Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Samaritan Snare

Heart replacements, awkward sandwiches and crafty aliens in James' latest look-back at Star Trek: The Next Generation...

This review contains spoilers.

2.16 Samaritan Snare

The Enterprise is en route to perform a survey of a pulsar cluster (BRAVE NEW WORLDS!) just as it emerges that Captain Picard needs to get his dodgy ticker replaced. Unwilling to let Pulaski operate on him (understandable) and preferring not to divert the ship from its course, Picard and Wesley hop into a shuttle and head off to a nearby space station while the Enterprise continues on its way.

Before the Enterprise can reach the Pulsars, they encounter a ship which appears to have broken down. Onboard are the Pakleds – a group of aliens who Data posits may have underdeveloped language centres. Which means they seem to be about as smart as the average four year old. They want help with their ship to “Make it go”, having somehow misinterpreted Captain Picard’s famous catchphrase by one letter.

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Riker sends Geordi to fix it, and even though Troi starts wailing about Geordi being in probably definite danger, it turns out Captain Picard is the only person who ever took her seriously and he’s not here. He’s on a shuttle having awkward sandwiches with Wesley. Wesley is nervous about their time together, but Picard opens up to him, telling the story of why he has a bum ticker in the first place, describing scenes that will later be recreated in flashback for a future, better episode of TNG.

On the Pakled ship, things turn sour as it emerges that the Pakleds are actually master criminals. Or at the very least, quite cunning. It turns out they steal their technology, and now they want to steal Geordi too! Riker is flummoxed, Geordi gets shot in the face a few times (phasers are set to the “torture engineer” setting) and suddenly things look a little grim as the Pakleds demand that Geordi upgrade their engines and stuff and then hold him ransom for the contents of the Enterprise’s computer banks.

Shocked by this betrayal, which only Worf and Troi anticipated, the crew attempts to get a message to Geordi by spouting nonsense at him that the Pakleds are unable to understand due to their poor linguistic skills (this is not a joke, this is the actual plot of the episode). Luckily Geordi DOES understand and waits for his moment to strike.

On the space station, Picard goes to have his operation, which is preceded by a chat with the surgeon in which he says, and I quote, “I am 100% certain that there will be no problems and that everything will proceed completely as planned, with nary an ironic twist nor an unexpected change of fortune occurring.” So it’s a complete surprise when Picard’s operation takes a turn for the worse!

Luckily, Pulaski is a fake heart expert (you know, an expert in fake hearts, not a fake expert in hearts) so the station simply calls the Enterprise for help. But they’ve got to rescue Geordi! Riker phones up the Pakleds and shouts some more coded phrases. Geordi picks up on the signal to begin, which means he’s able to do something to a thing and then the Enterprise shoots some red stuff into space, causing the Pakleds to give up and allowing Geordi to beam back home where everything is fixed. I’m going to be honest, I found this scene a little incoherent.

With Geordi back on board, the Enterprise whizzes off to the starbase while Picard is still on the table, further underscoring how dumb it was that Picard spent hours in a shuttle with Wesley. Pulaski has fixed his fake heart, but perhaps Wesley has fixed his actual one.

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TNG WTF: The mechanics of interstellar travel in Star Trek baffle me. The shuttle can travel at impulse (sub-light) speeds, but the Enterprise’s warp capabilities mean it can travel exponentially further in the same time. Sending Picard and Wesley off in a shuttle for hours is a terrible idea if they’re in interstellar space, considering that you could hit the warp nine button and travel the same distance in seconds.

Also, how did the Pakleds manage to steal technology from the likes of the Romulans and Klingons, who would sooner blast them out of the sky than help them? Seems unlikely.

TNG LOL: Worf suggesting to Riker that sending their chief engineer on a minor repair job alone might not be the best idea. You’re right! It’s an actively bad idea! Luckily Riker shrugs off all thoughts of sanity, otherwise this episode would’ve been even shorter and blander than it was.

Who’s That Face: Ensign Gomez is back! She’s still played by Lycia Naff, who was the triple-breasted mutant from Mars, but she doesn’t really do anything. This will be her last appearance.

Time Until Meeting: 29:55. When the Captain’s away, the crew will play. And by play I mean skip all the meetings until things get really dire, which explains why this one is so late.

Captain’s Log: As episodes go, this one is odd. The revelation that Picard has a fake heart is new and surprising. But his excuse about not wanting to appear weak is odd, considering the ending of Q Who involved him shouting about his own weakness to Q just last week.

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Other than that, Picard’s anecdote about violent Nausicaans is done better in the episode Tapestry, and the rest is mostly Wesley asking questions which the audience had probably handed to the writers back in the day, but which are common knowledge now. Patrick Stewart’s natural ability keeps the emotion in the script alive, but it’s a weak episode by any standard.

Watch or Skip? Ugh. Skip. If you could just skip the Pakled half of the episode, that’d be great, but frankly I’m willing to skip the rest too. 

Read James’ look-back at the previous episode, Q Who, here.

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