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Star Trek: The Next Generation: Haven

by Wil Wheaton, posted May 8th 2007 12:18PM
st:tng the havenTitle: Haven
Original Air Date: November 30, 1987
Teleplay By: Tracy Torme
Story By: Tracy Torme and Lan Okun
Directed by: Richard Compton
Episode: S01E011
Stardate: 41294.5

Synopsis: The Enterprise is in orbit around a planet known as Haven, a planet so beautiful, Picard tells us, legends say it has mystical healing powers. Data intelligently points out that the legend is entirely unsupported by fact, so Picard gives him a copy of Loose Change and The Secret to straighten him out on the whole "Facts vs. Bullshit" thing.

Yar calls Riker out of his quarters, where he's been watching two holographic young women play the harps together. (Uh, yeah. I have an easier time suspending my disbelief for faster-than-light travel and kids on the bridge than accepting that a dude, alone in his quarters, pulls up two pretty young holographic women to play harps together.) Riker arrives in the transporter room and wants to know what was so goddamn important that Yar had to call him away from his harp watching thing. It turns out that there's an object from Haven waiting to be beamed aboard the ship. Riker, vision of harp playing nymphs dancing in his head, tells her to beam the stupid object over, already.

Transporter Chief Buffalo Bill puts the lotion in the basket, and beams over . . . a mysterious box. What's in the box? Should they trade the red snapper for what could be inside? Red snapper is very tasty, but there could be anything inside! There could even be a boat in there!

Before we get to open the box and find out what it contains, a face on the front of the box (played by Armin Shimmerman, in a cool non-Ferengi role) announces that it has a message for Troi: Lwaxana Troi and the Miller family are pretty excited for a big event of some sort. Ah! It's a Betazoid Gift box, of course, and it's there to announce the joyous joining of Wyatt Miller and . . . someone. The box then takes a big jewel shit all over the transporter. While Tasha rubs the box's nose in it so it can think about what it's done, Troi tells Riker that the box didn't contain a boat after all. They should have kept the red snapper, because that someone getting married is her. Gulp.

Oh boy. Is it going to be one of those episodes?

Cut to the Ready Room, where Troi tearfully explains to Riker and Picard that arranged marriages are an old Betazoid tradition, and it's her turn. Picard wants to know if she and her new hubby will be staying with the ship, and Troi tearfully tells him she won't. Picard congratulates her,and gets the hell out of there before he has to listen to Riker let everyone know that he's not going to be the most sympathetic character in the world this week. While she tearfully watches him leave, Data tells her that the Miller wedding party is about to beam aboard.

Troi tearfully goes to the transporter room, and meets her future in-laws: Gordon Jump and Lovey Howell. Gordon Jump is really excited about the big nifty starship, and Lovey is really excited about her nifty hat. Troi's future husband, Wyatt, who she hasn't seen since they were stem cells, gives her a chameleon rose, a cool bit of botany that changes color to fit the mood of its holder. The rose is clearly broken, though, as it changes to white instead of tearful.

Shortly after the Millers leave, Troi's mother Lwaxana arrives, accompanied by Lurch. Depending on your point of view, Lwaxana is either brassy and outspoken, or just plain obnoxious (personally, I find her delightfully entertaining and a much-needed breath of life in these early episodes, but I know that my opinions are colored very much by my affection for Majel Roddenberry, who I just adore in real life.)

For the next few pages, Lwaxana treats Picard like a bellhop in a hotel, embarrasses and frustrates Troi, and never once stops talking, vocally and telepathically. We're only eleven episodes into TNG at this point, but I think this could be the first "walk and talk" scene since that crusty old admiral in Farpoint that doesn't feel drawn out and lifeless. What started out as a routine "shotgun wedding" storyline now shows a lot of promise, if only because there's clearly going to be fireworks between Troi and her mother, and maybe even Picard.

Back on the bridge, Haven's leader contacts the Enterprise. There's a mystery ship on its way to Haven, and as the planet has no defense abilities (and has somehow managed to never be invaded by Kang and Kodos or the harp-playing holograph twins) they expect the Enterprise to protect them if the mystery ship makes trouble. If you're playing Star Trek bingo, fill in the "foreshadowing" square now.

