Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Icarus Factor"
Air date: 4/24/1989
Teleplay by David Assael & Robert L. McCullough
Story by David Assael
Directed by Robert Iscove
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
When Starfleet offers Riker his own ship and command, they send his father, Kyle Riker (Mitchell Ryan), to brief him on the new mission. The two haven't spoken in 15 years, and Riker has little desire to start now. Meanwhile, Worf's mood is noticeably brooding, even for him.
"The Icarus Factor" has a certain amount of guts because it doesn't have a plot in the traditional sense and instead puts its trust solely in characters getting the job done. It's not a great show, and hardly one of the series' most memorable, but I think it's a good one. Kyle Riker is portrayed here as a well-intended father who is being made to pay by his son for his past mistakes as a parent. Wil Riker has a lot of pent-up anger over his mother, who died when he was a young child. As these sorts of family-turmoil stories go, this is a passable one that tries to see both sides and doesn't make anyone a hero or a villain but simply addresses this as a problem faced by both parties. Pulaski has her own insights, as she once was involved with Riker's father. The episode is perhaps overly optimistic in the way it depicts Riker's forgiveness so quickly at the end (either that, or their problem should've been solved years ago with one talk), but I suppose that's part of the TNG charm. Also worth mention are the Riker/Picard discussions about what it means to command a starship, even if it's not something as high-profile as the Enterprise.
More interesting is the Worf storyline, which gives still more insight into his (sometimes-insane-seeming) Klingon warrior code, and how that code exists in isolation on the Enterprise. Leave it to the Klingons to have something called "pain sticks" as part of a ritual involving the Age of Ascension (of which it's Worf's 10th anniversary). I also want to quickly mention Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney), whose profile became steadily higher throughout the second season, to the point that he exists here as a supporting character right alongside Geordi, Pulaski, and Wesley.
Previous episode: Time Squared
Next episode: Pen Pals
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61 comments on this post
Sun, Oct 2, 2011, 4:19pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 3, 2011, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Probably part of why parises squares was never shown on film (kind of like Vera on Cheers and Maris on Frasier) because it eventually became so hyped as this great, dangerous game that any elaboration on what it really is (though we did glimpe the uniforms they wear for it) would almost certainly be a silly letdown.
Tue, Mar 12, 2013, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
I'm with Eric when he says "Wow, that sucked". It was a slow and contrived show.
I think they had some good ideas going on. The whole thing with Riker's not-so-perfect family was nice, and discovering that Worf is more "sensitive" than expected is fine.
But the execution was very bad. The whole thing feels so fake. "Anbo-jitsu" looks like anything but a real sport, or game, or anything remotely believable. And Worf's ritual wasn't that much better, either.
At least there were some funny parts. Like when Data tries to cheer up Worf and he gets a "BEEEGOOOONE!...sir" as an answer.
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
I know we shouldn't quibble about star ratings nor take them too seriously, but you gave "The Icarus Factor" and "Family" the same *** ratings. You don't believe they're of dramatic equal quality, do you?
Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 7:52pm (UTC -5)
Kidding, of course. As I've said time and time again, the star ratings just sometimes get taken too seriously, and they are not absolute by any means, especially when you have to consider the difference between a S2 episode and a S4 episode. I did my best with the star ratings to be useful. But sometimes they're just a burden.
Mon, Apr 1, 2013, 6:56pm (UTC -5)
Will: I've been on my own for 15 years! I think I can handle myself.
Kyle: Please, spare me the pain of your childhood. I hung in for 13 years. If that wasn't enough it's just too bad!
-- make it hard for me to think Kyle Riker has a side that is all that much worth hearing. The Pulaski/Kyle relationship is mostly a question mark. The Troi/Pulaski conversation about how maybe the fact that men never grow up is part of why they find them so attractive is pretty cringeworthy. Mostly, the climactic catharsis-through-combat scene, while a parallel to the Worf material, is tremendously silly in both concept -- it *is* a cliche and not a particularly useful one -- and execution, because, jeez, ambo-jitsu looks *so silly*. I like, too, how Kyle challenges Will to an ambo-jitsu match before it's even been established that they used to play that. The early material within the Riker(s) plotline isn't bad, but the ending doesn't register to me as real at all.
The other problem is that in all the Kyle Riker material, there is no space to deal with Riker's own decision not to take the command of the Ares. (Ares, huh? Very violence-themed episode.) It's implied that Riker only considered taking the job because of his father's expectations; but Riker's driven-ness is so much a part of the character's initial conception (and the reason given for the Riker/Troi breakup) that there needs to be more development to establish why he refuses a command, or why he wouldn't want him for himself. If Riker's *entire* ambition is because he internalized his father's expectations, they would not go away just because he found out his father cheated at ambo-jitsu. Certainly, he *likes* it on the Enterprise, and will miss Troi and the rest of his friends and Picard. But does that add up sufficiently to the Enterprise being the best place for him? Fortunately for the character, The Best of Both Worlds does a much better job at covering this issue for Riker, which is a pretty important one given that his continued presence on the Enterprise really needs to be explored.
