Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Liaisons”

“Liaisons”
Written by Roger Eschbacher & Jaq Greenspon and Jeanne Carrigan Fauci & Lisa Rich
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 7, Episode 2
Production episode 40276-254
Original air date: September 27, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s Log: Worf is struggling with his dress uniform. Riker comes to get his ass in gear, as they have to meet with the Iyaaran ambassadors. This will be the first cultural exchange between the Iyaarans and the Federation. Ambassadors Loquel and Byleth have arrived on board the Enterprise via shuttlecraft for a seven-day trip. Meanwhile, Picard will be taken in the same shuttle to Iyaar to visit with their premier.

Loquel is assigned to Troi, while Byleth is assigned to Riker—but Byleth announces that he would prefer Worf to be his escort. Worf looks like he’d rather face a Romulan naked in battle, but the looks that both Picard and Riker give him make it clear that he isn’t being given a choice.

There’s a reception in Ten-Forward. Loquel is surprised when Troi tells him about dessert—Iyaarans only eat for nourishment. As if to prove it, Byleth demands that Worf bring him different food with a higher protein and enzymatic content.

On the shuttle, Voval, the pilot, could charitably be called taciturn. Just as Picard finally gives up on trying to have a conversation with him, the shuttle malfunctions. Voval is forced to crash land on a nearby M-class planet. They survive the crash, though Voval is in bad shape. Picard can’t contact the Enterprise, but his tricorder detects a nearby structure. Leaving Voval in the relative safety of the shuttle—there are nasty plasma storms outside—Picard heads for the structure. But he’s hit by lightning and rendered unconscious—and then carried off by someone.

Byleth continues to be as obnoxious as possible and driving Worf crazy. Meanwhile, Loquel has become obsessed with desserts—and also is surprised by the sight of a child, as Iyaarans are born fully grown.

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

Picard awakens inside a crashed Terellian cargo freighter to find a strange device over his spleen. He was rescued by a woman who informs him that Voval is dead and that he has three broken ribs—the device will hold the ribs in place while they knit. Her name is Anna, and she says she was a passenger on the freighter, which apparently crashed seven years ago. Since Picard can’t move until his ribs heal, he sends Anna out to fetch some equipment from the Iyaaran shuttle that might help them. She then locks the door from the outside, which makes Picard suspicious. When she returns with the companel, she explains that there are wild animals that could get in. She also used a phaser to pry the companel out and damaged it beyond repair. Anna is despondent, and tells Picard about the times she attempted suicide.

Then she kisses Picard and declares that she loves him, which nonplusses him a bit. While she fetches food, Picard finds a power cell in the freighter that he might be able to use to power the shuttle.

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

Worf requests reassignment, as he finds Byleth to be impossible. Troi suggests toning down the patience and politeness (which, let’s face it, is not Worf’s natural state) and letting Byleth know when his behavior is unacceptable. Riker suggests a less formal gathering—say, a poker game. Byleth continues to be a pain in the ass, even going so far as to cheat at poker. Unable to stand it anymore, Worf starts yelling at Byleth, and the ambassador provokes him into a fight. It goes on for a bit before Riker restrains Worf—at which point Byleth, for the first time, smiles and thanks Worf. Byleth excuses himself to document the experience, leaving a very confused Worf, Troi, and Riker behind.

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

Once Picard gets the power cell working, Anna tries to convince him that it’s too dangerous to go to the shuttle. Picard figures out that Anna is trying to keep him prisoner—he has no broken ribs, has heard no wild animals outside, and Anna declares that she just wants him to stay and never leave her. They struggle for a bit, her necklace breaking off. She runs off, locking the shuttle—but then Voval shows up. He explains that Iyaarans go into a healing state that can be mistaken for death. He also says he saw a woman head toward a precipice—the same one that Anna had told Picard that she almost jumped off of.

They separate to try to find her, and then Picard finds Anna, threatening to jump. And she’s wearing the necklace. After Picard makes it clear that he will not love her and tells her to go ahead and jump, she touches the necklace—

—and transforms into Voval, who, it turns out, is an ambassador as well. Voval explains that the Iyaarans found the Terellian freighter and logs that indicated a human female survivor, who was joined after seven years by a human male, and they fell in love. Those logs told them of three concepts they were unfamiliar with: love, antagonism, and pleasure.

