Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Attached

The Next Generation, Season 7
Airdate: November 8, 1993
159 of 176 produced
159 of 176 aired


On a diplomatic mission to the divided world of Kesprytt III, Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher are waylaid by a xenophobic faction on that world. Complicating matters, however, are the devices attached to their skulls, which give them intimate insights into each others' minds.

Sweaty and out of breath. Unfortunately, for none of the right reasons.


Matthew: Well, I hope you'e enjoyed the Picard/Crusher show so far, because, with the exception of an anti-time future in the series finale, this is it. Whatever you want to get out of their relationship, you'd better find here. And so an over-arching question springing from this episode is whether it can overcome the crushing disappointment its treatment of their relationship generates. You know what, I think it does, but I'm going to spend this paragraph complaining. The story here teases us relentlessly, almost to the point of unbelievability.When they are linked, Crusher presses Picard to discuss his feelings. Later, she flirtingly references his "interesting dreams," which we can only assume are sexual in nature. So WTF is up with her spurning Picard's advances at the end of the episode? It makes her out to be a... well, the polite word is coquette. It's narrative blue balls in the extreme, and it's made all the worse by knowing that it won't go anywhere afterward, whether in the series or the movies. At least in the Troi/Worf debacle, we know things get better.

Kevin: Given the refreshingly adult treatment we got of relationships and their ends in "Lessons," this is all the more annoying. There are a lot of valid reasons for Crusher to not want to pursue a relationship with Picard, despite her feelings. There's the standard "risking the friendship." Given that they just went through a life-threatening situation, and what happened to Nella Darren, maybe she doesn't want to put Picard in the situation again of having to put someone he loves life at risk. The last time she fell for a Starfleet officer, he came home in a torpedo casing, and maybe she doesn't want to start a relationship with another officer. There are a lot of reasons, and had they given voice to any of them, the final scene would have been wrenching and touching instead of a narrative "WTF?" The problem is that this was a decision driven by creative staff that didn't want to have to handle a plot arc, and they couldn't even bother to disguise it in the writing.

Matthew: As a science fiction spy thriller, I think this episode largely works. Escape stories are generally entertaining, and this one is, too. It has a cold war story feel - escaping enemy territory with the help of double agents, paranoid government officials trying to pull strings from afar, and so on. I liked all the talk about divided planets and united planets and their suitability for Federation membership. I think the story could have stood a bit more action than it got, but what was there was entertaining. I do kind of wonder why a xenophobic culture would want to capture aliens at all, but whatever. It wasn't a crippling story defect. Similarly, I question why Crusher was along at all.

Kevin: I enjoy, and did enjoy as a child, the basic idea that a certain level of political division is viewed as, well...immature, and they happily avoided referencing the benighted 20th century. The problem with the political thriller is it veered a little too into comedy a little too quickly. The scanning of the guest quarters was too obvious. Real people in positions that paranoid would have found a way to scan the room without tipping their hand that they had. It moved the Kes from taut to comical paranoia a little too quickly. I will say, I enjoyed the sparring in the conference lounge and Riker's smackdown of them both. It was good dialogue and it's always fun to see Riker find a novel, non-violent approach to a problem.

Matthew: As a character story, we got loads of development, especially for Crusher. I really enjoyed hearing about her youthful acerbic wit, and how she has matured. I also really liked the snippets of information we got about the Picard-Crusher love triangle. For whatever issues I have with the resolution of the love story, the interactions between the two characters can hardly be faulted for their entertainment value. From breakfast through their captivity and up to the end, the characters are given lines that take advantage of the chemistry that exists.

Kevin: Her regret at hurting a teenage friend was palpable and I did that thing I normally do when I watch Frasier and get vicariously embarrassed on her behalf. I think it was as much the acting, which we'll get to in a minute, but it all read as very organic and part of the established character. I also enjoyed the way they painted the history of the love triangle. It gave some real meat to their previous interactions, and retroactively makes already great scenes, like the ones in Arsenal of Freedom, even better. It would have been easy to leave the relationship one of mutual but unrealized attraction because of their professional positions, but adding a mature, non-ridiculous element of unrequited love adds some depth to it.


