Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Angel One
James' season one TNG look-back comes to a truly horrible episode...
This review contains spoilers.
1.14 Angel One
Oh good, it's Angel One. Wait, did I say good? I'm fairly sure that's not what I meant at all.
On the way to the Neutral zone where the Romulans are causing trouble, the Enterprise drops in on Angel One to search for the possible survivors of a freighter disaster some years earlier. The planet is a strange one where (if you accept the episode's highly dubious premise) social gender roles are flipped, so that the females are more dominant and physically imposing, and males are slight and weak-willed. You know, like the opposite of what is on Earth! (This might be a new record: a Star Trek episode whose ingrained prejudices undermine its point at the premise level, before a word has been written).
Subtle, it is not. The planet is a matriarchy when men are required to walk around in flesh-baring costumes and the woman do pretty much everything to subjugate them except slap their asses patronisingly and call them doll. Troi finally gets to do something: as the most female person on the bridge, she's given the task of calling the leader of Angel One, Mistress Beata, and asking if they can come look for survivors. Beata and her matriarchy get all cagey over the subject, which as we know, means there are definitely survivors and they're definitely causing problems.
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Wesley and his friends have caught a cold after going on a skiing trip on the holodeck. I'm not even kidding.
Back on the surface, Beata admits that yes, there were survivors, and that they and their leader – an eighties action-hero of a man named Ramsay, who sports a mane of golden mullet hair – are considered dangerous fugitives. In the interest of promoting good relations, Riker dons some of Angel One's traditional male clothing as an act of "diplomacy", which leads to a lot of audience gagging over the sheer amount of chest hair on display. Troi and Yar find it hilarious, justifiably.
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Picard has caught Wesley's cold and been ordered to bed. I'm not even kidding.
The crew manages to locate the survivors, and it turns out that Ramsay and his crewmen have started the local version of the suffragette movement, campaigning for male equality, and even taking indigenous wives from their growing supporters. They don't want to leave, and the crew can't make them. While this is going on, Riker and Beata are doing some wholly diplomatic making out, and Beata seems pleased to have a man around who isn't grimly subjugated and soggy-willed, begging the question of why she's so against male equality in the first place.
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise Geordi is in charge, but a third of the crew have colds and if the Romulans attack they'll all be too snotty to fight back. I'm not even kidding.
The away team return to Beata, interrupting that earth custom they call "kissing", and inform Riker that they've found everyone but can't really do anything about it because they're not Starfleet and don't have to follow orders. Beata responds by sentencing the survivors (and their sympathisers) to death. Because everyone knows all alien judicial systems have only two sentences: summary death sentence without trial, and mind-jail.
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, everyone has a cold and the ship has been quarantined. I'm not even kidding.
Data is allowed to return while Riker and the others hang around hoping to avert the execution. While they do, thanks to a moralising speech and claims that killing Ramsay will result in nothing but his martyrdom. Ramsay and his sympathisers are exiled to a remote part of the world where they can build their equal civilisation in peace.
Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Crusher develops a cure for the cold, the away team is allowed to return, and the episode ends with Picard unable to give his orders to leave due to a sore throat. I'm not even kidding.
TNG WTF: Let us leave aside the sheer WTF-ness of an episode that thinks it's holding a mirror up to our own society's sexism by showing an entire matriarchy going weak at the knees for Riker in an open shirt, and instead concentrate on the real stupidity of the episode: Did Wesley really catch a cold by going skiing on the holodeck? Does the writer of this episode not know that COLDS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY?!
TNG LOL: Beata addresses Ramsay as she demonstrates the execution vaporiser: "As you can see we are not without compassion. Your deaths will be swift and painless." I'm sure he's very comforted.
Who's that face?: Ariel, one of Beata's fellow rulers, is played by Patricia McPherson, who was KITT's mechanic Bonnie Barstow in the original Knight Rider series.
Time Until Meeting: A meeting-free episode. The mark of a writer who doesn't know how TNG works.
Captain's Log: Wow. When season one of TNG is bad, it's almost unapologetically awful. It's not quite Code of Honor levels of offensive, but it is notable for containing almost every terrible cliché about seen in TNG's first season in one episode. A virus on the ship, a "primitive" society based on laboured allegory, Prime directive hand-wringing and, let us not forget, a death sentence ticking clock. All it needed was Wesley to save the day and it would've been a full house. We've seen all of this before, and it was barely interesting the first time around. The second time, it's just tedious. A horrible episode on so many levels.
Watch or Skip? Definite skip.
Read James' look-back at the previous episode, Datalore, here.