Written by Ira Steven Behr
Directed by Chip Chalmers
Season 3, Episode 19
Original air date: April 2, 1990
Star date: 43745.2
Two overdressed aliens transport to the paradise planet Risa… If this sounds like the opening to a joke, you aren’t far off. Unlike most of the people on holiday there, these aliens aren’t looking for a relaxing getaway on a suns-lit beach; they’re only after one thing: Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who wouldn’t be caught dead at a resort like that. When they’re informed that he isn’t there and has no vacation plans on the schedule, they confidently state: “He will come.” Spoilers!
On Enterprise, Picard and Troi return from difficult but successful negotiations between two stubborn groups. The captain is ready to get back to work at supervising repairs to the ship, but Troi thinks he needs a vacation and rallies the entire crew into a scheme to get him to take one. Riker, in particular, is keen to send him to his favorite vacation spot, Risa, which sets off Picard’s internal red alert. Wise to their machinations, the only thing that convinces Picard to reconsider is the news that Troi’s mother, Lwaxana Troi, is planning to visit while they’re at Starbase 12. He can’t get away fast enough.
Worf suggests that Picard bring a security escort because they’ll be out of communications range, but the captain shuts that down right away. What could possibly go wrong on such a peaceful planet? Besides, Risa has plenty of escorts…
No sooner does the captain arrive at Risa then he bumps into a woman, who kisses him in order to hide from a Ferengi searching for her. Picard’s not that into it. All he wants to do is read on the beach, but women keep offering him sex. Then the Ferengi, Sovak, tracks him down later and accuses him of collaborating with the woman to withhold the Maguffin: some sort of data disc.
Picard sends him away, and the woman returns, introducing herself as Vash and insisting that the Ferengi lied about everything. Picard wants no part of their domestic drama, so he pardons himself—but just as he leaves, Vash slips something into the pocket of his robe. The captain returns to his room and finds two Vorgons there waiting for him.
They spin quite the yarn. They came from 300 years in the future to collect the legendary device the Tox Uthat: a small crystal cube that is a “quantum phase inhibitor capable of halting all nuclear reaction within a star.” Apparently, historical records from the future say that Picard found it at Risa. Spoilers!
He sort of vaguely agrees to give it to them if he does encounter such a thing, because whatever, and when they depart he discovers Vash’s disc in his pocket. He seeks her out, and she claims to be an archaeologist after the Uthat so she can give it to the Daystrom Institute for study. Picard fancies himself a bit of a detective and has an interest in archaeology and perhaps Vash, so he offers to help protect her while they both go to find the Uthat, using her dead mentor’s notes on the disc.
Sovak decides to tag along, holding them at gunpoint. He insists that he hired Vash to give him the disc, but she stole his money and ditched him. Picard and Vash manage to overpower the Ferengi and head off on their own. They camp together in a cave, where she admits that she did in fact rip off Sovak, but for a good cause. They exchange flirtatious banter, and Picard seems to be enjoying their antagonistic relationship. He kisses her…
The next morning, they follow the disc’s instructions and reach the supposed location of the Uthat. They start digging, and soon have some spectators: the Vorgons, and Sovak, who has found them via a backup of the disc in Vash’s room. But it seems that the Uthat isn’t there after all. Sovak and Vash are crushed. She requests some time alone to recover from the great disappointment of her life.
Back at the resort, Picard’s ride arrives, but he tells Enterprise to stand by and to ready “transporter code 14.” He then stops Vash on her way out to ask her where she has hidden the Tox Uthat. He figured out that she got to Risa early, recovered the Uthat on her own, and then pretended it wasn’t there to throw Sovak off. She expects to sell the advanced alien technology to the Daystrom Institute for a tidy profit.
The Vorgons reappear and demand Picard hand the Uthat over. Vash says that the notes on the disc indicated two Vorgons tried to steal the Uthat in the first place. Picard drops it on the ground and requests transporter code 14. The Uthat seems to explode.
“History recorded that you destroyed the Uthat,” the Vorgons say before they go.
Vash tries to work her connections and land a job on Enterprise as ship’s archaeologist, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, she’s off on some other archaeological adventure. Picard makes a time travel joke, threatening that we will have to watch this whole thing all over again, and they kiss each other good-bye.
On the one hand, we get to see a lot of Patrick Stewart in this episode (not quite as much as in “Chain of Command,” but, hey), and on the other hand, it’s not very good. I was always fairly fond of this episode, but it turns out there’s actually only about five minutes of it that I really like: when Picard is lying on the beach trying to read. Seeing Captain Picard out of his element is good for some laughs, and the horga’hn is memorable. I also can totally relate to Picard: I, too, have a hard time taking vacations where I’m not supposed to do anything, but when I do get there, I pretty much just want to read my damn book.
