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Season Seven:
-252-253: "Descent"
-254: "Liaisons"
-256-257: "Gambit"
-263: "Parallels"
-265: "Homeward"
-268: "Thine Own Self"
-272: "Journey's End"
-273: "Firstborn"
-277-278: "All Good Things..."

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(Star Trek - TNG episode production codes 256 & 257)
  • part 1 story by Christopher Hatton & Naren Shankar
  • part 1 teleplay by Naren Shankar
  • part 2 story by Naren Shankar
  • part 2 teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
  • directed by Peter Lauritson (pt.1) and Alexander Singer (pt.2)


This story has always ranked quite highly with me amongst all of TNG's two-part stories. It is quite simply a darned good adventure, chock full of scenes with good entertainment value, and it has an ending that ticks the boxes of being logical, exciting, and celebrating a healthy philosophical message that neatly makes its point. This is really the first story to truly give season seven the big shot in the arm that it has been needing up to this point.

Part I... (Raiders of the Lost Picard)

Perhaps this story is less celebrated than it deserves because its weakest scenes are up front at the beginning - and the scenes are decent actually, but far from being great attention-grabbers that tell you this is a must-see show. In their blatant low-budget imitation of Star Wars' infamous alien cantina scene, we suffer through some icky smarmy innuendo as Troi and a bartender chat each other up, just to get the point that Picard is missing and his crew are searching for him. Riker and Worf fare a bit better with a rodent-looking alien, as they and Dr. Crusher get to play some entertainingly different dynamics.

Ultimately, the news that Picard was vaporized was never destined to be believed by the audience, who have seen Patrick Stewart appear in the trailers, but not yet in the episode. We all know he'll show up soon enough, so our investment in the characters' beliefs is limited. This section is all about whether or not those characters get something worthy to do while thinking that Picard is no more. I'd say Riker and Troi's shouting match took things too far, while the other portions of their scene were worthwhile.

That said, I like the rest of Riker's quest to find the truth, his interaction with the Starfleet admiral and the rodent alien. It's also great to get a hefty action sequence early on - one more successful than anything in "Descent Part II" - and great again that this key action sequence is set out on location. Thus, this first half of episode one still fares quite well, while the rest of the story builds in strength.

Picard is revealed operating under a false name as part of a crew of rogues and mercenaries, as Riker is forced into their ranks as well. The irremovable pain devices reinforcing the hostile command structure are far more entertaining here than anything back in the previous year's "Chain of Command" story, largely because "Chain of Command" set its dynamic between Picard and David Warner's character in a very clinical single room far detached from any of the stakes on the Cardassian political front. Here, "Gambit" is free to flip between the duress of the command structure and genuine co-operation to achieve the group's goals, be they about the survival of their ship, or the acquisition of mysterious objects that intrigue everyone for various reasons. A much richer and more satisfying palette.

Personally, I really loved the fact that we had here a really good story for Captain Picard, in which he got to exercise his passion for archaeology over not just one but two linked episodes, and engage in a good, exciting, "Indiana Jones" style adventure, and play out a lot of situations and types of scenes that he wouldn't normally get.

"Gambit" has also done a pretty good and organic job of getting both Picard and Riker off the ship in order to leave Data in command - this is MUCH, MUCH better than the head-scratching tactics in "Descent". Plus, the move gives Data and Worf some dynamics to play out between them that they don't normally get, and these dynamics are very interesting, organic, and believable. Dr. Crusher and her chorus of extras in "Descent" cannot begin to compete.

Gambit additionally had some very good guest cast members. Richard Lynch is a fine actor who had pretty much played a guest villain on every American TV show of the 1970's and 1980's. His appearance here is no surprise, and satisfies again as usual.

Perhaps more unusual is the appearance of actress Robin Curtis, best known to Star Trek fans as Lt. Saavik from the third and fourth feature films, and now playing a much more antagonistic, assertive, and mysterious character. She does quite well with the expanded role she plays here.

Nicely, the model-makers went to the trouble of giving the mercenaries a very unique, detailed, and menacing spacecraft, which sees its share of action throughout the two episodes. The cliffhanger is pretty good here, with the danger of a ship-to-ship battle holding on a freeze-frame, as we wonder exactly how far either Riker or Data will go in escalating the battle further. Though it's not got the same suspense-factor that "The Best of Both Worlds" had, it echoes the same flavour to good effect.

Part II... (Indiana Jean-Luc and the Weapon of Fear)

Much of part two continues in the same good vein as the latter half of the first episode, only we are able to dig a little deeper into the mysteries, and really enjoy Picard and Riker's interactions with the rest of the mercenary crew. The guest characters have a little extra time to be developed in this story, and it works fairly well for them. Plus, Stewart and Frakes seem to relish the chance to do different and surprising things with each other, and chew the scenery much more than usual. Entertaining stuff.

I admit I really get pulled into this story the more it digs into ancient Romulan colonial history and Vulcan lore - I just want to learn more and more. The character mystery and unpredictable interpersonal dynamics add to this like icing on a cake. These sections work like a charm for me.

