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TNG 5-21

TNG 5x21
"The Perfect Mate"

Original airdate: 4/27/1992
Rewatch date: 8/5/2012


On the way to an arranged marriage that would unite two warring civilizations, an empathic metamorph is prematurely released from stasis and falls in love with Captain Picard.

Spoiler-free notes:

The Ferengi are up to no good, eh? How do you not see that coming?

This isn't the first time we've heard of Krios, as it was the site of Klingon colonies that the Romulans seeked to destabilize in "The Mind's Eye."

Is this an alternate reality where Professor X and Jean Grey are in love? Kamala even refers to herself as "a mutant."

I like how, once Kamala emerges, the camera deliberately pans over Riker and onto Picard, as if faking you out with the thought that this is another love interest for Riker.

It's kinda weird to see Riker show so much restraint in the face of sexual temptation, but it's not out of character for him, given the circumstances. The fact that he goes straight to the holodeck afterwards, though, is hysterical. I imagine, with an empathic metamorph on the ship, the holodeck gets a lot of use.

Sometimes, Crusher can be a real bitch. I understand her attitude, but she gets downright hostile to Picard, who is only trying to uphold the Prime Directive, something that is, oh, slightly important for him. Then again, Crusher being mean makes it easier to discard her for the sake of Picard's potential love story later in the episode.

Where's Troi? You'd think she'd be important--or at the very least helpful--in this storyline, and yet she's completely absent.

Yet again, Data is a chaperone, but you gotta admit, it's pretty ingenius of Picard to assign him as such.

"I'm simply curious to know what lies beneath." "Nothing. Nothing lies beneath." / "Why are you doing this, Kamala?" "There can be only one reason: because some part of you wants me to." Great dialogue.

Though we see very little of the them, the Ferengi are used in this episode as the primary antagonists. They're like a force of nature or an archetypal trickster, inserting just enough chaos into the story to move the plot forward. All the narrative problems--Kamala's premature emergence and the ambassador's being taken out of commission--are caused, directly though accidentally, by the Ferengi. The writers have found a more subtle way of using them, but they are still pretty bumbling and one-dimensional.

It's amazing how often Enterprise crewmembers, Picard in particular, are forced to mediate diplomatic disputes at the last minute.

Trek's version of Casablanca, this episode is a remarkably well-written exploration of Picard through a provocative sci-fi idea of a woman who can mould her behavior to match whatever man she is with. It's fascinating how the episode is able to deal with several social issues like sexuality, slavery, and the ethics of arranged marriages, but how it is still, despite all that, centrally about Picard. We get a much more intimate peek beneath his skin than we've ever gotten before, as Kamala wears down his incredibly well-built walls ("Even the walls of Jericho fell, Captain"). In the end, Picard's perfect women puts duty before love, just as Rick Blaine sent Ilsa off in Victor's arms because the importance of his duty overcame his selfish desires for her. If that isn't a defining characteristic for Picard, as a character, I don't know what is.



Spoiler section:

Max Grodénchik, the actor who plays the Ferengi Par Lenor, will go on to play another Ferengi, Quark's brother, Rom, in DS9.

Famke Janssen, the actress who plays Kamala, was the first choice to play Jadzia Dax in DS9. When she turned down the role, they used her make-up from this episode (the dots around her face and down her back) to represent the Trill.

We see another Kriosian woman in ENT's "Precious Cargo."





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