(written from a Production point of view)
While investigating Picard's apparent death, Riker is captured by pirates pillaging Romulan archaeological sites.
Commander Riker, Dr. Crusher, Counselor Troi, and Lieutenant Worf investigate Captain Picard's whereabouts in a musty bar on Dessica II, describing him as a "smooth-headed" Human. They find Yranac, a Yridian criminal sitting at a table in the bar who knows something – after the group promises him safe passage on their starship, he admits to seeing Picard the day before, asking a group of aliens about archaeological artifacts. Crusher's tricorder scans confirm Starfleet fiber traces and Human cellular debris exposed to some kind of high energy field, and faint traces of micro-crystalline damage in the floor material. Yranac continues his story, and explains that a fight broke out and Picard was vaporized by a weapon. Troi empathically confirms that Yranac is telling the truth.
Most of the USS Enterprise-D crew accept Picard's death, and plan on attending a memorial service arranged by Troi. However, Riker refuses to attend the service, and is instead focused on finding out who murdered Captain Picard but is unfair which makes Troi strict. The stricter Troi gets and the more she demands, the angrier and harsher it makes Commander Riker. He harshly agrees with Troi when she knows he's angry and will stay that way until he finds whoever's responsible for the Captain's death. His refusal starts an argument between the two, with Troi angrily telling him that he is not the only one in pain, does not have the monopoly on loss and that all of the crew is hurting and is angry and Riker has to give the eulogy whether he likes it or not and can't indulge his personal desire for revenge on the death of Picard, but refusing to listen to what Troi said, Riker gets angrier, more selfish and kicks her out. This hurts Troi emotionally. As she turns to leave he offers a heartfelt apology realizing that this whole thing is about justice; once that is achieved, then he can mourn the loss.
Vice Admiral Chekote from Starbase 227 offers his condolences to the commander and questions his request to delay a mission to the Argus sector. Riker asks the admiral to investigate Picard's death on the basis that he lacks the confidence with the authorities on Dessica II – one of whom is known to be corrupt. Admiral Chekote agrees with Riker but asks if he is capable of pursuing this matter. Riker answers that the captain's death hit him pretty hard while he may not be objective, he states that he is determined to find those responsible and will not rest until he does. Satisfied, Admiral Chekote grants his request by placing the Enterprise on detached duty and wishes him luck in his investigation.
Riker interrogates Yranac in his assigned quarters. When the Yridian asks for an Enterprise shuttle in exchange for further information, Riker throws him against the wall and threatens to turn him over to the Klingon Empire due to his having twelve outstanding warrants for fraud and petty theft. Yranac tells Riker that those who killed Picard mentioned the Barradas system. Riker sets course for the system.
The crew arrives at the system's only class M planet, Barradas III, which happens to also be home to a two thousand year-old Debrune archaeological site. Despite the planet being unpopulated, sensors detect energy signals from the surface. Riker orders Worf to assign a security detail to the away team that he will lead, and assigns Geordi La Forge as well, leaving Data in command. Before leaving, Data questions Riker why he's leading the away team and reminds him if Picard was here, his place is on the bridge and not leading the away team. Riker finishes his sentence and responds with "not this time…" and leaves Riker – still very much driven by finding justice for their slain captain.
After beaming down, the crew discovers that most of the artifacts have been stolen, and the ground has the same micro-crystalline damage that was found on Dessica II. While Riker, Worf, La Forge, Kellogg, and a few ensigns are exploring, a variety of humanoids ambush the away team, killing one ensign. La Forge tries to hail the Enterprise but the signal is being jammed somewhere on the surface, which is also causing interference preventing the away team from being transported out. After the away team exchange fire on the attackers, Riker suggests to Kellogg that they may be able to setup a crossfire if he were to move to a nearby field of trees. While in position, Riker is knocked down from a blast and the attacking party lay down suppression fire on the away team making them unable to retaliate and beaming off planet with a captured Commander Riker.
La Forge briefs Data on the attack just as a mercenary ship appears on sensors readying to attack the Enterprise. Data raises shields and calls for red alert as the mercenary ship opens fire, doing no damage to their shields. The Enterprise pursues the mercenary ship but the ship fades out of their sensors, and escapes. Data then orders the helmsman to return to the planet.
In a briefing, Data informs the senior staff that Starfleet Intelligence has confirmed that the mercenary ship have been involved in many raids in this sector. The advantage they have is they are virtually undetectable by their long range sensors.