Matthew: I'm going to stop apologizing for turning reviews into Gates McFadden love-fests. She just kicks serious ass. Her acting choices almost always succeed, and many of them are on the quiet, physical side of things. The way she plays curiosity, regret, fascination, and caution, are all great. She's also a gifted physical actress. She rocks her uniform with a svelte post-pregnancy body, cavorts around the location sets with ease, and handles props expertly. She's just a joy to watch, and it's a crime she didn't receive more focus stories. Stewart was also fine, especially in his comedic moments.

Kevin: The look on her face when she talked about how she ruined the date with the guy with the proto-beard was pitch perfect. Picard and Crusher's interaction was also great, and is commendable for really running a gamut. Previous outings tended to be comedy or drama, and the mix of both while remaining grounded and credible is a credit to them both. I loved the scene of her practically teasing Picard by thinking about food. I couldn't help but think of the classic Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movies. Much like the love we heap on Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, the pair, almost against the will of the writers, can't but infuse their relationship with live and energy that even when it's not getting the textual support it should, still really sings.

Matthew: Jonathan Frakes had to split duties between acting and directing, and I really like his performance here. I've ragged on "Shouty Riker" several times before, but here it works. I liked his interactions with the two planetary officials, both of whom were well played, Mauric by Robin Gammell, and Lorin by Lenore Kasdorf. They were both well cast, and their emotional displays were very believable.

Kevin: The two officials were great, and even if I had a tonal problem with the script on this section, the guest stars really brought it. They seeemed to really inhabit the roles, and it shows. You could see mid-level bureaucrats having a similar shouting match in a UN corridor in a Cold War drama. I agree on Riker. His attitude was the perfect amount of glib dismissal to take the wind out their sails a little, but with just enough oomph to give it some menace to back it up. It was a good performance by Frakes, and it really helped cement the scenes as quintessentially Riker-style solutions to the problem.

Production Values

Matthew: There were lots of location and sound stage shoots in this episode. They all looked pretty good. Planet California is always a nice backdrop for action, and some of the high hills that were selected were a nice dramatic setting. The cave sound stage looked all right, but not spectacular. The cave scenes were marred by some pretty hokey looking fire effects - the trend of not having practical pyro effects on set is continued here. I liked the set for the prison cell and the hallway outside it - it had a lot of neat texture and was lit well.

Kevin: The fire effects, while understandably aritifical, still looked pretty creaky. I loved the outdoor sets, as they managed to find something that was not flat desert or arid canyon. The hilly terrain looked really great. The prison cell was a favorite of mine too. It had the feel of something more industrial, converted for this covert purpose, the ideal secret prison set.

Matthew: You can't talk about production values without mentioning the collection of "junk" displayed in the ambassador's quarters. Most of it looked interesting, but the giant plasma ball that was put in the middle of the frame has silly. What could it be doing besides just being a knick knack? It's an example of trying too hard to find something of visual interest, and making things look silly instead. The alien makeup was average, but I liked the outfits on both factions.

Kevin: This is one of those rare times where a production misstep materially impacted the narrative of the episode. Once he had a plasma ball and those blinking red light tubes that don't do anything but blink, the Kes were now irretrievably in campy territory. Those red neon tubes are practically a meta-science fiction joke. William Shatner even made fun of them in Airplane 2: The Sequel. The squarely adequate Westmore-heads were balanced by some good costuming. They managed to pull off a head-covering jumpsuit that never once looked like the purple version of those surgical scrubs.


Matthew: The total whiff on the Crusher/Picard romance notwithstanding, this is an entertaining episode. In fact, it's above average. If the story had precipitated them getting together at the end, it might even threaten to scrape into 5 territory. But it doesn't. In the end, it's a good spy yarn with an interesting human telepathy angle, that puts two characters we love into interesting situations. Just because the last 30 seconds fail to deliver, that doesn't invalidate what overall feels very much like a 4.

Kevin: On the strength of the acting alone, this is a 4. I agree wholeheartedly with Matthew's rationale for not giving a 5, and it's a crying shame, too. This had the potential to surpass even "Second Chances" in terms of its grown-up treatment of relationships, but they stopped short because...well...because. That's why. That makes a still very respectable 8 from the two of us.


1 comment:

  1. I remember my hebrew school teacher having a nerdgasim about the possibility of this episode . I did not see the actual episode until later but I remember that he (and later I )was some what disappointed by the episode that there was no actual.....well you know. But I agree with Matt that this was a good spy flick.