WARNING:  This post contains spoiler information regarding "Aquiel", TNG's
most recent episode.  Those wishing to see the show uncontaminated by excessive spoilage should remain clear.

Bleh.  What a waste of time *that* was.

While I've been unsatisfied by TNG episodes on occasion, I don't usually
feel that my time was simply wasted.  This is a rare exception.  I'll rant later, but first (of course), it's synopsis time:

The Enterprise investigates a relay station which has gone silent, but find
only a stray dog and "cellular residue" which appears to be the remains of
one of the station's two officers.  Nearby blood traces are those of the
junior officer, Lt. Aquiel Uhnari, so it is assumed that the residue is hers.
A search begins for the second officer, one Lt. Keith Rocha, and for the
station's missing shuttlecraft, which Rocha presumably took.  Meanwhile,
Geordi searches the station logs for any trace of evidence, but due to
station damage can get no more than Uhnari's personal correspondence with her
sister.  After seeing dozens of these logs, Geordi comes to feel as though he knows "Aquiel", and also has at least a suspicion or two about her murder.

The station is near Klingon space, and a Klingon commander, Morag, is cited
in Aquiel's logs as repeatedly harassing the station -- a situation which
added tension to an already chilly relationship between Aquiel and Rocha.  
Picard, seeking to cover the Klingon angle, speaks to the local Klingon
governor, Torak, and through veiled threats about bringing Gowron in to
examine Torak's work, manages to convince Torak to help with the
investigation.  However, when Torak's ship arrives, the investigation is thrown into an uproar -- for on board is Lt. Aquiel Uhnari, very much alive.

Aquiel claims that Rocha suddenly attacked her for no reason, and that she
remembers nothing after the attack.  Meanwhile, as new evidence showing a
Klingon presence on the station comes to light, Picard demands to be allowed
to speak to Morag about his involvement in the matter; Torak grudgingly
agrees.  As work continues on analyzing the cellular residue, now expected to
be Rocha's remains, Geordi and Aquiel start forming a close friendship,
despite (or perhaps because of) Geordi admitting to advance knowledge of her through her logs.  

A search of Rocha's record turns up a spotless and bright career, and a
similar search of Aquiel's file shows an argumentative, difficult officer.  
In addition, a search of Aquiel's shuttle reveals the missing phaser from the
station's weapons locker, set to a level high enough to kill.  Riker and Worf
confront Aquiel with this information, but desist when she protests innocence
and Geordi defends her.  All agree to wait for Morag's imminent arrival, but
Riker strongly suggests, off the record, that Geordi distance himself somewhat from Aquiel until the situation is understood.

Morag arrives, and admits to boarding the station when hails went unanswered.
Under further pressure, he admits to covertly obtaining some coded messages,
but claims to have killed no one.  Picard orders that he remain aboard.  
Meanwhile, however, Geordi finally gains access to Rocha's logs, only to find
several missing.  He discovers that Aquiel erased those logs because they
contained a harsh letter to Starfleet about her attitude, and points out that
she's digging herself in deeper by destroying evidence.  He convinces her not
to run, and they become romantically involved.  She invites him to join her in a rite that increases intimacy for her species, and he joyfully accepts.

Dr. Crusher's analysis of the cellular residue reveals something startling:  
it is not from Lt. Rocha at all.  Rather, it is a peculiarly structured DNA
typical of that of a "coalescent organism", an organism that consumes, then
becomes, new bodies periodically to survive.  The conclusion she and everyone
else reaches is that "Rocha" was in fact a coalescent by the time he arrived
on the station, and that he attacked Aquiel to get a new body.  They conclude
that either Morag or Aquiel is currently the same coalescent, and put both
under close examination, ruining Aquiel's rite with Geordi just in time.  
Geordi, bitter over what he sees as unfair treatment of Aquiel, rests in his
quarters -- but quickly finds that the coalescent is in fact Aquiel's "dog",
Mora.  It attacks him and attempts to absorb him, but he destroys it just in
time.  Her name cleared, Aquiel heads to starbase 212 for reassignment,
thinking that she might put her name on the long waiting list for a position on the Enterprise.

