Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Aquiel”

“Aquiel”
Written by Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 6, Episode 12
Production episode 40276-239
Original air date: February 1, 1993
Stardate: 46461.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise goes to a communications relay station near the Klingon border for a supply run (really? the flagship of the Federation, a ship of the line with a thousand people on board that’s supposed to be seeking out new life and new civilizations, is doing a supply run for a two-person relay station?) but the station’s gone quiet. Riker leads a team over that includes La Forge, Worf, and Crusher. They find nobody on board, the audio relays left on, the shuttles all gone, cellular residue that might be the remains of one of the crew—and a dog.

There are two lieutenants assigned to the station: Aquiel Uhnari and Keith Rocha. The remains are probably one of them—likely Uhnari, since the blood they’ve found on the decks is hers—and the other took the shuttle. Someone tried to access the subspace logs, which triggered a security lockout. Riker, Worf, and Crusher beam back to the Enterprise, while La Forge tries to access the station logs. He reads Uhnari’s logs and correspondences—she finds Rocha to be arrogant and annoying, she’s sad about missing a festival back home where she usually sings, and she was abused by her father.

La Forge checks over her quarters and bonds with the dog. On the one hand, they think she’s dead, and this is a legitimate investigatory avenue—especially since Uhnari mentions a Klingon commander named Morag who’s been harassing the station when he brings his ship on patrol nearby—but on the other hand, given La Forge’s track record, this is a little creepy.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

Picard speaks to the local Klingon representative, Governor Torak, who is cranky and intransigent right up until Picard drops Gowron’s name, at which point Torak suddenly becomes very interested and cooperative.

While La Forge keeps going through the logs, Worf and Riker investigate the station. Worf finds traces of Klingon DNA, while La Forge can’t find Rocha’s logs anywhere, and Uhnari’s last log indicated something bad was about to happen.

Torak’s ship arrives—with Uhnari, thus proving that the Klingons didn’t kill her, and neither did anybody else. Her uniform’s torn and she’s got several cuts, thus explaining the blood Crusher found.

She reports that Rocha physically assaulted her, and she escaped in the shuttle. But her head collided with a bulkhead when he threw her against it, and she doesn’t remember getting into the shuttle. Torak’s patrol ship found her in Klingon space. She’s not sure why she didn’t contact Starfleet Command to report in.

Very reluctantly, Torak agrees to let Picard speak to Morag. Meanwhile, La Forge reunites Uhnari with her pooch—who’s named Maura—and takes her to Ten-Forward for a drink. There, La Forge has to tell her that he looked at her personal logs, which she isn’t thrilled about, nor is she thrilled when La Forge starts interrogating her about her relationship with Rocha.

Meanwhile, Riker investigates both officers’ records: Rocha is an exemplary officer with multiple commendations while Uhnari is a substandard one who was transferred to the relay station because she was a pain in the ass. Riker and Worf look over her shuttle, and Worf finds a phaser set to kill, the same one that was missing from the station.

Uhnari is looking more and more like a murder suspect. La Forge, who has gotten to know her pretty well both via her logs and by talking to her, is not happy about it. He goes back to the station and finally is able to access Rocha’s personal logs—but one of them has been deleted. It takes La Forge all of half a second to determine that Uhnari erased it from the Enterprise, and she tells him that it contained a letter recommending disciplinary action be taken against her. Uhnari runs to her quarters and starts packing a suitcase—which is completely stupid, since the station’s only shuttle is on the Enterprise, so she literally has no way of getting away—but La Forge convinces her to stay by kissing her. Later, they use a device from Uhnari’s homeworld to have what I guess is telepathic sex.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

Morag arrives, and he admits to boarding the station and stealing some sensitive information, but he steadfastly insists that there was no one there when he arrived (which was why he boarded in the first place, and also why he figured it couldn’t hurt to try to steal data), and that he killed no one. On Picard’s order and with Torak’s very reluctant blessing, Worf takes Morag into custody.

