Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is alright. The Enterprise is having minor engineering readout difficulties so they’re going to a starbase to consult with their engineers. Meanwhile Riker has been offered his own ship, the Aries. Plot A concerns Riker, his dad, and his decision, while plot B concerns Worf and the Rite of Ascension. Plot A doesn’t take long to take shape: the consultant about the Aries is Riker’s father, and it’s a chilly reception. Plot B starts right on its heels, with Worf biting Wes’s head off for no reason and so Wes investigates. Plot A gets more and more maudlin, predictable and lame. It seem like the plot of every TV show or movie you’ve ever seen where the dad, having screwed up in the past reaches out again and again, and Riker spurns him again and again. Plot B is more interesting, as we understand that Worf is close to the 10th anniversary of his Rite of Ascension but doesn’t have any other Klingons to celebrate it with. This is a comparatively small part of the episode, but it’s the best part of it. They could have expanded it instead of showing extra scenes involving the consultants, and I don’t know why they didn’t.
Favorite Scenes: I do like the scene where Geordi and Data go to Ten Forward to try and cheer Worf up, and utterly fail. My favorite scene is the Rite of Ascension. I really felt like I was watching a piece of Klingon culture, and Worf getting stabbed with those painstiks (that’s how you spell it) is by far the most riveting part of this episode.Use of Cast/Characters: Picard has really not much to do here, except for one scene in his ready room with Riker. This is primarily a Riker-centered episode and he does get some real development. We learn a bit more about his childhood in Alaska, his mother’s death when he was two, his father leaving when he was 15 and the resolution of his differences with him, even if it happens in a pretty pat kind of way. Data has a little to do, but not much. Geordi has a bit more, being involved in the engineering sub-plot, but it’s not particularly interesting. Geordi and Data together get a bit more development as ‘buddies’ which is nice to see. Troi gets involved, working with Riker’s dad, in a cliched farewell scene with Riker, and then another scene with Pulaski. Pulaski herself gets development, having fallen in love with Riker’s dad a dozen years previous. I guess that’s something, we learn she actually has a heart. Worf gets some really nice development here, opening him up a bit more and letting us peek inside Klingon culture back when most of us hardly knew anything about it. Wes is used for only the third time this season at all, and here we are 14 episodes in. However, Colm Meaney fans take note: this is the first episode ever where Chief O’Brien finally gets to do something! He gets a scene with Riker, then another one in the Rite of Ascension chamber and does just fine both times. Mitchell Ryan plays Kyle Riker and he does a decent job with what he’s given, though in my opinion he should have come across as more of the hard-ass, tough-as-nails kind of guy he is written as.
Blu Ray Version: The planet surface here is blurry at times. In fact, looking closely at it around 10:55 you can see it’s actually Earth. That’s the gulf of Sidra in the Mediterranean Sea just below the deflector dish. At 13:35 you can see Greece and Turkey also. At 10:58 you can hear the words “It was a pleasure” coming from Graham as he shakes Kyle’s hand, but his lips don’t actually move. There’s a deleted scene also! This scene takes places in the Enterprise corridors, and it’s between Wes, Data and Geordi. It’s right before Data tries to talk to Worf in Ten Forward, about 12 minutes in. Wes convinces Geordi and Data (okay, mostly Data) that he has to get his homework done because Riker is “breathing down my neck.” It’s nothing special but I wouldn’t mind if it had been included in the episode, it would bridge the two scenes in the actual episode a bit better. Otherwise we go from Geordi and Data telling him they’re not going to help him, to the next scene doing his work for him. This might be a better use of our time than several useless scenes with inspectors checking out engineering.
Nitpicks: I find it ironic that one of the qualities that got Riker offered the Aries was his ‘diplomatic proficiency’. From what we’ve seen in the series, with one exception, his diplomatic skills have kinda sucked! Again, if they are at a starbase why do we only see a planet for the whole episode? Most people wouldn’t care about this next one, but as a counselor myself it’s a bit irritating to see Troi do exactly the wrong thing in trying to get through to Kyle Riker, confronting him right after she meets him and before she’s even built any rapport. During the Rite of Ascension, if you watch each set of Klingons stabs Worf twice, but the third set only stabs him once. And Anbo-jyutsu is the “ultimate evolution in the martial arts’? If it’s the ‘ultimate evolution’ why does it look so stupid?
Overall Impression: I never look forward to seeing this episode. It’s not terrible because at least it has the saving grace of some decent Klingon stuff, but the majority of it is about Riker & Riker. If it had been written better I suppose it would have been good, but as it is the whole story line is full of clichés–the only one that was missing is to find out his dad was dying of something. Plot A is boring, trite and generally uninteresting and the engineering sub-plot isn’t memorable. Riker is offered his own ship but we know he isn’t going to accept so there’s no dramatic tension there either. What’s strange is that Riker keeps insisting he doesn’t know if he will accept, and Kyle keeps insisting his son will take it, and by the end I almost got the impression one of the reasons Riker stayed on the Enterprise was just to defy his dad. In fact we’re never given a reason as to why he would turn down his own command? Even a short scene wherein he realizes he has more to learn before he’s ready to captain a starship would have helped a lot. The likability of this episode hinges on Worf. Luckily Michael Dorn does his usual excellent job, but plot B only takes up about 10-12 minutes. The ending is really too pat: Will is angry at his dad right up until they start hugging? I rate this episode 2 out of 5 stars.Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Believe it or not, Mitchell Ryan was one of the candidates to play Picard. Evidently the reason this episode wasn’t better was because of Roddenberry. Director Robert Iscove wanted to inject more human emotion into the father/son dynamic and Rick Berman supported him but Roddenberry overruled both of them, and in fact it led to Iscove declining to direct any more episodes as a result. As a bit of trivia, being offered the Aries is the second time he’s been offered his own command; the first was the Drake as referenced in The Arsenal of Freedom. The Anbo-jyutsu uniforms were made from motocross suits. Rick Sternbach, the guy who designed the Anbo-jyutsu arena evidently put in several anime references, at least one of which was Urusei Yatsura, for all you Lum fans out there. The greeting they say is badly pronounced, but means “Well met, please do your best.” One of the holographic Klingons in the Ascension Ritual is actually John Tesh. He was doing a segment for Entertainment Tonight and is a huge Trek fan, so they let him have a cameo.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable except for the Klingon parts. If you want, just fast forward to them and then call it a day. The next episode is more interesting.