On the other hand, the Worf plot *is* quite good -- The Worf plot here is good -- in fact, it's hugely funny, in the way the crew react to Worf's bizarre Klingon traditions with alarm but hold themselves back because it's for his good, so...yay? The "BEGONNEEE!...sir" is also a highlight. The C-plot in which Geordi's ego bristles at the starbase personnel is lightweight but serviceable.
I think the Riker material is two stars, but the subplot is strong enough to bump it up to a low 2.5 from me.
Fri, May 10, 2013, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 5:41am (UTC -5)
In terms of delivery it starts well, but the Riker story tails off badly to the end, and the final martial arts combat of him and his father facing off in spandex and chasing each other round like a piñata is, frankly, risible. It does, however, at least address the issue early of why, if Riker is so competent as a number one, he doesn't have his own command.
"BE GONE..! Sir" is another great Worf line though. 2.5 stars.
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
His Dad is a real jerk. But at the end, I don't get the sense they have really fixed anything--but Will is not going to waste any more time on him.
I love Pulaski in this--she is so awesome. I was trying to picture Beverly at the Klingon ceremony and nope! She would have made a speech about nonviolence, or some such crap, and stayed away. Whereas Pulaski objects to the ceremony, as she comments later, but she keeps her mouth shut and honors Worfs customs. No wonder she is worthy of poison tea.
I still don't get why Will never accepts his own command--when Picard was describing it, I wanted to jump on the Ares and go! I would change the name of it to The Irascible Mustelidae and head for the far reaches! But oh no, "this is the right place for him right now." Ptooey. I know they need to have him stay for the sake of the show, but they never really come up with a good reason. As the years go on, it just looks cowardly.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 2:46am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
Diana Muldaur's Dr. Pulaski was a fine character. She had grit and depth that it never felt like the writers were willing to impart to Gates McFadden's Dr. Crusher,
I join the commenters above in observing that the Rikers quarrel went away just a little too easily to be believable, while Will Riker's sudden decision to turn down the Ares seems woefully unexplained. Oh well, there's always the Melbourne.
Tue, Jan 24, 2017, 4:16pm (UTC -5)
Well I said such things apparently because I hadn't watched "The Icarus Factor" in many years. It's always nice to see that one's theories are in fact stated outright in another episode; 'nice' in the sense of having not paid attention and patted yourself on the back for it. In this episode we see practically verbatim that Riker's ambition was largely a result of trying to best his father in life; hence the image of Icarus, of the son who tried to fly higher than the father and burned up for it. Amazingly this would seem to imply that Riker's ambition was burning away at him, and that the way to save himself was to let it go and slow down.
We also get a scene here where Riker has almost decided to take his own command, and he and Deanna admit that they are sad to be leaving each other. Sad enough, from the looks of the scene, that it was a major part of Riker's decision. And then we have Picard in a separate scene say in no uncertain terms that Riker would be moving to an insignificant posting from the flagship, and that while there no is substitute for command Riker would be moving to a life that perhaps Picard didn't think he's enjoy as much. This sounded more than just Picard as CO speaking to his XO, it looked like it was as his friend as well. It's funny to look back at this ep and realize Picard was giving him better reasons not to take the command than reasons to take it.
So yeah, this episode seems to be the turning point where Riker really gives up a lot of his ambition. If Hide and Q was a wake up call, this episode was Riker getting out of bed and deciding which suit to wear. It's a surprisingly big character episode considering how little follow-up it ever received.
Sat, Feb 18, 2017, 5:16am (UTC -5)
Riker senior v junior: Argh, so much potential for exploration of Will's background and character. The Pulaski/dad angle (Pulaski showing Will another POV) was smart and added a lot. But the dad/son relationship was utterly jumbled.
At various points we are told conflicting things. Dad was selfish and not interested in raising a kid ("I hung in there for thirteen years; if that wasn't t enough for you, too bad!") but conversely he was controlling (""wouldn't let me catch my own fish"), We see that he is proud of Will's rising career (he has come here to bury the hatchet, and early scenes show his warm attempts to do just that), but Troi alleges that he is secretlly over-competitive with Will (there is no evidence of this, or of her assertion that he has a reputation for false humility, or of Will's comment about his egotism.) The writers are just throwing random character traits against a wall, like a splatter painting.
