(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise hosts negotiations for possession of the only known stable wormhole.
Counselor Troi enters her quarters after what appears to be an exhausting day. She begins to read some mail from her mother, ignoring a research inquiry originating in Canada from the Manitoba Journal of Interplanetary Psychology and plans on having a chocolate sundae from her replicator when she is called by Captain Picard to attend a reception in Ten Forward for delegates negotiating for the rights to the Barzan wormhole, which is about to appear visibly. After attempting to beg off, she reluctantly heads to Ten Forward, muttering sarcastically to herself about not wanting to miss seeing a wormhole.
Once arriving, Picard introduces her to Premier Bhavani of Barzan II and two of the negotiators: Seth Mendoza of the Federation and Leyor of the Caldonians. Then the third negotiator, Devinoni Ral, a Human representing the Chrysalians, introduces himself. Troi seems immediately drawn to Ral, who has an attractive female companion on his arm. Those gathered then turn their attention out the forward windows, where the Barzan wormhole – the only stable wormhole known to exist – makes itself visible, as it does every 233 minutes. Troi then turns to Ral, who is looking at her with interest.
Since the Barzans don't have the means to administer the wormhole's use, they are offering that right to interested spacefaring races and groups. Just as the negotiations start in the conference room, Commander Riker informs them that a Ferengi delegation wants to be included. Bhavani admits that she was not expecting the Ferengi, but does not wish to incur any ill will. Picard has Chief O'Brien beam the Ferengi party directly to the conference room. Their leader, DaiMon Goss, begins by protesting at not being invited, then demands seats for himself and his two consuls, Dr. Arridor and Kol. Picard (keeping his temper with difficulty), informs the Daimon that all the parties have agreed to limit their delegations to one representative, that the two Ferengi counsels are welcome to accommodations aboard the USS Enterprise-D, and Picard will vacate his own chair for Goss. Goss says they can handle the pleasantries later; taking a large bag from Kol, he opens it on the table to display a pile of gold, confidently predicting that he can outbid anyone else at the table.
Back in her office, Troi is researching Ral. She discovers that he was born on Earth in 2325, but moved to Hurkos III when he was 19. Her door chime sounds, and Ral enters. He begins a flirtatious conversation with Troi, during which he informs her that his traveling companion is now "traveling." He then begins rather forwardly stroking Troi's hair, removing the hair clip she had in it. She protests slightly, but Ral silences her and then invites her to dinner at 20:00.
In Picard's ready room, Picard, Riker, Data, La Forge and Mendoza are reviewing the data from the Barzans' unmanned probe sent into the wormhole, which indicates that the other end exits near the Denkiri Arm, in the Gamma Quadrant. Picard gives a low whistle: a distance that would take nearly a hundred years at warp nine to traverse, covered in a matter of seconds through the wormhole. Riker has some reservations; a "stable" wormhole is an unknown beast in the galaxy, and Picard agrees that, for all the eagerness of the other parties, the Federation should hesitate before bidding its resources to acquire "the proverbial lemon."
Mendoza notes that, for all of Goss' bluster, the Ferengi don't have the resources needed to whet the Barzans' interest. Riker agrees, guessing that Ral, the most relaxed competitor at the table, is the one to worry about. Mendoza agrees, shrewdly guessing that Riker is a poker enthusiast.
La Forge and Data volunteer to man a shuttlecraft to gather more meaningful information. Picard agrees, and says they may do so the next day, after taking more readings on the Barzan side of the wormhole.
In the Ferengis' quarters, Dr. Arridor is helping Goss set up a "poison handshake" that will make whoever he grasps have a severe allergic reaction, albeit non-fatal, in order to remove the competition in the negotiations. They cackle at their ingenuity.
At 8:00, Ral arrives at Troi's quarters. She invites him in for a drink, but he steals a kiss before she can order. She turns away, unsure of why she's so drawn to him and what she may do. She then orders champagne from the replicator; Ral appends the order "for two." Troi then admits that she's been constantly thinking of Ral, and steps forward and kisses him deeply. Troi breaks the kiss, stating that they'll be late for dinner. Ral then lifts her into his arms and states, "very late."
In Picard's ready room, the Ferengi are arguing with the captain and Riker about their plans to explore the wormhole. Picard offers to share their data, but Goss is skeptical. Riker angrily suggests they send their own probe, which Goss says he will. After the Ferengi storm out, Picard tells Riker to instruct Data and La Forge to stay out of the Ferengis' way on their shared probe mission. As Riker leaves, the doctor calls and asks for the captain to come to sickbay.