There we are.  Now, on to the discussion:

This review will be rather short, for two reasons.  First, I'm somewhat
pressed for time this weekend.  Second, however, there isn't really that much
I have to *say* about the show this time.  There are a few comments that come
to mind, but for the most part two viewings of the episode have raised extremely little commentary.

First, a note on the characters.  If I was somehow supposed to feel some sort
of strong emotion, pro or con, about Aquiel, then something went wrong.  The
strongest emotion about her I felt was "Geez, couldn't they have found a more
interesting character or a better actress?"  Her letters home to her sister
had some plot advancement in them much of the time, but nothing whatsoever
that made me sit up and want to know more about the character.  (Her dreams
about her mother's house may be an exception to that, but even there it's
pushing things.)  I'm not sure exactly what Jeri Taylor had in mind when she
came up with the story here, but whatever it was didn't make it as far as my
living room.  (It's rare that the *intent* is so masked.  "The Outcast", for
instance, was also written by Ms. Taylor, and was also an episode I didn't
care for that much -- but there I could tell very easily what she was *trying* to do with it.  Here, I honestly have no idea.)

Perhaps worse, I also didn't find myself caring about Geordi's involvement in
all this one way or the other.  There was at least one bright spot involved,
when Geordi showed in Ten-Forward that he may have learned a thing or two
about confessing advance knowledge from Leah Brahms, but for the most part I
felt as if this was a Geordi I knew little or nothing about and didn't have the interest to get to know further.  

I'd love to be able to say, then, that the plot had enough interest in it to
keep my attention focused.  I can't, however, because it didn't.  In fact,
there were some situations in "Aquiel" which simply stood up in front of me and simply felt *wrong*.  For instance:

-- Why is it that "Aquiel" felt like the Klingon/Federation truce was 20
*months* old rather than 20 *years* old?  Even Vagh in "The Mind's Eye" was a
lot less aggressive than Morag and Torak here, and Vagh had a lot more cause.
Picard's concern about preventing any sort of diplomatic incident seems
grossly misplaced, given that the alliance survived such things as the
conviction of J'Ddan in "The Drumhead" for selling Federation secrets to Romulans.  Why was this such a big deal?  This just didn't feel right.

-- Then, of course, we have lines that were scripted in just precisely the
wrong way, leading to some unintended humor.  I couldn't help chuckling, for
instance, when Worf found it clearly sinister that "there are traces of
Klingon DNA aboard the station...but only from *one* Klingon."  Um, well --
gee, Worf, but wouldn't that mean Morag couldn't have come on board?  Look in a *mirror*, friend...  

-- The dog.  Folks, I'm sorry, but I rather suspect most people had the pooch
pegged as the problem well before hints of it showed up on screen.  Again,
that sort of advance knowledge isn't always a problem -- but it sure is when the plot's a mystery.  

I'll try not to talk too much about the Mangled Science [TM] here, because by
this time it's par for the course, at least biologically.  ("Motile" DNA?   Come on...)  

I'm trying hard to think of something positive to say about the show, but
it's very much uphill work.  "Aquiel" strikes me as a show that failed to
reach me on any level at all, and that's exceedingly rare for TNG.  That
said, I think it's best if I simply end here and hope this doesn't happen again for a long time, if ever.

So, the numbers:

Plot:  3.  A potentially intriguing mystery made totally obvious and trite.
Plot Handling:  3.  Based on the number of times I looked at my watch, this might be *generous*...
Characterization:  1.  What characterization?

TOTAL:  2.  Ouch.  Please, guys, you can do so much better than this...


Troi gets a particularly Romulan facelift to help out a defector.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjulie
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!
"Felicitous Natal Terran Rotational Cycle."
                        -- Data, possibly, to the author :-)
Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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