Riker is taken aboard the mercenary ship, which is commanded by Arctus Baran. Riker finds that a neural servo has been implanted within his body which allows Baran to inflict severe pain on him. Everyone on the ship has similar devices implanted in their necks, which is how Baran controls his crew. As the crew argues over the ramifications of having a Starfleet officer onboard, a "smooth-headed" crew member demands that Riker be killed immediately. As he turns, Riker sees that it is Picard.
Riker discovers that Picard is posing as a smuggler named Galen. Picard tells the crew that he is familiar with Riker – he is a Starfleet officer with a history of insubordination who was once even relieved of duty due to a "Cardassian incident at Minos Korva." Riker plays along, acting the part that Picard is describing. Picard then secretly manufactures an intermix chamber malfunction, giving Riker a chance to fix the malfunction and prove himself to Baran.
At Barradas III, La Forge thinks the micro-crystalline patterns found could be left over from a high-energy transporter beam. Data connects the artifacts' value to the Romulans, since the Debrune are related to them, the leader of the attack party was Romulan, and the ruins on the planet Picard was killed also related. They identify Calder II as the likely next target, which also has a small Federation science outpost.
Later, Picard visits Riker in his quarters and reveals that he went to study an archaeological site on Dessica II, only to find that it had been ransacked. Tracing those responsible to a bar, Picard confronted them, but was captured and taken prisoner. Picard explains that the criminals have configured some of their weapons so that if they shot someone or something, it activates the transporter and beams them away – which is why the people in the bar thought he'd been vaporized when shot. Picard reveals that they are looking for specific ancient artifacts of Romulan origin, and that Baran is having Picard search through the relics they've stolen for these specific artifacts.
Picard asks Riker to help him infiltrate the crew of the mercenary ship. As Picard and Baran had never gotten along very well, Picard asks Riker to befriend Baran to help learn more about his plans. Picard also asks Riker to play into the role of a less than perfect, insubordinate Starfleet officer who is ready to betray the Federation. When Baran suddenly enters the quarters, Picard backhands Riker and he falls to the floor. Picard tells Baran that he was interrogating Riker for information that he couldn't get from him. Baran forcefully insists to "Galen" that he is to be informed when any interrogations are being conducted on his ship by activating the neural servo on Picard's neck. After recovering from the shock, Picard leaves and kicks Riker on his way out.
The mercenaries travel to Calder II in order to obtain more artifacts from a Sakethan burial mound, despite the fact that the planet is also home to a Federation science station. Picard convinces Baran to use Riker to gain access to the planet in order to avoid a battle. However, Riker is unable to convince the outpost's Lt. Sanders to drop their deflector shield without proper authorization from the Federation Science Council. Before Baran can order the outpost destroyed, Picard configures the disruptors to fire a phase-resonant pulse at the precise frequency to disable the outpost's shields with one shot. With the shields down, the mercenaries begin beaming the artifacts from the planet, getting all but two before the outpost re-raises their shields. Just as Baran orders the outpost destroyed, their ship is hit by phaser fire from the just-arrived Enterprise.
Baran threatens to kill Riker unless he orders the Enterprise to retreat. Riker hails the ship and orders Acting Captain Data to disengage. Then, Riker attempts to use his access codes to bring down the Enterprise's shields, knowing that his codes would have been changed upon his capture. Data understands the ruse, and drops the shields, despite Worf's objections. As soon as the shields drop, Picard opens fire, and a disrupter blast strikes the Enterprise's starboard warp nacelle, seemingly crippling it.
"My friend tells me you know something about the man we're looking for."
"The only reason I'm talking to you is that I have a sister too."
(Riker looks questioningly at Worf)
"I explained to him that we are looking for a man who impregnated your sister."
"So you can imagine how much this means to me."
- - Riker, Yranac, and Worf
"I think you've had a little too much to drink. You better leave. On your way, Yranac."
(Crusher pulls a phaser on the bartender)
"I'm sorry, but I think he wants to stay. Sit down.'"
"That's my sister. She's angry. She's got a vicious temper. I wouldn't cross her."
- - The alien bartender, Crusher, and Riker
"You'll like this. The man got what was coming to him. When they knocked him down, one of them took out a weapon and fired. He was vaporized!"
"He's telling the truth."
- - Yranac, talking about Picard's "fate" while Troi confirms his story
"How are you doing?"
"The crew's pretty shaken up. I'm arranging a memorial. I think you should be the one to deliver the eulogy."