The doctor tells Picard that Mendoza is having a histaminic reaction, and won't be able to return to the negotiations for several days. Picard and Riker leave, where Picard tells Riker that he'll have to take over for Mendoza. Riker protests, but Picard points out that he, Picard, is the host and cannot step in without awkwardness. However, Mendoza had already noted Riker's poker skills, and all he's doing is stepping into the game as the stakes are raised.
Data and La Forge ready themselves in a shuttle to enter the wormhole at the same time that Arridor and Kol are doing the same in their pod. The opening of the wormhole appears, and Picard orders them to proceed. The Ferengi follow the shuttle in. Communications are quickly lost between the shuttle and the Enterprise as it rapidly travels across the galaxy.
In the conference lounge, Ral is trying to undermine Riker's confidence as a negotiator, but Riker counters him well. Ral then continues his case for his clients, stating that the Chrysalians may be not be as powerful as "the mighty Federation", but they have the resources and technology to make the Barzans prosperous, and they have also had peace with all species for ten generations – something the Federation cannot claim.
Later in Troi's quarters, Ral and Troi are having an intimate discussion about their developing relationship. Ral asks about Riker and Troi, and she admits that although they are friends now, they were once much closer. Troi then presses Ral about himself. Ral admits to her that he is also part Betazoid; he is one-quarter, Troi is one-half. Ral was the only child out of five with empathic abilities. He says this is why he left Earth, because it was difficult having empathic powers while others didn't. He then received training so he could handle them.
At the other opening of the wormhole, the Enterprise's shuttle and the Ferengi pod arrive. La Forge tries to be cordial, but Arridor dismisses him. Data then notices that they are not where the Barzan probe's data indicated. They are 200 light years away from where the probe emerged, well within the Delta Quadrant, and 70,000 light years from Barzan II.
Data speculates that this far end of the wormhole is unstable, moving about while the other end is anchored in the Alpha Quadrant. La Forge detects heightened sub-atomic activity with his VISOR in the now-invisible wormhole opening, and Data detects increased gravitational changes.
While preparing for a gymnastics session, Crusher and Troi spend a few minutes giddily discussing Deanna's budding relationship with Ral.
In Ten Forward, Goss is making (unsuccessful) passes at female crew members at the bar. Ral is talking with Leyor about his people's motivations for administering the wormhole, since the Caladonians are more renowned for their scholarly pursuits. Leyor admits that he's uneasy about taking on the responsibility of administering the wormhole. At the next session of the negotiations, Leyor suddenly withdraws his people's stake.
Riker immediately asks to negotiate with the Caldonians for their resources to be added onto the Federation's offer. But Leyor reveals that the Caldonians have already negotiated such an arrangement with Ral's clients. Riker voices his suspicions, but Ral coolly says it was just a matter of timing. He then adds the Caldonians' assets to the Chrysalians'.
Back in the Delta Quadrant, La Forge is trying to convince Arridor that the wormhole is unstable, and that they should all return immediately. Arridor dismisses him again. La Forge and Data enter the wormhole before it is visible, returning to the Alpha Quadrant. After they leave, Arridor chuckles that they quickly panicked, and the wormhole becomes visible again, right where he predicted. But before they can enter, the wormhole's opening zips away, leaving Arridor and Kol with their mouths agape, stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
That evening, Troi and Ral are having dinner in her quarters. Troi says everyone's talking about Ral's coup. She then accuses him of using his empathic powers to unfairly read his competitors' emotions to gain negotiating advantage. Ral disagrees with her assessment, saying he uses that plus reading body language, just like any other good negotiator. Troi then says that he hides his empathic powers not because they make others uncomfortable, but because they are his secret tool to outmaneuver his opponents. He then storms out.
Later that evening in Ten Forward, Ral sits with Riker and compliments him on his negotiation skills. But Ral says it is in the last round of negotiations that the stakes become highest, and only those willing to take the biggest risks will succeed. Ral, for instance, confides that he is willing to commit his clients to owning the wormhole before the Federation and Ferengi explorations return with more data – can Riker say the same? Riker is silent.
Ral then further needles Riker, hinting at his intimacies with Deanna, saying he'll take Troi away from Riker and the Enterprise, because Riker was not attentive enough. At that, Riker smiles, chiding Ral for making his first "bad play". Riker says that if being with Ral makes Deanna happy, then he's all for it. He then needles back, saying that Ral isn't such a bad fellow, but he is, at heart, a mercenary, with nothing to value or look forward to except his next deal. Riker can attest, from experience, that Deanna is just the sort of woman who could bring some meaning to Ral's sorry life – if Ral is the sort of man with the wit to realize it, but "I doubt that you are."
