So in 1991, Robin Hood was all big thanks to Prince of Thieves. [Utterly random aside: PoT’s Will Scarlet, Christian Slater, is a huge Trekkie, and the reason his eyebrows are shaped the way they are is because when he was a kid, he shaved them so he could be Spock for Halloween, and they never grew in properly. Also, he had a cameo in Star Trek VI, my favorite Trek movie. And his godfather was Michael Zaslow, the fist person to die on Star Trek, and the first to get the “He‘s Dead, Jim.:” Blue shirt, by the way, not red. Anyway…] Wanting to capitalize on Robin Hoodical publicity, the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew took an old script about King Arthur they had lying around, made it all Robin Hoody, and filmed it. Thankfully, time has robbed the episode of its depressing trendiness, and what we are left with is that rarest of all things: A comedic Star Trek episode that works.

(Let's get those gay jokes out of the way early, now.)
BIG PLOT: Here’s a special section I came up with for Robin Hood themed episodes of other shows, to give you a little background on the series. Star Trek: The Next Generation, or TNG to save space, is the follow-up to the 1960s classic Star Trek. Like the original, it follows the adventures of members of Starfleet, the space faring science, exploration, defens, and diplomatic wing of the United Federation of Planets, who are sort of like the UN, except they get things accomplished, and don’t allow their members to be openly hostile with each other. Unlike the original, TNG was 40% more likely to deal with problems solvable by thinking and talking than punching and shooting. Plus, the Captain was a bald Frenchman. Despite these apparent setbacks, TNG proved to be at least the equal, if not the superior of the original. Anyone who denies this sucks. One recurring character of note to this episode is Q, an omnipotent god-being. Despite that heady job description, Q is noted for his sense of humor and fondness for Captain Picard, who he seems to look at like a cross between a best friend, a baby cousin, and a pet hamster.

LIL’ PLOT:Captain Picard is going to an archaeology lecture! Can you FEEL the action? He’s ever so nervous about being asked to deliver the keynote speech on the Tagan ruins. The whole senior staff is attending the conference with him, and while they act like they support the Captain, you know they all think it’s lame; except Data, who has no emotions. Fortunately, just when it looks like the most boring episode ever, intrigue arrives in the form of Picard’s sextacular former flame, Vash. Vash walks around the ship telling everyone how she banged the captain, and how her, Indiana Jones, and Lara Croft are the only hot archaeologists ever. Picard spends all his time fretting. And not without reason, because who should show up but Q! Picard actually managed to save Q’s life and restore his powers when he had been stripped of them, and Q is here to say thank you. Q decides to show him how having a lady is not worth the risk, and accomplishes this by transporting Picard and his crew to Sherwood Forest in the form of Robin Hood and his crew. Picard/Hood can sit pretty in the forest, and return to his ship at dawn… if he’s willing to let Vash die. Well, of course he’s not. Will hilarity and antics ensue? You betcha!

(The hat looks pretty good with no hair getting in the way.)
GENERAL THOUGHTS: Star Trek is awesome. But it’s not really funny. Fine actors the stars may be, and perfectly capable of saying a funny line and getting a laugh, but to do a full comedy episode, you need comedically gifted actors. Every Trek series has fallen short here. The DS9 crew was so comedically off that the only funny episode I’ve ever seen consisted of Armin Shimmerman and Rene Auberjonois getting the hell off that depressing ass space station and getting up to some wacky shenanigans. But TNG had four great weapons. Regular cast members Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, and Michael Dorn, and frequent guest star John DeLancie. These are four fucking hilarious guys. Add in the eminently likeable LeVar Burton, the always charming Jonathan Frakes, and two pretty girls who manage not to be total humor vacuums*, and you’ve got the only Trek series that can reliably deliver a funny episode.

* I don’t mean to imply that women aren’t funny. Only that Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis aren’t funny.

(I am... confused by your non-ray-gun weaponry!)
ROBIN: Patrick Stewart is totally the best Robin Hood I’ve seen so far. Picard is the perfect man as envisioned by Gene Roddenberry. He’s intelligent, cultured, and a man of action. And he's able to accept baldness with grace and dignity, which neither Kirk nor Sisko were up to. But to be fair to Sisko, shaving your head is a viable option if you're black. But not if you're white. Have you seen Bruce Willis? Dude looks like a giant thumb. Picard is definitely playing an Errol Flynn Robin here, but with a full awareness of how silly the whole situation is, and he's pure awesome at it. At one point, he shouts "TO THE FOREST!", and just straight up pulls it off.

(And here's one for the ladies...)
LITTLE JOHN: As I referenced a while back, Riker is a right proper Little John. He’s tall and hairy, for one. He’s also thoughtful, clever, and cautious, while still the best man in a fight, which is how Little John was before Hollywood turned him into “big angry jerk guy”. He also ignores Robin in the finest Little John tradition, going in to rescue him after being specifically told not to. Classy John all the way. Also, I think we can all agree that Jonathan Frakes is pure masculine thunder formed into a human being, and there ain't nothin' wrong with that. I must admit, though, I do keep hoping he'll end every episode with a lame pun, like he did when he was hosting "Beyond Belief". "Is this tale of a starship crew tormented by a trickster god true? Or is it... too out of this world?"

(Nice hat.)
WILL SCARLET: Worf is put into the Scarlet role here, which is great, because the costumers chose to go with the classic “foppish dandy” Will, a choice we haven’t really seen to its full extent. Well, except in the ‘39 movie. But they were all dandies. Worf is Worf wherever you put him, though, and he still kicks ass. Nice to see a Will with some personality. And of course he gets the funny lines, including “I protest! I am NOT a merry man!” and “Nice legs… um… for a human.” He also gets the rare pop-culture reference in Trek, when he smashes Geordi’s mandolin and apologizes, a la Belushi in Animal House.

