TNG: S3E24: “Ménage à Troi”

In which oh god oh god I will never be able to unsee what I have seen, I will never be able to unthink what I have thunk, and Wesley is also in this episode. 

I think this is when the nadir of the Ferengi. They started as this vague and threatening trading empire that the Federation was legitimately competing with for a long-range resupply station in Farpoint, to seeing them in person in “The Last Outpost.” We saw members of the species assault a Federation starship with impunity, but if half of what I remember in this episode is accurate, this is kind of a culmination of the ’60s lusty alien trope.

Look, I get that it's a charming instrument, but the note-making blocks are free-swinging. Just try keeping a beat with that.

Look, I get that it’s a charming instrument, but the note-making blocks are free-swinging. Just try keeping a beat with that.

The Enterprise is attending a trade conference around Betazed, and the Ferengi are, for the first time, in attendance. Picard has permitted them on his ship, and one of them loses to Riker at 3D Chess while the most impractical xylophone the prop designers could build is being played in the background.

Apparently, the Ferengi brain is immune to Betazoid telepathy, a fact that doesn’t quite mesh with some of their previous experiences. This is an aside before Lwaxana berates Deanna for not settling down on Betazed, encouraging her to find a man, and leering at her when Riker comes up to Rescue Deanna. Meanwhile, one of the Ferengi has eyes only for Lwaxana. He justifies his, ahem, exotic taste in females as having an eye for the advatages a telepath would bring in negotiations. When he sits down, Lwaxana makes an excuse of go chasing Picard, who in turn makes an excuse of going to examine the door mechanisms.

Remember that Lwaxana Troi can hear everything he’s thinking as well as saying, and if that excuse sounded feeble out loud, imagine what she heard. To top it off the Ferengi (in what we shall in the interests of open relationships between a formerly hostile nation and the Federation a cultural misunderstanding) offers to buy Lwaxana Troi on the assumption that all females are prostitutes.

Set stare on 'vaporize.'

Set stare on ‘vaporize.’

Okay, before the Warship Lwaxana obliterates the guy, we as viewers know that the Ferengi are an extremely mercantile people – they even appear to run their ships as incorporated entities from which the Captain can be removed if a vote of no confidence is taken due to a lack of percieved profit. It’s possible that Tog meant to say that everyone has their price, and meant to compliment Lwaxana on her, uh femaleness. It is also possible that he’s a tactless little moron who didn’t even have the sense to research the culture of the people he’d be trading with, which seems like business 101.

Protip, when Worf compliments you on your social graces, you may have gone too far. Also, Lwaxana is getting grandbaby fever, which is at least part of why she’s constantly harping on Deanna to go back to boinking Riker on the regular.

Look, I'm not saying that two good friends who happen to be ex-lovers can't enjoy time together. What I'm saying is that you don't film this shot unless you want to end with the two of them being together.

Look, I’m not saying that two good friends who happen to be ex-lovers can’t enjoy time together. What I’m saying is that you don’t film this shot unless you want to end with the two of them being together.

It appears to be a time of many changes – Wesley has passed his next set of exams and has only one more roadblock to go before being formally admitted to the Academy. Also, Picard all but orders Riker to go on shore leave on Betazed. Given that Deanna will also be taking shore leave and Lwaxana will also be in the same sector, I can only assume this is Picard’s finely-honed revenge for Riker making him get the sex idol on Risa.

Riker and Deanna in civvies find the flower the two of them shared some good times near and they are definitely gravitating toward each other. In the lipal region. Until Lwaxana shows up, because apparently Deanna’s father used to take Lwaxana here. She’s about to offer to leave the two of them alone when DaiMon Tog shows up with flowers and kidnapps all three of them.

It is unclear how the Ferengi knocked them out in transit. You know, that trope always bothers me – when someone gets kidnapped while perfectly conscious, and then wakes up after a fade cut to be puzzled about their surroundings. At least in other media there’s the plausible explanation that someone conked them over the head before they arrived. It would be really cool if the Ferengi transporter were able to incapacitate people selectively so they could be kidnapped more efficiently. Morally reprehensible, of course, but really cool. Anyway, Riker, Troi, and Lwaxana wake up in the brig, and DaiMon Tog has Lwaxana and Deanna transported to a sick bay, or possibly lab. Not their clothes though.

It’s worth pointing out that Deanna is more or less outraged, Lwaxana just says “I should have known.” Recall that Betazoid weddings are held in the nude, so there likely isn’t as strong a cultural aversion to the general state, even if it is objectionable to be placed in that state against one’s will.

