Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise crew rescue a “roguish” freighter captain whose ship is malfunctioning, but his presence drags them into an interplanetary feud. Data explores the nature of humor.
Plot A and B Analysis: In this episode’s fairly weak teaser the Enterprise happens to be flying through a system on impulse power and spots a transport ship that happens to be having a guidance malfunction. We’re never told why the Enterprise is there, it just is. Plot A involves Okona and the planetary dispute, plot B involves Data’s experiments with humor. Both are pretty anemic. Okona is taken on board while Geordi repairs the parts. Some of his remarks to Data cause him to explore what jokes and humor are, and he goes to the holodeck to get some advice and try it out. He fails. It’s not particularly entertaining. Meanwhile someone from a planet you don’t care about shows up in his tiny starship and demands Okona back for “crimes he’s committed.” Before they can do anything, another ship from another planet that doesn’t matter shows up demanding Okona for the same reason. A few minutes later we discover that Okona has impregnated a girl (untrue) and stolen some jewel (also untrue). He decides to make a run for it but after a brief and almost pointless talk with Wes changes his mind completely. They all get together for some family counseling and this episode mercifully ends.
Favorite Scenes: Maybe the funniest line in the episode is the beginning of a joke Data tells that we never hear the end of: “A monk, a clone and a Ferengi decided to go bowling together…” Other than that, nothing really.
Use of Cast/Characters: Diana Muldaur had this episode off. Picard doesn’t have a lot to do, but then neither do Riker, Geordi, Troi, Wes, Guinan or Worf. None of them get any character development, nor much screen time. Data is the only character to do much, and a decent-sized chunk of the episode is dedicated to him and humor. Unfortunately it sucked. William Campbell stars as Okona, and he does a decent job I guess. He does come across as he’s written, which is somewhat colorful and “roguish,” but he’s certainly not memorable. The other guest stars are worse, and if they got paid scale for their work here it’s probably more than they deserve. This is one of those episodes that are all about the guest star, and the cast and episode suffers for it.
Blu Ray Version: The list of names Data brings up when he’s researching comedians outside the Holodeck used to have names like Gene Roddenberry, and several writers and producers. In this version the names were changed to the folks that did the remastering for the Blu Ray Version.
Nitpicks: Why is the Enterprise even in this system at impulse? Why aren’t they warping through it on the way somewhere else? We’re never told they even had a purpose for being here. There are some black cards in this episode, but they’re hidden well enough you’d probably never see them unless you were watching the Blu Ray version. Finally, what exactly is outrageous about Okona?
Overall Impression: Weak sauce. There are shades of Romeo & Juliet toward the end, but it really just comes across like a soap opera. Okona seems like a fourth-rate Han Solo, and the Comic seems like a fourth-rate comic. Almost none of the regular crew do anything at all. Nothing remotely compelling or funny or even interesting happens in the entire 44 minutes and the whole episode just feels like a waste of time. It’s not offensive like Code of Honor or stupid like Lonely Among Us, it’s just…a waste. On a positive note there is no feel of the original series here, at least I don’t think so. Hopefully it’ll happen so rarely from here on out that I won’t need to mention it anymore. I rate this episode 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: According to Joe Piscopo who played Comic, he was allowed to improvise many of his own jokes including the Jerry Lewis impersonation. Jerry Lewis himself was approached to appear as Comic, but a scheduling conflict prevented it. Brent Spiner did say he had a lot of fun doing that scene on stage, basically doing Jerry Lewis because he’d idolized him since he was a kid. William Campbell, who played Okona, is known for being on The 4400 and The Rocketeer, then changed his name to Billy Campbell and appeared in the really funny film, Ghost Town. Wil Wheaton during a panel discussion said that Campbell was his favorite guest star they ever had on the show; evidently Campbell was really nice to him. Also in a panel interview, Jonathan Frakes has said that Campbell was the other finalist to play Riker, and Frakes just beat him out for the part. Rosalind Allen who played Yanar went on to play the doctor on SeaQuest DSV. If you paid attention to the hot transporter officer you’d recognize her as Teri Hatcher! Yet another actress who went on to become known to many, although according to Frakes she denies ever having been on the show to this day. I don’t normally insult people, but that’s just stupid. If you want proof click on her name.
Missable/Unmissable? The previous episode was one of the best of season two, this is one of the worst. Utterly missable. The next episode is better, but not by much.