Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Icarus Factor [2.14]

Riker is offered his own command, but must deal with a reunion with his estranged father as a result.  Meanwhile, Worf struggles due to a disconnection with his Klingon roots because of a key anniversary that has come up.  In the end, Riker begins to reconcile with his father and decides to turn down the command opportunity.

Teleplay by David Assel & Robert McCullough.  Story by David Assel.  Directed by Robert Iscove.

Previous Episode: Time SquaredNext Episode: Pen Pals

The Icarus Factor is a bit of a hodge-podge episode, attempting to weave together a wide variety of disparate plot threads.  The main one is Riker’s relationship with his father, but along with that we have Riker wrestling about whether he will accept a promotion to Captain his own ship, Worf’s surliness about his Age of Ascension anniversary and Wesley’s investigation thereof, and Geordi being annoyed that Starfleet engineers are examining his engines.  Not to mention the added wrinkle of Dr. Pulaski’s former relationship with Kyle Riker.  Still, this somewhat random assortment, lacking any strong driving plot to hold it all together, makes for a stronger episode than either of the two that have preceded it.

The strength of the episode comes from the fact that Riker’s antagonism toward his father feels quite genuine and real.  So, similarly, does Riker’s struggle to decide whether to accept his own command, and the reasons why this would even be something that he’d have to think about at all.  So good on you, Jonathan Frakes.  Unfortunately, the weakness of the episode is the fact that these plots are wrapped up far too simply, or with too little development.  During the whole of the goofy martial arts fight between the two Rikers, the anger and even hatred that the younger Riker feels toward his dad is very strong – but somehow at the end of it there is a shift where Will expresses gratitude that his Dad has gone out of his way to see him.  There’s very little justification for this – just the revelation that his Dad has cheated him in this game for years, but for well-intentioned reasons.

Similarly, the reasons for Riker’s decision to stay on the Enterprise aren’t clear at all.  He states quickly that it’s the best thing for him, refusing to elaborate.  That would be all right if his reasons could be intuited out of the character development of the episode, but if it was there, I didn’t catch it.  So far Next Generation hasn’t done a good job with showing us why characters have turned down promotions (see Coming of Age from Season One).

The Worf story, though offering a bit of comic relief and a chance for Wesley to continue to be earnest and plucky, doesn’t really go anywhere.  I guess at the time it was another insight into Klingon culture, but in retrospect that is really all it is.  Worf is feeling bad – the anniversary of his Age of Ascension and his inability to fulfill any of the rituals associated with it are making him feel isolated and disconnected from his roots.  The solution?  Invite him to the holodeck so he can tortured senseless with pain sticks.  It’s supposed to be character development but it just sort of skims over the actual depths of what makes this character tick – something that the show has yet to bring to us.

Shout-Outs to the Past
• I think they’ve been mentioned before, but there’s a brief reference to the Tholians from the original series.

• Picard refers back to his first meeting with Commander Riker from Encounter at Farpoint (“Number One, I’ve just been recollecting the arrival of a new first officer on board the Enterprise, and a manual docking confidently achieved.  Now, I may have been somewhat miserly in my congratulations then, so let me make up for it now.”

• Not really “the past” yet, but the appearance of Riker’s father was seeded by a conversation in the previous episode.

Setting Up the Future
• The events of this story will be one of the ways that the growth and change in Riker over the years will be indicated in the later story, Second Chances.

Guest Cast
John Tesh appears uncredited as a Klingon Warrior.  He was a presenter on Entertainment Tonight at the time.

• We learn in this story that Pulaski has been married and divorced three times, and seems really happy with herself about it.

• Hilarious exchange between Data and Worf.  Data:  “Excuse me, Lieutenant, you seem to have lost the will to communicate.”  Worf:  “With all due respect…begone!!  (Sir)”

• I’m not sure, but I think this is the first time it’s been revealed that Riker is from Alaska.

• There’s a bit more Riker-Worf bonding going on here, a running motif of this season.

• I like Pulaski’s comment about Troi:  “Deanna’s job is to keep us from deluding ourselves.”

• When Troi talks to Kyle Riker the first time, she is supposedly there to help as ship’s counselor, but she seems to be having a hard time remaining unbiased.  Really, the scene is there for character exposition.

• Nice scene between Picard and Riker about the difference between first officer of the Federation flagship and being Captain of your own obscure vessel.

• Funny Data line about the engineering examination:  “If I were not a consummate professional, and an android, I would find this entire procedure insulting.”

• We get a little touch of Riker and Troi romance – and see openly that Troi is feeling sad.  I’m for it – enough of this emotional detachment thing.

• It’s in character that Troi doesn’t watch the Klingon ritual.  If this ritual is a secret to all outsiders, then how has the holodeck been programmed with figures specifically relevant to this event?  I guess it’s thanks to Wesley’s genius-level research.

• The costumes for the martial arts battle look a bit like costumes from Tron.  I guess having the sightless factor with the masks makes it easier for stunt doubles to do their thing.

• Decent line from Kyle Riker in the story’s climax:  “Maybe I am no father.  And you’re no son.  And this fight is all we have left.”

Dialogue High Point
Even though the episode is a bit so-so, there’s actually quite a lot of good dialog in the story.  I found it hard picking a favorite (some of the runner-ups are in the “Observations” mentioned above.  In the end, I went with O’Brien’s line after he and Riker watch Dr. Pulaski kiss Riker’s father.  “She must know him,” says Riker.  O’Brien replies

No kidding.  I know her too.  We don’t do that.

Previous Episode: Time SquaredNext Episode: Pen Pals

2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Icarus Factor [2.14]

  1. This episode had some good stuff. But there was also some bad stuff weighing it down. Riker’s dad starts off sympathetic, but turns into an arrogant, unrepentant ass, and it becomes clear that he deserves the scorn Will gives him. Then the resolution comes right out of nowhere. An “I love you, son,” is all it took for Will to get over years of resentment? Bah.

  2. I liked this episode, although I think it would have been well-served by removing the Geordi/Engines Sub-sub-plot to devote more time to Worf and Riker. I also would have liked to see Riker really blow up at the end before the reconciliation, and to see Worf as Pulaski described him (“never been happier”).

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