This episode starts like many an episode: the Enterprise is doing something boring, and they encounter something MYSTERIOUS. This time, it’s space debris, which obviously, they beam aboard, because I know when I see an unidentified piece of trash floating in the rivers of sludge that grace the subway system, for example, my first instinct is to go pick it up. Sometimes I taste it.
The debris turns out to be this:
Don’t touch that, you don’t know where it’s been
Jigga-whaaaaaaaat? Where did this piece of NASA come from? Clearly, NASA has not been around for centuries. To add to the mystery, the Enterprise is orbiting a planet with one tiny area of atmosphere that’s hospitable to humans, with the rest of it being, of course, inhospitable. So off goes the away team of Riker, Worf, and Geordi to check it out.
The planet looks like this:
Hello, Cleveland, we are Floating Torsos
There’s no real reason to include this; I just thought it was funny. AN ENDLESS ABYSS MAKES ME LAUGH, OKAY? More funny is what they see in front of them:
Not weird at all
MORE MYSTERY!! A revolving door that appears to lead nowhere! Let’s go through it!
They go through the door and find themselves in a casino/hotel called THE ROYALE. While the fashions are decidedly 1991, the characters seem like something out of a film noir. You have the skeevy hotel manager:
I just have a skeevy face
This actor, Sam Anderson, always plays a slimeball. I guess there are worse things than being typecast as a slimeball, like actually being a literal slime ball. That would be gross. Anyway, part of the reason you can tell he’s skeevy, besides his face, is his shiny, shiny suitcoat. No one with good intentions wears a coat that shiny. Props for the matching tie and pocket square, though.
We also have the put-upon bellboy:
Thanks for carrying my bags, your tip is: that lapel looks dumb
His entrances are marked with a sexy saxophone riff that would be more in line with a Sam Spade movie than an episode of TNG, because he’s in love with someone named Rita, who is apparently “Mickey D’s girl.” Note to writers: when coming up with a name for a threatening gangster-type person, do not name him after a popular fast food chain. Instead of having the effect of instilling fear into your audience when they hear his name, it just makes them want a McFlurry.
Then we have, as one always must in a casino, an ornery Texan:
He’s not so much a cowboy as he is a cliche of a cowboy
I have two words for you: Bolo. Tie. Bolo ties are the greatest indicator of someone being a cowboy while wanting to remain “businessy.” They are the mullet of neckwear, because they never, ever succeed in making you look anything but dumb and/or like a redneck.
I will say that I enjoy his shoulder patches, however.
After the away team meets the Texan, they watch him walk away in completely characteristic ways for each of them:
Worf: General anger
Data: Confusion re: humans/emotions
Riker: “Damn, that guy is awesome. Almost as awesome as me.”
We have the down-on-her-luck pretty lady:
Blow on your what now? Oh, dice. Sure
We never see more of her dress than this, which saddens me to no end, but let’s take some joy in what we have: I kind of like it! I do like a halter, and this lady here certainly has nice shoulders and decolletage. The whole “I’m naked but I’m wearing lace but underneath I’m naaaaaaaaaaaked!!” thing is definitely of the time (1991 or so), but I think she’s pulling it off. The hair, however: architectural wonder, yes. Flattering and stylish? No.
Wrapping up our main characters, we have the aforementioned Mickey D, who does not arrive on the scene until Act 4:
Those coat sleeves are purely for peacocking
There are not many men who can pull off a white, double-breasted zoot suit with a weird break in the pant, white shoes, and a patterned shirt. And by “not many” I mean “none,” because Mickey here looks like the captain of a gay gangster cruise ship. Look at this shirt!
This episode of TNG sponsored by International Male’s Fall 1991 line
The only fear that shirt is going to instill in anyone is the fear that they will be hypnotized into a stupor by the pattern and somehow end up on Fire Island.
