Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Bloodlines"

**1/2

Air date: 5/2/1994
Written by Nick Sagan
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Picard receives a threatening out-of-left-field message from DaiMon Bok (Lee Arenberg), the Ferengi whose son Picard killed many years ago while defending the USS Stargazer from an unprovoked attack (the details of which were recounted in the first season episode, "The Battle"). Bok says he will have his revenge upon Picard by finding and killing Picard's son. Except, wait: Picard doesn't have a son — or does he?

The man who might be Picard's son is Jason Vigo (Ken Olandt) the son of a woman Picard had a brief whirlwind affair with three decades ago before he shipped off to be in the lengthy employ of Starfleet. This woman, who has been dead for some time, Picard fully believes could have raised a son without feeling the need to inform the father that the son existed (on the account of her unconventional and independent personality). So now you can add to the list of Season Seven Family Tree Theater: Picard's heretofore unknown love child. "Bloodlines" also fits into the trend of these last few episodes by telling a storyline that feels appropriate for a series winding toward closure — in this case going all the way back to the first season to bring back Bok as sort of a bookend, (although it's an oddly obscure choice).

Picard sets out on a mission to find Jason before Bok does, because, son or not, Jason is at the very least a target who now needs to be protected. Picard "rescues" Jason by beaming him off a rock face while he's in the middle of a recreational climb (which provides narrative shorthand for his adventurous risk-taking personality). DNA tests confirm Picard's paternity, and Jason is none too thrilled to learn that his unknown father has suddenly been revealed and now hopes to be part of his life. The character meat of the story, which is neither bad nor great but is reasonably decent, documents the gradual acceptance of Picard that Jason is able to reach. Meanwhile, Picard finds new emotional possibilities in realizing he's a father when he'd long assumed that fork in the road had been bypassed.

The problem with "Bloodlines" is, of course, its completely implausible plot surrounding Bok's convoluted plan for vengeance. If you think about it at all, it makes very little sense, especially once it's revealed that Picard's paternity was faked by Bok himself (who manipulated Jason's DNA) in order to concoct the "vengeance upon the child" scenario in the first place. I'm not an expert when it comes to blood-for-blood revenge, but somehow the idea of staging the creation of your enemy's son, then threatening to kill him, and then killing him (which Bok fails at, but let's suppose he had succeeded) seems like a really roundabout and, well, ineffective way of achieving satisfying revenge.

The final showdown between Bok and Picard has no juice (and lots of exposition), because Bok is so strategically outmatched and pathetic that it's hard to picture any legitimate menace here at all. Really, "Bloodlines" contains this plot only because it has to have something for the audience to latch onto besides some character moments that cannot carry the hour on their own, while building in a reset that undoes the notion of Picard actually having a son. The whole thing plays like a compromise.

Previous episode: Firstborn
Next episode: Emergence

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14 comments on this review

Lord Garth - Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - 10:36am (USA Central)
The Captain with a full-grown son, at least until they learned he wasn't, who he thought he'd have to do some catching up with. An enemy who wants revenge for what happened 15 years earlier and the death of a loved one. This episode always reminded me of TWOK.
Grumpy - Mon, Mar 11, 2013 - 10:08pm (USA Central)
"...going all the way back to the first season to bring back Bok as sort of a bookend, (although it's an oddly obscure choice)."

For that matter, the Traveler's appearance in "Journey's End" counts as a first season bookend, too. But given the repressed memories of that godawful shakedown, any callbacks would have to be obscure. The only non-obscure callback I can think of is a payoff of the "Conspiracy" conspiracy. (And, of course, Q's trial of humanity.)

