In which Riker is swift as a coursing river, with all the force of the great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the mooooooooooon.
Memory Alpha says: Riker serves as an exchange officer on a Klingon warship. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
Yes, I said that next I would be doing the Ferengi Twelfth Night episode, but I’m just not in a Deep Space Nine mood. I want to sink back into early TNG. If you mind, I’m sorry. Besides, this episode has Riker eating worms. I have tagged it ‘Riker’s hairy chest’ even though I don’t think we see it, because in this episode, he really is The Man.
With that in mind, let’s begin.
- Or let’s not begin because I want some quiet for this but my mother is sitting up watching Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. Blah. I don’t want to have to go downstairs to do this because it’s effing cold down there and my cat has just got comfortable in my lap, and her wanting to sit on my lap is infrequent enough that I’m reluctant to disrupt it for anything short of bodily necessities. When I say ‘my cat,’ I’ve got two: Pearl, who is beautiful and intelligent and difficult, and occasionally bitey because of a troubled childhood, and Teddy, who is cute if not beautiful, and tries her best, but I sincerely believe that she is properly retarded. Developmentally delayed, intellectually handicapped, call it what you will. I love them both, but I value Pearl’s expressions of affection more because I remember when she was so skittish and hostile, and because she’s all there. Before I had to move back in with my family they thought I was exaggerating about Teddy’s mental limitations, and being a bit mean. Now they see. This is a cat who routinely runs into walls.
- Go to bed, mother. You came home saying you felt sick and exhausted and you were so glad I’d made the dinner! Go to flipping bed!
- Well, I’m just going to start watching it anyway, and if the background noise annoys them, SO BE IT.
- FUCK I can’t concentrate because they’re not only watching the gypsy show, they’re discussing it while it’s on.
- I hope this play-by-play of my snivelling, middle-class, laptop and television-equipped troubles is great fun for you to read. There are children starving in the ruins of Cardassia you know.
- Right, I’m taking the laptop down to bed, I guess, so I can be warm.
- Bed and Star Trek seems like a good combination to me.
- Finally! We’re in space and the first person to talk was Data. They’re approaching a starbase and Riker’s being all competent and authoritative.
- DATA HAS THE BRIDGE. For some reason Riker took Wesley with him. Okay, they just got some new personnel, some replacing regular crew who have left, transferred or died horribly, and one on an exchange programme, a Benzite who Wesley mistakes for his dork friend from the Academy entrance exams, completely confusing me because wasn’t that dork congratulated on being the first of his race to enter Starfleet? But this other dork is already an Ensign. Anyway, the dork is all excited about getting to be on the coolest ship in the fleet, so he talks a bit too much about how helpful he thinks he can be. Wesley takes him away for ‘indoctrination’ and Riker shoots a Look at O’BRIEN HI O’BRIEN, who does a sort of low-key Muttley laugh.
- The basic racial profile for Benzites: blue, fuck-ugly, constantly huffing from a sort of medicinal censer that they mount on their chests, apple polishers, possible Aspergian traits.
- In an adorably awkward scene, Riker and Picard have a conversation about the noobs while doing target practise with their phasers in the holodeck. Patrick Stewart’s posing is just… remarkable. Anyway, Picard thinks all this exchange programme stuff is peachy and wants to send someone off to play with the Klingons. Riker’s like ‘me! me!’ and does some more phaser zapping. Picard’s like ‘okay.’ At the end of the scene Picard fires off two more shots when I don’t think there was even a target. And so our story is set up!
- Worf emphasises that he knows ‘everything about my heritage’ as a result of study. I always think that they didn’t really need the Dreaded Soccer Incident revelation from DS9 to explain why Worf is never quite a natural Klingon, with the whole boisterous joie de vivre drunk Viking thing; he learned his Klingonning from books and is painfully earnest about getting it right. This is another reason why, when Data refers to the two of them as ‘kindred spirits’ in ‘Data’s Day,’ it is so sweet it hurts. (The main reason is that I was brought up with hereditary Anne of Green Gables fandom.)
- Look at that dork on the bridge, all spying over people’s shoulders like he’s the supervisor. Dork. If he’s only an Ensign, why did the young man he just talked to call him Sir? Did we just see an enlisted man other than Miles O’Brien? Bless my soul.
- Wesley appears worried about the dork (I can’t learn his name properly, it begins with Mor but that just means I confuse him with Arthurian characters like Mordred and Morgana) totally overstepping his boundaries as a very junior sort of person to make suggestions directly to the captain. I don’t see why. Totally overstepping his boundaries as a very junior sort of person has always worked well for Wesley! On the other hand, Wesley is quite cute in a doe-eyed way, which Mordork does not have going for him.
- The tableful of ‘alien’-looking food which Riker is chorfing his way through in the next scene was mostly bought from a nearby Asian market. Asians: like aliens!
