(written from a Production point of view)
In pursuit of Ferengi marauders, the Enterprise and its quarry become trapped by a mysterious planet that is draining both ships' energies.
The USS Enterprise-D is in pursuit of a Ferengi vessel suspected of stealing a Federation-owned T-9 energy converter from Gamma Tauri IV. The mission is also a long-awaited opportunity to encounter the Ferengi, who have never established visual contact with the Federation. The pursuit ends when the Ferengi ship gets close to a planet in the Delphi Ardu system and goes to sub-warp speed, possibly suffering a power surge and damage to their engines. After a while, it opens fire on the Enterprise, causing her minimal damage. Captain Picard chooses not to return fire, arguing that the Ferengi are just reacting to the Enterprise's pursuit. Soon after, however, the Enterprise also suffers a power system failure, becoming immobilized with phasers and shields off-line.
The crew members believe their ship is trapped by the Ferengi. In the attempt to understand more of their adversaries, Data summarizes what is known about them: they are traders, and value profit above all, not unlike Yankee traders of 18th and 19th century North America. In engineering, Riker and La Forge envisage a way to escape the trap, by jumping abruptly to maximum warp and taking advantage of the relatively slower reaction of the force field. To catch the Ferengi off guard, Picard hails them, asking for the restitution of the stolen equipment, but receives no answer. The Enterprise then attempts the warp jump, but the plan is not successful. Furthermore, the computer data banks are being accessed by some unknown external source. Counselor Troi points out that all the attention has been devoted to the Ferengi, neglecting the possible role of the planet.
A conference is held in the observation lounge among the senior officers, and, after discarding the hypothesis of fighting, they decide to try contacting the Ferengi again. After everyone leaves, Picard asks Riker to stay in the conference lounge for a moment. Picard notes that his first officer had not offered up an assessment. Riker believes that the senior staff had covered all available alternatives, unless Picard has another option he would like analyzed. Picard tells Riker that there is one left that needs no conversation and one they must avoid. Returning to the bridge, Picard hails the Ferengi, reluctantly asking to present their terms.
After a moment, the Ferengi DaiMon Tarr replies. Much to the astonishment of the Enterprise bridge crew, he says that he is ready to discuss surrender, but not unconditional surrender: he will return the energy converter and offer the lives of the second officers. It is now clear that both ships are trapped, and that the Ferengi are not the actual source of the energy field.
The Enterprise senior officers convene again in the observation lounge. There, Data explains what is known about the mysterious planet, but not before becoming stuck with a Chinese finger puzzle left in the room by a couple of children, Matthew and Pola. Thanks to the help of Picard, Data gets his fingers released and explains that the planet might be one of the most distant outposts of the Tkon Empire, an ancient and powerful space federation that existed over six hundred thousand years in the past and was now extinct due to their star going supernova. During the meeting, a probe launched from the Enterprise transmits its information, revealing that indeed both ships are trapped in a force field emanating from the planet's surface. Picard thinks that they should investigate with an away team sent to the surface and perhaps team up with the Ferengi. As Picard, Riker, Data, and La Forge leave the lounge, La Forge tosses the finger trap to Data, who catches it.
Picard again contacts the Ferengi, who have also discovered the true nature of the trap. After some confrontation with DaiMon Tarr over his deception, Picard suggests exchanging information in order to solve the common problem, which is endangering both ships. They each decide to send a joint away team of Starfleet officers and Ferengi down to the surface. Despite the apparent risks, including a loss of communication and no way to beam back on board the Enterprise, Riker, La Forge, Data, Worf, and Yar beam to the planet.
On the surface, the Enterprise members are initially separated and try to rejoin. The planet surface is full of crystalline tree shapes and the sky is beset by thunder and lightning. Worf, Riker, Data, and La Forge are attacked by the Ferengi away team armed with energy whips, rendering them unconscious.
On the Enterprise, the situation is getting critical, as life support is failing. All energy is diverted to the family decks to extend their survival. It is getting colder and very dark. Picard and Beverly Crusher discuss whether she should give a sedative to her son, Wesley, or if he should keep awake waiting for death. Picard thinks Wesley has the right to greet death while awake, which Crusher considers to be a simple male perspective.