Admittedly, we don't get to see too many fresh locations in later sections of the story. In that sense, the bar scenes and forest location sequences from early part one were important in building viewer impressions of a quest with many varied stops along the way... and the memory of these places in the viewers' minds can then help make up for a Starbase represented by one dude on a viewing screen whom no one visits. The design budget quite rightly focused on the interiors of the mercenary ship, which are used heavily throughout, with a particularly impressive and functional bridge.

I do enjoy the decidedly low-energy Klingon encountered by the Enterprise crew - obviously someone accustomed to spending a lot of time by himself in space. A lot of unique choices occur with that character, and it gives Dr. Crusher and Worf and Data some fun scenes to play.

But perhaps the best bit here is the tension between Data and Worf - a very unique dynamic that cannot be found in any other episode. It is so organic and believable in both the way that it bubbles up to the surface and in how it resolves itself, I think it's a real testament to the abilities of the Next Generation cast and the degree to which they gelled over time. Compare all this to the very similar problems Data was supposed to be having back in "Redemption, Part II" (the season five opener), and I think it's quite easy to see how much superior "Gambit" is in portraying this. Additionally, I think the writing for Worf here really achieves a nice balance between some of his natural emotional tendencies and his abilities to quickly overcome those tendencies to align himself with purer states of mind... when he decides it's worth it. It's particularly great to get this in the middle of episode two here, because it then lends great credibility later on when Worf is but the second crewmember to be pure enough to pass the final weapon's big test.

Before the big wrap up for this story, we get a smaller one dealing with Richard Lynch's character and his pain discipline device. The dynamic isn't bad, except for one outstanding problem. Exactly when and how did Picard have a chance to do what he says he did? It seemed that would have been the crux of the entire challenge - the kind of thing that keeps every member of this crew awake at night trying to figure out. If he had cracked it, we the audience deserve to find out how he managed it, and we can cry foul of the story for cheating us. Shades of Doctor Who's "The Stones of Blood" (story no. 100).

However, there is a brand new set in which the real final moments of this story play out. Here, we can see that it is Picard's cleverness in reading and deciphering all the clues presented to him so far, plus adding on top his general awareness of social issues and how various cultures interpret them, that allows him to see the solution. Interestingly, before he himself is seen to pass the test which many of his mercenary shipmates fail, he winds up quickly coaching his rescue party from the Enterprise first. By the time the test actually comes to Picard himself, it's a bit old hat, but still satisfying. Both Patrick Stewart and Robin Curtis make some interesting choices with their emotions, which actually carry the plot at this point. Their acting is a good match to the philosophical point being made here, and it's a worthy one. One of my favourites, in fact. It reminds me of one of the key background dynamics of "Encounter at Farpoint", except it is much more succinct here, and embraces the characters better. It also reminds me quite a bit of Doctor Who's "Snakedance" (story no. 125), except here we are without quite as detailed a cultural and philosophical build up.

Finally, we end with a fun coda sequence that ties up some of the remaining questions and details of the adventure, while being quite big on humour. Great.

In the end, "Gambit" may not have seemed like a great story at first, but it delivers well in giving us the kind of adventure story that made the original 1960's Star Trek a hit, while managing a breezy tone for the most part, injected with a bit of mystery and mythology and philosophical triumph. There's a lot to like here. When counting up TNG's two-part stories and picking our favourites, this is one to remember, particularly in how it achieved many worthy elements in a much more polished manner than its predecessors, and for being a nicely rounded and full narrative in the end. It's two enthusiastic thumbs up from me on this one, easily the best season seven story so far....

This Next Generation Season Seven story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Seven (1993-1994):

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview: Year Seven
  • A Captain's Tribute
  • Departmental Briefing: Production
  • Starfleet Moments and Memories
  • Special Profiles
  • Inside Starfleet Archives: Dressing the Future
  • The Making of "All Good Things..."
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Dec. 15, 2014.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Parallels" by writer Brannon Braga (2008).
    • "Lower Decks" by co-writer René Echevarria and
      scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Preemptive Strike" by the Okudas and
      writers René Echevarria and Naren Shankar.
  • Three-part documentary "The Sky's the Limit - The Eclipse of ST:TNG" (HD, 90 min. total) with all seven regular castmembers, plus Wil Wheaton (Wesley), Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan), Natalija Nogulich (Admiral Nechayev), and John de Lancie (Q), writer/producers Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Braga, Echevarria, Shankar, Larry Nemecek, André Bormanis, producer/director David Livingston, and many others.
  • "Journey's End: The Saga of ST:TNG" (45 min.) (1994)
  • "Closed Set: A Tour of the Real Enterprise" (11 min.)
  • "In Conversation: Lensing ST:TNG" (42 min.) with Livingston,
    director James L. Conway, D.O.P. Jonathan West, and
    camera operator Kris Krosskove.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) from 15 episodes.
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.
  • Main audio tracks in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Parallels"

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