Mar 21, 2018
Star Trek: The Next Generation “The Outrageous Okona” (part 1 of 6)
| SUMMARY: A colorful, womanizing space pirate boards the Enterprise, causing all sorts of wacky headaches for Picard and the gang. Meanwhile, Data learns about humor in the Holodeck.
And… that’s about all we have on the plot summary for this one. No, seriously. That’s all I’ve got.
Wow. I’m so used to filling up this space with multiple paragraphs that it doesn’t seem right to leave it at just those two sentences.
Okay, so let’s see what else I’ve got. Oh, so how about that Janet Jackson thing? Did you guys see that? Pretty crazy, huh?
Alright, I think I’ve wasted enough space to meet my usual longwinded requirements. Now, on with the recap!
Since I’ve already picked on the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation in my recap of the episode “Sub Rosa”, I figured it was time to share some of the hate with TNG: The Early Years, or as I like to call them, the Drifting More Aimlessly Than Space Debris Years.
Let’s face it, the show was incredibly awkward in its first few seasons. You could chalk this up to the inexperience of the cast and crew, most notably series creator and executive producer Gene Roddenberry, who was essentially making his first try at producing a TV show in almost twenty years.
From the very first episode, TNG had major flaws. But by the second season, things hit rock bottom. There were a handful of entertaining episodes to come out of that year, but the rest of it was wall-to-wall crap. And the fact that Roddenberry was seriously ill at the time clearly was a factor in the show’s overall lack of direction.
And not helping matters was the 1988 writer’s strike, which virtually shut down all production in the entertainment industry. By the time it was resolved, all the shows ended up getting off to a late start that season. Most had to scrape up scripts at the last minute, which certainly explains the quality of the episode we’re about to endure.
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Now, try as I might on this website to invent my own terminology and cool catch phrases (I still don’t know why “Impromptu Hairbrush Karaoke” never caught on), sometimes I simply can’t do any better than what others have come up with. The term “Informed Attributes“, for example, originally thought up by Ken Begg at Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension, is a brilliant way to describe this episode’s central character, and a lot more concise than anything I could ever think of.
In short, Informed Attributes are character traits that are told to the audience, rather than shown. And usually with Informed Attributes, what we’re told about the character is vehemently at odds with what we actually see the character doing.
A prime example is the egregious Enterprise episode “A Night in Sickbay”, where Trip reminds Captain Archer that he is (quote) “a trained diplomat”, even though all throughout that episode we see Archer doing just about everything a diplomat is trained not to do (pouting, being cranky and petulant, throwing tantrums, etc.). When you get right down to it, Informed Attributes are really just a symptom of laziness on the part of the writer; Why make the effort to show Archer being a skilled diplomat when you can just say he is and hope the audience will buy it?
“The Outrageous Okona”, as a teleplay, is basically one big Informed Attribute. Hell, even the title is an Informed Attribute. Before we even meet the character, we’re already told that he’s “outrageous”, but as we’ll soon learn, the only outrageous things about him are his skanky, slutty behavior, and the fact that he so desperately wants to be Han Solo. Actually, to really be blunt about it, the most outrageous thing about this script is that it ever got filmed.
Frankly, it seems like the writers brainstormed the idea of “a slightly colorful character comes aboard the Enterprise and shakes up the lives of the crew”, and the story conference ended there. Little did they know that this same worthless plot template would be the model for loads of bad fanfiction, mostly of the Mary Sue/Marty Sam variety, where the author imagines himself or herself as the colorful character who does the shaking. As we’ll soon learn from this episode, this type of plot rarely works. And the only thing lacking in “The Outrageous Okona” is the main character being named after the writer.
Ah, but there’s also a B plot. And like most bad Trek episodes, the B plot is even more horrid than the A plot. (Actually, I’m not really sure which is the A plot, as both plots are drama-free and go absolutely nowhere. I’m just assuming the Okona plot is the A plot because it’s where the title of the episode comes from. But then again, when TNG originally showed previews of this episode, the B plot—which concerns Data learning about humor—was the only one mentioned.)
Yes, this episode is one of many installments in the “Data learns how to be human” story arc that played out over the entire series run. I have a confession to make: I never cared much for Data’s prolonged quest for humanity. Those episodes where he pretends to be Sherlock Holmes or learns to sculpt clay or watches his cat have kittens were probably some of the most excruciating in all of Trek.
All too often, Data’s “exploration of humanity” boiled down to this: 1. Data makes an inappropriate comment; 2. Riker smirks, gets a twinkle in his eye, and maybe even chuckles; 3. Data stares blankly, still not understanding; 4. Data accesses his Mental Database of Knowledge to discover what faux pas he committed that was so funny; 5. Repeat the following week, ad nauseum.
The writers, it seems, could never quite grasp the difference between someone being “childlike” and “childish”. For a character who’s supposedly gone through Starfleet training, and has been an officer long enough to become a crucial member of the flagship crew, and has access to tons of information just in his head (Data’s good old Head DB), you think he’d be a lot less naïve than he is.
And the worst part of Data’s quest for humanity? He was making real progress over the seven seasons of TNG, and then, with the jump to movies, the character development was completely obliterated and Data started over at square one. Hence, we got cringe-inducing scenes like those in Insurrection of Data trying to bond, Michael Jackson-like, with a young boy. Other than that movie (and parts of Generations), I have to say that “The Outrageous Okona” is about as unfunny and laborious as Data’s quest for humanity gets.
