(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise tries to negotiate an end to raids launched by a group called the "Gatherers," but a murder threatens to prevent peace.
Riker, Dr. Crusher, Worf, and Data beam into an unknown, very torn-apart room in a Federation outpost. After lifting a few pieces of debris, Worf observes that the reactor belonging to whomever was stationed here is missing. Crusher sees blood on a sharp metal fragment, and while scanning it with her medical tricorder, notes it is not Human blood, and will have to do more tests on it when they get back to sickbay on the USS Enterprise-D. Data detects life signs behind a door, demonstrating his superior strength and pries the door open when Worf could not. Behind it, two Federation scientists lie, stunned and unmoving…
In sickbay, Crusher remarks that the scientists were hit with several phaser stuns each, and it will take them some time to recover. Crusher shows Picard the results of her scan of the blood, that it is unique to one humanoid species: the Acamarians. That would suggest Gatherers, nomadic marauders belonging to that species and who raid similar outposts to the one the scientists belonged. Picard, realizing that the Gatherers have not gone as far as this outpost before, orders Wesley on the bridge to set a course for the Acamar system.
- "Captain's log, Stardate 43421.9. In an effort to put an end to the Gatherer raids, we have come to the Acamar system to enlist the aid of Marouk, the Sovereign of Acamar III."
Marouk, a middle-aged woman dressed in yellow, sits in the conference lounge as Picard briefs her on the raids. Marouk says that they've only managed to capture a handful of them, but with Starfleet's help, they could find many more. Picard, ever the diplomat, does not want to hunt them down but try to reconcile the orthodox Acamarians with the Gatherers; Marouk does not think it possible, and claims the Gatherers are animals and parasites, preying on all manner of civilization to live. A century ago, before the Gatherers left, the Acamarians were violent, inciting wars over the slightest injury. When they did split, the greater part of the race became peaceful, and the Gatherers, so Marouk thinks, remained in their savage, warlike ways. Picard insists that they find a way to reconcile the two halves of the species, as the problem affects them all. Marouk looks as if she may finally agree.
Marouk, looking over the bridge, announces she is ready to leave as soon as two more of her servants are brought up; Riker sees to it and their accommodations. Marouk says there is a Gatherer colony in the Hromi Cluster; Picard orders a course set.
In her quarters, Marouk watches the stars out the window as the Enterprise goes into warp, and offers compliments on the ship. Riker responds that the crew is very proud of her. Marouk turns to her young servant/chef Yuta and orders a light meal in twenty minutes; Yuta, a beautiful young woman, asks Riker where the kitchen is, but Riker explains about the ship's replicators and orders a glass of water for the Sovereign. Yuta insists on tasting it, as it is also part of her duties to be sure that Marouk is not poisoned. Yuta says that although Marouk will be glad to try many Federation foods, there are a few Acamarian dishes that likely aren't programmed; Riker will arrange to have them put in. Yuta mentions one of her dishes, parthas, a green vegetable with fleshy roots, and Riker says he looks forward to tasting it, then excuses himself.
On arriving to Gamma Hromi II, an away team consisting of Riker, Worf, Data, and La Forge beams down to try to find some Gatherers to communicate with. The team finds several things that the Gatherers stole, including a cheap metal alloy, noranium, Artonian lasers and a reactor that probably came from the ransacked outpost. The Gatherers aren't very particular about things they steal, apparently. Just then, the Gatherers attack. Worf yells "Ambush!" Data informs Riker that the Gatherers are firing Regalian phaser rifles, not known for being particularly powerful. "Powerful enough," Riker mutters while they continue to take fire.
While taking cover from their outmoded phasers' fire, Riker asks Data about the vaporizing temperature of noranium, and they use that information to set their phasers on setting level seven and fire on the noranium piles, creating a smokescreen, and fake beaming up to the Enterprise. The Gatherers climb down to where the team was, and suddenly Worf grabs their leader from behind, growling, "Your ambushes would be more successful if you bathed more often!", followed by the away team surrounding their ambushers, phasers trained.
Next, Picard, Marouk, and the others from the Acamarian delegation are now down on the planet. The male Acamarian servant offers a drink to Brull, the leader, who offers it to Temarek, his second, to taste. He hesitates, so Brull grabs him, bends him over and pours it down his throat. Brull and the others, including Temarek, laugh at their own bravado, but Marouk turns away distastefully, barking, "You people haven't changed in a hundred years!" Brull replies, "You should know; you were there!" Picard again brings peace and discusses calmly the benefits of their reunification. Brull looks about to agree to negotiate, but sends everyone else except Picard and Marouk away, so he would not look weak in front of his campmates.
