Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Royale"

Keith Mills is a pseudonym used by Tracy Torme to disavow a script he feels has been altered too far from his original vision. Torme used it on “The Royale” to express his disapproval of the changes made by Maurice Hurley. I do not blame him. I would not want my name on a clunker like “The Royale,” either.

I have no idea which material is Hurley’s and which is Torme’s, but I have a hunch hurley, who has been maligned by a number of TNG writers for being a hack, probably is only partly to blame for the episode’s poor execution. The basic plot involves a holographic (at least we assume holographic. No explanation is given.) representation of an old earth setting in which our heroes are trapped. It sounds a lot like Torme was trying to copy his success with the Peabody Award winning “The Big Goodbye” from the first season. The mark was missed by a country mile, either by him or by Hurley’s rewrites.

I think the story had to be doomed from the beginning. The aliens who created this fake environment for the surviving astronaut based it on a cheap dime store novel famous for being loaded with cliché. Therefore, the drama of the episode has to be full of cliché by definition. Add to that trek cliches like an entire society built around a book, characters knowing incredibly obscure knowledge, such as at what time period the American flag had 52stars, at the same time they are unfamiliar with things like elevator buttons in order to operate them, and you have a mess.

Seriously, can you tell me when the American flag had, say, 34 stars? I am a history buff and I can only guess and I do not have three hundred additional years of historical facts to dig it out from. Then again, Riker can quote Sun Tzu fro memory, so maybe he just has a knack for facts. Since he Data, and Worf were baffled momentarily by up and down buttons on an elevator, though, perhaps they are all idiot savants. It certainly makes their inherent sense of superiority over contemporary 20th-21st century people a joke.

I will confess the part that makes them look the dumbest was unintentional. When riker, Data, and word try to leave through a revolving door, they just spin through. It would have been nothing for the special effects crew to make it look like they were entering at the same time they were leaving, but no. It just look like they do not know how to use a revolving door. The scene reminds me of that Farside, cartoon with the kid pushing on the door the the school for gifted children when a sign above him says pull.

But all that is window dressing. How is the plot? Implausible, I would say. First, why would an away team enter a revolving door in the middle of a deserted planet when the ship’s scanners cannot even tell it is there? Once they are stuck, there is no discernible way out until data figures out the novel keeps playing out, presumably over and over again. So they decide to participate.

Using Data’s android skills to cheat at rolling dice, they buy the hotel like in the novel, which allows them to escape. But if the novel has played out over and over again for three centuries, has that not happen thousands upon thousands of times already? Why is it the simulation ends on this particular time? Just because there is an additional factor of new characters should not matter. If it did, surely the astronaut trapped here for years would have stumbled across some way of changing things himself. Or maybe he did. There was still no way for him to leave the planet even if he did find a way out the casino. Bah. Who cares? It is all mind bogglingly dumb.

There is nothing about “The Royale” to recommend it. The idea of aliens creating an environment for a wayward astronaut was done better by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. There is no logical reason the away should be able to escape by playing ut the novel since it has been playing out by itself for three hundred years. The holographic characters are supposed to be stereotypes like the load mouthed Texan and the dumb blond in love with a mob boss, but none of them are fun to watch. It is just bad all around.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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