Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Liaisons"

**

Air date: 9/27/1993
Teleplay by Jeanne Carrigan-Fauci & Lisa Rich
Story by Roger Eschbacher & Jaq Greenspon
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Liaisons" is in the spirit of TOS-era alien encounters, where aliens behave strangely, our human characters do not understand, and then the story's lesson is revealed in a long soliloquy at the end that explains everything that came before. (For some reason that seems like a TOS template, anyway.) The problems are (1) I don't really buy the rationale after all is revealed, and (2) much of what comes before that is either forgettable or tedious — when it's not being laughable, of course.

The story doesn't show all its cards until the end, but for the sake of simplicity I will explain it up front — the Enterprise is being visited by two ambassadors who have been assigned to learn about concepts that do not exist in their society and they don't understand. To that end, they've paired up with Troi and Worf to learn from them the concepts of, respectively, pleasure (via foodstuffs, not sex, mind you) and antagonism. (I suppose they already know enough about both antagonism and Worf to make the assumption that he's the right candidate, which makes the whole experiment seem unnecessary, but whatever.) A third ambassador (played by the always reliable Eric Pierpoint of TNG's TV contemporary Alien Nation) takes Picard back to his world in a shuttle, which instead crashes on a desolate planet, thereby giving the writers of the then-forthcoming Voyager ideas for years to come.

On the planet surface, Picard is rescued by a woman named Anna (Barbara Williams), who also crashed there and has been stranded for seven years. Picard assures them they will figure out a way to escape the planet using technology from the shuttle to call for help, but Anna is a little ... off. The two of them sit and converse, Anna expresses her gratitude, and it slowly turns into a riff on Misery. She won't let him leave, comes up with excuses for why not, becomes infatuated with him, and then "accidentally" destroys the shuttle transceiver she's supposed to be retrieving. Serious question: Am I supposed to laugh when kooky Anna finally throws Picard to the ground and repeatedly demands "Love me!"? Because I did.

Aboard the Enterprise the two ambassadors drive Troi and Worf crazy, but mostly Worf (who gets the most entertaining iteration of this particular storyline), who has to deal with a guy who provokes him at every turn — as if he were doing it on purpose! (Because, plot twist: He is! But for a reason! Whoa!) This finally results in Worf kicking the guy's ass (after, yes, threatening him with disembowelment) when he cheats during a poker game. Somewhat funny: yes. Relevant storytelling: hardly.

Turns out "Anna" is actually the ambassador in disguise, who attempted to get Picard to fall in love with her/him in order to understand the concept of love. Their society first learned of the curious concept from the logs of two people who fell in love after being stranded in a similar crash/survival situation — so he decided he'd replicate the scenario to see if he could make Picard fall in love with him/her. I'd say his experiment's biggest flaw was that he expected it to succeed on the timeline of a typical TNG romance, which is to say, immediately.

So what we have here is story that obeys the Trekkian mantra of seeking out new cultures and trying to understand them (in this case, from the aliens' point of view), but does so in probably the most prosaic and forgettable ways possible.

Previous episode: Descent, Part II
Next episode: Interface

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15 comments on this review

Patrick - Thu, Sep 20, 2012 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
I liked your point about "giving the writers of Voyager storylines for years to come".

In some ways this feels like an unofficial episode of Voyager.
grumpy_otter - Thu, Sep 20, 2012 - 9:26pm (USA Central)
I was very sorry that the Anna story turned out to be false--I thought that had potential until it became ridiculous.

And I did enjoy the WHOA! I was about to write "the ambassador's hangover" until I realized I had gotten that from Voyager. Shows how much they did mimic this!
David - Thu, Sep 20, 2012 - 11:49pm (USA Central)
Again I agree a boring 2-star episode. It certainly didnt help that this originally aired around the same time as DS9's 4 star episodes "The Homecoming" and "The Circle".

I rarely felt TNG did fluff pieces that felt like pure filler but this is one of the few that I would categorize as such. It felt like it was spinning its wheels and was the first hint of TNG in S7 running on creative fumes. I didn't find any of the ship storylines the least bit interesting and the attempted humor with Worf was forced and stupid.

The Anna mystery lacked no sense of urgency or intrigue to make it the least bit compelling--the scenes were slow and dialog middling. The ultimate reveal was lacking and couldn't make what came before it in hindsight compelling with more context.
grumpy_otter - Fri, Sep 21, 2012 - 9:17pm (USA Central)
David said: "The Anna mystery lacked no sense of urgency or intrigue to make it the least bit compelling--the scenes were slow and dialog middling."