Crusher continues to try to examine the unstable DNA residue that they assume are Rocha’s remains—currently a dish filled with pink goo. One test results in a hand growing out of the goo—except according to the DNA, it’s Crusher’s hand. The doctor theorizes that this is a coalescent organism that absorbs the DNA profile of someone and takes over their bodies. (Kind of a sci-fi version of a skinwalker.) It’s possible that Rocha wasn’t Rocha—but rather a coalescent being that absorbed Rocha and took his place. It would need to find another body to absorb, and it could be either Morag or Uhnari, both of whom are placed under observation.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

La Forge is grumpy, and sits in his quarters with Maura—who then transforms into an orange swirly thing. Turns out the coalescent being absorbed Maura after Uhnari got away. La Forge manages to phaser the thing before it absorbs him. Uhnari gets to continue her career, Morag goes back to his ship, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for Rocha. And the poor pooch.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi is in only one scene and has only one word of dialogue, and it’s a repetition of something Morag says. But hey, she’s still in a standard uniform! Looks like she took Jellico’s advice to heart.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Gone are the days of Worf’s discommendation when he was skittish around other Klingons and they were skittish around him. He gives both Torak and Morag serious lip, and when he takes Morag to be observed to see if he’s a coalescent being, he walks into the quarters Morag’s confined to with phaser out and pointing right at him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: La Forge falls for Uhnari via her personal logs, then later gets to meet her, thus making him two for two in falling for someone via a computerized record before meeting her and creeping her out by invading her privacy like that. This time, at least, he has a good excuse, as they thought she was dead.

Uhnari’s people, the Halii, use a crystal called a canar as a telepathic aid in lovemaking, which apparently involves kneeling on opposite sides of a bed while fully clothed and clutching a crystal that glows, thus making it the worst sex aid ever.

I Believe I Said That: “I think you’ve let your personal feelings cloud your judgment.”

“I’m not the one making judgments.”

Riker giving La Forge good advice, and La Forge being a total douchenozzle about it.

Welcome Aboard: Renee Jones is awful as the title character—honestly, the dog (played by Friday, a pooch who also was a regular on General Hospital) had more chemistry with LeVar Burton than she did. Wayne Grace postures a lot as Torak.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

But this episode’s Robert Knepper moment is the great Reg E. Cathey—one of your humble rewatcher’s favorite character actors—as Morag. Probably best known for his work on Oz, The Wire, and The Corner, Cathey will always have a particularly warm place in my heart for his role as the Don King-esque Barry K. Word on the short-lived F/X series Lights Out.

Trivial Matters: In an interview, Michael Piller said that the inspiration for the plot of this episode was the 1944 Otto Preminger film Laura, starring Gene Tierney, in which a detective falls in love with a murder victim after talking to her friends and reading her diary—then she turns up alive.

The original draft had Uhnari as the killer, but that was deemed too similar to the then-recent Basic Instinct. Morag and Rocha were deemed too obvious, and then, according to co-scripter Ronald D. Moore, they finally said, “Why not the dog?”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

Make it So:Oumriel.” An episode so mediocre that even the producers rip it to pieces. When asked during an AOL chat in 1997 what he would have done differently in his time on Star Trek, Ronald D. Moore answered that he would not have written this episode.

And while the episode isn’t that bad, it isn’t particularly good, either. I can’t imagine why anybody thought it was a good idea to do yet another La Forge focused episode, much less one that tried to give him yet another creepy romance. The murder mystery itself is just fine until the end when the need is felt to, at the last minute, superimpose technobabble nonsense about coalescent lifeforms. Also, so what if it was similar to Basic Instinct, why not make Uhnari the killer? That would’ve actually been interesting and provided some fun characterization for La Forge, instead of him acting like a dick because Riker and Worf are being mean to his squeeze (who’s a murder suspect, something she herself even admitted to).

It doesn’t help that Renee Jones is simply horrible. The script insists that she’s complicated, but there’s nothing in her performance to justify that line. Mostly she’s just a whiny little twerp who, beyond being a murder suspect, is really really annoying. It’s bad enough that we’ve given La Forge yet another creepy romance, but at least Leah Brahms was an interesting character worthy of someone falling in love with.

I will say this much: the dog was really really cute. Pity he turned out to be the killer….

(Okay, one other thing: This episode points out why phasers really shouldn’t have the ability to disintegrate things. Yes, it looks cool, but it also enables you to commit murder without leaving any evidence behind. La Forge was alone in his quarters when he vaporized the coalescent being that had taken on Maura’s form. I can just see a JAG officer looking over the file and hauling La Forge up on charges. A case can be made that he vaporized an innocent dog and claimed it was a coalescent being—which, remember, was a theory posed by Crusher at this point, and not entirely definitive as evidence—in order to get his girlfriend off the murder charge.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Aqiuel

 

Warp factor rating: 3


Keith R.A. DeCandido survived Hurricane Sandy just fine, as he lives in a part of New York City that was not hit hard by the storm, thankfully.

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