell
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 3:57pm (UTC -5)
Impressive the way Data can correct loaded dice just by squeezing them for a couple of seconds in the palm of his hand.
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Daniel B
Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 11:49am (UTC -5)
{{ Sure, the premise is silly, but no sillier than the notion from the previous episode ("Contagion") that reading the log from an infected ship would infect your own ship. }}

That's actually believable. "Log file appears to be in .rtf format, I'll just double click and it should open my word processor...."
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SS Elim
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
I can get behind this one. Silly and lightweight, sure, but inoffensive overall and even charming at times. Picard's pained expressions at the novel's terrible dialogue are wonderful. Plus big-time gambler Data is adorable. "Baby needs a new pair of shoes!"
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Patrick
Thu, Oct 1, 2020, 11:56am (UTC -5)
There was a time were I took TNG quite serious and I would have issues with this episode. However, it was the first episode I remember my young self watching and having a relaxing Time. Nowadays I can quite enjoy the silliness of it all. It has charm. Its really nothing too special, but it has familiar warmth to it and the acting on screen fits it nicely. Like.
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Larry Pettyjohn
Sat, Dec 26, 2020, 10:59pm (UTC -5)
The fact that this place was based on a poorly written basically cheesy novel, that should have given you the reason for the cheesiness of the episode The Players already in the casino had set rolls that they had to follow per the book. that in itself explains why the away team had few options for exit. I do wish they had came up with a more scientific way out, Like finding a power source and after deactivating it, so no other space travelers could become trapped, had to be beamed out at a precise moment after deactivation and before the planets atmosphere reached them.
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Bob (a different one)
Tue, Feb 16, 2021, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
Lets "get down to bidness"!


This is one that I really want to like. I really like the basic idea of the kidnapped astronaut; very Twilight Zone-ish concept. Noble Willingham is perfectly cast as the sleazy Texan and his lady friend is hot. But there are still some big problems with this one though.



I think it would have worked better if you only focused on two characters (Data and Riker) and left off almost every scene on the Enterprise. You don't really need Picard reading the novel aboard ship, much less having Troi stand behind him while he reads. That would give you more time with the two main characters interacting with the guest stars and getting more immersed in the plot of the bad novel.
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Mal
Sat, Feb 27, 2021, 4:13am (UTC -5)
1 star is about right.

The episode had a lot going for it, but just draaaaaaaaags.

Worf is hilarious! Both the turbo lift scene and the room service scene are laugh-out-loud funny.

Data playing craps is awesome fun, definitely picked up later by The Sisko in Badda Bang.

And even a few of the side stories are intriguing (especially the old Texan who is leading a young lady to life of despair... woah, pretty dark stuff!).

BUT. SO. FUCKING. BORING.

I suppose they couldn't figure out if they wanted to do a holo-deck malfunction episode (where they get stuck in a Hotel Royale story), or a prime directive episode (like Piece of the Action).

And so they structured it as some weird Hotel California episode that just didn't work.

Guys, how was this place still up and running 280 years after the guy it was built for had died??? Unlimited POWER!

@Dr Lazurus, LOL. Playboy for me.
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Crobert
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
I never found a reason to care or be concerned. They're stuck in a simulation of some kind ok but there's no real urgency to get out.

Terrible trade in on an interesting opening of finding a piece of NASA salvage but I guess they wanted to avoid anything close to V-GER?

The best thing to come out of this episode is the gif of Riker fist pumping after Data throws a winner.

Considering how often I groan about stuff in TNG it was rich to see Picard struggling with the 'dark and stormy night' opener.

