“The Last Outpost” is the fifth episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally aired within the United States on 19 October 1987.
The episode was written by Herbert Wright, based on a story by Richard Krzemien, and directed by Richard Colla. The guest cast included Armin Shimerman, Jake Dengel and Tracey Walter.
Although this was Shimerman’s first appearance as a Ferengi, he had previously filmed his first appearance in an uncredited role in “Haven“, but that was broadcast after “The Last Outpost”. He would later gain the role of the Ferengi Quark in the main cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the Enterprise pursue a Ferengi starship to the planet Gamma Tauri IV, where both ships are disabled by an unknown power drain. Away teams from each vessel beam down to the planet where they find an automated system left behind by the Tkon Empire.
This episode marked the first on-screen appearance of the Ferengi, who had been mentioned earlier in the series. They were intended to replace the antagonist roles that Klingons and Romulans played in Star Trek: The Original Series in the new series, but this idea was dropped after their first couple of appearances. Their look was created by Andrew Probert with modifications by Michael Westmore. The tattoo design was created by Mike Okuda, while Probert was also responsible for the design of their starship. The Ferengi were criticised by reviewers following broadcast, and later reviewers had a mostly negative opinion of the episode.
The Enterprise is in pursuit of a Ferengi vessel which has stolen an energy converter from an unmanned Federation outpost. While the Ferengi were known to the Federation, this is the first contact with the species, and the Ferengi are thought to be at a similar technology level as themselves. As the chase passes the planet Delphi Ardu IV, both ships suffer power drains causing them to come to a halt. Each crew initially believe the power drain is caused by the other vessel, but Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) realises that the Ferengi are as confused as they are, and orders the crew to investigate the planet. Operations Officer Lt. Cdr. Data (Brent Spiner) reports that the planet seems to have once been a remote outpost of the “Tkon Empire” that became extinct 600,000 years ago (during the Middle Pleistocene). Picard contacts the Ferengi and gets them to agree to mutually explore the planet below to try to find the source of the energy drain.
On the planet, the away team is momentarily separated due to effects of the energy field on the transporters. They regroup but are attacked and bound by the Ferengi, who believe the Enterprise crew was planning an ambush of their own. The away team break free, and begin to exchange weapon fire, but the energy expelled is absorbed by a nearby crystalline structure. Data investigates the tree and awakens an entity that displays itself as a humanoid and calls itself Portal 63 (Darryl Henriques) “a guardian of the Tkon Empire.” Portal 63 asks the two groups if they seek to enter the Tkon Empire, and does not comprehend when it is told that the Tkon have long since disappeared.
The Ferengi accuse the Enterprise away team of being a hostile force; Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) admits that they are hostile to the Ferengi, inadvertently confirming humanity to be indeed hostile in the eyes of Portal 63, who steps forward, apparently ready to attack Riker, and claims his species is barbaric. Riker responds, “Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy,” while not flinching as the attack comes. Portal 63 accepts this and stands down from the challenge, satisfied that the Federation is civilised, and allows the Enterprise to go free. It further offers Riker the opportunity to destroy the Ferengi vessel, but he declines on the grounds that the Ferengi would learn nothing from such an action. Both away teams return to their ships with power restored, and the Ferengi return the stolen energy converter. As a means of ironic thanks, Riker suggests sending the Ferengi a box of Chinese finger traps, a toy that fascinated Data when he became stuck in one earlier in the mission.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Richard A. Colia.
- Writer(s): Richard Krzemien.
- Release Date: 19 October 1987.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.