Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Outrageous Okona

Review James Hunt 10 May 2013 - 07:30

The crew meet a brazen irreverent rogue and Data tries to tell a joke in this week's Star Trek: TNG season 2 look-back...

This review contains spoilers.

2.4 The Outrageous Okona

The Enterprise is crawling through the Omega Sagitta system (for no apparent reason) when they come across a ship with one only lifeform on it. It's Captain Okona (pronounced O'Connor. As in Des.), the captain of a small cargo ship and obvious Han Solo fan. His ship is damaged so he asks for help, and although he seems to be a devil-may-care rogue, they let him on board where he proceeds to flatter Wesley and immediately seduce a transporter operator. What a rake!

After Okona mocks Data's inability to take a joke, Data spends more or less the rest of the episode in the holodeck learning to tell jokes and doing impressions of comedians who were presumably big news in 1980s America but who you'll struggle to find a reference point for given some 25 years and 3000 miles extra distance. Whoopi Goldberg tries to help, but that mostly involves crapping on his every attempt to tell a joke.  I'm sure she used to have a sense of humour.

While Data is shirking his duties to hang out in the Holodeck, the Enterprise is approached by two ships. Both captains (Debin and Kushell) are the leaders of their respective colonies, which co-exist under an uneasy alliance. Unfortunately, both want to recover Okona for non-specific crimes he's committed against them, and it's up to Picard to decide what to do. Aha, it's an arbitration episode then!

Picard summons Okona and asks him to explain. He has nothing useful to say, so Picard asks Debin and Kushell, who freely explain: He's stolen a beloved jewel from one, and impregnated the daughter of the other! Both are outraged and threaten to declare war if they don't get Okona. Picard and Okona agree that the latter should probably just leave, and he admits that he fancies his chances alone, but a conversation with Wesley shortly after drives him to change his mind, re-complicating the situation (Come on, SHUT UP WESLEY!)

Picard summons everyone to a meeting and Okona announces his intention to marry the woman he impregnated. Suddenly, Kushell's son (or was it Debin's?) gets all defensive and admits he was the one who impregnated Debin's daughter (or was it Kushell's?). Okona admits helping them meet, in secret, and that he does have the jewel, which he was planning to deliver as a dowry of sorts. The two opposing families come together in peace and resume harmless bickering over where the couple will live.

Back in the holodeck, Data tries to do a set on stage only to discover that the audience laughs at anything he does, even when he's halfway through a joke. Come on! Someone needs to fix the audience programming (although at least the Holodeck wasn't trying to kill him this week.) After giving up, Data returns to the bridge as Okona leaves, and accidentally makes a joke. Then deliberately makes several bad ones ("Take my Worf, please!" is genuinely hilarious, though.) And the episode ends in my favourite manner: with the whimsical TNG theme.

TNG WTF:  I have no direct experience of Jerry Lewis or his work, so I'm not sure whether the impersonation of him in this episode is very accurate or completely terrible. But either way, it's definitely going to leave you thinking "WTF did I just watch? Was that supposed to be comedy?"

TNG LOL: When Picard asks Troi to describe Okona after their first chat, she says "His emotions suggest he's mischievous, irreverent, and somewhat brazen. The word that seems to best describe him is 'rogue'.". These things are instantly obvious to anyone, empathic or otherwise. Well done, Troi, you're really earning that chair. Picard might as well have just said "Deanna, what can you tell me about this mischievous, irreverent rogue? Is he brazen?"

Who's that Face: The transporter operator Okona chats up is only Teri Hatcher, the original (cough) and best (double cough) Lois Lane from in the New Adventures of Superman. And latterly, Susan from Desperate Housewives.

Time Until Meeting: 28:40. Not technically a meeting, but viewscreen conference calls count ("Full Conference mode" as Picard puts it. As opposed to Partial Conference mode?)

Captain's Log: Ooh, we're motoring along now. This is an episode I had almost no memory of, although something must've been there because I guessed the ending far too early and accurately for it to have been speculation alone.

Aside from the criticism that the B-plot has nothing to do with the A-plot and only ties in very, very tenuously at the start and end, this episode is actually alright. It even has a twist which doesn't involve the apparently friendly guy turning out to be evil. (Normally, when someone turns up on the Enterprise and seems friendly, they turn out to be concealing something a bit evil. And if they look a bit evil, they turn out to be very evil.) Okona seems a bit dodgy, with his bargain basement Han Solo wardrobe and attitude, but unexpectedly he turns out to be quite a nice guy after all. Misdirection!

And while Data's subplot might not have anything to do with anything, the idea of Data trying to understand humour is a really compelling one, and it gives Brent Spiner and excuse to do his full range of overacting, which could fill an episode in itself. The moment where Data realises he's not actually funny on stage is full of pathos, even though he's being played emotionless. And at the end, he describes the ability to laugh and make other people laugh as a quality that's "uniquely human", which is as profound an observation as TNG has managed to make in 29 episodes.

The real problem, if there is one, is that Okona is an a massive Mary Sue in the true sense. The entire cast immediately likes him (except Worf), the story ends up revolving around nothing but him and his decisions, and in the end he's even more selfless than anyone gives him credit for. Slap the author's name on the character and it'd be almost textbook. Luckily, a lot of this is in service of well-executed misdirection, so it's not grating, but this is the second time they've done a plot where a zany character turns up to shake up the crew (after Lwaxana Troi's first appearance) so it's already feeling a bit familiar…

Watch or Skip? In terms of Trek lore it's basically skippable, but it's worth watching for the Data material alone.