Feel my pain Jean Luc. Feel my goddamn pain.
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Maq
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
So very silly and enjoyable.
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Trekkie313
Tue, Mar 16, 2021, 2:09am (UTC -5)
I really like this episode due to Data and Worfs humorous interactions with the casino guests. Plus Time Travel/alien copying Earth stories are always fun.
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Daniel B
Sun, Mar 21, 2021, 2:21pm (UTC -5)
Something I just noticed - it's too bad that this subpar episode is one of the few non-Troi-centric episodes where they still found a way to do something useful with her telepathic senses (rather than dozens of variants on "He's hiding something" or "There's deceit there" when we already know this other character is clearly un-trustworthy), as she's able to give Picard regular updates on the mental/emotional status of the guys stuck down on the planet.
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Tidd
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 2:35am (UTC -5)
Sorry, Jammer, I disagree. While “The Royale” is not a great episode, nevertheless I’ve always loved it. Who couldn’t love the sight of Data rolling craps with such simulated enjoyment?

It’s not a typical TNG (or Trek) episode. It’s more like an Outer Limits segment, or The Twilight Zone. Probably devised as a budget saving exercise, nevertheless you can enjoy it at face value for its initial mystery, then its comedic content. And the supporting cast must have had great fun acting so badly as cliche’d characters from a bad novel. Picard ‘s expression as he was forced to digest it really made me laugh!

I was going to add something about the irony that Fermat’s Last Theorem was finally solved soon after this episode aired, but... hey, I just did!

I can’t quite give it 3 stars, but 2.75 seems fair.
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Tidd
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 2:52am (UTC -5)
“The US flag in this episode has 52 stars starting in 2033. I wonder who will be next?“

Post-Brexit, Britain, I fear... 🤣
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Booming
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 4:00am (UTC -5)
The US already has terrible eating habits, so taking in GB is not a good idea. GB food is almost as deadly as German food, while tasting so much worse. Every tried sheep's head stew? I still wake up screaming...

Let's not forget Puerto Rico. Shouldn't they be taken out of limbo?! Or Guam.
The US could get it up to 54 stars in no time.
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Tidd
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 5:18pm (UTC -5)
@Booming

Hey, we don't chlorine wash chicken! Nor do we allow a % of dead insects, mice faeces, or other crap into our food! In fact, we have food standards that apply throughout the EU, though sadly these may deteriorate now we've left. :-(

I don't know when you were last in the UK, but we have some superb restaurants locally, and none of them serve sheep's head stew (I've never seen it advertised, let alone eaten it). Just as a case in point: yesterday we had hake fillet in garlic butter on roast new potatoes, with seasonal green vegetables, followed by vanilla pannacotta with fresh strawberries and meringue. Cost? £10 each...
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Booming
Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 6:15pm (UTC -5)
I was just having a little fun. I have nothing but love for Britain. Maybe when you rejoin it will be forever. :)
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Tidd
Sat, Jul 10, 2021, 1:47am (UTC -5)
@Booming

Ah, ok. My mum’s late brother lived and worked in New York State from the early 60s, so I have several cousins scattered between the East and West coasts. Long life to you!
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Booming
Sat, Jul 10, 2021, 4:51am (UTC -5)
I meant rejoining the Union on the other side of the channel not the one on the other side of pond. ;)
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NoPoet
Sun, Dec 26, 2021, 12:27pm (UTC -5)
Episodes like this remind me of the time my PS4 tried to murder me once a week and I kept switching it on.
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Alyx
Tue, Jan 11, 2022, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
I always wondered how Worf knew how to answer an old telephone. I know it's not rocket science but if you've never seen one before would you really know what to do or even what it was? I guess he could have learned about them in school (history class maybe) or in a holodeck program.

Anyway I don't think this episode was THAT bad, I mean it was goofy but one star seems overly harsh.
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Jonathan
Wed, Mar 23, 2022, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
Long-time lurker, first-time poster.

I love, love, love this episode. It is not as epic as "Inner Light" or the "Five Lights" two-parter, but I'll be damned if it doesn't have a certain replay value.

The irony in the Texan lashing out at Data, the android, for saying he wasn't showing life signs? Chef's kiss.

