Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “Manhunt”

Written by Terry Devereaux
Directed by Rob Bowman

Season 2, Episode 19
Original air date: June 19, 1989
Star date: 42859.2

Mission summary

In the transporter room, Captain Picard greets a couple of fishy Antedean dignitaries destined for a conference on Pacifica—but they’re in a self-induced catatonic state, so he probably could have skipped the dress uniform. Yet his sacrifice is not for naught, because Enterprise has another distinguished, albeit unexpected guest: Lwaxana Troi, daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. And she is very appreciative of Picard’s legs. She happens to be going to Pacifica too, so she hitches a ride, to everyone’s inexpressible delight.

This time, the Captain defers the honor of carrying her luggage to Commander Riker, who also draws Lwaxana’s wandering, lustful attention. She’s incorrigible! But she mostly has eyes for Picard, whom she invites to a “Betazoid dinner of greeting”—purely business, she assures him. He diplomatically accepts. While the elder Troi doles out demeaning relationship advice to her daughter, Counselor Troi, Riker, Wesley, and Data yuk it up on the Bridge at Lwaxana and Picard’s expense, prompting a chastising remark from the captain.

There’s no change with the Antedeans, who won’t be woken until they reach Pacificain a few days, so Picard gets back into his dress uniform for the ambassadorial dinner, which no one else seems to be attending. Once he arrives, he quickly realizes that Lwaxana has tricked him into a romantic dinner for two. (Her ever-present valet Mr. Homn doesn’t count.) Normally an accomplished fencer and conversationalist, Picard is unprepared for her directed verbal assault.

LWAXANA: A toast to Earthmen, who, despite their faults, have that unique ability to charm women of all races, in all corners of the galaxy.
PICARD: Speaking on behalf of men of Earth, which is indeed an awesome responsibility, I thank you.
LWAXANA: I know what you’re thinking, Captain.
PICARD: You do?
LWAXANA: You’re wondering whether I’m seeing any other man. On a serious basis.
PICARD: Well, actually, I wasn’t.
LWAXANA: I wouldn’t worry about it, Jean-Luc. Competition seems to bring out the best in the human male.
PICARD: The fact is, I wasn’t expecting this setting. I had assumed that my senior Bridge officers would be attending.
LWAXANA: You never assume anything where Lwaxana Troi is concerned. Betazoid women are full of surprises. Strange, I’m not really very hungry tonight. I wonder what’s made me lose my appetite? Any ideas?

Trapped on an awkward date but unwilling to offend his guest, Picard asks Lwaxana a tough trivia question then contacts Data to answer it, in great detail—the equivalent of pulling up Wikipedia on a smart phone. Feigning ignorance of Lwaxana’s amorous intent, he invites the android to join them for dessert, which proves to be the perfect diversion. Counselor Troi arrives to rescue him, but rescues her mother instead—and Picard seizes the opportunity to escape Lwaxana’s advances.

It turns out that Lwaxana is undergoing the Betazoid “phase,” a mid-life period of heightened sexual urges.

RIKER: Yes, it’s something Troi warned me about when we first started to see each other. A Betazoid woman, when she goes through this phase, quadruples her sex drive.
TROI: Or more.
RIKER: Or more? You never told me that.
TROI: I didn’t want to frighten you. She has opted for the only dignified option open to her.
RIKER: Isolation?
TROI: She has decided to focus all of her sexual energy on one male, who will, of course, eventually become her husband. It seems, Captain, that you are the early favorite.

To avoid deeply offending Lwaxana, Picard opts for the only dignified option open to him: isolation. He dresses up again, this time in overcoat and fedora, and flees to the warm embrace of the holodeck. But the available Dixon Hill programs are not as relaxing as he’d hoped for, because thugs keep trying to kill him.

With Picard tied up with “official ship business,” Lwaxana assesses the other male specimens at hand—even, briefly, Wesley and Worf. She finally settles on Riker, announces their engagement, and follows him to the holodeck, where she meets Rex, a holographic bartender in the Dixon Hill program who she falls for. Riker’s off the hook!

The Antedean dignitaries wake up, consume a barrelful of food, and assemble in the transporter room to beam down to Pacifica. Lwaxana arrives as well, miffed that she has lavished her attentions on a virtual man.

LWAXANA: Why are they still here?
RIKER: We thought that since you’re going to the same conference, you might like to beam down with the other delegates.
LWAXANA: They’re not delegates. Those two are assassins.
ANTEDEAN: That is an outrage! Lies! We demand you transport at once!
LWAXANA: Don’t bother to deny it. Your minds are so unsophisticated I can read your thoughts in my sleep. Their robes are lined with ultritium, highly explosive, virtually undetectable by your transporter.
DATA: She is correct, sir. I am detecting large amounts of ultritium.
LWAXANA: Well of course you are. They were planning on blowing up the entire conference.
PICARD: Mister Worf, take them to level five. Disarm them. Hold them for questioning.
WORF: Aye, sir.
LWAXANA: Ah well, I didn’t find a mate, but I did save the conference, as well as your reputations. All in a day’s work, I suppose.
PICARD: Goodbye Mrs. Troi, and thank you. Energize, Chief O’Brien.
LWAXANA: Jean-Luc. Shame on you for thinking such a thing.


