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Star Trek The Next Generation: Ethics

"You gambled, he won."

What was this episode really about? Klingon customs? Medical ethics? The friendship between Riker and Worf? At least it wasn't about whether or not a paraplegic can have quality of life.

Or was it? Honestly, the fact that they kept skirting around and Klingon-'splaining that issue made me uncomfortable. I would have much preferred if the spinal injury had happened to someone other than Worf and had truly been irreversible, and if they had explored the ramifications of dealing with this type of massive life change in a science fiction setting. (Captain Christopher Pike, anyone?) But this is Next Gen so of course, there was the infamous reset button. I'm not sure how I'd feel about this if I were a disabled Star Trek fan. Okay, I'm done now.

The best part of this episode was the conflict between Beverly, who was determined that Worf should stick with conventional therapies like those implants that would give him a great deal of mobility but not all, and guest star Dr. Russell, who was determined to take this golden opportunity to try an experimental procedure on a humanoid subject. The divergent philosophies of these two doctors were conveniently demonstrated by the crash of the USS Denver that necessitated triage in the shuttlebays, when Dr. Russell pitched in to help in the crisis but then took the opportunity to try an experimental drug on a USS Denver patient who subsequently died. Would the patient have still died if he'd gotten the more conventional treatment? There was no absolute yes-or-no answer, much like real life.

But the thing is, Beverly really was on the "right" side of this conflict. A 37% chance of success was indeed too small for Worf to take that risk. But maybe Beverly was also a little too determined to stick with established procedures, given that Worf went all Klingon and was ready to kill himself. Which is where Riker comes in.

Right after Worf was nearly killed by a barrel in the opening scene (and you know, it bothered me that Worf nearly died because of such a stupid thing; he should have fallen off a cliff while fighting an alien monster or something), Worf asked Riker to help him commit hegh'bat, ritual suicide. Worf came to that irreversible conclusion without even mentioning his young son Alexander, or considering what would happen to him. Although Riker is usually the first to dive head first into the customs of other cultures, he rejected Worf's request, and remained adamantly opposed throughout. (On the other hand, Picard seemed a little bit too pro-Klingon customs this time, although maybe that was because of his previous experiences with Worf on the Klingon homeworld.)

Deanna ended up as Alexander's advocate and counselor, and even his possible new mom, although the scene where Worf asked Deanna to raise Alexander if he didn't survive the operation felt like it was out of left field, or maybe like Worf finally realized that he might be orphaning his son and there was Deanna, conveniently standing right there, so he asked her. This is not a small favor, Worf. Especially since Alexander has been acting out since losing his mother.

But anyway, it didn't happen because, even though Worf died on the table, Klingons have something like back-up organs. Since Klingons seem to risk death at the drop of the bat'leth, back-up organs didn't make a lot of sense to me. Or maybe I'm thinking of that backwards because it did make sense that Klingon medicine totally ignored certain areas of research because they prefer death to any sort of disability. Except that I have to say, Worf being dead for so long and then popping back to life was outright silly. Does that happen to Klingons in battle all the time? I don't remember it happening before.

Sigh. I think the writers had good intentions, and there was some decent drama, particularly in the conflict between Beverly and Dr. Russell. But there wasn't a single bit of Worf's struggle in this episode that worked for me, and that should have been the (eight-chambered) heart of the episode.

Bits and quotes:

-- Stardate 45587.3. Mostly space, plus the crash site of the USS Denver.

-- The first thing we see in this episode is a container with the word "Danger" on it. Just a tiny bit of extremely obvious instantaneous foreshadowing.

-- Geordi's VISOR allows him to cheat at poker if he wishes. Good to know.

-- During the operation, as a last resort, Beverly gave Worf a shot of cordrazine. An overdose of cordrazine was what made Dr. McCoy crazy in the classic original series episode, "City on the Edge of Forever."

-- There was enough medical technobabble in this episode to last me a very long time.

-- During this episode, we learned that Worf has ridges on his spine and his feet as well as his forehead. It made me wonder what other parts of his body have ridges. Did I just say that?

-- Beverly: (to Dr. Russell) "You take short cuts right through living tissue. You put your research ahead of your patients' lives. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a violation of our most sacred trust. I'm sure your work will be hailed as a stunning breakthrough. Enjoy your laurels, Doctor. I'm not sure I could."

This episode didn't work for me. Two out of four unearned laurels,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Extremely well-said. I felt that this episode was on a decent track as I could excuse Riker being overly-emotional as Worf is his only Klingon friend and he has delved deep into Klingon customs, and Picard may be a bit overly-Klingon because everyone else was so emotional he had to step in more than normal.

    But when Worf came back to life after, what, 30min to an hour? 15min? just boop, alive in front of Alexander just felt horrible. It felt robbed. Like we had fully accepted this and they were giving us time and then *sike* he's back because of something that we mentioned but makes no sense because all functions were ceased for a good while.

    It just felt like when an entire show turns out to be a dream - why manipulate our emotions like that for a negative payoff?

    But as you said the rest of the show was very well-done and having a major medical emergency occur in the background with Beverly overseeing but showing how great of a leader she is was brilliant, especially for medical fans of the show, I'm sure.

  2. Not much to add to your review, Billie. the backup organs does seem like a weird thing to come up with, when they could have just had him come out of the procedure fine, but just take a little longer or something.

    A mostly ok episode, nothing too egregious, but nothing amazing either.


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