Written by David Assael, Robert McCullough, and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Robert Iscove
One thing I love about Star Trek: The Next Generation which seems to begin here – about mid-way through the second season – is how one or two lines in one episode can foreshadow the plot of a future episode.
In this case, in the episode prior to this, Time Squared, there’s a bit at the beginning where Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) mentions that he acquired his cooking skills (or lack thereof) while living alone with his father when his mother died very young. This appears to be a gratuitous scene at the time. However, it is leading into this episode.
Riker is offered the command of his own ship, the Aries. A civilian attache is beamed aboard to brief him on the Aries‘ mission. That attache turns out to be Riker’s father, Kyle (portrayed by Mitchell Ryan).
To say the least, Riker is a bit standoffish. He is basically abrupt and rude to his father. It becomes obvious that fathers and sons still have issues in the 24th century. In this case, it is Riker’s anger at his father’s actions – or perceived inaction – following the death of his mother when he was around 2 or 3. At one point he even states to his father “It should have been you.”
While this may be a dramatic point, it does seem a bit out of character for him. I would also hazard a guess that the writers were basing a lot of the character of Kyle Riker on their own fathers as many fathers of that age had little or nothing to do with their children, whereas the fathers of this current age are much more involved. What happened to send us back to the 1950s in the 24th century?
Another point here is the part of the plot that is The Riker men and the women who love them. The character build-up on Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) is nice as we are given insight into her background. We learn that Dr. Pulaski has been married at least 3 times and was at one time involved with Kyle Riker. She just never bothered to mention that to Will Riker in the months she’s been on the ship. Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is also enveloped in the plot, both as the Ship’s Counselor talking to Kyle and because of her previous relationship with Will.
These convoluted bits of involvement read more like a sci-fi soap opera As The Spaceship Turns….
The tension between the two men culminates in a game of Anbo-jyutsu, what is supposed to be the height of martial arts. The game involves wearing a helmet that blinds the combatants, while they attempt to knock each other senselessly with padded sticks. It becomes very apparent that Kyle Riker never related to his son at all, so he competed with him since that’s the only way he seemed to know how to shape the boy’s character.
Will Riker finds forgiveness and healing, but it’s too pat; too fast and easy. This would have been better left with some bad blood between the two men and settled at a later time – perhaps in the fourth season.
The secondary plot here involves the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn). He becomes more and more moody and hostile to his friends. Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) does some digging and learns that it’s Worf’s 10th anniversary of his Age of Ascension – sort of a Klingon Bar Mitzvah. The only problem here is that Worf was raised by step-parents on Earth from when he was very young. When did he have the time to learn of the Klingon rituals and have them carried out in the manner depicted here?
Wesley and Geordi (LeVar Burton) re-create the ritual for Worf on the holo-deck (a virtual reality room, 24th-century style). It is pretty intense, but it really gives some good background and insight into the Klingons. This is a great foreshadowing to future episodes that deal with Worf’s place within the Klingon Empire and his feelings about the whole situation. There’s also a cameo here of John Tesh as a Klingon. You won’t recognize him, I guarantee it.
In the end, I got the impression that all of Riker’s conflicting feelings about his father haven’t been resolved. Since he’ll still be the First officer on the Enterprise in the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, it is obvious he doesn’t take command of the Aries. The impression I got was that he did it partially because it goes against what he perceives his father would do. The other part of it I believe is how much he feels like the crew around him is his family as opposed to his father.
It’s not a terrible episode but could have been better. The ending was wrapped up too fast and too easily.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time Squared
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Q Who?