Monday, February 20, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 6: Aquiel

The Next Generation, Season 6
Airdate: February 1, 1993
138 of 176 produced
138 of 176 aired


The Enterprise is sent to resupply a subspace relay station on the Klingon border. When they arrive, they find the station abandoned and evidence that at least one of the station's two crew members met with foul play. Trying to gain any insight into what happened, Geordi begins reading through the crew members personal logs. He discovers a charming, if not eccentric woman. When she is discovered alive in a shuttle in Klingon space, Geordi must face the possibility that woman he has started to fall for is a murderer.

Aquiel hopes her irresistible allure will counteract the ugliest bedspread in the quadrant.


Kevin: This episode's central problem is that it relies on two tropes, one of which is really tired, the other has a little more life in it, but isn't used terribly well here. Let's start with the first and biggest. Geordi's women problems have mutated from charming character flaw to creepy pathology. Like his infatuation with Leah, we have him learning a lot of very personal data about a woman and forming a one-sided attraction to her and then having it not work out in real life. It's really getting old, and centering an episode on it is excruciating.

Matthew: I just didn't get Geordi's connection to Aquiel here. I think it would have worked better had she been the aggressor, trying to seduce Geordi for her own gain. The scene in which Riker warns Geordi off of her as a friend was interesting, but would have been more so with that additional femme fatale element. It would have been interesting to explore a "less than model officer" character who uses duplicity and manipulation to get ahead (she was a lieutenant, after all). Instead, it's kind of a half-hearted romance, with the creepy elements you mention, that fails to really build to anything - including their parting scene, in which, basically, she says "Eh, I'm not that into you, I'll transfer somewhere else."

Kevin: The other trope is the mysterious alien of the week with the shapeshifting ability. The powers of the alien seemed tailored to produce exactly the mystery we got. It was odd that Crusher needed days to analyze DNA samples when we've seen her do fairly sophisticated analysis with a tricorder. I mean hell, she didn't need a full sequence to know if it was Aquiel or Rocha, she just needed to find a Y-chromosome. Also, the instant they realized that the creature needed other life forms to live, someone should have thought of the dog. I mean...really.

Matthew: It seemed like they were going for a bit of a Law & Order-style police procedural drama here. Unfortunately, the procedures seemed kind of lame, artificially ineffective as you say, and a bit behind the times even for 1993.

Kevin: The remainder of the episode had some potential, but that got killed by the wet blanket that was the rest of the story. I enjoyed the idea of the relay station, it gives a nice veracity to the universe. This is the non-glamorous end of Starfleet service, paying your dues in a distant outpost. I do think there should be more than two people, just for sanity sake. The saber-rattling with the rogue Klingon captain and the diplomatic sparring with Picard at least had some vigor to it. It would have been fun if that were the focus of the episode, given that as tropes go "Klingon political drama" still has some legs.

Matthew: I found the mention of a "Klingon raid against the Federation," seven years prior, no less, to be strange. I did like the scenes with the Klingons. But why did Morag "take" the transmissions? Tell us, for crying out loud! Heck, you could even involve Aquiel or Rocha in the political/economic/criminal machinations somehow. Instead, it's just a story thread that contributes little to nothing overall.


Kevin: Renee Jones was just a straight up miscast. She's a soap opera actress by profession and she reads her lines that way. Don't get me wrong, I love me some soap operas and was very sad when One Life to Live's cancellation was announced last year. There are some very talented actors who have made careers out of daytime soaps, but the rhythm and emotional range is different, and she just couldn't make the transition. It was particularly obvious in the technobabble scenes.

Matthew: Hmm. I didn't hate her performance, actually. I think the script was worse than what she brought to it. Hearing now that she was a soap actress, it's too bad they didn't give her some scenery to chew. I think the biggest knock on her is that she failed to transcend ho-hum dialogue and subpar make-up.

Kevin: LeVar Burton didn't give a bad performance per se, but it still felt "less than." He had real chemistry with Susan Gibney and it obviously helped the two episodes she was in. Here, there was no such spark, and it probably would have derailed even a better written episode. This entire episode felt like it was being acted through a fog. Everything felt a little slower and little less than it should have been.

Matthew: Burton was fine for me. He always projects enough charm and internal life to carry a scene, it's just the fault of the writing that he is being asked to be kind of a loser. He's a lovable loser, anyway, and that is a credit to him. Our resident Klingon contingent also failed to overcome blandly written scenes. I liked Morag's defiant protestations of innocence, but the governor role has been done before, and done better.

Production Values

Kevin: I like both the model for the relay station and the interior. The multiple okudagrams were fun. The quarters were sufficiently appointed with knickknacks, too, just not necessarily great ones. The canar looked like it was purchased at a new age stall in a LA-area mall.

Matthew: This is one of the weakest make-up foreheads in the series. It kind of looks like brown silly putty smeared on an otherwise attractive woman's forehead. I too noticed and liked the relay station interior, though the exterior was a straight up re-use of the cryo-ship from "The Neutral Zone." Alert fans may have noticed the static from Star Trek IV popping up. Anyway, the interior of the station was notable for the rare use of a physical computer keyboard, and the lack of those alternating red neon thingies.

Kevin: Outside of that, the goo with the hand reaching for Crusher was creepy but not earth-shattering. The real sin of this episode was the final transformation effect of the dog. It was a straight up disaster.

Matthew: The final effect wasn't what did it for me, it was the morphing effect right before the Crusher hand bit, which actually looked pretty good. The pink blob beforehand though looked atrocious.


Kevin: This is a 2. If nothing else, this episode is painfully boring. I never really care about Uhnari or the creature. I vaguely care about the broader Klingon political situation, but that never really gets explored. The result is an episode I routinely skip when I am watching an otherwise strong season 6.

Matthew: Yeah, I actually did doze off around minute 36, when Dr. Crusher was saying something or other about coalescent organisms. I think the shape-shifter trope can be inherently interesting if the mystery and suspense are played out well. I see what they were trying to do here. It's an interesting failure by Jeri Taylor, Ron Moore and Brannon Braga, a trio normally reliable for a bit more pep in a story. It's not offensive. It's not world-breaking. It's not even outright character assassination, since this is well-worn Geordi territory. I think if they had focused either on the "not a model officer" aspect of Aquiel, or on how this organism could have mimicked a person well enough to do their job for a week, things would be more interesting. Instead, we get a bland yet creepy Geordi romance. It has redeeming qualities, though. The basic idea of a "who's the impostor" story was fleetingly interesting. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

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