Star Trek: The Next Generation
Air date: 2/1/1993
Teleplay by Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore
Story by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Cliff Bole
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
The Enterprise arrives at a Starfleet relay station along the Klingon border and finds it deserted, absent its usual two crew members. There are some biological remains and signs of a struggle, leading the investigation to point to the possibility of murrrr-derrrrr. Geordi views the personal logs of one of the crew members, Lt. Aquiel Uhnari (Renee Jones). Naturally, because it's Geordi, he's instantly smitten by the image of a woman who cannot return those feelings (being that she's, y'know, presumed dead).
Ah, Geordi — how hopeless he is in these matters. Instead of investigating with the clinical detachment the situation warrants, he comes to "know" this woman through the personal transmissions meant for her sister. But then Aquiel turns up not dead after all — the Klingon border patrol, who were the initial suspects in this mystery, find Aquiel in a nearby shuttle. So if she's not dead, then that means the other crewman, Lt. Rocha, must be. Aquiel is not the victim, but she might be the killer. And now Geordi might be falling for her!
"Aquiel" is as bad as "Ship in a Bottle" is good. It's the epitome of pedestrian plots, made worse by fairly awful characterization. Not only do we have to put up with Geordi initially idealizing someone whom he met solely through her logs (again), we then have to sit through the completely forced nature of his developing feelings for Aquiel once he meets her for real. All the clues point to her being the killer, but he's going to prove her innocent, dammit! The dialogue is rote, Renee Jones' performance is wooden, and the two characters have zero (0) chemistry. Ultimately, there's a kiss that becomes the basis for the characters realizing what a deep connection they suddenly have. None of this is remotely believable.
An example of this story's lack of conviction and embracing of cliches that don't typically surface on this show: There's actually a scene where Aquiel, looking guilty and feeling the walls close in, runs to her quarters and grabs a suitcase. Yes, grabs a suitcase. "Running away isn't going to help prove your innocence!" Geordi helpfully offers. No, it won't. But I was too busy thinking: She's going to flee a murder investigation in — what? A shuttlecraft that's already been impounded? With the Enterprise sitting out there? Well, at least she has a suitcase!
The romantic embellishments are mostly embarrassing, making me think this would've been better with just plot, but then again, maybe not. A sci-fi angle emerges in the final acts, where it turns out an alien lifeform that absorbs, and then takes on the appearance of that which it absorbs, may be on the loose. So Aquiel might be a shapeshifting absorber! Or maybe it's one of the Klingons! But no: It's the dog! Alas, the fact that I didn't see that particular twist coming is not offset by the unadulterated lameness of it.