Star Trek The Next Generation: Liaisons

When sartorial drama gets his day off on the wrong foot, Worf finds himself playing host to ambassadors on a downward spiral of passion and addictive substances, while Picard gets abducted by yet another strange woman and Troi once again performs her eating chocolate trick.

"Liaisons" takes a break from the more serious, Federation-shaking events of the previous two episodes to explore the question of how two equally-civilized and technologically advanced civilizations might interact during first contact phase. At first I was kind of let down by the campy feel of the episode; by the end I was just meh.

See, it was mostly because of Worf. From the opening scene, our warrior's discomfort with diplomacy was obvious. Diplomacy is the art of seeing the pattern of another's mind so that discourse is possible and preferred. Klingon culture, depending on the writer, seems to regard anything different as prey. I think some episodes have done a great job at making the Klingon culture more complex than that but definitely not this one.

When three Iyaaran Ambassadors join the Enterprise to learn about Federation culture, they each choose one individual from three different races to partner with – the Klingons, Betazed and Human races. Almost immediately the bizarre nature of the ambassadors’ interactions become apparent. Troi takes hers around the ship to buffets and addicts him to chocolate. Picard is supposed to go to the Iyaaran homeworld but is apparently marooned on a planet with a random sexy amazon while his partner disappears. And Worf’s partner insults him, puts him down, and seemingly does his best to piss off Worf, to the point where Worf waves around threatening knives at the aforementioned random buffets (it must be Sunday on the Enterprise) and finally loses control and physically attacks the Ambassador.


So through this, Picard comes out looking like a wise hero, figuring out that his partner is actually disguised as a woman trying to seduce him. Troi is about the same as when she started, only bemused that an alien outchocolated her. But Worf? He's had his manhood, intelligence, even clothing mocked throughout the episode and he actually loses his famous Worf control. At no point did anyone stand up and tell the aliens to stop the insults. The aliens leave happy and Worf isn't punished for attacking aliens, but the episode left a sour taste in my mouth.

Bits and Pieces

This episode felt like a throwback to earlier seasons, especially after all the recent nuBorg stuff.

Is there a gender bending theme to the episode? One ambassador disguises themselves as the opposite gender, Worf is gently twigged for his aversion to 'feminine' clothing, and the title was a lot more suggestive than the episode would merit. Maybe I missed something.

Quotables

Data: I have heard that in moments of diplomatic tension, it is often helpful to find elements of commonality.
Worf: Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental and rude.
Data: You share all of those qualities in abundance. Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.

Byleth: The antimatter replenishment rate. What is it?
Worf: I am not certain of the exact rate.
Byleth: Perhaps there is someone here who does know the answer. You. Are you smarter than this one?
LaForge: Why do you ask?
Byleth: Never mind.

Troi: He’s obsessed with food. Especially chocolate.
Riker: You must be in heaven.
Troi: To be honest, he's testing even my limits.
Worf: You see? You see? They are insane!

Overall

Sometimes with the whole Klingon thing Trek can come off as slightly racist and this was an episode where I tasted that racism – and maybe it’s because the whole thing was played for laughs in the first place, but pretty corny and canned laughs (from "You look good in a dress" to "He ate more chocolate than Troi???! See, Captain, he’s a monster!")

The damn thing is, Worf does look good in a dress... uniform, that is. Two out of five snazzy diplomatic tops.

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