Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation



Air date: 11/8/1993
Written by Nick Sagan
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise arrives to open diplomatic relations with the bifurcated world of Kesprytt, which has petitioned for entry into the Federation. Correction: The Kes have applied for Federation membership; the isolated Prytt have not made any such request and, indeed, apparently do not even talk with the Kes government with which they share a planet. Picard and Crusher beam down to the planet to meet a Kes delegation but are intercepted by the Prytt and thrown into a holding cell and accused of being Kes spies. The Prytt install brain implants that are ostensibly used to obtain truthful information from the prisoners, but which have the side effect of telepathically linking Picard and Crusher so they can hear each other's thoughts.

From here emerges two story strands connecting the overall premise: Picard and Crusher escape their holding cell (with the help of some covert Kes operatives) and must deal with the consequences of being joined at the hip (the device doesn't allow them to move more than a few feet from each other) and privy to each other's thoughts, while Riker aboard the Enterprise attempts to open communications with the Prytt to negotiate their release. Riker does this with the help of Kes Ambassador Mauric (Robin Gammell), who offers such wonderfully useful insights as "We don't have any formal diplomatic relations with the Prytt."

Both of these stories work pretty well. What we have here is an effective and balanced episode of exploratory character work (Picard and Crusher), action-adventure (ditto), and a comedy of diplomatic frustration (Riker, Worf, and Mauric). While this is a story much more remembered (and rightly so) for its dialogue breaking down the previously unspoken history of Picard and Crusher, there's also plenty of entertainment to be found in the goings-on aboard the Enterprise, where Mauric reveals just how deeply the dysfunction runs on Kesprytt — and does so with a stunningly oblivious tone-deafness that borders on hilarious. For a world that wants Federation membership and should know to be on its best behavior, its utter failure via Mauric to put up a convincing front — even amid its deep divisions — speaks volumes.

This is played mostly for laughs of the situation's escalating frustration. Mauric is so paranoid of Kes spies that he insists on the highest of security for all discussions, and takes to combing through his quarters for listening devices. There's a running gag as his quarters fill up with big, flashy security scanners and gizmos that turn the room into what looks like a lab. The longer this goes on, the more and more absurdly paranoid Mauric becomes, until he's eventually accusing Riker of a labyrinthine scheme to join in an alliance with the Prytt.

Riker shows great restraint and professionalism in just continuing to even deal with the guy, but I got a good chuckle out of the scene where Mauric announces he's fed up and is leaving, and Riker says, good, and "Make sure you take all this junk with you." Even better is the scene where he lays out for Mauric and his Prytt counterpart exactly why he will be recommending Kesprytt be denied Federation membership. "Attached" may not be to Federation application scenarios as, say, "First Contact" was to first contact scenarios (which is to say definitive), but it does show one such scenario with a decent dose of entertainment value.

The emotional center of the episode is, of course, Picard and Crusher, and how the devices that have connected their thoughts now force them to say things that for many years have gone unsaid. While some of the early I-can-read-your-mind one-liners come across as obvious and hackneyed, the lengthy fireside discussion where Picard reveals that he was at one time, long ago, in love with Crusher (while she was still married to his best friend, no less), strikes the right notes of honest, revealing, and reluctantly confessional. Naturally, you can rarely go wrong with a Patrick Stewart soliloquy, but the dialogue manages to meet the assignment of offering new insights into the characters without running the risk of making grand changes to the status quo. (This is like the long-delayed episode for 'shippers that is written with the restraint and depth that makes it feel organic, rather than like fanfic.)

And there's the story's final scene that manages to (sort of) have its cake and eat it too. I suppose it would be too much to ask that these confessions and feelings open up a new chapter in the relationship between Picard and Crusher (and Picard even floats it as a possibility); the story here is non-committal in its ambiguity. It manages to be satisfying by acknowledging that these two are more than just friends (and the performances are very good), but still plays it safe by maintaining the status quo. For TNG, even in its final season, that feels like an appropriate choice.

