Star Trek TNG – The Vengeance Factor

Contains spoilers for what is now a show that is 27 years old.

The two shows I consider myself to be huge fans of is MASH and anything Star Trek.  MASH is the first thing my wife and I ever really bonded over way back on our first date.  Both shows have been with me as long as I could remember and as it happens sometimes I could spend a little too much time trying to analyze something or other from the show.

My favorite Podcast is Mission Log.  It is produced by Roddenbery and the hosts are Ken Ray and John Champion.  I have been listening for about 2 years now and I absolutely think you can’t get any better then this.  No offense mean to the Trek.FM guys, because there are pretty great podcasts there as well.

The last episode of Mission Log I listened to was on The Vengeance Factor.  The long and the short of it is that there are these “gatherers”.  They are outcasts from a society that used to be inundated with tribes and tribal wars and rivalry.  At the prompting of Captain Picard, the Sovereign of these people is convinced to try to end the rift between the home planet and the gatherers.  Picard takes her and some servants out to meet the leader of the gatherers.  One of the servants is a pretty young woman and that is enough to Riker.  So it turns out these young woman is not so young and is on a mission to seek out and kill the last of a rival tribe, of which the leader of the gatherers is a part of.  Riker tries to stop her.  He shoots her with a low stun setting.  She doesn’t stop, he ups the setting and shoots, ups it and shoots again, then finally, he vaporizes her.

Now the Mission Log guys say that this is way out of character for Riker, but due to the point of the show the relationship between Riker and the woman, she has to die, and it has to be at Rikers hand.

John didn’t think the episode held up.  Ken did, but acknowledged several huge problems.

This episode has always been one of my favorites.  I never had a problem with the immediate and very fast relationship between Riker and Yuta and I never had a problem with Riker killing her at the end of the episode.

Now, there was a way around the killing.  Riker, instead of beaming down, could have beamed her up.  He could have tackled her, or had O’Brien beam her up after he beamed down.  For the purposes of the story, obviously none of these things could have happened.  Riker chose to beam down to try to talk Yuta into not killing the person she considers an enemy from a long ago rivalry.  Once be beamed down, there could have been only one of two outcomes,  she gives up or she dies.  She was moving very slowly because no one yet knew she was going to kill the guy.  Once Riker showed her cards, he now no longer had time to even call for an emergency beam out since in the time it took to open a channel, she would have lunged at her target.  Same if RIker tried to tackle or if anyone tried to make a move.  He beamed down to try to talk sense into the woman he fell for.  In a Star Trek way, he had to talk sense into her.  it had to be her choice.  She knew the consequence of what she was doing.  Riker tried to help.  She made her choice and he had to do what he had to do since he was seeing that stun was not working on her.

As a command officer, Riker has to make command decisions, and some of those decisions may include taking a life or ordering someone to their death if absolutely necessary.  I do not think this was out of character for Riker in the slightest.  It was a dire situation.  Yes, there might have been options but as Ken and John pointed out, Riker if really just words on a page and Trek is drama, not reality.  I was perfectly okay with Rikers choice as it was a combination of the the idealism of trying to talk sense into her and his command training that led to the situation and the outcome.  Let’s say for a minute that this was a real world scenario.  Riker would have had to face an inquiry or even a court martial in all likelihood given that he did let his emotions interfere with what would have been the right thing to do, but the right thing was not dramatic and this is not reality, so it’s all good.

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