Star Trek: The Next Generation – Aquiel [6.13]

Geordi becomes familiar with a young officer who disappeared from a remote communications station through her logs.  When she turns up alive, he has already formed an attachment to her.  Evidence seems to point to the fact that the officer, Aquiel, may be responsible for the murder of her crew mate, but the true culprit turns out to be Aquiel’s dog, who is really a shape-changing alien organism.  Yeah.

Teleplay by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore.  Story by Jeri Taylor.  Directed by Cliff Bole.

Previous Episode: Ship in a Bottle • Next Episode: Face of the Enemy

Aquiel starts off with the intentions of making a fine mystery, later eventually reveals itself to be a romantic thriller, and winds up adding in a dash of science fiction horror story, resulting in a conglomeration that is so unappealing that nobody really likes it, and one of the writers apparently said that it was his greatest regret of his time on the show.

Yet the funny thing is that Aquiel doesn’t have anything outright terrible in it–certainly there are worse and stupider episodes than this one.  In fact, the episode is filled with a whole series of plot points that could potentially be developed into  an interesting episode.  The problem is that Aquiel doesn’t seem to know what type of story it wants to be, and the resulting mix winds up being incredibly bland.  Pretty much every element falls flat, failing to reach any of the heights that the show normally aspires to.

We all know that though there have been a few hits mixed in with the misses, overall Next Generation isn’t particularly good at romance.  Aquiel only adds to the list of misses, with the relative lack of  spark between Geordi and Aquiel.  Though Aquiel makes for an interesting personality in her logs, she acts so inconsistently and counter-intelligently in “real life” that it’s hard to imagine why Geordi falls for her.  This makes the climactic scene where they are bonding over their little glow rock feel awkward and embarrassing than anything else.  We’re obviously mean to feel suspicious of Aquiel, but since the romance is so uncompelling, it’s hard to care if she turns out to be a murderer or not.

And any potential for the alien menace plot to be scary or tense is just tossed away.  It’s a bit startling when Dr. Crusher’s arm grows out of the goo, but after that, it’s just a bunch of ho-hum talking, with no strong dialog, no compelling character dynamics, and no sense of threat.  By the time the murderer is revealed, it comes as no surprise, and it comes with no thrills.  Instead, we realize that the whole episode has been building up to an unconvincing special effect that renders the story’s monster as sort of a computer-animated Cousin Itt that goes after Geordi so slowly that he has time to open up a little cabinet, pull out a phaser, change it’s settings, and then shoot the darn thing before it can get around to eating him.  It’s a wonder the creature has survived all this time, especially if it’s had to change hosts every week or so!

So even though Aquiel was intended to introduce some new story elements, it ended up being quickly swept under the carpet by everyone involved, and that seems to have beeen for the best.

Guest Cast:
• Renee Jones plays Aquiel.  According to IMDb, she is credited for 1,228 episodes of Days of Our Lives as someone named Lexie (although a few of them are credit only).

• Wayne Grace plays Governor Torak.  He also played Fleet Admiral Krell in an episode of Enterprise.

Shout Out to the Past:
• There is a brief reference to Picard’s role in Gowron becoming the leader of the Klingon high command, back in Reunion.

• Geordi orders an ice coffee

• They make a big deal when Aquiel finally shows up on the viewscreen.  Is it supposed to be because she’s so beautiful?  Can Geordi even tell something like that by looking at someone on a viewscreen?

• Aquiel had an abusive father.  I guess then they couldn’t make her a human, in Star Trek’s semi-idyllic earth future.

• More Klingon diplomacy from Picard:  “I can see that you honestly didn’t know what happened aboard the station.  I will just have to take this matter up with Gowron.  I’m really sorry that we bothered you.”

• When Aquiel shows up alive, it is at least reasonably surprising.

• Troi has one word of dialog in the story.  “Concerned?”

• Aquiel sort of flirting with Geordi before going to bed is a bit awkward

• Riker and Worf berate Aquiel, and then claim they aren’t there to make accusations

• The closest we have to snappy dialog in the show is Geordi responding to Riker saying that he is letting his personal feelings cloud his judgement.  “I’m not the one making judgements.”

• OK, the blob of DNA replicates Crusher’s hand – the effect is a bit goofy but also kind of creepy

• I appreciate the fact that Geordi is wearing civilian clothes on his date at the end.

• Open ended ending, with the possibility but not the certainty that Aquiel will return.  But I’m  the production team is grateful that they didn’t have to explain what happened to her.

Dialogue High Point
There is nothing that stands out, but I sort of like the random Klingon posturing between Worf of Torak.

Worf:  Have the courage to admit your mistakes.  Or are you a lo’Be Vos?
Torak:  At least I do not wear the unform of the P’tak!

Previous Episode: Ship in a Bottle • Next Episode: Face of the Enemy

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