Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Star Trek: The Next Generation Loose End Is Tied Up With "False Profits"

The Good: Moments of humor, Interaction with the larger Star Trek universe
The Bad: No real character development, Disappointing acting, Resolution
The Basics: In another disappointing one-shot, a question from Star Trek: The Next Generation is resolved almost a decade after viewers stop caring.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, like its later spin-off Star Trek: Voyager was largely episodic, meaning most of the episodes stand alone and when one ends, it has little or no consequences on the next one or one years down the line. As a result, the series occasionally left dangling plot or character threads that only an obsessive fan of the series would truly care about. So, for example, when "The Price" (reviewed here!) found Geordi, Data and two Ferengi in the Delta Quadrant on the other end of a wormhole, all the audience truly cared about was the fact that Data and Geordi made it home; when the Ferengi were stranded there, few honestly cared. Enter Star Trek: Voyager, featuring a ship stranded in the Delta Quadrant and enter "False Profits," a little piece that seems to cater to the obsessive fans by closing up one of the plot loopholes in the franchise.

The U.S.S. Voyager, witlessly journeying home, comes across the Takarians, a primitive group of people whose planet is beholden to two powerful sages . . . Kol and Arridor, a pair of Ferengi. Kol and Arridor have been stranded in the Delta Quadrant for some time and they've set themselves up fine on the Takarian Homeworld where they are exploiting the citizens for their own profit and comfort. Voyager and its crew are not willing to let this slide and so they mount a mission to stop the Ferengi, using Neelix, himself disguised as a Ferengi to try to stop them.

"False Profits" is a bad episode. Sure, there are worse episodes, but this was is pretty terrible in its own right. I get the idea behind it and I remember being excited before the episode aired going to Star Trek conventions and being teased about how this loose end was going to be tied up (I'd rather they had an appearance by the godlike Traveler Wesley) and when I saw the episode . . . there's no word in English that describes the level of disappointment I was subjected to.

First off, "False Profits" is not funny and it tries to be. Instead, the over-the-top use of humor falls flat making the episode seem like a parody of Star Trek as opposed to an episode within the franchise. Star Trek has done cultural intervention stories before, most notably the original series' "A Piece Of The Action" (reviewed here!). The Star Trek episode worked well because it kept the pace tight, the story was fresh and the humor was genuinely funny. With "False Profits," it's clear part of the point is to illustrate how lucky planets are that the Federation has a non-interference directive, but again, that's something well-established in the Star Trek franchise with episodes like "Patterns Of Force" (reviewed here!).

Beyond the simple and non-menacing plot, "False Profits" falls down because the antagonists are given far too much credit and so much effort goes into defeating them. Kol and Arridor were never terribly clever in the episode they were in before, they are not impressive now. How and why Voyager devotes so much attention to them is beyond disappointing, it's stupid. It all comes back to the old adage that heroes are only as impressive as the power of their villains. Kol and Arridor are two lame villains who surround themselves with riches and beautiful women, why does it take Janeway and her crew so long to solve the problem of what to do with them?

Well, in part it's because they send Neelix. Neelix is used in this episode for reasons unknown. Why the StarFleet officers - or better yet, one of the Maquis - don't take the problem out with speed and efficiency and instead cater to the Takarian mysticism is a mystery to me. In fact, the only reason I can find for this not being a simple problem, simple solution episode is that the producers thought it would be fun to have Neelix disguised as a Ferengi (Ethan Philips, who played Neelix, originally appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation as a Ferengi). Outside that, the use of Neelix is pointless save for comic relief and he's not funny in this one.

Sadly, the episode has very little going for it in the way of humor, though I did laugh once. The plot is disappointing and it does make the viewer wonder if Janeway truly recalls that she's trying to get her ship and crew home. I mean, every episode, she stops for some reason and when the reason is a weak moral reason like saving the Takarians from the exploitation by the Ferengi, it seems like the least she can do is take care of the problem with speed. Alas, the viewer is not so lucky on this endeavor.

"False Profits" is also light on the acting front. None of the actors appears to be bringing anything new or interesting to their performances. In fact, the episode is downright dull in the performance department. There is not a single superlative performance in the episode.

This episode is even impossible to recommend to fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation who were curious about the fate of Kol and Arridor as the answer is hardly satisfying. Or interesting.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the entire season here!


For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to check out my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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