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The Trek Nation - Manhunt

Manhunt

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at February 8, 2008 - 9:31 PM GMT

See Also: 'Manhunt' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When the Enterprise is sent to pick up two Antedian delegates to transport to a peace conference, the crew is surprised as the ambassadors beam up in a hibernating coma to ease their passage. No sooner has Picard removed his dress uniform than he receives another surprise in the form of Lwaxana Troi, who is also attending the conference and decides to travel aboard the Enterprise - ostensibly to spend time with her daughter, but also because she is hunting a husband and has chosen Picard as her favored candidate. Lwaxana is in a phase of life when Betazoid women's sex drive increases exponentially, and when Picard proves reluctant and hides from her on the holodeck, she switches her allegiance from one crewmember to the next, ultimately setting her sights on Riker. Once the Antedians regain consciousness, Riker goes to the holodeck to retrieve Picard with Lwaxana in tow; she falls in love with the aggressive bartender in Picard's Dixon Hill program and breaks off with an amused Riker, to Deanna's relief. As Picard prepares to have the delegates beamed to the conference, Lwaxana announces that the Antedians are assassins with explosives hidden in their metallic robes, something she senses through her empathic abilities and Data confirms. Picard has the ambassadors arrested and thanks Lwaxana for saving lives, though he still rolls his eyes when she suggests that she "knows" he desires her.


Analysis: This episode is an extremely guilty pleasure for me. I say that because, on the surface, it's quite misogynistic, a portrait of an out-of-control menopausal woman who causes embarrassment for her family, her career associates and everyone around her. This is supposed to be a top-level ambassador? Bring back Sarek! But at the same time, Lwaxana Troi is simply a delight to watch. She shakes the stuffy captain out of his complacency, makes her boredom with Data's tech talk plain, needles her hypersensitive daughter and brings out a delightfully chivalrous streak in Riker, who has no wish to distress his friend and onetime lover Deanna but who can't bring himself to be rude to Lwaxana and dismiss her the way Picard does.

It's unfortunate that the ostensible reason for the episode, the peace conference with the Antedians, is given such short shrift, because a better-constructed drama would give the story a greater sense of purpose and Lwaxana's revelation of the Antedians' deception more significance. Instead the fish-like aliens are played for comic relief just as much as Lwaxana, which makes the whole of "Manhunt" seem entirely frivolous. It's a chance to make everyone look silly, really: Picard for being stuffy in his dress uniform which looks like a dress, Data for being so enchanted by his own boring anecdotes, Worf for admiring the "dignity" of the hibernating Antedians who stuff their faces with fish and squeak when they wake up, Troi for sulking because her mother thinks her boyfriend is sexy. An A story involving the reasons for the assassination attempt, something with political or scientific relevance, would make these B plots much more witty by contrast.

The sub-subplot involving the holodeck, which plays largely like filler to take up time, is even stranger. Picard decides to run away from Lwaxana by playing Dixon Hill, but he keeps having to restart the program because each scenario is too dark or violent to his taste - everyone who comes into his detective agency pulls a weapon! Finally, he invites his secretary to go out for a drink with him, even though she's characterized as a stereotypical simpering blonde. Are we supposed to believe that he sees something in her more attractive than in Lwaxana, who may be overbearing and overconfident but is also refreshingly sexual and fun-loving in a television environment that usually writes women off as matronly by her age? One of the things I've always liked about Pulaski, too, is her obvious belief that she's not finished with her romantic life, given her interactions with Kyle Riker and her friendly flirtations with Picard - here she smirks that the captain's reflexes could use the workout provided by Ambassador Troi. It's a shame that the sexuality of a mature woman must be treated as a cause for mockery by the writers, because as played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Lwaxana is clever and witty and vastly more interesting than the forgettable blonde in the holo-program.

And what does it say about the men of the Enterprise that she ultimately prefers a 20th century hologram whose thoughts she can't read, even though said hologram has already indicated that wealth and class are his primary interests in a woman? Nothing terribly good, methinks. Worf appeals to Lwaxana, but she explains that she's grown accustomed to wanting a human male (a problem her daughter will later escape with the same Klingon). Lwaxana's servant Mr. Homm both suggests and dismisses LaForge silently by gesturing to indicate his VISOR. Riker is really delightful - though he obviously doesn't want to hurt his Imzadi, one gets the impression that, like Kirk, there's pretty much no woman in the galaxy in whom he can't find something to like, and apart from the age difference, Lwaxana has many similarities with the equally pushy Brenna O'Dell, to whose charms he so recently succumbed. He reacts to being singled out as a possible mate for Lwaxana not with horror or revulsion but with pride and flattery on top of his amusement. And his grin when Deanna explains that she never told him how insatiable Betazoid women become during the mature phase of their life because she was afraid of scaring him...hee! Riker loves a challenge!

Maybe I'm a bit mellow because the Deep Space Nine sequel "Fascination" is so much more appalling. In "Manhunt," I can't help but be delighted when Lwaxana almost casually reveals that her fellow ambassadors are killers, a discovery for which she does not expect glory or gratitude; it's her job to find these things out and make sure appropriate measures are taken, so she does. What a shame that this isn't a bigger part of the story, and that it takes Picard so long to appreciate Ambassador Troi.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.