Read James' look-back at the previous episode, Elementary Dear Data, here.

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

You are way too kind to this runt of an episode. I want to beat the writer across the head with a bag of pennies.

Wait... you didn't mention that the hot transporter chick is none other than Teri Hatcher of Lois & Clark and Desperate Housewives.

It was mentioned :-)

"Original" Lois Lane? Um, no, that would be Phyllis Coates in the first season of "The Adventures of Superman" in 1952. Interestingly, Ms. Coates played Lois Lane's mom opposite the aforementioned (and gorgeous) Teri Hatcher in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." I agree, though, that both are worlds ahead of Erica Durance.

Teri Hatcher! Fresh from her stint as a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader!

Hey, Candlestick Park is only a few miles from Starfleet Headquarters, Starfleet Academy, Federation founding site, a ton of Starfleet dive bars, etc.

>Who's that Face: The transporter operator Okona chats up is only Teri Hatcher, the original (cough) and best (double cough) Lois Lane from in the New Adventures of Superman. And latterly, Susan from Desperate Housewives.

No, what he didn't mention was that the guy that plays Okona was the main bad guy from the 4400; a little bit on the side in the OC and that he was also originally considered for the role of Commander Riker.

Ah, the Internet. Where there's always someone to demonstrate that your obvious sarcasm wasn't obvious enough ;-)

In spite of his terrible hair, Okona was pretty hot. Other than that, this episode was DEFINITELY missable, bottom 5 of season 2 for sure.

Loved the TNG-LOL comment - It's really sweet how the writers try and make Troi seem useful, and it's fun to imagine the effort it must've taken Patrick Stewart to constantly ask for her 'advice' with a straight face.

Oh. You said PENNIES.

Ah yes, the unofficial Star Trek TNG/Star Wars crossover episode. Picard & co meet Han Solo!

I think "Outrageous" set the bar a little too high considering the actors performance. Now the "Mildly Snarky Okona" maybe that better suits the final product

No, I said PIANISTS.

Hmm, most of the comments are about Teri Hatcher, then all of 23.

This is a bit on the underwhelming side. The new Star Trek movie is just arriving and here we are working through the second of the dreadful first two TNG seasons.

Ep by ep by ep ...

I liked the writer's original plan.

Okay, then, forget Hatcher. Let's dissect this dead, diseased dog.

This was a witless, pointless, awful episode. Okona was a TERRIBLE character, an awful Mary Sue full of Informed Attributes (literally so, when delivered by Troi, the most useless addition to a starship since the inclusion of exploding lifeboats) but really there to provide the obligatory Outside Conflict since at this point Roddenberry was insisting that 24th Century man didn't argue with each other, Yes, let's watch Worf growl and glower and grind his teeth some, that's excellent sci-fi TV. The Enterprise crew ends up being observers to this coiffured tomcat in the pirate cosplay as the locals put on an am-dram version of Romeo and Juliet, minus the wit and wordplay, while Picard plays Judge Judy and counts the days until the Borg show up.

And the marriage of this plot with the B-story about Data and humour was about as sound and sensible a marriage as that between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. And Data selecting Joe Piscopo as his holographic teacher about comedy is like going into the holodeck to study medicine and calling up Doctror Kervorkian. Better if the computer had conjured up Piscopo and told Data, "Watch him. do everything different."

So I suppose if we focus on Teri Hatcher's appearance, it's understandable :-)

The writer's original plan was to do only a few episodes of TNG Season 2, which I barely slogged through at the time as a Star Trek completist, then pivot to Season 3 on the occasion of the new blu-ray release.

That's a good plan, because TNG gets very interesting then and becomes the series that so many loved.

It's very well known that the first season or two of each of the post-Original Series Treks were pretty dreadful.

Perhaps the site should do a similar run through some of the laughable days of old Doctor Who.

Though I don't know why that would be especially interesting to read, either.

The writer of the story tried to make Okona everything Troi claimed him to be... but it's a case of "show or tell". They have to tell us what Okona is, because what is shown is the most cornball horny doofus...

Okona was more or less "Riker when drunk" anyway; the only other Trek character that would spread more STIs would be Captain Kirk...

Whoopi Goldberg has to deal with some dreadful dialogue - like who doesn't in this story? Her scenes are the best, but that's not saying much. Even Guinan is wasted.

Loving these reviews, even if you have to sit and watch the real clunkers.

And the worst part is, the Blu-Ray restoration for this story is far better than the slop work done on far better stories like "Peak Performance" and "The Schizoid Man"...

With what I've read from people, the new "'Star Trek'" movie pales in originality compared to TNG seasons 1 and 2... but modern audiences want regurgitated slop, stupid in-jokes, and rehashed plots... like how they didn't when "Nemesis" was made except this time the target market is an audience looking for a cheap nostalgia thrill. But at least the villain is said to be far better - not hard to read why... but even then, it's all another empty rehash.

Even Trek V did a not-as-bad job at turning beloved characters into pantomime pastiches of the originals...

It's best to actually see something before giving opinionated judgments.

I suspect I will find the new Trek, which I've not seen, both entertaining and irritating. But I'll make that call for sure after I see it.

It will be very difficult for it to "pale" to nearly unwatchable TNG 1 and 2, unless you were 10 or 12 when you were watching TNG, I suppose ...

A lot of hate for this episode... but I kinda like it. It's better than most of the tosh we've had so far. by the way this "revisiting" feature - I'm really enjoying it. Always puts a smile on my face when I see it pop up on feedly during my break at work :)

Sponsored Links