Mar 22 2013 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Bloodlines”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines“Bloodlines”
Written by Nicholas Sagan
Directed by Les Landau
Season 7, Episode 22
Production episode 40276-274
Original air date: May 2, 1994
Stardate: 47829.1

Captain’s Log: A probe approaches the Enterprise, which hails Picard by name and projects a hologram onto the bridge. The image is of DaiMon Bok, who claims to have found Picard’s son, Jason Vigo. He plans to kill Vigo just as Picard killed Bok’s son at Maxia Zeta fifteen years ago.

This comes as rather a shock to Picard, who has no idea who Jason Vigo is. He has Worf bring the probe on board, Data search the records for Jason Vigo (he suggests starting with a woman from the New Gaul colony named Miranda Vigo), and Riker query the Ferengi government as to why and how Bok has regained his rank after losing it in “The Battle.”

Data finds a picture of Vigo, who is twenty-three years old, and he and his mother settled on Camor V, a planet that has dodgy planetary records. Riker very carefully does not ask the obvious question, but Picard goes ahead and answers it anyhow: he was involved with Miranda Vigo for a short time about twenty-four years earlier. It was a two-week romance, and she never mentioned being pregnant, but Picard feels that it would’ve been in character for her not to mention it and raise the child on her own.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines

They arrive at Camor V. Data is able to find Vigo and beam him aboard in mid-spelunk (the kid’s a major climber), at which point Picard brings him up to speed on the situation. Vigo was never told who his father was, so it’s possible that Picard is him—he also informs Picard that his mother died a few years ago.

Vigo agrees to a genetic test, which reveals that he is, in fact, Picard’s son. Picard then brings him to his quarters for an attempt at bonding, which fails. However, Picard wishes to keep Vigo on board until the situation with Bok is resolved.

Data and La Forge are working on trying to figure out where the probe came from. Meanwhile, a Ferengi official named Girta assures Picard that Bok was not only relieved of command, but imprisoned, until he bought his way out of jail two years earlier. Girta is only willing to admit that he was last seen in the Dorias Cluster, which has some twenty star systems—but La Forge and Data found residue on the probe indicating it was near a particular type of quasar, one of which can be found in that cluster. The Enterprise heads to the Xendi Sabu system.

Picard sees an image of Bok in his quarters. There’s no sign that Bok was actually there, nor evidence of a hologram or another mental projection like the one he used the last time. La Forge continues to investigate while Worf assigns a security detail to Vigo. Meanwhile, Data alerts Picard to Vigo’s criminal record: petty theft, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and assorted other misdemeanors.

Vigo goes to Ten-Forward, where the two guards are making him nervous. Picard makes attempt #2 at bonding, and that fails even more spectacularly. A probe appears near the Enterprise and then explodes, but the explosion provides a display in Ferengi code that Data translates to, “My revenge is at hand.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines

Bok appears in Picard’s ready room, saying that he insists on being paid for the loss of his son. Then he disappears in what appears to be a Ferengi transporter beam. Right after that, Vigo’s security detail reports a medical emergency: Vigo is having an awful seizure. Crusher diagnoses him with Forrester-Trent Syndrome, a degenerative nerve disorder. It’s also hereditary, but Picard doesn’t have it, and as far as Vigo knows, his mother didn’t, either.

La Forge and Data determine that Bok is using a subspace transporter, which is unstable and impractical, but which can also work over long distances. Picard then joins Vigo on the holodeck, where he’s indulging his rock climbing fetish. The captain climbs up to join him, and makes attempt #3 at bonding, which works a bit better by virtue of Picard asking about Miranda. Vigo is also rather surprised to realize that Picard knows all about his criminal record.

Crusher calls Picard to sickbay with a revelation: he isn’t Vigo’s father. His DNA was altered to make it appear that Picard was his father, a side effect of which was to give Vigo Forrester-Trent Syndrome.

Bok is able to beam Vigo off the Enterprise despite La Forge’s efforts to stop it. However, Data traces the beam and the subsequent gloating transmission from Bok to find the source. La Forge and Data modify the transporter to work as a subspace transporter that puts Picard on Bok’s bridge. Picard reveals that Vigo is not his son, which prompts Tol, one of his crew, to lament that he’ll never pay the ransom. But there is no ransom, and Bok is not a true DaiMon. Tol, realizing there’s no profit and that he and the crew were deceived, takes Bok into custody.

