Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Aquiel"

*

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.

Previous episode: Ship in a Bottle
Next episode: Face of the Enemy

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30 comments on this review

Latex Zebra - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 6:35am (USA Central)
It's weird, I look back at the first season and see a lot of not just clunky episodes but absolute horrors. At the time though I enjoyed them.
This is the first episode I can actually remember that I watched at the time and thought 'Jesus this is bad.'
It also seems to be the episode that is always on when I spot TNG on a cable channel somewhere.
I think you're 1 and half stars to generous. This is ytter bilge.
lvsxy808 - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
The dog did it.

The dog.

Did it.

*shakes head sadly*
Jay - Sat, Jun 23, 2012 - 1:09am (USA Central)
One of the later season lowlights, though not quite as awful as Imaginary Friend (because what could be?)
William B - Sun, Jun 24, 2012 - 2:57pm (USA Central)
This is, unquestionably, an awful episode.

That said, the premise itself is not a problem. For one thing, it worked extremely well when it was a film called Laura (1944), about a detective falling in love with a dead woman when he sees her painting. And it's certainly in character for Geordi, considering that we've been through the Leah Brahms thing and I didn't see that much evidence in Galaxy's Child that he grew out of it. But in order for the story to work, the creepy fetishization of an imagined girl has to be emphasized more, which is a little beyond TNG. There is something dysfunctional about Geordi falling for Aquiel (and Leah) more than he can fall for an actual human person -- dysfunctional in the same way that Barclay's recreation of the crew in Hollow Pursuits is a problem. It is understandable and sympathetic, and could even carry over into a commentary on fan identification with celebrities or other people we understand only through a screen between us. But the episode has little interest in actually discussing that element.
Grumpy - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 6:54pm (USA Central)
"This is the first episode I can actually remember that I watched at the time and thought 'Jesus this is bad.'"

You put your finger on the feeling I had earlier with "Realm of Fear." Not that there weren't bad shows before (and we didn't realize how bad it was back in '87), but suddenly in Season 6, bad shows were the default. I don't know where this expectation came from. Months earlier, in the back half of Season 5, TNG had some of its strongest episodes ever, mixed with some of its worst late-period turds (the aforementioned "Imaginary Friend," "Hero Worship," all the Alexander shows), so the Season 6 malaise was not based on past experience. Maybe it was a subconscious awareness that, as the producers took their eye off TNG to prep DS9, the quality had lapsed -- more so in Season 7, when Jeri Taylor was in charge of TNG while others focused on the movie and developing Voyager.
Elliott - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
@ William B.

The connection to "Laura" did not even occur to me till you mentioned it, but you're right.

I would honestly give this stinker 0 stars. I don't think many of TNG's episodes sink to that level, but this along with "Imaginary Friend," "Code of Honour", "Shades of Grey," and "Parallels" outline some of the worst sci-fi one can find.
William B - Tue, Jul 3, 2012 - 2:00pm (USA Central)
@Elliot: Thanks!

Though I agree with the rest of your picks -- Parallels, really? I thought everyone liked that one.
William B - Tue, Jul 3, 2012 - 4:23pm (USA Central)
@Elliott (continued):

Apologies for my carelessness in spelling your name. Also, having read a few more of your comments, which I enjoyed, I want to take care to mention that I don't think that the popular opinion of any episode should determine its actual quality -- I just haven't heard many strong arguments articulated about Parallels. In truth I haven't thought about it much one way or another (it has been, really, years and years since I watched TNG) and am curious about why you think that Parallels is not just a failure, but a failure among the very worst of the series.
Nick P. - Fri, Jul 6, 2012 - 10:55am (USA Central)
Yes, you are all right, this ep is unwatchable. I just think that there were quite a few I remember watching in season 5 being unwatchable (imaginary friend). If given the choice I would probably rather watch this one, but I would still rather be tortured by Gul Madred than watch either of these!

