The USS Enterprise-D is in pursuit of a Ferengi vessel suspected of stealing a Federation-owned T-9 energy converter from Gamma Tauri IV. The mission is also an opportunity to encounter the Ferengi, who have never established visual contact with the Federation. The pursuit ends when the Ferengi ship gets close to a planet in the Delphi Ardu system and goes to sub-warp speed, possibly suffering a power surge and damage to their engines. After a while, it opens fire on the Enterprise, causing her minimal damage. Captain Picard chooses not to return fire, arguing that the Ferengi are just reacting to the pursuit. The Ferengi vessel turns around, and the Enterprise is suddenly pulled towards it. Soon after, however, the Enterprise also suffers a power system failure, becoming immobilized with phasers and shields off-line. While Picard wonders what the Ferengui are using against the Enterprise, Riker remarks that the Federation underestimated their technology. The Enterprise is now a sitting duck.
Although one could argue that a duck cannot actually sit in space !
The Enterprise is defenceless, with not enough power to fire either torpedoes or phasers. Communication with Engineering is also down, so Picard sends La Forge to get a full report. Troi cannot sense anything, which means Ferenguis could shield their thoughts and emotions. She remarks that the Ferenguis may know as little about them as they about the Ferenguis. In the attempt to understand more of their enemies, Data summarizes what is known about them: they are traders, and value profit above all, not unlike Yankee traders of 18th and 19th century North America, sailing the galaxy in search of mercantile and territorial opportunities.
QotW : Well sir, I doubt they’re wearing red white and blue or look anything like Uncle Sam.
Picard calls for Engineering once again, but doesn’t get a response, so he sends Ricker to join La Forge. Worf wonders who Uncle Sam is, and Yar wonders what bright primary colours got to do with all that. Picard starts explaining the meaning of flags and nations colours, that red white and blue were for the U.S., whereas the French more properly used the same colour in the order blue white and red.
Data goes into Data mode, starting to recite the colors of other countries, but Picard abruptly stops him, wishing he had some clue as to what is going to happen next. Data remarks that the Ferengi weapons could be vastly superior to their own. Picard calls for Engineering once again, with no luck.
White is not primary colour at all but hey…
In Engineering, Riker and La Forge discuss the situation : the Ferengi’s forcefield compensates almost as fast as Enterprise can increase power. The .372 ms delay gives Riker an idea : jumping abruptly to maximum warp and taking advantage of the slower reaction of the force field. La Forge starts the process while Riker goes back to the bridge. There, Worf suggests they should fight, as there is nothing shameful in falling in front of a superior enemy. Picard responds there is nothing shameful in a strategic retreat either.
I’m with Picard on this one ^^
To catch the Ferengi off guard, Picard hails them, asking for the restitution of the stolen equipment, but receives no answer. The Enterprise then attempts the warp jump, but the plan is not successful. Picard swears in french, before ordering the shields up. Furthermore, the computer data banks are being accessed by some unknown external source. Troi points out that all the attention has been devoted to the Ferengi, neglecting the possible role of the planet.
Riker apparently made a mistake when he quoted Sun Tzu : he said “He will triumph who knows when to fight, and when not to fight.”, but apparently it is “He will win..”
A conference is held in the observation lounge among the senior officers. Yar and Worf both recommand to shoot at the Ferengi with all they’ve got, but Picard considers that provocative. Yar maintains that the Ferengis committed an act of war by firing on them, but Troi notices that all they did since then was to try and learn more about the crew, and that maybe they should talk to the Ferengi, telling them something they would want to hear. After discarding the hypothesis of fighting, Picard hails the Ferengis, reluctantly asking to present their terms.
Picard and the crew are waiting for the Ferengis to respond, the captain wondering what he would do if the Ferengis’ demands are unreasonable. After a moment, the Ferengi vessel moves, and the Enterprise crew gets ready to fire weapons if necessary. Yar suggests they fire first, to which Worf and Riker both agree. Picard, on the other hand, wants to wait a bit more. Suddenly, the voice of DaiMon Tarr is heard. Much to the astonishment of the Enterprise bridge crew, he says that he is ready to discuss surrender, but not an unconditional surrender. Picard realizes that Tarr is in the same position as he is, and asks for the communication channel to be closes. He then asks La Forge to send a probe to look for whatever it is that holds both ships.
About time !
Picard resumes the conversation, asking for visual contact, something that is against the Ferengis’ custom. Picard tricks Tarr by stating it is against Starfleet regulations to accept a surrender unless it’s done visually. Both crews can see each other, which doesn’t please the Ferengi at all. Tarr accepts to return the energy converter, and offer the lives of the second officers, as required by the Ferengi code. It is now clear that both ships are trapped, and that the Ferengi are not the actual source of the energy field.
Weird viewscreen effect
The Enterprise senior officers convene again in the observation lounge. There, Data explains what is known about the mysterious planet, but not before becoming stuck with a Chinese finger trap left in the room by a couple of children, Matthew and Pola. Thanks to the help of Picard, Data gets his fingers released and explains that the planet might be one of the most distant outposts of the Tkon Empire, an ancient and powerful space federation that existed over 600,000 years in the past. They were apparently capable of moving stars, whose planets are the defence system. During the meeting, the probe launched earlier transmits its information, revealing that indeed both ships are trapped in a force field emanating from the planet’s surface. Data thinks the planet could be the last surviving outpost of the Tkon Empire, after their sun went supernova.
