This next critique is about the Next Generation episode “The Last Outpost,” which aired on October 19th, 1987. This episode features the debut of the Ferengi, a species who was briefly mentioned in the pilot episode.
The episode opens with the Enterprise in pursuit of a Ferengi vessel which supposedly stole a device from a Federation planet. They are chased to a distant planet where they stand off against one another, and at that point, the Enterprise begins to experience systems problems which they assume was caused by the Ferengi firing on them.
As the Ferengi are virtually unknown at this point, there are many assumptions that Picard and his crew are operating based on what they’ve heard from various sources. In the Next Generation, they introduced many species which continued to be developed on Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and the Ferengi are one of these species.
The Ferengi are portrayed as being much more formidable in the Next Generation than they are in Deep Space Nine. This is only one of several episodes which shows them to be violent and dangerous while in Deep Space Nine, they are seen as more comical than anything else.
Certain Ferengi traits are established in this episode which carries on through the rest of the series and through to Deep Space Nine and Voyager. The first aspect is their affinity for profit. The Ferengi seem to be a portrayal of capitalism gone wrong, and they are an excellent metaphor for the dangers of unrestrained capitalism. As we see, later on, everything is for a price on Ferenginar, and everything is up for negotiation.
Another thing that is established about the Ferengi in this episode is their attitude towards woman. They are put off by Tasha Yar because she is wearing clothing, a foreign concept to them. This is a case of how non-human races might have different values regarding gender than Humans do and while most Humans find the attitude off-putting, it illustrates the idea that non-human cultures aren’t necessarily going to have Human values.
Geordi comes into focus in this episode, in more subtle ways. First, there’s his humorous commentary from his post on the bridge. He’s witty and quick to make light of their precarious situation, cutting through the otherwise tense situation.
Later in the episode, Geordi shows his enthusiasm and eagerness to have a chance to show off his intuition when it comes to engineering systems. He’s not the chief engineer at this point, throughout the first season, the Enterprise seems to be shuffling through chief engineers as if not quite sure who belongs there. I think they were possibly searching for a personality who could fill the place of Scotty from the Original Series. The miracle worker archetype.
But this is the episode when Geordi begins to come into his own as a significant character in the show, and the interesting thing is that he does so very subtly. I don’t necessarily think that this is a ‘Geordi Episode’ this episode doesn’t seem to have a definite character focus, but if it were, I think Geordi is a pretty good candidate.
As the episode continues, it’s discovered that it’s the planet, not the Ferengi that has ensnared the Enterprise and Commander Riker leads an away team to the surface to investigate. They discover a world leftover from an ancient empire. The lone inhabitant, the guardian of the Tkon Empire, has been observing them, trying to judge what sort of people they are.
This was probably my favorite aspect of this episode, the interaction between the guardian and Riker as the guardian seemed intrigued by Human culture. I liked the reference to Sun Tzu and how Riker took the time to explain things to the guardian.
The guardian embodied the idea of a wise ancient being whose civilization was long gone, and he woke up to find it all gone. There is a certain sadness to this, which I felt.
I chose to critique this episode because I felt it was a very well presented episode. I think fans tend to not have the best outlook towards the first season of TNG, but I’ve managed to pick out quite a few episodes that are entirely worthy of attention.