In "The Battle," a Ferengi captain lures Picard to the site of a long-ago battle just so he can exact revenge on Picard for killing his son in a skirmish years earlier by means of a complicated mindfuck-heavy plot device that nearly drives Picard crazy. Seriously, this just seems so over the top that the Ferengi went from being mildly annoying to vaudeville level villains in the space of just one episode (if the head villain had busted out an old school wax mustache, I would not have been surprised.) I was rather amused that one of the sub-plots of this episode is between Riker and the Number 1 of the Ferengi ship, and it involves Riker suspecting something is up, the Ferengi Number 1 suspecting that something is up, and ultimately mutiny on the Ferengi ship. This part was probably the most satisfying element of the plot line, and I liked that we saw Riker being calculating and sneaky, and taking charge on his own, rather than just following orders.
The rest of this episode, though, is a bit frustrating because the way that the plot is structured, there's very little for the other characters to do until the Ferengi's complicated scheme reaches its peak. Data figures out a way to defeat the Picard maneuver (this turns out to be comparatively easy); Wesley solves the whole thing because he's been in Engineering and "playing around with the long-range sensors", as you do (he also snarks at his mom and Troi, who are too wrapped up in the drama to notice, or something); and Troi has very little to do except say lines like, "I wish I could say [what's wrong with the Captain]" and "I don't know." She and Yar were wearing TONS of eyeliner and for some reason, it was really prominent in this episode.
The best moment of the episode is at the end, when Picard comes back from the other ship and says how nice it is to be home on the Enterprise. Aw, Picard, you marshmallow! The other funny moment of the episode is the Ferengi Number 1 informing Riker, "There is no profit in revenge." If that's not a good moral of our story, I don't know what is!
FEE-MAYL count: Mercifully, only twice. The Ferengi are mainly concerned with the main plot and therefore don't have time for casual misogyny.
Morals are also a big part of the next episode, "Hide and Q," but they're... well, for lack of a better turn phrase, they're more annoyingly conveyed. At the beginning of the story, the Enterprise is racing to help out at a mining colony where there's been a mine collapse and fire. Then Q shows up and proceeds to mess with everyone, as is his wont. (A side note here: I love John deLancie, and I think Q is a pretty compelling character, but in this episode, he acts solely as an annoyance/hinderance to everyone, and I couldn't help thinking that deLancie didn't have to stretch when he did recent voice acting for Discord on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I did love his Shakespearean quote duel with Picard, though, and filming that must have been pretty damned amazing to observe.) Q drags most of the bridge officers down to a deserted planet so that they can fight pig-like monsters dressed as Napoleonic soldiers, and then he grants Riker Q-level powers for plot-related reasons. Predictably, this has terrible consequences.
The central conflict in this episode is Renaissance Humanist Picard versus Humans-Aren't-That-Great Q (choicest quote: "Your species is always suffering and dying.") I think the viewer's enjoyment of this story largely depends on how they respond to the previous sentence. Picard takes the long view that humans aren't done evolving, and to show him up, or mess with him further (it's not clear which), Q decides to give Riker Q-level powers. This gets demonstrated in a pretty shocking way: the pig-soldiers kill Wesley and Worf, but Riker resurrects them and rescues them from the planet. It's a surprisingly violent sequence and it feels out of character for the show, which has had action/death before, but not gore, especially not the on-screen death of a child character. (Contrast this shot with a shot later in the episode of a little girl's body that the crew retrieves from the disaster-afflicted planet, and it feels so out of place.) Speaking of out of character, Riker turns smug with power pretty damn fast. I wrote down:
OH NO HE DIDN'T!
* Riker dissed Picard! BURN!
* Riker disses EVERYONE!
* Riker disses everyone by being SMUG! UGH.
Riker says he wants to give everyone gifts using his Q-level powers, and Picard, sensing oncoming crazy, agrees. Riker ages Wesley 10 years (which looks about as odd as you think it would), gives Geordi sight, and provides a Klingon woman for Worf to ... I dunno, sex up right on the Bridge or something?! AUGH. Fortunately, before it can become too awful (and it is on the way to awful), Wesley, Geordi, and Worf reject Riker's "gifts" (let me just say it again: AUGH), Riker sees the error of his smug and rejects Q-level powers, and then the Q continuum turns on Q for reasons that were only half clear. And hopefully that's the last of Q for a while. He's like the Ghost Pepper of characters: use him sparingly, if at all, because he overpowers everything else so quickly.
Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Dr. Crusher says she rarely encounters headaches and the common cold is eradicated. Wishful thinking there.
* The Enterprise's bed technology is YEARS AHEAD of ours! (Seriously, not even a fancy mattress or something? Picard's bed looked like he was at a particularly joyless Motel 6.)
Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Well, any story involving Q usually necessitates future tech so that Q can show off his powers by messing with it. Both of these episodes need to take place in the future to work, and nothing feels out of place this time around.
Unintentionally Funniest Line:
Geordi: "Worf! Is this your idea of sex?!" (And, thus, a thousand terrible fanfics were spawned.)
The writers' 'ship=Geordi/Yar. This comes out of nowhere! And then is never mentioned again for the rest of the episode!