Memory Alpha Entry
This episode... This freaking episode. It's not that it's an offensive or insulting episode, it's just horribly lazy, uninteresting and completely wrong in it's attempts to be scientific and philosophical. The sets are bland, the situations aren't involving and the mystery feels completely shoe horned in. Heck, I think Riker has the perfect summary of this episode.
Riker: such a badly written book, filled with endless cliché and shallow characters.
Sometimes science fiction stories don't always provide the answers to it's own questions and that's not really a bad thing. Some find that the lack of answers can benefit a story by drawing your own conclusions that don't make you feel ripped off. Many Star Trek episodes that use this method of story telling can work out very well. This week's episode "The Royale", doesn't answer any of it's questions and we're left with the opposite effect. You're not left thinking about how awesome these aliens are, you're left scratching your head on how the aliens responsible for our heroes' predicament could be so stupid.
Our episode opens with the Enterprise arriving at a planet where a Klingon ship reported seeing space debris in the atmosphere (awfully nice of them). It's here that we get the first sign of this episode's incompetence.
LAFORGE: Nasty. Nitrogen, methane, liquid neon. Surface temperature -291ºC. Winds up to three hundred and twelve meters per second.
For those who aren't familiar with the term "Absolute Zero", it is the temperature at which nothing could possibly get colder because all heat would be gone. If the same principles were applied to measure the speed of a vehicle, it would be at a complete stop. This planet's temperature is -17.85ºC colder than absolute zero, which is -273.15ºC. Basically, even though your vehicle has come to a complete stop, you can still go slower speed wise.
And 312 meters per second wind speed is really fast as well. To give you an idea on how fast that is, you would essentially cross more than three whole football fields in a single second. It's a mere 28 m/s slower than the speed of sound and about 199 m/s faster than the fastest wind speed ever recorded on Earth. So not only is this place colder than absolute zero with winds that can destroy whole cities, an advanced race of aliens thought that this world would be the perfect place to house a human being with whom they have no idea what their culture or way of living is like.
And you've got to wonder why an alien race who can understand the written english language wouldn't want to wake this person up and attempt to communicate with him. After all, they're able to interpret and recreate an entire world based on a poorly written book that probably didn't describe the amount of detail that we see in their simulation. At least Kirk left Khan on a world that could support life and in time, develop a whole new civilization.
As for this episode's worse screw up? I'll save that for the Stinger.
As I've mentioned earlier, this episode shares many similarities to the original series episode "A Piece of the Action" but without any of the cleverness or sense of fun. The scene with the crew trying to own the Casino is alright, but it's just a means to end the episode in the most blandest way possible. They don't even quarantine or destroy the structure so that no one, especially aliens would find themselves trapped there like our heroes were! And to add the final insult to this episode, Picard has this to say about how we may never solve this mystery.
Andrew Wiles on Solving Fermat
PICARD: Like Fermat's theorem, it's a puzzle we may never solve.
Yeah. Humanity will develop technology that will enable us to travel hundreds of times faster than the speed of light and transporter technology that literally sends us from one place to another without moving, and yet we won't be able to figure out Fermat's theorem.... which we already have in real life.
While this episode is certainly watchable, the hilarious absence of any scientific knowledge by the writers, the lack of common sense amongst the characters (Again, the ironic Riker line about the book) and lazily written "It's all a mystery!" conclusion does not help sell TNG as a smart and clever science fiction series even on the standards of the original series. Still, at least this episode has music by Ron Jones.