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Star Trek The Next Generation: The Icarus Factor

O’Brien: “You choose your enemies, you choose your friends but family, that’s in the stars.”

This episode was about what it means to be a man or how men become men and/or what their fathers have to do with it. It was another case of the writers trying to pack in two story lines that weren't related enough to make sense. Separately the stories had some things going for them but the switch back and forth felt disjointed and annoying.

The first story line was about Riker and his absentee father. I'm not sure how I would react if my parent had not contacted me for 15 years and left me to fend for myself at 15. I think I would be as pissed as Riker was but since his father was a man we were all supposed to find some kind of understanding for him. Apparently Kyle Riker was in a lot of pain due to the loss of his wife but personally I don't think that gives you the right to be a competitive asshole with your son. In fact there was a lot of annoying blather about how cute and attractive men are because they never grow up. Really? If I was a man I would be insulted by this episode. On the other hand it was nice to learn some things about Riker's past and it explains some of his personality.

The second story line was about Worf and his pain at being detached from Klingon culture. I generally like the strong thread of cultural acceptance that weaves through the Trek universe but this particular ceremony felt a bit off to me. First, it seemed to be only men. I guess women get a pass because they have babies which probably beats a pain stick all to hell (not that all women need to have babies, I'm just trying to understand the gender politics here). Secondly, if pain sticks make a two-ton rectyne monopod's head explode exactly why would you want to debilitate your best warriors in this way? However, I may just be culturally insensitive.

The underlying message in this episode was that manly men suffer pain gladly, can't communicate with their sons and solve problems best by fighting. Women are supposed to sit on the sidelines and shake their heads indulgently at the silliness of it all/try to prevent such things/care for men when they can't be dissuaded. Even though that was irritating I did like the drawing of Chief O'Brien into the action and the support that Worf received from his family of friends. There were also some very amusing bits in the episode. Riker in his Anbo-jyutsu suit and O'Brien's quips are a couple of examples.

Bits and Pieces

Star Date: 42686.4. Starbase Montgomery.

What exactly would you do with a 12 hour layover?

Picard must have had a better relationship with his father. He thinks that Riker will enjoy meeting with his.

Kyle Riker seems to be a man's man. He says hello to a lot of men on the ship. The only woman he greets is Kate Pulaski, an ex-lover.

Speaking of Pulaski, I enjoyed that she had been married three times and didn't feel any need to apologize.

I'm still not sure why Riker turned down the command. On another note can someone explain why they called this "The Icarus Factor"? I sort of get it but knowing the mythology, it doesn't really work.


Riker: “It’s been 15 years. Excitement is hardly the appropriate emotion.”

Data: “I would consider them insignificant.”
Riker: “What if you’re wrong.... Sorry.”

Riker: “They know each other.”
O’Brien: “No kidding. I do too but we don’t do that.”

Worf: “Be gone! Sir.”
Data: “He seems quite sincere in his desire for solitude.”

Pulaski: “Deanna’s job is to keep us from deluding ourselves.”

Deanna: “Respect is earned, not bestowed.”

Kyle Riker: “...lower your shields.”

Worf: “Today I am a warrior. I must show you my heart. I travel the river of blood.”


  1. The first time O'Brien gets dragged into a ritual involving Klingon pain sticks is definitely the highlight of this episode!

  2. And I thought the Parisi Squares costumes were terrible. OMG. Whose idea was it to have Riker finally having an emotional confrontation with his father while wearing a flaming red twisted motorcycle helmet?

    I totally agree with your review, Doc, although I did think the A & B plots went together a little since they were both about men needing to hit things to prove their masculinity. :) I did like that Worf's friends saw his need and did something about it, even though it was (literally) alien to them. I also liked Worf yelling "Be gone!" and then quietly adding, "Sir." And Troi confronting Kyle Riker about his inappropriate competitiveness with his son was a good scene.

    I've also noticed that while I wasn't that big a fan of Worf's during the run of the series, I'm liking him a lot more now. Michael Dorn did such a good job with Worf and he was the highlight of this episode for me. Sorry about that, Riker.

    Thanks so much for the excellent review, Doc. :)

  3. "Picard must have had a better relationship with his father."
    It's funny to read this after season 2 of Picard. ;-)

  4. My father and I haven't talked in years, although he may be passed on by now considering how bad his drinking was, so having a poor father and son relationship is something I can empathize with, as even as a kid, it was never a great one, I really do not like how this one handled the situation. It reminds me of these self-proclaimed 'alpha males' and how they make one throw up in one's mouth a bit. Give me Mister Rogers any day!

    The pain sticks do seem rather silly too. I get that a warrior culture may want its adherents to be tough and as self-reliant as possible, but there's a point where's just hard to believe, like here.


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