Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Captain’s Holiday

James' TNG look-backs land on a hugely entertaining episode that's almost wall-to-wall Patrick Stewart...

This review contains spoilers.

3.19 Captain’s Holiday

The Enterprise is returning from a two-week diplomacy mission where Picard mediated a trade contract between two stubborn parties, proving that if he had been around during the start of The Phantom Menace, there would be no blockade and thus no Empire (TAKE THAT, SKYWALKER! CHECKMATE!) Unfortunately, he’s become irritable and grumpy, two qualities we would seldom associate with the French.

Recognising his stress, the senior staff conspires to send him on a vacation. He resists, but eventually the combined badgering of Troi, Riker and Crusher suddenly changes his mind (to be fair, you’d leave too if you have to face that.)

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At Riker’s insistence, Picard visits the nearby pleasure planet Risa, planning to read some dull books and work on his v-neck tan. No sooner has he beamed down to the surface than he’s accosted by Vash, a woman he’s never met, who kisses him as a way of hiding from Sovak, a Ferengi who’s chasing her. Picard is confused and annoyed, but she brushes off their encounter and leaves.

Later on, Picard is trying to read his book and fending off the local prostitutes (sorry, “exotic masseuses”) with a stick, having been tricked into Riker into buying a small statue that acts as the local equivalent of Tinder (it would presumably also be the local version of Grindr if anyone in the Star Trek universe was allowed to be gay.) As he curses Riker’s meddling, he’s approached by Sovak, who tries to warn him away from Vash and eventually gets scared off by the patented Picard Death Stare. Seeing this, Vash comes over to thank him and hides a disk (I SAID DISK) in his pocket as she does.

Returning to his room, Picard is confronted by the Vorgons, a pair of aliens from the twenty-seventh century who are one letter away from writing bad poetry. They’re looking for the Tox Uthat, a mythical artefact of great value and power that Picard is fated to uncover. They’re keen for him to give it to them, and he says he will, so they leave. It’s only now that Picard puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a disk (I SAID DISK!)

Returning to Vash, Picard asks her what she knows about the Tox Uthat, and she reveals that she was an assistant to a man who dedicated his life to finding the device. The disk contains all of his research, which points to the Tox Uthat being buried somewhere on Risa. Probably a sound stage. Picard suggests that they go look, and Vash agrees to take him with her.

As the pair leave, they’re confronted by Sovak, who brandishes a weapon at them. Picard takes him out using his Star-Fu, and the pair absconds while Sovak lies unconscious. Not that they bother checking for a pulse as they step over his beaten form.

Down in the caves, Picard and Vash camp out for the night and things get very sensual. Picard is clearly attracted to Vash’s formidable nature, while Vash is clearly attracted to Picard’s gullibility. He admits he’s enjoying his vacation, then the pair sleep together overnight before resuming their search for the Tox Uthat, whatever that is (eighteen points in scrabble, is what it is.)

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Arriving at the hiding point, they start to dig. Suddenly the Vorgons show up and explain that now’s when he’ll find it. Then Sovak turns up and threatens to shoot everyone if they don’t dig. Which is how most major construction projects work. After hours of back-breaking labour, Picard gives up saying that the Tox Uthat is no longer here. Sovak and the Vorgons are annoyed, but they have no choice. Picard and Vash leave.

Back at the resort, Vash is depressed and asks to be alone. The Enterprise contacts Picard to let him know they’ve arrived, and he tells them to stand by for his instruction. He confronts Vash, and while she’s trying to leave he hits her with his spot-on deduction: she already found the device and just wanted her rivals to think it was gone. She admits the truth, and then shows the Tox Uthat to Picard. Eat your heart out, Poirot!

Suddenly the Vorgons arrive and try to retrieve “their” item. Vash points out that they’re probably fraudsters, and when Picard asks for some proof, they try to shoot him. Rather than let the Tox Uthat fall into the wrong hands, Picard gets the Enterprise to destroy the Tox Uthat, with a special transporter setting that makes it explode (which, if you think about it, would be worth trying out in more situations.) The Vorgons reveal the truth: history records that he destroyed the Tox Uthat, and they came to try and steal it before that happened. With the device gone, they disappear, presumably back into the future. If only they had a time-machine, they could try again.

As the episode ends, Picard says goodbye to Vash, who is off on another wacky adventure (is it too late for a spin-off?) and returns to the Enterprise. Riker and Troi ask him if he had a good time, and the best he can do is offer a wry affirmative. Riker seems pleased, but frankly who wants to know what he’s imagining?

TNG WTF: We all remember how uncomfortable the season one episode Justice made us, with its depiction of a brutally semi-nude utopia, but I’d almost forgotten that the gratuitousness persisted this far. Captain’s Holiday basically opens with people hanging out of their clothing in every imaginable way, now fully realised in full, blemish-revealing HD. You won’t know where to look.

TNG LOL: There’s a lot of intentional comedy in this episode to begin with (“Have you decided where you’re going?” “Yes, I have. Bridge!”) but Jonathan Frakes gets extra credit for his portrayal at Riker’s barely restrained glee at sending Picard to Risa. Not least because he’s clearly quite sure Picard will hate it and doing all he can to ensure Picard will hate it as much as possible. Riker, why you gotta be such a dick?

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Who’s That Face?: Sovak is played by Max Grodenchik, better known to audiences as Rom from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Time Until Meeting: When the captain’s on holiday, there’s no need for meetings. Unless you count whatever it is that Picard and Vash did in between the scene of them kissing and then waking up together. There was probably a meeting in there somewhere.

Captain’s Log: I’ve said it before, but one of the best things about rewatching TNG is that you rediscover episodes. If asked, I could’ve recited the exact plot of this episode almost beat-by-beat, but what I wouldn’t have remembered is just how much fun it is. It’s great to see Picard letting himself go, and the fact that he’s wandered into the plot of The Maltese Falcon is just perfect for a man who likes to play detective in his spare time.

Vash really helps the episode work, too. She’s a great foil for Picard – smart, confident and considerably less moral than he is – and it’s kind of a shame that she doesn’t return more often than she does. She could’ve been a great recurring character, rather than the two -time guest-star she ended up as (three if you count DS9).

In any case, this is a welcome departure in style and tone for the series, and one that stretches the limits of what TNG can get away with and gives Picard an entirely new dimension. Just brilliant.

Watch or Skip? Massive watch. Not only does it introduce a character who comes back later on, it’s almost wall-to-wall Patrick Stewart, and that can’t fail to entertain.

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