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The Trek Nation - Menage a Troi

Menage a Troi

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at October 3, 2008 - 8:43 PM GMT

See Also: 'Ménage à Troi' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: After a trade conference on Betazed, Lwaxana Troi is approached by a Ferengi named Tog who is interested both in her skills as a mediator and her charms as a mate. Lwaxana rebuffs him and goes home to Betazed, where Deanna is visiting with Riker. In the midst of a picnic, Tog abducts both both Troi women and Riker, taking them onto a vessel where Ferengi doctor Farek plans to probe Lwaxana's mind to study Betazoid telepathy. While Riker distracts his guard with a chess match and asks Deanna if she can summon her mother telepathically to obtain an access code to the ship's communications array, Lwaxana attempts to seduce Tog. Farek walks in just as Tog is giving her the code and begins experimenting on Lwaxana. Meanwhile, Betazed contacts the Enterprise with news of the abduction, interrupting Picard's planned rendezvous with the Bradbury to ferry Wesley Crusher to Starfleet for his entrance exams. Wesley figures out that Riker has hidden a signal in the Ferengi interference blocking the ship's scans of local transmissions. When the Enterprise catches up with the Ferengi, Lwaxana convinces Tog that Riker and Deanna will be of no use to him and promises to work for him if he frees the Starfleet officers. To intimidate Tog into releasing Lwaxana as well, Picard pretends to be a furious jealous lover. Once Lwaxana is safely aboard the Enterprise, Picard promotes Wesley to Ensign, saying that he can complete his training on the Enterprise.


Analysis: "Menage a Troi" is a pretty terrible episode, but the penultimate scene is so entertaining that it makes up for all the rest. Poor Jean-Luc, who's had nothing but trouble from Lwaxana Troi, must pretend to be her adoring suitor! And poor Patrick Stewart, who has many years of training as a Shakespearean actor, must pretend to be a barely competent clod! Majel Barrett, the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, appears to be enjoying herself as Lwaxana immensely, and it's hard not to share her amusement. Ambassador Troi is at her best either showing unexpected empathy, as in the upcoming "Half of Life," or using her outrageous sense of humor to full advantage, as in the various wedding episodes centering on her. No one wants to see her abducted and tortured by Ferengi.

To be fair, I should stop here and admit that as a rule, I never want to see Ferengi in the first place. The central jewel of the Star Trek franchise, Deep Space Nine, was too often derailed from brilliance with the forced comedy and mean-spirited hijinks of Ferengi episodes. As heroes, the Ferengi are generally laughable - not usually in a good way - and as villains, they're simply ridiculous. They get scripted when the writers need an incredibly stupid foe. They're that all right in "Menage a Troi," unable to do anything well, and as a result, it's difficult to bother to root for Will and Deanna.

So we get a Ferengi who's too stupid to wait till a moment when he can get Lwaxana alone to kidnap her; he could have gotten away with that for a while, since Deanna was barely on speaking terms with her mother when they parted and Picard might very well have dismissed a report of Lwaxana's abduction as a ploy for attention. Instead Tog snatches the first officer and counselor of the Enterprise as well, guaranteeing that Starfleet will come after him. Deanna finds the lecherous Tog as unpleasant as the nasty Farek, and no wonder: Tog plans to have his way with Lwaxana, and it's only the fact that Ferengi ears are an erogenous zone that saves her from sexual violation. It's not quite as unpleasant as Dukat's designs on Kira's mother only because Lwaxana seems so gleeful about her ability to turn Tog into a purring kitten.

The younger Troi doesn't fare much better in this storyline. Lwaxana complains over and over that what her daughter really needs is a man, while Deanna scowls, argues, sulks and finally stomps out. It would be nice if Deanna acted like the adult she claims to be, just as it would be nice if she didn't immediately go running to Riker - whom her mother has told her she should never have let get away - first for friendly comfort, then to try to rekindle their onetime romance on Betazed. What century is it on Betazed, anyway? The sexual politics are stuck back before Next Gen was produced. No one suggests to Wesley that he'll be happier having a wife and child than a Starfleet career. There isn't nearly enough humor in Deanna's dismissal of her mother, nor in her mother's meddling in the first place, which makes it all seem painfully sexist. Couldn't Troi at least have helped Riker more with getting them rescued?

Even though Wesley gets to grow up a bit and gets a uniform to show for it, it's hard for me to be happy for him in such a context. Really, instead of watching this episode again, it would be worth watching Picard's "romantic speech" over and over instead. First tells Lwaxana that she's his, then he declares that his love is like a fever, and then, unable to come up with any more original material, he quotes a pastiche of literary lines swiped mostly from Shakespeare. Brimming over with merriment, Lwaxana explains to Tog that Picard has killed all her other lovers and he'll only get her back now over Tog's dead body, at which Picard, picking up on her cue, says he'd rather blow up the Ferengi ship and kill her than see her with another man. It all ends with Lwaxana in Jean-Luc's arms asking to hear more of his poetry, like a holodeck fantasy, which is probably what this whole episode should have been.


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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.