It's also, unironically, Brent Spiner's best work on the show. What makes the juxtaposition work when he plays along and starts winning only works because he totally sells being a robot. I'm reminded of the thankless but amazing performance by Peter Weller in _Robocop_. It takes some contrast, of course, to make it funny. The TNG movies dropped the ball incredibly there. Funny Data is Data doing pitch-perfect imitations of quirky humans (see also "A Fistful of Datas"). Funny Data is not "look at me -- my emotions chip is making me emote! LOL!"

If every episode were like this, then the series would be bad. But not every episode is like this. For what it is, it's fine.

My favorite Voyager by far is the Captain Proton one.

I sense a pattern with my guilty pleasures. They still stay true to the show and the characters, but deflate tension with a fun side adventure.

The others who like this episode may also ardent fans of gallows humor (as I am). This also reminds me of Mark Kermode who said that horror and comedy trigger similar emotional states. In real life, most people perceive me at first to be a dead serious grump but are often surprised at how self-deprecating and able to laugh at so much. I also like dry sarcasm. Remember how I mentioned my appreciation of irony?

Psychology ain't my wheelhouse and I am fumbling here, but maybe I'm onto something. Maybe not.
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Sigh2000
Thu, Mar 24, 2022, 5:34am (UTC -5)
@Jonathan
"The others who like this episode may also be ardent fans of gallows humor (as I am)."

I've grown to like The Royale in recent years... it reminds me somewhat of the play Steambath, or the waiting room in the film Beetlejuice.

For gallows humour, I very much like Black Adder; best moment of many good ones, occurs in Series I, where while being burned at the stake, he says "but I'm not even comfortable."

Re: Comedy/horror linkage...I think you may be on to something there. :)
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R3
Fri, May 13, 2022, 8:05pm (UTC -5)
This episode is bad. I can't take the stupidity of it. I remember about 20 years ago watching TNG reruns with my father when he was getting me into Star Trek, I nearly completely stopped watching after this one came on. So dumb.
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Jonathan
Sun, Jul 3, 2022, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
@sigh2000

Black Adder is a great series and the first season is great, although it is seen by some as the black *sheep* of the series. Admittedly, Season 1 is far different in characterization and production style than later seasons, but I love Seasons 1 and 4 far more than the other seasons, and that's probably because they're truly the darkest.

If I can belabor my point about dark humor and horror/comedy and tension relief, the situations in Seasons 1 and 4 feel more realistic than in Seasons 2 and 3. Oh, you don't like working for the snotty son of the king ... then quit. There's no escaping the violence and filth and awfulness of medieval Europe. The ridiculousness provides some release from the ever-present misery surrounding our characters. No one's place is that comfortable or secure. The commoners: stunningly miserable. The king: constantly having to arrange marriages and wage wars, even if he is macho and enjoys these things, he doesn't have a choice, and he has to keep winning. One loss can mean his death. The queen: basically chattel trapped in a loveless marriage. No one is secure based on position. Just as in real life, if one royal prince gets "out of line," people will not all rally to help. History in many cultures is rife with tales of enemies and insiders assassinating one royal to install another.

Season 4: World War I. Everything is miserable and inescapable ... to the point where literally every episode is about the futility of the war and the futility of Edmund trying to escape. Every character is metaphorically on death row or in the terminal ward of the hospital and the humor is a welcome respite.

It is these grim situations that make the humor cathartic. Tension is relieved. Compare that to Seasons 2 and 3. It's an upper-middle-class Edmund who can be funny and witty, but his cynicism is unjustified (he's a miserable ingrate), and it's all some diversion and a situation that anyone could leave if he really hated it. Season 3 really doubled down on this aspect. Season 2 and most specials did have some elements of danger. I was glad that Season 4 got back to the roots so to speak. (And apologies, sigh2000, for dragging half of Black Adder through the mud if you like the seasons in question.)

