the story: Riker and Picard get to the bottom of the archeological search the space pirates have been on.
what it's all about: The moving parts here all involve layers of trust, from the obvious to the less-so (Worf isn't sure what to think of Data in command). It doesn't seem like Next Generation at all, except when you realize the series routinely focused on exactly these matters in its biggest stories.
What helps set "Part 2" apart is that it's the rare opportunity to see Riker and Picard actively collaborating. This is certainly something strange to admit, because in every other series, it was much more common, from the one-two punch of Kirk and Spock to Sisko's necessary relationship with Kira, Janeway needing Chakotay as a source of strength, and Archer having T'Pol operate as a testing ground. Yet more often than not, Picard worked in concert with his whole crew (the movies would finally simplify this by pairing him with Data), and Riker in a vacuum, notably in "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2." "Part 2" also evokes "Redemption, Part 2," where Data originally has personnel problems with how he runs things while in command. Seeing how he and the crew handles things (including the incredibly tall Klingon!) is almost as much fun as watching Riker and Picard wing their way among the space pirates.
But the episode works best just watching everything develop, including the obligatory twist (Next Generation is easily the most the franchise ever got out of the relationship between Romulans and Vulcans), represented by Robin Curtis, who had previously appeared in Star Trek as the second actress to play Saavik (in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).
As a whole, "Gambit" is like the Next Generation version of an original series episode, and it's a terrific breath of fresh air.
- franchise - Romps are a tradition in Star Trek!
- series - But, a unique experience in this series!
- character - Making for great character work!
- essential - All of which makes it a classic.