There is, however, no good way to interpret the line “Females do not deserve the honor of clothing” on the part of the doctor. There just isn’t. That said, Tog is, by comparison, much less barbaric as he extends the negotiation bed from the wall of his quarters. This episode is making me extremely uncomfortable.

Wes, Geordi, and Data are discussing Wesley’s post-academy career, and Data reminds us that 91% of Academy graduates are not posted to Galaxy-class ships. Meaning, presumably, that 9% of them are.

Now, we know from “Coming of Age” that only one new cadet per testing station is accepted into the Academy for some asinine reason. Using a couple of assumptions (a half-dozen Galaxies at this time, a crew structure roughly analagous to a modern US Navy, and a functional crew compliment on Galaxies of ~1000 (as opposed to that number being all warm bodies aboard) we wind up with a figure of about 60 Ensigns aboard a Galaxy and approximately 666 people in the Starfleet Academy graduating class every graduation period. I can’t show my work because there are too many variables and also now I have a Guy for that. But that gives us, if nothing else, some proportionality for the rest of Starfleet – Galaxies are the biggest ships they have, and aside from starbases are very likely the biggest single posting. Either way, Starfleet seems to be small for an interstellar force.

"Oh Great Bird of the Galaxy there's not enough bleach in the universe..."

“Oh Great Bird of the Galaxy there’s not enough bleach in the universe…”

I digress. Lwaxana is distracting Tog, and Riker proves his prowess over the Ferengi brig officers, and goads him into a game. The various branches of the protagonist crew go about their distractions, while Troi has to sense her mother making out with a Ferengi. If you’ve ever heard your parents having sex, you might almost know how Deanna feels. They are telepaths. Also, bear in mind that the Enterprise has no idea that anyone is missing.

Riker convinces the Ferengi to let him out of the cell in order to finish the game of chess, because the Ferengi are not a disciplined force. Lwaxana regales Tog with stories about her previous lovers and when he expresses displeasure, starts folding his ears. Apparently, this has a special name, oo-mox, and is sensationally, if not socially, equivalent to third base. Riker and Deanna are now free of the brig but all communications have to be authorized by the DaiMon. Deanna has to ask her mother to give a Frenegi a handie so they can call the Enterprise.

I think that might be the worst sentence I have ever typed.

She almost gets the access code under the guise of teaching his computers how to make drinks, but is stopped by Doctor Neelix Farek. Apparently, the same access code that lets you input a recipe also allows you to have unfettered access to the communications channels. Sony seems to be doing fairly well for themselves in the Ferengi economy.

I digress. Doctor Farek wants to vivisect her to lean how Betazoid telepathy works, and has the leverage on Tog to force the issue. Meanwhile, the Enterprise has finally been made aware of the kidnapping and know that they’re on the Ferengi ship. Riker has given up on comms and is going for a minor system and is now messing with the warp field variances to send out a coded message. It comes through on the Enterprise as a familiar pattern in the static, which Wesley figures out as he’s on the transporter pad to go to Starfleet, and they leave without him as he works the problem. The interference is, in fact, the same stupid xylophone rhythm that was being played at the trade conference.

After a daring rescue, Lwaxana offers to stay with Tog, so long as Deanna and Riker are free to leave – Keeping a Starfleet officer is bad for business and since Deanna is not fully telepathic her brain is useless and wow that was way more insulting than I intended. But it’s funny so I’m leaving it in.



That said, Picard is damned if he’s going to let Lwaxana sell her freedom. He demands her release, Lwaxana pulls some sort of ploy that requires Picard to profess his love for her. It’s endearingly awkward, and in an otherwise sort-of-cringeworthy episode, this scene is by far the best. You have not seen acting until you’ve seen Shakespearean-trained Patrick Steward portraying a confused and befuddled Picard portraying a lovesick and heart-rent Picard who can stand to be around Lwaxana Troi.

When you see this image, always remember that Patrick Stewart was shouting a hate-sonnet at Gene Roddenberry's wife.

When you see this image, always remember that Patrick Stewart was shouting a hate-sonnet at Gene Roddenberry’s wife.

The endgame of the ploy is that Lwaxana insists that Picard mustn’t keep killing all of her lovers, you see. Lwaxana is returned. Wesley has missed his exam, so the Academy won’t take him until next year, but since he stayed in service to his ship and comrades in defiance of his own career, Picard gives him a field promotion anyway. Starfleet in general and Picard in specific rewards those who demonstrate true devotion to duty over selfselfishness and self-aggrandizement. This is why it continues to attract the best and brightest.


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