(It doesn't help that Icarus was actually a young excitable hothead who died because he didn't listen to his cautious and wise and loving father. Riker junior actually flies low and close to home instead of soaring off to the Ares, so there's nothing Icarus about him at all. Maybe the writers meant to call it "The Oedipus Factor"? In which case Will should have flirted with Pulaski a bit.)
Worf vs himself: The Worf stuff was also a good idea wrecked by poor execution. For me, it failed because the ritual was not what it was described as. One of the humans explains that Worf is supposed to confess his deepest feelings while under duress from the pain sticks. But what Worf actually says in the gauntlet is "The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the wailing of their women!!"
These are not his deepest feelings, though they may have been Conan's. It's his superficial jingoistic me-so-Klingon BS. His deepest feelings are isolation, loneliness, longing to be the perfect warrior, fearing that his choice of a career in Starfleet makes him weak or un-Klingonlike. Or possibly his deepest feelings are his embarrassing love for his adoptive parents and his human friends on the Enterprise.
General impression: the germs of good ideas were there, but the characterization was murky and contradictory. Result: an interesting mess that could have been as good as "Family." But in no way was.
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
"But what Worf actually says in the gauntlet is "The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the wailing of their women!!"
Seriously? You speak Klingon well enough to translate what he said? And THAT's what they had him say? Holy crap. No accusations of plagiarism?
Your suggestion of what he should have said is dead on.
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
By far the superior sub plot was the hilarious masochism of Worf's ceremony while the low point must be the ultimate martial art mess with those idiotic costumes and bonkers Amok Time pugil sticks.
Pure embarassment for everyone involved.
Diana Muldaur and Marina Sirtis were the superior actors but they can't save this.
Three wormholes from me -why haven't they cancelled this show yet?
Tue, May 9, 2017, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
It is good to spend an episode (or part of one) on Riker's background/childhood and try and get an idea of how it shapes him as a commander, but I don't think it was well handled here.
Worf's moodiness / Wes's curiosity / war ritual is an OK B-story. It fills in the time adequately but doesn't tell us anything that we don't already know. The TNG crew is like family - they will look out for each other and Worf the Klingon is a warrior at heart and they need to do some dumb rituals for "honor".
I actually think the star of this episode (I use "star" in a relative way) is Pulaski. Her character is rounding out nicely as a compassionate doctor who is eager to get involved with the crew. The relationship with dad Riker is nothing noteworthy. And it's good that she's stopped belittling Data.
The whole thing with Riker and command of the Ares -- everybody knows he's not going to take it, but it was good to hear Picard's thoughts on being in command.
Overall a mediocre episode - definitely weaker than "Contagion" and "Time Squared". For me, 2/4 stars - the ending cliche with Riker and dad in that stupid blind jiu-jitsu was so dumb.
Tue, Jun 27, 2017, 8:46am (UTC -5)
One of the most wooden episodes of TNG with mainly cringeworthy dialogue in the A story. Terrible. As much as I enjoy the concepts to explore Riker's and Worf's background, the delivery was more than disappointing. Take the exchange between Will and Deanna:
Will: "I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye."
Deanna: "I don't like goodbyes. How about 'until next time'?"
Will: "How about 'until next time' [in a tone that indicates agreement]."
Deanna: "It was a pleasure working with you, commander [joking tone]."
Will: "The feeling is mutual."
Deanna: "I am supposed to know how others feel, but I can't read you right now."
Will: "Maybe your own emotion are getting in the way."
Deanna: "My job is to help others sort out their emotions... my own feelings are beside the point."
Will: "Not to me..."
Let me just step in here and stop this travesty of a dialogue. For two people who feel deeply about each other, this is a completely inappropriate farewell scene. It reads like it was written by a really bad fanfiction author. Nothing but clichés. Why would Deanna's feelings be "beside the point" when she is saying goodbye to Will? Of course, her feelings at that moment matter.
The Kyle character was nothing but a walking cliché, and we are supposed to believe that Riker's ambition can entirely be reduced to the competition with his father? That's his only drive?
Objectively, the episode doesn't deserve more than 1.5 stars, and only the relevance for the characterization of Riker and Worf raises it to 2.0. Although the Worf story feels much more relevant to me than the Riker story, which doesn't help to shed much light on the character at all. My impression of Riker didn't change in any meaningful way after watching this episode; TBOBW does much more to flesh Riker out.
Tue, Jun 27, 2017, 9:29am (UTC -5)
The main focus of this episode should obviously have been the question whether Riker will accept his new assignment or not. But this question isn't explored in sufficient depth. His conversation with Picard about what it means to command a ship stands out as the best scene of the episode - we needed more of that.
