The Good: I wish there was at least one (it’s fun to see Sam Anderson in a different role?)
The Bad: PLOT, Utter lack of purpose, character development or acting talent
The Basics: In the darkest hour - of quality - of Star Trek The Next Generation, "The Roayle" puts three crew members in a casino in space.
On The Simpsons, Comic Book Guy is frequently seen lamenting, "Worst Episode Ever!" Had he seen the episode "The Royale" of Star Trek The Next Generation, I'm certain he would make the same complaint.
Even worse than the lackluster season two finale, "The Royale" has Riker, Data and Worf exploring a strange region of space that appears to be an interstellar casino. Yup, that's the story. Apparently, an old NASA ship ended up in an alien region of space where the pilots were inadvertently killed by the aliens. The aliens, who we only encounter in human form, felt remorse and constructed the casino as a memorial based on a book the pilot had in his possession.
That's it, that's the story.
Unfortunately, the episode is bogged down in peripheral characters, drawn on from the novel. They are all lame types, caricatures and stereotypes all. The thought here is that the novel the aliens are basing the memorial casino on was real bad. Just plain horrible. It's a piece of crap dime store novel.
Unfortunately, this is addressed in the episode, but does not improve it. While the characters - especially Picard and Troi in a gruesome scene of reading the novel - acknowledge the quality of the novel, it does not help the characters in the casino. They are listless, the actors are giving uninspired performances, and instead of being a parody of crappy paperback novels, this episode becomes one.
"The Royale" tries to tell the story of an angry bellboy, a mobster, a Southern gambler and a naive woman in a casino/hotel where Data, Riker and Worf end up. It attempts to be a parody of the just plain awful writing of such novels and in the process, produces something just as bad. In some ways, the writing got the experience too right; rather than openly being a parody, the episode mirrors the lame plot twists and outrageous happenings of crappy mobster novels.
And I have the feeling the actors knew how bad this was; Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Michael Dorn all seem unexcited about their roles. None of them give their best performances, none of them have any vitality to them. And that, in addition to the other things that are wrong with this episode, further detracts from the episode. Their uninspired performances suck out the feeling of menace that could have existed.
As it is, "The Royale" has nothing at all to recommend it. It is, truly, the worst episode of Star Trek The Next Generation ever produced and is not worth the time of the fans of the show, nor anyone else.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek franchise reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.