Written by Jeanne Carrigan Fauci, Lisa Rich, Roger Eschbacher, Jaq Greenspon, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Cliff Bole
Sometimes, what sounds like a good idea on paper doesn’t always translate to a good idea on the screen. With movies there’s a little more leeway if you have to run it five or ten minutes longer to really get a grasp on the story being told. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with episodic television and Liaisons suffers for it.
When two Iyaaran ambassadors visit the Enterprise, the ambassadorial tact of Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) are put to the test. Deanna must deal with an Ambassador Loquel (portrayed by Paul Eiding) who has never eaten food for pleasure, only for nourishment. On board the Enterprise he finds a bounty of gastronomic pleasures he never dreamed of. Worf’s less-than-stellar diplomatic stills are put to the test by Ambassador Blyleth (portrayed by Michael Harris) who appears rude and haughty.
Meanwhile Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is touring the system on the way back to the Iyaaran homeworld when his shuttle encounters an energy disruption. The shuttle pilot named Voval (portrayed by Eric Pierpoint of Alien Nation fame) manages to guide them to the surface of a nearby M-Class planet, but is injured in the process. Picard is unable to get a signal to the Enterprise due to the planet’s rather volatile atmosphere, so he goes in search of help.
Help finds him in Anna (portrayed by Barbara Williams), a woman who has been stranded on the planet for seven years. Soon Liaisons soon looks more like a take on the movie Misery. Anna is demanding that Picard love her and seems like she will go to any lengths, including suicide, to get him to declare his love for her after such a short time of knowing each other.
Unfortunately, Barbara Williams is no Kathy Bates. Her declaration of love for Captain Picard felt hollow and unconvincing. In addition, I never felt there was any real suspense about whether or not Picard would be rescued. This is despite the fact that there’s seemingly no explanation for his disappearance given back on the Enterprise, nor is anyone wondering why they haven’t heard from him, not even one transmission, saying he arrived on the Iyaaran homeworld all right. Yet they are not showing any concern for the whereabouts of the Captain.
As the story turns out, each of the Iyaaran Ambassadors had a specific mission beyond simply initiating contact with the humans. It’s an intriguing concept really. Instead of simply saying “I want to meet you” the Iyaaran try to learn about human qualities they cannot experience such as pleasure, anguish, and love.
Unfortunately, the way the episode is carried out is quite poor. Too much is crammed into a short period of time. Viewers were expected to learn about an entire new race including their traditions and idiosyncrasies in the short time, as well as follow a three-pronged story involving familiar members of the cast. It all has the feeling of being rushed and some issues are glossed over. None of the characters is given anything really substantial to do, either. I had the distinct impression I was supposed to be laughing at both Worf and Troi being out of their element dealing with the Iyaaran Ambassadors, but I found I had a hard time caring. Moments that were supposed to be humorous seemed to be trying too hard to achieve that humor with a heavy hand, and therefore lost me.
I can’t fault the actors. Dorn, Sirtis, and Stewart seemed to be giving their roles here the best they could, but at times they seemed to flounder or be exasperated. The writing was just too weak for them to carry the story with their talent and it’s a shame to see it wasted in a story like this.
I think either focusing mainly on Picard on the planet and giving him more substantial time with a better actress in the Misery-like situation would have made the story better. It still would not have been one of the really great episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it would have been better. As it is, there was just too much story and it was spread too thin.
As a side note, Eric Pierpoint would go on to guest-star in an episode each of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Enterprise.