Star Trek: The Next Generation: Aquiel   Rewatch 
July 29, 2021 4:26 AM - Season 6, Episode 13 - Subscribe

"Dammit, La Forge, you're too close to this investigation! That dame's a killer and you've gone soft on her. Now turn in your combadge and your phaser! …And her diary! And your duct tape! And— and the zip ties."

I had the dream again. Memory Alpha's calling out my name:

• At Michael Piller's suggestion, the romance was tied into a mystery in the manner of the 1944 film Laura, starring Gene Tierney, in which a detective investigating the murder of a woman named Laura falls in love with her, only to discover that she is alive and may herself be a killer.

• Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore and Taylor spent two days breaking the story. Braga recalled that it was a "torturous experience".

• At first, Aquiel was to have been the killer, but it was felt that this was too similar to the film Basic Instinct. Keith Rocha and Morag were next considered, but dismissed as too obvious. According to Moore, "At one point, we finally said 'Why not the dog?' He had always been in the script; we had meant to leave him with Geordi from that time on." Moore joked that he and Braga had considered calling the episode "Murder, My Pet!"

• The writers struggled with creating a mystery that couldn't be solved by 24th century technology. Moore remembered, "We were at pains trying to make the murder mystery harder than it needed to be, so the script became very technobabble heavy." He added, "Technology had run amok on the show. People had gotten careless about establishing what devices like the tricorder could do, and we were stuck with that. Walk into a room with a tricorder and it could tell you who'd been in there, and what they'd done […] We were always trying to trip up the technology. It was just too powerful."

• The look of the coalescent organism disappointed the staff. Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore recalled that many names were given to the creature, and that "Mr. Peanut was probably the kindest that I had." Moore noted that the effect was subcontracted out and was delivered without enough time for the touch-ups to add texture and motion that he felt were needed.

• It is noted that at this point there has been no Klingon raid on the Federation in "seven years" (i.e. since 2362). Ronald D. Moore added this to show that the situation could still be uneasy in the Federation-Klingon alliance.

• Many production staff members were disappointed with this episode, considered to be the weakest of the generally good sixth season. Brannon Braga had mixed feelings. He recalled, "I thought it was going to be terrible, but when I sat down and watched it I kind of liked the mystery. I rather enjoyed that the dog did it. Ultimately, I didn't think the romance part worked but I liked the feel of the episode, which had a rather tragic, mysterious feel to it."


"She had a quirky sense of humour. She liked to sing. She had questionable taste in literature."
- Geordi, on Aquiel

"We found traces of Klingon DNA on the station."
"You still try to blame us?!"
"Have the courage to admit your mistakes. Or are you a lo'Be Vos?"
"At least I do not wear the uniform of the petaQ!"
- Worf and Governor Torak butting heads


Poster's Log:
This might have been a comparatively good episode in one of the first couple seasons, and not just because by now Geordi really should have learned the first thing about How Not to Be Creepy with Women after the Dr. Brahms debacle.

For season six, though, very skippable. I do like the opening scenes; turning a routine supply run into a murder mystery is a cool setup. It was a wise choice to delay the Changeling-goo plot element as long as possible, though they sort of telegraphed the whole "THE DOG DID IT" thing pretty early on. Still, this is slightly more successful than some of Trek's attempts at cop-style investigation plots.

I think there's only one more "Geordi episode" after this, in season seven—and it's one about which I remember noooothing. In fact, I would've bet this was his last one, but then I happened upon the episode summary on cable, and it almost felt like one of those Twitter TNG season 8 blurbs because I couldn't recall a single detail based on it.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I sure hope Aquiel didn't get that telepathy rock from "Man of the People" Guy.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
There's something unappetizing about the phrase "muskin seed punch". I imagine the little seeds getting stuck in teeth when drinking.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:45 AM on July 29


I think there's only one more "Geordi episode" after this, in season seven—and it's one about which I remember noooothing

Off the top of my head, that's gonna be the "Geordi goes looking for his mom" episode that includes the inimitable Ben Vereen as his dad and the beautiful Madge Sinclair as mom.
posted by hanov3r at 9:42 AM on July 29 [2 favorites]


Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

In the first set Klingons got some pretty basic ones, including Morag (one of their only early personnel with Greed, not that you needed it for much) Torak, and the commander-less I.K.C. Qu'Vat.