- I like to think Pulaski is just hanging around here because, in off-screen interactions, she and Riker have recognised each other as the superior trolls on board, and each respects the other’s capacity for liquor and ass. It’s not as if Beverly would be a logical replacement in this scene. Deanna might have made more sense, but this is another of those episodes where she’s just not around and nobody comments on it. I’m not sure what was up with Marina Sirtis’ availability in the early seasons – was she unwell a lot? Did she have some other job going on at the same time? Did some of the writers just not feel sure how to handle her character, so they avoided her? It’s Star Trek and this is the Internet, so someone, out there, knows.
- Curiously, Riker pronounces ‘gagh’ as ‘gahg,’ with quite a solid, non-hawky g at the end, but Pulaski repeats it back to him more accurately. With a hawk, that is.
- Their banter really does feel to me as if Riker and Pulaski are quite good pals. Which I like. Pulaski does strike me as one of those women more comfortable being friendly with men (which is lucky for her, given how disproportionately male Star Trek casts still are).
- Why did Riker order enough food for three or four people? It’s not as if the replicator couldn’t put together a sort of Klingon tapas with small portions of several different dishes. Oh, hell, I’m probably underestimating him. I bet he licks every plate clean.
- Worf actually acts like a good, sensible security chief by giving Riker a little doodad that will send an ‘omnidirectional’ distress signal if he gets into trouble.
- Data gets to sit at Picard’s right hand! His narrow bottom must be lost in Riker’s capacious bum-dent.
- Worf is wearing a lot of eye makeup today. The better to glower at the dork with.
- The dork notices some weird microbes on the Klingon vessel’s hull, so despite running his mouth at every other opportunity, says nothing to anyone about it, even though the LCARS display is using red blinky font to say it’s not sure what the hell this is.
- O’Brien tries to psych Riker out, in a cherubic, Irish hobbit sort of way.
- Data gets to be in charge of the bridge again – and although nobody is mentioning anything about it, Riker going away to Klingon camp is quite important for his professional development too. He gets to be acting first officer and it’s nice to see Picard’s confidence in him – he seems very slightly more attentive to him than he would be to Riker, but then leaves him in charge.
- The dork accosts Picard, who looks at him with a mixture of irritation and puzzlement that he is still talking after being brushed off.
- How do the Klingons see in there? And why is it so hazy? Has someone been smoking?
- ‘I’m just an average, everyday human being who happens to be a commander.’ Oh, such modesty! What an inflated impression of average, everyday human beings this Klingon will get from observing the Alaskan Manbear, the Bipedal Malamute, in motion.
- I always forget how much preppier Riker’s hair was earlier on, with the side parting.
- I like the subtitling as ‘Speak in their language,’ not ‘Speak English.’ Even though I pretty much insist on believing that the official language of Earth ended up being English, not Esperanto or any other created language. I always wonder how the official language for the Federation was chosen from the four founding parties, and suspect that a game of chance was involved.
- This poor man’s name is actually and literally ‘Klang’? Klang, son of Klunk? (unintentionally, second Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines reference of the review – a show that I always have trouble remembering was not just called Stop That Pigeon.)
- That was a decent fight! I hope Riker’s going to fix that… whatever he just broke with Klang son of Klunk’s head.
- So the Enterprise has caught the Pagh‘s germs. What kind of microbes just jump across a substantial distance of empty space between two ships that never touched?
- I really like how Data swivels his chair to complete reverse to look at the dork when he reports his half-baked findings – but it’s quite a while before he says anything, and he’s very still while listening to assess the situation.
- Okay, I think what I’ve missed so far is that this guy is not a Starfleet ensign – he’s an ensign in whatever independent space navy the Benzites have. With that being the case, why was he issued a Starfleet uniform, or conversely why was Riker not issued a Klingon one? Riker in Klingon armour would be hugely fun to look at. Dr Pulaski agrees with me. Emphatically.
- So the Benzite rule is, don’t point out a problem until you can also suggest a solution? But earlier he was wandering around the bridge saying to everyone ‘Hey, your workstation’s neat! But I bet it could be made better!’ with no suggestions to back that up.
- Probably quite a good idea to ask Data to supervise the dork. He speaks their language.
- ‘And then I will instruct you in Enterprise etiquette,’ Worf says menacingly. I know he’s talking about the Starfleet chain of command and protocols, but I can’t help thinking of Enterprise Etiquette as chiefly consisting of:
- Stand close to people. Stand really, really close to people. (The way Data is now doing beside the dork – their arms are touching). Mutual pectoral and/or mammary contact is the goal.
- Flagrant trolling is okay provided you have the twinkly blue eyes to back it up.
- The Klingons evidently really like to eat octopus. I am down with that.
- Klingon ladies are eyeing Riker. As well they might.
- Klang son of Klunk engages in some basic cultural trolling with a dish of delicious live gagh.
- BREAST-FEEDING HUMOUR AHOY. (Dude. Are they actually lactating?)
