Death, how we handle this inevitability is a testament to who we are and the lives we have lead. When death is a constant threat in your life, do you become numb to it or does it affect you more so? This is something that the families on a starship like The Enterprise have to deal with on a regular basis but has yet to really be explored. This episode, originally airing on October 23,1989 asks those questions and more. This is The Bonding.
Stardat 43198.7 The Bonding
After the tragic death of a crewmember, Worf decides to take their orphaned child into his House as his own. The child, however, has difficulty accepting the death of his month and then she returns..
On an archaeological expedition, Lt Marla Aster is killed in an explosion during an away team mission. Her son, Jeremy is orphaned and it falls to Picard to let him know of her death.
Worf, feeling guilty for losing someone under his command requests that he be allowed to care for the boy under the Klingon rite of R’uustai or The Bonding. Troi admires his determination but questions if such a thing is proper at the moment. Worf visits Jeremy and explains that, although Jeremy’s mother’s death was an accident, Worf would like to help the boy through it. Jeremy is being very stoic about the situation and Troi is concerned that the boy will internalize the grief and end up lashing out over time.
Meanwhile, As Jeremy watches old videos of his parents, his mother returns to him but Jeremy is confused. He knows that his mother is dead but this person insists that it was all a mistake. She tells Jeremy that they must leave for the planet immediately as that is where they will live from now on. Worf arrives and alerts Picard and the senior staff of the situation.
As Picard and Troi rush to assist, Marla2 informs Worf that they are leaving for the planet and go to a transporter room to leave. Picard arrives before they leave and questions Marla2’s intentions. Picard explains that this is not his mother and, after pulling Jeremey away, she vanishes.
Troi escorts Jeremy back to his quarters only to find the room transformed into his house on Earth. Marla2 appears and tell Troi that she can make a home for him on the planet like this one. Marla2 is confused by the crews resistance to making Jeremy happy and appears to be no actual threat.
As they investigate, Geordi surmises that this entity is using the ships power to create this manifestation of Marla and his Earth home. A powersource is detected on the planet and they block the energy field destroying the illusion. As soon as they do an alien energy beams aboard and begins to attack the crew.
Marla2 returns and tries to get Jeremy off the ship only to be stopped by a series of force fields. As Picard attempts to handle the situation another energy being is exploring the ship, trying to reactivate the the transporters. Marla2 explains to Picard that Marla Aster’s death was their fault and they must take responsibility for him. A war destroyed the people there centuries ago and they do not wish anyone to feel pain again.
Picard requests Wesley and Worf to talk with Jeremy and Marla2. He arrives and shows the entity how humans deal with death and how it makes them stronger over time. Jeremy begins his path to healing and the entity vanishes.
Worf again extends his offer to Jeremy to join him in the R’uustai ritual and Jeremy accepts, becoming one of the house of Mogh. Although it is not specified here, it is implied that Jeremy departed the Enterprise to live with his Aunt and Uncle on Earth.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is an example of quality science fiction. Using death as a launching board, and an Alien being as a conduite, this episode explores mortality and how loss affects different people. It also shows just what is at stake for explorers in the Star Trek Universe. For the first time we really get to see the crew deal with a death (since Tasha Yar) and this time we get more time with each member as they each deal with the loss in their own way. For Tasha it was sudden and we really never got to see any closure for anyone, in this one we hit the raw nerves a death such as this would cause. Because of this, we get some tremendous character development all across the board.
For Worf, his grief comes from the loss of someone under his command and his sense of honor connected with that loss. He wants to make sense of the death and, as a Klingon, give it meaning. His only way to do this is to make amends with the son, Jeremy.
Riker and Data have a terrific moment where Data does not understand why he doesn’t feel the absence he felt when Tasha died. Riker can’t explain it only saying what a different place the universe would be if everyone grieved equally for each death, no matter how disconnected to them that death may be.
For Wesley, this event reminds him of the death of his father Jack Crusher. Beverly asks him to talk to Jeremy but his memories of his father’s death is too close to the surface and he can’t handle the pain he has buried all these years. The return of his mother on board makes this easier to deal with. Wesley finally gets a chance to tell Picard his feelings about the death of his father. He was angry at Picard for being the commander on the mission that resulted in Jack’s death. Not because he caused anything but because he survived. Wesley has come to accept this death and his anger with Picard has long vanished being replaced with respect and admiration.
As I mentioned in my review of Stand By Me, Death has been on my mind a lot recently as people I have grown up with have started to pass on over the last few years. While I have yet to have a major death in my adulthood, with the exception of my grandmother, finding out that people who were important to me are gone has not been easy. In addition, many of my icons have passed, Tom Petty, Leonard Nimoy, Robin Williams, David Bowie to name a few and this has been hard to deal with as well. My parents are up in age and I know it is only a matter of time before they are gone as well and I have to wonder how I will handle this. I want to believe I will accept it and move on but one really doesn’t know how they will face the inevitable until it is there.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We see more of the Klingon Culture in the R’uustai ritual at the end of the episode.
Even through Jeremy is now part of Worf’s house he is never mentioned nor seen again on the series. Strange seeing that Worf’s family is important to him and will be a important plot points later in the series.
We hear again about Worf being raised by humans after his parents were killed at Khitomer. I think this will be important later…
Tasha Yar is mentioned again and this time it really hammers home just how much she meant to Data.
We never find out who these energy aliens are and really what they were other than a species who remained after a great war. All we know is that they were called the Koinonians and were one of two species that coexisted on a planet before going to war with one another.
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Late To The Game 8/18/2019 (Originally published 4/30/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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