The Enterprise visits a sexist planet run by women, where… well, that’s about it.
There’s nothing particularly science-fictional about the plot, except that the Enterprise is tracking a space-freighter and looking for space-survivors who disappeared near this space-planet years ago.
There’s nothing strategic about the planet, and the B plot about the crew coming down with a virus that makes them sneezy and the C plot about a crisis in the Romulan Neutral Zone are only there to provide a deadline that ramps up the tension in the final act.
When Riker goes native in a chest-bearing costume, a giggling Yar calls the costume “sexy.” With cool dignity, Riker replies that it is “comfortable.” Given that just a few episodes ago he was smoldering and pouting when Troi made plans to marry someone else, Riker seems to be taking very seriously his opportunity to diplomatically make out with the planet’s elected ruler (while insisting that he’s not an object).
A supporting character is described as a dangerous rebel leader, but when he’s introduced, he’s all alone. We never actually see him doing any charismatic leading, so it’s hard to accept what the script requires us to believe about him. When we later see him in a final confrontation scene of sorts, we never really see a shot that establishes him as a member of the group survivors the Enterprise was tracking. It’s as if the show was trying to save money so they didn’t have to pay any of his companions to utter lines, or even any featured extras to pose behind him.
There were a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming, but nothing that Troi’s loosely-defined empathetic abilities could have seen through if it had been called for in a different script.
Riker shows us he’s man enough to adapt to a female-dominated society. At one point when he’s chided for displaying a bad attitude, he pauses, kneels down, and looks up at the powerful woman with whom he’s trying to reason. That moment was much better storytelling than the speech he delivers later. I remember that his action made 19-year-old me pay more attention to gender dynamics.
On my rewatch I have consistently enjoyed seeing the Beverly/Jean Luc chemistry develop. The scene where Dr. Crusher orders the captain to relinquish command has been done several times already, but this time we get a little humor as the sick-as-a-dog Picard gives the doctor permission to leave a few beats after she has already gotten an inspiration and charged out.
Just as Troi’s empathy conceals whatever the plot requires the characters not to know in order for the plot to unfold as scripted, we learn that Data, whose vast knowledge varies according to the requirements of the script, doesn’t know the word “aphrodisiac.”
On my rewatch I find LaForge’s cheerful little quips distracting, I guess because LaForge will soon move to Engineering, so he won’t be spending time on the bridge observing things to quip about. I like Worf’s quips better. As a loud sneezer myself, I liked this exchange:
Worf: I think I may sneeze.
LaForge (alarmed): A Klingon sneeze?
Worf: Only kind I know.
Several other episodes have made a point out of giving the Enterprise the power to take what it wants, but having the characters constrained by ethics from doing so. In this episode, Riker gives the order to beam the survivors off the planet, even though the leaders of the planet and the survivors themselves have different plans. Dr. Crusher vetos the plan not because it violates (rather nebulous) Starfleet regulations, but rather because the newcomers will risk contracting the virus. Yet she’s aboard a spaceship, where they probably know how to seal rooms. Or they could perhaps beam the survivors into a shuttlecraft — though at this point in TNG I don’t think we’ve actually seen a shuttlecraft yet. Or better yet, just beam them somewhere else on the planet (which we are told is sparsely populated).
Overall, a forgettable episode that tries to make a Big Point about gender, with a mess of a script that doesn’t really give us a fresh reason to look again at an old idea (Gilman covered it 100 years ago in the Herland books, and the ancient Greeks covered it in classical mythology about the Amazons).