Plot – The Price features the first stable wormhole known to exist that could lead to the fabled Gamma Quadrant. You know, that sounds awfully familiar. In the end it turns out to be a passage to the Delta Quadrant, which is even further away. That sounds familiar too.
As a day in the life of the Enterprise, this is certainly a busy one. Visiting negotiators bidding against one another, a potential new wormhole for the Federation to explore and a romance for Troi.
Character – In what has to be her most relatable scene in the entire series, we open this episode with Troi having an argument with the computer over providing her with a real chocolate sundae, exasperated by the thought of letters from her mother and a ‘now what?’ when Picard summons her. There’s none of this superior, holier than thou Troi here. She feels like a real person going about her day to day. I wish all writers had seen fit to write her this way. When Picard tells her to throw on ‘any old thing’ and come to the reception you start to get the impression of what it is like to be a female member of this crew. Mind you it says something about how women are written for on this show when this, the rarest of things (a Counsellor Troi episode), is automatically a romance of the week. It just so happens to be one of the better examples of that genre of Trek episodes, but the point stands that shouldn’t be all Troi is useful for. In a wonderful moment that made me smile, Ral tells Troi ‘don’t do Counsellor Troi’ when she starts to probe him psychologically. This episode deserves its stars just for that one observation but anyone who regularly reads these reviews will know that I cannot bear how she pokes her way into peoples lives without them asking her to. It’s marvellous how she is trying to break out of her comfort zone in this episode and relax into this affair she is having. Troi confronts Ral with her feelings about how he hides he is an empath and uses it as an advantage at the negotiation table, and he manages to effectively show her that is exactly what she does for Picard when she is sitting by his side on the Bridge.
Performance – Matt McCoy is one of those trusted character actors that pops into most shows doing the rounds during this time and has a pretty impressive and prolific resume. He gives a confident performance as Ral and that needed to be the case. We have to believe that this man can assuredly manipulate his competitors. As soon as we meet him with those piercing eyes and a woman on his arm it is clear he is going to be trouble of the very best kind. I love the scene he has with Commander Riker, managing to prick at his career and point out (in the snarkiest of ways) that he is only second in command of the ship. Interestingly that is something that will be followed up at the end of the season. He’s not even above using his relationship with Deanna to distract Riker at the negotiation table…and you still don’t quite hate him. He’s just doing his job.
Great Dialogue – ‘At the negotiation table, it can be fatal to have a heart.’
Production – As ever with seasons three and four, take a good look at the lightning and listen to the music. One is atmospheric and a little subdued and the other is bold and beautiful. Both would be watered down considerably come the fifth season (so many episodes that year are lit in the blandest way possible and that is where the wallpaper Rick Berman inspired music kicks in) but there is a distinctive visual flair to the episodes at this point that see TNG at its height in production terms.
Best moment – Whilst I could do without the shots of Troi’s oily feet, I thought the scenes of Troi and Ral in bed together were actually very well done. So many Trek romances fail because they are so sanitised and PG-13 but these two wind up oiling each other up, kissing provocatively and teasing each other playfully. It feels very natural, like two real people genuinely enjoying each other’s company. That’s very rare (compare it to something like DS9’s Meridian and you’ll see what I mean).
I’m very disturbed by the full body leotards that they squeeze Sirtis and McFadden into but how wonderful is it to see this show giving its female character time in the limelight to have some girl talk. Whilst they fail the Bechdel test horribly, these scenes are still very sweet and watchable and really well written. ‘Who needs rational when your toes curl up?’
Worst moment – This is one of the better examples of the Ferengi in TNG and they are still overwritten and overplayed. You have to wonder how their reputation to acquire profit is earned when they seem to blunder their way through all negotiations with little tact or finesse.
I wish they hadn’t done that – You could almost say that Ral violates Troi by walking into her office and manhandling her but she seems perfectly complicit in the act and seems to thoroughly enjoy having her hair messed around with. I don’t know if I have ever empathised with Troi more than I do with this episode.
A reason to watch this episode again – I really like this and it is another example of the confidence of the third season because if this had been aired in the first two years of TNG you know it would have been fairly dismal. Troi is never better in the entire show and if she was characterised with this much honesty and sensuality throughout the run, there’s a possibility that she might have been one of my favourites. Marina Sirtis seems to enjoy the chance to be in the spotlight and seems visibly more relaxed than she has ever been before. I find her relationship with Ral very believable because there is nothing sensitive about it. It’s an instant attraction, provocative and charged and the two of them dive into it consensually. Even better, when Troi gets on her high horse, Ral manages to throw many of her criticisms of how he conducts himself back at her in some very winning scenes. I found myself nodding along to so much of this episode. The wormhole plot lacks tension or drama, so that end of the episode is severe lacking but I would take an underwhelming plot in favour of this much exceptional character work any day of the week. It’s a shame that an enjoyable TNG episode should encourage such a dismal Voyager one as the weakest element of The Price winds up being followed up in False Profits.
***1/2 out of *****