Previous episode: Dark Page
Next episode: Force of Nature

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26 comments on this review

Patrick - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 8:54pm (USA Central)
This is thankfully one of the few episodes of season 7 that doesn't involve high concept sci fi wackiness, technobabble, and/or family members from our hero's past. It's a simple story and it's a nice, subtle set up for one of the plot threads in the finale, "All Good Things..." And for this, I am grateful.
Ospero - Sat, Oct 27, 2012 - 11:11pm (USA Central)
That review pretty much sums up the episode as I saw it. By no means great, but still a nice little hour that manages to combine insights into the characters with a look at how the Federation actually works in a diplomatic situation.

One little nitpick: "Mauric is so paranoid of Kes spies..." Shouldn't that be "Prytt spies"?
lvsxy808 - Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 5:06am (USA Central)
This to me in the very opposite of "Dark Page." I found it horrendously contrived, with the mind-linkers having absolutely no purpose in the story whatsoever other than to force the Picard-Crusher relationship forward. When a technobabble gadget actually has a purpose in the story, I can suspend disbelief and go with it. This has no such quality.
Jay - Sun, Oct 28, 2012 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
I'd guess that this might be the most fun Jonathan Frakes has had directing himself...
Paul - Mon, Oct 29, 2012 - 3:07pm (USA Central)
This is one of the better mediocre season 7 offerings. But I always took issue with the fact that the away team consisted of only Picard and Crusher.

Riker, obviously, has strong feelings about letting the captain serve on dangerous away missions. And even if this mission wasn't considered dangerous, it's odd that someone else wouldn't on the away team. It would have been better if someone else (Data? Geordi) had planned to go, but the Enterprise had been able to prevent all but Crusher and Picard from being whisked away by the Prytt.

Otherwise, it's a decent episode that explains some of the Picard/Crusher backstory. Of course, the implication from some early episodes -- that Wesley might actually be Picard's son -- is undone here. That's probably OK, though.

Last point. Why would the Federation even consider the Kes for admission? Considering how hard it was for the Bajorans, why the Kes have even gotten a look?

Nick P. - Sun, Nov 4, 2012 - 12:30am (USA Central)
Paul, this episode made me think of DS9 also. and it makes me mad the the producers of the shows so obviously were trying to get the crappy bajorans to be members, when this episode and numerous other episodes show species with the exact same problems and Picards response is "sorry, never".

Why do the stupid bajorans get a starfleet contingent, when you could easily argue these races (or ten others from various episodes) deserve them far more.

AHHHHHH I hate bajorans!!!! Sorry, had to get that out of my system. I just love everything about DS9 so much except the horrible bajorans.
Paul - Mon, Nov 5, 2012 - 11:39am (USA Central)
@Nick P: I think we have different opinions here.

The Bajorans, by midway through DS9's run, appeared pretty stable. It made sense to approve them for membership in season 5 (they declined, but that's another story). Season 2? Not so much. But it still seemed that the Bajorans had a tougher time than the aliens here or others (like the goofy aliens in season 1).

Now, as far as stationing Sisko et. al at DS9, that was to get them ready for Federation membership because of the fallout from the Occupation. The Kesprytt probably didn't need that, so comparing Federation aid to Bajor with what the Federation didn't do here is apples and oranges.

BTW, I didn't dislike the Bajorans in total. Sure, they were annoying at times and a bit all over the place. They seemed both war weary and then generally OK with life at the same time. I never understood that.

I was fine when DS9 took the focus off Bajor in season 2. But it's too bad that they didn't ever get Bajor into the Federation. Even a throwaway line in the series finale (e.g. Nog tells Kira that they're planning on the Federation delegation to begin the acceptance proceedings) would have been nice.
Fabian - Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
The Kesprytt and Crusher/Picard stories did work well together. The fact that the Prytt brain implants allowed Crusher and Picard to read one another's thoughts helped bring the story along when Crusher finds out that Picard dislikes the complex breakfasts that they had been sharing together...or that Picard had had feelings for her even when Beverly was still married. Finding out about your compatriot's best kept secrets does make for stimulating conversation!

