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 Enterprise investigates an interstellar com station when it goes quiet, but there is no one left aboard other than a dog… and an ominous looking pile of genetic goop. Geordi La Forge works to access the visual files of Aquiel, one of the two stationed on board, as Dr. Crusher examines the goop. Meanwhile Picard and gang interact with some Klingons who may have had contact with the station recently. Just after La Forge manages to get through Aquiel’s file, it turns out she’s alive and had been captured by the Klingons. Her story is tough to reconcile with the evidence as well as the previous records of both her Starfleet career and that of the man stationed with her, who appears to have been killed. Ultimately, it was actually a body-snatching crazy gelatinous beast that killed her coworker earlier, and then her dog… and tried to kill Geordi.
Yep, that last sentence isn’t creepy at all. We’ll set that aside until later. For now, let’s focus on what works here. The mystery was sustained throughout the episode, in particular as you as the viewer learn, through accompanying Geordi, that Aquiel seems pretty normal and even personable. Then, you discover that she might be lying about some things and even distorting the truth, and her service record isn’t great; whereas the man she is saying started the violence has a stellar record. Seeing it through Geordi’s perspective gives it some credence of holding mystery for longer.
The biggest problem here is really hard to get over: it is extremely difficult to believe. Some random body-snatching/eating alien entity that is itself not really intelligent manages to take on not just the appearance but also the entire personality and job of the beings it consumes? Just by observing it for some period of time? It’s too much to take seriously.
Another problem was La Forge getting reverted to the inept male lead character. He’d done so well! But now, he falls in love with a video before he even meets the woman recording them. Alas.
“Aquiel” is not a bad episode, it just fails by providing a too easy (and too weird) solution to the questions it raises.
Grade: B- “An intriguing mystery that stretches the suspension of disbelief just a bit too much.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was an interesting episode, but some of Geordi’s actions in particular and the investigation seemed to be far-fetched.”
“Face of the Enemy”
Troi wakes up as a Romulan. Apparently she’s been captured by N’Vek, a Subcommander on a Romulan Warbird, and altered to help assist several high-ranking Romulan officials escape and seek asylum in the Federation. She is masquerading as a member of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan intelligence agency. As the Captain of the Romulan Warbird presses Troi, not quite believing her story, the plan starts to fall apart. Eventually, Troi takes the plan over, demanding to be given a say lest she blow the top off. She is able to coordinate with N’Vek to get herself and the defectors onto the Enterprise, but not before N’Vek is struck down.
Maybe I’m a little inconsistent here, but I’m a bit more forgiving on this one regarding the “believable” factor. There is, I think, real reason to doubt that Troi would be able to pull off any kind of realistic imitation of a Romulan. Sure, they added in the device of her being “Tal Shiar” and so she wasn’t really to be questioned, but it seems like it would be extraordinarily difficult to, without warning, just step in to a role as an intelligence officer.
What makes up for it is the strength of the suspense and the tension. You can just–barely–believe that it is possible, because Troi manages to deflect the pointed questions leveled at her by the captain. And really, this episode is Troi’s time to shine. She kicks some major butt all over the place, giving orders, setting out demands, smacking down subordinates, and the like. She comes into her own in the role that was thrust onto her. This isn’t the Troi that we see too often: the Troi who is purely a victim of circumstance to be pitied. Instead, here, she takes the reins and drives her own ship.
The plot is pretty good in its own right. There is a great tie-in to Spock’s work on Romulus in the two-parter Unification. It is easy to believe that some would get disenchanted with the harsh rule of the Romulans–even those within the system themselves.
Overall, a great episode that finally gave Troi a chance to shine.
Grade: A “Troi rocked Romulus.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a compelling story but suffered from once again, Troi being the victim of circumstances beyond her control. Though she did rise to the occasion admirably.”
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