Fri, Nov 10, 2017, 1:10am (UTC -5)
As for the episode, just 2 stars.
Mon, Dec 4, 2017, 9:20pm (UTC -5)
I know people bash season 1 but I actually like it more than season two. In fact, bavk In 1988-89 I stopped watching tng because of how weak season two was whereas season one I enjoyed it
This episode was just very dull. I could care less about the jitsu crap or the Riker/father issue
Fri, Mar 16, 2018, 6:35am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
I actually liked that they tried it. And it started out promising. But the ends of both stories just fell flat for me.
Still, I liked it more than I expected. Decent, middle-of-the-road character episode.
Thu, May 24, 2018, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 4:01pm (UTC -5)
The Riker plot doesn't work at all. We know Riker's not going to leave, so there's no suspense as to whether or not he'll take the post - the interest would have been in seeing his decision-making process, with him weighing up how much he values the Enterprise and his colleagues and experiences there versus the chance of commanding his own ship - but we get almost none of this. The biggest problem is that the beef between Riker and his father feels contrived, poorly drawn and one-dimensional - for the bulk of the episode, we don't even know why they're at loggerheads and why their relationship is so frosty that they've had a 15-year rift. It's suggested in dialog a couple of times that Riker's father is a hard taskmaster, but we don't see much evidence of this for ourselves. There's also an underlying theme (in both the Riker and Worf plots) of men having difficulty talking about their feelings, but while this works and is in character (and is well-resolved) in the Worf plot (thanks to the intuition of Wesley and the tact and thoughtfulness of Geordi), it makes the Riker plot uninvolving and obtuse; Riker and his father can't communicate their feelings well enough for the audience to begin to understand why there's a conflict between them. There's kind of a "reveal" during the fight scene at the end that goes a little way toward making this work, but then their 15-year estrangement and their entire animosity toward each other is apparently totally resolved in just a few words (without good follow-up either; a final scene of Riker saying goodbye to his father would have helped). It's too little too late.
The most striking issue with this episode is the dialog, as a few others have commented above. It was really noticeable to me how often (and how directly) we're told things instead of being shown them, more than in any other episode I can think of in the whole of Trek.
Instead of being able to judge Kyle Riker's character for ourselves through his words and actions during the first half of the episode, we're directly told by Pulaksi: "You're crusty. You have a reputation for being hard as nails and getting the job done. Underneath it all, you're not so bad. Some of us even love you." Later, as the rift with Will fails to be resolved, instead of us being able to judge Kyle's emotional state for ourselves through the dialog and the actor's performance, we're instead told by Troi "you are intelligent, wise [...] You're also very anxious about something. It's Will, isn't it? You're not as close to him as you'd like to be. " Kyle's reply: "I came here to bury the hatchet with my son only to find out the ground was frozen solid." We can see that much. None of this needed to be spelled out in dialog. Show, don't tell.
Later, Worf to Riker: "You do not have good feelings for your father?"
Troi to Kyle: "You don't seem to be the kind of man to give up so easily."
In another confrontation scene, Kyle's "spare me the pain of your childhood" line to Riker is totally inappropriate - instead of serving the character, it only really exists to directly tell the audience that Riker had a painful childhood (instead of us being shown or allowed to intuit this). Incredibly clunky!
Later, instead of being allowed to observe for ourselves that Riker has emotional baggage (the very apparent central theme of the episode) and wonder how he'll work through it, we're directly told by Pulaski that he has "emotional baggage" and that he needs to "jettison" it.
Picard even directly spells out Riker's dilemma: "You are the second in command of Starfleet's flagship, but still second in command. Your promotion will transfer you to a relatively insignificant ship in an obscure corner of the galaxy. But it will be your ship." Because apparently the audience can't think this through for themselves.
In Riker's goodbye scene with Troi, instead of the writers trusting the two (very capable) actors to convey their feelings and the audience to perceive them, we have this amazing exchange:
Troi: Are you feeling sad?
Riker: Yes, I am.
Troi: So am I.
Haha! Who writes like this?
Also bad is the scene where Pulaski said that everyone in the attack died apart from Riker's father because "[he] alone had the will to endure, to face the pain, to live." So the others succumbed because they didn't have the willpower?
Not to mention O'Brien's line: "Those are Klingon painsticks. I once saw one of them used against a two-ton rectyne monopod. Poor creature jumped five metres at the slightest touch. It finally died from excessive cephalic pressures." Imagine having to learn that!
Worf plot gets 1.5 out of 2 stars, Riker plot gets 0.5 out of 2 stars, for 2 stars out of 4 overall.