- There are no old warriors? Some of Curzon Dax’s pals want to talk to you.
- Riker gets along well with Klingons. Actually, I have the feeling Riker would get along well with Dax. Goddamnit, everyone on the Enterprise would have got along well with Dax, and that’s why it’s all the more galling that that kind of crossover with DS9 wasn’t permitted. They would have loved her, to the extent that if he’d brought her to visit she’d probably have got back from a full day of smirking with Riker, being wise and enigmatic with Guinan, being smart and loving old shit with Picard, and slamming chocolate martinis with Deanna and Bev to find Worf sulking in their quarters, all ‘I DID NOT BRING YOU TO MEET MY FAMILY SO THAT THEY COULD MONOPOLISE YOU.’ Actually, I think I should make it a regular Thing that all Worf’s dialogue is in caps, and if he uses emphasis, it’s not in wimpy leany italics, it’s in BOLD, as befits a warrior.
- Awwwwww, Klingon daddy issues. I wonder why Klang’s dad (I guess I have to follow through and call him Klunk) is now choosing to await a natural death? Why he can’t say ‘Well, I escaped from the Romulans, now I’m ready to go out and fight again, especially since I learned lots of useful things about them in the process’? Is he simply not allowed to serve any more, having been a POW? Or did the Romulans do something so bad to him that he doesn’t want to? Poor Klunk.
- Having wanted the Captain’s attention, the dork now has too much of it.
- I presume that 12-centimetre hole in the Klingon hull lets in on a sealed space, or they’d be having a real decompression problem now.
- I love the idea of the science station on the bridge of a Klingon ship. What kind of Klingon pulls that duty? Why don’t we ever get to see the Klingon nerds, man? The ones who get more excited about finding a new kind of slime or getting to observe a star do something weird than about a good punch-up? It’s not that they don’t like punch-ups. They’re just not their favourites.
- Wesley goes over to patronise/console the dork. He has some cheek acne the make-up artists couldn’t hide this week.
- What makes that corner of the bridge a more private place for this conversation than where they were standing before?
- Haha the dork has such a sunny outlook. Wesley looks pleased with himself and probably thinks he now has a career in diplomacy, or social work or something.
- Keep him under scrutiny. Not just… watch him. Deploy scrutiny!
- ding ding ding episode title in dialogue, ‘It is a matter of honour!’ It’s all oath this and oath that. Awwwww, you’re invited to die with them, Riker! You’re like family now.
- The back of the dork’s head is kind of nasty looking. I know the Enterprise is a real party ship but he is not going to get laid.
- Even on a Klingon bridge, the Riker Lean is in effect.
- Awwww, they had to go to red alert without Riker bellowing ‘rrrrRED ALERT!’ I’m glad Data didn’t try to do it.
- ‘Is that a weapon, commander?’ ‘No, sir. It is a lipstick.’
- Riker: JUST AS I PLANNED.
- Hang on. I think the actor playing Klang son of Klunk might actually be one of the face-paint bondage-gear aliens that Quark and Pel negotiate over tula-berry wine with in Ferengi Twelfth Night/’Rules of Acquisition,’ the episode I’m blowing off to watch this. His mouth looks similar – unless that’s just a side effect of his dentures.
- I just looked it up and a) yes, it’s him, what an odd coincidence, b) I am deeply grieved to report that all this time his name has just been Klag, not Klang. There go all my great ‘son of Klunk’ jokes. I’m not deleting them! I’m not.
- Oh good, time for a punch-up. No? Just one king-hit! Puss.
- And so Riker returns home, with a lovely shiner, and promptly strikes a jaunty leaning pose. Worf doesn’t seem to want to look at him at first. Weird. On the other hand, maybe he’s been feeling weird this whole episode because he’s envious of Riker getting to go to Klingon camp when he’s never really had the chance to hang out with other Klingons, but being Worf and a basically nice person, doesn’t want to be a dick about it.
This really is a good episode, one of the stand-outs of season two. It builds well on the reintroduction of the Klingons in ‘Heart of Glory’ and raises Riker in my esteem by showing (not telling about) his people skills, resourcefulness and nerve. The blue dork wasn’t really necessary – I would have been just as engaged seeing the existing characters figure out the problem. In fact, it would have been nice if his plotline had happened to Wesley; if Wesley had been so concerned with wanting to present a solution to the problem he’d identified and save the day (again) that he ‘messed up’ in the same way, and had to be told that just because you’re a Boy Genius who gets Bridge Privileges doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the rules. But that would have involved Wesley being more than trivially wrong about something, and actually having to learn from a mistake, so we couldn’t have that.
I realise this would also require a different way to introduce the idea of Riker going on an exchange visit to the Klingons, but I don’t have to solve problems, just point them out and prance away.
Guess what’s coming up next? ‘The Measure of a Man.’ DATA AND PICARD FRIED GOLD.