Captain’s Holiday (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season Three, Episode 19) Picard’s Archeological Romance

Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.

In the comic first act, the crew conspires to send a grumpy Picard on shore leave.

Crusher: You told me your four days on Zylchin Three were wonderful.

Picard: I lied.

Later on the resort Planet Risa, Picard tries to relax, but he’s interrupted by a meet-cute with a femme fatale, an ethnic stereotype in a loud shirt, and their ongoing dispute over coded notes from a recently deceased researcher who was tracking a Macguffin of Great Power.

Picard earlier had no trouble recognizing the tropes his crew were deploying against him (e.g. Crusher tries a Spock tactic, tricking the captain to order himself ashore); however, as the 1930s adventure movie tropes start piling up, he transitions pretty quickly from treating them as intrusions on his reading time to taking them seriously.

Fortunately the script spends no time justifying the silly plot, focusing instead on Picard’s chemistry with Vash (Jennifer Hetrick):

Picard: From the moment I met you, I knew you were going to be trouble.

Vash: You look like a man who could handle trouble.

Much of the fun of this episode is watching how Picard works on his own, without speaking for or being aided by the Federation. With admirable panache, after disarming the Ferengi treasure-hunter, Picard tosses the gun from his right hand to his left, setting up a right jab to the face, and then he casually tosses the gun in the bushes. Awesome!

The story establishes Picard as tough, confident, and bad-assed even without a flagship to command. So I was puzzled by the climax, which Picard resolves by calling the ship for help. That was a disappointing deus ex machina ending to a trope-filled plot, though it only took care of the macguffin, not the more interesting character story. (Yes, Vash will return.)

The resort has a tropical feel, but there’s not even a matte painting of a beach, or stock footage of a waterfall, or a visit to a studio backlot quicksand pit, or a scene where the leading lady strips down for a swim (in family-friendly silhouette) that’s interrupted by swarms of giant stop-motion ants. The cramped sets and mediocre production values work against the feel of the 1930s serial movie adventure the actors pretend they are having.