Now, in defense of the 6th season, generally speaking, when one of these pop up on cable, most from this season are pretty watchable. I would say this was way stronger than season 5 or 7, but, yeah, there is definitely a drop from season 4.
Niall - Thu, Jul 19, 2012 - 1:31pm (USA Central)
If it was obvious to me watching this at the age of about 10 that the dog was the alien, it should have been obvious to one of the crew members. I remember watching this and thinking it was patently unbelievable that while they were suspecting either Aquiel or one of the Klingons of being the creature, everyone had conveniently forgotten about the dog.
David - Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - 8:11am (USA Central)
Completely agree that this episode is awful, *but* I do have to protest against "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". That was exactly why I always liked Geordi the most, I thought he was the most well-rounded pre-DS9 character, he seemed to be the only TNG character with flaws. He could be really quite pathetic, but TNG never sold it as "haha look at this guy", but more "witness the sad life of Geordi LaForge". It's *ridiculous* that he forms feelings for her so fast, but he's lonely and a little desperate. So the forced nature of his feelings is probably completely spot on. He doesn't love her, but he wants to.

Anyway, I have had a new appreciation for Geordi over the years. But yes, doesn't save a horrible episode.
Nebula Nox - Mon, Aug 20, 2012 - 1:35pm (USA Central)
I always forget about this episode, and when/if I do encounter it, I am confused and want to point to it far away...
Kevin - Mon, Aug 27, 2012 - 3:06am (USA Central)
Just a note to everyone, I'm really enjoying reading the reviews and all the comments. I'm watching all the Star Trek series on Netflix in "chronological" order (meaning from Enterprise on, yes, I am that much of a nerd!). This one was bad, I mean bad. My first thought was the dog did it before I even knew there was a crime. I mean, really, why else show a dog!?!

But I completely agree with David. My feelings weren't "C'mon LaVar" but "No, not again Geordi."

As hokey as it sounds, I actually found myself halfway through this episode asking "Poor Geordi. Will you ever find true love..."

"Witness the sad life of Geordi LaForge" has got to be one of the best and most succinct summaries of TNG I've ever heard. It made me laugh and cry a little at the same time.

Elliott - Sun, Sep 9, 2012 - 6:15pm (USA Central)
@Wlliam B

I had intended to wait until the review for "Parallels" was posted as I hate to digress on the page for a different review, but since it will be some time before that happens (no ill will towards Jammer: please, take your time), I'll give a sufficient if brief answer now.

What little "Parallels" offers one to chew on is incredibly bland, unconvincing and tired. It's like TNG's version of "Twisted". Worf is by this point a shell of the character he was in "Redemption" and the totally false and forced romance with Deanna is distracting. In most bad episodes of TNG there is something--the acting, the music, the production, the philosophy, something. Here, the performances are sub-par, the music is wallpaper, the production lacklustre, the philosophy vacuous. If an episode is about nothing, it is, in my book, automatically bad. If it's boring to boot, it's kicked right to the bottom of the barrel.
William B - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 7:04am (USA Central)
@Elliott:

Thanks. It might be worth waiting for Parallels for a longer discussion, but a quick response:

My confession is that it's been years since I've watched TNG at length, so I have no direct responses to your criticisms of the episode -- in particular, also, I'm not sure how I do feel about Worf's later season development now. Generalizing away from Worf, the central element of interest, it seems to me, is something that ties in with the themes of Tapestry. Tapestry was an episode about accepting the choices that one has made, and fits in with Picard's story, in particular because of Picard's age. But Worf is younger, and Parallels presents him with alternative possibilities of what his life could be which lead to him actively trying to change his current life, to bring in pieces of the alternate presents to integrate himself and live more fully, with the main instance being the Deanna romance. I find that interesting, and I also think that it works very well in line with All Good Things, in which Picard's being given the chance to see an imagined future (and to revisit his own past) both saves the universe (!) and also gives the crew a chance to figure out what is important to them now. This theme appears elsewhere in season seven as well, with e.g. Future Alexander coming back to give Worf the insight required to really see his son (which is, I think, a nice resolution to the admittedly not very good Worf/Alexander series arc, albeit sadly undone by remaking Alexander into an incompetent soldier in DS9). It also ties in with one of the most fundamental functions of fiction in general and science fiction in particular, the ability to imagine alternate ways of living, to spur the creativity so that people can live fully. In this read, Worf's romance with Deanna has to come from him living it out in an alternate universe, because as a man with very rigid view of himself he would never be able to imagine that role for himself otherwise. Of course, this all falls apart if you believe that Worf/Deanna is a waste of time romance that adds nothing to either character, in which case it seems that Worf's learning from his alternate universe selves doesn't actually have any particularly good effects, especially since it does seem as if Worf/Deanna's relationship never actually goes past first base. (I'm being flippant about that point.) I don't think it's necessarily a terribly complex idea, but it's actually IIRC the first instance of a "what if?" episode within the Star Trek mythos being actually transformative for the main cast and allowing them to reimagine their life: Mirror, Mirror, City on the Edge of Forever, Yesterday's Enterprise, and Tapestry for example all present alternate universes or alternate possible presents are obviously, unilaterally worse than the "correct" version of the present, though both City and YE demonstrate that the fact that the world is better comes at the cost of individual loss. As an episode where the ability to imagine a current present have value other than as a cautionary tale I think Parallels has some value.

