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Lwaxana Troi and Dixon Hill are back, although you might wish that they weren't
The Enterprise-D beams up two literally and figuratively fishy Antedian ambassadors, who are being transported to a diplomatic conference on Pacifica. Soon after, they also beam up Lwaxana Troi, who is intent on taking a new husband and has Picard in her sights. He hides in the holodeck by revisiting his Dixon Hill program, where nothing much happens. After the crew has eaten all the scenery, the fish sticks defrost and Lwaxana reveals that the Antedians are assassins who were planning to blow up the conference. The credits roll, and everyone hopes for a better story next week.
Who is this ‘Terry Devereaux’ credited for writing this rather lacklustre screenplay...? Why, it is none other than Tracy Tormé, which makes sense since this is a sequel to two previous Tormé stories, “Haven” and “The Big Goodbye”. Tormé was highly frustrated by head writer Maurice Hurley’s interference in his previous episode, “The Royale”, and so going into the writing of this one, Tormé was convinced it wouldn't end up anything like he intended. This intuition was borne out, since Tormé's original script was heavily influenced by the Raymond Chandler novels Farewell My Lovely and The Little Sister and included a great deal of hard-boiled monologue from Picard. All this was swept aside to make room for more scenes with Lwaxana Troi. As director Rob Bowman reported of this episode:
They changed it a great deal to accommodate Majel and sacrificed what Tracy and I thought were some of the noir nuances to the show. The emphasis was shifted from the noir to Majel. This is the boss’s wife and she only does it once a year, so it should be accommodating for her and that's what you did.
This was to be Tormé's final script for TNG. The cause of Tormé's frustration, Hurley, left at the end of the second season, but when his replacement Rick Berman invited Tormé to return for the third season, he declined. He felt it was time to try something new. Tormé continued to work in science fiction, writing episodes for Intruders, The Outer Limits, Odyssey 5, and perhaps most notably Sliders, as well as a movie screenplay, Fire in the Sky. Fellow Trek alumni Ronald D. Moore also had Tormé contribute some scripts to the supernatural fantasy Carnivalé. But he would never again write for Trek.
As might be expected from the discussion above, Majel Barrett is not given great material, and although there are a few jokes that land, this is mostly a clunker that plays too obviously. Carel Struycken’s Mr Homm is equally wasted, alas, with exactly the same jokes as “Haven” reappearing here.
There are a few other notable guest stars. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac appears as... a fish.
He remarked of the experience:
I always loved Star Trek... I played an Antedean – half-man, half-fish. Not that it was a huge part but I loved that I could be part of it in some shape or form. I shaved my beard to put all the prosthetics on. I said, ‘I’ll shave my beard off if you promise me that I get to beam down or beam up – at least one of those things. Either up or down, you’ve got to promise me that it’s in the script.’ And they do – they beam me down into the ship. So I shaved my beard off and I had a lot of fun.
Who is this playing a pop-up thug in the Dixon Hill holodeck program...?
Not sure? How about from this angle...?
Yes, those are the unmistakable eyes of Robert O'Reilly, who would go on to play one of the most unforgettable Klingons of Trek lore, Gowron, in both TNG and DS9.
We get some O'Brien at the start and end of the episode, albeit merely as window dressing, although no LaForge. The draft script had Lwaxana sizing up the Chief Engineer as a potential mate, but the footage didn't end up in the final show:
MRS. TROI: Lieutenant La Forge, I wish to be direct with you.
GEORDI (turning to see her): I prefer it that way. Now what are you being direct about?
MRS. TROI: I have decided to give all the bridge officers an equal opportunity to gain my favor.
GEORDI: I see.
MRS. TROI: Ah, but you don’t, and that's the problem. I wonder whether a sightless man could ever appreciate great beauty.
GEORDI: That's funny... I’ve always had the same doubts about the sighted.
MRS. TROI: Odd. How so?
GEORDI: Because my eyes don’t seduce my mind, I’m driven to find beauty in other things -- things sighted people tend to ignore. The lovely temperature gradiations of bodies, the moisture patterns, the indications of inner peace and harmony...
ANGLE ON HOMN nodding slowly, agreeing completely.
MRS. TROI (thoughtful): Very interesting, Lieutenant. But I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. A less perceptive man could be easier to live with.
Honestly, it’s a struggle to find a good role here, but Brent Spiner’s Data is well-played for comic relief in the dining scenes.
Also, Rhonda Aldrich’s Madeline is still quite charming as Dix’s secretary, and we’ll see her again in season four reprising this role.
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
There's not much to report on the special effects front either, alas. There's a reused planetary matte for “Lonely Among Us” and “Too Short a Season”, and of course some new alien make-up for the Antedeans, which is... not very good.
We won’t see these again, thankfully. Practically the only good thing to be found in this production is the set for Rex’s bar.
It was put together on Sound Stage 16, which at least gave that large and cavernous space a break from being Hell Planet. I guess it’s nice that the cast had some different scenery to chew on this week.
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