When a stable wormhole is discovered in the Barzan system, the Barzan people declare their intention to auction it to the highest bidder. Negotiations take place on board the Enterprise, but with representatives from a variety of races all bidding for this coveted resource, will the Federation be able to secure rights to it for themselves?
This is an odd episode, because it’s one I believe I like much more than I actually do. Since I saw this episode after starting DS9 and perhaps even Voyager, I adored the idea of seeing the first ever story of a wormhole to another quadrant – indeed, this episode has the premise of DS9 (stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant) and Voyager (ship stranded in the Delta Quadrant) tied up in one convenient package.
That being said, the episode itself isn’t that amazing. The negotiations mostly take place off screen, and although this might be for the best as they’d probably be rather boring, it doesn’t give us any indication of Riker’s supposedly awesome negotiation skills. Ral’s manipulations of the other bidders is slightly interesting, but his romance with Troi didn’t really do it for me – although at least it gives her something to do other than sit on the bridge sensing people’s emotions. There’s also the obligatory Star Trek moral story – is it right to use one’s empathic powers to gain an advantage over others? When Troi does it, it’s usually a matter of galactic importance, and so it seems only fair, but where do you draw the line? Ral uses his powers for his client’s gain, so isn’t that just selfish?
The heroine of the hour in terms of character development is Troi, of course. This is the first mention of her love of chocolate, something which will become a running joke in the series. As well as enjoying a whirlwind romance with Ral – well, it’s nice to be pampered sometimes – we see her first “girl’s moment” with Crusher. The two of them do stretches together whilst discussing their love lives. So, no, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, but it’s good to see them enjoying their downtime.
Anticlockwise from bottom right: Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma
- This episode is the first time the galaxy is divided up into the now-familiar four quadrants, invalidating all TOS’ misuse of quadrants, not to mention early TNG locales such as “The Morgana Quadrant”.
- The fate of the stranded Ferengi will be discovered by the USS Voyager in the episode False Prophets.
- The Ferengi are beamed straight to the observation lounge without any kind of security scan – although perhaps the transporter was meant to take care of that.
- Riker is named as negotiator because of his poker prowess – shouldn’t the Enterprise have trained negotiators aboard to go with all those trained lawyers they don’t have?
- If a stable wormhole is such a massive deal, why is the Federation the only major power bidding for it? The Ferengi only barely qualify as a galactic power, and we haven’t even heard of the other parties before this episode. What about the Klingon Empire, the Romulans, or the Cardassians?
- I think this is the first time we see someone who is a quarter alien, rather than half-human, half-alien. If interbreeding is as easy as it seems to be, you’d expect more mixed-race humanoids in varying proportions. One could argue that half-humans would likely be sterile, but across Star Trek we know that Ral’s half-Betazoid parent, K’Ehleyr and B’Elanna Torres at the very least are all fertile (Troi doesn’t count due to the nature of her impregnation).
Summary – The Price: Apparently Ral is conveniently attractive, but I’d rather spend the night with Deanna.