"I think you'd be better at something like that. Or Beverly. She knew him the longest."
"I know it's not going to be easy, but I think it's important that we face up to what's happened. You're in command now. The crew's looking to you for guidance."
"You don't understand. I can't give the eulogy because I won't be at the service!"
"Will a memorial service gives everyone a sense of completion. Helps them begin the healing process."
"That's exactly the point, I don't want to heal!"
"Will..." "I have an open wound. Right here, it hurts like hell. I don't want it to get better, and I don't want to pretend that everything's alright."
"I know you're angry..."
"YOU'RE DAMNED RIGHT! And I intend to stay angry until I find whoever's responsible for the captain's death."
"Well that's pretty selfish of you. Do you think you're the only one in pain?! Do you think you have the monopoly on loss?! Well let me tell you something: we're all hurting! And we're all angry, and whether you like it or not, you have a responsibility to this crew! And you can't just indulge your personal desire for revenge!"
"That is enough, counselor!"
- - Riker and Troi, arguing about the captain
"Deanna, I'm sorry. This is not about revenge. This is about justice. The captain died in a bar fight for nothing. Somebody has to answer for that. Then, I can mourn."
- - Riker apologizing to Troi
"I read your report, commander. My condolences to you and to your crew. Captain Picard's death is a loss to the entire Federation."
- - Chekote, to Riker
"If Captain Picard were here..."
"I realize that, sir. But if he were and he wanted to lead an away team, you would tell him that the captain's place..."
"...is on the bridge. Not this time."
- - Data, questioning Riker's decision to accompany the away team to Barradas III
"Oh, don't bother, commander, you can't remove it. It's a neural servo connected directly to your nervous system. This setting is usually sufficient. However, if necessary, it can go much higher...
(Riker screams in pain)
"These devices were the idea of my predecessor. It's a convenient way of enforcing discipline."
"What happened to him?"
"He failed to enforce it with me."
- - Baran and Riker
- Final draft script: 26 July 1993 
- Premiere airdate: 11 October 1993
- First UK airdate: 31 January 1996
Story and script
- "Gambit" grew out of a spec script submitted by Christopher Hatton back in the sixth season. The story broke one of Gene Roddenberry's long-standing Star Trek taboos – specifically, that there would be no such thing as space pirates. Although initially skeptical, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor later returned to Hatton's story as it provided an opportunity for a "less talky romp". Rick Berman, aware of the taboo but willing to consider the proposal, tied a red bandana around the bust of Gene Roddenberry on his desk while discussing the story. He explained, "I just blindfolded it as a joke one day. Whenever they come up with a story I don't think Gene would like I blindfold him when we discuss the story…I take it on and off, depending on who's in here." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Hatton's original script followed Picard's point of view and did not involve Riker. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) Hatton would provide the story to another episode this season, "Thine Own Self".
- Naren Shankar observed, "We say we'll never do the 'rodeo' show and "A Fistful of Datas" comes along." Shankar was unsure whether the story would work expanded into two parts. "To me, it's one of the classic television problems: if you start off the show by saying the captain's dead, no one's buying it…and you're just marking time until the captain's revealed." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Shankar's original idea for the Vulcan Isolationist Movement involved them planning to literally phase Vulcan out of the universe to avoid cultural contamination from other species. "Everyone was afraid it was going to be like a Space: 1999 episode. The notion was to dimensionally shift the planet so you couldn't get to them. In that sense, it would be pure isolation. I still think that's a cool idea. Nobody else does, however." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Brannon Braga was one of the story's opponents. "When the story was purchased, I was not attracted to the campy, swashbuckling elements and was afraid it would just look very corny. I don't think we do campiness very well – especially in the way we tried to do it with 'Gambit.' It came off like Buck Rogers: The Series and why do that? Is that good? We try many different mediums. I was curious as to why we were involving ourselves in a medium that is not usually a respected one." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Picard may have chosen the name "Galen" in honor of his mentor, Professor Galen, who appeared in TNG: "The Chase".
- The alien race of the Debrune is mentioned as an "ancient offshoot of the Romulans." However, the Romulans are an ancient offshoot of the Vulcans.
- The bridge of Arctus Baran's ship is a massive redress of the USS Enterprise-D's battle bridge, with the most notable elements remaining from the original set being the viewscreen and the ceiling. Also, the chairs on the command center were taken from the bridge of the USS Enterprise-A from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
- The mercenary vessel's bridge is later redressed as the bridge of the USS Pasteur in "All Good Things...". One of the central consoles was a stock set element that also appeared in "All Good Things…" when the Romulan Commander Tomalak leans over it to address Picard through the viewscreen.