Wed, Jan 23, 2019, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
I had to force myself through this episode and to repeat several scenes, because I was so bored that I forgot to listen to the dialogue.
1 Star. Worst episode of season 2 until now.
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 8:46am (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 10, 2019, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 10, 2019, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
In a way, it's brave they depicted Kyle Riker as such a uncompromising unrepentant a-hole. I mean, in execution the episode leaves something to be desired, but still, it was nice to see a more "real" flawed human on the generally sedate Enterprise.
Wed, Jun 26, 2019, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 31, 2019, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
--Riker has been offered a captaincy.
--Worf snaps Wesley head off when he tries to discuss fatherlessness with him.
--Daddy Riker is very chummy with Pulaski.
--Wesley wants to help an extra touchy Worf. LOL. This should be good. Data, Wes, and Geordi are going to monitor Worf. Data pokes the bear. The bear growls: "Begone!!!! Sir."
--Lots of talk about caring for others, connections, relationships.
--Too little, too late from Daddy Riker.
--Deanna making the mistake of sticking her nose in.
--A lot about what defines us, how we create our identities - family, friends, our culture, our traditions, our profession, our language, our past (our joys, our sorrows, our suffering), our titles - our connections.
--"There really is no substitute for holding the reins." I agree, Captain.
--"Lower your shields!!" says Dad to Will. How hard it is to feel complete without all our connections.
--We get a literal look at how our painful challenges, how the things we endure, our suffering, shape us, at Worf's pain stick ceremony.
--Riker looks so funny in that martial arts outfit.
--Riker decided to stay on board. He needs more sweet Enterprise time.
Nicely done ep. Some good character development for Riker, Worf, and Pulaski.
Sat, Aug 31, 2019, 10:59pm (UTC -5)
There's a father-son aspect to the Icarus story - Dad makes Icarus those waxy wings, but warns him not too fly to close to the sun. But in his excitement at flying. Icarus doesn't heed Dad's warning - his wings melt and he plunges to his death.
Doesn't seem all that relevant, though, maybe Will turns down his promotion because his wings are too waxy, he's not ready to fly that close to the sun, yet?
Sun, Sep 1, 2019, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
The Icarus Factor is term given to an enterprise that looks really enticing but is also extremely risky.
“I meant to add . . . why is this called The Icarus Factor? ... maybe Will turns down his promotion because his wings are too waxy, he's not ready to fly that close to the sun, yet?”
Right, Will actually recognizes that the Aries promotion is an exciting offer, but given the distance from Starfleet making contact with a new species - with a chance the encounter leads to war - makes him realize it’s not worth the risk. He explains to Picard that his reason for staying is “motivated self-interest” leading us to believe that Riker thinks staying on the Enterprise is best for him. It might be that he’s not ready for captaincy or that he feels he’ll get a better offer if he stays on the Enterprise. Or he might just think the Aries is too risky a mission (considering what happened to his father on a similar mission).
Incidentally, Riker’s offered command of the Aries, which in Greek mythology was a ram sent by Zeus to save two siblings. But Aries took an unsteady path after the rescue and one of the siblings fell to her death. Thus Aries seemed like a savior but was more of a mixed blessing.
Sun, Sep 1, 2019, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
In this episode we learn more, which is that Riker's ambition is fueled by competitiveness with his father. So not only is it in some abstract way self-serving, but it's also an act of defiance rather than an act of service. Worse, his father probably approves of his son's success, so you don't even have the fable's 'wise dad' to advise caution. Except you do: in Picard. This is a theme we see built up a bit in the series already by this point, which is that following 'your father's guidance' can be more beneficial than reaching too far and too fast. If Picard is RIker's surrogate dad, then Riker needs to heed his wisdon, not just now but in general, so as not to get burned.
So I think the title bears upon the episode in the father-son connection that Icarus should have had, and futher in Riker's refusal of his own command. He doesn't become Icarus in the end.
Sun, Sep 1, 2019, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
I agree that the episode doesn’t present Kyle’s past with the Tholians in a dramatically tragic way; in fact Kyle being the only survivor because of his strength can be seen almost as a heroic triumph of Kyle’s spirit. Still, Riker notes that he never knew about the story so I think it’s safe to assume Kyle’s incident on a diplomatic mission similar to the Aries’ somehow weighs into Riker’s calculus on turning down the Aries. I think it makes the episode more nuanced too as we can see on multiple levels why the Aries’ command is reaching too far for Riker.
One other wrinkle to consider is that Kyle had to cheat to win a test of strength vs Riker, so one wonders whether Kyle’s encounter with the Tholians didn’t end up with Kyle similarly cheating his way out somehow. If that were the case, a straightforward leader like Riker might end unable to cheat his way out of death.