What if TNG had committed to packing Season 7 with as many bookends as possible? We would have seen:
-war between the Anticans and Selay
-the Edo God dispensing justice against the Federation (by stepping on grass, or something)
-the Tarellians, cured of their plague, settling on Aldea and displacing the sterile natives
-Portal, lonely for his lost T'Kon Empire, using Dr. Manheim's time machine to visit the past, where he was responsible for the creation of Armus

Instead, someone pinned "Bok returns" on the bulletin board in the writers' room, and that's what they went with.
Paul - Tue, Mar 12, 2013 - 7:23pm (USA Central)
Of the three family episodes (Bloodlines, Firstborn and Journey's End) this is probably the strongest. The premise is goofy, but there's less out of left field and the acting is better.
Nick P. - Wed, Mar 13, 2013 - 7:28am (USA Central)
yeah, I like this one too. I don't know why, I guess it is just well acted, and I always kind of liked Daimon Bok. Yes, the plot is stupid and convoluted, but IMO it is done well, and that puts it above a number of the movies.

BTW, I agree with this critiscm of making callbacks to so-so episodes from season 1, considering there were so many good ones. Why not bring back the Bynars, or Dixon Hill, of Minna, or the aliens from Conspiracy, or Admiral Quinn, or farpoint, or anything from a good episode? Why these middling ones? Or why not go further, why not good episodes from TOS, like the guardian on forever, or the doomsday machine, something that would be fun, and us trekkies would LOVE.
Corey - Thu, Mar 14, 2013 - 1:48pm (USA Central)
I found the scenes between Jason and Picard moving myself - but I suppose Patrick Stewart can carry almost any script and make it seem awesome. I too agree, of the recent family episodes, this was the strongest one. I agree the revenge was rather convoluted, but who said Bok wasn't insane, anyways? He could have just transported a bomb to Picard's ready room it seems, to get his revenge, but apparently Bok was too tricky for his own good.

I also liked some of the humor in this episode. It was also interesting to see Troi be told off by Jason, that rarely happens to her in the show.
Jay - Fri, Mar 15, 2013 - 6:31pm (USA Central)
I agree with others here...save for the Edo, the Ligonians, and the Bringloidi, there's really no one I wanted to see again less than Bok. Another appearance by "Kevin Uxbridge" would have been more interesting.
Dirge - Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 2:29pm (USA Central)
I give this episode credit for Picard making a bald joke about himself. Other than that, I always thought it was a pretty hokey plot.
Sanagi - Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 11:55pm (USA Central)
I actually like the idea of revisiting Bok, but the convenient long-lost son angle is so tedious. I particularly dislike DNA evidence being given as proof that we have to grudgingly accept this kid as Picard's son, and then find out no, Bok just rubbed some of Picard's DNA on the kid and no one could tell the difference.
Grumpy - Mon, Apr 8, 2013 - 9:24pm (USA Central)
So we had bookend appearances by Q & Tomalak, Wesley & the Traveler... and Bok. Here are 10 villains who deserved a last hurrah more than Bok:

*the Conspiracy bluegills - naturally.
*Sela Yar - her story was not finished.
*Kivas Fajo - plug him into the spec script for "Gambit" and it's automatically more interesting than plain ol' pirates. Either Fajo or...
*"Ardra" - regardless of merit, "Devil's Due" was the highest-rated TNG episode to date. That's supposed to guarantee a sequel.
*The nanites - four-plus years after Picard casually deposited them on a planet, they must have evolved superpowers like Voyager's "Drone."
*The Ux-Mal prisoners - all it would take is a passing Pakled ship to fall for their trick and suddenly the Enterprise is a target for vengeful ghosts.
*Lore/Maddox/Adm. Haftel - after "Descent part 2," Starfleet finally possesses a Soong android whose rights nobody is defending.
and finally...
*Dr. Pulaski - maybe they invited her back for "Parallels" but it didn't work out.

Some of these are undoubtedly covered by novels; I wouldn't know. But they were ripe to become canonical episodes. Don't tell me the writers were out of gas. They took the effort for a Bok comeback, and these would've been much easier. They practically write themselves, they're so obvious (of course, it took me 20 years to think of them).
William B - Mon, Apr 8, 2013 - 10:36pm (USA Central)
@Grumpy, I know Pulaski is not always well-liked, but I'm not sure I'd call her a "villain." ;) Definitely I would have liked to see Pulaski in s7, in "Parallels" if nowhere else.