While everyone else is just looking around, Yuta approaches an old Gatherer named Volnoth and questions him about belonging to the clan Lornak. Volnoth says he is of that clan and asks why she wants to know. Yuta asks if she looks familiar to him… he says yes, but it is impossible, it was fifty years ago. Yuta reveals her clan affiliation: Tralesta. She brushes Volnoth lightly on the face, and his eyes go wide, and he appears to have a heart attack, convulsing… just before he dies, Yuta says, "I am the last of my line, but my clan will outlive yours!"
The focus returns to Brull and Marouk. Brull seems willing to talk but is unsure. He decides that Chorgan, the leader of the Gatherers, would be a better judge. He allots twenty days to allow for the decision, but Marouk insists on making the offer to Chorgan, face to face. Picard offers Brull any number of Gatherers he wishes to take as guards, but he intends to go alone, in case this is a trap. Marouk assures him it isn't. He appoints a secondary Gatherer, Mallon, to be leader for ten days, when one of the Gatherers shouts and draws Brull's attention to something.
Picard, Marouk, Yuta, and the Gatherers find Volnoth dead. Brull is unconcerned, noting that Volnoth was an old man, and the Gatherer, Temarek, who discovered his body immediately lays claim to his possessions. Marouk is disgusted, remarking that the Gatherers appear to have no respect for the dead, to which Brull replies snidely that there should be no respect for a corpse. Crusher beams down and examines the body. She concludes that Volnoth died of cardiac arrest, but can find no cause for the sudden onset, finding that his cardiac muscle is strong and there appears to be no sign of an arterial occlusion.
The Enterprise warps away from Gamma Hromi II. Brull comes aboard the bridge, where Picard informs him to tell Wesley Crusher the coordinates of Chorgan's ship. Brull scoffs at the idea of a child on the bridge, to which Picard glares at Brull. He sets in the coordinates of 3-4-3 mark 7-2, all the while joking at the "child helmsman". Wesley notes that this path will take them through an asteroid belt, and he proposes an alternate route. Brull, uncaring, agrees to the path.
In Ten Forward, Marouk and Picard talk about Acamarian history, including the blood wars and feuds between various clans on her home planet in the past century. When one clan did wrong to another, they sought vengeance, retribution for the actions, which would be passed on for generation after generation. Picard briefly compares this to Earth's past, when Commander Riker and Counselor Troi enter. Yuta excuses herself, at which time Brull enters Ten Forward.
Brull immediately goes over to the bartender area and grabs a drink out of a patron's hand, drinks a small amount down, and finds Wesley sitting in a remote corner near a window. He puts down the drink and approaches Wesley in a very casual manner, taking his PADD and asking what it contains. Wesley replies that it is his math homework. Brull can tell that Wesley does not like him. Wesley retorts that his dislike stems from Brull's being a thief. Brull shouts back, saying that the Gatherers steal to survive and that he does not like doing it, but he has to. Wesley then poses the question as to why he is now willing to reason with the Acamarians after a century, to which Brull replies that it would be the best for his children. Wesley exclaims surprise that someone like Brull has children, which Brull explains he has two sons; one of whom is just about Wesley's age and he's not any good at math.
Nearby, Yuta brings the parthas over to Riker and Troi. The two remark that it is a delicious dish, and Troi excuses herself, leaving Yuta and Riker alone in a conversation. Yuta explains how all her life, she was a servant to the Sovereign. Her life revolved around that. She also quips that, while Riker may make a good commander, he would be a poor Sovereign, because Riker does not believe in the system of servitude; he treats Yuta like an equal.
Riker asks her why she is a slave to the Sovereign. Yuta replies that she is not a slave, that she can leave her at any time. However, she says that she cannot ever have freedom, as her ultimate path is all too clear. Riker notes that Yuta while being an excellent chef, but speaks rather cryptically, to which Yuta responds that she's always been a poor conversationalist. Marouk calls Yuta back. As she returns, Dr. Crusher contacts Riker, informing him of a surprising discovery.
In sickbay, Crusher reveals to Riker that Volnoth was killed by a microvirus. The interesting part was that the microvirus was specifically designed for a certain strain of DNA in Acamarians, approximately one in a million. Riker notes that this is unnatural, which leads Crusher to presume that Volnoth was murdered.