The next day, Ral and Riker are back at the negotiating table, but DaiMon Goss has left the Enterprise. He's gone back to his ship, and complains that the Federation has not acted fairly, that they already have an agreement with the Barzan. Picard denies this, but Goss fires a missile at the wormhole to destroy it (which it wouldn't). Worf destroys it anyway with a quick phaser shot. The Enterprise goes to red alert, drawing Riker out of the negotiations. Ral then takes this opportunity to point out that the Federation-Ferengi power play wouldn't be an issue if his clients were the wormhole's administrators.
Goss continues to threaten to destroy the wormhole, but Troi says he's lying, almost unequivocally. Ral and Bhavani then enter the bridge, where Ral offers to quell Goss' anger. He says he's come to an agreement with the Barzan on behalf of the Chrysalians, and that he's willing to allow Ferengi free access to the wormhole if he stands down, in exchange for trade concessions to the Chrysalians to be negotiated later. Goss accepts, and Bhavani apologizes to Riker for negotiating behind his back, but she realized that the Chrysalians' long tradition of peace makes them a more desirable partner than the Federation.
Troi, though, speaks up, revealing Ral's empathic powers, and guessing (correctly), that the minor upset was a piece of theater arranged between Ral and Goss to tip Bhavani towards Ral's side. Among other things, she sensed a complete absence of tension from either Ral or Goss during the confrontation. Goss begins to protest, and Picard orders the communication off.
Wesley Crusher then announces that the shuttle is returning from the wormhole. La Forge hails them, saying he's reporting in, though just barely. Picard asks where the Ferengi pod is, and La Forge informs them that the Ferengi pod is stuck in the Delta Quadrant. Data explains that the other end of the wormhole shifts, and that eventually the Alpha Quadrant end will shift too – the wormhole is not stable at all, and is indeed worthless. Bhavani sags – whatever short-term gains her people will receive from the Chrysalians, the wormhole will not usher in the new age of prosperity she was fervently hoping for.
Riker cannot resist "congratulating" Ral on his "victory" in the negotiations. Ral does his best to smile, saying he wouldn't take the risks if he wasn't prepared to lose, and will stand by his clients' new commitments to the Barzans.
Worf announces that DaiMon Goss is hailing, demanding to know where his men are. Picard instructs Worf to tell Goss that if he heads for the Delta Quadrant, he'll meet up with them in about eighty years.
Ral makes a final visit to Troi, saying that he's being recalled by the Chrysalians to address their questions about now owning a worthless wormhole. Troi offers a half-hearted apology, and he shrugs, saying his services have been valuable to them in the past, enough that he can be reasonably sure nothing really unpleasant will be done to him.
He admits to her that he read Bhavani's desire to contract with the Federation, and had to act on that. She then tells him that she was obligated to let everyone know the nature of his skills once he did that. Ral admits that he now sees the error of his ways, and he asks Troi to run away with him, to be his conscience. She turns him down, saying she already has a job as a counselor. He leaves without another word.
"God forbid I should miss my first look at the wormhole…"
- - Troi
"May I escort you, Ms. Troi?"
"Just tell me there's some chocolate here."
- - Riker to Troi when she arrives in Ten Forward
"There it is, ladies and gentlemen. The first and only stable wormhole known to exist. It's yours… for the right price."
- - Bhavani, on the Barzan wormhole
"We'll need chairs."
"I am Captain Picard of the Enterprise. I am serving as host for these proceedings."
"Good, then see to it that we get some chairs."
"Let me explain…"
"Fine, fine! Just have your Klingon servant get us some chairs."
"I'm in charge of security!"
"Then who gets the chairs?"
"DaiMon, due to the delicate nature of these negotiations, all parties have agreed that one representative will suffice. Now, I will be happy to provide your counsels with accommodations, and you may have my chair."
- - DaiMon Goss, Picard and Worf
"The Federation could end up owning the proverbial lemon."
"Proverbial lemon, sir?"
- - Picard and Data
"Just a moment of discomfort for a good cause, DaiMon. You understand this will not be lethal?"
"Doctor, you surprise me. I have no wish to kill anyone. A short-term crippling will suffice."
- - Dr. Arridor and DaiMon Goss
"You must play poker, Commander."
"Poker… is that a game of some sort?"
"Commander Riker conducts master classes in poker."
"Our skills are not dissimilar, Commander."
