Death happens on Star Trek, but with The Next Generation, that became more potentially problematic as families were along for the ride. What happens when a member of the crew dies and leaves a child behind? That’s what Jimmy and Tom look into with this episode, the first Star Trek episode credited to Battlestar Gallactica reboot creator Ronald Moore.
An alien intelligence reaches out to a boy whose mother died on an away mission.
jimmy: Didn’t we just talk about an all powerful being that could make any environment into a home and create facsimiles of the recently deceased?
jimmy: I’m sure he can too, but thinking more Mr. Green Jeans.
tomk: No, see, he could create illusions of other people. These things could become other people. Big difference.
jimmy: Oh. I see. Not the same at all. My mistake.
tomk: That’s a basic course for Starfleet Academy, recognizing different types of powerful beings. Ensign Jimmy won’t even be able to make it onto the Night Crew if he can’t tell the difference.
jimmy: I skipped that course to par-tay!
tomk: Ironically, your partying ways might be what kept you off the Night Crew.
jimmy: That is ironic. Hmph.
Well, at least it will keep me from going on any away missions led by Worf.
tomk: Then the Moose can’t become Worf’s brother.
jimmy: If he did, would we ever see the Moose on another episode?
tomk: Have we seen him in one yet?
tomk: Well, hypothetically…he probably outranks you.
jimmy: I don’t think you get what I’m getting after. Do we ever see Jeremy Aster again?
tomk: No. He moved to old Detroit, started dealing Nuke for some guy named Cain until the braintrust at Omni Consumer Products decided Cain would make a good candidate for a second Robocop.
jimmy: I knew he looked familiar. Way to keep your brother out of trouble, Worf.
Maybe they should have let the alien take him.
tomk: They weren’t going to keep an orphan on the ship. He had an aunt and uncle somewhere else.
jimmy: Old Detroit apparently.
tomk: Keeping families together is what Starfleet does worst.
jimmy: It’s hard not to agree with Picard though that kids shouldn’t be there. Every week they are facing some imminent peril or another.
tomk: They didn’t bring up how many kids get assimilated in the First Contact movie.
jimmy: Starfleet, haters of children. Except Wesley. He’s special.
tomk: He got scarce by then. He knew better.
jimmy: Not before a good heart to heart with his mommy.
tomk: Hey, she survived those movies. She knew what she was doing. That actually puts her a bit ahead of Data.
jimmy: If surviving the movies is your measuring stick, she’s better than Kirk.
tomk: Well, I would rather hang out with Crusher than Kirk, so you’re right again. Have a delicious apple.
jimmy: You and your red heads.
tomk: You can hang with Kirk if you prefer. You and your red shirts.
jimmy: Red heads it is!
jimmy: No doubt.
jimmy: So I hear. I wouldn’t know unfortunately.
tomk: That’s too bad. Maybe an alien life form will appear to you in the form of a deceased loved one.
jimmy: There seems to be a lot of that going around.
tomk: Well, Jeremy really wanted his mom back. And his cat. And his house on Earth.
jimmy: But not his father I guess.
tomk: Yeah, well, that guy smelled of Axe Body Spray. And no one makes that stuff in the 24th century.
jimmy: That’s an odd reference, even for us.
tomk: It’s early in the morning, I just woke up, and that is the best that I can do.
I want to say that maybe bringing back the father was too unbelievable, compared to the mother who just died and in his grief Jeremy would be more inclined to just roll with. That doesn’t really hold up with the cat and his quarters turning into his old house.
tomk: That matched his home movies.
And wasn’t his father dead a lot longer, like maybe Jeremy doesn’t remember the guy?
jimmy: Perhaps. Or maybe the entity was just a glorified home movie to 3D hologram rendering machine.
tomk: It wasn’t a very creative being.
jimmy: And I’m a little surprised it could get on the ship, do all those fantastic things…but needed to use the transporter to get Jeremy to the planet.
tomk: He’s still solid matter. These were energy beings.
jimmy: I know. But it still seemed powerful enough to do that. I mean, being made of energy doesn’t give you the ability to turn any room into a holodeck. Or maybe it does…
tomk: Have you ever tried?
jimmy: I’m not made of pure energy.
tomk: A mental dynamo like you? You light up a room with your presence.
jimmy: That’s a different kind of energy.
tomk: Well, that’s too bad. I was hoping you’d use your powers to do something cool, like hang out with Batman. But that’s a different show.
jimmy: So maybe this energy being should have been a bit proactive and defused all the mines before someone got exploded.
tomk: I get the feeling these guys were not all-knowing.
jimmy: OK, fair point.
tomk: They were an energy-based lifeform that shared a planet with a violent matter-based lifeform and the latter group didn’t know the laws of thermodynamics when they tried to blow up the energy beings.
jimmy: Like Lisa’s perpetual motion machine.
tomk: It just kept going faster and faster…
jimmy: I know this was supposed to be routine but it does beg the question why they just don’t send Data on all the away missions first, at least to scout around.
tomk: If Data blows up, they need to pay to replace him.
There are plenty of replacement Klingons. Data is more unique.
jimmy: OK, fair point.
tomk: That said, they do send him in rather frequently…
jimmy: Who actually repairs Data if he needs it? Geordi? Not like there is another Soong in the crew.
tomk: Oh, let’s say…Moe.
jimmy: OK, fair point.
tomk: But Data doesn’t do much aside from ask Riker how death works for people we know.
jimmy: Which I get… but there had to be deaths of other “insignificant” crew members before and after Tasha. Why is Data preoccupied with it now?
tomk: This one has a kid?
