Monday, April 16, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Liaisons

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Liaisons"
Airdate: September 25, 1993
153 of 176 produced
153 of 176 aired


Introduction

While Captain Picard undertakes a journey to the Iyaaran homeworld, the senior staff of the Enterprise is tasked with entertaining an Iyaaran delegation aboard ship. Things turn out to be more difficult than expected, though, when the Iyaarans engage in a series of pretenses, including a kidnapping, in order to discover more about various human emotions.

Because you haven't learned about human emotions until you've had a comically oversized novelty beverage.




Writing


Matthew: This episode comes after Descent Part II, and I like it more. So it is incumbent upon me to state why this is, since there are some pretty obvious problems with this story.  I think the main reason is the opportunity for fun comedy we get. Worf especially gets several amusing scenes with his diplomatic charge. My favorite was when the ambassador asked whether Geordi was smarter, and Geordi hesitated for a bit. Troi's scenes were also enjoyable. The basic idea of the show, a sort of absolute cultural strangeness, is a good one. It's not explored particularly well here, but it isn't a disaster, either.

Kevin: This episode was always just kind of...there...for me. It occupies a discrete set of points in the spacetime continuum and that's about all I can say about it. The comedy with Troi and Worf was pretty good. I agree, overall, it's better than Descent, but that's not such a difficult bar to clear. I think the problem is the Iyaaran lack of emotions was not really developed. I suppose I'm glad they rejected the obvious Vulcan root of possessing the biological but rejecting the psychological nature of emotion, but it would have been interesting to see them interact on their own. How would they pick up on cues or gauge truthfulness? Those touches could have filled in the episode.

Matthew: The "thriller" story with Picard was pretty decent, at least until the twist was revealed. It is fun to see Picard try to shield the feelings of his caretaker, but then eventually lose patience and just let her have it. Overall, this is also an interesting story idea, as survival drama usually tends to be. Unfortunately, many of these scenes were kind of slow-paced, without a lot of the interesting psycho-drama touches that would have helped things stay exciting. Maybe if each time Picard woke up, Anna was doing a new thing which seemed utterly psychotic, but then turned out to have an innocuous explanation. I don't know. Something.


Kevin: Even as a child, I've always been turned off by "love" stories that turn on the "obsession" of one of the parties. As I've aged, professional experience has taught me to be more sensitive to red flags, not less. So the minute someone starts acting more like they are in love with the idea of being in love than that they are genuinely trying to build a relationship, I tend to detach from the story. That being said, I thought they wrote Captain Picard well in the situation. I think with, say, Kirk, he might have actually dived into a relationship. Picard always seemed to feel something was off even if he could not articulate. Still, it never quite gels. There never seem to be any real stakes or consequence to the story.

Matthew: It's kind of hard to believe that this race that researched the downed freighter so diligently, not to mention discovering effective means of antagonism, would not also discover that kidnapping  a visiting dignitary and not letting him meet the premier, propositioning said visiting dignitary for sex under false pretenses, as well as engaging in physical combat with crew aboard a strange vessel, would constitute gravely offensive actions. It's also hard to believe that Picard could spend so long on the shuttle with Voval without noticing his conspicuous necklace, and then not notice the exact same necklace on Anna. It also seems odd that, if this necklace is some sort of projection device, that it wouldn't just cover itself in the disguise mode.


Kevin: This always did seem to be an idea that had more oomph on paper than in reality. The plan is a little too complex for its own good. Could they all just watch some telenovelas? The 20th century transmissions should be reaching their star system about now. That's got it all. Passion, antagonism, excess. Would have saved everyone a lot of time.

Acting


Matthew: I think it's fair to say that the most enjoyable performance in this particular episode is Michael Dorn's. His "straight man pushed to the edge of breaking" was a lot of fun to watch. Marina Sirtis also had some good comedy beats in her being deluged by desserts. Patrick Stewart is the other big star of this show. This was a pretty average performance by him, all told. I never felt any real terror or even interest. He also was pretty blase about the whole thing when the truth was revealed. But it wasn't bad, it just felt a little phoned in.

Kevin: The straight man is not an easy role to play, particularly as a centerpiece of the episode. If you react too often, you're not the straight guy, and played wrong, it just looks like you are not acting at all. The script never hands a moment on par with "Die," from Deja Q, but for what he has, he really takes the ball and runs with it. The snapping point in the poker game was pretty damn funny. As for Picard, the lack of chemistry, even initially with Anna, kind of killed a lot, both in terms of writing and acting. The relationship didn't have much life, so neither did Picard's performance here. I agree, it's certainly not bad, but it's definitely not his best.

Matthew: The aliens of the week were pretty bland, overall. Presumably they were told to deliver their lines in a flat, affectless manner. Well, mission accomplished.


Production Values


Matthew: The wreck on the planet was an obvious model. The planet itself looked really good from orbit, one of the best so far. The ridge was an obvious optical effect, and looked variously decent and even pretty good in the establishing shot of Anna on the precipice.

Kevin: I have never been a big fan of the purple/gray fog ridden planet. I didn't much like it Last Outpost, and while its certainly better realized here, it still doesn't grab me.


Matthew: The aliens were a pretty typical "Westmorehead" with no real memorable features. The shuttle was another redress of the hexagon shaped alien craft we've seen in other episodes (e.g. Journey's End, A Matter of Time), and was only noteworthy for its lack of noteworthiness.

Kevin: It's particularly sad that when we redid this plot in Voyager, the aliens look largely the same.


Conclusion


Matthew: In the end, although I like this more than "Descent," it's not because of any particular strength of this episode's story, production, or even acting. About the only thing this episode has going for it by comparison is that it doesn't fundamentally damage the characters in any way. It is mildly enjoyable, but not memorable, nor even particularly good. It's got some story flaws, and it's rather dull. So that sounds like a 2 to me.


Kevin: I don't know if they were rushing an episode or if things went off the rails somewhere, but this episode never really comes together. The slow pacing and somewhat unconvincing set up just leave this episode a bit of a meandering mess. I was thinking this would be a 3 when I sat down, but while it does not assault continuity, this is still a 2 for lack of raw entertainment value. That makes a total of 4, and a worrying start to the season.

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