Riker lies back in a chair in his quarters, when Data contacts him and informs him that Acamar III has agreed to transfer its medical database to the Enterprise. The door chimes, and Yuta enters. Her time of servitude for the evening was over, and Marouk had suggested that she spend time with Riker. Riker quips about how obvious his affection for her was. She kisses him immediately, and then pulls back for a bit.
However, Riker feels that Yuta is acting subserviently, which he feels is wrong. He wants Yuta to be his equal, not his slave. She, however, does not understand freedom and its emotions, let alone equality. She remarks that it has been a long time since she had been free. Riker tries to pull her into his embrace when the ship engages red alert and the ship rocks from weapons fire. Riker excuses himself and heads to the bridge while Yuta's face switches to a somber look.
Aboard the bridge, Brull informs Picard that Chorgan's ship is the one that is firing on them. Worf tries to hail the ship but gets no response. The ship rocks again from another round of fire. The captain asks Worf if they could take out his shields without doing any serious damage to his ship. Worf believes he can, and Picard prepares phasers and tries to send a threat by hail but is yet again cut off by the weapons fire. Picard figures that since Chorgan won't listen, they'll have to get his attention. He orders Worf to fire phasers and the ensuing counterattack by the Enterprise takes out Chorgan's forward shields. Chorgan sends a hail to the vessel, and immediately assumes that Brull is a turncoat, having betrayed the Gatherers.
Brull tries to reassure him, telling him that Sovereign Marouk is on board and wishes to talk. Chorgan refuses, but Picard forces his hand and announces that they're beaming aboard and cuts off the transmission. Picard calls off red alert and prepares to transport over to Chorgan's ship with himself, Brull, Marouk, and Yuta. Riker feels unsafe about letting the captain go over to the ship alone, but Picard tells Riker that for the negotiations to succeed, he needs to be a mediator and not an enforcer, plus he knows that Chorgan won't do anything foolish while the Enterprise has its phasers trained on his ship.
Aboard the Gatherer vessel, Marouk, Brull, and Picard enter the makeshift bridge, and Chorgan (with exaggerated politeness) invites them to sit. Before Picard can begin the preliminaries, Chorgan casually remarks that he could take Picard hostage then and there, and there is little anyone could do to prevent it. Picard looks up sharply, and Chorgan laughs, saying he has no intention of doing so – he cannot deny that he is curious as to why the Federation and Marouk would go to so much trouble to track him down. Marouk gets right down to business and proposes that every Gatherer receive amnesty. Chorgan scoffs, calling this an attempt at re-enslaving the Gatherers. Marouk replies that she might have considered that, before Picard had convinced her to seek a diplomatic solution.
Marouk offers Chorgan some Acamarian brandy, but Chorgan refuses, still insisting that the Acamarians are enslavers, and asking sardonically whether the state will feed and clothe the Gatherers if they return to Acamar III. Marouk says no, the government has allotted land for their use... at which Chorgan laughs heartily, stands up, and beckons her to his men, asking if they look like farmers. Marouk tells them that they are free to do whatever they want on the land, and that is the key to her offer: they will be free men, and no longer fugitives. After only a moment, Chorgan demands autonomy for the Gatherers on their new land. Marouk is outraged by Chorgan's gall, but Picard gently reminds her that Chorgan has gone from scorning her offer to at least being willing to discuss it. Restraining her temper, Marouk says that certainly the Gatherers will be entitled to certain basic rights, and Chorgan rejoins that those rights will be spelled out before he agrees to anything.
Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Enterprise, Data is only able to find a birth record for Volnoth. While Riker and Data mull over the lack of information present, Dr. Crusher comes to the bridge with a startling fact: 53 years ago, someone died of the same microvirus. The man's name was Penthor-Mul, a Gatherer of the Lornak clan who raided an Acamarian outpost but was captured and died before his trial. Data immediately makes the connection: Volnoth was also of the Lornak clan, as is Chorgan. Riker realizes that this microvirus is indeed targeted against Lornak clan members and wants to find anyone who might have a grudge against the Lornaks.
Crusher notes that the microvirus is transmittable in several different ways, and so finely tailored as to be perfectly harmless to the carrier, so long as he does not match the Lornaks' DNA signature. Data locates a record of a massacre eighty years ago, when the Lornaks were believed to have annihilated their rival clan, the Tralestas, from existence. Data cannot find any information on the Tralesta clan but locates an image of Penthor-Mul before his execution. Data points out a half-obscured face behind him. Riker orders the computer to extrapolate and reconstruct the face. The face belongs to Yuta. Crusher, Data, and Riker are in disbelief: Yuta has not aged at all in 53 years.
