In which Deanna receives a Quark in a box.
Memory Alpha says: Tension mounts on the Enterprise as Counselor Troi’s arranged marriage nears, and her mother takes a liking for Captain Picard. Meanwhile, a plague ship threatens the planet where they are meeting. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
This is an episode I’m almost sure I didn’t see on its first airing, and possibly have never seen at all. On the other hand, I could just be forgetting. I have the kind of memory that dredges up things like three Presidents of the United States with alliterative first and last names with relative ease (that won me a trivia quiz and totally impressed people, and I didn’t even have to use Ronald Reagan) but won’t do phone numbers that I didn’t learn in childhood (my first ever phone number was 780527, back when New Zealand phone numbers only needed six digits) and is remarkably unhelpful on questions like ‘So: have ya seen “Haven”?’
Anyway, this episode introduces Deanna’s mum Lwaxana, which is either awesome or cringe-inducing depending on how you feel about her. Personally, I like her, and not because I don’t think she’s awful – she is awful, and she knows it, and she doesn’t care because she likes herself so damn much. Plus, she’s Majel Barrett Roddenberry, so resistance is futile. And I would just like to tell you that this episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series. I guess it didn’t win, but let’s look really closely at the hairstyles, because I think I might know which one they’re talking about (which makes me suspect I have seen at least part of this episode after all).
Honestly, I’m with Data on the legends of mystical healing powers. Unless it turns out there’s actually something like a mineral in the water that’s really good for you, I’ll just settle for ‘it’s a really pretty place to go for your holidays.’ Shall we go there, Data? You can putter around analysing the water and I’ll lie in a hammock reading My Family and Other Animals.
Ha ha ha it’s Riker’s little harp ladies! And he’s so peeved that Tasha calls him away. I like it better when Riker’s a jazz fiend. I couldn’t help noticing that both tiny harp ladies were distinctly giving him The Eye.
Does it really and honestly require the presence of the ship’s first officer when somebody beams up an object from the planet’s surface? I would say Tasha is just being very cautious, but when the silver box appears, she goes over and kneels on the transporter platform and puts her face right up close to it, which if it’s anything dangerous is just madness.
Now, for no reason, Deanna walks into the room and asks ‘What’s going on?’ I suppose she was strolling by, noticed that people in the transporter room were feeling curious and puzzled, and her intense nosiness led her to pop in and see why. I hope she only does this with public rooms and doesn’t just march into people’s quarters. Although actually, I think I remember her doing exactly that with K’Ehleyr some years later!
Apart from being Armin Shimerman, which is awesome, this gift box is terrible in so many ways – it’s loud and manic and it suddenly spits out unwrapped Mardi Gras beads that apparently really impress Tasha as ‘jewels.’ The Millers have very questionable taste.
THEME MUSIC OF GLORIOUS ADVENTURES!
Deanna has some odd lines here about how she thought her arranged marriage wouldn’t happen because of the distance this mission took her from home – when last week she went home for a visit on a shuttlecraft. To be fair, it appears that several Season One episodes were made and screened out of order – for example, the first time audiences saw Armin Shimerman was in ‘The Last Outpost,’ but this episode was shot before that, so officially the gift box was his first Star Trek role. Therefore, I probably shouldn’t pick on this.
Riker prowls irritably around in the background while Deanna explains the situation to Picard, because goshdarnit, he’s not currently dating Deanna but how dare anyone else get involved with her! I think Beyoncé Knowles has a song about this, Riker, it’s very catchy. You’d like her, she’s not exactly jazz but there’s crossover with R&B, right?
(Tangentially, one of the odd things about Star Trek, culturally, is the way that popular music from the second half of the 20th Century seems to be pretty forgotten, despite the fact that this was the period when Earth’s popular music BOOMED. And yet, this makes sense to me in this way: all that pop is so very driven by and tailored to the tastes of teenagers and early-twentysomethings. Even the continued popularity of dinosaur bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who is based on taking their greying listeners back to the way they felt as teenagers and early-twentysomethings. In the 23rd and 24th Centuries, society seems to have swung back to giving primacy to the tastes of grown-ups. It kind of makes sense that they’re not listening to ‘Teenage Kicks’ any more. Actually, can you imagine canon teenagers in Star Trek, like Wesley Crusher and Jake Sisko, listening to rock or hip-hop or dance music? It’s not easy. You play Wesley some Britney Spears and he’ll get all flustered and say ‘I feel strange, but also good!’ You play Jake some MC Hammer and he’ll say ‘Oh, God, this is stuff my dad likes.’ Also, Star Trek needs to get itself a canon teenage girl. The shade of Leslie Crusher demands it.)
