Oct 31 2012 1:30pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Aquiel”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Aqiuel“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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
Ahahahaha, I love your last paragraph. I had the same thought here (and also at the end of one of the future season 6 episodes (Suspicions).

Anyway, yeah, creepy Geordi is creepy. When he started bringing up details from the logs in casual conversation it was like Brahms all over again. And for a minute I thought he was actually totally lying about speaking whatever language it was he said he could speak...but I guess they wouldn't make him that intentionally creepy.
Joseph Newton
2. crzydroid
Glad to hear you're ok. When you missed the post yesterday, we were getting a little worried.

While I clearly remember that I like to avoid this episode, I always have trouble remembering the actual plot. In my mind, it always comes out as something like, "La Forge falls in love with a woman, but then she turns out to be a shapeshifting dog."

I also kind of wondered why there aren't security people on the Enterprise who can split up the task of going through the logs. Why is the chief engineer spending all of his time doing this? To add to the La Forge creepiness, one gets a sense that he's kicking his feet up and eating popcorn while watching these logs. I think there's a scene where Riker walks in on him and he has to justify that he's doing research for the murder investigation.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
I knew Reg Cathey mainly as a cast member on PBS's math-education show Square One Television which ran contemporaneously with TNG, so I recognized him when I saw him here. (Larry Cedar, another veteran character actor who's done Trek several times, was also a Square One regular.)

Other than that, this was a pretty unmemorable episode. As for the Enterprise being on a supply run, I'd point out that one of the TOS Enterprise's standard duties was resupplying colonies and outposts. Space is big, and sometimes it can be a long time between ship visits. Then again, by the TNG era, space seemed much more tamed and heavily populated, with many more ships and much shorter travel times, so maybe it's harder to justify there. Still, I could see the E-D happening to be the only Starfleet ship in the area at the time, and being able to take a brief detour to the station en route to its next assignment.
4. Lsana
Was I the only one who thought the "twist" at the end is really obvious? As soon as they said that it would have to absorb another living thing, I said, "Duh, it absorbed the dog." And I was 13 at the time. I lost a fair amount of respect for the crew for never even thinking of that possibility.
5. LMatthews
What I love about this entire ST rewatch is that I'm finally being released from the false obligation of watching some episodes ever again. I can cross this one right off the list permanently and stick with ones like "Darmok" and "Cause and Effect."
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
@4, no you were not the only one, I said the same thing to my husband :)

Also, if I remember, they found the dog behind a panel of some kind that was blocked with some other object. How did the dog get behind there as a dog???

PS: Glad you are okay, krad!!!
7. tigeraid
Congrats KraD... You found an episode of Star Trek, out of ALL Star Trek, that I've never seen. Fascinating. I'm going to have to watch this awfulness somehow.
Liz J
8. Ellisande
Wait, they were worried about copying Basic Instinct? And here I've always thought this episode was a deliberate homage to The Thing. At least I know I suspected the dog from the start, because isolated outpost+death+dog probably = Alien Shapeshifter of Evil.

I completely forgot there were Klingons in the episode at all. That's how memorable it was, I guess.
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Relating to my final comment, there's also an argument that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy faked evidence in order to get Scotty off of murders that he very obviously commited in "Wolf in the Fold," said argument made in the "Jack the Ripper" entry in Steve Lyons & Chris Howarth's The Completely Useless Unauthorised Star Trek Encyclopedia.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
rob mcCathy
10. roblewmac
Plenty of ways to get away with murder in trek-verse transporters black holes, tossing bodies into suns, dropping dead bodies of 100 years before they were born.
Bastiaan Stapel
11. Stapel
@4 & @6:

Right form the start it is obvious it is the dog, isn't it? At that point we don't know what he is or what he has done, but he has to have some sort of role. We've seen a few shapeshifters before!

Anyway, mediocre episode. However, I feel it could have been a lot better with a few minor changes.
12. RichF
Regarding vaporization by phaser, I liked (tm) the way Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country attempted to deal with that issue. Why not just vaporize the gravity boots? Chekov: It would set off the alarm. It was a necessary plot point for this movie, but there's no telling how many past or future scenes it contradicted in which a phaser vapirized someone/something and did not set off the alarm.
13. RichF
I meant "vaporized".
F Shelley
14. FSS
wow - i have no memory of this episode. at all. of course, it came out during my freshman year of college when i didn't watch any tv, but still, i would think i would have seen this in re-runs at least, but nope, never have.
S Cooper
15. SPC
ChristopherLBennett, thank you so much for bringing up Square One! I saw the name Reg Cathey and it looked terribly familiar but I had no idea why. I was a devoted Square One fan. I'd wonder about the overlap between children's show actors and TNG actors, but the sheer number of actors involved in TNG over its run probably makes it statistically likely.
16. Classic Appa

Since it was Chekov, you probably actually meant "waporize."
17. Lsana

Yeah, part of it is the fact that we know we're watching a TV show, and the dog isn't going to be there unless it has a role. But even beyond that, I felt it should have been obvious that if our shapeshifter could be disguised as any living thing, our intrepid heroes should have considered the living thing that had been wandering around the Enterprise this whole time. It should not have come as a major shock.
David Stumme
18. grenadier
Renee Jones is another "Knepper moment" in this one. She would join the cast of Days of Our Lives in 1993 and stay on the show (with some breaks) till 2012.
19. CPRoark
@ 03 & 15:

Glad I'm not the only one who recognizes actors from Square One. Cathey was just on Law and Order: SVU, and my mind was immediately taken back to Square One.