Down in the guest quarters, Troi and her future husband finally get to meet each other. It's a beautiful little scene that's very well written and performed, I think. Rather than having Troi and Wyatt spout exposition at each other, screenwriter Tracy Torme trades TNG's practice thusfar of having characters talk at each other for real meaningful dialogue and organic character development. He reveals their discomfort with each other in a touching scene that makes these two adults appear like teenagers, which is how they'd probably feel if this were happening in real life. We learn that Troi has very strong feelings for Riker, and that Wyatt is a doctor who really wants to help people. Wyatt has been seeing a woman's face in his mind since he was a little kid, and he was surprised to learn that it wasn't Troi, who he figured was using her Betazoid abilities to project herself into his thoughts. Also, he's been drawing pictures of her that look suspiciously like charcoal and pastel impressions of theatrical headshots circa 1987, but that's not nearly as creepy and weird as it sounds; it's actually sort of charming. Troi is sorry that she isn't his dream girl, and he's sorry that she's sorry. In fact, we're all sorry, and a little tearful. Of course, this is the first season of TNG, so we have to lay some saccharine 1960s strings underneath the second half of the scene to make sure everyone knows it's supposed to be an emotional moment, which is a shame, because the actors did a fine job on their own.

Back on the bridge, Picard gets his first glimpse of the mystery ship: it's Tarellian, which is a little weird since the entire Tarellian civilization has been presumed dead for quite some time. Picard and the senior staff retire to the observation lounge, to talk about it. There, to balance out the wonderful scene we just had, they give us some of that trademark TNG exposition. It turns out that everyone there -- except Picard, who is a Starfleet captain -- has heard the story of the Tarellians, and knows it in great detail.

Data, Dr. Crusher, and Tasha tell a story so filled with sci-fi cliches, the ensuing drinking game would put Ted Kennedy into a coma: Tarella was an Earthlike planet (drink!) with technology equivalent to late 20 century Earth (drink!) The Tarellians were very similar to humans (drink!) and ended up in a big old nasty war, just like World War II (drink!) One faction developed a biological weapon (drink!) and unleashed it on the other half, eventually infecting them all (drink!) in a planet-wide plague (drink!) that infected the survivors so virulently, even when they fled the planet, they infected and killed the entire populations of the other planets they attempted to settle (drink!). A few of the more noble infected survivors tried to stay away from inhabited planets, but they were hunted down and killed, anyway (drink, and tip that 40 for the fallen Tarellian homies, yo.)

Picard decides that now will be the moment he remembers that he already knows this entire story, and tells the audience -- er, I mean, Geordi, that the last Tarellian ship was believed destroyed by the Alcyones eight years ago. The ship will arrive shortly, though, which poses a unique problem for the Enterprise: their treaty with Havens says they have to protect the planet, but their Starfleet duty says they have to help people in need, even the Tarellians. While they figure out what to do about that little problem, everyone heads down to a party to celebrate the pre-joining of Troi and Wyatt Miller . . . well, everyone except Riker, who totally storms out of the room when Picard announces the party; he's, like, totally so emo, and none of those conformists understands him. Gah!

At the party, we learn that Lwaxana wants a traditional Betazoid wedding, while Lovey and Gordon Jump want an Earth-style ceremony (you know, because on Earth there's only one culture and we all do weddings the same way --- drink!) Things get a little heated, before Picard invokes a little-used Starfleet rule that prohibits disagreements at parties, also known as the "Paramount says this scene needs to be three pages shorter or we have to cut it entirely" directive.

Queue Ted Knight: "Later, at the dinner portion of the party, Riker has mysteriously arrive to sulk while Mr. Homn gets tanked and insulted by Data, who thinks his copious drinking indicates human lineage."

Over dinner, Wyatt reveals that he, too, is a student of the Tarellian war and biological disaster, which is a remarkable coincidence, isn't it? ("Perhaps not! Could there be more to this mystery? Wendy, Marvin and Wonder Dog head into the forest to investigate!" Okay, Ted Knight. Go back into the box.) Dr. Crusher is happy to have another medical colleague on board and is happy to give him all the access to sickbay he wants, in the event that he can treat any survivors on the ship. Now that the plot development is taken care of, we get to spend the rest of the scene enjoying (or tolerating, depending on your point of view) Lwaxana's antics. To begin, Mr. Homn hits a gong each time she takes a bite of her food, which is the traditional Betazoid way of giving thanks for a meal. Then, because someone thought it would be smart to sit her right next to Lovey (who clearly doesn't like her,) she instructs her pet -- which looks remarkably like a fake vine -- to wrap itself around Lovey's arm. Lovey screams, Gilligan knocks their only hope of rescue into the lagoon, and Skipper hits him with his hat. Finally, Lwaxana reveals that the traditional Betazoid wedding includes all the guests getting their naked on, a proposition the father of the groom finds rather enticing, because he is, like, to totally into her butt. This is too much for Troi, who blows up and storms out of the room, Degrassi style, and into the holodeck, where she meets a sulking Riker.

