Friday, January 28, 2022

Star Trek: The Perfect Mate

Episode: "The Perfect Mate"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 21
Original Air Date: April 27, 1992

Captain Picard and his crew are put in a complicated diplomatic position.  While transporting Kriosian ambassador to peace talks, they are surprised to learn they are also delivering Kamala (Famke Janssen), the promised bride in an arranged marriage with the Valtian ambassador.  First, there is the question of whether or not Kamala has a choice.  When she assures Picard she has accepted the role assigned to her, there is the matter of whether or not the men on board will be able to resist her considerable charms.  Most complicating of all is the fact that Kamala has taken a particular shine to our dear captain.

There have been many well-warranted criticisms of the sexual politics of the episode but even the harshest dissenters agree on one point: Janssen is outstanding in the role of Kamala.  Executive producer Rick Berman described her as the most beautiful women any of them had ever seen but she brings so much more to the part.  Her chemistry with Patrick Stewart, in particular, is undeniable.  Sure, he deserves some of the credit for that, too, but the Picard love stories are rarely so convincing.

Romance is a powerful narrative driver in television.  It always has been: Lucy/Ricky, Sam/Diane, Ross/Rachel, etc.  We as the viewers are meant to root for every coupling, no matter how dysfunctional, to succeed.  Every once in a long while, a pairing comes along that I actually believe.  There's a chemistry between the actors that allows for genuine, plausible affection.  Friends, for instance, briefly included a recurring character, Kathy, an ex-girlfriend of Joey's who ended up with Chandler instead.  I believed the Chandler/Kathy attraction more than I ever believed Ross/Rachel, Monica/Chandler or any other romance on the show.  I'm inclined to give all credit for that one to the actress, Paget Brewster.  Believable intimacy is definitely not Matthew Perry's strong suit.

I believe in Kamala/Picard.  The ending is deliciously Casablanca-esque and I feel the pain of both parties.

This will come up again with my favorite DS9 episode.  Stay tuned.

Acting Notes

Famke Janssen was born in Amsterdam in 1964.  She started at the University of Amsterdam in economics - "the stupidest idea I ever had," she has said - but transferred to Columbia to study creative writing and literature.

Her professional career began in modeling.  Physically, she's drawn comparisons to Hedy Lemarr, though for me, that Dutch accent could only evoke Audrey Hepburn.  "The Perfect Mate" was her first television acting job.  She was offered the role of Jadzia Dax in DS9 but she turned it down, not wanting to tie herself down to a series.  It turned out to be the right move as her film career took off soon after.  She was a Bond girl in GoldenEye then the big break came in 2000 when she signed on to play Jean Grey in the X-Men films.  That gig, of course, reunited her with Patrick Stewart.  She's taken a turn in the director's chair as well, leading 2011's Bringing Up Bobby, a movie she also wrote and produced.

She's been active in charity work, too, particularly in animal rights.  In 2008, she was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime.


  1. This is one of my favourite episodes! I really enjoyed her interaction with the main male leads and her take on how to handle Worf is hilarious, it is sad knowing her love for Picard is true but duty calls. Excellent episode even though I can’t stand those Feregi

    1. Yup, Trek didn't get the Ferengi right until DS9. Stay tuned.

  2. Well, I'm tardy commenting but had to watch it again --been 30 years since I last saw the episode. Was especially moved by Picard's line:"Why are you doing this, Kamala?" and her reply:"Some part of you wants me to."
    The poignant closing line is Picard's (conflicted but in command):"Ambassador, have a safe trip home."