Vigo stays on board long enough to get his Forrester-Trent treated, and then goes back home to Camor V. Picard gives him an archaeological relic as a gift before he beams back.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Subspace transporters work over much greater distances, but are unstable and dangerous. This doesn’t prevent them from working absolutely perfectly every single time they’re used in this episode.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi checks in on Vigo, offering her professional services. Vigo prefers instead to flirt with her, and poorly at that.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data’s sheer awesomeness keeps the plot moving, as he’s able to figure out that Bok is using a subspace transporter, finds out everything about Vigo, and is even able to find Vigo on a planet full of people.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard’s womanizing ways seen in “Tapestry” apparently continued into adulthood, as he had a two-week romance with Miranda Vigo, and promptly forgot all about her.

I Believe I Said That: “But one thing is clear: you’ll never look at your hairline again in the same way.”

Picard, providing Vigo with the ugly truth about being his son.

Welcome Aboard: The character of Bok returns, but this time played by Lee Arenberg, who previously played two other Ferengi on “Force of Nature” and Deep Space Nine’s “The Nagus.” Frank Corsentino played Bok in “The Battle,” as well as two other Ferengi in “Ménàge à Troi” and Voyager’s “Inside Man,” but he was unavailable for this episode. Peter Slutsker also plays his third Ferengi as Birta, having been different Ferengi in “Ménàge à Troi” and “Suspicions,” while Michelan Sisti makes his only Ferengi appearance as Tol. Ken Olandt plays Jason Vigo as a smarmy asshole.

Trivial Matters: This episode is a sequel to “The Battle,” with Bok continuing to attempt revenge against Picard for the death of his son at Maxia Zeta.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Bloodlines

One of the names Picard called out in “The Battle” when he relived Maxia Zeta was “Vigo,” the weapons officer. When he wrote the novel Reunion, which provided details about Picard’s crew on the Stargazer, Michael Jan Friedman had Vigo as a male Pandrilite. Sagan’s script for this episode originally had a line that Miranda Vigo was the sister of the weapons officer, though it was cut. As yet, the relationship, if any, between the Pandrilite Vigo and the human Miranda Vigo has not been addressed.

This episode came about when co-executive producer Jeri Taylor asked Sir Patrick Stewart if there were any outstanding plot/character points he thought should be addressed before the show ended, and Stewart mentioned Bok. Taylor then gave Nick Sagan the assignment to write it. Sagan named Forrester-Trent Syndrome after the writer of “The Battle” (Larry Forrester) and the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor).

Make it So: “I have a life back on Camor.” The biggest problem with this episode is honestly in the recasting of Frank Corsentino with Lee Arenberg. Allegedly, the producers couldn’t find Corsentino (though they found him eventually when Voyager’s “Inside Man” came ’round), but Arenberg spends the entire episode being absolutely nothing like Corsentino. It’s easy to just dismiss the Ferengi as all being alike, but—leaving aside that Armin Shimerman, Aron Eisenberg, and Max Grodénchik spent seven years on Deep Space Nine proving that wrong—this episode is a strong case against that. The Bok of “The Battle” was a father who was devastated by the loss of his son. There was an emotional hook to his revenge. But Arenberg, sadly, just plays Bok as someone who shouts a lot. This will serve him well in other roles (particularly on Enterprise as a Tellarite ambassador), but makes the character considerably less interesting here.

Not that the episode doesn’t have dozens of other problems, like its complete inability to commit to its premise. It could’ve been cool if Picard really did have a long-lost son and he was kind of a dick, but the show refuses to actually pursue the interesting path, instead having it be a technobabble solution where Bok basically created a son in order to devastate Picard by killing him.

On top of that, Bok’s whole plan relies upon the use of a subspace transporter, which they pulled directly out of their asses so that Bok could properly torture Picard. Lip service is paid to its danger, but that danger is never actually shown. It’s not like, say, the dimensional shift in “The High Ground,” where the risk in using the technology is front and center. Subspace transporting is dangerous only because Data says it is and we’ve never seen it before or since, but it does everything it’s supposed to do in this story without any ill effects. It’s the laziest of lazy technobabble writing.

And then in the end, Bok pulls the same trick on his fellow Ferengi that he pulled in “The Battle,” lying about the profit in the mission, and it doesn’t work this time, either. If we saw Bok as someone who was suffering legitimate grief about his son, it might have been more interesting, but nobody seemed interested in showing genuine emotion in this episode.

Including, sadly, the guy atop the credits. Picard’s reaction to a long-lost son is surprisingly muted, his bonding attempts perfunctory and flat. Compare this episode to DS9’s pilot episode “Emissary” and the look on Picard’s face when Sisko reveals that he was a survivor of Wolf 359. Sir Patrick Stewart recoils as if he’s been slapped, and devastation and horror is writ large on his face. He manages more in that single closeup on “Emissary” than he can manage to scrape together at any point in this episode.

The story of Picard discovering a long-lost son and having him targeted could’ve been a good one. This ain’t it.