- - Seth Mendoza, Riker and Picard
"Anticipation is fun."
- - Troi
"Who needs rational when your toes curl up?!"
- - Dr. Crusher
"You know if this doesn't work, the thought of spending the rest of my life in here is none too appealing."
"There is a bright side, Geordi. You will have me to talk to."
- - La Forge and Data, just before entering the Barzan wormhole in a shuttlepod
"May I join you, Commander?"
"Bought out the Ferengi yet, Ral?"
- - Ral and Riker in Ten Forward
"I'm taking us in, Data… with or without them."
"Thrusters at half power. Three quarters."
"Entering outer event horizon."
- - Geordi La Forge and Data
"But I was tense! I was ready to blow it up! I strongly protest!"
- - DaiMon Goss and Picard
"Captain, DaiMon Goss is demanding to know where his men are."
"Tell him to set his course for the Delta Quadrant. He may run into them in… eighty years or so."
- - Worf and Picard
"I'm very grateful for what you did, in a way. It's made me take a hard look at who I am. I don't like what I see. I once asked you to run away with me, and now I'm asking again. I need you. You could help me change, you could be my conscience!"
"I already have a job as counselor."
- - Ral and Troi
- Recommended as one of three unnamed story pitches in two-page memo from Michael Piller: 8 August 1989
- First draft story outline: 11 August 1989
- Two pages of research notes from David Krieger: 17 August 1989
- Seven-page beat sheet (still titled "A Price Far Above Rubies"): 23 August 1989
- Revised final draft: 25 September 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 13 November 1989
- First UK airdate: 4 December 1991
Story and script
- A working title of this episode was "A Price Far Above Rubies". 
- The revised final draft script includes several scenes that were not in the final episode, including a short session Troi has with O'Brien that deals with his girlfriend Mitzi, Wesley telling the Counselor about troubles he had with his mother because she wouldn't let him stay overnight at a party on the holodeck, and more background about the Chrysalians. 
- For the scene where Crusher and Troi are shown practicing aerobics, the exercise room was a redress of a part of main engineering; the "pool table" was removed and two mirrors were erected – one to hide the master systems display, and the other at the opposite end of this part of the engineering set.
- In the scene immediately after Crusher and Troi's exercise, according to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 109), Goss is referring to the size of his "sex organ" when he is making a revealing gesture to a Starfleet crewwoman in Ten Forward.
- This episode was the first to firmly establish that the galaxy is divided into four quadrants.
- This episode features two of what became major plot points for subsequent series. As in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the episode deals with the discovery of a wormhole that leads to the Gamma Quadrant. Similarly, as in Star Trek: Voyager, a ship becomes lost in the Delta Quadrant.
- The crew of USS Voyager will encounter Arridor, Kol and the Barzan wormhole in the Star Trek: Voyager third season episode "False Profits".
- The counselor's office is seen for the second time. The room was modified extensively after "The Icarus Factor" and looks very close to the final appearance first seen in "The Loss".
- This is also the first time that the Ferengi pod is seen and that Counselor Troi's love for chocolate is revealed.
- This episode marks one of the few times when the inside of the corridor connecting the main bridge and the observation lounge is seen.
- Because they are represented here by a Human who is one-quarter Betazoid, no one knows what a Chrysalian looks like.
- As of this episode, the Ferengi are still under the mistaken impression that gold has a high value in the galaxy at large as they seem to think offering an apparently small amount of it will tip the scales in their favor. However, the shape of the "gold" the Ferengi offer is very similar to that of gold-pressed latinum later seen frequently in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
- It is established in TNG: "Ménage à Troi" that the Ferengi brain cannot be telepathically read by Betazoids. However, in this episode, Counselor Troi declares that she can "sense DaiMon Goss' deception."
- An okudagram about Devinoni Ral mentions that he was born in Brussels in the European Alliance on Earth, indicating that in the 24th century Earth is still divided into several political entities. Another example of this is the African Confederation.
