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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S1 E4 "The Last Outpost"

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Original air date: October 19, 1987

An unknown force immobilizes the Enterprise during the Federation's first encounter with a new alien threat — the Ferengi.

This episode contains the following tropes:

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Ferengi accuse the human race of barbaric crimes such as withholding valuable resources and technology from lesser civilizations, conquering and allowing other civilizations to fall, and most treacherously of all, forcing their women to wear clothes.
  • Artistic License – History: Data describes the color pattern of Germany's flag as "red-black-gold," rather than black-red-gold.
  • Brick Joke: During a meeting, Data gets caught by a Chinese finger trap. At the end of the episode, Riker gives the Ferengi a box of finger traps as a parting gift.
  • Crystal Landscape: The surface of Delphi Ardu IV is dotted with large clusters of quartz-like crystals, used as energy collectors by the ancient Tkon outpost.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Tasha, pulling off her Big Damn Heroes moment, actually weaponizes it — the large-eared Ferengi are debilitated by the thunder, and she chooses that moment to reveal herself.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The only appearance of the Ferengi energy whip until Star Trek: Enterprise. Also, one of the VERY few times that the writers attempted to make the Ferengi a legitimate threat, before they were retooled into the comedic relief race of businessmen they became later. Another oddity is that the Ferengi in this episode are shown to be rather physically strong, able to even hold their own against Worf, whereas they'd later be retconned into being rather physically weak with little incentive to even try to fight. note 
    • A minor example is how Data and Geordi exchange side comments while Picard is trying to talk to the Ferengi captain and he overhears them, very unlike the crew's usual discipline.
    • Picard rambles on so much in his attempt to surrender to the Ferengi that they think he's demanding their surrender instead. Quite odd for a character best remembered for his speeches.
    • Picard has never heard of the Tkon Empire, which is unusual given his interest in archeology and history.
    • Data's still using contractions.
    • Crusher calls Picard "Jean" and not "Jean-Luc."
    • The senior staff enters the observation lounge and Riker shoos out a couple of children from the room who'd been looking at the wall of prior Enterprises (seeming to imply that the lounge is not on deck one like later established, given that "children are not permitted on the bridge"), and Data uses a holo-projector built into the table to show the details of the Tkon Empire, rather than the wall monitors.
    • Just the way Geordi gets excited in this scene.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Picard says that Wesley has the right to do this during a life-support failure, rather than being given a sedative.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: Picard lets out a "merde" (French for "shit") when the Enterprise fails to break out of the force field.
  • Harmless Villain: Two guesses. When even Riker can't stop smirking at the Ferengi bouncing around like apes, how was the audience ever supposed to take them seriously? It is, however, worth noting that Ferengi continued to be used as villains on The Next Generation throughout its seven-year run, albeit of the 'scheming and plotting' low-tier kind of villainy more than the apparent military force seen here. Nevertheless, they were often shown to be a danger to the ship and crew when encountered. Only from Deep Space Nine on were the race rejigged as something closer to how the public see them now.
  • Heinousness Retcon: The Ferengi are effectively caricatures of the worst parts of humanity (to contrast with how advanced and enlightened the crew of Enterprise is) and presented as manic, vicious and greedy warriors, who are openly hostile and hell-bent on attacking the crew and then looting the corpses. Following it being realised they were nowhere near intimidating enough to work in this role, later episodes switched to presenting them as, whilst still potentially dangerous and obsessed with greed, an overall cowardly race who only attacked when they clearly had the upper hand, and whose tactics leaned towards deception, subterfuge, and illegal activities.
  • Humans Are Ugly: "The ugliness of the hu-man was not an exaggeration."
  • Hypocritical Humor: Picard's explanation of Data's "red white and blue" reference as a relic of primitive nationalism ends with a declaration that the French arrangement of the same colors was superior.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The Ferengi became this in the eyes of the audience in their first episode.
  • Precursors: The Tkon, one of many races in Star Trek to fit the bill.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Ferengis' hand-to-hand technique is comically bad (consisting largely of leaping onto their opponent and trying to bite them), but they're surprisingly effective and manage to get the better of Riker and Worf. The Ferengi Leader even manages to judo-flip Data in the middle of being Neck Lifted by him.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
    • The Tkon empire, an interstellar state with a population in the trillions, was destroyed by a single supernova.
    • On top of that, the Tkon could supposedly move entire planets and stars, yet they didn't notice their home system's star was about to explode.
    • The Q Continuum trilogy novels give a possible explanation: there was a series of disasters and upheavals affecting the empire at once (all of which were done by a band of ultra-powerful beings not of the Q Continuum), reducing the previously powerful empire to one star system (albeit with multiple populated planets). Furthermore, the Tkon actually had a plan in the works to teleport their old, dying sun away before it went nova and immediately replace it with a younger star. However, the ringleader of the powerful beings was a Sore Loser about the Tkon managing to persevere despite the setbacks he'd caused, and invoked Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by triggering the supernova right before the process could completed.
    • On the other hand, Subverted when the Enterprise loses life support without everyone immediately suffocating/freezing. Unlike in some other depictions in sci-fi (including this very franchise), it actually takes several hours for the heat and oxygen to fall to dangerous levels.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: The Tkon portal slept through the eradication of the Tkon Empire, and from the sound of it had been snoozing for quite a long time before that, since Data says they went through two "ages" after the one he remembers before things ended.
  • Squick: In universe, the Ferengi consider Tasha being clothed and a warrior to be this. Tasha is then squicked out by them when they act lecherous.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The Tkon Empire were a civilization so advanced that they could move stars.
  • White Void Room: Apparently Ferengi bridges, judging by the empty white background of the Ferengi captain's transmission. Either a blatant cost-cutting measure or the Ferengi deliberately blanking it out to keep it secret? You decide! Data notes that the image is distorted in some way and Troi believes they are being deceptive. The implication seems to be that the Ferengi sent a very tight closeup so that his head would be enormous on the screen, belying that they are much smaller than humans.