Compromised Mission
is the first mission with different affiliations able to play it for each player, a cute touch.

Coalescent Organism
has so much gametext considering that it's defeated easily by a single skill. The flavor-texty game text is more confusing than I remember, in general, 'etc.' is imprecise to use as gametext. They were really bumping against the character limit in the card template here.

Canar provides a way to get rid of potentially two personnel, an artifact (which can only be acquired by completing a mission) is a high price to play for that effect.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:50 AM on July 29


• Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore and Taylor spent two days breaking the story. Braga recalled that it was a "torturous experience".

For us, too.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:06 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I hate this episode. Yet another 'Geordi is an incel' episode that makes no fucking sense since he's brilliant, charming, and handsome. And it's just plain weird, since he also also constantly gets cast as the reasonable, well-socialised friend and mentor to Reg Barclay the Obsessive Holodeck Masturbator.

I am reminded of a Levar Burton interview from a while back (can't find the original interview now):
Burton: Pretty much. Except for Geordi! And I never understood that. Geordi never, never got the girl.

Hardwick: I wonder why that was?

Burton: You know what? I’ll be… Honestly?

Hardwick: Yeah.

Burton: I honestly, I don’t know, but, um, I believe that the writers did not know how to deal with black male sexuality.

Hardwick: Really?

Burton: Everybody had sex on the ship, including the android.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:17 PM on July 29 [15 favorites]


Burton: I honestly, I don’t know, but, um, I believe that the writers did not know how to deal with black male sexuality.

I don't buy that. At least not at the beginning of the show. Data scored with Tasha. But the show was up front that Geordi was hot for Tasha too. Later on, maybe, yeah, the writer's didn't know how to deal. But I think it's also possible that Geordi was more often than not the odd man out storywise and ended up with the shitty plots. Or that Geordi was a precursor to how VOY pigeonholed Harry Kim as the ensign. When TNG needed an incel character, Geordi was it, even if in all other instances, he was written as well adjusted.
posted by Stuka at 9:40 PM on July 29


But I think it's also possible that Geordi was more often than not the odd man out storywise and ended up with the shitty plots.

Storylines don't arise out of the ether. It's not something that happened on the flip of a coin. Stories were plotted, decisions were made, scripts were written. A decision was made to pay short shrift to a character, and it was the one black human man.

It's not an unreasonable conclusion to draw, just as its not unreasonable to interpret racism in how Harry Kim was treated as a character.

At the very least, it's bad writing.

And nobody ever 'needs' an incel character. They made a choice.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:59 PM on July 29 [5 favorites]


This is the first episode that I just couldn't finish. The whole "let's have Geordi review the personal logs of a young woman" thing at the beginning was too aggressively dumb and cringey for me.
posted by phooky at 6:55 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Off the top of my head, that's gonna be the "Geordi goes looking for his mom" episode that includes the inimitable Ben Vereen as his dad and the beautiful Madge Sinclair as mom.

Ah! I remember now that there was a Ben Vereen one, though I'm…not positive I ever saw it. But the cable description I found only said something about Geordi undertaking a risky experiment, which only brings to mind his torture by the Romulans, so that's not it.

Burton: I honestly, I don’t know, but, um, I believe that the writers did not know how to deal with black male sexuality.
> When TNG needed an incel character, Geordi was it, even if in all other instances, he was written as well adjusted.
>> A decision was made to pay short shrift to a character, and it was the one black human man. [...] And nobody ever 'needs' an incel character. They made a choice.

I look at it like this: Burton could very well be 100% correct. And/or, the writers' chief intent could have been for Geordi to be the stand-in for the nerdy guys in the audience in many ways, including romantically—his holodeck date with Christy really seems like one of those Morty-esque "Aw geez, we nerds are terrible at girls" type of "gags." But the character thereafter evolved in less Mortyish directions, which makes me lean more toward Burton's explanation; I mean, I never at any point felt that the elevator pitch for the character of Geordi began and ended with "hapless techie-nerd."

