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Star Trek TNG - Season 1 - Episode 05

Star Trek TNG - 1x05 - The Last Outpost

Originally Aired: 1987-10-19

Synopsis:
The crew encounters Ferengi bandits. [DVD]

My Rating - 3

Fan Rating Average - 3.07

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Filler Quotient: 3, bad filler, totally skippable.
- While this is the first appearance of the Ferengi, it is not necessary to see this episode to understand later episodes, even Ferengi-centric episodes.

Problems
- Geordi says that the Ferengi are "now angling through that solar system." This is a common error. The term he was looking for is planetary system. The planetary system we live in is called the Solar System because our star is named Sol. As such, the term "Solar System" is a proper noun, not a generic term.

Factoids
- Armin Shimmerman, one of the Ferengi in this episode eventually goes on to play a regular Ferengi character on DS9 named Quark. He also guest stars as Quark in both a later episode of TNG and Voyager making him one of very few characters/actors to play in at least one episode in all three series.
- This episode establishes that Ferengi are capable of resisting Betazoid telepathy.

Remarkable Scenes
- The Chinese finger trap scene.
- The Ferengi expressing disgust at "clothed females."

My Review
Another stylistically awkward episode, but not as bad this time. The Ferengi are thought to be a serious threat at first, but it turns out that they were merely posturing to appear more threatening than they actually were. In reality they are mostly harmless and totally ridiculous. Meanwhile, yet another godlike alien shows up and also appears to be a serious threat at first, but is soon mollified by Riker answering a few riddles. Riker then gets all chummy with this "guardian of the Tkon Empire" who for some reason isn't all that broken up about having slept through the demise of his entire nation.

Contented with having an insufferably smug conversation with Riker about the inferiority of the Ferengi right in front of them, the guardian then disarms the automated weapon that disabled both the Enterprise and the Ferengi ship, then makes known his intent to return to his everlasting coma, possibly never to be seen again by anybody ever. Okay. Right. Sure.

Clearly these parallel scary aliens who turn out not to be so scary after all were meant to mirror TOS: The Corbomite Maneuver, one of TOS' less savory episodes. This episode manages to only slightly improve on the original's formula by having slightly less terrible pacing. It appears they also wanted to evoke TOS by beaming over the Chinese finger traps to the Ferengi ship. This is similar to how Scotty beamed over the tribbles to the Klingon ship in TOS: The Trouble with Tribbles.

Setting aside Star Trek's oft-overwrought stylistic choices though, there are some nice details here. It's nice to see the Ferengi make an appearance, who were first mentioned in Encounter at Farpoint. The designs of their ship, alien makeup, and their weapons were memorable too. And while their function as a caricature of capitalism was as overwrought as most of the rest of the episode, the idea of portraying a less socialist and more capitalist version of the Federation on Star Trek is intriguing. As such it would be well worth exploring the Ferengi in more depth later, though next time hopefully less childishly.

The following are comments submitted by my readers.

  • From DSOmo on 2007-05-27 at 11:19am:
    Changed Premise: during this episode, Troi says she "senses the Ferengi captain is hiding something." In the future episode "Menage a Troi," Betazoids cannot read Ferengi minds.

    - Just after the force field seizes the Enterprise, something begins reading information from the ship's computer. When Data's workstation is shown, some of the information is being displayed upside down (i.e. the Klingon and Federation symbols.
    - In Picard's first attempt to contact the Ferengi, he asks Yar to open hailing frequencies, and she quickly responds. Then Picard says, "At least we won't begin with weakness." Why would he say something like that with the hailing frequencies open? That is the last thing he would want the Ferengi to hear!
    - When the away team beams down to the planet, Riker appears alone. He begins walking around and yelling for the others. Why doesn't he just use his combadge? It is true that Data later discovers the communicators are out, but Riker never even tried to use his.
  • From Bernard on 2007-09-30 at 8:10am:
    I don't rate this episode very highly now, but I do find it to be a bit of fun and at the time I thought it was fascinating. Probably because of the following;
    A good glimpse at a new race that have some kind of genuine technology and menace (not for long though)
    Riker gets something of a centre stage while picard is stuck on the ship (something that happens many times over the first 2 seasons)
    The start of this episode is great, the tension created by following the unknown ferengi (which soon evaporates as the story unfolds)

    overall not a terrible outing for me, but too many weak points
  • From Jeff Browning on 2011-10-20 at 5:51am:
    An interesting, if small, detail: In early TNG when establishing communications, Star Fleet personnel say "open a frequency". Later this shifts to "open a channel". Not sure for the reason for this change, but "open a channel" sounds better to me.
  • From Jim on 2011-12-25 at 9:28am:
    Geordi's reaction to Riker's plan to jump to Warp 9 then "come back fightin'" is far and away the worst line and the most poorly delivered line in the entire series.
  • From Azalea Jane on 2021-07-04 at 2:22pm:
    This ep certainly isn't the worst of Season 1. It's not quite "bad," per se, but there's not a whole lot redeeming about it either. Watching it this time, though, it sparked a new idea for something I can do during my current rewatch: I'm calling it "Data's Emotionspotting." I know a lot of it in this episode is first season awkwardness, but even later on, Data displays MANY expressions that could be interpreted as emotive or illogical. It's clear that Soong has programmed him to have at least *some* quasi-human reactions to things (such as interest and confusion), even though he reports not experiencing the emotions themselves. That's actually somewhat believable, considering what we find out about Lore later.

    Examples of Data's weird behavior in this episode:
    - his aside to LaForge about second officers. He'd display no dismay or relief, especially around a comment that doesn't not actually affect him. It was a cool little camera trick, and kind of a funny line, sort of, but it's so out of character it just feels gratuitous.
    - his offhand comment about Yankee Traders while the Ferengi captain was onscreen. Unprompted and -- as he should know -- counterproductive. Data is usually cautious about talking out of turn.
    - when he gets his fingers stuck in the finger trap, he seems embarrassed. Also, he should be strong enough to break the finger trap! (BTW, what was that finger trap doing there in the first place?)

    I wonder what TPTB (the powers that be) were thinking when they designed the Ferengi in this episode. Could they not see how pathetic and dislikable the Ferengi are here and how unconvincing of a villain they are? Fortunately TNG did come up with some very worthy antagonists like the Borg and the Cardassians later on.

    Nitpick: on the planet in front of the Portal guy, they keep referring to "humans" when Worf, a Klingon is standing right there, and nobody points it out. This is a continuing problem throughout the series, too - Troi, Worf, and/or Data are constantly lumped in with "humans", even though Troi is half human, Worf was only raised by humans, and Data is a human-shaped android lacking (most) human emotion -- none of them full humans.

    Agreed with Jim above how LaForge's line about "come back fighting" is cheesy as hell!
  • From kevin on 2021-09-01 at 7:32pm:
    Wow, I just watched this today, in 2021, have not seen it for literally 30 years. I forgot the story. The beginning is QUITE suspenseful and has great music and packing. I was tense and trying to figure out what the Enterprise and crew were going to do. THEN....They hit the planet with the Ferengi and the story goes mostly to hell. It becomes an old TOS type story, and is silly on top of it. SO, not horrible, but just quite blah overall.

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