ST:TNG Treadmill Review #7: The Royale

The Royale
Season 2 Episode 12
Original airdate: March 25, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

The Enterprise investigates strange debris in orbit around a nearby planet only to find a piece of a NASA spacecraft emblazoned with the US flag.

My Brief Review

I feel like, if I had read the IMDb synopsis instead of the Netflix one, I almost certainly would have skipped this episode:

Worf, Data and Riker find themselves trapped in a recreation of a poorly written novel.

Recreating 20th century scenarios is old hat for Star Trek, going back to the original series, and while the best of those episodes can be highly effective as metaphor, they’re usually weaker episodes because first off, the sight of Star Trek crew members wandering through anachronistic settings is only amusing once. Second, it’s an especially lazy way to write a TNG episode because so many feature the Holodeck anyway. (And I hate Holodeck episodes for the same reason.)

This episode starts off with a very intriguing premise. O’Brien beams aboard a piece of debris that is emblazoned with a NASA logo and a US flag displaying 52 stars. (The number of stars is not mentioned until later in the episode, but I’ve learned to always immediately count the number of stars on a US flag that appears in sci-fi.) But that interesting premise ends before the opening credits.

The rest of the episode takes place inside what appears to be an early 21st century Las Vegas casino (judging by the ’90s-ish but slightly futuristic attire of “Mickey D.” and the Texan gambler describing his 1991 Cadillac has having “only” 80,000 miles on it). And the episode excuses its own weak writing as being the result of its source material — a “second-rate” novel aliens found aboard the 21st century NASA ship the piece of debris was from.

Somehow the aliens created a Holodeck-like world on an inhospitable planet, and kept the sole surviving member of that NASA crew alive for 38 years. Who were they? Why did they do this? How did they do this? How did the NASA ship get way out here? Not only are none of these things explained, the episode doesn’t even try to explain them, although at one point it does acknowledge that they’re questions we might be asking.

In the end, Picard is uncharacteristically accepting of the lack of an explanation, weakly tying up the episode by referring back to a discussion he had with Riker of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

As bad as this episode is, it is still occasionally entertaining, and does present a few interesting ideas. When the away team discovers the mummified body of the NASA astronaut in a room in the hotel (having died 283 years earlier), they clarify that 52 stars on the US flag dates between 2033 and 2079. Will we have granted statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico within the next 13 years? That seems promising. But the astronaut’s mission, launched in 2037, was Earth’s third attempt at manned travel beyond the solar system. Considering that’s just 17 years away, and we haven’t even traveled farther than the moon yet, I doubt this one will come to pass.

Memorable Moment

Data playing craps is entertaining, but I think my favorite moment is when Picard and Deanna Troi are reading the novel the Holodeck-ish hotel is based on. It of course begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Crew Rando

No crew randos to speak of here, but there’s a notable guest appearance by familiar character actor Sam Anderson as the assistant manager of the hotel.

Distance Rating: 3K

IMDb score: 6.7/10