|Picard and Vash, trapped in Q's game.|
The Enterprise is in orbit around Tagus III, a planet whose ruins have been closed off to outside study for a century. The ship is playing host to an archaeological conference, at which Picard has been invited to speak. Picard's work on his speech is interrupted by the arrival of Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), his old flame from the adventure on Risa. He is only too happy to see her - but she is disconcerted when she discovers that he hasn't discussed her with his crew over the past year. It's not as if he had anything better to do than talk about his love life. When Picard discovers that she has her own agenda, to sneak into the forbidden ruins for illegal artifacts, the division in their personalities appears to have ended their relationship forever.
Enter Q, who owes Picard a favor for protecting him during his time as a mortal and wants to repay his debt. When Picard refuses, the omnipotent alien decides to meddle in the captain's romance. He whisks Picard and his command crew off to a recreation of Sherwood Forest. Picard is Robin Hood, and Q informs him that Vash is Maid Marian, scheduled to be executed the following day. The only hope to save Vash is a daring resuce - one that will put Picard and his crew at risk, all to reinforce Q's point about the folly of love.
But Vash doesn't play the helpless maiden quite the way Q had anticipated...
Capt. Picard: "The captain is a very private man," his crew intones several times during the episode's first Act to explain why he's never discussed Vash with them. Picard tells Vash that he would consider it "inappropriate" to discuss his personal feelings with his subordinates... though in fairness, do many people come back from vacations and tell their co-workers about the vacation fling they had with an attractive stranger they're unlikely to ever see again? Picard is genuinely happy to see her, but he will not compromise his own personal code of conduct just to keep her happy, which creates division between them even before Q shows up.
Hot Space Babe of the Week: Jennifer Hetrick returns as Vash. The character remains largely in the same sketch mode as in Captain's Holiday, though her strong self-preservation instinct creates a few enjoyable plot turns. Sir Guy is going to execute her if she doesn't agree to marry him? OK, she'll marry him. Picard comes alone with a poorly thought out escape plan that will probably get her killed? OK, she'll stay put until she sees a way to escape and survive. No wonder she catches Q's eye. Given the ridiculously noble/self-righteous nature of most of the TNG crew, it's probably a stark relief to him to meet a human with a reasonable degree of common sense.
Q: Q repays his debt to Picard by putting the lives of the command crew in jeopardy, then stealing Picard's girlfriend. And this is him being friendly. On the plus side, John de Lancie slips effortlessly into this role by now, making his scenes more enjoyable simply by being in them. The episode gets little mileage out of that, though. Q is introduced late, and then only gets a smattering of scenes. The episode is really focused on Picard and Vash. This isn't a weakness in and of itself; Q Who might be the best Q episode, and that was focused on the introduction of the Borg. But this episode doesn't know how to use Q. He's there solely because the writers needed a Q episode this season, and neither his motives nor his actions make a lot of sense.
A sequel to both Captain's Holiday and Deja Q. Like Captain's Holiday, it's tricky to truly rate this episode. Much like that episode, it's not actually very good - but it is entertaining. It does edge out the earlier episode, in that it's better-paced and it strikes a better balance between its comedy and adventure elements. The climactic sword fight is actually fairly well-choreographed, and Patrick Stewart seems very much at home in this sort of setting.
Though better-paced than Captain's Holiday, this remains a paper-thin story. The first Act focuses on how very different Picard and Vash are. As if the writer just realized 15 minutes in that this isn't going to be enough to carry an episode, Q is abruptly dropped into the piece. A more interesting idea might have been to drop Q from the episode entirely and follow through with Vash's illegal expedition, with Picard having to stop her while at the same time still trying to convince her of his feelings. But, no. It's off to Sherwood Forest we go!
"This isn't a mission," Picard tells his crew once he realizes the nature of Q's game. "This is personal." He cannot ask any of his crew to risk their lives to rescue Vash. But... Vash is a passenger on the Enterprise, isn't she? A passenger and a Federation citizen, attending a function hosted by a Federation starship. Um... Surely that makes her life the responsibility of both captain and crew - meaning that it is actually inappropriate for Picard to use less than the full measures available to him to attempt to rescue her. Then again, if Picard didn't go in alone, then he couldn't get captured and extend the episode by another ten minutes.
The non-Picard regulars are largely glorified extras, though Worf gets a couple of amusing moments. Truly, though, this is the Picard/Vash show, with a special guest appearance by Q. Everyone else is secondary at best. Still, for all its faults, the episode is fun to watch. Jennifer Hetrick remains appealing, and she and Patrick Stewart have better chemistry here than they did in Captain's Holiday. Hetrick has very little chemistry with John deLancie, however, making it odd that her third appearance would be with deLancie but without Stewart.
Ah, well. I'll crib my final verdict on this episode from Douglas Adams: "Mostly harmless."
Overall Rating: 5/10