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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25 comments on this review

Patrick
Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 8:21pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
It's strange that they chose a Klingon when they stated they were studying humans.
William B
Sun, Jul 7, 2013, 3:33am (UTC -6)
@J, and a half-Betazoid.
Malcolm
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 1:48am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
TNG plays its parodies too straight, at least Voyagers and DS9s parodies were funny
Smith
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 8:59am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
I love when losers get together to criticise. Where are your efforts...Toh-pahs.
Mads
Sun, May 24, 2015, 7:29am (UTC -6)
I like this episode. It is entertaining. If your hearts are so closed by detailed interrogation of the episode, you are never going to enjoy i!
Peter
Mon, Jun 22, 2015, 9:28am (UTC -6)
The moment that Picard wakes up in the downed freighter, wearing the restriction device and meets Anna, I thought to myself, "Obviously someone just watched 'Misery.'" I honestly kept expecting Anna to break Picard's legs.

At least there was a nice twist when it was revealed that "Love me, Picard! Love me!" Anna was actually a dude. Who says STNG had no conception of non-straight relationships?

Despite the Misery mimicry, I thought the episode could have been a decent one apart from the Worf plot. Seriously, what ambassador could possibly be that rude without being called on it? The main characteristic of diplomats is DIPLOMACY. I just couldn't accept that Riker, as Worf's superior officer, told Worf to keep being patient rather than at least trying to directly confront the unbelievably hostile ambassador and questioning him about the motive for his actions.

As for the third ambassador, the insatiable junkfood junkie -- that was just hilarious.
Luke
Thu, Oct 8, 2015, 7:47am (UTC -6)
Want to know a depressing little secret? "Liaisons" was the very first episode of Trek, any Trek, that I ever saw. Want to know an even more depressing little secret? My actual introduction to Trek wasn't even with an episode; it was with a movie. And that movie was "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier".

And yet, I wasn't scared away and still managed to become a die-hard Trek fan. For all you atheists out there - if that isn't proof that God exists and that miracles do happen, I don't know what is. :P

However, despite the fact that "Liaisons" should probably hold something of a nostalgic place in my heart, it doesn't - because this episode is BORING! Aside from a few humorous moments from the Worf and the asshole ambassador plot, what is there, really, to say? The Troi plot is just absurd - her ambassador wants to experience the concept of pleasure and all he can think to do is eat desserts? Um, you know there are other forms of pleasure, right writers? And yes, I'm talking about sex (I'm perfectly happy to have my mind in the gutter, thank you very much! :P). The Picard plot is about as dull as you can get, most likely due to the fact that the actress playing Anna is about as convincing as.... well, I don't even know how to describe it. And yet, I can't even blame her. She's playing a character that has no idea what love is and yet is attempting to get someone to fall in love with her. How exactly was she supposed to play that? I blame the rather odd idea, or perhaps the writing, instead of her. If you want to see something like this done properly, just watch "Misery."

I do want to point out that this is the first, and probably only, time that Trek has attempted to portray female on male rape seriously. And that is exactly what the scene is when Anna throws Picard to the ground and attempts to force herself on him. Usually Trek, for whatever deluded reason, likes to play that concept for laughs (as in "First Contact" and later in ENT: "Unexpected"). Given that it happens in real life a whole lot more than most people are even willing to admit, it's nice to see them at least trying to treat it like the serious issue it is. However, like Jammer, I found the scene unintentional funny because Barbara Williams played the part so damn kooky and unconvincingly. But, again, that's not her fault. How else could you portray a possible rape scene when the script demands that you say asinine things like "You should love me now" or "I know more about you" and "Love me!"?

If it wasn't for those few glimpses of humor in the Worf plot (Data telling Worf that he's "demanding, temperamental and rude" and "You see? You see? They are insane!") I would give this one a below average rating.

5/10
Robert
Thu, Oct 8, 2015, 8:03am (UTC -6)
On the bright side this must have felt practically Shakespearian after ST5...
Luke
Thu, Oct 8, 2015, 9:04am (UTC -6)
I wouldn't go that far, but it was definitely a step up. :)
Diamond Dave
Sun, Nov 1, 2015, 7:11am (UTC -6)
Definitely one from the old school of "teach me of this Earth emotion called love" TOS episodes. Which actually might have worked a bit, if we hadn't segued into a desperately slow and dull Misery knock off for the majority of the episode. The sole real highlight is Worf's increasing struggle to maintain his composure, but given the pure fluff factor of the chocoholic ambassador it is not by far enough to save the episode.

"Excruciating" indeed. 1.5 stars.
Ivanov
Sun, May 8, 2016, 11:31am (UTC -6)
When I watch this episode on netflix I only watch the parts with Worf and that one ambassador.
Jez
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 9:04am (UTC -6)
The dumbest thing about this episode is Picard's reaction at the end, where he seems to be positively delighted to have been taken into captivity. Compare this to his (rather more normal) reaction to involuntary confinement at the end of "Allegiance", and it's a total double standard. Picard should've remained furious at the Iyaarans.
Strejda
Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 11:30pm (UTC -6)
It might be immature, but the talk about how the other forms of pleasure besides desserts reminds me just how... Unfortunate that scene, where the ambassador touches the little kid and offers him his dessert, is. Anyway, it could just be me, but does that part really make sense? I can buy they wouldn't understand antagonism or love but pleasure? Even if they only do things for practical reasons, wouldn't they simply find pleasure in success?
Dirk
Fri, Dec 9, 2016, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
The funniest lines are when Worf is preparing for the meeting and says the ceremonial suit looks like a dress (I always thought so too) and Riker says "You look good in a dress". Can't imagine how Worf didn't blow his top at that.

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