(Wah wah wahhhhhhhhhhhhh)
TUCK: Data, of course. The priest would be the smart guy of the team, so the android gets to play him. He exposits greatly about the legend of Robin Hood. Data also gets a tiny bit of hand-to-hand combat in this one. Hand fighting with Data usually consists of him hurling someone a great distance with his robo-strength, but this time, he’s pretty evenly matched by the local guard-types. I idly wondered for a while why he’s never downloaded kung-fu into his brain. Then I wondered why he has to practice his violin. Then I remembered that he has trouble whistling, and maybe Dr. Soong programmed this trouble with music into him to give him something to strive for, and that downloading knowledge would defeat the intent of a learning positronic brain. Then I realized I was so far from Robin Hood it was ridiculous. So let’s just say Q arranged for the fantasy world to compensate for Data’s strength, and hey, at least Tuck gets to fight.

(My favorite Troi moments are when someone's experiencing an emotion you can figure out by looking at their face, and she tells everybody that she "sensed it". Look, if a guy's smiling, don't brag that you sensed happiness.)
MUCH: Much doesn’t appear by name, but I’m going to say it’s Troi. Troi and Crusher don’t get Robin Hood names, probably because Q (or the writers) were too lazy to look up any extra Merry Men. But I’m saying it’s Troi because Much is useless and annoying and hardly does anything helpful, and Troi, well… You know.

(Yes, I could have shown you her in her Marian outfit. But then you wouldn't see Patrick Stewart's short shorts. And would you really be happy?)
MARIAN: Marian is played here by Picard’s old friend Vash, whom he had hit-and-quit some time ago. She's a great version of Marian, though, strong, self reliant, and absolutely capable of surviving and escaping without the help of Robin Hood. She's actually got the situation so well in hand that when Picard arrives to help, he just messes everything up. She even agrees to marry Sir Guy, flirting with him to influence his decisions, a theme we'll see every twelve minutes or so on the current BBC series.

(You will never win, Hood! For you see, I have a more feathery hat than you.)
SHERIFF: Q gives himself this role, of course. It’s actually the best interpretation of the ol’ S.O.N. I’ve seen in a long time. See, in order to keep it fun, Q made his dream world independent of himself, so that even he didn’t know what was going to happen. Therefore, when Vash gets her own way out of the predicament Q put her in, he has to turn Sir Guy against her with trickery and wit. I love the idea of a Sheriff who’s manipulating his bosses to serve his own ends. So 10 points to Roddenberry house.

(Okay, Clive... one, two, three - SNEER!)
Played by roly-poly character actor Clive Revill, making him the first and only person to be in both Star Trek and Star Wars. Until Lucas edited him out in the Special Editions, that is. This is very much a Rathbone Guy, a wealthy aristocrat after Robin Hood’s sloppy sec… no, that’s tasteless. Robin Hood’s erstwhile paramour. He manages to be the sleaziest and creepiest Guy yet. Yes, even more than Armitage. At least that oily freak was actually trying instead of just locking the girl in a tower.

(THIS. This is the man.)
THE MAN: Jesus, how much time do you think Q has? The answer is all the time that is possible, because he’s immortal and omnipotent. Point is, he’s not gonna bother to put in the whole dang monarchy.

("Look, captain, I'm gonna level with you. I don't know squat about actual doctoring. I mostly just point a blue laser at it until it heals.")
OTHER MERRY MEN: Dr. Crusher gets a hat, so she counts. She also bandages Worf’s wound at one point, which is nice, because hey, Doctor, so let’s use our skills. Geordi is Alan-a-Dale, which is weird, since he's not particularly musical, but not so non-musical that it seems like an intentional joke. The only thing I can think of is in the magnificent episode "Disaster", where the crew is trapped in four distinct groups during a critical systems failure and has to deal with situations way out of their league. The episode opens with Crusher and Geordi in the cargo bay, with Crusher desperately trying to get Geordi to audition for her on-ship production of "The Pirates of Penzance". Geordi awkwardly mumbles the opening lines of the Major General song, and protests that he sucks, which he does. This raises many questions. How does the Chief Medical Officer have enough time on her hands to direct a musical? Shouldn't she be going after actors with more less demonds on their time than the Chief Engineer? Why is she so adamant that he play the part when, of all the roles in all of Gilbert and Sullivan, there is not one that LeVar Burton is less suited to than Major General Stanley? Why are they discussing this when one of them is on duty? What is the Chief Engineer doing in the cargo bay? Shouldn't he be somewhere around the engines? The list goes on. In the same episode, Worf had to deliver a baby, Picard had to escort children around the ship, and Troi had to be of some consequence, so it was still a pretty good one.

(See, if it were me, I'd go for the horse. "BUT THAT WOULD BE WITHOUT HONOR." Okay, Jeez. Inside voice, Worf. "SORRY.")
OTHER VILLAINS: See “The Man” for more information. Actually, I guess Vash technically counts as a villain. She sells out the captain at the drop of a hat, and only helps anyone when it benefits her. And given that she only came so she could go on an illegal raid… DAMN! This might be the only Robin Hood version ever when Marian is a bad guy. Rock the hell on.

(Was this strange tale of a tobacco executive giving people rectal cancer from beyond the grave the truth... Or are we just blowing smoke up your ass?")

COMING UP NEXT : "The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men", a 1955 live-action entry from Disney starring some really unfortunate-looking folks, and some decent-looking folks with unfortunate hairstyles.

1 Comment:

  1. S Gabrielsson said...
    You have no idea how much I enjoyed reading this.

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