Thursday, August 27, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Icarus Factor"

“The Icarus Factor” is further proof all the best cowboys have daddy issues. When Riker is offered the command of yet another ship, a civilian attaché comes to the Enterprise to brief him. Unbeknownst to him, the attaché is his estranged father whom he has not seen in fifteen years. Worse yet, he learns his father used to date Pulaski. Kyle Riker obviously has some issues with emotional distance and probably untreated cataracts to think that ice queen bitty was ever a fine catch.

Riker and his father fight the entire time they are working together. In some respects, Riker’s doubts about the promotion to captain are a repulsion to his father. If it is his father getting him acclimated to the new command, then obviously the new command must be a bad thing. There is definitely ego getting in the way. The argument that finally convinces Riker to turn down the job is the prestige he receives from serving on the Enterprise. There is more glory to that than researching the possibility of microscopic life in some backwater system.

But the situation between his father and him cannot go unresolved, so they challenge each other to the ancient martial art and American Gladiators staple of beating each other with giant q-tips. Kyle defeats his son with an illegal move he has always used to win. Riker realizes his father has been cheating on these years. We have “A Boy Named Sue” moment and all is well.

The side story involves one of the rare occasions when his human friends encourage Worf to engage in Klingon rituals. This time around, it is the tenth anniversary of Worf’s age of Ascension. It is kind of like a bar mitzvah, but it this one, John Tesh dresses like a Klingon and jabs you with a pain stick. It is a gruesome sequence, but truly alien and, for once, not looked down upon for being so.

I try to appreciate TNG episodes that emphasize character development as much as possible. They do not come around often. I would appreciate this one more but for two problems. One, Riker lectured a Klingon just a handful of episodes ago about refusing to see his father at the same time he has not seen his own in fifteen years. The continuity error is a failure of the story editor to catch, but it makes Riker look like a hypocrite, not to mention reinforces the Trek constant that humans know best even if they do not follow their own ideals.

Two, it is way too early in the series to start offering Riker a command. He is supposed to be on the Enterprise for the run of the series. We have gone less than a season and a half, but we already but he has already turned down two commands. This will not be the last time he refuses one, either. The powers that be should have stopped that plot point to make it more plausible Riker would stay a commander for seven years. At it is, he looks weak. Timidity does not fit in with the rest of his character.

The saving grace is the Worf story. It was good to his friends sharing a special event with him they certainly have no interest in, save their care for him.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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