Plot Synopsis: While Riker leads an away team to a female-dominated planet, a mysterious virus spreads among the Enterprise crew.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here isn’t particularly interesting, but it’s not bad. A freighter that’s been missing for seven years is suspected to have landed on Angel One, a female-dominated planet that is stuck in the 50’s in terms of gender relations. Troi hails them only to receive a rather chilly response, but they are permitted to send an away team. Plot A is about Angel One and the survivors, plot B is about the disease on board the Enterprise and the brewing Romulan trouble. They meet with the ruling council and things don’t go particularly well, they’re sent away to wait. When they return the away team is informed that yep, the freighter did have four survivors but they’re in hiding because they made trouble–doh! It’s not hard to imagine since the women here talk down to Riker literally every time he speaks. Meanwhile an illness that Wes contracted during a field trip starts to spread through the ship. Plot A plods on rather uninterestingly with lots of sexist cliches and no real surprises. Plot B isn’t any better: we know it’s little more than a plot device so the scheduled execution has little bite. Even this is undercut by the fact that the survivors refuse to leave the planet anyway.
Favorite Scenes: The scene where Riker comes out dressed in indigenous apparel isn’t bad because of Marina and Denise having some good interaction. Geordi settling into the captain’s chair is nice to see also. Other than that, there aren’t any.
Use of Cast/Characters: Riker is portrayed as being pretty inept with diplomacy in this episode–he frankly comes across as some easily-frustrated teenager, yet the leader of the planet tries to seduce him anyway. I tend to blame Frakes here, if he’d have made different choices in his performance he wouldn’t have come across quite as badly. The only redeeming scene for him is his final plea for the freighter survivors’ lives. Picard comes across as just being cranky again–more so than any other episode since the pilot–then spends half the episode being sick. Geordi gets to be in charge of the ship here, and it is pretty fun to see him adjusting to command for the first time; in fact it’s one of the few bright spots of this episode. Unfortunately Data shows up to make the hard decisions toward the end–I would’ve been happier to see Geordi wrestle with it himself. Data gets some face time in and contributes, in fact undercutting Riker’s authority at one point, thus undermining his character as well. Doctor Crusher does have something to do here, and she succeeds which is nice I guess. Troi and Tasha both play a minor role but really don’t have much to do. Worf does actually have some character development in this episode–in other words he does more than growl and get his butt kicked. He even gives Geordi some helpful advice. Wes has less to work with, the highlight of his performance is a brief snowball fight.
Blu Ray Version: Angel One itself looks beautiful, a great update from the original episode. Here is a shot of it for those interested. The matte painting of the surface of Angel I is so clear we can even see brush strokes, but it still looks stunningly realistic to me.
Nitpicks: “Angel One’s strategic importance as a planet may become vital,” couldn’t you pretty much say that about every planet? I don’t think it’s a great idea for Crusher to be calling the captain to report she has some sick kids. So what? They are sick and contained. End of story. Only after it got loose and started laying out more of the crew should she have bothered him with it, IMO. The lighting where we see the freighter’s survivors being kept toward the end is just terrible–it’s so low it’s distracting. And finally, Riker’s fairly eloquent speech about the survivors and the folly of execution didn’t work, but someone yelling “Beata!” is what makes the planetary leader consider it?
Overall Impression: Wil Wheaton just eviscerates this episode for being more sexist than Code of Honor was racist. I think this misses the point as it was supposed to be sexist. It’s supposed to be an indictment of sexism in general, by demonstrating that if it was reversed we as a society wouldn’t be in any better shape–a viewpoint I have absolutely no problem with. Still, this episode is not a good one. It’s fairly uninteresting and the sexist cliches are something of a caricature (I hope) of that which was inherent in America decades ago–this episode would’ve worked far better if the sexism was more subtle. The crew aren’t particularly good or competent here, and neither plot has any tension. There is even a little bit of the original series flavor here–only a little though, which is an improvement. I rate this episode 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This was the 13th episode aired, but the 14th episode made. Unfortunately this is the last of the episodes that I could find Wil Wheaton’s reviews for. It’s too bad because I really enjoyed his insider info on the show. This is the first time the Romulans are mentioned in TNG, but the threat was originally supposed to be Ferengi in nature. This was changed before shooting because the writers were finally picking up that nobody found the Ferengi threatening. Remember the matte painting of Angel One’s surface–actually you don’t have to, because it will be used several times to depict various planets throughout this series and others, as recently as in an episode of Voyager.
Also, according to Wil the cast never sat in the captain’s chair, even when the cameras weren’t rolling; there was a real respect for it evidently. Any true child of the 80’s should recognize Ariel as Patricia McPherson, who played the mechanic on Knight Rider for years. During a group interview, Gates McFadden recalled that the cast viewed this episode as very sexist, and Patrick volunteered to be the one go to the studio and stand up for them, and actually got some changes made in the script. This episode represents the exact mid-point of season one. Only seasons one and seven have an exact center, since they’re the only ones with 25 episodes. So far this season only faint glimmers of TNG’s future greatness have been felt.
Missable/Unmissable? Okay, I have no problems rating this one missable. Move on to the next one, it’s an improvement.