Written by Reuben Leder, Michael Piller, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
Although the character of Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) was created to take over for “boffing the galaxy” a la Captain Kirk in the original series, the episodes which work best on a romantic level generally seem to be the ones where it is not Riker who gets emotionally invested in one of the guest stars, but someone else in the crew. This is probably never more evident than in The Perfect Mate.
While on the way to perform a reconciliation ceremony and conference between two worlds, Krios and Valt Minor, the Enterprise is diverted by a distress call coming from a Ferengi vessel. Just prior to the ship’s explosion, the two Ferengi on the distressed ship is beamed on board the Enterprise.
The Ferengi manages to get to the Kriosian cargo in the cargo bay. What this says about the state of security on the Enterprise is a huge plot hole. I know it is to further the plot, but after the Kriosian Ambassador (portrayed by Tim O’Connor) had asked for more security, stating that the cargo was precious, delicate, and irreplaceable, it seems pretty bad that this is allowed to happen.
The stasis chamber which was in the cargo bay disintegrates and what emerges is a beautiful woman, Kamala (portrayed by Famke Janssen). She looks at Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and states “I am for you Chancellor Airik.” Kamala is an empathic metamorph – something born only once every seven generations. Since an empathic metamorph was the cause of the war beginning centuries ago, it is the hope that she can be the catalyst of reunification in the present time.
An empathic metamorph will sense what the mate wants and imprint and transform into the ideal mate. Kamala is at a stage of development where she is producing a great deal of pheromones and attracting men. Riker succumbs to her and kisses her passionately, then heads to the holo-deck.
At the prompting of Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Picard then visits Kamala to determine whether or not she should be kept confined to quarters (ostensibly for the good of his crew) and if she is willingly going into this situation. After a disastrous attempt to use the android Data (Brent Spiner) as an escort, Picard agrees to keep Kamala company if she will remain in her quarters. After the Ferengis accidentally injure the Ambassador, Kamala helps Picard iron out the details of the agreement between the two worlds.
When Ambassador Airik (portrayed by Mickey Cottrell) beams on board, Picard has a hard time picturing Kamala with him.
The character of Captain Picard has very rarely let down his guard and shown his more lighthearted side. There have been occasional mentions of past romances, including some unresolved feelings for Dr. Crusher. The only real “action” he has seen in the series to this point is with the flighty Vash. That relationship, while enjoyable for the Captain, never really seemed like one in which I could picture him in long term.
Kamala, however, partially because of her empathic metamorph capabilities and partially because of who she is and how she has been raised, seems to truly be The Perfect Mate for the Captain. Her whole life she had been raised and trained for this purpose of uniting the two worlds, so she understands a great deal about duty – something which has always been very important to Picard. That she can sense this from him doesn’t hurt the potential relationship either.
Patrick Stewart and Famke Janssen do an excellent job with their characters, and there seems to be genuine chemistry between the two. (What man wouldn’t find Janssen beautiful?) That the character of Kamala is created as much more than a piece of fluff, but rather as an intelligent being capable of being Picard’s equal is really what holds the story together, and Janssen pulls it off admirably. She also is terrific morphing into what she senses the crowds around her at any given time desire, as is shown in the scene in which Data brings her into the 10- Forward Lounge.
Stewart manages to make me wonder how much Picard regrets his dedication to duty at the end of this episode. Although it’s one of the things that brings Picard and Kamala together, it is also what will drive them apart in the end. Stewart has Picard succumb to Kamala’s charms, but not simply for the physical and hormonal reasons that many others are reacting to her. Picard sees something deeper in the woman because he is looking to see who she is and who she wants to be.
Fans who have a sharp eye (and ear) will pick out Max Grodenchik as one of the Ferengi intent on abducting Kamala to be sold to the highest bidder. Grodenchik appears in Deep Space Nine as the Ferengi, Rom.
This is a great episode that is very enjoyable to watch. Casual viewers may miss out a bit on the fact that it’s unusual for Picard to develop a relationship like this, but it’s nothing that will prevent them from enjoying the show. Fans will enjoy it; male fans in particular.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Cost of Living
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Imaginary Friend