Saturday, January 9, 2010

One is the loneliest number

Star Trek: The Next Generation – “The Bonding”

Now THIS is how you write a fucking episode! You take a simple enough premise, a young boy’s mother is killed during a routine mission led by Worf, and you INVOLVE THE CHARACTERS in that story.

Not only do we have Worf all pissed that this happened under his watch, but as the boy Jeremy, who previously had lost his father, is now an orphan Worf wants to in essence “adopt” him by performing a Klingon ceremony. Troi thinks it can only be done after Jeremy has accepted his loss which he hasn't.

There has to be a B-story and this time it ties in with the main story: the planet the Enterprise was studying was home to a race called the Koinonians who like many humanoid species destroyed themselves through war after war. However, there was another race of beings on the same planet, one composed of energy. They watched the Koinonians kill themselves, and now a remnant of their long dead conflict, a mine, has claimed another life. This so outraged the energy beings that they have assumed the form of Jeremy’s dead mother and want to take him “home” to the planet surface where they will care for him.

Every regular character (except for Geordi, who is kept busy "remodulating" and "recalibrating" things in an attempt to stop the alien) has at least one scene that plays off on these two stories. In the beginning, Picard has to break the tragic news to Jeremy of his mother’s death. Picard’s unease around children has long been established, so this must be even more difficult for him. There’s a touching moment when Jeremy tells the captain that his father died a few years ago, and with his mother’s passing he is now all alone. Picard moves closer to Jeremy and puts his hand over the boy’s telling him, “on the Starship Enterprise, no one is alone.” Later of course, Picard has to reason with the alien as it tries to take Jeremy away to a life of illusion where he would never see another real human being again; he does so with his usual eloquence gravitas.

There is a well done short scene with Riker and Data as well. Riker, the ship’s ladies man, had “spent some time” with Jeremy’s mother, Marla. Shortly after the announcement of her death, Data finds Riker drinking alone in Ten Forward; he's obviously been touched by the news. Data tells him that since her death he has been asked several times “how well” he knew her, and they have a short discussion about familiarity and loss. The scene was shot in tight close-ups which gave it a very intimate feel (see "Ensigns of Command" for how poor camera work can hurt an episode).

Wesley, who is a few years older than Jeremy, recalls his own father’s death under Picard’s leadership. He has a nice mother/son scene with Dr. Crusher, where he admits that sometimes he can’t remember his dad’s face. She responds that sometimes she can’t get his image out of her mind. Wil Wheaton and Gates McFadden do some good work here. Later Wesley has a scene with Picard where he tells him that he hated the captain for a long time after Picard informed him of his father’s death (this was a one of the finer character moments in all of TNG).

Michael Dorn brings just the right amount of angst to Worf. At the episode’s end he does perform the ritual of R’uustai, the bonding, which honors both their mothers, and he tells Jeremy that “you are part of my family now and for all time.”

Just an amazing episode (more so when you realize it was a spec script written by Ronald D. Moore (head wrting honcho of the Battlestar Galactica reboot), his first professional teleplay).

Star Trek: TNG is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Thanks to for the screencaps.

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