Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S2E17 "Samaritan Snare"
Anybody who's worked in tech support will sympathize with Geordi.

Well, Wesley has to be off to Starbase 515 to take some sort of Starfleet exam which the episode never bothers to explain. Meanwhile, Dr. Pulaski is nagging Picard about having some operation. He doesn't want to have it on the Enterprise because he doesn't want the crew to know. Therefore, he decides to go with Wesley to Starbase 515 because the crew would never notice that. No sooner have Picard and Wesley left via shuttlecraft, than the Enterprise picks up a distress signal from an unidentified ship, forcing Riker to abandon the boring routine mission they were supposed to be on.

The Enterprise reaches the distressed ship, which Data reads is a primitive design not capable of warp. The ship hails them and it turns out to be stocked with some Rubber-Forehead Aliens who talk in extreme Buffy Speak and seem fond of the Department of Redundancy Department. Their lexicon seems to consist almost entirely of "we look for things," "can you make it go?" and "we are smart." Accurately concluding that these aliens, called the "Pakleds", are somehow too stupid to fix their own ship, Riker decides to beam Geordi over. Worf points out that they hardly need to send the Chief Engineering Officer and that they don't even know if these aliens are hostile, but Riker does the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and going "La, la, la, can't hear you!" Once Geordi is aboard the Pakled ship, Troi walks on the bridge and exclaims that the aliens aren't as helpless as they seem and that Geordi is in great danger. Despite the fact that Troi has just proved herself actually useful for once, Riker pretty much ignores this as well. After the repairs are completed, the Pakleds surprisingly refuse to let Geordi go, blocking the Enterprise transporter beam with a shield beyond their apparent level of technology. Oh my, who could have seen something like that coming?

By the way, this plot is being intercut with the faintly interesting conversation which Picard is having with Wesley as they journey to Starbase 515 together. Picard reveals that he has an artificial heart which is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced. Cue Wesley brilliantly asking why someone would make a faulty artificial heart as though it were done on purpose. Picard relates the story of how he got his artificial heart in the first place. It turns out that as a reckless young Starfleet officer, he picked a fight with three Nausicaans and got stabbed through the chest. It is noted that this took place "before the Klingons joined the Federation," which is a bit of a redundant observation considering the Klingons are still not part of the Federation. In any case, the story Picard tells here is later explored in more detail in the much better episode "Tapestry".

Back to the Enterprise. Riker orders they turn on the useful sensors, as they had apparently only had the useless sensors on previously, and they show that the Pakled ship was never even damaged. Troi, meanwhile, apparently thinks she's already been useful enough for one episode and goes back to stating the obvious like normal. The Pakleds appear onscreen to announce that they are ransoming Geordi for all computer knowledge aboard the Enterprise. At a conference, the Enterprise officers conclude, based on no evidence, that the Pakleds are an immature race trying to evolve too fast by acquiring knowledge and power before they are ready. Riker says they will have to "set some limits" for them. Gee, that isn't arrogant or condescending at all! Deciding that "impatience and greed" are the Pakleds' Hats, Riker conceives a ruse to exploit this. They communicate their intentions to Geordi with a Cryptic Conversation telling him to go ahead and build the weapons that the Pakleds want.

Meanwhile, Picard and Wesley arrive at Starbase 515. Picard's operation, which we are repeatedly assured is completely routine and nothing to worry about, begins. For absolutely no explained reason, Picard suddenly starts dying on the table. Since this is not contrived enough, it turns out that Dr. Pulaski is the only person who can fix the Techno Babble problem. The Enterprise receives the call to bring Pulaski to Starbase 515 just when they're about to put Riker's plan into action. Riker decides that they can delay long enough to save Geordi. He begins a countdown and Geordi pretends to check that the Pakleds' weapons are online while actually disabling them. When the countdown ends, the Enterprise fires some harmless hydrogen exhaust at the Pakled ship and Geordi announces that they've been disarmed by a "crimson force field". This convinces the Pakleds that they are no match for the Enterprise and they let Geordi go. The Enterprise gets Pulaski to Starbase 515 in time to save Picard's life. Once he's awake, Picard is just as baffled as we are as to why he almost died from a routine operation. Again, no explanation is given. Picard figures that the crew must now know about his condition and Pulaski assures him that they don't care. And that's Picard's Character Development for today.

Back on the Enterprise, Picard says that "any rumors of my brush with death are greatly exaggerated" and mentions that Wesley passed whatever that exam he took off-screen was. On to the next adventure!

This episode contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Picard shouldn't worry about the rest of the crew knowing about his procedure, unless doctor–patient privilege doesn't exist in the 24th century, or the Federation doesn't have their own version of HIPAA.
    • Also, when something inevitably goes wrong with the supposedly routine surgery, Pulaski is apparently the only doctor in the entire Federation capable of saving Picard.
      • Though that may have been just a case of Pulaski being the closest available doctor who could perform such procedure.
  • Buffy Speak: The Pakleds use this.
  • Cryptic Conversation: How the crew tell Geordi about the ruse.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: Apparently the Pakleds' MO.
  • Finagle's Law: Picard estimates that the chances of his heart operation having a complication are around 2.4%. Guess what happens?
  • Flaw Exploitation: Riker uses this to trick the Pakleds by using a dazzling light-show and Geordi's sabotage to make them think they were hit with a secret defensive countermeasure.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Picard during his cadet days, which considering the dignified, reserved persona he gives off now seems almost impossible to believe.
  • Ignored Expert: Worf's natural call for caution is ignored, as usual. Likewise, while her track record is spotty at best, it wouldn't have hurt to ask the resident empath for an opinion about the Pakleds before sending over Geordi. Not that it would have mattered much as just like Worf, she expresses that Geordi is in great danger and that the Pakleds aren't as peaceful as they appear... and is also ignored.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Picard recounts this—he got into a Bar Brawl with three Nausicaans and held his own until one stabbed him in the back and through his heart.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The Pakleds clearly have no clue how their ship (or ships in general) works. Whether this is true of the entire species, or whether these three bozos just stole a ship, is never made clear.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: The Pakleds opt to steal advanced technology from other ships since their society has only basic spacefaring technology and underdeveloped linguistic abilities.Geordi
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Played straight and then subverted with the Pakleds, who on the one hand are clever enough to use subterfuge to lure Geordi in, but turn out to actually be that stupid, genuinely having no idea how their ship works and being easily dazzled by Geordi (deliberately made-up) Technobabble.
  • Planet of Dunce Caps: The Pakled homeworld.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The Pakleds.
  • Your Mom: As Picard tells it, the way Ensign Picard spoke to the Nausicaans.
  • You No Take Candle: The Pakleds' speech is barely above this level; they use correct but very simple grammar and repeat themselves often.