The Aesthetics of Being "Attached"

by Jessica R. Levine

AMST 130B
Professor Doherty
April 28, 1995

HTML version by Luca Sambucci

This paper is copyright 1994 by Jessica R. Levine. Duplication and distribution are allowed strictly by express permission of the author.


In the seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation1 , the enormously popular science fiction series that ran from 1987 through 1994, many of the show's ongoing plot lines finally saw their resolution. In an episode called "Attached", which originally aired in November 1993, the relationship between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher was finally given a chance for closer examination. Fans of these two characters had been waiting for years for the undeniable chemistry between them to be developed, and, through a script penned by novice Nicholas Sagan, their pleas were answered. The episode, directed by TNG cast member Jonathan Frakes, stands out for several reasons, and was deemed a great triumph by all who were involved. An analysis of some of the aesthetics of "Attached" will hopefully shed some light upon the reasons for the episode's tremendous popularity and success.

Over the years, as the relationship between Picard and Crusher developed, many connections were forged between them, some of which were almost never seen in episodes: their daily breakfast together in the Captain's quarters, their shared past (Beverly married Jean-Luc's best friend, a situation which would figure prominently in "Attached"), and their growing dependence on one another as friends and confidantes. Much to the delight of fans, this episode provided glimpses of all of the above. In fact, in a rare break from the usual teaser, in which some disaster would occur on the bridge of the Enterprise before the show's opening credits, the episode begins with Beverly and Jean-Luc sharing an elaborate breakfast and engaging in casual conversation. In a bit of foreshadowing, this change of pace sets the tone for the intimate nature of the entire episode.

The plot situation for "Attached" finds the captain and doctor kidnapped, and working toward their escape to safety. In a clever twist to the story, the kidnappers implant devices into the cerebral cortices of the two characters, enabling them to hear each others' thoughts. The "intimacy" created by the implants is the vehicle for the development of the romantic aspect of the show.

Contributing to the intimate atmosphere of the episode is the strategic use of a dramatic score interspersed with long periods of silence that help to accentuate the dialogue. When Crusher and Picard are initially working to escape, for example, the action scenes are paired with eerie, ominous music, adding to the suspense. During the scenes where the dialogue is paramount, however, the music is conspicuously absent. Following some of the highly emotional parts of the script, the musical interludes serve to enhance the emotion of the dialogue that has been delivered, and the score appears to continue the conversation while the actors convey their emotions with subtle glances at one another.

Another aspect of the emotional nature of "Attached" was the way in which the cameras were used. The various camera angles worked to provide a sense of perspective; that is, the cameras, much like the musical score, served as an extension of the characters' reactions to the situation. In one scene, Beverly and Jean-Luc encounter a steep cliff, atop which appears to be their only escape. As they approach the cliff, the camera shot is from the top of the cliff down, giving viewers an idea of the situation which has presented itself to the two characters. Next, the camera shows Beverly looking up questioningly from her position to the top of the cliff. A return once more to the overhead shot truly allows us to ascertain the situation, and Beverly's fear of heights is clearly conveyed, even before the emotion is conveyed with words.

As the plot is developed, the camera focuses on the two characters, showing waist shots in the majority of instances when there is a dialogue taking place. So it seems, as the characters are coming closer to the emotional climax of the story, the cameras are adding to the building intimacy with tighter shots. Additionally, we see the conversation turning toward more personal topics at this time, again foreshadowing the upcoming scene, in which the most important revelations will take place.

Night falls on the surface of the planet, and Beverly and Jean-Luc are seated around a glowing fire. Once again, we find the music conspicuously absent, allowing us to focus completely on what the characters are saying. A bit of banter follows, and slowly, truths begin to be revealed. The credibility of the ensuing dialogue can be attributed to head writer Sagan, who cleverly inserted into the script several references from past episodes and past conversations, and it is ultimately these connections that bring this episode to stand out as one of the most effective.

The height of the emotional nature of "Attached" appears in this scene, in front of the fire (itself often a precursor of intimacy simply by nature). Slowly, the truth is revealed -- Jean-Luc was once in love with Beverly. Of course, she was married to his best friend at the time, hence the complicated nature of the situation. The delivery of these truths, however, is not always by means of straight dialogue. By this time, the effect of the implants has become quite significant, allowing each character to read the other's thoughts almost instantly, so the need to vocalize each thought is reduced. Instead, we, as viewers, can only imagine what would be said. Take, for example, the following dialogue, in which Jean-Luc's true feelings for Beverly are finally being revealed, after a period of tense silence:

Beverly: Jean-Luc, I heard you. Don't push it away. (There is a pause as Beverly reacts to what she "hears" him thinking.) I didn't know you felt that way.
Jean-Luc: Didn't you?
Beverly: I guess I always knew that there was an attraction between us right from the start, but I never knew how strongly you felt. (Again, there is a long pause, after which Beverly turns, ever so slowly, to face Jean-Luc.) Why didn't you ever tell me you were in love with me?

During this passage and the ensuing dialogue, the camera shots are at their closest, shifting from one character back to the other as each is speaking. Once the most tense emotional dialogue is concluded, the conversation shifts abruptly to small talk. The true feeling of the scene and of the characters, after the revelations that have just transpired, however, is conveyed by the music, which at this time is has a slow, dramatic tone. As the music begins to take over for the dialogue, the camera finally pulls back from its intensity, allowing the viewer to absorb all that has taken place.

"Attached" was a uniquely effective episode, in that the science-fiction aspect of the show became the subplot to the emotional, dramatic main storyline. Commented Sagan in an interview:

Despite the people who say Star Trek is science fiction and not serious drama, we were able to actually get into some very, very deep human emotions. And that's one of the things I love about the show.
(Altman, p. 19)

Placing the emotional conflict at the forefront of the episode provided an opportunity for many long-standing matters to be resolved, and the process by which that resolution came to be was unarguably a success. Through the utilization of a subtle, yet tremdously effective musical score, as well as a variety of camera angles, used as an extension of the script, "Attached" came through as a favorite among both the fans and the actors.



Bibliography

Altman, Mark A. "Mission Ops: 'Attached'". Star Trek Communicator February/March 1995: 18-20.

Florence, Bill. "Nicholas Sagan: An 'Attached' Writer". Star Trek: The Next Generation August 1994: 53-58.

Nemecek, Larry. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion. New York: Pocket Books, 1995. 271-272.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Attached". Dir. Jonathan Frakes. With Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden. Paramount, 1993.
1 Star Trek: The Next Generation will be further denoted as TNG.


Star Trek® Star Trek: The Next Generation® Star Trek: Deep Space Nine® and Star Trek: Voyager® are registered trademarks of Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
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