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The Icarus Factor
Who cares about Riker's daddy issues when we can watch Worf become a man in a holographic k'plah mitzvah!
Riker is being offered his own command - so why does he look so glum about it? It doesn't help that his dad then beams aboard to advise him on his mission - they haven't seen each other in fifteen years. Wesley is being annoying about it to Worf who - quite understandably! - angrily shouts for Wes to shut up. The Acting Ensign concludes that something is wrong with Worf without even having Troi advise him. To make matters even more complicated, it seems Dr Pulaski has a romantic history with Riker Senior. We get a lot of backstory about the Rikers, but nobody really cares, especially not when they decide to play at American Gladiators together. Far more interesting is that it's the tenth anniversary of Worf's Age of Ascension, which ought to be celebrated with family. Break out the painsticks and the blood wine!
"Sir... with all due respect... BE GONE!"
Considering that this is supposed to be about Riker, Worf's B-plot manages to completely eclipse the Kyle Riker A-plot.
Does anyone else think it odd that Starfleet would name a ship the USS Ares, after the Greek god of war? I mean, that does seem to be asking for trouble. I suppose it could be named after a person who happens to have that name, but still...
'Age of Ascension' is a nice generic name for a rite of passage. If this had cropped up in a later episode, they would have had Marc Okrand give it a name in Klingon, but it's not so they don't. But they must have got Okrand on the phone as he wrote some genuine Klingon for them:
DaHjaj SuvwI''e' jIH. tIgwIj Sa'angNIS. 'Iw bIQtIqDaq jIjaH. Today I am a Warrior. I must show you my heart. I travel the river of blood.
Then there's 'anbo-jyutsu'. The script describes it as follows:
approach an exotic combat arena, wearing anbo-jyutsu gear which consists of snug face shield and helmet, abdomen shield, and slender pads on all other vital areas. They carry anbo-jyutsu staffs, tapered on one end, padded on the other, with a reostat twist-shaft in the center grip. The arena itself is a ring fourteen feet in diameter.
We'll see how well this concept plays out below. I suspect you're already wincing at the memory. It is interesting that the writers have the Rikers say 'yoroshiku oneigaishimasu' at the start of the bout. This is a complex phrase, often used when you first meet someone to mean 'please treat me kindly', but it can also mean 'I'll do my best', which I expect is the intention here.
The big guest star this week is supposed to be Mitchell Ryan as Kyle Riker.
Ryan is now best known for a recurring role in the sitcom Dharma and Greg, although if you're old enough to remember the 1960s sci-fi horror soap Dark Shadows you might know him as Burke Devlin. He also played the General in Lethal Weapon and Bart Newberry in Grosse Pointe Blank. But the most interesting thing about Ryan's casting history is that he was being considered for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I simply recoil in horror at the thought that this man could have been our captain. There's nothing wrong with his performance in this episode, but there's simply nothing compelling about this actor. I suppose now that we know and love Patrick Stewart, it's simply hard to imagine anyone else in that role.
So many holographic Klingons! Of note, make-up artist Bob Smithson is back, having played a Klingon in "A Matter of Honor" (second from the left in the image below).
There's also Teo Smoot, who will return near the end of this season in "The Emissary" as a Klingon crewman (last on the right in the image below).
Oh look! Lance Spellerberg returns as the back of Ensign Herbert’s head... even though we still have Colm Meaney. Could it be that we finally have an episode with TWO Transporter Chiefs? Make it so!
This is the last time we’ll see Ensign Herbert, front or back (the first was in “We’ll Always Have Paris”, you may recall - and if not, you can always revisit that WAM for details). Meanwhile, Meaney’s O’Brien is having coffee with the first officer!
He’s even being invited to join in with Worf’s Klingon ritual, which really solidifies O'Brien's importance. I mean, I know we already invited him to the poker game, but in this episode we're implicitly calling him family. How swiftly this character rose in importance for the show!
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
Say hello to the most reused planetary matte in the history of TNG!
This is its debut on the show, but we'll see it again at least once in each of the remaining seasons of the show. It's not particularly striking, but it’s well-constructed, especially in the remastered version. Perhaps they reused it so much because it was so nondescript? I mean, it's not a bad planet... but it could be any planet. But perhaps that's what makes it so reusable.
It's a busy week for the make-up department, as they reuse all the Klingon prosthetics from "Heart of Glory" and "A Matter of Honor" in order to fill up the holodeck with burly warriors, as I’ve shown above. It all looks great!
But the SFX stars this week are the set builders. Firstly, they make a space to play out the silliest sport in the history of Trek - anbo-jyutsu!
Dress like a refugee from Tron and act like you're on a terrible 80s game show - that won't look ridiculous. The kanji on this set read 'Ramu' and 'Ataru', two characters in the anime show SS Urusei Yatsura. Also, the banners behind Jonathan Frakes (and on the right below) read 'Urusai' and 'Yatsura' in the Japanese script hiragana. Someone on the show was into their anime!
Much more satisfying is the set for the Klingon rite of passage.
It's partly a reuse of pieces that were used to make sets for the Pagh in "A Matter of Honor", but with some new features. The Klingon trefoil emblem that debuted in the classic Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius" reappears here in the all-red form that debuted in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This is the big gift to the franchise, as this very propr is going to adorn the Klingon homeworld when we get there in later seasons. This set alone, and the Klingon ritual within it, rescues this episode from being completely terrible.
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