I also liked the fact that Commander Riker faced down the uncooperative Prytt minister and told her that unless her forces returned Picard and Crusher to the safety of the Enterprise, there would be a whole slew of Federation ships visiting the Prytt world and beaming down their crews to ask uncomfortable questions about the missing duo. It certainly made the Prytt minister squirm--and decide to turn over the captured Picard over to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Crusher was alraedy safely in Kes territory by the end of the story.
Snitch - Wed, Jan 9, 2013 - 5:13am (USA Central)
3 1/2 Stars from me, they should have gone forward and have Picard hook up with the Doctor. Last season what is the harm, the chemistry between the actors sold the episode.
navamske - Wed, Mar 13, 2013 - 9:48pm (USA Central)
"It certainly made the Prytt minister squirm--and decide to turn over the captured Picard over to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Crusher was alraedy safely in Kes territory by the end of the story."

That's not the way I remember it. I think Picard and Crusher were in Pryttland, running for the border to cross into Kes World. They used some kind of tricorder wackiness to open a hole in the force field, and when Picard was looking the other way and Crusher saw the Bad Guys coming for them, she shoved Picard through the hole and then got nabbed. I believe when the Prytt minister was contacted by the Bad Guys, they told her, "We have the female. The male is in Kes territory."
navamske - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 9:24pm (USA Central)
"the lengthy fireside discussion where Picard reveals that he was at one time, long ago, in love with Crusher"

I think this wording, while technically correct, is misleading, as it suggests that Picard explicitly revealed his feelings for Crusher. Actually, she found out by reading his thoughts, and he implicitly confirmed it.
mephyve - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 9:15am (USA Central)
A good title for this episode would have been "The Great Big Copout!' I recall calling the episode in which Picard fell in love with a musician , something like pointless drivel. The idea that Picard cannot have an onboard romance is just stupid to me. Yeah people will talk but they'll lose interest. Wasting an entire episode to come to that conclusion is ludacris.
At least there were other elements in this episode to find entertaining but it was still another colossal waste of time to say the same thing you said before.
I mean how many times do we have to go through all this build up only to have the same outcome.
See what I did there?
Moonie - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
Liked this quite a lot.

But: why on earth did Beverly and Picard not end up together at the end of TNG?? They should have been the ones to get married, not Riker and Troi. I sense very little chemistry between Riker and Troi ;-)

SciFi writers and relationships. Sigh. One of Star Trek's common problems. That, and obviously studios messing things up (see, Antonia, Generations). Quite frustrating at times, when you know just how much better things could have been, as far as relationships go.
Smith - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 9:42am (USA Central)
Really an episode with two stories. Picard/Crusher and Riker/Prytt/Kess. The Riker story was a tad simplistic and trek cliche...but entertaining and fun.

The Picard/Crusher angle was just awful. So Picard and Crusher have feelings for each oher. Who cares? Trek is about science fiction and abstraction. Not a soap opera in space. The egos are boring and souless. They are only useful to the extent they paint bigger pictures. What was there beyond Crusher/Picard? Nothing. Boring, simple and slow paced.

This was part of a "wrapping up the threads" campaign by Piller and Jeri Taylor for season 7. These writers are "character" zealots and don't understand that characters don't drive good stories but are the byproduct of them. Contrast and metaphor tell good stories...not character conflict.
Jack - Thu, Mar 6, 2014 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
Also, midway through the episode, the Kes guy suddenly starts thinking that the Enterprise is working with the Prytt, but then at the end, he still says he wants into the Federation...so...does he think the Enterprise has gone rogue from the Federation then? Logically, this episode was a hot mess.
Tommy - Tue, Jul 22, 2014 - 6:13pm (USA Central)

I don't see the tricorder as being contrived, but it was a huge stroke of good luck.
SkepticalMI - Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
I can't speak for anyone else, but to me this episode seemed like an awful lot of effort just for one minute of dialogue. We had an incredibly contrived setup (why was Bev the one to beam down with Picard? Isn't it usually Troi?) with incredibly contrived technology (we are downloading your brainwaves which, coincidentally, will allow you to hear each other's thoughts). And all of that just to get Picard to admit he used to have feelings for Bev. Was that really worth all that effort?