Back on the Gatherer ship, Marouk is indignant about Chorgan's demand for three seats on the Ruling Council, saying that no clan ever has had that many. Marouk accuses Chorgan of being greedy, not interested in his people's welfare but only what he can grab for himself. Chorgan retorts that Marouk is trying to limit the abilities and rights of the Gatherers.
Both leaders are on their feet, shouting accusations at each other, when Picard intervenes, reminding Marouk that, if their positions were reversed, she would be making the same demands as Chorgan. Marouk apologizes and sinks into her chair to calm down. Picard suggests a brief recess, and Chorgan agrees, admitting to interest in sampling Marouk's brandy. Marouk calls Yuta to pour a glass for everyone. As Yuta pours the brandy for Picard, then Marouk, Picard takes the opportunity to comment on how alike Marouk and Chorgan are – a suggestion that outrages both of them, but Picard persists, remarking on how they are both extremely able negotiators and strong leaders. Chorgan scoffs that he and Marouk have nothing in common and they haven't reached any kind of agreement yet. Picard lifts his glass and says, on the contrary, they've agreed to share in the brandy.
As Yuta heads towards Chorgan, Riker beams into the conference room. A Gatherer reaches for his weapon and Riker fires his phaser quickly, knocking him down. Chorgan snarls that the Federation has laid a trap. Riker, however, orders Yuta to move away from Chorgan. Yuta acts innocent, but Riker accuses her of being with Penthor-Mul over 50 years ago. Chorgan wants to know how Riker knows of Penthor-Mul, but Riker tells him to hold still as his life is in extreme danger.
Yuta, at the verge of tears, demands justice for the Tralestan massacre. She was one of the only five survivors of the assault, but she died and was reborn, with altered cell structure and slower aging to complete her vendetta against the Lornaks. Marouk realizes that Yuta used her to find the last of the Lornaks for her. Chorgan says she is a dead woman, but Yuta just smiles and says that once he is dead, her quest will be complete and what will happen to her doesn't matter. Riker tries to talk Yuta out of doing this: the clan wars are over, there is nothing to feud for anymore. She looks guilt-ridden and teary, but lurches towards Chorgan.
Riker fires his phaser, forcing Yuta to recoil in pain. Otherwise unaffected, she approaches again, but Riker fires a second shot at her, this time on a stronger setting. She clutches the spot where Riker shot her, watching in agony as she would fail in her vengeance for her clan. Riker sets his phaser to the maximum setting since he is unable to stun her and pleads with her by saying: "Yuta, don't do this." After one last agonized glance at Riker, Yuta makes one last lunge toward Chorgan, forcing Riker to vaporize her. Picard looks grave at the decision Riker has been forced to make, while Marouk looks stricken at the death of her trusted servant and companion. Riker holsters his phaser and turns away from the table, and a shaken Chorgan gets up, and tells Riker he is indebted to him.
Back in Ten Forward, Riker is at the bar, quietly moving his glass, thinking about the recent events. Picard enters and takes a PADD from a crewman before approaching Riker. He informs him that their orders from Starfleet have changed. The rendezvous with the USS Goddard is postponed. Instead, they are to proceed to Starbase 343 to pick up medical supplies for the Alpha Leonis system. Picard reasons that this out-of-the-way mission is not crew-intensive and tells Riker that some of the crew may take shore leave at the starbase if they want to. Riker merely replies that he'll tell the crew; Picard leaves Riker at the bar knowing he is obviously looking on with regret at what he had to do but accepts it.
"Captain, I am detecting life readings from the planet surface, as well as several small areas of thermal radiation and carbon dioxide emissions, indicative of combustion."
"Is that not what I said?"
- - Data and Wesley Crusher
"You people haven't changed in a hundred years!"
"You should know; you were there!"
- - Marouk and Brull
"As... the Sovereign has no further need for my services this evening, she suggested I might spend some time with you."
"What a charming... suggestion."
- - Yuta and Riker
"Yuta, you're an excellent chef but you speak in riddles."
- - Riker
"Fifty-three years... and she hasn't aged a day."
- - Riker, seeing an image of Yuta from 2313
"You don't like me, do you?"
"I didn't say that!"
"No problem! I have many friends who don't like me!"
- - Brull and Wesley Crusher
"You're scowling, Doctor."