No comment on the production value -- you may be right (again, been a long time).
William B - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 7:09am (USA Central)
Clarifying one point:

When I said "it's actually IIRC the first instance of a "what if?" episode within the Star Trek mythos being actually transformative for the main cast and allowing them to reimagine their life" I meant specifically it's the first instance where someone actually improves their life by taking on aspects of what they see in an alternate universe. Picard's life is enriched by the Tapestry experience because he comes closer to accepting his youth, e.g., so it's not as if there was no insight gained in the other what if episodes, just not the particular "oh, maybe I should try getting out of my current roles" insight.
Kevin - Thu, Sep 13, 2012 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
@William B.

Sorry Jammer. I've outpaced you and need to talk. I completely agree with you william about Parallels. I know that I've seen tons of negative comments about the 7th season in general, but I wonder if it was really more viewer fatigue than anything TNG did wrong. Actually, for me rewatching on netflix, season 6 was terrible, the worst, but by the begining of 7 you could tell they knew it was the final season and really did a fantastic job of tying up loose ends and bringing the characters to a close. I never watched DS9 growing up because I hated the 2 or 3 episodes I saw, so I'm not sure what happens with these characters there, but I find season 7 to be the best by far in both terms of character development, story closure, and universe settling. Knowing that they're done gave them license to finish things right and they did a good job of forcefully imprinting TNG's values onto the Star Trek universe as well. I hear DS9 went bad with the dominion wars, but everything after this bears that stamp of Picard's moral authority, and when they violate it it is certainly with an apologetic glance back at TNG's fans.

Sorry Jammer. I'm eagerly awaiting your season 7 reviews.
Tornado - Wed, Sep 26, 2012 - 8:18am (USA Central)
Wow. It says something about "Aquiel" that much of the comment thread has become about "Parallels."
Eduardo - Wed, Apr 10, 2013 - 11:54am (USA Central)
I can see what the producers were going for, in terms of developing flawed characters as single lonely people. But the mystery plot really botched the premise.

It certainly doesn't help that Berman, Jeri Taylor and Cliff Bole ended up casting a sub-par soap opera actress for the role of Aquiel.

No self-respecting casting director should use Days of our Lives as resume content for selecting an actor.
Sintek - Tue, May 14, 2013 - 8:12pm (USA Central)
This is the episode that confirms Geordi has space Asperger's. Think about it: he spends most of his time alone in the ship's basement with his electronics; devoid of all social skills; prone to falling in love with women he's never met; does not get along with other autists like Barclay.
Jack - Fri, May 31, 2013 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
Neall is right. If you consider that rarely in Star Trek is something present for absolutely no reason, then once the dog is shown, you realize something about the story has to have something to do with the dog. Then Critical Thinking 101 gets you to what the dog's point is.
J - Tue, Jul 2, 2013 - 5:12pm (USA Central)
Apparently, Troi has all but completely lost her empathic abilities at this point.
Corey - Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - 3:56pm (USA Central)
Hmm, apparently I rate this episode differently than Jammer - Zero Stars! Honestly, I can't find a single redeeming scene or line of dialog - in a sense, there's no reason to watch it!

As for the Parallels discussion - I really like that episode. It's fun to see Worf's reactions when his world has been turned upside down. The scene where he "jumps" to fighting with the Cardassians and doesn't know how to use the tactical console (what Starfleet doesn't believe in labels for their controls?) was priceless.