Sun, Sep 1, 2019, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
Interesting thoughts; I enjoyed reading them.
I think we're all in agreement then, that for the most part, the title refers to Riker deciding NOT to test his wings, due to "the Icarus factor."
Agree that Picard is also in a fatherly role here - my overall feeling was that Riker wanted more time in the nest.
It was interesting how different the two fathers are - Picard is not at all competitive; he's delighted for Riker and proud of him, period. He wants to keep Riker with The Enterprise, but he puts no pressure on him at all to "lower his shields" or anything else. He is 100% non-manipulative. He is supportive, unconditionally. He is everything a father should be . . . and it's so much easier to be, when you're not actually the father.
The ep is heavy on relationships and all the different sorts we have, and we need, and we grow into and out of, in our lives - Worf and his substitute family, Pulaski and Kyle and her husbands (hints that they were also substitutes for Kyle). Wes and his fatherless state, seeking out Data and Geordi, Deanna and Riker . . .
But anyhow, Icarus - interesting how they threw that in the title without the slightest mention in the ep itself.
Mon, Sep 2, 2019, 6:42am (UTC -5)
Chrome, I like your idea that Kyle cheated in his encounter with the Tholians. This makes me think of Kirk in his Kobayashi Maru, which then makes me consider whether Kyle could be something of a Kirk analogue. (Kirk also survived the Tholians.) Perhaps Riker wanted to be a Kirk-esque leader, but is that possible for him? Is it what he even wants?
Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 11:58am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 30, 2020, 6:28pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 1, 2021, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Daddy Riker says some stuff like "Anbo-jitsu the long revered martial arts method of blah blah blah"
Will must have been like "Who are you saying that for? We've had anbo-jitsu fights dozens of time."
Even for late 80s standards that was some goofy exposition.
Good to know that Daddy Riker really revved Pulaski's nacels.
Wed, Apr 28, 2021, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 11, 2021, 2:39am (UTC -5)
The episode does deserve 2 stars though, for the redeeming quality of the Worf/Wesley/Geordi/Data and the Klingon Rite of Ascension theme. It saved the episode from getting a single star. Jammer is too generous I feel, though I agree with him that concentrating on all the main characters was a good choice.
Icky. Icky. Just totally icky.
Sun, Jul 11, 2021, 2:51am (UTC -5)
Just wanted to add - I’m still a Pulaski fan, and dreading the return of the bland Dr Crusher.
Mon, Oct 18, 2021, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 14, 2022, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
T.N.G. never made me care about any of the characters (unlike, say, Battlestar Galactica, Frasier or The Office) so their personal backstories and whatnot are of no more interest to me than the backstory of the checkout lady who scanned my shopping at Walgreens earlier today.
The Klingon culture? Puh-lease. It's all make-believe so why would I take this fictitious lore any more seriously than I do Harry Potter... - which is saying NOT AT ALL?!
The Picard-Riker exchanges were the only thing worth watching, barely. That makes it a 1/2 star for my money.
Mon, May 16, 2022, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 16, 2022, 6:14am (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 12:37am (UTC -5)
I also didn't appreciate how Riker Jr. publicly embarrassed his captain by not warning him that he had changed his mind about the captaincy. Wouldn't it have been something if Picard had taken it the way he ought to have, and ended the show by scowling at him?
The best thing about this episode was extra Colm Meany time. Also the Klingon ceremony came off reasonably well.
Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 10:10am (UTC -5)
"And the writers had no understanding of what the Icarus story is all about - it is NOT about father-son differences."
This episode has a strange position in the TNG canon, since it's both very important to Riker's character arc and yet at the same time is barely worth watching on its own merits. That being said, I think the intended meaning behind the Icarus reference isn't that in the original story Icarus was trying to outdo his father, but rather that Riker's great ambition and drive to fly as high as possible stems from competition with his father. It's the need to outperform and break records (Riker wanted to make Captain in record time) that makes him analogous to Icarus. What this episode is adding to that is Riker's motivation for it.
Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 10:24am (UTC -5)
I know I am not in the majority but I keep having to come to the defence of these season 2 episodes. I think this is a very good episode - solid 3 stars. Pulaski and the interplay with the two Rikers are great, the Worf subplot is solid and most of all, it's engaging and entertaining.
I agree with your summary and would add that the connection to Icarus is obvious - flying too high too fast, before Riker is ready for it. He's not ready to leave the Enterprise, simple as that. Picard's discussion with him is superb - like a prequel to what we see in Best of Both Worlds.
Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Worf: BEGONE!!! sir.
