Star Trek: The Next Generation Once Used Riker’s Weakness For Women To Prevent A Galactic War

In Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Vengeance Factor," William Riker's flirting with Yuta ended up preventing a war.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

When it comes to Star Trek commanding officers and their womanizing ways, it’s amazing that the Prime Directive wasn’t amended with a “Kirk clause” before the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation. William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) took up Captain Kirk’s (William Shatner) mantle and, during the course of 178 episodes, managed to flirt with multiple species, but there was one dalliance that stands out above all others because it saved an entire species. “The Vengeance Factor,” episode nine of The Next Generation’s third season, featuring a guest appearance from Lisa Wilcox as a murderous Acamarian bent on revenge, stopped only because Riker was so obviously smitten.

The episode begins with an away team investigating a Federation Outpost and discovering evidence that it was attacked by the Gatherers, a nomadic Acamarian tribe, that Picard (Patrick Stewart) soon discovers split from the culture over a hundred years earlier. The Acamarian leader, Marouk (Nancy Parsons), agrees to attempt a reconciliation between the two tribes, bringing the crew of the Enterprise to a Gatherer planet. After thwarting an ambush, the crew and Marouk meet with Brull, the gatherer’s leader, over a feast to begin the reconciliation and discuss peace.

It’s afterward that Riker meets Yuta (Wilcox), an attractive servant of Marouk that speaks cryptically about her life of servitude while Riker, oblivious to the sinister undertone, is only interested in explaining he’ll treat her like an equal. The two meet up later that night in Riker’s quarters after Marouk suggests that Yuta go to him, with the Starfleet officer remarking that “his attraction must have been that obvious.” By now, the audience knows that something is up with Yuta, as earlier, she was the last one to talk to a Gatherer that suddenly died of cardiac arrest, but poor Riker is just happy to be with a beautiful woman.

Data (Brent Spiner) and Dr. Crusher (Gates Mcfadden) figure out the mysterious death by finding a connection from 50 years earlier: Yuta. Not a real servant, she’s been genetically modified to carry a plague that only affects the Acamarian Lornak tribe DNA and given skin impervious to phaser blasts. Alerting Riker to the real situation, he beams to the peace talks being overseen by Picard, just in time to make a fateful choice.

Yuta has moved close to Chorgan, leader of the Gatherers when Riker orders her to stop. All of the cryptic discussion about free will and servitude comes into sharp focus as the woman feels no choice but to fulfill her mission as a living weapon and kill the Gatherers when Riker lifts his phaser and fires. Thanks to the modified skin, Yuta is still standing, forcing Riker to make the snap decision to engage full power, fire, and murder the woman he had been developing a connection with just a few hours earlier.

Wilcox’s wailing and heartfelt scream as Yuta embraces her fate as a weapon and Frakes’ emotionally devastated Riker make “The Vengeance Factor” a surprisingly poignant episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The end result, with a sacrifice made for the greater galactic good, echos the greatest episode of The Original Series, “The City At The Edge Of Forever.” Riker’s decision to let a woman he may love die originates in Captain Kirk, allowing Edith Keeler (Joan Collins) to be struck by a truck to preserve the timeline.

The flirting from both Starfleet officers led to them being in the right place and time to prevent a far greater tragedy through a personal sacrifice. While each would go on to have many other dalliances and even a few romances, their tendency to be smitten at first sight always ended in trouble. For William Riker, it led to him having to murder a woman, while for Kirk, his inaction and decision not to save Keeler was pivotal.

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