Episode #38: The Royale

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Episode #38: The Royale

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:49 pm

THE ROYALE - episode #12 of the 2nd season / Air Date: 3/27/89
written by Keith Mills (Tracy Torme; rewritten by M. Hurley); Directed by Cliff Bole

This episode is on many 'worst TNG' lists. It has an intriguing premise but watching the whole episode is a chore. On an otherwise desolate (and poisonous to humans) planet, the Enterprise detects a building surrounded by breathable air; this is strange right there - but the crew act somewhat blase about this discovery. Oh yeah, the crew also find the remants of an old NASA spacecraft in the upper atmosphere - this, says Picard, is not possible.

Riker, Data and Worf beam down to investigate; they find a revolving door.. leading to.. what? (since this was a very minimalist set, using black space, I got a bad feeling already at this point, thinking of The Empath from TOS).

But inside the revolving door, it's very colorful, a recreation of a 20th century hotel casino, complete with gamblers and desk clerks. To make a long story short, this was created by aliens for the benefit of a 21st century astronaut. The aliens based this recreation on a bad 20th century novel - The Royale, about compulsive gamblers caught in corruption - which the astronaut had with him; they figured it was the proper setting for the astronaut to live out his life. He did, dying in the hotel 283 years ago. Seems to me, someone watched 2001: A Space Odyssey and took away all the wrong ideas for this episode.

The problem for the landing party - they find out that they are unable to exit. If they use the revolving door, they just end up back in the hotel. Phasers have no effect on the walls. The problem for the audience - watching the trio try to find a way out of the hotel is not exciting; it's not even interesting. And the fabricated characters which populate this hotel, notably Noble Willingham as a bigshot Texan, are very annoying - like watching a poorly-written novel unfold, natch. The solution for the trapped officers tries to be clever but is sort of a joke - on us, the audience, again.

One note: Riker does break protocol here by not immediately trying to exit the hotel when he loses contact with the ship and Data does remind him of the rule - not that it would have made much difference. I expected Picard to dress him down a bit in the final scene, but I guess the cap'n was just happy he didn't lose any crew. BoG's Score: 2 out of 10

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TNG Trivia: this episode establishes that the United States had 52 states between the years 2033 and 2079 - I guess Puerto Rico finally made it by then?
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