I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
“The Perfect Mate”
The Valtese and Kriosians have long been enemies despite sharing mutual origin. The Enterprise is tasked with hosting a diplomatic endeavor between the two, but it is discovered through some Ferengi interference that part of the negotiation is to be the gift from the Kriosians to the Valtese diplomat of an empathic metamorph–someone who can mold herself to a man’s every whim and desire. As Picard and crew–especially Dr. Crusher–struggle with the linkage to human trafficking, the metamorph herself, Kamala, begins to cause problems among males on board who are drawn instinctively to her. She, however, is drawn to Picard and after multiple interactions, imprints herself on him instead of the Valtese diplomat. Picard hands her off to the diplomat knowing that her interests and patterns are made after him instead, but that the diplomat cares little for Kamala.
Whew, that plot summary took more than I thought it would!
Anyway, “The Perfect Mate” has some good acting in it from Kamala and Picard, and the concept is pretty interesting. How might the crew of the Enterprise deal with something that truly does confront the morality of Starfleet in a very blatant fashion. Kamala is effectively a sex-slave being gifted to another person, but she wants to be that herself. How to balance the possible Stockholm syndrome with the Prime Directive and the like?
Dr. Crusher is really the only one who evinces this concern to any high degree, and that made the episode a bit harder to believe. All the men are busy drooling over Kamala, which seems to be not only uncomfortable but sexist. Much of the concept is itself thinly-veiled sexism, as the thought is what man wouldn’t absolutely try to gain control over a woman who would imprint herself upon him? Self-control apparently goes out the window, and a scene in Ten Forward really highlights this as the crew’s men and some passengers all try to gain Kamala’s attention.
Picard is the only one who seems capable of exercising any self-control and even his resolve wains over time as Kamala continues her attempts to entice him.
Honestly, it’s all a bit weird and off-key. It doesn’t seem to fit with TNG and the concepts of the Prime Directive and the like we’ve had for the last several seasons.
Grade: C “Plenty of thinly-veiled sexism and a heaping helping of weird drag this intriguing concept down.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The acting and the premise were both pretty good, though there were a few weird parts, especially the scene in Ten Forward.”
As the Enterprise is exploring a region of space, a mysterious energy being enters the ship, ultimately passing itself through the mind of a little girl, Clara, on board and manifesting itself as her imaginary friend, Isabella. Clara’s father is concerned and she’s been seeing Counselor Troi. When her friend suddenly becomes much more real, things start to go wrong on the ship as it seems something keeps hitting the shields and slowing the ship down. Isabella seems keen on not being discovered, but ultimately attacks Counselor Troi. More mysterious beings are going to attack, but Picard manages to convince the being on board that they are not actually a cruel people.
Welcome to the Twilight Zone, dear readers. That’s what “Imaginary Friend” feels like–a mystery that keeps you guessing while feeling a bit freaked out the whole time.
We all know there’s nothing creepier than possessed children–it’s the antithesis of innocence and darkness that is so off-putting. This episode banks on that and the girl who played Isabella did pretty well at being just creepy enough to not be silly. This could have gone very awry, but instead it was pretty solid.
The whole time as viewers, you know kind of what’s going on but the adults are totally unaware and you know that you’d react largely the same way. It isn’t until Troi gets attacked that Clara is taken seriously, and this actually feels a bit like a possible calling out of adults to listen to warnings from their children.
Picard’s resolution of reasoning with Isabella before the ship gets taken over was really the only downside to the episode. It makes sense in a way, because Isabella is obviously not actually a child and Picard has great diplomatic skills, but it also seems odd that they’d send him and not someone who is better with children. It seemed a little bit deus ex machina, but not nearly as much as some other episodes have had, and not enough to ruin anything. It works, but only just.
Grade: A- “Surprisingly disturbing, ‘Imaginary Friend’ was an edge-of-the-seat ride.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was exciting and mysterious, but the ending with Picard seemed out of place because he doesn’t like kids.”
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