I don't think so. While the Kesprytt were fun to watch, their plot just kinda served to fill time until we could move back to our designated couple. And that's basically what it feels like. The show set Bev and Picard as having a past acquaintance, they were the older members of the crew, and they were brought together as friends throughout the series. So of course the fans are going to try to pair them up romantically. This episode just feels like the writers felt they had to acknowledge this possibility, and so put the whole episode together just to comment on it. And our 7 year payoff is simply to say that there was an attraction in the past, but not anymore. Well, that was worth the wait.

I'm not actually complaining about that being the final resolution. After all, they did work together for quite a while (ignoring season 2), and other than The Naked Now (ugh) and Allegiance (which wasn't the real Picard), there was no sense of a romantic relationship forming between them at all. While TNG tended to play up their relationship whenever Picard had another girl (QPid, Perfect Mate, Lessons), it wasn't really jealousy. Likewise, I don't remember jealousy from Picard in The Host. And given their close relationship, why wouldn't either of them try to start it up if they had any feelings?

I guess the more interesting question then becomes, as they said, what happens now? All Good Things suggests that the feelings aren't entirely dormant. But that's the only time it ever came up again. They certainly seem to suggest that the door is closed, but so be it.

Which means, well, why is there an entire episode about it? Couldn't it have come up in a more organic way? Did we really need magic technology just to get this little piece of revelation? It feels like a bit of a cheap way of doing things. Not

Two more random comments:
- More continuity! We got to see Crusher's fear of heights again! Given that that was the first thing I thought of when we saw that situation in the cave, I'm glad they remembered.
- While most of the Kesprytt storyline was fluff, it was fun to see Riker dressing them both down at the end. I've been harping on the fall of Riker's character for a while, but he is much better here. Maybe Frakes just needs to be directed by Frakes in order to succeed.
Nonya - Mon, Dec 8, 2014 - 12:04am (USA Central)
I'd rate this episode two stars at best. It's okay, but very dull. The aliens just aren't that interesting. The only thing I like is the bit at the end, and even that would be better if Beverly and Picard actually started dating.
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Jan 28, 2015 - 11:29pm (USA Central)
I think my favorite aspect of this ep was watching Riker give both sides a talking to, jabbing them both in the places where it hurt the most (especially threatening to pester the xenophobic, isolationist Prytt with all of Starfleet's resources as invasively as possible). Very Kirk-like of him, I felt.
sticky steve - Thu, May 21, 2015 - 7:31pm (USA Central)
what an utter bore captain picard is. 1 and 2 season of tng is true star trek, the remainder is commercial filler. That is all.
Peter - Fri, Jul 3, 2015 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
I agree with the 3 star rating on this one. I always found Crusher very attractive (guess I have Picard's taste), but it was a shame to see their relationship was basically just a tease. I guess one of those stars is just for the prominent role Bev plays. I frankly found the neck gadgets quite contrived, and even more so when they don't even let the two apart from each other.

There's a whole unexplored political element to this episode as well. It is hinted at in the first scene, when Picard posits that any non-unified planet should not be admitted to the Federation. I personally don't believe that a world government would be a good thing...Just too much chance of unrepresentative politicians and bureaucrats trampling over individual rights. We actually see that hinted at here, on a planet that is ALMOST unified in that they are down to only two governments. One of them is paranoid and obsessed with spying and the other is fine with kidnapping and false imprisonment without trial, not to mention that even their Prime Minister all but panics when he finds himself speaking with an outside party (the Enterprise) without prior clearance from the security folks. The whole planet seems like it's out of the Orwel's 1984. And then there's the forcefield border fence -- surely an orgasmic dream of every xenophobic nativist. I agree the episode's best moment comes when Riker reveals his opinion of Kesprytt.