Warp factor rating: 3

Keith R.A. DeCandido is in the midst of his promotion to second-degree black belt in karate as he does this rewatch. If all goes well, he’ll have that second stripe by the time the rewatch for “Emergence” goes live....

Alright Then
1. Alright Then
Wasn't subspace transporting (or something like it) used in the 2009 Star Trek movie? Lazy writing indeed.

The final season of TNG had too many episodes like this--half an interesting idea but in dire need of a rewrite... or two.

Looking forward to the DS9 rewatch.
Alright Then
2. Sean O'Hara
I'm surprised you didn't mention the biggest flaw of the episode -- it's a retread of the David Marcus plotline from TWoK, except whereas David's animosity towards Kirk was well founded and well portrayed by Merritt Butrick, here it's just used for another of the Seventh Seasons' lame, soap operaesque family reunion shows without any effort to get a decent actor in the main role.
Alright Then
I agree that it wasn't a very good episode, but disagree about it being better if the long lost son was real. Personally I was groaning about them using that trope and was relieved when they went with the relatively new twist of trying to create a fake son for the emotional damage.

Take out the subspace transporter, make the villain more menacing, and tap more into Picard's previous angst over sacrificing his chances at family for his career and I don't think you need the son to be real.
Alright Then
4. RobinM
I agree the biggest problem with this episode is nobody has an emotional commitment to anything. By the end of the episode I didn't even care that the kid wasn't Picard's even though I thought it was a cop out. The best line is the one about Vigo's hair especially considering what Daniel Stewart looks like.
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
Alright Then: I thought so, but technically what we got in JJTrek was transwarp transporting, so it wasn't exactly the same thing.....

Sean: *shrug* The Wrath of Khan was hardly the first time anyone did a long-lost son story. It was just marginally better than average (as opposed to "Bloodlines"). But it's far too common a trope for this to be considered a ripoff of that particular instance of it, IMO.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Alright Then
6. Don3Comp
Sean and KRAD:

Actually, I think this episode bears a much closer similarity to "Future Imperfect" than it does to "The Wrath of Kahn." David Marcus really was Kirk's son; neither Riker nor Picard turned out to actually be a dad in the respective episodes. In both, Picard and Riker, to their credit, try to share their hobbies/obsessions (Riker's trombone, etc.) with their "sons."
Christopher Bennett
7. ChristopherLBennett
In my TNG prequel novel The Buried Age, I made a passing reference to the coincidental similarity in names between Picard's weapons officer and the woman he had a fling with. I guess that counts as addressing it, albeit barely.

I actually liked Arenberg better than Corsentino, because he was more effectively menacing. But you have a point about him being more one-dimensional and unsympathetic. I hadn't considered that before.

@1: Yeah, I tend to assume the "transwarp beaming" in the movie was the same technology as the subspace transporter here. The problems with the technology as explained here help to justify why the technique in the movie wouldn't become a routine thing and render starships obsolete. Sure, the episode didn't do more than pay lip service to those dangers, but that doesn't stop us from choosing to believe they're real. (To Keith, yeah, the name was different, but the movie was using "transwarp" in the sense of "across the warp barrier," i.e. from a transporter at sublight to a ship at warp, rather than in the sense of "beyond warp speeds" that transwarp drive uses. So I choose to think it is the same subspace beaming technology; it's only called "transwarp" in the specific case when it's between a stationary location and a ship at warp.)

I was never really convinced that you could disguise a person's DNA to look like another person's DNA, but recently I saw a CSI episode (I think) where someone managed to fool a standardized DNA test by constructing a gene sequence that only contained the specific markers it usually tested for. So if Crusher's standardized test also looked at just a few markers instead of the whole genome, it might be possible to alter those specific markers enough to fool the test. And then there was something I've seen in a couple of cop shows this season: if someone gets a bone marrow transplant, their blood cells will contain the donor's DNA rather than their own. So if the test was done with a blood sample, maybe Bok just altered the genes in Jason's bone marrow.

Casting trivia: Michelan Sisti was the performer inside the Michaelangelo (sic) costume in the first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies in the '90s.
Jack Flynn
8. JackofMidworld
I think that if he really HAD been Picard's son, that would jumped the ep up to at least a 6. The whole "rewriting dna" thing really threw my suspension of disbelief out the window when I watched this one; I probably could've lived with the rest of the little bits of bad if they'd have toyed with a son.
Alright Then
9. Nicholas Winter
Jeri Taylor did *not* ask Sir Patrick Stewart as he was not knighted until much later. At this point, he was just Patrick Stewart.
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
One thing I forgot to mention: It annoys me that they had two consecutive episodes called "Firstborn" and "Bloodlines" and dealing with a main character's (real or supposed) son, because I'm always forgetting which is which.
Alright Then
11. Scavenger
This is part of a weird period in Trek where it seemed like the kept doing stories about "children" turning away from the path of their "parents".

