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Lunch » Tags » Tv Shows » Reviews » Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 38: The Royale » User review

An imaginative twist on "stranded on a desert island"

  • Jan 1, 2005
Rating:
+5
This is one of the most imaginative episodes of the series. One of the common questions used to judge books and the people who read them is to ask, "If you were stranded on a desert island, what books would you want to take with you?" A modification of this question replaces "books" with "people." In this episode, the question becomes, "If you had to live the rest of your life living out a novel, what book would you choose?"
The Enterprise is informed that there is some debris orbiting a very inhospitable planet. The temperature is less than minus 200 degrees Celsius; the atmosphere is poisonous, and there are tornado velocity winds. A piece of debris is found that appears to have markings, so it is beamed aboard the Enterprise. The markings are that of an Earth vessel launched centuries earlier.
An amazing structure is located on the planet. There is a small section with a breathable atmosphere and what appears to be a building. Riker, Worf and Data beam down to the planet and enter through some old style revolving doors. This is where the fun begins. They find themselves in the Hotel Royale, where the gambling is hot and the characters talk and act in cliches. Data analyzes the people and reports that they are not living, machines or projections. Since they have lost contact with the Enterprise, they decide to leave the hotel, but discover they cannot.
Data detects human DNA on another floor and they find the remains of a human. He was the commander of an early mission to leave the solar system and explore deep space. Somehow, his ship encountered aliens who inadvertently damaged the ship, killing everyone on board but him. Out of guilt, they create the safe zone for him and use their only available data; a really bad novel called "Hotel Royale." To understand how bad it is, the opening passage is, "It was a dark and stormy night."
Contact is reestablished with the Enterprise and after studying the novel, they discover a way out of the hotel. Data goes to the craps table and plays to break the bank. This is where Brent Spiner shows his acting talents. He switches back and forth between being a cliché-ridden high roller and an android. It is very funny. He of course wins; the away team buys the hotel and spreads the remainder of the money around. This is how the novel ends, so they are able to leave the hotel and beam back to the Enterprise.
There is also one other aspect of the episode that warms my mathematical heart. Before the debris is discovered, Captain Picard is examining Fermat's Last Theorem (FLT), which was a famous unsolved problem. He states it correctly and uses it as an example of how some simple puzzles prove difficult to solve. Picard also explains the background of the problem, who Fermat was and how he stated that he had a truly wonderful proof. The closing scene has him back examining the theorem again, still trying to solve it. This of course could not happen, as Andrew Wiles solved FLT in the early 1990's.
After watching this episode, I sat down and thought for some time about what novel I would want to live in if I were forced to do so. It is an interesting choice, as one could go for sexual, intellectual or sensory stimulation. I was hard pressed to think of a novel that would provide all three.

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About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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This jaunty B-movie funhouse of an episode could have sprung fromThe Twilight Zone. That's essentially where Commander Riker, Data, and Worf find themselves while investigating an oxygen pocket on a lifeless planet. A revolving door in the middle of nowhere whooshes the away team into a bustling Las Vegas hotel casino, where the activity seems to contradict sensor readings. There's no life here, merely an elaborate holodeck fantasy sprung from the pages of a trashy paperback crime melodrama. ThinkHarold Robbinsby way ofJean-Paul Sartre: there's no way out of this hackneyed soap opera and theEnterprisetransporters can't beam them out, so it's up to Riker and company to create their own dramatic exit. The rather elaborate explanation for it all concerns an ancient NASA astronaut and the misguided benevolence of a naive alien race, but it hardly matters. The fun lies in Data's studies of gamblers, gold diggers, and the intricacies of room service, and Riker's energetic fling as a flamboyant high roller. As Counselor Troi listens in on the hoary dialogue emanating from the gambling hall, she queries: "Did humans really talk like that?" Only in the B movies and TV soaps this episode parodies with such eye-rolling fun.--Sean Axmaker
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Studio: Paramount

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