The Enterprise hosts the negotiations for acquiring the custody rights of the only stable wormhole known to exist (prior to the discovery of the Bajoran wormhole in DS9, of course), discovered by the Barzan, whose representative (Elizabeth Hoffman) wants to sell it to whomever offers them the best benefits. The Federation sends their negotiator (Castulo Guerra) to the table while Geordi and Data venture into the wormhole to run tests and confirm its value.
Also at the negotiation table are the Ferengi (always annoying), and the Chrysalians, who are represented by Devinoni Ral (Matt McCoy), whose reputation as a brilliant negotiator precedes him. Ral and Troi fall in love at first sight, in swift romantic scenes that are earnest but less than believable (to say this relationship moves fast would be understatement of the year). Their connection might be explained by the fact that he is one-quarter Betazoid and has empathic abilities similar to hers, which might explain some of his success as a negotiator.
"The Price" is a passable episode because it strikes a workable balance between the Ral/Troi romance and the negotiations, and even ties the two together thematically. There's a good dinner-table dialog scene where Troi calls Ral out for unethically hiding the fact that he's a Betazoid, and Ral counter-challenges by calling Troi's own conduct into question. Meanwhile, Riker finds himself pushed into the negotiations when the Federation's negotiator is poisoned; an ensuing scene between him and Ral discusses the matter of Troi and ends in a way that sheds light on the way both Riker and Ral think.
Unfortunately, the presence of the Ferengi threaten to turn the whole thing into a farce. The Ferengi are too obnoxious to be entertaining, and too rude to be taken seriously as negotiators. That Picard allows them in the game at all is a testament to his acceptance of inappropriate behavior. When two of the Ferengi get stranded on the wrong side of the wormhole (which turns out not to be stable and thus, ironically, worthless), we're glad because that means there's two less Ferengi we have to see in the episode. Bringing such broad caricatures into an otherwise workable story is nothing short of sabotage.
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