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Samaritan Snare (episode)

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"Samaritan Snare"
TNG, Episode 2x17
Production number: 40272-143
First aired: 15 May 1989
42nd of 176 produced in TNG
42nd of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
148th of 728 released in all
Starfleet surgical scrubs
Written By
Robert L. McCullough

Directed By
Les Landau
42779.1 (2365)
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Picard must undergo a serious medical procedure while the Enterprise-D deals with a Pakled ship, which lures the Enterprise away in hopes of stealing its technology.


Picard is angry with Pulaski

"It would be inappropriate."

The USS Enterprise-D is en route to the Epsilon IX sector for an astronomical survey of the Epsilon pulsar cluster. Captain Picard is having a discussion with his chief medical officer Doctor Pulaski about Picard's artificial heart, which needs to be replaced on Starbase 515. This procedure should have been performed earlier, but Picard has ignored it for too long. When Doctor Pulaski proposes performing the procedure on board the Enterprise, Picard refuses, being concerned with his image, and reluctantly agrees to make the trip to Starbase 515.

Wesley Crusher is also going to Starbase 515 to take Starfleet exams, which Data found quite elementary. Crusher is surprised when Picard tells him that he will be traveling with him, and asks Geordi La Forge and Sonya Gomez what he should talk about while traveling with Picard. First Officer Riker is wondering why Picard is taking this trip, since he knows that Picard was looking forward to seeing the Epsilon pulsar cluster, when the Enterprise receives a distress call from the Rhomboid Dronegar sector 006.

Pakleds ask for help

"We look for things."

The distress call was sent by the starship Mondor, which is manned by the Pakled. When Riker asks what is wrong, the only answer he gets is that their ship is broken and that they need help. When he asks what the nature of their mission is, he gets the answer that they "look for things that make them go". When he asks more questions he gets the same answers. Data has scanned their ship, so the crew can determine what is wrong. Riker decides to send La Forge to repair the Pakled ship. Worf protests against sending the chief engineer but, since Riker thinks that the Pakleds pose no danger because of their speech impediment and their appearance, he only sends La Forge. Later on Counselor Troi proves him wrong and tells him that La Forge is in grave danger.

Wesley tries to make conversation with Captain Picard, when Picard confides in him that this trip was not his idea and that he hates the prospect of a cardiac replacement. Wesley, not knowing that the captain had a cardiac implant, asks him why it needs to be replaced and why Doctor Pulaski could not perform the procedure.

Wesley and Picard on shuttlecraft

"Just pilot the shuttle, Ensign."

La Forge fixes the Pakled guidance system but then there is a main power failure. Meanwhile the Pakleds keep asking if he "can make it go". With La Forge forced to stay longer on the Mondor, Riker gets irritated, because it seems that they need more than minor repairs. When he offers to tow them to the nearest starbase, the Pakleds say that Geordi can make them go. As the Enterprise tries to beam La Forge back, the Pakleds stun him. A quick scan tells Riker that they cannot beam La Forge out and that all systems on the Mondor are working perfectly. Their shields seem to be more advanced than the current state of Pakled technology.

Over a coffee and a sandwich Picard and Wesley engage in some small talk on kids, women, discipline and why Picard never married. Picard also tells him how he came about the cardiac implant. When he was at the Bonestell Recreation Facility at Starbase Earhart with some friends, he picked a fight with three Nausicaans. Having one Nausicaan down in a joint lock, Picard was impaled by a Nausicaan stake. The only reason he survived is because a medical facility was nearby.

Pakleds stun La Forge

"Hey! Don't!"

On the Enterprise, Riker is considering their options when Data tells him that the malfunctions on the Pakled ship were programmed. Riker's demands to return La Forge are refused and the Pakled stun him again. For Riker to get La Forge back he has to give them all the information from the Enterprise computer. Of course, this is not an option, since it would violate Starfleet security.

Meanwhile Picard and Wesley have arrived at Starbase 515, where Wesley escorts Picard to the medical facility. It turns out that Doctor Pulaski asked Wesley to make sure that Picard made it inside, which prompts Picard to say "that woman". While lying on the operating table, the surgeon tells Picard not to worry because they have done this operation a hundred times. After administering anaesthesia the surgeon begins the operation, a fecundation's cardiac procedure with mid-line entry. He anticipates no problems and expects the operation team to be home for dinner.

