When the Enterprise encounters a Ferengi ship, they are intrigued at the possibility of finding out more regarding this mysterious race about whom the facts are obscured by rumour and hearsay. Unfortunately, intrigue turns to distress when the ship is ensnared in a powerful beam that drains all of its energy. When it turns out the Ferengi aren’t the ones responsible, Picard decides that the best way of getting to the bottom of this is to work together to figure out the problem.
This episode was meant to introduce the Ferengi as a believable new antagonist to take the place of the Klingons and the Romulans, and in that regard, it roundly fails. After a slow start, our first interaction with the Ferengi introduces them less as worthy foes and more as goblins – pesky antagonists that can annoy but never really harm the heroes. When the most interesting thing about a race is their plasma whips, then you’ve failed to make a great introduction. Of course, the Ferengi will get a lot more development in DS9, but we’re not there yet.
Although the Federation has heard a lot about the Ferengi – most of it untrue, like that part about them eating their allies – but this episode is the first time they’ve ever seen or interacted with them. The Ferengi are described as “Yankee traders”, obsessed with making a profit at any turn, and even finding gold valuable, despite the fact that it can be easily replicated. They are a patriarchal race, who don’t even let their women wear clothing.
Are these characters made of wood?
I know better character development is round the corner, but right now everyone is stiff as a board, and also quite shirty, shouty and short-tempered.
- Riker practically shouts at Data for more details when Data says that everything we know about the Ferengi is rumour and hearsay. Then, when the Ferengi are leering at Yar and practically threatening to rape her, he tells her to be “at ease” when she tries to defend herself.
- Data gets stuck in a Chinese finger puzzle, and doesn’t think to just search his data banks for the answer. Surely Data has a wifi or 4G connection to the Enterprise computer?
- Picard seems to think that Wesley has the right to face death awake, which Crusher considers a “male point of view”. Please can we have less of this outright stereotyping? Crusher, on the other hand, wanted to give her son a sedative for a more painless death – imagine if she’d given him a lethal dose of morphine and then the ship recovered anyway?
Building a better Enterprise
- If Captain Picard doesn’t like kids running all over the ship, why not implement some access controls? For one thing, it’s probably dangerous to let them have free rein – what if they pull out some isolinear chips or stick their fingers in an antimatter pod or something?
- How are the Ferengi able to download the entire Enterprise computer? Is it unencrypted?
- Data describes the T’Kon empire as containing trillions of people, and from the star map it looks to have spanned several star systems – how was it destroyed by a single nova? Or was it that, with central government gone, the member worlds just declared independence and the empire fell?
- We learn later in the series that Picard is an avid student of archaeology, and even considered it as a career choice. So how come he knows nothing about the T’Kon Empire – it sounds like it should have been right up his street.
Summary – The Last Outpost: I’d forgotten how much early TNG resembles TOS.