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

The purpose of the mission from the Iyaaran perspective was for each of the three ambassadors to experience those things. Picard is a bit put out, but understands what they were going for. The shuttle, Voval assures him, works just fine and they can leave any time, and Picard feels that now would be good.

The mission ends with Picard expressing fascination with the Iyaarans’ immersive methods, and Worf a bit sore after eleven straight hours of combat with Byleth. Loquel, meanwhile, gives Troi a gift of Iyaaran food—nutrition pills, basically—which she says will be a relief after seven days of chocolate.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The engineering section takes up twelve decks altogether, which is impressive, especially since we’ve only ever really seen two of them. The labs on deck 8 are deliberately left unfinished, since they’re meant to be adaptable.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi finally finds someone who likes chocolate more than her in Loquel.

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

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf claims he would make a terrible diplomat, which is hilarious considering that he becomes Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire at the end of Deep Space Nine.

I Believe I Said That: “I have heard that, in moments of diplomatic tension, it is often helpful to find elements of commonality.”

“Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental, and rude!”

“You share all of those qualities in abundance. Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.”

Data giving Worf some rather on-the-nose advice. Worf is cutting a slab of meat during this conversation, and after it ends, he holds the carving knife up as if ready to use it either a) on Byleth, b) on himself, or c) on Data.

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

Welcome Aboard: Eric Pierpoint—probably best known as George Francisco on the Alien Nation TV series—makes the first of several Trek guest appearances as Voval. He’ll be back on Deep Space Nine as Captain Sanders in “For the Uniform,” on Voyager as Kortar in “Barge of the Dead,” and have the recurring role on Enterprise as the shadowy Harris. Also in the episode are the completely unmemorable Barbara Williams as Anna, Paul Eiding as Loquel, and Michael Harris as Byleth.

Trivial Matters: Though he is not credited, Brannon Braga did a rewrite on the script that included all the sequences on the Enterprise with Loquel and Byleth.

Ironically, given the character he was playing, Paul Eiding is actually allergic to chocolate.

This is only the second episode of TNG to have no scenes on the bridge, following “Family.” It is also only one of five that has no stardate given (the others being “Symbiosis,” “First Contact,” “Tapestry,” and, later this season, “Sub-Rosa”).

Make it So: “They are insane!” My first-ever Star Trek novel was Diplomatic Implausibility in 2001, which chronicled Worf’s first mission as Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire following the DS9 finale “What You Leave Behind.” At the beginning of the novel, he received several congratulatory notes, and I wrote a bit where he got one from Ambassador Byleth from this episode. My editor had me cut it, as there were too many such scenes that were delaying the novel from actually starting (there was another bit where he received notes from the characters in the New Frontier series who were originally established as being Worf’s Academy classmates which did stay in). Part of his logic was that nobody remembered “Liaisons” anyhow.

And he was right, because honestly, I haven’t given a single thought to this episode since I cut that scene out of the novel in 2000.

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

Watching it again for the rewatch reminds me why. First of all, the plot is really kinda doofy: “We must understand this strange Earth emotion you call love” is right out of crappy 50s sci-fi B-movies. The only way to make it work is to provide strong performances.

Sadly, this episode is also an abject failure of casting. Eric Pierpoint is excellent, as always, but he also only has a few minutes of screentime. Barbara Hill is simply too bland as Anna, conveying neither the loneliness nor the obsessed craziness the part calls for. True, it’s just Voval impersonating emotions he doesn’t understand, but that doesn’t make it actually compelling as drama. Paul Eiding is nowhere near funny enough and Michael Harris is nowhere near obnoxious enough to make those parts work in the slightest. Tellingly, the best parts of the episode involve the main cast by themselves: Riker teasing Worf about the dress uniform, Data’s advice to Worf, and the scene in the observation lounge where Riker, Troi, and Worf discuss the ambassadors. The actual scenes with the ambassadors, and those between Picard and Anna, are bland and lifeless, which kills any interest the episode might have.

 

Warp factor rating: 2


Keith R.A. DeCandido can’t believe it’s 2013 already.

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