Depending on your opinion of Lwaxana Troi, you either love or hate this episode. I happen to like Lwaxana more often than not, so I’ve always found this one enjoyable, but I also didn’t have any memory of what “Manhunt” is about—especially with that somewhat misleading title, which promises more action than anyone gets—until I started re-watching it. “Oh yeah, the fish people!” I exclaimed when I saw the teaser, though I was surprised that it was a Lwaxana episode. The reason I drew a blank on this one is because there is almost nothing of substance to it—it really is all about Lwaxana visiting the ship and being horny and pushy, as usual. A flimsy premise if ever I saw one.

As such, I found it entertaining with many laugh-out-loud moments, but it also had its fair share of wince-inducing elements. There were some weak and heavy-handed attempts at inserting some meaning into the script, most notably Wesley’s apparent prejudice against non-human races, with his criticism of the Antedean delegates and even Worf, who he insists is “handsome, for a Klingon.” “Judging a being by its physical appearance is the last major human prejudice, Wesley,” Data chides. Ugh. Lwaxana is similarly disgusted by their appearance. And although it fits her character, I was put off by this casual exchange as she sizes up Riker:

LWAXANA: He has nice legs too, Little One. Is he still yours?
TROI: Humans no longer own each other that way, Mother.
LWAXANA: Really? That’s a custom we may have to introduce again.

No no no no no… Then there’s the little paradox of a woman in power like Lwaxana, who could be admired for her willingness to speak her mind and be open about what she wants, placing such a premium on getting a man and—again—the importance of appearances.

LWAXANA: He’s a fine man. Solid, reliable. He’s a little on the stuffy side, but, all in all, he’s not that bad.
TROI: I can’t believe you, Mother. You sound like you’re sizing up a commodity.
LWAXANA: But that’s exactly what men are, darling. Especially human men. Was your father ever unhappy with me?
TROI: No. He worshipped you. But I don’t think I’ll ever learn to see men the way you do.
LWAXANA: You will as you mature, darling. And the men in your life are going to bless you for it. You’re so beautiful.

Gee, thanks, mom.

But with all these possible themes to explore, particularly the significance of outward appearances—the episode either dismisses them entirely or merely pays lip service. It’s fine to have a fun, diverting episode now and again, but even comedic Star Trek episodes like “The Trouble with Tribbles” had more plot going on, and many were about something. Similar to “Tribbles,” there’s a hidden terrorist that is only revealed by one of the guests; this kind of an awesome way to end the episode, but it’s also frustrating because it’s conflict that is resolved the instant we know about it. It also highlights all sorts of things that we probably weren’t meant to think about: Enterprise doesn’t routinely scan for weapons or anomalies like ultritium? Even if the transporter doesn’t pick them up, Data manages to confirm Lwaxana’s claim instantly. It might have been good to know that not all the Antedeans supported entry into the Federation. Why have fish aliens on board if they’re just going to be on ice for the whole episode? And if they’re so easy to read, why didn’t Counselor Troi pick up anything from them?

Lwaxana’s telepathic abilities have supposedly been out of whack because of her condition the whole episode, but I figure she probably hasn’t been able to read the Antedeans before now because they were unconscious, and she had other things on her mind. But I can’t help wondering if her abilities were compromised at all. Her manipulation of Picard into joining her for dinner was clearly premeditated, and all her jokes about Picard’s lustful thoughts about her have to be made up—presumably because it amuses her to shake his proper demeanor. (Admittedly, Patrick Stewart is terrific at playing uncomfortable.) But I have to imagine that she knows exactly what he and everyone else thinks of her, and that’s just kind of sad. And the only reason she gets away with any of this is because she’s a diplomat and no one wants to offend her.

The holodeck is even more superfluous than usual, but at least it seemed to function the way it should this time around, almost obtuse in its inability to deliver the experience Picard wanted, simply because he wasn’t phrasing his command correctly. Perhaps after that little incident with Moriarty, they dumbed the holodeck AI down a little. It was also funny, on a meta level, that the computer has Majel Barrett’s voice, both when Picard is trying to hide from her other character, and when Lwaxana is essentially talking to herself.

All in all, this episode is fluff, a throwaway installment that at least does no harm, as opposed to some of the episodes preceding it. It pretty much only works on one level, and not consistently at that. But for the meager laughs it provides, I’ll give it a Warp 2.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Eugene’s Rating: Warp 2 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: For a while, I thought I’d have to talk about the Starfleet dress uniforms here, but they actually aren’t that bad. I like them from the waist up, anyway; they remind me a little of the Starfleet red jacket uniforms from STII through VI, though they would probably be better with pants. And it’s pretty clear that Lwaxana’s outfits are much more outlandish. Deanna must get her fashion sense from her mother, is what I’m saying. It’s really up to you, take your pick of any of her ensembles. I think this one is the worst, though.

Best Line: WORF: “What a handsome race.”

Trivia/Other Notes: When Dixon Hill’s secretary, Madeline (played by Rhonda Aldritch), sees Picard, she says, “You’re too much, Dix. You make it sound like you ain’t seen me in a year.” Cute, since it has been about a year since he saw her in “The Big Goodbye.”

Terry Devereaux is a pseudonym for Tracy Tormé, who used it in protest over revisions to the script—particularly the Dixon Hill segments. This was his last episode before leaving the series at the end of the season.

One of the Antedean dignitaries was played by drummer Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac.

Scarface was played by Robert O’Reilly, who is best known for his recurring role of Gowron, Chancellor of the Klingon High Council later in TNG and DS9.

Previous episode: Season 2, Episode 18 – “Up the Long Ladder.”

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 20 – “The Emissary.”

About Eugene Myers

E(ugene).C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He has published four novels and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, most recently 1985: Stori3s from SOS. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy. He currently writes for the science fiction serial ReMade from Serial Box Publishing.