The episode opens on Stardate 42402.7. Captain Picard’s log entry reveals that the Enterprise is in the Omega Sagitta system, “traversing the twin planets that form the Coalition of Medina!” As in… Funky Cold? Actually, it’s spelled “Madena” in the subtitles, but for obvious reasons I’ll pretend it’s spelled in Tone Loc-ese.
As we pan across the bridge, Picard explains that both worlds in the Funky Cold Medina system are populated by humanoid races (read: let’s save some money on the makeup budget this week), and the two races have an uneasy peace according to a treaty.
Soon, Worf detects an unidentified vessel, and Data identifies it as an “interplanetary cargo ship”. Worf is standing at a computer display as he reports one life form aboard. I don’t know why they needed the display for this, but on the screen is a green wireframe ship with a pulsating red orb on one end. It’s not unlike a wireframe foot with a throbbing callous that you might see in an ad for Dr. Scholl’s.
In short order, we find out the following: The life form is humanoid, the ship is only armed with “lasers” (I guess those are the flashing purple things that look like athletes foot), the ship’s cargo hold is empty, and apparently its “guidance system” is malfunctioning. Picard has Wesley Crusher (at this point in the series, an acting ensign) put the Enterprise on an intercept course.
In a sign of how little there is to this episode, we spend half a minute watching the Enterprise rendezvous with this tiny little space vessel that looks like a reject from a Roger Corman film.
Picard hails the ship, and still communicating by audio only, the ship reports back that it’s the “Cargo Carrier Erstwhile. Captain Okona at your service, sir!” For those wondering, “Okona” is pronounced just like “Donald O’Connor”, only without the final “R” sound. And, presumably, the tap dancing talent.
Well, it seems Captain Okona operates a little differently, because when he comes on viewer, he’s turned and bent over so that he’s basically mooning the entire bridge crew. Wow, he’s not just outrageous, he’s nutrageous! He turns around and hey! Look everybody, it’s Billy Campbell! The same Billy Campbell from The Rocketeer, Once and Again, and most sad of all, the target of Jennifer Lopez‘s vengeance in Enough.
Capt. Okona cracks wise about his ship being no danger to the Big E, and Picard says they never considered him a danger. Okona cracks wise some more about wishing he was still considered a danger, a painfully idiotic comment that Counselor Troi half-smiles at. Ouch. I could probably cut myself on that smirk.
Okona quips that he’s “alone and empty”, which is “rare for a man of my charm and talent!” I know how he feels, because watching shows like this leaves me feeling alone and empty, too. Unfortunately, I have no charm and my only talent is telling movie characters to shut up. Picard, apparently already irritated with the guy’s butt cheeks, tells Worf to “mute main viewer.” How about that? Even in the 24th Century there’s a need for a mute button on the speakerphone.
Picard asks Troi for her opinion, and in the most shameless example of Informed Attributes I think I’ve ever seen, Troi outlines, describes, and explains the entire character of Okona for us. “His emotions suggest he’s mischievous, irreverent, and somewhat brazen! The word that seems to best describe him is ‘rogue’.” This! Is! How you will feel about this character! Live it, love it, learn it! Okona: The Freshmaker! Keep in mind, none of this will turn out to be true about Okona. At least, not from anything we’ll actually see.
Data butts in. “Rogue?” Was anyone talking to you? “Ah! Cad, knave, rake, rascal, villain, wild elephant…” Okay, I’m not too sure about the “wild elephant” thing, but other than that, Data sure is quite the walking thesaurus, isn’t he? I think he’d definitely come in handy for me as I write this recap, especially when I look for alternatives to “suck” or “tedious”.
Troi cuts Data off, but she insists to Picard that “there is no malevolence or ill will!” So, I guess the fact that he gets Troi all hot and bothered is all Picard needs to know, because he un-mutes the speakerphone and tells Okona about the problem with his guidance system. “Whoa!” Okona cries. He says that if they can diagnose his problem from there, they should surely be able to help him fix it.
Wesley, apparently buying into the big lie that is Okona the Rogue, eagerly says that they can easily repair his ship. Swept up in the hype. Poor gullible kid. And I know I’ve said this before, but why, oh why did they let Wesley fly the ship? Wasn’t it enough for him to save the thing every other week?
Riker has Wesley lock a tractor beam on Okona’s ship so they can beam The Best Thing Since Food Replicators on over to the Enterprise. Worf, already getting a skeevy feeling about the guy, recommends giving Okona limited access to the ship. Picard has him make it so, and this little exchange of dialogue will never come into play. Once aboard, we’ll see Okona pretty much have free roam of the ship. So either Worf isn’t doing his job, or Picard’s orders are more like gentle suggestions.
Riker contacts the transporter chief and has her lock onto Okona, and she acknowledges the order in a very familiar, hyper-annoying voice. But more on her in just a second.
Okona speaks up. “Is that a woman’s voice I hear?” Uh, did he just get out of prison? Picard activates the Insta-Stick implanted up his butt and tells Okona to just follow Riker’s instructions “so our ship can get back to its normal routine!” Yes, routine. That describes this show very well in the second season.
Riker’s grinning (yep, there’s a twinkle in his eye again), so Picard asks what’s so funny. Riker declares, “Well, the unexpected is our normal routine!” Not in this episode. This episode is all about the expected. And the routine. So Riker is only half-right, but I’ll give him full credit because at least he has the beard now.
As we fade to the opening credits, there’s a cheesy horn synth riff on the main Star Trek theme, along with, I kid you not, a “fairy dust settling” sound effect. Good God. Get used to the soundtrack being laid on thick, because this episode will be loaded with cheesy synth riffs to fill in the big lulls in dialogue.