(written from a Production point of view)
|"The Last Outpost"|
|TNG, Episode 1x05|
Production number: 40271-107
First aired: 19 October 1987
|←||6th of 176 produced in TNG||→|
|←||4th of 176 released in TNG||→|
|←||109th of 728 released in all||→|
| Teleplay By|
In pursuit of Ferengi marauders, the Enterprise and its quarry become trapped by a mysterious planet that is draining both ships' energies.
The USS Enterprise-D is in pursuit of a Ferengi vessel suspected of stealing a Federation-owned T-9 energy converter from Gamma Tauri IV. The mission is also an opportunity to encounter the Ferengi, who have never established visual contact with the Federation. The pursuit ends when the Ferengi ship gets close to a planet in the Delphi Ardu system and goes to sub-warp speed, possibly suffering a power surge. After a while, it opens fire on the Enterprise, causing her minimal damage. Captain Picard chooses not to return fire, arguing that the Ferengi are just reacting to the pursuit. Soon after, however, the Enterprise also suffers a power system failure, becoming immobilized with phasers and shields off-line.
The crew members believe their ship is trapped by the Ferengi. In the attempt to understand more of their enemies, Data summarizes what is known about them: they are traders, and value profit above all, not unlike Yankee traders of 18th and 19th century North America. Riker and La Forge envisage a way to escape the trap, by jumping abruptly to maximum warp and taking advantage of the relatively slower reaction of the force field. To catch the Ferengi off guard, Picard hails them, asking for the restitution of the stolen equipment, but receives no answer. The Enterprise then attempts the warp jump, but the plan is not successful. Furthermore, the computer data banks are being accessed by some unknown external source. Troi points out that all the attention has been devoted to the Ferengi, neglecting the possible role of the planet.
A conference is held among the senior officers, and, after discarding the hypothesis of fighting, they decide to try contacting the Ferengi again. Picard hails them, asking to present their terms.
After a moment, the Ferengi DaiMon Tarr replies. Much to the astonishment of the Enterprise bridge crew, he says that he is ready to discuss surrender, but not unconditional surrender: he will return the energy converter and offer the lives of the second officers. It is now clear that both ships are trapped, and that the Ferengi are not the source of the energy field.
The Enterprise senior officers convene again in the observation lounge. There, Data explains what is known about the mysterious planet, not before becoming stuck with a Chinese finger trap left in the room by a couple of children, Matthew and Pola. Thanks to the help of Captain Picard, Data gets his fingers released and explains that the planet might be one of the most distant outposts of the Tkon Empire, an ancient and powerful space federation that existed over 600,000 years in the past and was now extinct due to their star going supernova. During the meeting, a probe launched from the Enterprise transmits its information, revealing that indeed both ships are trapped in a force field emanating from the planet's surface.
Picard again contacts the Ferengi, who have also discovered the true nature of the trap. After some confrontation with DaiMon Tarr, Picard suggests to exchange information in order to solve the common problem, which is endangering both ships. They each decide to send an away team down to the surface. Despite the apparent risks, including a loss of communication and no way to beam back on board the Enterprise, Riker, La Forge, Data, Worf, and Yar beam to the planet.
On the surface, the Enterprise members are initially separated and try to rejoin. The planet surface is full of crystals and the sky is beset by thunder and lightning. Worf, Riker, Data, and La Forge are attacked by the Ferengi away team, armed with energy whips, rendering them unconscious.
On the Enterprise, the situation is getting critical, as life support is failing. All energy is diverted to the family decks to extend their survival. The Ferengi on the planet are looking at Riker's combadge, wondering whether it is gold, while the Enterprise away team gradually recover their senses. A fight begins, which is resolved when Yar intervenes with a phaser. The Ferengi, with an acute sense of hearing, are disturbed by the planetary thunderclaps. They also show their surprise for the way Humans work together with their females and keep them clothed. On the Enterprise, it is getting cold and very dark. Picard and Beverly Crusher discuss whether she should give a sedative to her son, Wesley, or if he should keep awake waiting for death. Picard thinks Wesley has the right to greet death while awake. On the planet a mysterious figure suddenly materializes and is very loud, sending the acutely hearing Ferengi trio into agony.
The newly arrived entity declares himself as Portal 63, a guardian of the Tkon Empire, and asks the away teams whether they want to enter the Empire. The aged guardian is then told by Riker and Data that the Tkon Empire does not exist any longer, and that several ages have passed. Portal 63 has been asleep for a very long time: hundreds of thousands of Earth years. The Ferengi try to strike a friendship with the Portal, asking for control of their ship, and promising to destroy the Enterprise and its crew. They describe the Humans as savages and barbarians, and misrepresent Humanity by citing facts such as females being allowed to wear clothing as proof of their "insanity". The Enterprise team, however, accepts the Portal's trial, ready to prove their innocence.