- - William T. Riker and Beverly Crusher
"Your ambushes would be more successful if you bathed more often!"
- - Worf to Brull and the Gatherers
- Final draft script: 29 September 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 20 November 1989
- First UK airdate: 11 December 1991
Story and production
- Early titles for this episode included "The Human Factor", "The Vengeance", and "The Weapon". 
- According to the reference book Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages (p. 28), Ira Steven Behr worked on this episode as a writer, although he isn't credited on-screen as having done so.
- Director Timothy Bond recalled, "It was fun to do. The dialogue was of little consequence, and I think some of it was even cut. There's a tendency in television to say, 'I'm opening the door now.' Well just open the door. It's not a radio show. So we were able to make that quite visual and the art department came up with this bizarre painted backdrop. They lit it with green light and there was smoke. That show also featured the best set I've ever had. We only had it up for two days and it was such a shame to tear it down." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 189)
- Bond explained why Picard seemingly has no reaction to Riker killing Yuta. "Regarding Picard, I'm afraid there is a reason for his lack of reaction: opticals. He couldn't move for that one period where she gets vaporized. In retrospect, maybe it was kind of a mistake of mine. I just had this idea that it would be really neat that when she's vaporized, Picard was there, in the shot. That meant putting several layers of elements into the shot and in order for it to work properly, Picard had to stay still. Not a good reason. When I saw it, I actually regretted the decision, but by then the ship had sailed. Believe me, Patrick noticed too. He even asked, 'I'm just supposed to sit here and do nothing?' The other problem is what could he do? We knew Riker had to kill the girl and we didn't want to get Picard shot by the phaser. In retrospect, what I should have done is what you usually do – don't have him in the shot. If he's not, then the audience doesn't think, 'Why doesn't Picard react?' We had a lot of rationales at the time, but we were wrong. Overall, though, I'm real proud of the episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 189)
- Marouk uniquely uses the definitive article when she says "but with the Starfleet's help"
- This was the last episode that aired in the 1980s.
Sets and props
- The Federation science outpost attacked by the Gatherers just prior to the episode used a large scenic background painting originally from the classic 1956 movie Forbidden Planet. The painting is a planetscape seen through the window of the station. According to Michael Okuda, "We rented it. I saw it in a catalog and I had been lobbying [production designer] Richard James to use it on the show for some time. He was perfectly willing to go along, so long as we used it for an appropriate episode/setting." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 129)
- The Gatherer ship studio model was a reuse of the Mondor from "Samaritan Snare".
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 11, pp. 59-62.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 29, 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
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Clay Hodges as Acamarian bodyguard
- Michael Lamper as Acamarian gatherer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Oliver Theess as command division crewmember
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- Acamarian maid
- Chorgan's gatherer
- Command division officer
- Command division officer
- Female ops ensign
- Female science division officer
- Female science division officer
- Female science division officer
- Operations division officer
- Ten Forward waiter
- Three Acamarian bystanders
- Three Acamarian gatherers
- Two Acamarian security officers
- Two Federation scientists
- 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
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- Acamarian Planetary Database (original): Acamarian Federal Security; Lornak City; Yatsura District
- Acamarian Planetary Database (remastered): 38423; 40273; Acamarian Internal Security; Aen, Bhigbout; Age of Majority; arrest; assault; attak; autopsy; bail; Bruno Prison; cardiac arrest; cause of death; cerebral hemorrhage; change of venue; charge; clan elder; court record; cranial trauma; data: Dongren; drowning; Dylhuc Detention Center; engaging in a blood feud; Felker City; "foul play"; Gatherer outpost; genetic defect; hundred; "in custody"; inciting to riot; inflammation; information; Jamholt Region; Jimbern Regions; judge; Kikimor; Kohnr, Oh; laceration; Linzordo, Emi; Liu Region; Lor, Laurhafr; Lor, Romybur; Lornbiv Village; Magab Lake; Maurody Storms; Mesabb; Mesrop Village; militia force; Molnar City; Niwray Border; opening argument; petition; police force; police record; police report; prosecutor; pulmonary embolism; riot; series; storm; swimming; terrorism; Tezber; tissue; Tograf; Tralesta survivors; trial; Vackrinos District; villager; Vogt Public Health Clinic; weapons supply depot; week; wing; Feighn, Wor
- Other: interpolated lepton scan
- "The Vengeance Factor" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Vengeance Factor" at Wikipedia
- The Vengeance Factor at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Vengeance Factor" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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