Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation--"The Bonding"

We get yet another chance to test our theory that trek never does children well. The theory took a hit a couple weeks ago with “Pen Pals,” but it is still standing. One point "The Bonding” has going for it is Ronald D. Moore. The script was his first professional sale to Trek. We would continue to write numerous episodes for all three of the series set in the 24th century over the next decade. Later he went on to create the remained Battlestar Galactica, a show I cannot praise enough. I am going to praise Moore a lot over the next few months and even more so if I decide to cover DS9. A number of episodes which immediately come to mind when someone says “Star Trek: the Next Generation” were penned by him.

All that will come later. What about “The Bonding?” It has two major flaws as far as I am concerned. First, I do not think Jeremy’s reaction to his mother’s death is vey realistic. Second, Worf’s bonding with Jeremy was forced. Second, the resolution was awfully maudlin.

The plot is simple. Worf leads an away team down to a planet on which a civilization fought itself into extinction. A young officer, Marla, steps on a ine left over from the war and is killed. Marla’s death leaves her twelve year old son an orphan since his father also died when he was younger. Worf feels guilty over Marla’s death and wants to bring Jeremy into his family through a Klingon ritual. Troi advises him against showing too much affection for Jeremy. In the meantime, Jeremy is visited by a being posing as his mother. She makes several attempts to lure him to the transporter in order to take him down to the planet. The entity is one of a race of energy beings who vowed the war that wiped out civilization would never take another life. They want to take care of Jeremy, but are talked out of it when convinced he would be better off elsewhere.

My first gripe was Jeremy’s reaction to his mother’s death. Originally, he was much more distraught over being all alone in the universe. The entity filled much more of a void in him, so convincing the entity it was not serving a useful purpose was a more complicated process. Enter Gene Roddenberry, who said children in the 24th century are more emotionally strong. So what he get instead is a twelve year old stoic who states matter of fact he is all alone, then marches off to his gamily quarters with all his dead mother’s things all around him. Alone. Without a single tar shed.

You can argue he has been hardened by losing his father in the past, but he had his mother for support then. Surely he not only is upset over his mother’s death, but has the added anger over the cruelty of fate. Surely he wants to turn Worf and/or Picard into a throw rug. Wesley admits he hated Picard for surviving a the mission on which his father was killed. But Jeremy? Nothing. It is unreal.

My other problem was the resolution. The entity feels guilty over the mass genocide it with which it had nothing to do. So they want to take Jeremy away with them, whether it is actually good for him or not, to alleviate their guilt. As Picard notes, living with them is going to be far worse. Jeremy would have no purpose in life, nothing to do, and no friends. The entity is not convinced by this. They sound like a bunch of peacenik hippies you cannot reason with because anything to make up for a war has to be good. I got the hint their was an unnecessary antiwar message that was an odd fit. These entities helplessly watched a war rage on, now they feel so guilty they are going to screw up a kid’s life even further to make themselves feel better? Meh.

“The Bonding” is not without its virtues. Worf and Wesley explain both to the entity and Jeremy what it is like to lose parents. Wesley even explains how much he hated Picard for a long time after his father’s death. That is a natural reaction from an orphaned child. Why did Jeremy not get to experience the same? The sequence brought some much needed emotion to the story. The entity is only convinced it is wrong to take Jeremy when it realizes the lack of emotional support he would receive from them. Not that Jeremy actually shows a real need for any.

I cannot find any evidence, but I have a hunch someone saw the potential of a father/son bonding with Worf and decided to create Alexander. The kid would have to have been conceived during the second season episode “The Emissary,” but there was no real opportunity for that to happen unless you assume Worf and K’Eleyr did the deed in the holodeck. Since the episode showed more potential for a relationship between Worf and K’Elyr sans a kid, I am guessing that was not the original intention. So I blame “The bonding” for all the Alexander we had to suffer through subsequently. Boo, hiss!

All right, so RDM’s first trek outing was not that great. He will more than make up for it later. The poor guy ran into the trek and children curse.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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