Riker is challenged first. Riker is surprised that the Portal knows his name (Portal 63 can read Riker's mind). The Portal guardian attacks him with his spear and is impressed by the composure with which Riker faces his fate. Riker replies that "Fear is the true enemy. The only enemy", quoting Sun Tzu. The Portal is pleased by Riker's thoughts, unlike those of the deceptive Ferengi. The Portal says to Riker that he wants to know more about Earth history, as it is like Tkon's history. Then at Riker's request, he immediately releases the Enterprise, restoring its power just in time to let the crew recover from what looks like their slumber, but is their point of death.
The Portal explains to Riker that he would usually destroy both ships since they were fighting, but then he saw that they were curiously trying to cooperate. The Portal askes Riker if he wants him to destroy the Ferengi, but Riker asks him to release them, since they are similar to ancient Humans: they have much to learn, but they can grow. Portal 63 asks "What if they never learn, Riker?" Riker says his values, and that of the Federation, require them to face the possibility of the Ferengi learning how to destroy them. When Riker asks what the Portal will do now that his Empire is gone, Portal 63 says he will sleep until needed again.
On board the Enterprise, the energy converter has been regained. Picard congratulates the away team for the success of the mission. Riker, with a devilish grin, then asks him permission to beam aboard the Ferengi ship Data's box of the Chinese finger traps as a "thank you for all they tried to do". After Picard commands "Make it so", the two ships leave orbit.
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"We offer the lives of our second officers as required by the Ferengi code."
"Fortunately Starfleet has no such rules involving its second officers."
- - DaiMon Tarr to Picard and Data
"What's our acceleration delay between slow reverse impulse and top warp-speed?"
"Well it's point three hundred... I see where you're going, we shift down then kick hard into warp nine! Yeah, come back fighting, WOO-WEE!"
- - Riker and Geordi
"Your alien images again shock us!"
- - DaiMon Tarr, to Picard
"Immobilised by the damn Ferengi!"
- - Worf
"If he moves, kill him!"
- - Letek
"It looks like gold. It tastes like gold!"
"It is gold."
- - Letek and Riker, as Letek examines Riker's combadge
"The universe exists to me to create life. I shall sleep, until needed again. "
- - Portal 6-3
"They admit the evil that they DO!
- - Letek referring to Starfleet and the Federation
"You work with your females, arm them, and force them to wear clothing."
- - Ferengi Officer
- - Picard
"Data, what are you doing?"
"Apologies, captain. I seem to have reached an odd functional impasse. I am ... stuck."
"Then get un-stuck and continue with the briefing!"
"Yes, sir. That is what I am trying to do, sir, but the solution eludes me."
"My hero." (laughing)
- - Data, Picard, and Geordi, when Data gets his fingers stuck in a children's toy.
- Original story concept: 1 May 1987
- Revised final draft script: 7 August 1987
- Filmed: 14 August 1987 – 25 August 1987
- Premiere airdate: 19 October 1987
Story and script
- In Richard Krzemien and Herb Wright's final draft script, the stardates were originally given as 41194.6 and 41194.8. 
- The original story concept named the planet Gamma Tauri IV Gamma XII. The Enterprise-D followed the first Ferengi ship and had to face a Ferengi warship while in orbit of a planet. When the ships lost their energy away teams beamed to the surface and had to face creatures which are described as a mixture of Earth dogs and Ferengi Uvex. Beverly Crusher was part of the away team and it was planned to let the Ferengi have green blood. Portal 63 was originally named Dilo, a groundskeeper of the planet. At the end of the story, the planet became a library planet for the Humans and the Ferengi. (Creating the Next Generation: The Conception and Creation of a Phenomenon, p.79-81)
- According to Armin Shimerman, the actors playing the Ferengi were directed to "jump up and down like crazed gerbils." (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)
- Rick Berman noted that the Ferengi's "silliness quotient" ruled them out as major adversaries. (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission)
- Wil Wheaton called them "a total joke" until Armin Shimerman repaired much of the damage. He also said that the cast were unhappy with the idiotic behavior of the Ferengi. 
- Kerrie Cullen served as stunt coordinator for this episode. She was among the group of hired coordinators prior to Dennis Madalone's employment with the series. Cullen is so far the only female stunt coordinator who worked on Star Trek, beside Leslie Hoffman, who served as assistant stunt coordinator on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
- The episode received its UK premiere on BBC2 on 31 October 1990, airing out of order.
Cast and characters
- Armin Shimerman makes his first Star Trek appearance in this episode. He went on to play another Ferengi, Bractor, in "Peak Performance", before being given the role as Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Quark also appeared in TNG: "Firstborn" and VOY: "Caretaker".
- Mike Gomez and Tracey Walter went on to play different Ferengi, Lurin and Berik, respectively, in TNG: "Rascals".
