This review contains spoilers.
The episode opens around Tagus III, where the Enterprise is preparing to hold an archaeology symposium with Picard as the keynote speaker. Archaeology nerd is one of Picard’s lesser-mined character traits, so it’s always fun to see it come up. All is going fine until Picard returns to his quarters to discover he’s got an unexpected visitor. He’s just about to pick up his phone and fire his Klingon security guard when he realises it’s Vash, his one-time love interest from the episode Captain’s Holiday. Cue much kissing.
But not too much! As the credits end, Picard has stopped serving her some T and started serving her some tea, when who should interrupt but Dr. Crusher, wearing the sweater of a much longer woman. She’s highly bemused to discover a woman in Picard’s bedroom who isn’t her and immediately sets off passing her around the senior crew, much to Picard’s social discomfort. Although let’s face it, it’s Riker who gets the most embarrassment when he tries to turn on the William T. Charm with his boss’s honey.
Just as Picard’s getting grumpy about his entire crew gossiping behind his back, who should turn up but Q, who is also here to follow up his appearance in the episode Deja Q. This episode was clearly written by a continuity nerd. Although Q just wants to give Picard a present to settle the debt he owes, Picard is having nothing of the sort and instead keeps arguing with his tomb-raiding girlfriend.
Noticing that Picard is losing his pips over a woman, Q decides to help out by teaching him a lesson and transports the entire main cast to Sherwood forest as Robin Hood and his merry men, with Vash cast as a captive Maid Marian. Q naturally assumes the role of Sheriff of Nottingham, Keith Allen being unavailable and, at this point in history, unassociated with the role.
After a skirmish with the local heavies (Worf loses a fight to a horse) Picard decides to go into the castle alone to rescue Vash, although she’s already breaking the narrative structure of the episode by immediately agreeing to marry Guy of Gisbourne and not giving a rat’s ass about saving Picard, even helping to capture him when his rescue attempt fails. Or at least that’s how it seems, because just as Q is admitting that he’s impressed, she’s caught trying to send Riker a note asking for help rescuing Picard.
Both Vash and Picard are sentenced to death, but luckily the rest of the crew turn up anyway for a nice bit of bloodthirsty murder. Seriously, this might be some kind of imaginary construct, but I’m slightly dubious that they’d be confident enough to just run their opponents through with the giant swords they’ve got. Still, maybe when you’ve got a giant sword every problem looks like something you can stab. It’s not clear how everyone got so good at fencing, though. Maybe they teach it at the academy for exactly this sort of situation.
Eventually, Picard rescues Vash, kisses her again, and apparently learns a lesson about… something. I don’t know, this isn’t really that kind of episode. Q transports the crew back to the Enterprise, but Vash is still missing. She briefly reappears with Q, announcing that she’s heading off with him to explore the universe. Picard is surprisingly okay with this, but hey, even he knows that if he liked it he should’ve put a horga’hn on it. He’s married to the stars, baby. Or, at a stretch, his late best friend’s widow.
TNG WTF: I mean this is exactly the kind of episode that makes you go “WTF!?” if you step back and examine it objectively. Imagine what the mission log for this must read like. You have to wonder if all Starfleets crews are dealing with this kind of craziness or if the rest are just on cataloguing gaseous anomalies and going slowly insane. Or is it like “Oh god, my next assignment is the Titan. There’s a time-travelling alien with a grudge against their captain who keeps trapping the entire crew in Revolutionary France. I can’t even speak French.”
TNG LOL: This episode is full of great moments (Worf smashing Geordi’s mandolin, Picard’s “I am not from Nottingham” Errol Flynn moment) but let’s face it: if you did not scream “Sir, I protest, I am NOT a merry man” at the TV watching this episode then you lose all of your nerd points and must rewatch all of Star Trek Voyager. Even the Neelix episodes.
To Boldly Go: The ENTIRE crew is here so Picard can give an archaeology lecture. No, no, it’s okay, we’ll boldly go somewhere next week.
Mistakes and Minutia: Crusher and Troi were denied the chance to use swords in this episode because they were women and it was important to be historically accurate in this spaceship time-travel fantasy show. Ironically they were the only cast members who already had sword training.
Who’s That Face?: Clive Revill plays (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) but he’s also the original voice of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Don’t check your DVDs, though – he’s since been redubbed by Ian McDiarmid. Still, he’s one of a few people with credits in both Star Trek and Star Wars.
Time Until Meeting: There’s no meeting per se, but let me remind you this whole episode is framed by a symposium, which is just a fancy word for meeting.
Captain’s Log: I mean there are crazy episodes, there are CRAZY episodes, and then there’s whatever this is, which is the kind of episode that you imagine mostly exists so that the actors don’t go stir crazy and can maybe pad out their resume in case the bottom falls out of the Star Trek industry. You’d need to have a heart of stone and a sense of humour like Worf not to enjoy watching this one, though. If anyone ever tells you Star Trek hasn’t got a sense of humour, just point them at this episode.
I mean okay, if we’re being properly critical then the throughline of Picard and Vash’s relationship feels like it could’ve been better-realised, and most of the cast don’t have a lot to do except hang around in the background smirking, but it doesn’t all have to be a Hugo-contender every week. Personally, I can forgive a lot to enjoy what is essentially a Star Trek pantomime.