August 25, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Attached"

It is 8 November 1993, and time for another episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Enterprise arrives at the planet Kesprytt to negotiate an unprecedented situation. One civilization on the planet, the Kes, want to join the Federation. The other, the Prytt, are a xenophobic isolationist regime who want nothing to do with their the Kes or the Federation. When Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Crusher (Gates McFadden) attempt to beam down to begin negotiations, they are hijacked by the Prytt and imprisoned. When they attempt to escape, they discover they have been implanted with devices that enable them to read each other's thoughts.

'Jean-Luc, there's something I've been meaning to tell you.' Ever since "Encounter at Farpoint" the relationship between Picard and Crusher has dangled over the series like a Sword of Damocles, always threatening to crash down and change their friendship forever but always simply hanging there. With the series in its final year, The Next Generation finally tackles the Picard-Crusher romance head-on - with mixed results.

It is a bit of a silly episode, really, but at the same time an awful lot of fun. Quite how the Prytt's plans to interrogate Crusher and Picard will be helped by giving them telepathy is never made clear, and it's difficult to think up a believable reason independently. It does enable some great character development for the two leads, but surely there could have been a more logical reason to give them their telepathy in the first place. It is nice that writer Nicholas Sagan (son of the late, and much loved, Carl Sagan) goes with a more light-hearted, gentle route - this storyline could easily have been played out in a much darker and more harrowing fashion, but I think it works better the way that it is.

Back on the Enterprise, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) struggles to get help from either the Kes ambassador (Robin Gammell) or the Prytt representative (Lenore Kasdorf). It leads to some nice comedic moments, but does feel like a minor key episode.

The epilogue all but kills it: Picard and Crusher both know they share romantic feelings for one another. Picard awkwardly makes a move on Crusher, and she gently but firmly rebuffs him. Why? It doesn't simply work against the entire episode; it flies in the face of six-and-a-half seasons. They've always been in love with each other. Viewers did not need "Attached" to make that clear because it had always been obvious. It feels as if a can of worms was cracked open, forcing the characters to openly address their relationship, and then all of those worms were then hurriedly shoved back inside and the can closed up with tape. It's abrupt, inelegant and deeply frustrating.

It's a shame. It feels just good enough to be filed alongside the better episodes of Season 7, but without that ending it would have been much, much more enjoyable. It leaves us eight episodes into the season, with four good episodes: a quality ratio of 50 per cent.

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