But that being said, "incel" wasn't really a concept in the public consciousness back then. Angrily-sexually-frustrated young men were known to exist, of course, but my sense is that the notion of somebody using it as a perverse badge of honor would've struck most people as not merely fucked-up but…well, singular (as someone who DID know just such a person at that time). And fucked-uppedly-singular enough that these writers would never have consciously chosen to emulate that sort of real-world person in any main cast member, and maybe not even in a one-shot villain*. Now, if that writer's room CONTAINED some such persons, well, that would explain a great deal—such as why they might have been, um, inspired to have Geordi exhibit some of those traits sometimes.

(* = As an aside: I read somewhere yeeeeeears ago, well pre-9/11, that what we now call incels make up a majority of new recruits into terrorist organizations, particularly in non-monogamous cultures where a few high-status dudes hoard so many of the potential S.O.'s from everybody else as to just ramp up the fury of the incels that much more. The idea being, let's redirect their sexual rage to our own political ends. If that's accurate, that would make a damn interesting Trek episode plot in These Times, in the hands of the right writer's room of course. I could imagine DISCO or even LOW being bold enough to go there.)

(And as another aside, Burton was the guest host of Jeopardy! this week!)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:05 AM on July 30 [4 favorites]


Saying that a Black man's experience with a white writers room's inability to deal with Black men's sexuality isn't believable is certainly...a take, I guess.

I'm very inclined to believe Burton, because he had the lived experience. And we've seen over and over how badly they've handled female characters, especially as regards their sexuality. He probably got pretty tired with always being given these scripts. Also, I agree with everything Cheeses said.

And this episode honestly didn't bug me as much as it bugs some people, even with the horrible Laura plot, maybe because at least they wrapped it up all right. Is it good? Hell no. Is it one I'd want to watch again? Also hell no. But for the creeper-nerd storylines they gave Geordi, this one feels mild.

I always figured muscan seed punch was like pomegranate juice--like they had something around the seeds that made a juice for a punch. It didn't seem weird to me, I guess.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:26 AM on July 30 [1 favorite]


Many production staff members were disappointed with this episode, considered to be the weakest of the generally good sixth season.

Well, the previous three were really well done, but season six better get a lot better if this one is going to stand out that much. This one may have been kind of plodding, but "Fistful of Datas" was positively sleepwalking through the plot. And I thought this was a notch less dreadful to watch than "Man of the People".

so the script became very technobabble heavy

No kidding. The whole scene with "We know nothing about actual coalescent beings...but surely they'll have to find a new victim every 8.3 days!"...the show does this all the time but this one merits an extra hard eye roll.

I was really disappointed b/c I thought maybe they were happy to retcon away Geordi's creepy business with Leah Brahms, but at the beginning of this show it seems obvious that he's going to walk right into the same mistake. At least this lady turned out to be into him, but he still should have kept a distance.

Also, they think so little of Troi that they can't remember she's supposed to say "Captain, I sense that he's telling the truth". Furthermore, as head of HR she should should have stepped in and said "We can't trust Geordi to be alone with this woman's video logs. I suggest you have Data watch the videos and read her novels since he'll be able to do it in five seconds and is guaranteed not to fall in love with somebody he's never met."

However, this ep gets points for the replica Crusher hand being so spooky and for the dog being such a charmer.
posted by polecat at 12:02 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


But I think it's also possible that Geordi was more often than not the odd man out storywise and ended up with the shitty plots.

The Ringo of Starfleet?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:00 AM on July 31


Aside from the increasingly-tiresome Geordi's-unlucky-at-love plot line, one of the things that disappointed me was the dog's reveal as a shapeshifter, because it's clearly meant to be not just a Shocking Plot Twist, but the climax of the episode, and yet... I was immediately reminded of the reveal near the beginning of the 1982 version of The Thing, in which the reveal of a dog as the murderous shapeshifter occurs much earlier in the plot, and is still one of the most genuinely shocking moments in SF horror, on the level of the chestburster scene in Alien. The crew here didn't even really try to compete with practical special effects from 1982, just sticking a big CGI blob in there as if they forgot to replace a placeholder with something really good, or even visibly trying to be.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:09 AM on August 1


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