Hold on a sec. They were capable of moving stars, and they were not able to move their own sun out of the way ??
The captain decides that it would be worth investigating the planet, and suggest they do that with the Ferengi, taking this opportunity to learn all they can about their species.
Picard again contacts the Ferengi, who have also discovered the true nature of the trap. After some confrontation with DaiMon Tarr over his deception, Picard suggests a trade, an exchange of information in order to solve the common problem, which is endangering both ships. Tarr finds the suggestion ridiculous, as he cannot be sure Picard won’t withhold information. Picard says they will have to trust each other, which makes Tarr laugh. He, however, agrees to send a joint away team of Starfleet officers and Ferengi down to the surface. After communication is over, Riker expresses doubts about trusting the Ferengi, and Troi confirms he’s hiding something. Despite the apparent risks, including a loss of communication and no way to beam back on board the Enterprise, Riker, La Forge, Data, Worf, and Yar beam to the planet.
So now Troy can sense the Ferenguis ??
On the surface, the Enterprise members are initially separated and try to rejoin. The planet surface is full of crystalline tree shapes and the sky is beset by thunder and lightning. Riker finds Data, who has been transported on top of a crystal. Later, they find La Forge, hanging upside down with his foot stuck in a rock. The Ferengi away team shows up, armed with energy whips, and attack the Enterprise’s crew, rendering them unconscious.
Oh boy, did they spend all the budget on act one and two ??.
On the Enterprise, the situation is getting critical, as life support is failing. All energy is diverted to the family decks to extend their survival. It is getting colder and very dark. Even in orbital space the temperature is likely to go down to -200 degrees. The good news is, they won’t have to worry much passed -70 !
The Ferengi on the planet have the Enterprise away team’s weapons, and examine Riker’s combadge, wondering whether it is gold. Riker, who regain consciousness, confirms it is gold. With an acute sense of hearing, the Ferengi are disturbed by the planetary thunderclaps. Riker tells them that their suffering is nothing compared to what Picard will do to them when he learns they broke their landing party agreement. Taking advantage, Worf attacks, and the resulting fight is resolved when Yar intervenes with a phaser. The Ferengi show their surprise for the way Humans work together with their females and keep them clothed.
This marks the first appearance of Armin Shimerman in Star Trek. He will play Quark for seven years on Deep Space Nine after that.
On the Enterprise, Picard and Beverly Crusher discuss whether she should give a sedative to her son, Wesley, or if he should keep awake waiting for death. Picard thinks Wesley has the right to meet death while awake, which Crusher considers to be a simple male perspective.
On the planet, the Enterprise crew tries to stun the Ferengis, but the energy beam is redirected to three crystal. The Ferengis try to use their whips, but again the energy beams are diverted. Data deduces that the crystal are energy collectors, and are the source of the energy being drained from the ships. Suddenly, a mysterious figure materializes and speakes very loudly, sending the acutely hearing Ferengi trio into agony.
Why did they have to make the Ferengui look so ridiculous ? Fortunately, that changed later on.
The newly arrived entity declares himself as Portal 63, a guardian of the Tkon Empire, and asks the away teams whether they want to enter the Empire. The aged guardian is then told by Riker and Data that the Tkon Empire does not exist any longer, and that several ages have passed. Portal 63 has been asleep for a very long time: hundreds of thousands of Earth years. The Ferengi try to strike a friendship with the Portal, asking for control of their ship, and promising to destroy the Enterprise and its crew. They describe the Humans as savages and barbarians, and misrepresent Humanity by noting their non-interference with other civilizations as proof of being against legal trade. Also, their allowance of females to wear clothing as proof of their “insanity”. The Enterprise team, however, accepts the Portal’s trial, ready to prove their innocence.
Riker is challenged first. The Portal guardian sites Sun Tzu, and attacks Riker with his sharp, bladed spear, but is impressed by the composure with which Riker faces his fate after the blade lands perilously close to his right ear. Riker replies that, “Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy.” The Portal is pleased by Riker’s thoughts, unlike those of the deceptive Ferengi. The Portal says to Riker that he wants to know more about Sun Tzu and Earth history, as it is similar to the Tkon‘s. Then at Riker’s request, he immediately releases the Enterprise, restoring its power just in time to let the crew recover.
The Portal explains to Riker that he would usually destroy both ships since they were fighting, but then he saw that they were curiously trying to cooperate. The Portal asks Riker if he wants him to destroy the Ferengi, but Riker asks him to release them, since they are similar to ancient Humans: they have much to learn, but they can grow. Portal 63 asks “What if they never learn, Riker?” Riker says his values, and that of the Federation, require them to face the possibility of the Ferengi learning how to destroy them. When Riker asks what the Portal will do now that his Empire is gone, Portal 63 says he will sleep until needed again and then disappears in a flash of lightning.
On board the Enterprise, the energy converter has been regained. Picard congratulates the away team for the success of the mission. Riker, with a devilish grin, then asks him permission to beam aboard the Ferengi ship Data’s box of the Chinese finger traps as a “thank you for all they tried to do“. After Picard commands “Make it so“, the two ships leave orbit but not before La Forge has his fingers caught in a finger trap, at which Data enters the course on the helm for him.