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The Icarus Factor

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 0
Disc No : 2.3 Episode : 39
First Aired : 24 Apr 1989 Stardate : 42686.4
Director : Robert Iscove Year : 2365
Writers : David Assael Season : 2
Guest Cast :
Colm Meaney as Miles Edward O'Brien
Diana Muldaur as Dr. Katherine Pulaski
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
Lance Spellerberg as Transporter Chief Herbert
Mitchell Ryan as Kyle Riker
Moral :
Klingons : Is there anything they celebrate WITHOUT pain sticks?
YATI : The E-D's engines are generating some odd sensor readings in this episode. Data suggests that rather than find and correct any problem, they should just reprogram the sensors to fix the readouts! What kind of practice is this - they just want to ignore it and hope it will go away!
Worst Moment : That silly game Riker and his dad play.
Body Count : Zero.
Factoid : This episode has the first reference to the Tholians in TNG. Also, during Worf's celebration scene the first Klingon on the left is John Tesh, who went through the two hour makeup process while doing a feature on TNG for Entertainment Tonight.
Quote : "Respect is earned, not bestowed." - Troi

Plotline

The USS Enterprise-D is on the way to Starbase Montgomery to have their engines checked over. Gerodi and Data have been investigating a minor anomaly in the engines but can find no cause for it, and are hoping that the Starbase experts might be able to help. On the bridge Picard informs Riker that the Captain of the USS Aries is retiring and Starfleet has offered Riker the post. Even more exciting, the Aries may have discovered a new life form in the distant Vega-Omicron.

Arriving at the Starbase, the ship takes aboard a civilian strategic attaché to brief Riker about the Aries mission. When he arrives the man proves to be Kyle Riker, Will's father. The two are distinctly cold towards one another, barely speaking at first.

Wesley is excited about Riker's promotion and Kyle's arrival, and rushes to share the news with Worf. Worf is uncharacteristically short tempered, even by his standards, telling at Wesley and stomping off. Wesley goes to talk with Geordi, wondering what may be bothering Worf, and Geordi and Data agree that some investigation is called for.

Riker, meanwhile, discusses his father with Doctor Pulaski, who turns out to have been married to him once. She states that the two are still on good terms, which she is with all of her several ex husbands. Riker remains cool towards his father, seemingly irked that he is quite popular with the Enterprise crew.

Geordi and Data begin investigating Worf, deciding that he might be lonely as he seems to have no close friends. Data approaches and makes a clumsy offer of friendship, telling him that people care about him and are worried. Worf yells at Data to leave him alone and stomps off again. He goes to see Riker and asks if he can leave with him for the Aries, as he thinks that there is a high risk of combat on the mission and it might be a chance to die a glorious death. Riker goes to have a talk with his father, but the two struggle to make any kind of connection with one another and they eventually part, frustrated. Kyle goes to talk to Deanna about Will and vents some of his frustration, though he rejects her analysis of his own feelings. He seems annoyed when Troi suggests that Will might not even accept the command he has been offered.

In engineering Geordi watches the Starbase specialists at work and frets that he may have overlooked something or made some mistake. Wesley arrives and announces that he has cracked the Worf mystery - it is the tenth anniversary of his Age of Ascension, an important moment in a Klingon's life. Wesley suggests that Worf may be feeling cut off from his traditions and culture, and suggests recreating the anniversary ceremony on the holodeck for him. As Will thinks over his options with Pulaski and then Picard, they begin to prepare for the ceremony. Will tries to talk to his father again but the two quickly begin to argue, and end up challenging one another to an Anbo-jyutsu match, a form of ceremonial combat.

Troi takes Worf to the holodeck where he is surprised and pleased to take part in the ceremony. He must submit to repeated shocks from Klingon painsticks, which a gleeful O'Brien tells Wesley are so fierce that he once saw them cause an animal's head to explode.

Riker and Kyle begin their match; the sport involves them wearing padded suits and visors which cover their eyes whilst they try to hit one another with long sticks. Kyle wins the match by using an illegal move, and when Riker complains he points out that he's been cheating at the game for a long time as Will was too good to beat fairly. The tension between them finally broken, they start to talk for real for the first time before Kyle has to leave.

The engineering analysis proves that nothing was wrong with the ship, much to Geordi's relief. Riker goes to tell Picard that he has decided to turn down the Captaincy and remain on the Enterprise for now. Picard agrees that he can remain on the Enterprise as first officer, and the ship departs to resume its mission.

Analysis

Although there is lots to hate in this episode - culminating in the so, so stupid "fight" between Riker and his father - there is one moment in this that I really like. It's when they set the holodeck setup, and Wesley comments on the pain sticks. O'Brien starts talking about how he once saw a two ton animal jump 5 metres into the air at the slightest touch, and how it's head eventually exploded! I love this bit because O'Brien is so clearly trying to needle Wesley and creep him out with a tall tale, and so clearly being successful at it. It's a very humanising moment for O'Brien's character, and really the first time that we see O'Brien as the "ordinary bloke" type of character that he would eventually become.

Beyond that... oy vey. I don't know what it is with Trek, but almost NOBODY comes from a normal happy family background. Just look at the TNG main stars; there's Picard, who never got on with his father, and lost his mother at a young age. There's Troi, whose father died when she was young. There's Crusher, whose husband died; by the same count there's Wesley, whose father died. There's Geordi, whose mother will vanish and be presumed dead the very first time we find out about his family. And here there's Riker, whose Dad walked out on him when he was a kid. Try this for most any other Trek series, you will get the same thing. Somebody somewhere thinks that coming from a broken home makes a character really interesting!

Of course Riker's inability to talk to his dad makes a nonsense of "A Matter of Honor", in which he chided a Klingon for the exact same thing.

Beyond that... we also get the oft to be repeated "Riker turns down command" thing here. One of the things we learn about Riker is that in his younger days, he was obsessed with achieving the command of a Starship. So obsessed, indeed, that this was his reason for dumping Troi; his career was such a priority to him that he didn't want to spend the time and effort to have a relationship with her. So... then we learn in Encounter at Farpoint that Riker turned down a command of his own to serve as First Officer on the Enterprise-D. He thought it would be "more advantageous," he says. Okay... a stint on the flagship working under Picard, learn from the best before taking a big seat yourself. I can see that. But now he's been on the ship for 18 months, and he's offered a command... and he turns it down. For no particular reason. He's offered another command just before Best of Both Worlds, and turns that down too. Then it's implied that he's offered pretty much any command he wants after Best of Both Worlds, and he turns THAT down. I get that Riker is supposed to have found himself a "family" that he was comfortable with on the Enterprise-D... they even explore this somewhat in Best of Both Worlds and discuss why he doesn't want a command any more. But it just seems like such an odd change; he goes from fanatical desperation to get a command to simply not being interested by one in the space of a year? The writers do their best, but they never quite pulled off a believable explanation for me. Why did they paint Riker as being so super-ambitious in the first place if they planned to just keep him around forever?


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 3,766 Last updated : 12 Mar 2013