TNG: S5E20: “Cost of Living”

In which I add a lot of links, Lwaxana is engaged, and don’t worry about the tech plot. 

♪And I say buonce a graviton particle beam...♫

♪And I say bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish…♫

We start with the Enterprise barely managing to shatter an asteroid heading towards a planet. How they managed to let the thing get that close is anyone’s guess, and they wind up having to use a deflector dish magic science beam to blow it up when neither photon torpedoes or the tractor beam would do the job. One question, though. Where do the particles come from? I mean, I’ll grant that exotic particles could detonate a rock. I’ll even grant that said rock might resist a tractor beam. I’ll even grant that said rock might still be a problem when hit by a matter/antimatter warhead. But the deflector dish is designed to push interstellar dust and gasses away when the ship is at warp so it doesn’t build up a pressure wave that destroys the destination solar system. How is it just generating particles? I’ll do some research on this and see what I dig up. I mean, it’s clearly a versatile tool, but it’s beginning to get to the point where I’m not sure why they even bother with phasers anymore since the dish just solves every problem.

Oh, right, the plot. As they leave the planet to go do the next good deed, a sprinkling of faerie dust wafts over the ship and gives it Crafts Herpes. I hereby predict that this episode will be a Lower Decks episode focused on the poor crewmen who have to pick glitter out of the carpets.

She put on this face in her office before she met Lwaxana and is now in ten-forward. She's been like this for upwards of ten minutes.

She put on this face in her office before she met Lwaxana and is now in ten-forward. She’s been like this for upwards of ten minutes.

Worf and Alexander are having a fight over the chores in front of Troi, who is fed up with their jiggery-pokery and hands down some legalistic argle-bargle.  Worf agrees not to yell, and Alexander agrees to do all of those chores, and Troi gets in the last words about appreciating parents which come back to bite her in the bunny suit immediately – her mother is on board to get married. Lwaxana is, in fact, marrying royalty. From online dating profiles. They haven’t met yet.

Okay, pause. In the Federation, I can totally get behind online dating. There’s a vast congregation of worlds knit together by a subspace information network. It seems like the minimum standard of living is pretty high, so the barriers to just up and moving are probably fairly low, if you find someone compatible on another planet. But you have to find them. Online dating seems like a natural way to go. But I wonder about Betazoids in this. All telepathic species, actually. Lwaxana is marrying someone she hasn’t met yet, and therefore hasn’t mind-read yet. Is she that desperate, or are the 24th century OKCupid questions just that good?

Worf and Alex are having difficulties hashing out their contract, and Worf makes the mistake of walking into Ten-Forward when Lwaxana is there to undermine everything he, Alex, and Deanna talked about. I was about to get all indignant about how Lwaxana can just show up and use Ten-Forward on a whim and Deanna only just finds out about it that day, but apparently Picard was blindsided too. He’s the captain, but I appreciate that they at least hang a lampshade on how little sense this makes.

And they're not actually related, so this pose in that costume isn't quite as creepy as it might otherwise have been.

And they’re not actually related, so this pose in that costume isn’t quite as creepy as it might otherwise have been.

Lwaxana is going to get a grandma relationship with Alexander, which ought to be pretty good for both of them provided she doesn’t kidnap a child who has no locator beacon and spirit him away to an undisclosed Bohemian mud spa/mime carnival. Why yes, that was oddly specific of me, wasn’t it? Hey, remember how sometimes Star Trek episodes are just on crack? Apparently, this holodeck program is a LucasArts adventure game.  An adventure game with an… ahem… exotic dancer.

Lwaxana has given up her insistence on a Traditional Betazoid Wedding (all parties nude) because her intended is from a different culture. Sidebar – either the replicators are broken or Lwaxana was also written to be the most stereotypical grandma ever. She can’t work the replicator even though it’s arguably the simplest piece of technology aboard the ship, from a UI standpoint. She asks for tea and it gives her sausages in a teacup. You know you’ve had that conversation with a family member.

Okay, the replicators are actually broken, so Geordi and Data put on weird jumpsuits and go find some goop in the Jeffries tubes. It is a deep and abiding technical mystery, but apparently that’s what space glitter turns into. But that’s not as important as Lwaxana teaching Alexander the facts of Dating After Betazoid Meno-Overdrive. This is a great episode for her – she becomes incredibly relatable – the most ‘normal’ character in a very cut-and-tidy quasi-military culture.

Lwaxana gets to meet the intended, Campio, whose stuffiness puts Picard to shame. He and Lwaxana are going to get on like a house on fire. No wait… like the way that phrase sounds, not what it colloquially means. Badly, is what I’m trying to say. This is Star Trek doing a farce and a manners comedy at once. Be right back, gotta go find my copy of Noises Off.

Do you think holodeck characters see this kind of thing?

Do you think holodeck characters see this kind of thing?

Incidentally, the pixie dust is eating all the Enterprise circuitry and, somehow, the images produced by the holodeck. While it’s a really cool effect, this is not even remotely how I would expect this kind of problem to manifest. However, it’s a simple matter to fix – run the ship back as quickly as possible back to a food source for the parasites and hope you can rig something up to survive long enough to get there.

The ship is losing life support fast, so it’s a good thing they have an android aboard who doesn’t need to berathe. Let’s all take a moment to remember that any other ship in the fleet would be lost with all hands because of this incident, because the ship doesn’t stock EVA suits. Fortunately, the Enterprise must have some limited self-repair capabilities, because as soon as the paraistes are off the ship everybody wakes up immediately. Clearly, all the geeks were busy writing “Cause and Effect” instead of this one.

"You're just supposed to SIT here?"

“You’re just supposed to SIT here?”

In the end, Lwaxana shows up in the traditional Betazoid wedding garb because why should she be the one doing all the cultural compromise. Turns out the wedding is therefore off, but at least she gets to enjoy a mud bath with her daughter, ersatz grandson, and Mr. Woof.

Did we miss something awesome?