Crimson force field

The deadly crimson force field

Riker plans to mislead the Pakled so that he can get La Forge back. They try to lead the Pakled to believe that he is a phaser and photon technology expert. By mentioning specific words during their conversation with the Pakled ship they try to tell La Forge what they are planning to do. The Pakled tell him that he must make them strong, meaning he has to fix the weaponry of the Mondor so they can attack the Enterprise. Fortunately Geordi understands what Riker wants and he changes the Pakled's weapons configuration so they don't work properly. When the Enterprise detects that the Pakled weapons are on-line they contact the Mondor and demand that Geordi be returned or they will be destroyed. The Pakled respond that "they are strong now" and that they "want respect".

Riker starts a countdown of the time the Pakleds have to return La Forge. When the Pakleds try to fire at the Enterprise nothing happens and La Forge tells them that the Enterprise disarmed the Mondor by using a crimson force field; the reality is a cleverly-coordinated ruse comprised of La Forge disabling the torpedoes as the Enterprise vents hydrogen through the Bussard collectors. The Pakleds, convinced that they are "not strong", drop their shields and Riker beams La Forge back to the Enterprise.

During this ruse Lieutenant Worf received a message that Captain Picard is close to death and the Enterprise needs to go to Starbase 515 as soon as possible.

Picard awakes after surgery

"What the hell are you doing here?"

During Picard's operation there were complications, which the surgeon was not qualified to resolve. A biomolecular specialist knows someone who is. When Picard awakens from his anaesthesia he sees Doctor Pulaski and when he asks what she is doing here she tells him that she saved his life. Picard finds this hard to believe, as this is a standard operation and is more concerned that the entire Enterprise now knows of his condition.

When Picard returns to the Enterprise bridge to the applause of some of the bridge officers, which he does not appreciate, he is pleased to report that Wesley Crusher's test results permit him to continue to study on board the Enterprise and that any rumors of his brush with death are greatly exaggerated. The Enterprise once more sets course for the Epsilon sector.

Log Entries

Memorable Quotes

"It's not the exams I'm worried about. It's Captain Picard."
"Why? He's not taking the exams."

- Wesley Crusher and Sonya Gomez

"This is Commander William Riker of the USS Enterprise."
"We received a mayday message from your ship."
"What is the nature of your problem?"
"We are far from home."
"Aren't we all. What was the reason for your distress signal?"
"We are Pakleds. Our ship is the Mondor. It is broken."
"What brings you so far from home?"
"We look for things."
"What sort of things?"
"Things we need."
"Can you be more specific?"
"Things to make us go. We need help."

- Riker and Grebnedlog

"Let me guess, their rubber band broke, right?"

- La Forge, after hearing that the Pakleds' ship is "broken"

"We are smart."

- Grebnedlog

"Our computer banks are non-negotiable."
"We want them."
"Believe me, they're nothing if not persistent."
"We want to be nothing if not persistent."
"Nobody ever said they were great conversationalists."

- Riker, Grebnedlog and La Forge

"Wishing for a thing does not make it so."

- Picard, to Wesley

"I stood toe-to-toe with the worst of the three and I told him what I thought of him, his pals, his planet and I possibly made some passing reference to his questionable parentage."

- Picard, describing the confrontation with the Naussicans

"You're now armed to the teeth."
"Teeth are for chewing."

- La Forge and Grebnedlog

"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Saving your life."
"Oh, come on. This is a routine procedure: quite commonplace."
"True, but you are not a commonplace man."

