Jan 4 2013 4:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Liaisons”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.

1. rowanblaze
You're right, I remembered almost nothing of this plot. The one thing I did recall was Worf blowing up at Byleth and the ambassador's surprising reaction.
Mike Kelmachter
2. MikeKelm
Okay... new rule... Picard can't get in anyone else's shuttles. It never ends well for him. This was what the second time he got on a strange shuttle which promptly crashed leaving him marooned on some planet?

I think my issue with this episode is that it's simply dumb. As KRAD points out, it's a strange way to learn about culture and for that matter and why these 3 emotions? Why Love, Aggression and pleasure (though this maybe the first ambassador who wants to learn about pleasure who doesn't end up sleeping with some member of the command crew)? Why not jealousy, wonder and carelessness? What is the point of immersing themselves in these emotions?

Also, there is absolutely nothing really at stake in these episodes. It's not like the Iyaarans are sitting on some unobtanium that absolutely must be had (that we are aware of) or control transit through some key part of space or have the best weed in the Beta quadrant. It's a cultural exchange- if it goes badly, who cares? The one person in what could be described as a crisis situation- Picard- isn't the one on the edge of the cliff. If there's nothing at stake, why am I, the viewer, going to care?
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
I remember finding the episode relatively harmless, but I guess that's mainly because I was glad to see Eric Pierpoint. I guess, on reflection, that I did find it mildly disappointing at the end. It is kind of silly conceptually. Born fully grown? How the heck does that work? Not to mention the question of how an intelligent, social species can function without the capacity for love as a bonding mechanism, aggression as a means of protection and regulation, or pleasure as a motivation to act. It just doesn't add up. It's all kind of an awkward mystery with an unconvincing resolution.

Paul Eiding, by the way, is the voice of Grandpa Max in the Ben 10 animation franchise.
Steve Nicholson
4. SSteve
Troi finally finds someone who likes chocolate more than her
I think you could find plenty of people who like chocolate more than they like Troi. :-)

I just discovered the rewatch a couple weeks ago and have finally caught up to real time. Too bad it's for this episode. The only things I remembered from it were the eating of much dessert and Picard's annoyingly needy captor.
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
SSteve: welcome!

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Sara H
6. LadyBelaine

I have abso-LOOOOTELY no recollection of this episode.

Me, who has an encyclopedic memory of all things Trek. Me.

And from your review, I am glad I don't.
Alan Courchene
7. Majicou
It took four credited writers, plus Braga apparently, to turn out this nonentity of an episode? Maybe too many cooks spoiled the broth.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@7: Actually the credits should say story by Eschbacher & Greenspon and teleplay by Fauci & Rich. According to the TNG Companion, "Sixth-season interns Fauci and Rich took this teleplay out of the season's most arduous break session, building on Eschbacher and Greenspon's straight homage to Stephen King's Misery." That suggests the staff had a lot of trouble finding an angle that would work. But what with the grind of a 26-episode season, they eventually had to shoot what they had and ran out of time to either fix it or abandon it and start over. Such is the nature of episodic television. (This is why some people prefer shorter seasons, like 13 or 20 episodes -- because you can take more time per script, and you don't need to fill as many slots so you can concentrate on the best ideas.)

The Companion also says that the B-plot of Deanna pursuing a promotion to commander was originally going to be part of this episode, but it didn't fit with the rest so they cut it out and saved it for later, eventually fitting it into "Thine Own Self."
9. Cybersnark
@ 3

Actually, between the "born fully grown," the learning-through-mimicry, and the nutrient pills, I'm thinking the Iyaarans might be a race of (crudely-fashioned) clones or bioroids. Perhaps someone's slave-race that's been left unattended.
10. Lalo
@9 - that sounds more interesting then this episode. Some exposition like 'These guys were mindless slaves, their enslavers fled a generation or two ago and now they are trying to integrate themselves into the universe.'

Rather then a cultural exchange, maybe make this a a sort of teaching experience? They would go from ship to ship, or space station to space station, learning from as many different kinds of species as possible (and then turn out to be spies gathering intelligence for their enslavers for complete dominion...)

I admit I remember only one thing from this episode--that someone kept trying to goad Worf into fighting.

Oh! And that Worf said the dress uniforms look like dresses...when really they look like long tunics (to be fair my best friend growing up was Indian and I saw her father in long tunics and pants like that quite often, so I never thought of them as 'dresses')
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
Yeah, I liked Data's comment to Worf and that's all about I have to say. Not so into the 'being held against your will to be a love teacher' thing. Plus, Loquel and Byleth just kind of struck me as some kind of caricature of people with autism/Aspergers (not ACTUAL people with it, but just the kind of general sterotypical view of them).

Also, I thought the scene where Loquel wants to take the kid for dessert was a little odd, haha. Maybe the mother had the appropriate context and knew the backstory but I'd be like, "uh, NO'".
12. Christopher Walsh
The one bit I *do* remember was Worf's approving "It was...excruciating."
Keith DeCandido
13. krad
Christopher: I haven't been dividing the writing credits up by story and teleplay due to laziness and due to most people not really giving an airborne intercourse about it. Those who do care can look it up elsewhere....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Hatton
14. Xopher
A lameass, pointless, stooooopid episode, for reasons many others have cited.
Sorcha O
15. sushisushi
Cybersnark@9 That's actually a really good explanation for this weirdness - I was also wondering howinhell the 'born fully grown' thing would work, and that's really the only possible answer (other than them being a low-tech offshoot of the Borg). It might also explain why we only ever see male Iyaarans in the episode. It sounds like there might have been the germ of an interesting episode about a cloned civilisation in there, but it just got lost in the mush...
Jenny Thrash
16. Sihaya
Iyaarans could actually be highly developed lichen. :)
17. adam2
And the ho-hum of season 7 begins....
18. JLPS
Wait a sec, this was a shelved 6th season episode they couldn't get to work? And they ran out of ideas for the next season by episode TWO? They really couldn't think of anything better to start with? That really explains alot of this dreadful season.
19. ChrisC
@17. Beat me to it Adam; there's some real rough watching between the gems of this season. That includes episodes that feel like season 2/3 cast offs, so I'm looking forward to Keith's production snippets to see if that is just a gut feel or not.
Now we are in season 7 proper, between some of the dross to come and the imminent conclusion of this excellent re-watch series, I'm feeling a little low. My doctor recommends a full regimen of TOR based DS9 Re-watch supplements (take one a week for seven seasons) as the only way to restore my spirits - can I count on the Decandido pharmacy to fill the prescription? (pretty please!)
Keith DeCandido
20. krad
ChrisC: Oh, I wouldn't worry about running out of meds any time soon.............. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

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