The mundane, pedestrian nature of the Royale casino contrasts with the stark environment and horrible stakes involved. If in a Cardassian prison, you could be beaten, but there's hope of change or getting out eventually. Your tormentors are real and have a purpose, as nefarious as it may be. With the casino, you are possibly condemned to live out the rest of your days in a somewhat nice retirement home in solitary confinement, with no sentient beings, only illusions. The stakes, as Riker spells out, are to find a way out or basically have the Enterprise mercy kill you by destroying the casino. The episode messes up the balance and there is too much comedy perhaps, but that's always lurking there. The juxtaposition of the seemingly benign, comfortable Royale against the truth (a prison full of illusions from which there is no escape, a hell scenario on loop) entertains me for the same reason that Data switching from honest, cold, and robotic to dishonest and whimsical does.

The juxtaposition is important. If Data were like that Bumblebee character in those _Transformer_ films with non sequiturs and wacky impressions of everything and anything all the time, it would be annoying. If the Star Trek crew were just visiting a similar casino on Riga or whatever that vacation planet was, it'd be another installment in a boring series. The idea of something nice as actually awful is haunting. I really love the _Doctor Who_ episode "The God Complex." You're in a tacky, soulless, but not bad and actually superficially comfortable prison with seemingly no chance of escape.

I get people not liking this episode on a subjective level and there are objective criticisms to make. I just feel that critical voices here are glossing over some strengths that appeal to some of us. I think the occasional diversion can be good in and of itself. If you went to Korea and had some patbingsu, you could enjoy it for what it is even though it would also be true that you would abhor Korean cuisine if every Korean meal had patbingsu. The Royale episode is like that. I wouldn't like _Star Trek_ if most episodes were like it, but I can enjoy the occasional Royale episode when it does appear, and that goes for The Inner Light or Measure of a Man, too. Uniqueness counts for something.
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Sigh2000
Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
@Jonathan
"I was glad that Season 4 [of Black Adder] got back to the roots so to speak. (And apologies, sigh2000, for dragging half of Black Adder through the mud if you like the seasons in question.)"

No worries. I love season 4. Who can forget Geoffrey Palmer as General Haig using a dustpan and brush to sweep away all of his wargaming figures, tossing his dead troops over his shoulder. Dark indeed. :-)
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Jason R.
Sat, Aug 13, 2022, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Data advises the phantom gambler lady to stay on a 13 with the dealer showing a queen. Totally wrong advise.
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Peter G.
Sat, Aug 13, 2022, 8:44pm (UTC -5)
@ Jason R,

The transcript is all I can find, but maybe the original shooting script didn't specify the cards shown in this hand. I've often found errors or quibbles in shows that can probably be attributed to miscommunication between the properties department and the director/cast. It could be the shooting script implies there's a higher holding, maybe a 16, but props lay down a 13 and no one noticed. That would be my guess, anyhow.
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Andrew Reeves
Tue, Aug 16, 2022, 2:17am (UTC -5)
That’s an interesting suggestion, Peter G. However, there’s still the implication that Brent Spiner and everyone in the room were so ignorant of Blackjack odds that they didn’t bring up an obvious staging (or scripting) error.

We could also imagine Blackjack became so obscure by the 24th century that Soong was ignorant of the rules and programmed Data with some bad gambling advice.
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Jason R.
Tue, Aug 16, 2022, 4:59am (UTC -5)
Some blackjack players are scared of going bust, such that they simply won't risk pulling on a hand of 12 and above, no matter what the dealer is showing. My dad is like this. He's otherwise a rational educated man and logically he understands that going bust is no worse than ending up with a lower hand than the dealer (either outcome being equally a loss) and the fact that with the dealer showing a 10 the odds favor pulling even if the likelihood is going bust, but he still plays that way. Sometimes I think he just plays that way to troll me.

But anyway I think whoever wrote this is like my dad. We are meant to see Data as the logical one advising caution (don't pull because odds are you'll go bust!) with the Texan cowboy being the happy go lucky "go for broke" one either because he's a "cowboy" or because he wants the pretty girl to go bust just so she has to turn to him for a place to stay and he can get in her panties (I totally didn't get that subtext that he may have wanted her to fail for that reason until my latest viewing).

Kind of funny writing. I actually think the cowboy wanted her to lose her shirt (literally and figuratively) but the writers kind of botched it haha.

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