Troy - Mon, Aug 3, 2015 - 9:57am (USA Central)
I liked this episode but it did lose a bit in the rewatch (slipping from 3-1/2 down to 3) I thought a divided planet was an interesting idea. Maybe a different episode where a planet in synchronous orbit around its star, so the dark worlders and light worlders are very different, but contrary to this episode NOT at war, they just don't have anything in common. Two different worlds on one world.
I also liked the telepathic link. Yes, the away time in contrived to get the skinny on this potential couple, but it is interesting. I also liked how the Dr. finds out Picard assumes a mantle of authority and confidence to be an effective captain. This is also well projected in Patrick Stewart's acting of Picard. I thought it was interesting that it was written by Carl Sagan's son Nick Sagan, I thought I heard some buzz about that, so I'm glad I noticed it in the credits.
Jack - Sat, Sep 19, 2015 - 11:14am (USA Central)
It was a little myopic that the defense minister was the beginning and the end of contract with the Prytt. Don't they have a prime minister? Leaders of countries are usually at least nominally less suspicious and xenophobic than the others, particular the one that heads the military. If nothing else, it should have been the prime minister that Riker stealthbeamed to the Enterprise at the end.

The notion that if aliens came to visit early in the first decade of the 21st century, that America's representative to them would have been Donald Rumsfeld is rather terrifying.
JMT - Wed, Oct 14, 2015 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
One thing that strikes me about Trek is how entire civilizations are represented by a handful of people. Yes, the ambassador was paranoid, but it's hard to imagine a functional society where everybody shares that paranoia.

I've come to think of the portrayal of alien races as simply representing a single facet of the human psyche pushed to an extreme as the most egregious conceit of TNG.
Luke - Thu, Oct 15, 2015 - 8:46am (USA Central)
Exactly, JMT, exactly. That's one of the huge problems with "Attached." Yes, the ambassador may be paranoid bordering on delusional, but it can't be possible that everyone in his country shares that paranoia. TNG has always had a problem with Planets of Hats, but this is probably its most unforgivable use. The entirety of the Kes society is represented by a single person? The entirety of the Prytt society is represented by one other person (two if you count the low-level functionary Riker and Data manage to contact)? Good grief, how about a little variety?

You know, I actually came to this episode for this re-watch with some found memories, mostly because I'm a Picard/Crusher shipper (yeah, I'll admit it :P) and I was happy that they finally spent some time on this relationship. But having watched it anew, it's nowhere as good as I remember. The ship-board plot with the Kes and Prytt is pretty atrocious and the Picard/Crusher story is rather underdeveloped.

First, the truly bad part - the Kes/Prytt story. Not only does it revolve around the problem of the Planet (or Nations in this case) of Hats, but it's one more example of TNG pushing the concept of world government. You know, I'm starting to think that TNG's writers must be dumbfounded that the real world operates the way it does. So, Kesprytt III has two rival nations on it instead of one, unified world government. And that, apparently, is all we need to know to show that these people have a highly dysfunctional society. Before we even introduced to the Kes ambassador and his paranoia or the Prytt minister and her xenophobia, we get the discussion between Picard and Crusher over breakfast detailing how this world simply isn't ready for entrance into the sterling, perfect Federation. They haven't put their differences aside so they're not ready to join the larger interstellar community? Well, just going to point this out, but the Federation hasn't been able to put aside its differences with several alien species, namely the Romulans and Cardassians. They aren't in full-scale political union so I guess they live in a state of total chaos with those races, right? Of course not. Let's use a few real-world examples.... As of right now (October 2015), the United States, alone, is one of 196 separate countries (I think) on Earth. The U.S. has absolutely no diplomatic relations (another example given of the dysfunction in Kesprytt socity) with four different nations (Iran, North Korea, Syria and Bhutan). There are four other countries the U.S. has troubled diplomatic relations with (Belarus, Libya, Sudan and Yemen). And there are a whopping 26 nations that have formal relations with the U.S. but who receive no U.S. Ambassador. And, yet, life somehow manages to go on. You don't need a world government to have a healthy and functioning society; and I'm really tired of TNG trying to shove that message down the audience's throats. It's so bad that they even say without that overarching world government you'll descend into either paranoia and/or xenophobia. Yeah, because definitely summarizes the relationship between the United States and Canada, or between Switzerland and the European Union, doesn't it?!