- This episode contains the longest phaser fight shown on screen, with over seventy shots. According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, all explosions were done in post-production due to a fire season ban on live explosives on location at Griffith Park's Cedar Grove. Likewise, all damage stains on rocks were done digitally.
- The large "vest" worn by the alien bartender on Dessica II was later reused as Maquis fatigues worn by Ayala in the Star Trek: Voyager episodes "Caretaker" and "Repression".
- On casting Richard Lynch as Arctus Baran, Jeri Taylor commented, "Richard was simply the best person who read for the part. Peter Lauritson who directed the first episode, knew his work, liked him, and really wanted him. It's always a problem to find worthy adversaries for Picard. You need an actor who has the power, stature, and presence to go toe to toe with him and if you don't have that, you don't have an episode. Richard brought all of this and for his campiness and the sort of stereotypical things he has done, he has that undeniable power and I thought it was a good trade." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Robin Curtis (Tallera) previously played Lieutenant Saavik in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
- Sabrina LeBeauf (Ensign Giusti) is best known for her role as Sondra Huxtable in The Cosby Show. Her character was named for a friend of Naren Shankar. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Bruce Gray previously played Chekote in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Circle", which aired only six days before this one (it originally aired on 3 October 1993).
- Caitlin Brown previously played Ty Kajada in DS9: "The Passenger".
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 78, April 1994
- In feature-length form, as part of the UK VHS release Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Full Length TV Movies: Volume 9, catalog number VHR 4109, 8 May 1995
- As part of the US video collection Star Trek - The Greatest Battles: 3 April 1997
- As part of the UK video collection Star Trek - Greatest Battles: 16 November 1998
- As part of the TNG Season 7 DVD collection
- In feature-length form, as part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete TV Movies collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Richard Lynch as Arctus Baran
- Robin Curtis as Tallera
- Caitlin Brown as Vekor
- Cameron Thor as Narik
- Alan Altshuld as Yranac
- Bruce Gray as Chekote
- Lena Banks as an operations division ensign
- Eugenie Bondurant as a female marauder
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Goldie Ann Gareza as a command division officer
- Kerry Hoyt as an operations division ensign
- Michael Moorehead as a science division ensign
- Keith Rayve as a command division ensign
- Lincoln Simonds as an operations division officer
- M. Smith as a Human marauder
- Unknown performers as
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Carl David Burks – stand-in for Brent Spiner and Richard Lynch
- Michael Echols – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis and Robin Curtis
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden and Caitlin Brown
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
4th century; accelerate; alien; analysis; antimatter flow regulator; Argus sector; away team; bar; bar: Barradas III; Barradas system; Baran's mercenary vessel; Betazoid; businesswoman; Calder II; Calder system; cell structure; cellular debris; class M; combadge; command code; compositional analysis; computer; court martial; day; death; Debrune; Dessica II; Dessican authorities; disruptor array; DNA; Draken IV; Draken system; energy sheath; eulogy; fraud; Federation; Federation Archaeological Survey; Federation Science Council; fraud; Galen; gold-pressed latinum (latinum); height; Hood, USS; intermix chamber; Klingon; Klingon Empire; knife; lateral sensor array; "long shot"; lot number; maximum warp; memorial service; mercenary; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; Minos Korva; money; month; murder; mutiny; Nafir; neural servo; outpost; particle signature; petty theft; phase-resonant pulse; phaser bank; photon torpedo; planet; plasma coupling; plasma flow converter; power converter; power shunt; pregnancy; psionic resonator; quarters; red alert; rehabilitation colony; remodulation sequence; Romulan; ruin; Sakethan; Sakethan burial mound; Sakethan glyph stone; scientific expedition; search team; Sector 2158; security personnel; sensor; shield generator; shuttlecraft; smuggler; smuggling; spectral analysis; Starbase 227; Starfleet; Starfleet Intelligence; Starfleet Operations; shield generator; Stone of Gol; thief; transporter lock; transporter room; type 4 deflector shield; Vulcan; warrant; Yadalla Prime; Yadalla Prime system; Yarnac's sister; Yridia I; Yridian; Zoraster II
- "Gambit" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Gambit" at Wikipedia
- "Gambit, Part I" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Gambit" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"Gambit, Part II"