Now there's a show that's ripe for a rewatch! If only it were available...
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@15: Beverly Leech, star of the Square One segment/spinoff Mathnet, played a Kraylor in Voyager: "Nightingale" and did a voice in the Away Team video game. And the composer for the first season of Mathnet was Gerald Fried of "Amok Time" fame!
Keith DeCandido
21. krad
And William Windom, a.k.a. Commodore Decker, played a judge in three episodes of Square One. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
22. RobinM
This is a really bad mystery episode. I figured out it was the dog in the first 15 minutes or so they don't put animals in tv unless there part of the story. Geordie needs to have Riker or Troi explain to him its much less creepy to I don't know Talk to girls instead of cyber peep there logs. The guest star also had no spark with La Forge at all she was much better on Days of Our lives. KRAD I'm glad your alright after Sandy. This is defenitely a 3 episode.
adam miller
23. adamjmil
To those who haven't seen this before....please do yourself a favor and skip it. Please. I think Krad is being awful generous with a 3.
Keith DeCandido
24. krad
adamjmil: I went up to 3 because I though the dog was nifty. As someone with a sweet, wonderful Golden Retriever named Scooter (hey, look, a picture! and another! and a video of him galumphing in the snow!), I have a soft spot for awesome pooches, and Maura was very cool even if she was a shapeshifting killing machine....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Alan Courchene
25. Majicou
By coincidence, I recently watched half an episode of Square One TV on YouTube because I remembered Eddie Lawrence doing a math-related version of his "Old Philosopher" bit on several episodes. That was a great show.
26. critter42
I also thought about The Thing when the dog was introduced. The "mystery" in this episode was not a mystery at all. I mean I've read Encyclopedia Brown stories that were harder to figure out than this one - I've only seen it like maybe one time since it first aired, and you could have blown me over with a feather when I discovered this was a Ronald D. Moore episode. I really dislike this episode - as a matter of fact, I rank it down there with Shades of Grey (and doesn't THAT episode title take on new meaning nowadays? :) ) - like others, I think 3 is MUCH too generous...
27. Erik Dercf
This episode was a hint of what if Geordi became a family man. Geordi is a very busy man but almost all the senior staff have someone. Worf has a son Troi and Riker have each other and go on to have a family in books Data has a cat O'Brien is married with a child Crusher has a son. Geordi is the odd man out Picard is a good friend and captain but I wouldn't call the crew his family because he places professional distance between himself and his crew.
Jack Flynn
28. JackofMidworld
Like a lot of others, I assumed it was a Thing homage and tagged the dog as the bad guy; would've been a huge surprise if the dog was just a red herring (and nominee for Best Guest Star) and Uhnari had really been the killer.

Even though I could sorta-see why Geordi would fall in love with a holographic version of somebody (I mean, at some point, don't we all have a crush on some of the fictional people we see on TV?) but I thought it was really creepy to watch him watching her logs over and over again (crzydroid nailed it with the popcorn comment, 'cause I had the exact same thought when I was watching it). Nowadays, I could see a main character that was a creepy guy with boundary issues would actually become a plot point, rather than something just glossed over by everybody.
Rob Rater
29. Quasarmodo
Just more evidence of why you should never have a Geordi-themed episode. Unless you have something else major to hang it on, like Scotty guest starring.
30. Edgar Governo
Our investigative and prosecutorial powers would really take a hit in a world with shapeshifters, entities that can take over bodies, and other forms of telepathic mind control...

You can add me to the list of people who primarily thinks of Square One when Reg E. Cathey shows up onscreen.
31. rowanblaze
@10 "dropping dead bodies of 100 years before they were born" LOOPER!
32. Ginomo
I'd actually been looking forward to your review of this episode in the hopes that it would earn a Warp 0. This is up there with DS9's "Let He Who is Without Sin" as the worst episode of Star Trek ever.

I too had forgotten there were Klingons in this episode. All I could remember was Geordi's weird murder suspect girlfriend and the shapeshifting dog.

I think had she actually been the murderer it would have been better.
Robbie C
33. leandar
I disagree that "Let He Who is Without Sin" is the worst episode of Trek ever. That episode has Terry Farrell in a bathing suit. Any episode with her in a bathing suit gets points. This episode? I think it's a better candidate for worst Trek ever personally. Just..... bleeccch!
j p
34. sps49
Why the supply run at all? Relay station off line or missed a check-in, send the closest ship to investigate. Easy.
Rob Rater
35. Quasarmodo
Ron Moore should have retconned the dog to be a cylon.
Christopher Bennett
36. ChristopherLBennett
I just realized that the episode title is misspelled in the article headline... "Aqiuel" instead of "Aquiel."
Chin Bawambi
37. bawambi
This is one more example of why I also usually detest REG episodes. Geordi is never allowed to resolve any of his issues yet lovable reg gets to resolve almost every one and become a better officer to boot. I wonder if Burton intentionally was bored during these episodes so that the chemistry is part his fault...I watched a few minutes of this when it came in the BBC rotation just because I forgot it was so bad.
Christopher Hatton
38. Xopher
Yeah, crappy. How many episodes have a dog in them? "Some living being" makes you think "oh, probably the dog" before they even finish the sentence. The only reason not to suspect it is that it's too obvious. But then they go with the obvious, surprise! Sort of.