I'm not certain what I feel about the Troi/Worf romance angle. Sirtis and Frakes obviously had some chemistry (you could tell by their body language), so perhaps they should have stuck with that. And somehow, I just don't think the 5'3" Troi with a petite body, would fare too well with Klingon Mating Rituals.
mephyve - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 12:04pm (USA Central)
Geordi's at it again. This guy seriously needs a few sessions with Troi. He's always falling for women he's never met in person, then when he does meet them he goes all 'puppy dog' on them. "Hey Geordi, I know I'm a murder suspect but let's share this device with me. "
Anyway I enjoyed this episode for one reason. I first watched it with a friend, and seeing that I don't like dogs ( They started i), from the moment I first saw the dog I started saying that the dog did it. Throughout the entire episode I kept telling him 'you watch, it's the dog .' I loved looking like a prophet at the end.
William B - Thu, Sep 5, 2013 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
After a series of strong episodes, this comes and. Yeah. Anyway, here are some of my favourite moments:

1. Somehow, the whole episode's premise relies on the idea that Geordi is not only the natural guy to unlock the logs, but to...watch all of Aquiel's logs himself, and do reports on them, including once it becomes clearer and clearer that it's a murder situation. Clearly murder investigations should be the purview of security or command officers? But logs are "technology," so they fall to Geordi, I guess.

Anyway, Geordi demonstrates his dearth of investigative skill when he decides to watch all Aquiel's logs, including her personal logs, in chronological order, GOING FORWARD. SOMEHOW both people on this station died or went away, they have no idea why, and they are investigating, but Geordi doesn't bother to check the very last log entry to see whether she said "Oh no! I'm about to be murdered by Rocha," or "There's a deadly virus on the station that transforms us into goo! I hope someone gets this message!" or some such? Geordi even makes a report to Picard partway through watching the logs that Aquiel had mentioned Morag three times, prompting Picard to start investigating Morag, BEFORE CHECKING THE LAST LOG ENTRY. Or even, you know, getting Worf or Riker to take over the investigation.

2. While Worf is scanning around the station with a tricorder, he and Riker have this exchange:

WORF: Commander, there are DNA traces here. Klingon.
RIKER: So Klingons did board the station?
WORF: Yes, but (looks at tricorder quizzically) I only found DNA from...ONE Klingon so far. I will continue to scan.

Oh, only one Klingon, huh, Worf? Ahem. Think about it for a second.

3. In Ten-Forward, Geordi "lets it slip" that he knows what he's seen in her logs.

AQUIEL: How do you know about that?
LAFORGE: Well, to be honest, when we thought you were dead I needed to review your logs and personal correspondence for any possible clues about what happened.
AQUIEL: All of it?
LAFORGE: Most of it, yeah. (Aquiel goes and wanders toward the window, looks out for a while.) You need to understand that we thought you'd been murdered. We needed information.
AQUIEL: I'm sorry. It's just that I tell my sister things I wouldn't tell anyone else. I guess I was feeling a little exposed.

What's great about this is the way Aquiel apologizes and uses the past continuous ("I was feeling...") as if she's talking about how she reacted hours or days ago, and not her huge emotional reaction of getting up and wandering over to the window.

In general, this hints at one of the biggest problems with Aquiel: not only do they try to cast her as a femme fatale, the dangerous woman Geordi should stay away from because she could plausibly be a murderer, they emphasize again and again how Aquiel is belligerent and emotionally flighty. This makes it even more obvious when in *every* *scene*, Renee Jones performs Aquiel as if she's just bored and sleepy.

4. After we've heard Aquiel describing how Rocha is a madman who attacked her, who was belligerent from the get-go, we cut to Riker and Picard having this exchange:

RIKER: Rocha's file is spotless. Two decorations for valour, three outstanding evaluations from his previous commanders. Doesn't sound like the same man that Lieutenant Uhnari described.
PICARD: What did you found out about Uhnari?
RIKER: I checked into her record, too. Her last posting was on Deriben Five. I spoke to her commanding officer there. He said she was argumentative, quick to take offence. He also told me he transferred her to that relay station because she was hampering their efforts. To be honest, I'm having trouble believing her story, sir.
PICARD: Why?

Hahaha. Why indeed? What's amazing is that Patrick Stewart actually delivers that "why?" as if he is genuinely surprised at Riker bringing up that he has doubts about Aquiel, as if he *hasn't* just read out loud that the personnel files completely contradict her version of events and put her in a bad light.

5. The whole Klingon thing. I like the scene of Picard playing the Gowron card well enough, though it was put to better use in "Unification." Still, Morag's "I DON'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THESE WILD ACCUSATIONS! RRRRRAGGGHH!" tone can never be not funny.

