Star Trek 227: Cost of Living

227. Cost of Living

FORMULA: Hollow Pursuits + New Ground + Manhunt + strippers

WHY WE LIKE IT: Genuinely funny, yet sad.

WHY WE DON'T: Lwaxana's choice of children's entertainment. The boring nitrium plot.

REVIEW: Wow, I severely misjudged this one in my memory. It's way better than an Alexander-Lwaxana team-up has any right to be. The B-plot about nitrium parasites remains a little dull, even though it almost destroys the ship and starts off with an exciting opening sequence chasing an asteroid. After that, we've seen it before and will see it again. A [tech] problem with a [tech] solution and low budget [tech] goo. Sometimes, the creators should just trust their character-driven stories.

I thought we were in trouble when I sat through Troi's family therapy with the Klingons (parent-child contracts? gawd!), but her reaction to her mother coming on board drew a smile. A glimmer of hope? Well, I must say I completely turned my opinion around and had forgotten much of the humor in Cost of Living. From Picard's willingness to give Mrs. Troi away to Worf's eye-rolling at being called Mr. Woof. Both Trois get their licks in, and though comedy is basically drawn from both Deanna and Worf's annoyance, it works! Man, I laughed out loud when Worf busted the wind dancer's bubble (as did Deanna).

Lwaxana's internet romance is also rather amusing, especially the stuffy minister's protocol master, Jerko (I mean Erko). And yet, there's a loneliness coloring Lwaxana's actions. Majel Barrett's most effective performance to date, and one has to wonder if the loss of her husband, Gene Roddenberry, is informing her performance. Makes it even more heart-breaking when you think about it that way. In any case, it gives new depths to a character that's been a little bit shallow and caricatured in the past and explains why she would take up with the equally lonely Alexander. In the end, she gets married on her own terms, and it's a great, endearing scene.

The holodeck stuff is a problematic element, coming off as an odd, surreal 24-century Teletubbies. It's got some charm, and also some hints that Alexander might be interested in diplomacy. Lwaxana has a speech that sounds like a children's version of the IDIC philosophy. However, one has to wonder at her choice of activities for young Alexander. She's clearly naked with him in a mud bath (and later, so are Worf and Troi) and an "exotic dancer" wearing not much more than body paint writhes before them. I guess it sets up the wedding scene where Alexander grins at Lwaxana's nakedness. I'm no prude, but it does seem strange for the show to be presenting this as proper entertainment for a child. On the one hand, it tells us that norms in the future will have "evolved". On the other, this is the same universe where Riker is skittish about discussing sex with another adult.

LESSON: Eating my vegetables isn't nearly as important as my "laughing hour".

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The B-plot is on automatic, but there's lots to amuse in the family drama. The humor is balanced with effective pathos which helps redeem some usually annoying characters.


rob! said...

yet another brilliant frame capture!


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