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The Trek Nation - The Royale

The Royale

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at December 21, 2007 - 10:41 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Royale' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: In orbit around a gas giant, the Enterprise crewmembers discover a piece of debris bearing the NASA logo and an American flag, which appears to have been destroyed by advanced technology despite its ancient origins. Then, to the crew's surprise, they discover a structure on the planet surrounded by breathable air. Riker, Data and Worf beam down and discover that the structure has a revolving door that leads into a hotel casino. Trapped in the hotel, they quickly discover that none of the people they meet has any life signs. But a reading of human DNA in one of the hotel rooms leads them to the long-dead body of a US officer whose diary reveals that he was the only survivor of his spaceflight, destroyed by aliens who did not realize their presence was killing his colleagues. To make amends, they created the setting out of a novel, The Hotel Royale, that the officer had among his possessions. After watching a character in the story exit via the revolving door once his part in the novel has been completed, Riker decides that he, Worf and Data should play the foreign investors who buy the hotel and leave, so that they too can depart. Data discovers that the craps table has loaded dice, compensates for them, breaks the bank and enables the away team to buy the hotel and escape.


Analysis; One gets the impression that "The Royale" was written by someone who stayed up all night listening to "Hotel California" while struggling desperately to come up with a science fiction plot. The story is as thin as the one in the Eagles song, with aliens instead of drugs as the mechanism for entrapment in an unreal existence, but the story works better as a metaphor when it's drugs. Frankly, I'm not sure what the point of "The Royale" is supposed to be: Deep-space travel can be dangerous for 21st-century Earth astronauts? It's easy to beat the house when you have an android on your team? In any case, it's not a lot to hang an episode on, particularly without a B story.

In fact, the funniest scene in "The Royale" is only unintentionally so, at the very beginning when Picard talks about human arrogance in thinking we're so advanced when we can't even unravel a simple theorem by an ancient Frenchman. They're talking about Fermat's Last Theorem, still a theorem when the episode was written but proven by Englishman Andrew Wiles before the end of the 20th century. You'd think that Picard would have known! There are other moments of humor, like Data trying to pick up poker strategy from a boastful Texan who is in turn trying to pick up a pretty young woman, Troi scoffing at the silly dialogue from The Hotel Royale, Worf shuddering at the idea of the astronaut having died in his sleep - not because he hadn't seen a human being for most of his life, but because he failed to die in battle - and NASA having named a ship "Charybdis" (gosh, why not "Titanic" or "Hesperus"?) But again, it's not a lot to hang an episode on.

Which isn't to say that the episode is completely without charm in a brightly-colored, over-acted Original Series sort of way. The cliches of the novel permit the characters to have some fun interacting with stereotypical characters and scenarios, including a bellboy fighting over a woman with a gangster and a concierge who seems to know more about everything than he's telling. I'm quite disappointed that the writers didn't grab the opportunity to put the characters in period costume or do something fun like require Worf to play someone's lover, but the actors infuse more energy into the script than it deserves and Data as card-counting, dice-weighting casino threat is an amusing concept. There are nice moments of character interaction - Troi snickering as she senses Riker's amusement on the planet, Picard trying to keep a straight face while reading the end of the novel - but after stories like "The Measure of a Man," this is a big letdown.

I feel like I should have more to say, since this is surely my shortest Next Gen review on record, but there's just not a lot to "The Royale" in terms of drama and less when it comes to science fiction. We don't even get to see the aliens who put the events into play, let alone any sign of the technology that must have been necessary to create a nitrogen-oxygen pocket in the midst of a frozen gaseous world. All the credit for anything good in the episode goes to the actors.


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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.