6. So, here is some insight into Aquiel's thought process.

(she grabs a case and starts packing)
LAFORGE: What are you doing?
AQUIEL: Getting out of here.
LAFORGE: Aquiel, running away isn't going to prove your innocence. Facing the situation will.
AQUIEL: I'm scared, Geordi.
LAFORGE: Look, we'll get through this. I promise you, okay?
AQUIEL: Then you believe me?
LAFORGE: Yes, I do.
(Geordi kisses and hugs her)

[one short scene with Beverly follows, and when we return:]

AQUIEL: I haven't been this close to someone in a long time. I don't want to let go of it.
LAFORGE: Neither do I, but I've got six hundred logs to go through.
AQUIEL: All right, but first there's something I want to share with you. A way that we can become more intimate. My people are partially telepathic. We use something called the Canar to help focus our thoughts. We also use the Canar for a stronger emotional link during love.
(Aquiel picks up a crystal from her display stand)

What? So, wait, what? Aquiel goes from "I am so scared that I will run away!" (which, as Jammer points out, is ludicrous in and of itself -- run away where?), to "Oh, forget about those 600 logs -- time to party!" And eventually comes the "You will never be closer to anyone than you are to me right now!" moment, wherein apparently Geordi and Aquiel's transcendent connection transcends...uh, everything. And clearly, Geordi and Aquiel do a wacky crystal ritual because wacky crystal rituals look suspicious, and the episode throws anything resembling coherent characterization out the airlock, or on a shuttle, wherever Aquiel was planning on taking her suitcase to, in order to make a crass mislead to make us think that Geordi is in danger from Aquiel. But no, of course it's the dog. ("Hey, pooch!")

7. At the end, Aquiel forgets about her deep connection to Geordi, thank goodness, and then plans to shape up and improve her attitude so that she can get posted to the Enterprise eventually. Good to know this story has a happy ending, about how Aquiel realizes the wrongness of her ways of taking offense easily and being so anxious she tries to run when it's impossible to do so and so on. The idea that Geordi and Aquiel have a real connection is dropped as hafl-heartedly as it is introduced.

Anyway, this is terrible; it is certainly worse than the season's previous low point "Man of the People," and I think this is worse than "Cost of Living," which makes it the worst episode since...season two? 1 star, though maybe that is being too generous.
anonymous - Tue, Dec 10, 2013 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
Honestly I didnt think this ep was as bad as all that. TNG has admitttedly had some stinkers but I didn't think this was one of them...at least not to be counted amongst the worst. Its main fault was casting the dog as the killer; but hey, you can't say it wasn't a LITTLE surprising! I liked the Laura-esque theme, and poor ol' Geordi shouldn't be ragged on for standing up for the woman he loves, even if it wasn't real love, blah blah blah. Give the guy a break. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the romantic episodes but it kept my interest.
Smith - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 6:17pm (USA Central)
It wasn't THAT bad. Yes, the romance was cheesey, but LeVar did a great job acting and it was a fun mystery story with a great twist at the end.
Kurt Fng Russel - Mon, Apr 21, 2014 - 4:14pm (USA Central)
I suspected the dog was going to be a shapeshifting alien within 10 seconds of it arriving. Why? Because of the 1984 movie 'The Thing'. As I turned out I was more right than I could ever have imagined. The episode is a complete rip off!
Luka - Tue, Apr 22, 2014 - 5:39am (USA Central)
Obviously the episode would have worked if they casted a stronger female lead. Pam Grier for example, would've been a solid choice. And why not have her be responsible for the murder? Geordi falls for her charms, and he tries to help her, only to be played in the end.

Then maybe he has some realization as a character at the about how dangerous it is to be so infatuated with women you hardly really know. Instead he's got to defend himself from a dog morphed into a poop blob.

It's definitely not one of TNG's worst episodes. It's something you put on to fall asleep at night.
SamSimon - Tue, Jun 10, 2014 - 2:43pm (USA Central)
Ok, I'm the absolute minority here. I just watched the episode and as usual I came here to check Jammer's score (and the discussion) expecting a 2, 2.5. I honestly don't understand why all this hate (and I went through all your reasons), I thought this was a good episode for Geordi and could have become something more should they have decided to keep Aquiel on the Enterprise...

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