Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation



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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21 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)
"...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"
Daniel B - Sat, May 30, 2015 - 11:54am (USA Central)
I think the satisfaction would come out of picard thinking his son died, not that an actual son of his would die. Then again, I doubt picard is even slightly attached to his faked son.
Peter - Wed, Jul 22, 2015 - 11:04am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode and agree it's the strongest of the family tree ones that I've seen so far.

But one quibble I had was with the revelation that Bok had somehow engineered Jason's DNA to make him appear to be Picard's son, and, in doing so, caused him to develop a degenerative neurological condition. From the viewpoint of the story, I get it that if Picard doesn't have a kid, Bok wanted to create one for him so that he could take his revenge, but why could the writers not simply permit Picard to actually be Jason's father? Was there some moral argument that postulated that Picard wouldn't be someone who would have a child out of wedlock? I didn't see what ostensibly happened as a moral failure of Picard's. The script even makes it clear that he and Miranda tried to keep in touch for a while after their romance, and also emphasizes Miranda never even revealed her pregnancy to Picard.

Also, at what point did Bok re-jigger Jason's DNA to make him appear to be Picard's child anyway? Jason is older than the incident in which Bok's son was killed, so we have to presume Jason was born with a different father's DNA and at some point in the fairly recent past, Bok altered the young man's genetic code. How did Bok do that from a distance, without being noticed, and without it having any immediately noticeable effect on Jason? Assuming that the man who actually was Jason's father was not nearly a doppelganger for Picard, wouldn't at least some of Jason's characteristics have changed when basically half of his chromosomes were swapped out? I realize that this is a fictional procedure to begin with, but I would expect that if I woke up one morning with a different set of genes, I would be shocked at my suddenly changed appearance.

I also had a hard time believing that Bok, who had recently paid his way out of prison, managed to not only gain access to a Ferengi ship and small crew, but also managed to use very advanced and esoteric transporter and genetic engineering technology to set his plot in motion, all while convincing the crew that it's just a simple kidnapping for ransom plot.

Troy - Mon, Aug 17, 2015 - 9:02am (USA Central)
This one is well acted, but implausible and poorly written. The Bok character wasn't a compelling one and this retraces the earlier episode too closely. Maybe an original draft had Jason as Picard's son, but that would have been the better route. The twist didn't work for me, seemed like poor writing to me.
2-1/4 stars (the extra 1/4 star for Picard's hair line joke)
I like some of the ideas in the comments for book end episodes. Sadly season 7 is awash with poor ideas and scripts. What a wasted opportunity.
Andrew - Mon, Aug 17, 2015 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind Bok returning (he made a good villain/story for both seasons 1 and 7 and for a TNG Ferengi) but I didn't like how he was defeated (essentially the same as the first time, convincing his crew his quest was unprofitable). The Picard/Jason Vigo story had moments but felt a bit too cliched and forced.
Luke - Sun, Nov 1, 2015 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
Wow! This has to be one the most contrived set-ups I've ever seen in Trek.

Let's examine Bok's plan here. For it work....
1.) Bok must discover if a woman Picard had once been with later had a kid.
2.) That kid would have to have been born almost immediately after the break-up.
3.) Picard has to have no knowledge of this child.
4.) The woman in question has to have never told her child about his father.
5.) Said woman must now be dead, to avoid having her destroy the plan just by saying "You're not the father."
6.) Bok must then locate this child.
7.) Bok must then, somehow, clandestinely alter his DNA without him being aware of it.
8.) Bok must then acquire super-advanced and hard-to-find/use technology (the subspace transporter).
9.) Bok must then somehow convince a Ferengi crew that he is a DaiMon in good standing.
10.) Bok must then lie to them about a possible ransom in order to ensure their cooperation.
11.) Finally, Bok must go through all the motions of putting Picard in fear and then kidnapping his "son" off the Enterprise.

Not only is that one truly, and needlessly, convoluted plan, but why does Bok go through all of this rigmarole in the first place? If his plan is to finally get revenge on Picard, why isn't he just trying to kill Picard again? Once he has the subspace transporter he could easily transport Picard off the Enterprise virtually at will and murder him. There would be nothing the Enterprise could do in order to stop him. Just pay a bunch of renegades to help you and boom problem solved. Instead, he wants to go through all this trouble to set up a scenario where Picard will feel bad for losing the "son" he never knew about anyway. Um, okay.

Despite all of that, however, "Bloodlines" is actually pretty good once you get past the absurd set-up. It's got some wonderful character work for Picard, especially in his desire to be a better father to Jason than his father was to him. I also loved how Picard reacted to Jason's past criminal record - it didn't matter, he was still he's son. Just imagine how Worf would react to something like that from Alexander. He once exploded just because Alexander told a little lie. But Picard does the right thing. He's upset about the situation but doesn't let it come between the two of them or further damage the relationship, in fact he uses it to try to build a better relationship. Wonderfully done.

There's also the wonderful use of the Ferengi. This is easily the best use of the Ferengi that TNG gives us, ever. That's because they finally are not presented as bumbling, incompetent fools. Bok, despite the ludicrous nature of his plan, is not a moron. Yes, he's borderline insane in his obsessive need for revenge. But, he's resourceful; he's intelligent; he's determined; he's not someone to be taken lightly. He's a force to be reckoned with. He also manages to be somewhat intimidating - owed no doubt to the actor delivering a rather nice performance. Even the other Ferengi characters aren't caricatures anymore. The member of the Ferengi government they finally manage to get ahold of isn't stupid either; he's a jerk, but not stupid. The three Ferengi on Bok's bridge aren't morons either. Yes, they were easily deceived by Bok, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary, they do the logical/rational thing. Hmm, two episodes in a row now that have featured good Ferengi characters (Quark on "Firstborn" and these ones). Now, if we can just scrub any memory of most of the Ferengi "comedy" episodes from DS9 from our minds, we'll be in good shape.

Finally, I'm giving "Bloodlines" a +1 bonus to the score. I did this with a lot of Season Four episodes and it's only fair that I do it here as well. They brought back a Season One character/concept and actually put it to good use. Granted, Bok and his desire for vengeance is a rather odd choice, especially so very close to the end of the series (even if "The Battle" was among the best of Season One episodes). But, even now they were making an effort to fix past mistakes and I appreciate that. They gave Bok a better actor and the concept a better script and a better story and it paid off.

Robert - Mon, Nov 2, 2015 - 9:03am (USA Central)
@Luke - I knew it was convoluted, but my brain was happy enough to turn off for the most part. I think that this just ruined it for me though :P

I never needed to consider this episode on that level....
Diamond Dave - Sat, Nov 7, 2015 - 8:41am (USA Central)
As noted above, a heck of a convoluted way of going about doing a "what if...?" episode. Bottom line is that this would probably have worked a whole lot better if Jason HAD been Picard's son - the hoops that have to be jumped through to make that not be the case after having established the premise are so extensive as to negate the very point of doing it in the first place.

It's not helped by the fact that the episode never really seems to commit to the father/son relationship. There are a couple of OK scenes as the two talk but nothing that really excels. The rest of the episode is workmanlike at best.

"You’ll never look at your hairline again in the same way" indeed. 2.5 stars.

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