Maybe no one really liked Ensign Haskell.
jimmy: He was the guy I thought of. Perhaps the kid makes a difference, or they just never bothered writing about it before.
tomk: Or they weren’t in the middle of something. Or the writer for this episode was future Battlestar Galactica reboot creator Ronald D Moore.
jimmy: He knows all about writing for “androids”.
tomk: Or, you know, how to create emotional nuance in a sci-fi setting.
jimmy: Or that.
tomk: Moore wrote a lot of Trek before he did BSG. This was his first episode.
jimmy: Including some of the movies.
tomk: And he may have had better hair than Picard.
jimmy: That’s…not really saying much.
tomk: But Picard doesn’t need it.
jimmy: Also true.
tomk: He’s the kind of guy who can show authority to convince a kid not to go away with the recreation of his recently deceased mother and likewise convince the alien to leave and Wesley to say how he really feels.
jimmy: You don’t need flowing locks for that. They’d only be a distraction.
tomk: That just makes it easier. That shows how good Picard is.
jimmy: If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be Captain.
At least this entity didn’t try to take Troi out of commission with an ear worm.
tomk: Says you. She had “lightning in her hands” playing the whole time.
tomk: The alien, meanwhile, had “All Along the Watchtower” playing in hers because Ron Moore.
jimmy: That’s a BSG reference, I take it?
tomk: Yes. Ask Ryan. Or don’t. Better if you don’t.
jimmy: I’ll go with “don’t”.
tomk: Smart man.
jimmy: At least Wesley got to get his Picard hatred off his chest. Maybe Picard should have taken young(er) Wes to some sort of blood oath ceremony earlier and smoothed things over.
tomk: Ah yes, the famous French Blood Oath Ceremony. Lots of drinking at those things.
jimmy: Hopefully the blood wine is not topped up with antifreeze.
tomk: Klingons use antifreeze as a chaser.
jimmy: That wouldn’t surprise me.
tomk: You also shouldn’t be surprised that Picard knows what to say to aliens. What you may be surprised about is Troi was somewhat useful this time.
jimmy: Well, that’s because she acted like, I dunno the ship’s counselor .
tomk: Yeah. Troi’s job never seems to be to do the things a counselor should do, and its really weird since she has a seat on the bridge next to Picard and I don’t think any other Trek series ever had a “ship’s counselor” in such a prominent position. It would be one thing if her job was giving Picard tactical or diplomatic advice, a different sort of counselor, but instead, she’s some kind of ship-wide therapist.
jimmy: I can understand having her on the bridge in her sorta “human lie detector” role.
tomk: Yes, but she rarely comes across as useful even in that role.
TROI: I sense deception.
PICARD: In what way?
TROI: Someone over there is hiding something.
TROI: That’s all.
PICARD: Get off my bridge.
jimmy: You make a valid case. Have one of these leftover muffins.
tomk: Did the Moose take a bite out of it first?
jimmy: No. He doesn’t like vanilla.
tomk: Too bad.
So, what bonding does the episode title refer to?
jimmy: I assume Worf with Jeremy…but I guess it could be looked at as other bondings as well. Jeremy and Faux Mom. Picard and Wesley. Riker and his non-alcoholic scotch.
tomk: Jeremy’s mom and room temperature.
jimmy: Now you’re getting it.
tomk: Well, that intense Klingon ceremony was something else. Light some candles, recite some Klingon stuff…and you get a new baby brother.
jimmy: It was a bit tame as far as Klingon ceremonies go. No pain sticks or bloodletting or GHAK! (or whatever it’s called again).
tomk: We’ll get you a bowl later. It’s slimming.
jimmy: I imagine. You have to think that this may be the first time a Klingon has performed The Bonding with a human.
tomk: Probably. But most Klingons don’t serve with humans.
tomk: Well, I was impressed by this one even if Jeremy’s mourning was probably stunted by Roddenberry’s decrees.
jimmy: Why impressed?
tomk: It just felt like a good episode that addressed things Star Trek usually overlooks.
jimmy: I can see that. Though they did dig into the whole death thing a bit when Tasha was unceremoniously killed off.
tomk: But she was a regular cast. member. And she once enjoyed Data’s member.
jimmy: Lol. Nicely done.
tomk: What about you? Any additional thoughts?
jimmy: Not really. I do agree with you about it digging into areas that are usually not touched on too often. Especially with Roddenberry “on record” as thinking there’d be no grieving in the future.
It was a good episode, but I did find it odd to be placed so soon after the very similar episode with Mr Green Jeans.
tomk: Would you feel better if the next episode had no godlike beings?
jimmy: It can have them, just not have them resurrecting the recently deceased.
tomk: Like Beetlejuice?
jimmy: Now that would have been a hell of a crossover.
tomk: But not one we ever got.
Maybe you would prefer it if Spider-Man joined the crew.
jimmy: That would just be silly.
tomk: You’re right. Ready to move on?
jimmy: Make it so.
Better Call Saul “Coushatta”
Noteworthy Issues: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #8 (October, 2022)
The X-Files “Duane Barry”