Gambit II capitalizes on all of the set up in Gambit I to provide a fairly satisfying conclusion to this unusually campy romp. Captain Picard returns to the ship after stopping the Vulcan separatists. Worf and Data manage to get past their disagreements, and a basketball star gets a serious cameo. I’ve mentioned before that fun can be its own end, and “Gambit” is proof that even a two-parter doesn’t have to concern itself too deeply with issues of momentous importance to work. I do not mean to imply that there are no great issues lurking underneath the treasure hunt, but largely, “Gambit II” focuses on the fun without getting too bogged down in the ramifications of the story elements.
The Enterprise sustains only minimal damage from the mercenary ship’s attacks on its warp nacelles, leading the bridge crew to deduce that there is a gambit in play. Data opts to play along and discovers flight plans hidden in the communication signal Riker used to contact the ship. Data orders the Enterprise to beat the mercenaries to their next destination, and Worf grumbles. Worf’s audible frustration forces Data to speak seriously to Worf about this disrespect and then apologizes to Worf if he has ruined their friendship. A somewhat embarrassed Worf responds that he jeopardized their relationship and offers to do a better job as first officer going forward.
Back on the mercenary ship, Riker explains to Picard that Baran wishes Riker to kill “Galen” when the final artifact has been located and its authenticity confirmed. He also informs Picard that the artifacts are all Romulan in origin, but Picard disagrees, explaining that they are actually likely Vulcan. They separate, and Picard goes to Narik to begin fomenting a mutiny among the mercenary crew. Tallera burst in on him and threatens him with a phaser if he does not reveal his identity. Before Picard can speak, Tallera explains that she is a member of the V’shar, the Vulcan intelligence agency, serving undercover on board the ship in order to acquire all the artifacts and keep them out of the hands of a small Vulcan separatist movement. She informs him that the artifacts are indeed all fragments of the mythical Stone of Gol, which is a psionic resonator that would allow an assassin to eliminate anyone with a mere thought.
The scene shifts to the Enterprise after the ship arrives in the Hyralan sector to discover a Toron-class Klingon shuttle waiting. The bridge crew hatch a plot to search the shuttle for health and safety violations as a cover for searching it for stolen artifacts, and Data tries to entertain its pilot, Koral, in the observation lounge with minimal success. Baran orders a boarding party beamed over from the mercenary ship to the Enterprise with Riker more or less in command. Riker leads them to the observation lounge where they grab the artifact from Koral, and Picard shoots Riker after Riker attempts to assassinate him. The mercenaries beam away, leaving Riker to regain consciousness and explain the situation to Data and the rest of the bridge crew.
Picard successfully wrests control of the mercenary ship after killing Baran, and they proceed to Vulcan. On the Enterprise, Riker reaches out to Vulcan Security Minister Satok to inform him that his agent will be arriving at Vulcan. Satok, however, reveals to Riker that there is no undercover V’shar operative on board a mercenary ship.
The mercenaries arrive at Vulcan, and Tallera attempts to betray Picard, but Picard reveals that there will be no money. Picard, Tallera, Vekor, and Narik all beam down to the T’Karath sanctuary where Tallera assembles the resonator and kills Vekor and Narik. She unsuccessfully attempts to kill Picard who reveals that the resonator only amplifies the subject’s feelings of aggression. If there are no feelings of aggression, the resonator is harmless, meaning that the Stone of Gol is defeated by peace. The Enterprise rescue team, having arrived during the explanation captures Tallera. Back on board the Enterprise, Picard takes advantage of his “death” to take a well-deserved nap, and Data escorts Riker to the brig.
Despite what is a fairly solid performance by Robin Curtis, neither Tallera’s revelations that she is a Vulcan nor that she is a member of the separatist movement are shocking, which does nothing to detract from “Gambit”’s appeal as an episode. Rather, the episode’s predictability renders it more fun because it hits all the beats with which we as viewers are familiar. We know the same way that Data will find a way to search Koral’s shuttle, and we get to enjoy the beautifully awkward interaction between Data and Koral. The story plays with that awareness, allowing us the freedom to enjoy the proverbial ride.
Even though Riker’s absolute faith and trust in Picard is a significant story element and is lovely, there are only two aspects that I wish to discuss. The first is that fantastic scene between Worf and Data. Despite Data demonstrating repeatedly that he is a solid commander, somehow the show keeps coming back with characters who demonstrably do not trust Data. We saw that in not only Captain Picard but also in Chris Hobson from “Redemption II,” and Data acquitted himself not only admirably but managed to thwart Sela’s plans to invade with a Romulan fleet. We see it again here with Worf’s aggressive mistrust, and much as in “Redemption,” Data handles the issue with his trademark directness. The complicating factor, of course, is his friendship with Worf, which we know Data values. To his credit, Worf owns his error. He stands his ground as to his duty to offer alternatives, but when Data presses, Worf offers an apology. He does not dither by offering excuses or explanations, nor does he try and shift culpability onto Data. Worf accepts responsibility not only for his actions as an officer but also as a friend, and the scene is a great example of how disagreements can and should be handled in a mature and respectful manner. It’s a great little scene.
The second aspect that really stands out is the very Vulcan ridiculousness of the Stone of Gol. The idea that peace and logic would overcome a psionic resonator is just such a Vulcan idea. Why the user’s aggression wouldn’t be sufficient makes zero sense as a weapon but serves as a great metaphor for all of Vulcan culture. Tallera really should have anticipated that even a weapon born in the time of violence would have been overcome by peace. It’s a very Star Trek moment.
Five Cups of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts From the Couch:
- The moment when Worf has to look up and up and up at Koral is a classic, and having met Michael Dorn at a convention back when conventions actually occurred, I have a real appreciation of just how tall James Worthy’s six feet nine inches (206 cm) must actually be. Worthy is a contemporary of fellow basketball great Michael Jordan and quite the accomplished player in his own right—having been named one of the 50 greatest players in 1996 and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. Robert O’Reilly (Gowron) met Worthy on a plane, and O’Reilly convinced him to reach out to TNG’s producers to see about a cameo. Unsurprisingly, Koral is the tallest Klingon ever to appear on screen.
- Naren Shankar observed that Vulcans could arrive at racism logically—the idea that their problems could be caused by contamination by illogical aliens and the resulting conclusion that the aliens should be purged from Vulcan. It’s an interesting way to look at both racism and the fallacies of relying exclusively on logic.
- Does anyone know how Picard reprogrammed Baran’s control device? I certainly don’t, and the episode doesn’t seem to know either. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter as far as the episode’s resolution goes.