The season also lacks Guinan -- I get that Whoopi Goldberg is hard to get, but it's a shame that her last episode appearance is "Suspicions."
Rosario - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
@Jammer
"...DNA tests confirm Picard's paternity..."

Perhaps the writers were lampooning all of their Fun with DNA[tm] episodes. Everyone standing around anxiously waiting for the results like an episode of Jerry Springer. As if in a universe where Genesis happened not 5 episodes ago a DNA test means anything. Ha! The writers sure are funny.
William B - Thu, Nov 7, 2013 - 1:37am (USA Central)
Well, if "Lessons" was the post-"The Inner Light" episode in which Picard seriously considers a real relationship, "Bloodlines" is the post-TIL episode in which Picard seriously considers fatherhood, though really fatherhood is thrust on him. I think Jammer describes the episode's problems pretty well. Half the episode is devoted to justifying this story existing in the first place, how to give Picard a son (whom he believes to be his biological son) without actually giving him one. The other half is Picard and Jason gradually coming to terms with each other, in a story that is always going to be a bit of a non-starter since it gets reset at the end.

I like Lord Garth's point that this is kind of a remake of TWOK, or at least Bok tries pretty hard to make it into one. As in "The Battle," I almost wish Bok's case against Picard were stronger, so that we could view his attack on Picard as being more justifiable from Bok's POV and, more to the point, so that Bok's vendetta against Picard would say more about Picard. There is the hint of some fault on Picard's side -- he was in Ferengi space, though he didn't know so at the time -- and I guess we can view that as one of the risks inherent in choosing a career in Starfleet, that somehow, even if you try to avoid it, you will have responsibility for others' deaths.

That there is a dark side to Starfleet in general, and Picard in particular, which comes to haunt his younger proteges/children is an element of both "Journey's End" and "Preemptive Strike," and so this episode is of a piece with them to some degree. In both those episodes, Picard's duty to Starfleet alienates him from his protege -- though the alienation is more permanent in Ro's case than in Wesley's -- and here, during the time when it seemed as if Jason was Picard's son, it seemed as if a) Picard was not told about Jason because Miranda Vigo didn't want the Starfleet man involved in her son's life, and b) Jason's life was in jeopardy due to the consequences of even being an honourable man in Starfleet -- that you will naturally make enemies, who will at some point come after one's loved ones. When it turns out that Jason is not really Picard's son, that this was just a deception created by Bok, in some ways Bok's revenge still takes hold -- because Picard still gets the experience of "gaining" and "losing" a son, though in a much less traumatic way than the way that Bok had attempted to do. And the fact that Picard *could have*, were it not for his full dedication to Starfleet, had a child sinks in further. Back in season one, Picard was certain that he did not want children and did not really regret his prioritizing his career over having a family, but by this point Picard's a little more uncertain about this. (And we know, from Sisko e.g., that it is not impossible to be both a Starfleet captain and father, even if Picard viewed it as impossible for him.) The story still goes to showing how Picard's career interfered with a personal life, by showing Picard a son he could have had.

That's all very well, and the scenes between Picard and Jason in which they gradually overcome their estrangement work in some ways, mostly due to Patrick Stewart's fine performance. But Jason himself is pretty dull and a cliche, and so is Bok, and...I don't know, I'm running out of energy just talking about it. Not bad, especially by season seven standards, but it's not a particularly worthwhile outing. I'd probably say 2 stars, though the "hairline" line almost makes me want to bump it up to 2.5.
mephyve - Fri, Jan 31, 2014 - 11:07am (USA Central)
With the free sex attitude of the Trekkian future you'd think they'd have come up with some sort of birth control to protect yourself in these casual encounters. Picard appears to have dodged a bullet but a little safe sex would have prevented this ruse.
Nice little vengeance plot but you have to wonder if the Ferengi crew were just deaf or stupid. For some reason they were still expecting ransom money after Bok made it clear that he wanted Picard to see his dead son's corpse.
Elliott - Wed, Jul 9, 2014 - 10:15pm (USA Central)
@Paul :

I think the third ret-con family episode this season is "Inheritance" not "Journey's End"

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