Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Icarus Factor

James' Star Trek TNG look-back comes to an episode for Rikerphiles. Here's what he thought of The Icarus Factor...

This review contains spoilers.

2.14 The Icarus Factor

Good news everyone. I accidentally watched the wrong episode. We’ll look at Times Squared (2.13) next week instead.

So anyway. En route to Starbase Montgomery for some maintenance, Picard informs Riker that he’s up for promotion – his own command and a deep space mission, both his if he wants it. He resolves to consider his acceptance. Ooh, the suspense! (not really. Was this even convincing at the time?)

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After reaching the Starbase, the Enterprise welcomes aboard a special advisor who will brief Riker on the mission he’s up for. And it turns out to be Riker’s dad, Kyle Riker! Who doesn’t love it when the parents visit? It’s like the number one TV trope for guaranteed hilarity. Oh wait, they’re arguing already, this isn’t fun! This is depressing!

Elsewhere, Wesley bugs Worf until he snaps and tears his head off. No, not really. Although he seems to come close. Confused by Worf’s unusually hostile attitude, Wesley decides that meddling is the best step, and ropes in Data and Geordie to help him investigate, because what else would two of the highest-ranking Enterprise crew members be doing anyway?

O’Brien and Riker are having a drink in Ten Forward when they notice Kyle and Pulaski getting friendly. It turns out they know each other and it’s just never come up. Because you know, it’s not like you’d ever mention to someone that you almost married their father if you saw them every day and had literally nothing else in common. Riker gives Pulaski a jab over this fact and then leaves. Over the other side of Ten Forward, Data and Geordi observe Worf, who gets annoyed by their irritating behaviour. Don’t we all?

Riker retires to his quarters when Worf drops by, asking to join Riker on the guaranteed suicide mission he’s been offered. Riker is understandably not keen on this assessment and shouts at Worf until he leaves. Riker then goes to meet his father for the briefing meeting, only to discover that it’s all flimsy pretext. You don’t say?

Pulaski tricks Kyle into attending a psychotherapy session with Troi, but he just ends up infuriating her. Still, it filled a few minutes of screen time. Turns out you can’t cure decades of resentment in one surprise meeting. After chatting with Pulaski about the kind of man his father really is, Riker decides to work out his baggage and the two agree to an Anbo-jitsu fight. More of which later.

Meanwhile, the rest of the senior staff are dedicating all of their time to cracking this Worf nut. Wesley has figured out that it’s the tenth anniversary of Worf’s Ritual of Ascension, hence the bad mood he’s in. They set up the relevant ceremony on the holodeck, which is suitably bonkers and involves being hit with a Klingon Painstik™. After lots of shouting and screaming, Worf collapses, thanking his friends for being considerate. Er, okay then.

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Planning to accept the assignment, Riker says goodbye to Troi before heading upstairs, to fight his father! And the fight is a metaphor for their relationship. Although because that would be too subtle, they also verbalise their feelings in a rather literal way. The future’s too good for subtext (although it is quite Freudian, as fights go). Eventually, Kyle uses an illegal move on Riker, causing him to realise why he could never win a fight when he was younger. Somehow this leads to the two reconciling, and they hug manfully.

With everything resolved, Picard is about to leave Riker behind to wait for his new command when Riker appears on the bridge announcing that he’s remaining with the Enterprise, at least until the later movies. Picard is glad. The audience is glad. And everything goes back to normal in time for next week’s episode.

TNG WTF: “Anbo-jitsu. The ultimate evolution of the martial arts”. Sorry, what? The ultimate evolution involves dressing like a reject from Tron (the original) and swinging wildly using what appear to be props from Gladiators? Not exactly reflective of the harmony between body and spirit that martial arts currently aim for…

TNG LOL: A classic moment of deadpan Worf, when Data attempts to speak to him: “With… all due respect – BEGONE! … Sir.”

Also, Geordie’s presumptuousness made me laugh. Wesley: “It says the Klingon’s family needs to attend [the ritual].” Geordie: “So? We’re his family! We’ll go!”. It’s especially amusing when you see that the people he ends up with are Wesley, Data, Geordi, Chief O’Brien and Doctor Pulaski. That’s the best they could muster up?

Who’s That Face?: Kyle Riker is played by Mitchell Ryan, who was one of the final two actors considered for the role of Captain Picard. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, he got the part and now every episode of TNG looks like it had the same casting director as Babylon 5.

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Time Until Meeting: 15:35. Riker gets a one-on-one briefing from his father. In a meeting room, obviously.

Captain’s Log: If you’re reading these reviews, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the genuinely hilarious @TNG_S8 Twitter account which posts fictional synopses of TNG episodes. The reason that account works so well is because the episodes themselves really were that dumb sometimes. Case in point: “Riker’s father comes to visit prompting him to re-examine his childhood. Worf gets upset because the bridge crew forgot his anniversary.”

Still, it’s not an incompetent episode, and it even shows signs of actual emotion at times. Riker and Troi’s goodbye scene is surprisingly genuine-feeling, especially considering how stilted the show was in its early days. Look how far it’s come! It’s just a shame that the fight between Riker and his dad at the end is painfully cheesy and completely misses the mark.

The real weak point of the episode is Riker’s promotion subplot, though. Everyone spends the episode jumping to the conclusion that he’s accepted, and then in the final scene he announces that he’s changed his mind without offering a convincing explanation. Not strong.

Still, it’s nice to have a character piece now and again, and this Worf/Riker double-header certainly fits the bill. You wouldn’t want every episode to be like this one, but once in a while it can be a nice change of pace.

Watch or Skip? Here’s the thing: it’s a reasonably good Riker piece, but then those are hardly in short supply. Unless you’re a Grade A Rikerphile, you can skip it.

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Read James’ look-back at the previous episode (but one), The Royale, here.

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