Remember when you had some huge project due in middle school, and you really didn’t want to do it, so you just kept putting it off? Then, when you finally get to work on it, it’s actually more fun than you thought it would be and you wonder why you didn’t want to work on it in the first place?
Welcome to me, working on The Last Outpost. Yes, the episode is still tedious and the Ferengi are so fucking lame if they were horses we’d have to put them down, but once I decided to just relax and not worry about making the damn thing something it’s incapable of being, I found some amusing bits.
Picard asks Troi is she’s sensing anything from the Ferengi ship. That’s good, since it’s kind of her whole job and everything. She says she’s sensing nothing, so maybe they can block their thoughts and emotions. That’s bad.
Data says that we don’t know that much about the Ferengi, which is bad, but we do know a few things about them that seem to be reliable, which is good. Data says the Frogurt is also cursed.
Riker tells Data to just get on with it already, so Data says Ferengi are like Yankee traders from 18th century America. This indicates that, in the 24th century, the traditional practice of using 400 year-old comparisons is still in vogue, like when you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway, and say, “Man, this is just like Vasco de Gama trying to go around the Cape of Good Hope!”
Tasha, Worf, Geordi, Data, and Riker all head to the transporter room, where the writers try to make us believe they’ll be in real danger on the planet, but we know it’s pretty safe when they beam down, unaccompanied by even a single Red Shirt.
The planet looks really cool, and it’s one of the first times we can see the difference in budgets and technologies available to the original series and the Next Generation. It’s misty and stormy, and other words that are not also stage names for strippers. We discover that energy in the atmosphere has messed up the transporter’s coordinates, and Riker’s been beamed down alone. He quickly finds Data, who again uses the word “intriguing” to describe things. He keeps using that word. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
Riker and Data scout around, and find Geordi suspended upside down when – oh! here come the Ferengi! Holy shit! The evil Ferengi! They’re finally here, in person! We can see more than just their moderately scary faces, and they are…uh…short. And bouncy. And they wave their hands over their heads a lot. And they don’t like loud noises. And they carry whips…and wear Ugg boots. Um. Wow. How…intriguing.
Oh, and one more bit, which – I’m not going to lie to you, Marge – was the part I had the most fun writing, for reasons which will reveal themselves momentarily:
Back on the Enterprise, we discover that, like the script, things have gone from bad to worse. The lights are out, the ship’s heating is nearly gone, and Picard has had the remaining power rerouted to the family decks, where he asks Doctor Crusher how Wesley is doing.
Now, listen, fan fiction writers: It’s not because Picard is actually Wesley’s father, as many of you will argue on Usenet over the coming seven years; it’s because Picard knows that Wesley could totally figure a way out of this, and he’s right. Off the top of my head, I can suggest that Wesley would generate some sort of Enterprise-enveloping control field with one of his science projects, using an electro plasma system energy converter, to reverse the polarity of the Navigational Deflector to emit an inverse tachyon pulse through a subspace beacon, while rerouting the power from the impulse engines through the Okuda conduits to the forward sensor array’s antimatter pod, using the auxiliary fusion generator to turn the power back on and save the day.
Sadly, we learn that Dr. Crusher left Wesley in their quarters to stare death in the face alone, without even the benefit of a sedative. Picard reassures her that leaving Wesley alone and fully conscious was great parenting, because he has the right to “meet death awake.” Legions of Trekkies agree, then curse Picard for getting their hopes up.
It truly is one of the most tedious episodes of the first season, but I realized while working on the rewrite that I’d somehow managed to spread some funny bits fairly evenly throughout the synopsis, so even though it’s not slap-your-knee funny, it’s not boring, which was my primary concern.
I don’t include many bits that aren’t in the synopsis, so here’s part The Bottom Line:
TNG’s struggle to find its way continues with this episode. Obviously, it fails spectacularly with its introduction of the Ferengi, who were intended to replace the Klingons as a terrifying and worthy adversary to the Federation, but were a total joke until Armin Shimmerman brought Quark to life on DS9, and repaired much – but not all – of the damage.
However, If you take away how outrageously lame the Ferengi are, this episode has some cool elements to it. The planet looks great, and the effects that lead to the revealing of the Portal, its point of view about itself, and its interaction with Riker are straight out of classic Star Trek. In fact, the entire story of the titular last outpost would have been a very strong one, had the Ferengi not been so weak and laughable. Imagine, for example, the relationship between Kirk and the Romulan Commander in Balance of Terror, and put them into this situation, where they are forced to cooperate.
See? It’s not all jokes and snark. I manage to sneak some semi- thoughtful stuff in there between the facepalms.
When I send this to Andrew, I’m done with the bulk of the work on this book. All that’s left is transcribing some interviews I did with friends from the show so I can include a few of their thoughts (I’m not saying who I talked to, nyahh nyahh) and then I have to put everything together in one big tile and read it all, looking for jokes or phrases that I repeated and areas in the behind the scenes stuff where I can add additional material.
Yep, this is dangerously close to being finished.