- Armin Shimerman has often said that one of the reasons he took the role of Quark was to try and undo the damage done to the Ferengi in this episode. (DS9 Season 6 DVD: Crew Dossier: Quark)
- Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode, although Wesley is discussed briefly by Picard and Dr. Crusher.
Sets and props
- The master systems display table, nicknamed the "pool table" by the production staff, appears for the first time in this episode, though it still looks very much like its previous appearance in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and not like it appeared throughout the rest of the series.
- This is also the first time that two of the four corridors leading to main engineering have been blocked by consoles, so only the main corridors close to the MSD remain. This was the norm until Star Trek Generations, when the wall consoles were removed and main engineering once more is reachable by four corridors.
- In this episode and in "The Child" the integrated blinds of the windows are seen, here in the Observation Lounge.
- The logo of the Tkon Empire, seen during the observation lounge briefing, later reappears in the shape of the halberd that Portal 63 wields. The weapon later makes several more appearances, including in "Too Short a Season" and "Sins of the Father".
- The Ferengi Marauder's shape was inspired by a horseshoe crab on the desk of writer Herb Wright. The model itself was designed by Andrew Probert (who added the forward "earwig" pincers) and built by Greg Jein. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, p. 38)
- The hand-held energy whips used by the Ferengi in this episode would not be seen again until DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs", in which Quark is seen holding an action figure equipped with a whip. "Actual" laser whips would not reappear until ENT: "Acquisition", co-incidentally the last Ferengi episode of Star Trek to be made, albeit the first one (chronologically) to feature Ferengi.
- The Ferengi make their first appearance in this episode.
- Although unaware, Captain Picard had already encountered a Ferengi starship in 2355, while commanding the USS Stargazer. (TNG: "The Battle", "Bloodlines")
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion notes that the act of Riker beaming the Chinese finger traps on board the Ferengi ship is reminiscent of Montgomery Scott beaming the tribbles on the Klingon battle cruiser IKS Gr'oth. Scotty, however, did not ask his captain's permission. (TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles")
- The Ferengi Marauder starship has the capability to "stretch" its neck section, but that only happens in this episode and, perhaps coincidentally, when ship-to-ship visual communications are engaged.
- "Contagion" featured a similar storyline: in each episode, both the Enterprise and a hostile vessel were disabled by an ancient and mysterious device and accused each other of the responsibility.
- One of the few times that Data uses a contraction: "Captain, this shouldn't be," when speaking to Picard, as well as "I'm afraid not," when later speaking to Portal 63.
- The introduction of the Ferengi has been heavily derided and several production staff members have called it "a disaster". (Quark's Story, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features).
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3, catalog number VHR 2273, 2 July 1990
- US LaserDisc (Pioneer): catalog number LV40270-107, 4 April 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 1.2, catalog number VHR 4643, 4 May 1998
- As part of the TNG Season 1 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 1 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Darrell Burris as operations division officer
- Jeffrey Deacon as command division officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Unknown performers as
- Richard Hancock as stunt double for Jake Dengel
- Tom Morga as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- Gary Morgan as stunt double for Tracey Walter
- Unknown stunt performers as
- James G. Becker - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris - stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay - stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Susan Duchow - stand-in for Denise Crosby
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell - stand-in for Gates McFadden
accumulator; Ages of Tkon; automatic scanners; assassin; baktun; Bastu; batteries; capitalist; Cimi; Chinese finger trap; Class M; computer; Crystalline tree; Template:ShipClass; Delphi Ardu IV; Delphi Ardu system; DaiMon; Earth; electromagnetic pulse; energy whip; Fendor; Ferengi; Ferengi Alliance; Ferengi Code; France; fusion generator; Gamma Tauri IV; Germany; gold; half a million years ago; Human; human history; Italy; kilometer; Latin; lifeform; life support; Makto; Milky Way Galaxy; murder; Ozari; reserve power; sensor probe; star; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; Sun Tzu; supernova; T-9 energy converter; Tarr's Marauder; The Art of War; Tkon Empire; tricorder; "Uncle Sam"; United States of America; Xora; Yankee trader
Library Computer References
61 Cygni; Alpha Centauri; Barnard's Star; Bayard's Planet; concussion ring; Template:ShipClass; Diana; Epsilon Eridani; Epsilon Indi; Template:ShipClass; Greyhound, USS; Groombridge 34; Template:ShipClass; Lalande 21185; Luyten 789-6; light year; Muleskinner, USS; Phi Puma; Procyon; Proxima Centauri; Ross 154; Ross 248; sector; Sirius; Sol; supernova; Tau Ceti; Type 7 shuttlecraft; unnamed LCARS file starships; Wolf 359
- The Last Outpost at Wikipedia
- The Last Outpost at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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