Tue, Mar 14, 2023, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
To be fair I should mention that would give hardly any TNG episodes less than 3 stars in terms of how much I actually enjoy watching them. But in terms of merit I would say that the scenes between the two Rikers, as well as the fight scene, are kind of stupid. In the abstract it's fine, but the actual writing and directing just misses the mark somehow. But I will still watch 'stupid' TNG before almost anything else.
Mon, May 1, 2023, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
WORF: That is a fish you are holding.
RIKER: And I didn't even catch it.
WORF: But it looks like you were
RIKER: I hooked it. My father took the rod away. He wouldn't let me reel it in. He was afraid that I might lose it.
WORF: You do not have good feelings for your father?
RIKER: No, I. I'm not sure what I'm feeling.
A son mistakes what might have been fatherly concern for robbing him of something precious. A child could make such a mistake. But then we come across dialogue like this:
RIKER: I won't be pushed into this decision.
KYLE: Oh, come on, Will. Don't you think you're ready for the Ares?
RIKER: Starfleet does.
KYLE: Of course. Because you're the best candidate for the job. I only want you to know I'm here if you need me.
RIKER: I've been on my own since I was fifteen. I can take care of myself.
KYLE: Please, spare me the pain of your childhood. I hung in for thirteen years. If that wasn't enough, it's just too bad.
Well ok then. After a line like that there's really no coming back for this character. What were they thinking? It's one thing to write Kyle as a raging narcissist who needs everything to be about him and his success. That alone would be hard to us to take, but perhaps a truly charming performer could sell what Pulaski seems to be describing in an iron-willed warrior who many women would throw themselves after. But what I see onscreen, uh-uh. Fine, so that's a casting problem. I can get past that. But the guy left his motherless son an orphan at the age of maybe15, and now says "if that wasn't enough, it's just too bad", and we're supposed to see this as a symmetrical breakdown in communication? Just wow. Just to back up Will's age, there's this clue:
KYLE: Damn it, Will. You were barely out of diapers when she died. You hardly knew her!
So how old could Will have been maybe 2 or 3? And if Kyle hung around 13 more years after his wife's death, that would make Will 15 or maybe 16.
And then there's this:
KYLE: I think you're overreacting.
PULASKI: I'm overreacting? You're the one who's going out to fight with his own son.
KYLE: Don't think of it as a fight, Kate. Think of it as more of a contest.
PULASKI: And suppose one of you is injured?
KYLE: I know where to find a good doctor. Kate
KYLE: Will and I have been playing anbo-jyutsu ever since he was eight old, and he knows how to handle himself. And so do I.
PULASKI: Don't take this personally, but Will is in his prime.
KYLE: And I'm no spring chicken, I know. Don't worry. He's never been able to beat me.
Hoo boy. I actually laughed out loud hearing this, as it reminded me of Kramer beating 10 year olds at karate. How can you say this dialogue with a straight face? How could the actors not have protested? Recall that Kyle left when Will was a teenager, so he's boast of beating, at best, a 15 or 16 year old. It's not quite Kramer, but it comes awfully close...
More attempts are made at making this situation seem like both parties are partly to blame:
KYLE: Listen, Will. You were too young to understand and I was too hurt to explain.
RIKER: You were never too hurt for anything.
KYLE: She was your mother, but she was my wife. And when she died all that kept me going was you.
RIKER: You had a strange way of showing it.
KYLE: I came here thinking we could talk this out, but maybe you're right. Maybe I am no father, and you're no son. And this this fight is all we have left.
Are we seriously supposed to listen to this guy say that Riker is no son, for resenting the guy who walked out on him at the age of 15? The megalomania reaches new heights here, as even Riker's ruined childhood ends up as a mantle piece for Kyle to bestow himself with another trophy. I love how in this enlightened future Federation VIP's glamorize this guy, and Pulaski admires him, after what he did. He's not quite a war criminal, but you'd think people would be wary of the moral character of a deadbeat dad in the utopian future, no matter what kind of diplomat he was.
The real kicker is this completely unearned final exchange, apparently coming forth out of Will learning his dad not only cheated him out of a father but literally cheated in the games they played:
KYLE: I should have explained this to you a long time ago, but it hurt too much. Then the wall grew up between us. And living there, you and me, the wall got bigger. You know, it's funny. I can talk to a whole roomful of admirals about anything in the galaxy, but I can't talk to you about how I feel.
RIKER: How do you feel?
KYLE: How do you think? I love you, son. I've got to get back to the Starbase.
RIKER: I know. I'm glad you came.