We don't need the goddamn strings on the soundtrack to tell us what's coming: get your hankies and barf bags ready, everyone. For the next two pages, Riker is a petulant jerk, as Troi tries her best to spare his feelings and explain that she's bound by tradition to marry Wyatt. They never really connect in this scene, an awkwardness made even more pointed by the arrival of Wyatt, who, as played by Rob Knepper, is immensely likable and has very real chemistry with Marina Sirtis' Troi. Riker sulks away to, uh, watch his holographic ladies play each other's harps, leaving the two nearlyweds alone. When it's just Wyatt and Troi in the scene, they decide that they're going to go through with the wedding, and celebrate with some PG makin' out. Wakka Chikka.

Back on the bridge, Picard takes a call from Haven. The Tarellian ship, or Plague Ship, as it's called if you remember a fun little card game from the 80s called Plague and Pestilence, is dangerously close to the planet, and Haven's leader, Valeda Innis, wants the Enterprise to blow the ship to something resembling smithereens, or at least put it behind the wall of sleep, so that it's only a memory.

Picard, true to form, wants to talk to the presumed survivors instead, so he grabs the ship with a tractor beam. The main viewer flickers into life, revealing that -- HOLY SHIT IT'S THE WOMAN WYATT'S BEEN SEEING IN HIS DREAMS!

The Enterprise hails them, and we see just how far we've come since 1969 when a dude, identifying himself as Wrenn, pushes her out of the way so he can address Picard. You know, man to man.

"Hey, nice uniform," Wrenn says, "do they sell men's clothes where you got that?"

Then he dances in an abandoned warehouse for a few minutes, because he's totally holding out for a hero.

It quickly turns out that there's some sort of psychic link between Wyatt and Ariana, the mystery woman (who is totally hot in a 1987 Van Halen music video model sort of way) and Wrenn is her father. Picard tells them the legend is bullshit, so they're not going to be cured of anything, and should probably just aim for the nearest star and die already. Wrenn tells him to chillax; they just want to settle down on some unpopulated area of Haven, where they can die in peace and luxury. Yeah, we'll run that past the leaders on Haven, dude.

Meanwhile, Wyatt meets up with Lwaxana, who tells him exactly why he and Ariana found each other's thoughts across the great expanse of the universe (see below) also, she wants to know what head dress would look best on her naked. Yeah, let that image roll around in your head for a minute. I'll wait.

Wyatt then heads over to sickbay, where, in a sweater that's totally stolen from the Wesley Crusher Collection (exclusively at Sears this Fall!) he gathers up some medical supplies. After a quick stop to tell his parents to take good care of each other and steal a kiss from a tearful Troi, he goes to the transporter room and slips Transporter Chief Buffalo Bill a mickey before beaming over to the Tarellian ship himself.

Once he gets there, none of them are surprised to see him, and Ariana's been doing drawings of him for her whole life, as well. Does that mean they get to skip right to the third date?

Lovey and Gordon Jump come to the bridge, to talk with their son on the viewscreen. Wyatt tells his family that he came to Haven to fulfill his destiny, which he thought was marrying Troi, but was actually banging the hot model, and . . . . oh yeah, trying to cure the plague.

Everyone tearfully wishes him well, and the Tarellian ship leaves Haven, on a course for the Never Shows Up Again On Star Trek quadrant.

In the final scene, Lwaxana prepares to beam off the Enterprise, but not before she insinuates that Picard sent some particularly lewd thoughts her way. Ah, that Lwaxana Troi . . . she sure does know how to get Picard's goat.

Quotable Dialogue:

It's something they all know instinctively, yet go to great effort to reject or build complicated superstitions about. All life, Wyatt, all consciousness, is indissolubly bound together. Indeed, it's all part of the same thing.

Yes! I have wondered if something like that . . .

. . . that weren't so. And no doubt, so has Ariana, which helped the two of you to make contact.

Obligatory Technobabble: "Thank you for the drinks." -- Mr Homn. (Okay, okay, it's not that technobabblish, but it's probably my favorite line in the entire first season, so it goes here.)

