Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Price
Warning: this episode of TNG might turn your stomach...
This review contains spoilers.
3.8 The Price
The episode opens with Troi collecting her voicemail, because that is a thing people still do in the future. After deleting all of the messages from her mother and ignoring junk mail about a new psychology study, she sits down and starts asking the replicator for "real" chocolate, which confuses the replicator because what else would it make? Unreal chocolate?
Having finally established Troi's secondary character trait (they've all got one. Riker plays the Trombone, Geordi is a holo-pervert, Data owns a cat, and so on.), the focus shifts to Picard, who is hosting a reception ahead of some trade negotiations. The Barzan people have discovered the galaxy's one and only stable wormhole, direct to the Gamma Quadrant. Everyone is excited about this, because it means they can travel an impractically long distance in seconds, dramatically shortening their travel times to the middle of nowhere.
(Just to put it in perspective, this is not unlike discovering that there's a magic door in your house that takes you to Antarctica. It's great if you like snow, but a huge amount of use if you want to visit anywhere between your house and Antarctica.)
At the reception, Troi finds herself drawn to the Chrysalian representative, Devinoni Ral. He's the kind of guy women traditionally love: no chin, tidy haircut, small frame. Don't all rush at once. Still, Troi keeps giving him the eye, and the musical cues make it clear that there's something special going on here.
As the mediation begins, some Ferengi gatecrash the proceedings. The Barzans, eager for money, are happy for them to sit at the table against Picard's better judgement. During a break in the talks, Ral turns up at Troi's quarters and begins to seduce her with such creepy, overly-intimate acts as stroking her arm and touching her hair. It's all very uncomfortable, but for some reason she's into it. Try not to heave.
When the Ferengi poison the Federation delegate (in an act that is never investigated, despite the senior crew's suspicions) it's left to Riker to step in. He's good at Poker and plays a passable Strategema, which is considered superior to Worf's unverified claim that he has never lost a game of Buckaroo.
As Troi and Ral continue their increasingly weird whirlwind romance (seriously, just down a pack of Settlers Tums before you even start watching), Geordie and Data head into the wormhole alongside a Ferengi shuttle to check they're not buying a proverbial lemon. They arrive in the Delta quadrant rather than the Gamma Quadrant, which is equally impractically far away, but in a different direction. Then the wormhole starts behaving oddly. Turns out it's only stable at one end. Data and Geordi make it back through, but the Ferengi are stranded. Never to be seen again until Star Trek Voyager.
Back on the ship, Ral explains to Troi that he's part-Betazoid, and therefore their disturbing compatibility is probably due to that. She accuses him of manipulating the trade agreements with his mind powers, and he points out (quite convincingly) that he's not doing anything worse than her. Just in case we don't realise by now that Ral isn't a good guy, he ends up trying to cheat his way to victory in the trade agreements by striking a bargain with the Ferengi.
I say "try". He does exactly that. And he succeeds, even though Troi uncovers his deception and reveals his mental powers. We're just thinking how right he was about her being an ends-justify-means empath when Data and Geordi return with the good news: the Wormhole's worthless and Ral has wasted his colony's time and money on a contract that MUST BE ENFORCED. Of course, he doesn't actually care, it was a calculated risk and he'd do it again in a second. He asks Troi to come away with him, and she declines. Probably because of all that evil stuff he did.
TNG WTF: Star Trek's attempts at portraying future fashion choices often leave a lot to be desired, but Troi and Crusher's exercise leotards are downright bizarre in just about every sense, from design to colouring to material choices. I don't know what anyone involved was thinking.
TNG LOL: It's impossible not to be amused by the Ferengi's arrival, in which they insult Worf by calling him a "Klingon Slave" and spend their entire time complaining about the lack of chairs. They really lighten up an otherwise rather stuffy scene.
Mistakes and Minutiae: Troi takes an empathic reading of DaiMon Goss, but she seems to have forgotten that in a future episode of season 3, it's stated that the Ferengi brains are too difficult for Betazoids to read. Silly Troi!
Who's That Face?: Seth Mendoza, the Federation's original negotiator, is played by Castulo Guerra, who was in Terminator 2 as Enrique Salceda (Sarah Connor's friend with the weapons locker). Also, Leyor (the guy with the head) is Kevin Peter Hall, who was Harry the Bigfoot in Bigfoot and the Hendersons (before anyone complains, that's the UK title and I'm sticking to it.)
Time Until Meeting: 5:35. This episode is full of meeting, because Picard is mediating the wormhole trade dispute. TO BOLDLY GO!
Captain's Log: Troi-centric episodes of TNG have a reputation for being some of the worst in the series. Whether that's fair or not, one thing we can probably say for certain is that this episode's coverage of Ral and Troi's relationship provides us with some of the most cringingly awful moments TNG ever came up with. I get that it's Star Trek, not Game of Thrones, so I don’t expect to see anything as gynaecological as a RedTube clip uploaded direct from the iPhone. But this is too far in the opposite direction. The soft focus, cooing score and tender-but-chaste interactions give me the dry heaves and lack even the barest suggestion of attraction. It's like watching a brother and sister getting weird (oh, and we're back to Game of Thrones.)
Watch or Skip? Here's the thing. Those Ferengi turn up again in Voyager, so you sort of should watch this. But no-one would judge you if you didn't.
Read James's look-back at the previous episode, The Enemy, here.
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