Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Manhunt
Yes, it's a Lwaxana Troi episode, and yes it has really bad creature costumes, but Manhunt at least has some laughs to recommend it...
This review contains spoilers.
While the Enterprise is transporting two Antedean dignitaries to a conference on Pacifica, the ship is ordered to collect the Betazed ambassador who turns out to be Lwaxana Troi, making her second appearance on the show. Instantly, she's up to her old tricks, upsetting her daughter by accusing Captain Picard of having inappropriate thoughts about her.
Lwaxana invites Picard to dinner, and he's confused to discover that it's just the two of them. Attempting to distract her, Picard asks Data to come and make small-talk while he makes good his escape. Troi informs Pulaski and Picard that her mother is going through a Betazed menopause, meaning that her sex drive has quadrupled and that she's chosen Picard to be the focus of her attention.
Rather than risk insulting Lwaxana, Picard fires up a Dixon Hill holodeck program and heads off to relax. Because who doesn't find being a PI in a world full of organised crime relaxing? After discovering that his optimism was indeed misplaced, Picard takes his holo-secretary to Rex's Bar for a drink.
Unable to find Picard, Lwaxana begins to consider alternative suitors, eventually settling on Commander Riker and announcing their impending marriage to the bridge crew, much to everyone's surprise – especially Riker's. In the meantime, the Antedeans have come out of stasis and are shovelling fishfood into their maws as convincingly as their prosthetics allow (which is to say, not very convincingly).
Riker and Data enter the Holodeck to inform Picard of the situation, and Lwaxana follows them there, upset to discover that that Picard has been hiding from her. Luckily, in her hormone-addled state, she's intrigued by her inability to sense anything off Rex, the bar's holographic proprietor and engages him deep in conversation, already planning marriage.
When they reach the planet, Picard and Riker explain that Rex doesn't really exist, causing a small amount of embarrassment to Lwaxana, although she deals with it. As she does, she mentions offhand that the Antedeans are terrorists planning to blow up the conference using explosives hidden in their garments. Although they feign outrage, the ship's sensors confirm Lwaxana's accusations and they're taken to the brig. She beams down to the planet, taking one last moment to chastise Picard for his inappropriate thoughts.
TNG WTF: The Antedean costumes are flatly awful, and perhaps the last time the make-up on Star Trek: TNG ever looked as bad as the original series. It's probably unwise to give characters who can't really move their hands and can't really move their mouths a scene where they eat from a giant bucket without using cutlery. They have a fair stab at it, but that's a lot of disbelief to suspend.
TNG LOL: There are loads of funny moments in this episode, although the performances in general are comic from the start. It's basically a farce, and it's great fun to see Deanna getting petulant with her mother, Picard getting nervous around Lwaxana, and Riker being left speechless. I thought Mr. Homn glugging down the entire bottle Picard brought to dinner was a hilarious moment, and, of course, Worf gets his now-characteristic deadpan moment as he observes the Antedeans and simply muses "What a handsome race."
Who's That Face?: Believe it or not, one of those Antedean dignitaries is allegedy Mick Fleetwood, of Fleetwood Mac. Although given the two options, I'm not sure I believe it.
Also, one of the holo-thugs is played by Robert O’Reilly, the man who will eventually play everyone's favourite Klingon, Chancellor Gowron!
Time Until Meeting: No meetings here. The mark of a fundamentally broken episode.
Captain's Log: Lwaxana Troi episodes are famed for being awful, but this one is genuinely funny as long as you appreciate the attempts to make it a screwball comedy rather than a traditional Star Trek episode. Majel Barrett really throws herself into the role, and her unfamiliarity with technology, while massively illogical, is still the source of some incredibly charming moments, such as her conversation with the computer and her exclamations of "Legs! Where are the legs?!" when she transports over.
However, the non-Troi components of the episode are a mess. The Antedeans don't seem to serve any real purpose in the story, for a start. It's not even like they're there as a fake-out, they do literally nothing of note until the final scene. You could argue it's intentional misdirection, except there isn't any direction to speak of.
Beyond that, much of the episode's screen time is hugely irrelevant to the story. We spend rather a lot of time on the Holodeck watching Picard tweak the program, given that he's only really there to set up the episode's punchline, and Lwaxana's engagement with Riker is forgotten as quickly as it's announced. Data even goes to the trouble of dressing in full period dress for his trip to the holodeck, but then once he's in there he doesn't actually do anything.
So, while this episode delivers some laughs, it's fair to say that there's not much of a story going on. All it really contributes to Trek lore is to reinforce Lwaxana's attraction to Picard, but whether that's enough to keep people interested is debatable…
Watch or Skip? Feel free to skip, unless you actually like Lwaxana Troi.
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