Behind the Scenes Memory: (Note: I'm not in this episode, so I don't have any memories specific to this one, but some general thoughts did come up while I was watching it. Here they are.) I was never aware of the budgetary limitations we had back in the first season, but there's an undeniable example in this show: the bit with the chameleon rose is a cute bit of writing, and I imagine that if we had a bigger budget (or visual effects were as cheap and plentiful in 1987 as they are today) the rose would have changed into all sorts of different colors over the next several scenes. In fact, I'd be very surprised if it wasn't written that way originally, because the rapid changing of the rose's color while Lwaxana embarrasses, and frustrates Troi for several pages could be a very funny and clever visual gag. However, as it turns out, it just stays white the whole time, and is a glaring continuity error that's very distracting; it's pretty hard to ignore the bright white rose in the middle of the frame, especially against Troi's dark colored uniform. I think we all take visual effects for granted in this era of Heroes, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, and 24, but even though TNG had a million dollar per show budget back then (a very big deal at the time,) the technology to animate something that's as apparently simple as changing the color on a rose wasn't within our grasp.

The Bottom Line: There's still some lame exposition, and whoever directed Riker to be such a petulant whinebag needs to go sit in the corner for a year or so, but overall it's a good episode that introduces future fan favorite Lwaxana Troi in a story that balances humor, message, and mystery. For all the good in this episode, a lot of credit needs to go to the writer, Tracy Torme.

There were a few above the line people everyone in the cast really liked, including Rob Bowman (who had already directed 'Where No One Has Gone Before' and 'The Battle',) and Tracy Torme (who is Mel Torme's son, which puts me one degree of Mel Torme in the popular drinking game.) When you work in television, you quickly get used to directors who don't interact with the actors at all as they focus on getting the show done on time so they'll be asked back for future episodes. You also get used to writers who don't seem to have unique voices for each character, or a willingness to listen to input from the actors who play those characters. Tracy Torme was one of my favorite writers for TNG (right up there with Ron Moore) because he wrote human stories with real dialogue and real character interaction. He didn't just hit a bunch of beats and push a story along from point to point; he used his words deliberately, letting the characters tell a story that evolved over 42 minutes. As I mentioned in the synopsis, this could have been an absolutely dreadful "shotgun wedding" episode that was as predictable as it was tedious, but Tracy's script, aided by very good guest star casting and great acting from everyone involved, made it one of the better episodes in season one.

Final Grade: B

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Thanks for not stopping, I love these reviews!

July 09 2007 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you haven't done so, you ought to approach the TNG folks and have them add your commentary to each episode on the DVD. It would give them a chance to re-release the DVD's and would make watching them more rewarding for the viewers.

Maybe some of the other actors would like to throw in their commentary as well (unless they're doing the "I'm not Spock" thing).

Keep it up, I love these reviews.

June 17 2007 at 12:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm finding Wil's comments amusing and interesting, but at the rate former Ensign Crusher is knocking these out, will any Trek fans still be alive by the time he's finished?

June 12 2007 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was thinking about the problem with the rose, and they could have easily had it change color during the cutaways. Then again (mind you, I haven't seen the episode for a while, so this is only a guess), they might have shot all of Ms. Sirtis' dialogue with one camera pointed at her face, and didn't bother to change the rose between takes, let alone consider actually stopping the camera long enough to achieve the same goal.

Would've been a low-budget solution, but one that didn't occur to the continuity people, or just wasn't that important to them (or option 3, whatever that may be). All the same, it totally would have been a great touch.


June 06 2007 at 5:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

PS-I clearly remember watching these early eps....I wasn't one of the ones who disliked your character but I think the problem people had with it was the way people wrote for your character. One thing about that first season was the cast was too big.....there were too many shots with too many people in them. It's much easier and simpler to write for 4 or 5 characters than the 9 that the fist season always tried to include.

May 30 2007 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mrs. Troi a fan favorite? Really? Really? I hated every episode she was in. Her telepathy made her near omniscient yet she only carted this out to embarras people. Other than that, I am enjoying the reviews..... Please write more.

May 30 2007 at 11:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just wanted to say that Wil's TNG reviews are awesome to read and I've rec'd them to all my friends who might care. I look forward to many more in the future!

May 29 2007 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love the reviews and look forward to the next one. Hope it is sometime soon!

May 24 2007 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is awesome, Wil. Thank you! I grew up watching STTNG and this is just a fabulous mix of nostalgia, respect, and humor. I will definitely be coming back for more. :)

Also, I just want to throw out a second to Spencer's suggestion above to join forces with Mike Nelson.
A collision of MST3K and STTNG would be a thing of beauty and hilarity.

May 23 2007 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi Wil, I found these essays a couple of weeks ago, and they are the best Trek summaries I've ever read-- and I've been a Trek fan since 1966. Regarding Wesley, I never blamed you for how schmucky the poor kid was at times. It was glaringly obvious the first season writers had no idea how to create believable dialogue for younger actors. It's too bad you didn't have the clout to throw the script down and say "This scene is crap!" You did a great job and should be proud of how you managed to develop him.

May 22 2007 at 5:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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