But that's not the only problem with this plot. There's also the fact that there are shades of Season One arrogance and smug douchebaggery on display from Riker and Worf. Thankfully it never descends to that level of annoyance, but there are definitely shades of it. It's exemplified in the scene when Riker declares "make sure you take all this junk with you." Unlike Jammer, I didn't find that scene endearing at all! It all starts out with the ambassador making what appears to be fairly reasonable security requests and yet Riker and Worf act almost offended by them all. Oh, the enemy has hacked into your communication gird and managed to redirect our transporter beam, thereby kidnapping our officers? Why would you ever want to set up a secure command base on the Enterprise?! That's absurd! Why the hell would you want to secure your quarters?! Stop being so asinine!! It's only after the paranoia literally comes to the forefront (with the quarters almost consumed by anti-eavesdropping equipment and accusations of extremely convoluted conspiracies) that that arrogance could even slightly be justified. But what is Riker's ultimate solution to the problem? To basically say "you're an ass so I'll be an ass to you; that will teach you not to be an ass!". Then he bullies and forces his way to a solution with the ambassador and minister. Groan, that's something Season One Riker would have done. I thought Season Seven Riker would have been a little more mature.

But let's get on to the "emotional core" of the episode - the Picard/Crusher storyline. SkepticalMI said it best - "this episode seemed like an awful lot of effort just for one minute of dialogue." Exactly. Everything in this plot was nothing but window dressing for the remarkably short scene around the campfire where "All is Revealed!" and the final scene in Picard's quarters. And, my oh my, do those two scenes go by awfully fast! Nothing in the campfire scene feels natural or organic in any way what-so-ever. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden's acting ability, but here it just felt like they were going through the motions and putting no heart into the material. It's like they were just quoting speeches at each other or (let's get a little meta here :P) like they were just reading per-prepared lines. This was the payoff to all the teasing we've had to the Picard/Crusher "romance" over the years? And let's not kid ourselves - this has been teased ever since "Encounter at Farpoint," from literally the first time Stewart and McFadden shared screen-time together. We've seen hints of it in numerous episodes ("The Naked Now," "We'll Always Have Paris," "QPid," "The Host" and "Lessons" to name just a few). And this is the payoff? One scene of unconvincing dialogue rattled off at warp speed? Were they kidding?! And, of course, there's the final scene in Picard's quarters, where they just had to slam down on the Reset Button with the force of ten thousand angry gods. So, both Picard and Crusher have those feeling for each other and they both know it, but they aren't going to pursue a relationship?! Good grief. But then, that would require the writers to actually write a romance that isn't just a "Romance of the Week." And apparently they couldn't have that, could they?! *facepalm* I can appreciate that their hearts were, somewhat, in the right place in giving us Picard/Crusher shippers something to chew on, but the execution of it is just so dreadful.

So, my rose-colored glasses have definitely fallen off for this episode.

Some minor nitpicks....
1.) Worf transports Picard and Crusher to the planet. First, why is Worf operating the transporter? And he just beams them down and decides to walk away without verifying that they arrived? You better stick to Tactical there, buddy!
2.) TROI: "Surely you must have some means of communication in case of a planetary emergency." Umm, why? Maybe they're perfectly content to manage their own affairs and let the Prytt do the same. Maybe neither side wants Big Daddy World Government managing their lives. Variety, people! It's the spice of life!
3.) Picard straight up lies to Crusher in the campfire scene, saying that he no longer has "those feelings." But the implants don't allow Crusher to realize that. That's convenient.
4.) Why do so many alien races in TNG refer to their planets with numbers? Kesprytt III? We don't say Sol III, we say Earth.
5.) Kesprytt III? Really? The name of the planet is just the names of the two remaining nations joined together? That's like Earth being called something like Amerorussia III. LOL!!

Diamond Dave - Mon, Nov 2, 2015 - 7:38am (USA Central)
The TNG soap opera continues as Picard's long suppressed feelings for Crusher are brought into the open. However, this is a long running plot thread that needed some closure as we near the end of the series - it's just that we don't get any. The campfire scene is probably one of my favourites in all of TNG, but the conclusion just seems a cop out after leading us down that path. Picard backing out - credible. Crusher - less so. Just seemed like a strange choice to me.

It's a shame the rest of the episode also doesn't really hang together. The Kes/Prytt B-story is more frustrating than engaging - although Riker's head-banging resolution is fun. As noted above, it's a lot of episode to get through for 1 minute of excellence. 2 stars.

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