- Picard and Pulaski

Background Information

Story and production

"I dealt with a race of what appeared to be ugly and slow people. They have a need for things, which can be a reflection of our society. That's what Star Trek tries to do, take an almost unbelievable situation in an unbelievable time and somehow make all of us realize that's what's happening today, and what we can do to make the planet and the universe a better place. I think that is the essence of Star Trek and the tradition Roddenberry is trying to carry on." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)


  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion notes that Riker's "crimson force field" trick is similar to James T. Kirk's "corbomite" bluff in TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver" and "The Deadly Years".
  • The late Christopher Collins' next Star Trek role is as Durg in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Passenger".
  • Picard's statement at the end of the episode, "Any rumors of my brush with death are greatly exaggerated" pays homage to Samuel Clemens's famous response to his prematurely-published obituary, "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." He modifies the statement in Star Trek: First Contact when referring to the Borg after being separated from his senior staff during the Borg incursion. More than three years after the events of this episode, Picard would meet Clemens in 1893 San Francisco, as was shown in "Time's Arrow, Part II".
  • The events of the sixth season episode, "Tapestry", are based on the events in Picard's youth he related to Wesley in this episode.
  • During the scene aboard the shuttle when Wesley and Picard are chatting while the shuttle's autopilot is on, there is an odd exchange of conversation. As Picard begins talking about his fight with the Nausicaans, Wesley asks, "Was this before the Klingons joined the Federation?" to which Picard answers "That's right." This overlooked yet puzzling dialogue has yet to be explained, though Wesley could have been referring to the Klingon-Federation alliance. [1]
  • Wesley's Starfleet exams, which he takes in this episode, are most likely the repeat tests of the exams he failed in TNG: "Coming of Age" of which Picard said: "and when you take your exams next year and you will." However, his exams were not shown on screen this time.
  • This is the last of two appearances of Sonya Gomez, who was initially intended to be a comedic recurring character, but dropped after this episode.


"Very strange but nice. That was very different. It gave Geordi a nice turn, and the more you use LeVar, the happier the show will be, because LeVar is wonderful to work with." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

"The point at which we became serious about trying to write a script for the show was about five minutes after watching 'Samaritan Snare,' which in my personal opinion was the most abysmal piece of Star Trek ever filmed. My objections to it were that it always resorted to idiot plotting to make the story work, and that offended me a great deal worse than some of the awful shows which were done on the original series. I thought the way in which it was plotted and the way it was dealt with was an insult to the intelligence of the people who watched the show and the actors and characters in the show. None of the plot could have happened if all of the characters hadn't suddenly became morons that week."
"Someone must have been aware of how hokey it was, because they wrote obvious questions into the script which they chose not to answer. For instance, before Geordi beams over, Worf says explicitly to Riker, 'Do we have to send them our chief engineer because they have a little problem?' and it's never answered. If you don't want to answer it, don't bring it up. Another thing that is stupid is Deanna Troi comes on the bridge and says to Riker, 'I don't sense fear or confusion. Geordi is in danger. Bring him back,' and no one even responds to that. They simply act as if it wasn't said. On the trip over to the starbase, where Picard and Wesley have this long heart to heart talk, Wesley says why would anyone use a defective heart transplant. That's a minor point. A major piece of stupidity is they send him to a medical facility where it turned out that no one was qualified to handle the operation if it went at all wrong. I can't believe they expect viewers to be so stupid as to not ask about that. The fact that the routine was repeatedly said, throughout the show, to be an absolutely routine procedure and when it went wrong, it went wrong for no reason that was mentioned, except that it had to go wrong to have the climax. Then it turns out they have to call the Enterprise to bring Pulaski over to do the operation because she's more qualified and the people there weren't." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Special appearance by

Guest stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double



archaeology; art; autopilot; biomolecular physiologist; Bussard collector; capillary; cardiac implant; coffee; crimson force field; Bonestell Recreation Facility; Einstein; Epsilon IX sector; Epsilon Pulsar Cluster; Farspace Starbase Earhart; Federation; forced spectrum communcation; heterocyclic declination; hydrogen; James, William; Jarada; Klingon Empire; literature; mayday; metabilation occlusions; Mondor; myocardial enzyme balance; Nausicaan; neural calipers; Pakleds; parthenogenic implant; photon torpedo; pulsar; Rhomboid Dronegar sector 006; Romulans; sandwich; semantics; Starbase 515; Starbase 515 planet; Starfleet Academy; sterile field; teeth; thoracic polychromatics; tissue mitigator; Type 7 shuttlecraft; Van Doren; venturi chamber; warp coil

External links

Previous episode:
"Q Who"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2
Next episode:
"Up The Long Ladder"

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