Well, why won’t you and your husband be staying with the ship, Deanna? Since it turns out Wyatt is a doctor, why couldn’t he work in the sickbay with Beverly? And why is everyone going along with this Betazoid ‘genetic bonding’ tradition when, as Riker points out, everyone involved but Lwaxana is human or half-human? Why did the Millers agree to this in the first place – are they going to explain that? It’s not that I’m automatically opposed to arranged marriages. Forced marriages, yes, they absolutely suck, but arranged marriages can work out very happily, partly because of the lack of romance and the unreasonable expectations it can generate.
Riker goes and leans on the wall petulantly, and Deanna calls him Bill, and they have an awkward talk about his love for her being limited by his ambition to be a starship captain – which of course will not turn out to be such an issue as time goes by, since it later becomes A Thing that Riker delays taking up a command of his own to keep working with Picard.
Poor baby Data is so confused about why everyone is so upset.
That’s some bad hat, Mrs Miller. Why in the world does she say ‘It couldn’t be’ when she sees Deanna? Who else would it be?
I do like the way Wyatt hangs back on the transporter pad while his parents come out and greet Picard and Deanna – it’s a good way to show both his doubts about the marriage and his immaturity. He is wearing a Wesley-worthy sweater.
Mrs Miller says ‘I knew romance was still alive somewhere,’ as if there is anything remotely romantic about this set-up.
Wyatt gives Deanna a tacky-looking but kind of cool gift, a ‘chameleon rose’ that works like a mood ring. When she touches it, it turns white, which in Rose Code means ‘no love’ or ‘dead love.’
The way Wyatt cuddles his sketchpad is supremely awkward.
I really enjoy Lwaxana’s very natural ‘Oh I hate that,’ regarding the momentary disorientation of beaming. Bones and Broccoli feel you on that one, Lwaxana. And I also really, really enjoy the fraught dynamic between Deanna and her mother, established immediately as Deanna greets her with a hopeful smile and Lwaxana immediately corrects her way of communicating and Deanna’s little face shuts down tight.
‘Ah, you may carry my luggage!’ It is evidently full of rocks. Ha, I love Data and Geordi’s studied non-reaction to the captain hurrying along like an overburdened bellhop. ‘We did not see that.’ Tactful nerds.
I love how Mr Homn is all one colour in his clothes and skin and hair. So discreet and bland. I bet Lwaxana’s house has wallpaper that he matches.
And I really love Picard for being so good-humoured about all of this, because it just goes to show how much he cares for Deanna, in a gentle, fatherly way.
And how very interesting that it’s Mr Miller who has driven this whole thing. Why? Does he think his son is such a wimp he’ll never get married otherwise? Does he think it’ll be a big social advantage for his family to be connected to the Trois, perhaps because of Lwaxana’s aristocratic background?
This Elector lady on Haven has a lovely seafoam-green dress, and some major hair. She refers to a ‘stargate,’ which sounds odd in a Trek context.
Now Wyatt is cuddling himself, folding his arms in a protective, awkward manner. The body language makes sense here. It’s very clear what a beta male he is – a very nice person, but evidently with low self-esteem and no assertiveness. ‘A medical doctor, for whatever that’s worth.’ That’s worth bunches! Deanna describes herself as ‘a practising psychologist,’ and I do wish she were written more like one more often.
This scene is very well played, particularly by the actor playing Wyatt, showing his timidity and emotional conflict. He literally hugs the picture of his dream lady while trying to tell Deanna she doesn’t matter now.
I like how the Tarellian plague ship appears to be propelled by a giant rainbow bubble.
I notice Beverly has done something different with her hair, fastening back the sides, and it does look better, less shaggy and limp. This scene plays a little oddly in terms of briefing on the Tarellian situation. It does make sense that everyone pools their knowledge on the topic, but within the scene how much Picard knows about it seems to change, unless it’s just that hearing the others’ summaries jogs his memory. Poor Picard tries to be genial and kind about announcing Deanna’s engagement party and Riker snots out of there like a loaded handkerchief.
Another different hairdo for Beverly in the party scene! Why, I begin to see where this nomination came from. It’s a sort of rolled chignon at the nape of the neck. Because I’m a dork, I’m half-following the foreground conversation while really watching Data wander around in the background establishing his legendary awkwardness at cocktail parties.
Deanna has a different hairdo too, one which evidently involves a long switch and makes me think of I Dream of Jeannie.
