3/10/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "The Icarus Factor"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S02E14
Air Date: April 24, 1989
Written by: David Assael and Robert L McCullough
Directed by: Robert Iscove

Premise
Riker patches things up with his father while Worf gets angsty about not having painsticks.

Review
So, there's a problem in Engineering and Data thinks it's a minor problem they can solve by reprogramming, but Picard says they're on they're way to a starbase, anyway, so they might as well have them look at the problem. Why are they going to a starbase? Because there are some "personnel transferrs" to do. Riker is curious about this since, as the first officer, he should be one of the first to know if someone's coming or going. Picard pulls him aside and says it's him. Riker has been given the opportunity to take command of the USS Aries in the wake of its former captain's retirement. Riker says he'll think about it, but in the meantime, someone is coming to brief him on the Aries current mission status. And guess who that someone is!

You got it! It's his dad! When Commander Riker sees Mr. Riker on the transporter, he's shocked at first. But then his startled manor turns into angst and he excuses himself to take care of his duties while a security escort takes Kyle Riker to his quarters. Meanwhile, Wesley is awfully excited that someone on the ship actually has a father! So he runs up to the orphan, Worf, in the hallway and gushes about Kyle Riker visiting to him and, for some reason, Worf doesn't take it very well. "ENOUGH!" says Worf, and then storms off, leaving Wesley kind of confused.
"Was it something I wore?"
That's when Riker finds that his dad once had a thing with Pulaski, of all people. He catches the two of them canoodling in 10-Forward. While the two of them catch up, Riker walks up to them in a huff and informs Kyle that he's ready for his briefing before he marches out. So while that little drama plays out, Wesley confronts Data and Geordi about Worf's problem. They agree that he's been "out of sorts", but they're not sure why. So, when Wesley says he wants to investigate why, they say it's his problem; he can figure it out. But that doesn't stop Data from trying to be friendly to Worf in 10-Forward... which Worf does not take well.

Worf then visits Will in Will's quarters and Will gives a story about how when he was a child he hooked a fish, but his father, afraid he would screw it up, reeled it in for him. And that pretty much sums up their relationship. But Worf was there for something else. He says that if Will chose to take command of the Aries, he would like to go with him. Even after he assured everyone last season that he had no intention of leaving the Enterprise. He tells Riker that he knows he'll do the right thing.
A match made in Sto-vo-kor.
Then comes the showdown. Riker faces his father for his briefing and Kyle gives him a small data disk that could totally have been sent in an email or something. Kyle says that the reason he'd come in person to deliver it was because, in the event Riker took the promotion, he'd be going far away and risking a lot, so he wanted to see his son. Then he brings up Riker's mom dying and that's it. Riker leaves. Then a bunch of unimportant stuff happens which kind of draws out the relationship, explains Kyle's past and pushes the two of them back together, but what we really want to see now is Worf's deal.

Wesley figured out that it's the anniversary of Worf's Age of Ascension. It's a Klingon tradition to celebrate this anniversary with Klingon friends and family, but Worf has none of that here. Thus the grumpiness. So Wesley decides to set up a party. He invites a lot of people, but only Pulaski, O'Brien Data and Geordi go besides him. He sets up a Klingon chamber in the holodeck filled with some holo-Klingons with painsticks and then brings in Worf. Worf is pleased that his friends, his chosen family, would do something like this for him, so he walks on through the painsticks gladly.
This is also what Klinon sex looks like.
Kyle waits outside of Will's quarters for him and after Will comes along and lets him in, they have a discussion that evolves into an argument that evolves into an Anbo-jyutsu match. The two meet each other on the Anbo-jyutso ring and hold giant Q-tips to fight each other without the use of their eyes. After fighting for a while, Will realizes the only way Kyle had beaten him in the past was by cheating. Then they talk about the death of Will's mother and how that affected both of them, they hug it out and everything is good. Feeling good about himself and his place in life, Will returns to the bridge and informs them that he'll be staying on board as first officer, having denied the promotion. Meanwhile, the team that was brought on board to figure out the problems they were having in Engineering say that they can fix it by reprogramming... just like Data suggested.

Overall Thoughts
At first glance this is another episode with two disconnected plot lines, but there are a lot of subtleties to it that are easy to miss. Worf is sad that he doesn't have family to celebrate with him, Riker is sad that he does have family that doesn't seem to want to celebrate with him. They both work it out through some kind of brutal sport that they experience with their "family", Worf's being his chosen family of crew member friends. And, in the end, we discover that all it took was a little "reprogramming" on the part of Riker and Worf to fix their "engineering problem" and look at life differently. Riker finds that it won't do for him to "run away" by accepting the promotion, because that's exactly what his father did when Mrs. Riker died. This episode almost slipped by production because Roddenberry was convinced that humans had evolved beyond daddy issues at this point in the future, but the director insisted that this story be told, and I'm glad he did. Gene may have cut back on a lot of the possible emotions of the episode, but it all worked out as far as I'm concerned.