One of the worst episodes.
Keith DeCandido
39. krad
Xopher: Amusingly, both times we've seen dogs on TNG (here and in "True Q") they turned out not to be real....

----Keith R.A. DeCandido
40. Adam Byrne
The dopiest episode ever. Jordi should be fired for incompetence and attempted nepotism.
Christopher Bennett
41. ChristopherLBennett
@40: Attempted nepotism? How did Geordi attempt to grant patronage or favoritism to a member of his family?
42. Adam Byrne
Cronyism then Sir, either way he was completely out of order. He's so desperate for a woman that he would probably want to marry Aqueil Uhnari making her his family if he could get her a job on the Enterprise.

The scene where he ends up on a bed, stroking the dog, while Riker pats him on the back, AFTER he's discovered having telepathic sex with a murder suspect / evidence saboteur is just farcical.

What an utter mess.
43. Sidewinder665
I'm not usually one for nitpicking, but the casualness of the murder investigation really irritated me. Star Trek takes place in a futuristic, liberalised universe and yet there seemed to be a complete lack of due process. When Aqiuel was interviewed it wasn't recorded, her accusations weren't formally outlined and no-one even offered for her to have an advocate present.
Dante Hopkins
44. DanteHopkins
Sigh. You know, I can't for the life of me figure out your problem with La Forge. He's not creepy at any point, and in "Booby Trap" and "Galaxy's Child", he figures out he may have strayed over the line just a tad. That hardly qualifies as creepy. Further, there is no similarity between the Leah Brahms stuff and this, and your attempts to connect them to this episode fall flat, and just feel mean-spirited.

The only similarity between this investigation and the holodeck simulation was that Geordi was doing his job: retrieving information to help resolve a situation. Again, his job.

Frankly I am disturbed by this Geordi-hate.

I completely disagree with your synopsis. This at the very least was an interesting episode, and I found Renee Jones quite interesting (and beautiful). I think it was nice for Geordi to finally have someone he had chemistry with. Its a shame this relationship was never followed up on. Definitely a missed oppurtunity, and it would have been nice to see Aquiel again in say Star Trek: Nemesis.

Flaws aside, its a good story. I disagree about it being the dog as obvious. I had no ideawho the coalescent ultimately was, and the dog was an unexpected twist. A solid 5 of an episode.

And for the love of all that's holy, leave Geordi alone :)
45. JohnC
I'm going to echo Dante's comments, to a point. I actually read some of this synopsis and comments before I watched this episode for the first time, and I'm still trying to figure out what was so terrible about it. So Geordi knows this woman's secrets because he watched her personal log in order to investigate her (believed) death.... what's the big deal? I would say, however, that "the dog did it" was obvious to me from early on. That said, I enjoyed watching this, and I really don't know why Geordi gets so much grief.
46. The Real Scott M
I didn't see anyone else mention this. Here's what I don't understand:

There's a shapeshifter who is made of some kind of goo that takes the form of whatever person it absorbs. So the goo IS the creature. Then where did Crusher's goo come from, and why was it fused to the plate? It had to be part of the creature, because it was able to mimic Crusher's hand. Did Aquiel shoot off a piece of the creature? How? When Geordi fired it was completely destroyed, and he didn't shoot for 30 seconds or whatever they said was required. And does this mean there is now a goo stain on the rug in Geordi's quarters?

I also found it odd that everyone's like, "What kind of weapon could do this?" And the answer is, you know, the one you carry on every away mission. And then Geordi, Mr. Super-Genious Engineer, doesn't believe it's even possible. Of course, maybe that was just his puppy love talking.

And it really should have been Aquiel as the shapeshifter, if for no other reason than to give Geordi a chance to repeat Kirk's line from ST6: "I can't believe I kissed you!"

Meh -- a lifeless episode with a semi-decent mystery that ends up being nothing.
47. Kellia
I need the Romulans to erase this episode from my mind so I can like Geordi again.
Edward Chinevere
48. Drawde

2. Yes, Geordi is a creeper and his episodes are almost always hokey awful. Sorry to the peeps what loves him. That being said- it's not easy to trust people when you can't see their eyes...

3. The dog was super obvs- and this crew is totally incompetent for not putting it under observation too.

4. #40 @Adan Byrne- agreed! I was shocked when I saw that too- to think that they would bring on board this super terrible officer because Geordi has a crush on her... ick. Oh, and yes it is nepotism. Sorry to all you linguistic prescriptivists out there, but it's a pet peeve of mine when people get all huffy about "misusing" language. Words are defined by the way they're used, not by what it says in a dictionary.

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