The Ferengi on the planet have the Enterprise away team's weapons, and examine Riker's combadge, wondering whether it is gold, while the crew gradually recover their senses, and they begin to argue. With an acute sense of hearing, the Ferengi are disturbed by the planetary thunderclaps. Taking advantage, Worf attacks, and the resulting fight is resolved when Yar intervenes with a phaser. The Ferengi show their surprise for the way Humans work together with their females and keep them clothed.
Suddenly, a mysterious figure materializes and is very loud, sending the acutely hearing Ferengi trio into agony.
The newly-arrived entity declares himself as Portal 63, a guardian of the Tkon Empire, and asks the away teams whether they want to enter the Empire. The aged guardian is then told by Riker and Data that the Tkon Empire does not exist any longer, and that several ages have passed. Portal 63 has been asleep for a very long time: hundreds of thousands of Earth years. The Ferengi try to strike a friendship with the Portal, asking for control of their ship, and promising to destroy the Enterprise and its crew. They describe the Humans as savages and barbarians, and misrepresent Humanity by noting their non-interference with other civilizations as proof of being against legal trade. Also, their allowance of females to wear clothing as proof of their "insanity". The Enterprise team, however, accepts the Portal's trial, ready to prove their innocence.
Riker is challenged first. Riker is surprised that the Portal knows his name (Portal 63 can read Riker's mind). The Portal guardian attacks him with his sharp, bladed spear and is impressed by the composure with which Riker faces his fate after the blade lands perilously close to his right ear. Riker replies that "Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy." The Portal is pleased by Riker's thoughts, unlike those of the deceptive Ferengi. The Portal says to Riker that he wants to know more about Sun Tzu and Earth History, as it is similar to that of the Tkon. Then at Riker's request, he immediately releases the Enterprise, restoring its power just in time to let the crew recover from what looks like their slumber, but is their point of death.
The Portal explains to Riker that he would usually destroy both ships since they were fighting, but then he saw that they were curiously trying to cooperate. The Portal asks Riker if he wants him to destroy the Ferengi, but Riker asks him to release them, since they are similar to ancient Humans: they have much to learn, but they can grow. Portal 63 asks "What if they never learn, Riker?" Riker says his values, and that of the Federation, require them to face the possibility of the Ferengi learning how to destroy them. When Riker asks what the Portal will do now that his Empire is gone, Portal 63 says he will sleep until needed again and then disappears in a flash of lightning.
On board the Enterprise, the energy converter has been regained. Picard congratulates the away team for the success of the mission. Riker, with a devilish grin, then asks him permission to beam aboard the Ferengi ship Data's box of the Chinese finger traps as a "thank you for all they tried to do". After Picard commands "Make it so", the two ships leave orbit but not before La Forge has his fingers caught in a finger trap, at which Data enters the course on the helm for him.
"We offer the lives of our second officers as required by the Ferengi code."
"Fortunately Starfleet has no such rules involving its second officers."
- - DaiMon Tarr, to Picard and Data
"What's our acceleration delay between slow reverse impulse and top warp-speed?"
"Well, it's point three hundred milliseconds, but… Oh, I see where you're going, we shift down then kick hard into warp nine! Yeah, come back fighting, WOO-WEE!"
- - Riker and Geordi La Forge
"It appears the Ferengi have us right where they want us; in their sights."
- - Picard
- - Geordi La Forge, when the Enterprise crew gets their first glimpse of a Ferengi vessel
"Yes, the ugliness of the Human was not an exaggeration!"
- - DaiMon Tarr
"Your alien images again shock us!"
- - DaiMon Tarr, to Picard
"Immobilized by the damn Ferengi?"
- - Worf
"If he moves, kill him!"
- - Letek
"It looks like gold. It tastes like gold!"
"It is gold."
- - Letek and Riker, as Letek examines Riker's combadge
"The universe exists to me to create life. I shall sleep, until needed again. "
- - Portal 63
- - Worf, on the Ferengi landing party
"They admit the evil that they DO!"
- - Letek referring to Starfleet and the Federation
"You work with your females, arm them and force them to wear clothing."
- - Letek
- - Picard
"Data, what are you doing?"
"Apologies, Captain. I seem to have reached an odd functional impasse. I am … stuck."
"Then get un-stuck and continue with the briefing!"
"Yes, sir. That is what I am trying to do, sir, but the solution eludes me."
