The Good: Good acting for Levar Burton, Moments of Geordi's character
The Bad: Unsurprising plot twist, Renee Jones' acting
The Basics: In one of the least exciting murder mysteries on Star Trek The Next Generation, Geordi falls in love with someone who may be a killer.
There are some episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation which quite rightly never appear on the "Top Ten" lists that are put out every few years of the best episodes. "Aquiel" is one such episode that never deserved much attention, though it is certainly not the worst the series ever did.
When the Enterprise arrives at one of the obscure relay stations in Federation space, it finds one of the officers there dead and the other in shock. The surviving officer is Lt. Aquiel, a junior lieutenant who seems in over her head. Geordi takes an instant liking to Aquiel and they begin a relationship with one another. However, the suspects in the murder are few: Aquiel and a Klingon seem to be the only suspects, though there is always Aquiel's dog. When Dr. Crusher discovers a genetic remnant on a bulkhead, she suspects someone may not be what they seem. There might be an insidious alien presence there known as a coalescent organism. When this comes out, Geordi must accept that he is involved with someone who may be a killer.
It's refreshing to see Geordi's character used well and Geordi's character does take a reasonable stand in "Aquiel." He comes across as believable, desperately wanting Aquiel in a way that makes a lot of sense for a character who is historically lousy at getting into relationships. Geordi has a reasonable role and intelligence to him in this episode that fits him and it's easy to see why he is attracted to Aquiel; she's pretty much the classical damsel in distress.
The problem is that Renee Jones is not a terribly good actress. She plays Aquiel and she is little more than a flighty damsel in distress who is not terribly interesting. As a result, the writers added a cheesy glowing rock ceremony to distract from how uninteresting Aquiel was. This allows Jones to kill some time on screen without saying anything. This works well in the one aspect, which is that it camouflages Jones' uninspired, dull presentation of her lines. However, it does not allow for Jones to add anything positive to her character either. Jones does not put anything beyond her lines into the character and Aquiel comes across as one of the least inspired, least memorable guest characters in the series.
Fortunately, Levar Burton takes the rather bland script and manages to save much of it with his acting. He sells us on Geordi's desire to believe in Aquiel. Burton exercises restraint in much of the episode's most tense moments, which creates a sense of confusion for the character that seems rather natural.
But even Burton's acting is not enough to save "Aquiel" from being not recommended. The plot twist with the insidious organism is somewhat ridiculous and it is ultimately unsurprising. The special effects of the creature that ultimately is the murderer is somewhat primitive, but not nearly as disappointing as the plot and character aspects. Perhaps if a better actress had been cast in the title role "Aquiel" might have been fine.
As it is, "Aquiel" is a murder mystery that most mystery buffs would avoid as the killer is largely dependent on an acceptance of a science fiction premise. Star Trek The Next Generation fans may enjoy seeing Geordi used, but will be turned off by the predictability of the plot and poor guest acting.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Sixth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the penultimate season by clicking here!
For other television episode reviews, be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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