What happens in the episode is basically that Riker, Worf, and Geordi realize a couple of things:
- the people in The Royale are not emitting life signs
- they cannot leave The Royale
- most of the people do not speak to them
- there is a dead NASA astronaut on a floor above them, thus explaining the debris
- they are actually inside an alien re-creation of a drugstore novel called Hotel Royale that the aliens made for the dead NASA astronaut before he died 238 years ago, which is why everything is so cliched and weird
It’s yet another “oh, season two, you so crazy,” type episode, which I rather enjoy, actually.
But the real gems in this episode are the background artists. There are a LOT of them, because it’s a casino full of people, and they are all wearing gloriously terribly 1991 “I’m fancy and going to the casino” outfits. Some of these screencaps are not so great in the resolution department, since they are all of extras, but what you can see is AMAZING.
First, we have a couple of croupiers/dealers/casino employees.
Marshmallow Fluff Bouffant: artist’s rendering
Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad has done ok for himself
Why the bellhop has a grey/burgundy color scheme happening and these guys have this ruffled monstrosity going on (we never see that lady dealer from the front, but I can GUARANTEE it looks bananas on anyone with even a semblance of a bosom), I cannot say. The nice part for continuity purposes is that any inconsistency can be written off by the fact that this is basically an alien holodeck based on a shitty novel.
There are a lot of sexy ladies in the casino as well:
Either the inspiration for, or inspired by, Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Oh, how I wish I could see the front of this dress! I bet it has a sweetheart neckline. But why are those water wings so low on her arms?
Fly Girl ahead of her time
Another tantalizingly amazing-looking outfit that CANNOT BE SEEN in full. I’m imagining it as a skintight jersey minidress with a diagonal colorblock red stripe across it, and it is so, so bad in the best way. But the real reason this had to be included is that girl is DEFINITELY wearing a SCRUNCHIE. In a GLAMOROUS CASINO. Oh, how times have changed. (Thank goodness.)
It took me like 5 tries to get any screenshot of this girl; she just walks by once in the background. BUT LOOK. She is wearing MATCHING jeans and jean jacket!! What! And once again, sleeve length is an issue. Come on, aliens, your fake Royale people could at least have clothes that fit.
Morgan Fairchild, is that you
This lady walks around a lot behind the action as well. She’s easy to spot because of her sapphire-blue sequined mother of the bride situation. Here she is again:
If there’s one thing that screams, “Mama needs a new pair of shoes,” it’s a long-sleeved, high-necked sequined cocktail dress, amirite? Casino GLAMOUR.
Of course, in any gambling establishment, you’ll have the old crones taking up space at the slots, and the Royale is no exception:
Octogenarian in 1991 = hipster in 2010
I’m pretty sure there’s someone on the L train right now who wants those glasses in sunglass form, bad. OKAY, IT’S ME. I WANT THEM. Fine, I’m a hipster, except without the knowledge of indie music or low body fat percentage.
Flamenco dancing deer in the headlights
This lady is only ever seen from the neck up, but she has so much going on anyway! Cascading asymmetrical hair! Strange butterfly headpiece! Earrings made of onyx lightbulbs (not terribly effective as lightbulbs, so making earrings out of them is just good sense)! Her facial expression in this screencap is not accidental – she looked like this for much of her 30 seconds of screen time. ACTING.
But there is one extra – excuse me, background artist – that stands out among the crowds. The samples here are only a few of the delights that await you in the Royale, to be sure. But one woman has truly taken Casino Glam to a new level. You see her first, and several times, from the back:
Yes. YES. A dress of gold lame, with a HOOD SCARF of gold lame. I suspect this comes from the same stockpile of shiny fabrics Charlie was referring to in this post. I was worried for a moment that I would never get to see this from the front, but thankfully, Gold Lame Hoodie Lady is TOO FABULOUS TO IGNORE:
Simply the best
The costume designer must have looked at her and said, “A gold cocktail dress is one thing, but you are TOO FIERCE to only swathe your BODY in gold lame. I must WRAP YOUR ENTIRE PERSON IN IT.” Either that, or the actress was having a bad hair day. Consider your bet wisely, Gold Lame Hoodie Lady, but in my book, you’ve already won.