"My hero." (laughing)
- - Data, Picard, and La Forge, when Data gets his fingers stuck in a children's toy
"Are you conscious?"
"Do I look conscious?"
- - Riker and La Forge, after La Forge is beamed to the planet upside-down and with his foot stuck in a tree
"Permission to beam over a box of Data's Chinese finger puzzles over to the Ferengi. A thank you, for all they tried to do."
"Make it so."
- - Riker and Picard
- Original story outline: 1 May 1987 (Creating the Next Generation)
- Two-page memo of story notes from David Gerrold: 7 May 1987
- Revised final draft script: 7 August 1987
- Filmed: 14 August 1987 – 25 August 1987
- Premiere airdate: 19 October 1987
- UK premiere airdate: 31 October 1990
Story and script
- The original concept for this episode's plot named the planet Gamma Tauri IV "Gamma XII". The Enterprise-D followed the first Ferengi ship and had to face a Ferengi warship while in orbit of a planet. When the ships lost their energy, away teams beamed to the surface and had to face creatures which were described as a mixture of Earth dogs and Ferengi Uvex. Beverly Crusher was part of the away team and it was planned to let the Ferengi have green blood. Portal 63 was originally named "Dilo", a groundskeeper of the planet. At the end of the story, the planet became a library planet for the Humans and the Ferengi. (Creating the Next Generation, pp. 79-81)
- After Co-Producer Herbert J. Wright submitted his final draft script for this outing, it was the subject of significant last-minute changes. "The script disc was turned over to the show's typist to format and print out a copy, which would then go to the print shop for formal copying," explained Associate Producer D.C. Fontana. "On our way out of the building, at about six P.M., Herb, his assistant, and I stopped in the script typist's office to say good night. We all saw that there were handwritten changes being made to Herb's script before anyone else had seen it. And before it went to the print shop. From long experience of working with [Creator and Executive Producer] Gene [Roddenberry], I knew it was not his writing. Herb's assistant recognized it as Leonard Maizlish's. The typist confirmed Maizlish was sitting in [Production Associate] Susan Sackett's office, making these line changes. Herb immediately went in and confronted Maizlish. [Co-Producer] Bob Lewin was leaving via that office and was witness to Herb's questioning of why Maizlish, a lawyer, not a writer, was making changes. Maizlish said he was just putting in some word changes that [Supervising Producers] [Robert] Justman and [Rick] Berman wanted and Roddenberry had also had some last-minute thoughts. Herb's counter to that was: how could anyone want word changes or have last-minute thoughts when no one except him had seen the script yet? And, in any event, such changes could have been conveyed to him and he would have made them. Herb immediately took his complaint to Rick Berman and thought he had effectively stopped this kind of script tampering by someone not a writer." However, this episode's teleplay was not the last script that Maizlish meddled with, as he also tampered with the script for later first season outing "Too Short a Season". (The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, pp. 74-75)
- In Herb Wright and Richard Krzemien's final draft script, the stardates were originally given as 41194.6 and 41194.8. 
- This is the first of two TNG episodes in which Picard is heard to utter the French curse, "merde". That language's equivalent of "shit" (and widely known for this meaning, even by English speakers), this marked the first time in the Star Trek franchise that a curse word of this type had been uttered on screen, years before Star Trek Generations marked the franchise debut of the English word.
- According to Armin Shimerman, the actors playing the Ferengi were directed to "jump up and down like crazed gerbils." (Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, pp. 61-62)
- Kerrie Cullen served as stunt coordinator for this episode. She was among the group of hired coordinators prior to Dennis Madalone's employment with the series. Cullen is so far the only female stunt coordinator who worked on Star Trek, beside Leslie Hoffman, who served as assistant stunt coordinator on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
Cast and characters
- Armin Shimerman made his second Star Trek appearance in this episode, after portraying the Betazoid gift box in "Haven" (although audiences could first see him here, as "Haven" aired later). He went on to play another Ferengi, Bractor, in "Peak Performance", before being given the role as Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Quark also appeared in TNG: "Firstborn" and VOY: "Caretaker". Shimerman has often said that one of the reasons he took the role of Quark was to try and undo the damage done to the Ferengi in this episode. (DS9 Season 6 DVD: Crew Dossier: Quark)
- Mike Gomez and Tracey Walter went on to play different Ferengi, Lurin and Berik, respectively, in "Rascals".
- Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode, although Wesley is discussed briefly by Picard and Dr. Crusher.
- Star Trek's most "used" stuntman, Tom Morga, made his first TNG appearance in this episode, doubling Michael Dorn in the role of Worf.
- Darryl Henriques also made his first Star Trek appearance here. He later played Romulan ambassador Nanclus in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Sets and props
- The master systems display table, nicknamed the "pool table" by the production staff, appears for the first time in this episode, though it still looks very much like its previous appearance in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and not like it appeared throughout the rest of the series.
- This is also the first time that two of the four corridors leading to main engineering have been blocked by consoles, so only the main corridors close to the MSD remain. This was the norm until Star Trek Generations, when the wall consoles were removed, and main engineering once more is reachable by four corridors.
- In this episode and "The Child", the integrated blinds of the windows are seen, here in the Observation Lounge.
- The logo of the Tkon Empire, seen during the observation lounge briefing, later reappears in the shape of the halberd that Portal 63 wields. The weapon later makes several more appearances, including in "Too Short a Season" and "Sins of the Father".
- The Ferengi Marauder's shape was inspired by a horseshoe crab on the desk of writer Herb Wright. The model itself was designed by Andrew Probert (who added the forward "earwig" pincers) and built by Greg Jein. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 38))
- The hand-held energy whips used by the Ferengi in this episode did not appear again until DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs", in which Quark is seen holding an action figure equipped with a whip. "Actual" laser whips did not reappear until ENT: "Acquisition", coincidentally the last live-action Ferengi episode of Star Trek to be made, albeit the first one (chronologically) to feature Ferengi.
- This episode marks the first appearance of the Ferengi.
- Although he is unaware of having done so at this time, Captain Picard had already encountered a Ferengi starship in 2355, while commanding the USS Stargazer, as is revealed in "The Battle" and elaborated on in "Bloodlines".
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 38) notes that the act of Riker beaming the Chinese finger traps on board the Ferengi ship is reminiscent of Montgomery Scott beaming tribbles onto the Klingon battle cruiser IKS Gr'oth in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles". Scott, however, did not ask his captain's permission.
- The D'Kora-class Ferengi starship had the capability to "stretch" its neck section, but that only happens in this episode and, perhaps coincidentally, when ship-to-ship visual communications are engaged.
- "Contagion" featured a similar story line: in each episode, both the Enterprise and a hostile vessel are disabled by an ancient and mysterious device and accuse each other of doing so.
- This is one of the few times that Data uses a contraction: "Captain, this shouldn't be," when speaking to Picard, as well as "I'm afraid not," when later speaking to Portal 63.
- The phrase "The Last Outpost" is parodied, somewhat, in the dialogue of the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Dogs of War", when Quark proclaims that his bar will be "the last outpost of what made Ferenginar great!" Coincidentally, that episode suggests Ferengi society, at the time of the episode's events, is evolving to become a more benevolent one, just as Riker suggests they might in this episode.
- The introduction of the Ferengi has been heavily derided and several production staff members have called it "a disaster." (Quark's Story, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) On the other hand, Robert Justman thought this episode's portrayal of the Ferengi was the best depiction of the species. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 21)
- Aron Eisenberg was provided with a tape of "The Last Outpost" when he was auditioning for the role of Nog in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. ("In For a Penny, In For a Pound", Star Trek: The Official Fan Club of the UK Magazine issue 8)
- A mission report of this installment, by Eddie Berganza, was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 3, pp. 12-16.