The buildup to Picard leaving for vacation, particularly when we know he’s going to capitulate (thanks, Vorgons!) wears out its welcome quickly, and I sort of resent–as Picard did–the idea of the crew conspiring to send him away. Even if they think it’s for his own good, unless he’s messing up or seriously compromised, it’s his own decision, right? He’s an adult, and the freaking captain.
Aside from that, I should be more excited by the time traveling aliens than I am, because that whole setup with Vash and the kind of creepy Sovak and the Tox Uthat is rather flimsy. So much of this episode is contrived and glossed over in the name of mindless entertainment. I love the idea of an artifact from the future that has become a legend, but even with Picard joking about it at the end, it just doesn’t really work, does it? Can’t they scan the whole planet for alien technology? Why can’t the Vorgons come back to retrieve it at an earlier point, or try again? They seem locked into some weird prophecy, but then they’re also trapped in a paradox.
I can see why Picard might enjoy this adventure though. We know he’s into ancient civilizations and archaeology, so it’s nice to see that come up again and find out that he has these other interests and knowledge aside from being captain. Once he starts to go along with it, he falls into a kind of Dixon Hill persona, and there are elements of the film noir books he so enjoys, with Vash of course being the femme fatale. But these are also opportunities for Picard to be not only uncommonly masculine, but also sexist, becoming strangely overprotective of poor, helpless Vash.
Ah, and then there’s Vash, who honestly does nothing for me as a character. Their whole relationship seems forced. She is inherently untrustworthy, so anything she says or does is suspect, and I assume she’s just using Picard. I don’t like the idea that he can be so easily duped, and indeed he isn’t at the end and it’s entirely possible that he knows he’s being used, which doesn’t make me feel much better. It’s also possible that he is attracted to her, somehow, impressed with the life she leads and reveling in the opportunity to be in the thick of the action when he’s normally prevented from going on away missions and rarely gets the girl. But we will see him in more believable relationships with more interesting women, and he’ll also get other chances to be a more convincing action hero.
I have to admit something a bit embarrassing, which is that I totally misinterpreted the ending. I thought that “transporter code 14” was a prearranged signal to transport something away and replace it with a small explosive to make it look like it had been destroyed. (It strained credibility to believe they would have such a protocol, but I also kind of thought it impressive that they did.) In short, I assumed that Picard had tricked the Vorgons and Vash into thinking the Tox Uthat was lost, but then I couldn’t figure out what he was going to do with it afterward, particularly since the alien time travelers should know what really happened. But while writing up this review, I realized that no, he actually just destroyed the Uthat. It’s still kind of weird that they have a signal for this, and that it involves the transporter, but okay.
I think it would be pretty cool if Picard got one over on Vash and protected the Uthat, but that’s not the episode we got. I also thought it would be neat if the Enterprise crew had somehow snuck Picard onto the holodeck and was crafting this whole adventure for him, a la the Michael Douglas film The Game, but that’s also not this episode.
So it seems to me that this episode is operating on much too simple a level and I wanted an extra layer of complexity to the plot. Why did Vash make a backup of the disc and then destroy it (as opposed to, say, taking it with her)? If it’s in code, how did Sovak use it to follow them? Is it in code, or was she lying? If she wanted to convince Sovak that the Uthat wasn’t there, why not bring him to the site in the first place? I have so many questions!
Eugene’s Rating: Warp 2 (on a scale of 1-6)
Thread Alert: Tough call. Picard’s loungewear takes some getting used to, but it’s not too bad. Sovak’s outfit is a strong contender, but on further reflection, is just the equivalent of a Ferengi Hawaiian shirt, really. Some of the people on Risa have interesting outfits, but most of them do just seem to go without. No, I think in the end, the Vorgons really do stand out. Their ensemble is just ugly and pathetic all at once. They kind of remind me of coprophages and/or the things coprophages might eat.
Best Line: RIKER: Have I mentioned how imaginative the Risian women are, sir?
TROI: Too often, Commander.
Trivia/Other Notes: Patrick Stewart requested more “sex and shooting” for Captain Picard, and this is the result.
One draft of the script ended the episode with a repeat of the scene where Picard meets Sovak, implying that the Vorgons will try again.
Max Grodénchik returns to Star Trek as another, more likable Ferengi: Rom on DS9.
We aren’t rid of Vash yet! Jennifer Hetrick reprises the role in “Qpid” and on DS9’s “Q-Less.” She also winds up dating and ultimately becoming engaged to Patrick Stewart. Shocking considering their lack of sexual chemistry onscreen…
We also return to Risa on DS9, when Worf finally makes it to the planet and enjoys it no more than Picard did, in “Let He Who is Without Sin…”, also written by Ira Steven Behr.
We don’t need no stinking Tox Uthat! Dr. Soran figures out how to stop nuclear fusion in stars in Star Trek Generations.
Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 18 – “Allegiance.”
Next episode: Season 3, Episode 20 – “Tin Man.”