Sigh. There's really no redeeming this character, or this relationship. The actor couldn't pull it off, and the script is all wrong. I know what they wanted - a family tragedy pushes a father and son apart, and their hurt and resentful feelings drove each of them to excel beyond normal standards. Now that they've come so far apart they can continue on together. As an elevator pitch I like this idea a lot. Too bad the actual result it is a complete trainwreck. The guy they gave us is just a real SOB, the exact sort of parent a therapist would tell a patient they need to cut out of their life to avoid toxic burnout.
What is really good about the episode shouldn't be glossed over, though: some nice and funny Worf scenes, Spiner doing some great physical comedy, and a surprisingly touching scene between Will and Deanna near the end. And of course the Picard/Riker scene about command is classic, as good as we're using to getting in better episodes from later seasons.
My final thought is that I'll add a bit to my interpretation of the title, and the ending. Riker's rise to his current position was the result of flying high and fast, and that same trajectory would have taken him to command of the Ares. Although Picard makes it sound like a nothing assignment, I think the wires once again got crossed in the writing process because Kyle has this to say about it:
TROI: Are you sure he'll accept such a dangerous assignment?
KYLE: He'll accept it just because it is dangerous.
TROI: How can you be so sure?
KYLE: Because I would. And we aren't so different, Will and I.
Between this and Worf asking to join Will, it sounds like the mission was meant to be fraught with potential danger. So him refusing may be the first inkling of Will 'playing it safe', as he later puts it. But I think there's more: I think the fight scene between Will and Kyle did make Will face up to the fact that he needs a father. What we are missing in the script and on-screen is the realization that this father isn't Kyle. Yes, we could just accept that Riker understands his competitiveness now and has learned to put it behind him, and can patiently wait a little longer as XO on the Enterprise. But since Picard was adamant that Will was ready, I'll take that as a given, and so I'm not convinced that Riker's decision was that the Ares would have been too high too fast. Rather I think he decided that simply achieving more accolades isn't necessarily the most important thing. I may be stringing together long arcs from episodes like Hide and Q to this one, but in my head canon Riker stays because Picard is here and Riker isn't ready yet to be left alone. He's ready to be a Captain technically speaking, but as a person he still wants guidance. That's my take on it.
Tue, May 23, 2023, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 24, 2023, 11:51am (UTC -5)
Wed, May 24, 2023, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
"Peter I think you are taking "out of diapers" a little too literally. Will might have been 5 or 6 when mom died which means he would have been over 18 when Kyle left. I don't think it's implied that the guy was Ambojitsu chopping a little kid Kramer style."
It's possible. My main point was that Kyle was just too much, and any hope the writing had to get us to see that Will was just as much at fault as him was futile. Even if he left Will at age 18 I think that line is essentially irredeemable (in terms of us being able to connect to his character).
Wed, May 24, 2023, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Not sure I agree. It isn't even clear what "leaving" means in this context. I doubt it means literal abandonment - he probably just had a trying career and was away a lot, like a long haul trucker or some military men with families.
I am just throwing it out there but given infinite resources including social supports, education, lodging and zero financial considerations it stands to reason that older teenagers and young adults could become effectively emancipated without too much trouble. No reason to stay with mom and dad if education, lodging and all amenities are covered.
Not saying he is going to win father of the year but nothing he says comes across to me as monstrous. Will turned out just fine.
Wed, May 24, 2023, 5:49pm (UTC -5)
I think the episode's core needs to be separated from utopian speculations. Trek writers are not always awesome at placing modern-day problems into the future, and I think this is a case of that. In theory you are right: in the future maybe Plato's so-called Republic is viable, where parents can be replaced by state programs and so-forth. But realistically this show is written with 1980's U.S. standards of parenting, perhaps slightly ahead of its time but not 300 years ahead of its time. If we hear talk that a child was abandoned by his dad I think we need to take that just as we would when hearing it in the present day, and put aside futuristic hypotheticals.
"Not saying he is going to win father of the year but nothing he says comes across to me as monstrous. Will turned out just fine."
Yes, but that's only because Will was one of few people who is spurred on to over-achieving by his emotional damage. Most people would probably go in the opposite direction, even in the future. I don't think we can write off what Kyle did just because Will happens to have turned out ok. It may be a testament to Will that he is who he is, but is absolutely not a testament to Kyle, who nevertheless is still trying to take credit for Will being able to take care of himself. The guy is a super-narcissist.
Thu, May 25, 2023, 1:16am (UTC -5)
"No reason to stay with mom and dad if education, lodging and all amenities are covered."
Just want to throw in here that it is determined by culture how long people stay with their parents and men stay longer with their parents then women. Famous example is Italy where men stay with their parents (but probably mostly maaaaama) well above 30. Economy certainly also plays a part. If you don't have the money to move out, you can't move out but when people have the option they do not immediately leave the nest.
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