- The episode received its UK premiere on BBC2 on 31 October 1990, airing out of order.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3, catalog number VHR 2273, 2 July 1990
- US LaserDisc (Pioneer): catalog number LV40270-107, 4 April 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 1.2, catalog number VHR 4643, 4 May 1998
- As part of the TNG Season 1 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 1 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Marti Avila as Female security officer
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Darrell Burris as operations division officer
- Jeffrey Deacon as command division officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Unknown performers as
- Richard Hancock as stunt double for Jake Dengel
- Tom Morga as stunt double for Michael Dorn
- Gary Morgan as stunt double for Tracey Walter
- Pat Romano (stunt double for either Shimerman or Spiner)
- Unknown stunt performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Susan Duchow – stand-in for Denise Crosby
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
600,000 years ago; 18th century; 19th century; ability; acceleration delay; accumulator; advice; accusation; act of war; Ages of Tkon; alien; allusion; alternative; amusement; analogy; annihilation; answer; apology; area; argument; Art of War, The; assassin; assumption; "at ease"; "at first sight"; attention; automatic scanner; away team; barbarian; Bastu; battery; battle; biped; black; blue; "bottom line"; box; "breaks my heart" (heart); bridge; briefing; British; business opportunity; buyer; capitalist; chance; chart; Chinese; Chinese finger puzzle; choice; Cimi; civilization; class M; clothing; clue; color; commerce; communicator; comparison; compliments; computer; conclusion; conference evaluation; conversation; cooperation; coordinates; country; course; crime; criminal; crystalline tree; culture; custom; DaiMon; damage report; death; deception (deceit); defense system; deflector shield deflector shield power; degree; Delphi Ardu IV; Delphi Ardu system; design; D'Kora-class; Earth; Earth history; electromagnetic pulse; Emergency Manual Override station; emotion; enemy; empire; energy; energy collector; energy device; energy whip; engine; evil; exaggeration; exploration; eye; fact; family deck; fate; fear; federation; Ferengi; Ferengi Alliance; Ferengi Code; file; fingernail; foot; forebear; force; force field; France; French; frequency; friendship; fusion generator; galactic motionary startime chart; Gamma Tauri IV; German nation; gesture; gold (color); gold (element); green; guardian; hailing frequency; hearsay; "hello"; hour; Human; imagination; impulse engine; impulse power; information; interest; Italian; judgment; kilometer; knowledge; landing party; language form; Latin; legend; library computer; lifeform; life support; life support system; long range scan; madness; main engine; Makto; malfunction; maneuver; matter-energy device; "matter of record"; memory banks; mercy; merde; message; metal; millisecond; Milky Way Galaxy; mind; minute; mission; monitor post; monster; month; murder; mutual problem; name; "nothing to write home about"; number one; observation lounge; ocean; offer; opinion; opportunity; orbit; order; outpost; painting; patience; pattern; paw; percent; performance; petition; perversion; phaser; philosopher; photon torpedo; place; planet (world); population; power; power accumulator; power drain; power surge; power system; primary color; principle; probe; profit; proof; property; pygmy; quality; quarters; question; red; red alert; relationship; report; reserve power; right; rumor; salvo; savage; scholar; science team; screen; search; science team; second; second officer; sedative; sensor; sensor probe; shorty; shuttle; signal; slang; slow-reverse impulse; solution; sound; staff; "stand by"; star; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; status; stranger; strategic retreat; strategy; subwarp speed; Sun Tzu; supernova; surface; surrender; T-9 energy converter; tactic; target; Tarr's Marauder; tattoo; technology; territory; theft; thief; thing; thirdhand report; thought; thousand; Tkon Empire; Tkon Empire sun; top warp speed (high warp speed); trade (aka exchange or swap); trader; transporter device; transporter room; treachery; tricorder; trillion; type I phaser; type II phaser; ugliness; "Uncle Sam"; unconditional surrender; United Federation of Planets; United States of America (America); universe; unnamed plants; value; viewscreen; VISOR; visual range; Vulcan; warp capacity; weapons report; "what the hell": white; wisdom; wish; word; Xora; Yankee trader; year
Library computer references: 61 Cygni; Alpha Centauri; Barnard's Star; Bayard's Planet; concussion ring; Constitution-class; Diana; Epsilon Eridani; Epsilon Indi; Excelsior-class; extra galactic probe; Galileo; great bird of the galaxy; Greyhound, USS; Groombridge 34; Klingonese; K't'inga-class; Lalande 21185; light year; Luyten 789-6; Martian insect; Muleskinner, USS; Phi Puma; Procyon; Proxima Centauri; Ross 154; Ross 248; sector; Sirius; Sol; supernova; Tau Ceti; Type 7 shuttlecraft; Wanderer-class; Wolf 359
- "The Last Outpost" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Last Outpost" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Last Outpost" at Wikipedia
- "The Last Outpost" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
"Code of Honor"
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"Where No One Has Gone Before"