23 February 2014

The Bonding

Episode: s3, ep 5

What Happens
An away team commanded by Worf investigates an archaeological site on a planet who's inhabitants were destroyed by war long ago. There's an explosion and the team are beamed straight to sickbay but Lieutenant Marla Aster is declared dead on arrival.
The Enterprise stays to investigate the tragedy. Picard and Troi break the news to Lt. Aster's 12 year-old son, Jeremy, who already lost his father. Worf feels responsible and wants to reach out to the boy, Troi agrees but advises caution. Data asks Riker about grieving. Geordi finds explosives on the planet that have recently been dug up and disarmed, but by who? Jeremy watches home movies of himself and his mother. He's polite and brave to everyone, not expressing his feelings. Dr Crusher asks Wesley if he can talk to Jeremy. There's an energy discharge on the planet, it's not clear what it is, Troi senses a presence. Marla Aster appears in her quarters and greets her shocked son. She tell's Jeremy there was a mistake and she wasn't killed. Worf stops by and alerts Picard to this strange development. Marla takes Jeremy to the transporter room, so they can go down to the planet. The Captain forbids and Worf drags Jeremy away, Marla disappears.
Don't trust the cat
Troi explains to Jeremy that she wasn't really his mother, his quarters have turned into their house back on Earth, including Jeremy's cat. Marla wants to stay with Jeremy and make him happy, she can't understand Troi's resistance to this. The shields are raised blocking the energy from the planet and Marla and the house disappear. A blue light from the planet enters the ship. Jeremy's quarters become a house again. Marla explains that the physical beings on the planet destroyed themselves with war. She is a energy being from the planet, determined to make up for past tragedies and for Lt. Aster's death by looking after Jeremy and making him happy. Picard and Troi explain why that won't work is is bad for Jeremy in the long run. Troi uses group therapy with Jeremy, Wesley and Worf, which prompts Marla to leave.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard must break the news to Jeremy and manages to be reassuring despite his issues with children. He expresses admiration at Troi's rolem which means working with the bereaved after the news has been delivered. Picard explains to Troi why he doesn't think children should be on starships, and I must say I agree with him on that. Picard doesn't hesitate to confront fake-Marla whenever she tries to take Jeremy off the ship.
I'm slightly surprised the ship has an archaeologist, I thought Picard always dealt with archaeology and ancient civilisations because he really loves old stuff. In fact I'm surprised he wasn't on that away mission, he's been known to risk himself (and the ship) for his passion before.

Does Not Compute
Data has a brief talk with Riker about loss and grief. He wants to know why every asks him to define how well he knew Lt. Aster, he doesn't understand why that has a correlation with grief. Riker can't explain it, but says that maybe human history would be less bloody if every loss was felt as though it were a loved one.

Klingon Warrior
Worf's feelings of responsibility about what happened under his command make him angry. He doesn't like that there's no enemy to face or seek vengeance from. He wants to reach out to Jeremy, who is now an orphan like him. Worf finds comfort in Klingon rituals and invites Jeremy to join him. At first Jeremy is just polite with Worf, as Star Fleet kids should be with officers. Once Troi has helped Jeremy express his anger at Worf the boy is able to accept some comfort and joins Worf in the bonding ritual, which involves lighting candles and speaking Klingon.

Counsellor Necessary
This is an episode that makes me regret my usual snarky heading for Troi. Here she demonstrates not only that she is a good counsellor, but why having a counsellor on board is necessary. (It still doesn't explain why she's on the Bridge so much, but my theory about her secondary role as Picard's PA mostly covers that.)
Troi accompanies Picard when he breaks the bad news to Jeremy and she talks through the weight of responsibility the Captain feels. She does the same for Worf, helping him to articulate his anger and feelings of responsibility. She also advises caution when Worf decides he'll reach out to Jeremy. She explains the guilt a bereaved child can feel when they transfer their affection to anyone else and that Jeremy's bottled anger is likely to express unexpectedly. She explains to Picard both the difficulties of her role when dealing with grief and the reward when she is able to help someone rediscover joy. It's clear that she loves her work, knows what she's doing and is committed to Jeremy's emotional well-being. Troi joins Picard to explain why the fake-Marla's plan is not good for Jeremy.
At the resolution point Troi basically conducts a group therapy session. Wesley tells Jeremy about his experience of losing a parent and finally confesses to Picard that he was angry at him for a long time. Jeremy is told that he's allowed to be angry at Worf. Worf accepts that anger and tells Jeremy his experience of being an orphan and being helped by others, he offers that same help to Jeremy.

At the start of the episode Troi knows something is wrong before Worf's hail and tells Picard to beam the away team back. It seems like precognition, but I expect it's that she felt the away team's pain when the explosion happened. Troi later senses the presence of the energy being, but there's a lot of grief on the ship which hampers her ability to read it.

Poor O'Brien
He's in transporter room 3, just minding his own business, when a blue light appears and darts at him.O'Brien is able to alert the Bridge and security, and the blue light chases him out of the transporter room before knocking over two members of security.

People should check out this Chef O'Brien webcomic, it gets a little bleak, but mostly it's amusing.

Dr Crusher tells Wesley that Troi has asked if he'll speak to Jeremy. Wesley is clearly uncomfortable about doing that. He and his mother have a talk about his father's death and share a pretty touching mother-son moment.
Later Wesley is brought in to talk to Jeremy and tells him about trying to be brave like you're supposed to and feeling dreadful. Troi gets him to tell Picard that he was angry at him for a long time. Partly for being the one that told him the news about his father's death, but also because Picard was Pa Crusher's commanding officer and yet he survived. It's clear that his anger has gone now, but it weighed on his mind for some time. Not surprising when you consider how he first refers to Picard in Encounter at Farpoint. “When I was little he bought my father’s body home to us.”

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
There is much concern about Jeremy and how he will take the news, this is good. Jeremy is left alone in his quarters to watch home movies of him and his mother, this is bad. Who leaves a bereaved child on his own? Surely some family on board could look after him for a bit, or someone could at least sit with him.

Picard has always believed it's a bad idea to have children on starships. It's dangerous work and the children don't get a choice in the matter. Troi points out that this might still have happened if Jeremy was on Earth, but Picard counters that Earth doesn't face combat. It's true that just being on a starship puts kids in far more danger than if they were living on stable planets. Apparently Star Fleet kids are warned about this kind of thing happening, both Wes and Jeremy have had that briefing, but as Picard points out they don't have a choice. I continue to maintain that Star Fleet is really bad for families.

And They Never Spoke Of It Again?
So Jeremy and Worf perform a bonding ritual to honour Marl's death. Jeremy becomes part of Worf's family for all time and they become brothers, their families are made stronger. I assume Jeremy is going to go live with his aunt and uncle on Earth, but does Worf ever even encounter Jeremy again? I wouldn't be surprised if Worf's bond with the boy is never mentioned again. I'm pretty sure it never comes up in DS9 either, even though plots in that show see Worf's family status changing.

Death by Space Misadventure
Ship's archaeologist Lieutenant Marla Aster died in an explosion in the line of duty.

The End
Worf and Jeremy wear robes and light some big candles. Worf gives Jeremy a sash. They say some Klingon words to honour their mothers and bond to make their families stronger.

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