- This episode introduces the Barzans. A Barzan, Nhan, later appeared as a 23rd century Starfleet officer in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
- Michael Piller remarked, "One of the best scripts we had. I think if you listen to that show and don't watch it, you can really have fun with it. I really thought it was a disappointing episode. It just didn't make it and was not a great show. As far as servicing the character of Troi, it was quite a wonderful vehicle and she was marvelous." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 189)
- Prior to the airing of this episode, there was much hype about the scene in which Troi beds Ral. Michael Piller commented, "It was never meant to be outrageous television. We got quite a few letters from outraged people before it aired, but nobody wrote after it aired. I listen very carefully to those complaints." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 189)
- Director Robert Scheerer recalled, "The thing I remember most about that episode is working so closely with Marina, because I hadn't really worked with her that extensively. There was a real Human quality to her and the show." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 189)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 11, pp. 44-47.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 28, November 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.3, 1 May 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray 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
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Matt McCoy as Devinoni Ral
- Elizabeth Hoffman as Bhavani
- Castulo Guerra as Seth Mendoza
- Scott Thomson as Goss
- Dan Shor as Arridor
- Kevin Peter Hall as Leyor
- Colm Meaney as Miles O'Brien (voice only)
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- J.R. Quinonez as Kol
- Natalie Wood as Bailey
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
21st century; 2325; 2344; 2346; 2366; "a little"; "a matter of life and death"; ability; accretion disk; accretion matter; age; aggression; ailment; alien; allergy; analysis; "and so forth"; anticipation; apology; appointment; Arridor's shuttle; "at all"; bag; Barzan; Barzan II; Barzan probe; Barzan scientists; Barzan wormhole; Betazoid; bidding; biofilter; blood; bluff; body language; "bright side"; Brussels; business; Caldonia; Caldonian; carbon; card game; casualty; "catch my breath"; century; chair; champagne; chart; chocolate; chocolate sundae; choice; Chrysalian; client; "come in"; "come on"; competitor; computer; conflict; conflict of interest; conformity; conscience; consul; contract; convoy; coordinates; counselor; counselor's office; Crusher, Jack; "cry foul"; culture; D'Kora-class; DaiMon; day; deck; defense; delegate; Delta Quadrant; Denkiri Arm; deposit; dinner; discovery; dispatch; distance; distillation; Earth; emotion; empathic; exchange; enemy; energy field; environment; era; ethics; European Alliance; event horizon; excitement; "excuse me"; exercise room; existence; expedition; experience; explanation; exploration; "fall in love"; fear; Federation; Federation credit; fee; Ferengi; Ferengi pod; "fill in"; friend; Gamma Quadrant; generation; "get the hell out of"; "go ahead"; "go on"; "God forbid"; gold; Goss' Marauder; gravitational acceleration; gravitational field; hand; happiness; heart; "hired gun"; histamine; home; host; Human; hundred; Hurkos III; ice cream; idea; idiot; imitation; impulse power; "in a way"; "in charge of"; "in exchange for"; "in fact"; "in one piece"; "in perpetuity"; instinct; intention; job; judgment; kiss; lemon; lepton; "let's get down to business"; letter; Ley (aka Shuttle 09); lifeform; light year; location; madame; main shuttlebay; Manitoba Journal of Interplanetary Psychology; marathon; marketing; meaning; meson; mile; minute; missile; missile launcher; mister; month; name; negotiating table; negotiation; negotiator; "not at all"; "not much"; Number one; nutritional value; observation; objection; "of course"; offer; office; "on board"; "on my way"; "on the contrary"; "on time"; "one way or another"; orbit; "out of control"; panic; "pardon me"; partner; pawn; peace; permission; personnel file; phaser; playing card; "point of view"; poker; price; Premier; problem; property; prosperity; protection; proverb; pyrocyte; radiation; Ral's mother; Ral's siblings; rational; reason; reception; recess; relationship; representative; research; result; resource; "right now"; risk; Romulan; room; rule; scene; scholar; scientist; second; second-in-command; Sector 3556; security; sensor analysis; servant; session; skill; skin; society; speculation; "stand by"; starship; Starfleet; suspicion; syringe; table; technology; "thank you"; the other fellow; thinking; thought; thousand; threat; three-dimensional chess; thruster; toast; "to be honest"; toll; trade agreement; tradition; Trillium 323; Type 15 shuttlepod; Troi, Lwaxana; "under pressure"; value; "very well"; victim; viewscreen; VISOR; visual contact; volunteer; week; whipped cream; "with all due respect"; wormhole; year; yellow alert
- Biographical Data File Devinoni Ral: Bachelor of Arts; cultural exchange; Cygnus Sector; February; Interstellar Law; major; marketing; marketing director; Oneamisu Campus; Orion; Orion University; Political Science; staff researcher; student council; Triplanetary Development Corporation; University of Hurkos
- UFP proposal: Barzanian Planetary Republic; Barzanian year; economy; Federation credit; lump sum payment; orbital facility; support facility; Yuri vector field control
Unused production references
- "The Price" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Price" at Wikipedia
- The Price at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Price" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"The Vengeance Factor"