I think that was what I liked about it at first-- Picard slowly trying to figure out what was wrong with this seemingly tragic woman. I wish she had been a real stranded person.
Andrew Taylor - Sat, Sep 22, 2012 - 5:00am (USA Central)
Oh my god, the 'LOVE ME!' epiode. Me and my sister used to crack up so much at the trailer for this episode, which featured this line. The episode as a whole is pretty dull, but a bit of unintentional humour helps you make it through.
Jay - Sat, Oct 6, 2012 - 11:49am (USA Central)
Half a star almost entirely for the hilarious way Patrick says "failed" at the end, turning it into a four syllable word.
Shane - Fri, Dec 28, 2012 - 8:16am (USA Central)
Reading Jammer's reviews on Season 7 TNG has been an interesting experience for me. I have lots of nostalgia tied up in TNG's later seasons since I remember watching them when they first aired. I was 3 when I started watching the show, and my memories of the earlier seasons are faint and usually tied to one or two unusual moments from an episode, but with the last few seasons I vividly remember the shows (especially the cliffhangers with the dreaded "To Be Continued..."!).

Anyway, Liaisons is an episode I remember from it's first run and I found it interesting all the way through. From the shuttle crash to the electrical discharges on the surface, to the crashed freighter. I was definitely disturbed by the thought of jumping off the cliff and the revelation that the woman was actually a man. I really enjoyed the moments of Worf just barely containing his anger with that prick ambassador.

Sure, as an adult this episode is pretty silly and could easily have fit into the run of Voyager or Enterprise with it's plot-holes and leaps in logic. Still, simply being TNG, and tied to my nostalgia, I give this episode a pass and can always enjoy watching it. I guess I'm just able to put myself back into my 7-year-old mindset.
J - Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 2:38am (USA Central)
It's strange that they chose a Klingon when they stated they were studying humans.
William B - Sun, Jul 7, 2013 - 3:33am (USA Central)
@J, and a half-Betazoid.
Malcolm - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 1:48am (USA Central)
Not a really great episode overall, though I always get a kick out of Worf at the end when he describes the eleven hours of fighting as excruciating. That look of pleasure and his tone of voice just cracks me up.
William B - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 2:24am (USA Central)
I just watched this, and even though I haven't seen this episode in probably over a decade I started playing a computer game over all the Picard bits. I stopped whenever we got back to the Enterprise -- not so much because of the Troi material, but because I have a soft spot for the Worf story.

TROI [after talking about how her guy likes dessert]: I admit he's testing even my limits.
WORF: YOU SEE? THEY ARE INSANE!

Haha. But no, watching Worf try to keep his cool when someone piles on and tries to get him riled up both demonstrates how far he's come and how much he's still a hot-tempered guy, and is generally quite funny.

Anyway, this is an episode where I mostly applaud the idea -- aliens have their own style of cultural exchange, what seems to be a difficult situation has a purpose -- but the execution is flat and as Jammer says the rationale makes little sense. In particular, Troi's guy's search for the true meaning of pleasure means eating dessert after dessert, which is, uh, not the only kind of pleasure humans experience. (I was thinking about the pleasure of watching a great play! Get your mind out of the gutter!) 1.5 stars for decent intentions and for the Worf plot.
mephyve - Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
This could have been a four star episode if it hadn't resorted to the tired old 'Picard has shuttle trouble, gets marooned on a hostile planet' plot device.
Worf's arc was the most entertaining. Had me in stitches throughout.
Troi's arch was actually played out in the food transition; it wasfun for about two scenes but quickly became bland.
Once I saw the reaction of the ambassador, to the fight Worf gave him, I immediately realised that Picard was also being tested and correctly surmised that 'crazy Anna' was in fact his male traveling companion.
Seemed strange that Troi was talking as if Betazoids and humans were the same species, as she explained human procreation.
Lapan - Sun, Feb 2, 2014 - 7:47am (USA Central)
TNG plays its parodies too straight, at least Voyagers and DS9s parodies were funny
Smith - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 8:59am (USA Central)
The story concept was very good. Braga's rewrite of the Picard/Anna relationship didn't work (and he pretty much admitted it). The story could have worked...but had to transcend the egos of Picard/Anna to be something more than the sum of its parts. Plus it had SERIOUS pacing issues inside of the down downed freighter. Part of that was the directors fault who needed to speed things along. The actress talked too slow which was a subconscious irritant.

The subplot that Braga wrote for the Enterprise was top notch entertainment though. Many classic Worf moments in this episode!
thesarius - Sat, Mar 22, 2014 - 8:38am (USA Central)
I love when losers get together to criticise. Where are your efforts...Toh-pahs.

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