Ha, Data thought that bitchfight was better than a floorshow. His little eyes are sparkling.
Why, incidentally, is Data not sitting at the table in the next scene? Is it just because he’s so fascinated by Homn that he wants to stick close to him, or is it because food is being served and he’s not interested?
MOTHER OF PEARL CHECK OUT THE HAIR ON TASHA. This is the hairdo I was thinking of! It is awesome in its 80s crested glory.
I also enjoy Data implying that humans are booze-hounds.
Beverly says she’d like to confer with Wyatt about the Tarellians’ virus, adding ‘I’m pleased I have a medical colleague on board.’ Why in the world would you send a ship into space with hundreds of people on board and only one doctor? That’s ridiculously impractical – besides making it quite obvious that Wyatt could and should stay on the ship after marrying Deanna, so that there’s someone to take care of sick and injured people while Beverly sleeps and eats.
Still enjoying Data wandering around watching and listening to everyone like a little kid – or as Picard puts it, circling the room like a buzzard. He’s an adorable buzzard, Picard, so let him be.
I like how Wyatt keeps making awkward approaches to couple body language with Deanna, and then withdrawing from it.
From Mrs Miller’s reaction, it seems like the living decoration on Lwaxana’s dress should have been something more like a snake than a vine.
Riker, you are such a rude little drama queen. Go on then, flounce out.
Data Contraction Alert: ‘I’m very interested.’ I know I’m pedantic, but this is going to be important eventually.
A magNIFIcent flounce from Deanna! Tasha thinks it’s all very funny – which is not terribly sympathetic from someone who claims to be her friend. And Data finds the petty bickering most intriguing, and I adore him.
Riker’s Sulking Holodeck. Oh Lord, Deanna’s pantsuit is so awful. What does Riker think is so ‘unfair’ to him? He’s being awful about this. This looks like the Napoleonic polystyrene rocks planet with different lighting. Petulant, grumpy baby Riker. Wyatt and Deanna actually have a nice, friendly dynamic in this scene, and it is believable that they could make their marriage work in the long run. Their attempt at a first kiss is appropriately awkward and the romantic music is ridiculous.
The Tarellian woman? Who’s the real one in Wyatt’s drawings? Is wearing the most ridiculous outfit. COVER YOUR TUM, WOMAN. You’re supposed to be sick, aren’t you? Why was she standing front and centre, when she says nothing and an older man moves her out of the way to speak to the Enterprise? And why do the Tarellians delay responding to the Enterprise‘s hails for so long?
There is a weird black bobbly thing in the background of the Tarellians’ bridge that looks just like the ‘chair’ Worf later had in his quarters – and I’m pretty sure Joey bought the same chair with his first Days of Our Lives paycheck on Friends, along with vulgar crap like Pat the Dog. Has that prop just been circulating that long? If so, awesome, and I really hope it’s the same one.
I notice that Lwaxana, like a lot of ladies without much up front, opts for back cleavage. And she calls attention to her new Emmy-nominated hairstyle. Her tone to Wyatt as she explains things is very kind and motherly and likeable, even though the whole ‘all life is indissolubly connected’ thing is just a little bit airy fairy for me. Why doesn’t this stuff happen more often, then?
Does Mr Miller only want to have this wedding for a chance to strut around nude? Because there are places you can go for that, without messing with your kid’s life.
Wyatt takes his leave of Deanna telling her that she’s beautiful. Honestly, I wish he’d praised her kind heart, because I think that’s worth far more.
Okay, so Wyatt’s gone to live with his dream lady and help the Tarellians and live happily and virally ever after. And Deanna takes it like a champ.
Graciously, Mr Miller lets Deanna keep the Armin Shimerman box! What in the world does he think she’s going to use it for? I predict that thing will be regifted as soon as possible.
I swear as Lwaxana steps onto the transporter pad and turns around, she surreptitiously adjusts her knickers through her skirt.
Off they go to further adventures, and Riker never does apologise for being a big obnoxious baby about his ex-girlfriend having a life after him. But Data got to enjoy some of the finest petty bickering you will find outside a YouTube comments thread, so that’s okay!
Time to check in with O’Brien! What were you up to this week, old chum?
‘Popped down to the planet and had a nice mini-break. Complete lack of suffering – it was almost unnerving.’
Next time, Deep Space Nine gets really profoundly corny with ‘Move Along Home,’ an episode goofy enough to belong in early TNG or even season three of TOS. I expect to enjoy mocking it very much.