Journey's End: Wesley turns away from the path of his dead father.
First Born: Alexander turns away from the path of his bad father.
Bloodlines: Jason is not/against the path of his fake father.
The upcoming one where Ro turns against the path of her father figure Picard.
And one on DS9 where Jake says he doesn't want to be in Starfleet, turning against the path of his father.

Did anyone else notice this? Was there something going on behind the scenes? Is it just me?
Alright Then
12. Tesh
I always think of this one as being from season 2 or 3 for some reason. It just *feels* like an early, schlocky story.
Alright Then
13. Lsana
I don't remember much about this episode, but I seem to recall Jason was in on the scam (and his minor criminal record was supposed to have been a clue that he wasn't above such things). That wasn't in the summary; am I misremembering or was it just not important enough to mention?

Also, bad science alert in your "I believe I said that": The primary cause of male-pattern baldness is a gene on the X chromosome; Picard has little to do with it. If Jason really wants to know about his hairline, he needs to look at Miranda's father.
Alright Then
14. Lsana

I don't know that I would include Jake Sisko in that list. There never seemed to be any expectation he would be in Starfleet, and Sisko's reaction when he found out Jake wanted to be a writer was basically, "Awesome. You're talented. But work on your spelling." Jake chose a different career than his father did, but there was never any sense that he was rebelling, any more than the early-season Wesley was rebelling by not chosing to go to med school.

Nog, however, is a good example. He chose to join Starfleet precisely because he wanted a different path from his father (and interestingly enough, his father ended up following Nog's path).
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@13: Interesting thing to know about baldness. I have my father's hairline, so I've always expected I'd go bald on about the same schedule he did, but he already had a significant bald spot by my current age and I've still got a full head of hair (though one that's graying at about the same rate as his). I guess your comment explains that.
Alright Then
16. Ryon
Certainly a poor episode. What I took away from your review though is that I can't wait for you to start reviewing DS9. Seriously, I am chomping at the bit!!!!!
Alright Then
17. CPRoark
@13 and 15: That's what I was always told too, but my maternal grandfather (at 87) has a full head of grey hair and I (at 34) am nearly bald on top. Just like my dad, and his dad. :(
Alright Then
18. TBGH
From my understanding, the gene for baldness is on the X-chromosome and is recessive, which is why women go bald much less frequently than men. So if you go bald, 50% it came from your mom's dad, 25% it came from your mom's mom's dad, 12.5% it came from your mom's mom's mom's dad, etc.
adam miller
19. adamjmil

Pretty sure Jason was not in on the scam. Basically he was just some random d-bag that got caught up in it because of his mother's relationship with Picard some 24 years prior.
Keith DeCandido
20. krad
Jason was not in on the scam, no. That actually would've been awesome. Another missed opportunity in an episode full of 'em.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Alright Then
21. Lance Sibley
Plot hole alert! How does Bok even know that Picard had a fling 24 years ago with a woman who's now dead (and presumably died while Bok was in prison for his unprofitable venture in "The Battle")? He couldn't have found out from Jason Vigo, since he didn't know. And I can't imagine someone just randomly volunteering that information out of left field, even if Bok had somehow, coincidentally, met Miranda.

It seems to me that the whole plot hinged on finding a woman whom Picard had had sex with at some point - and presumably a dead one, so that Picard couldn't contact her to confirm the story. Unless there's a thriving tabloid industry in the Federation that we don't know about, with women penning sordid tell-all memoirs about their affairs with starship captains, I don't know how Bok could even set this plan in motion.
Alright Then
22. tortillarat
I'm amazed we agree on a bad one! hahahaha
Alright Then
23. Greenygal
@21--I suppose I could summon up a theory in which Bok had hired investigators to go over every inch of Picard's life looking for a potential target (his brother's family would be difficult to get at, living in the heart of the Federation as they do), and it was an unexpected bonus when one of them turned up a kid who actually potentially could be Picard's son and let him enact this poetic justice thing. However, a) you'll notice this isn't in the episode at all and b) I'm still having to envision that somebody found out that a dead woman had a two-week romance with Picard twenty-four years ago. Really?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
24. Lisamarie
My husband said that this episode had the F word in it, haha. But while I agree on the general lacklusterness of this episode, for Ferengi, this wasn't so bad. The idea at least was interesting (grieving over your own son and going after the son of his killer) if not the execution, and at least Bok in this case was a bit less of a bumbling idiot than some of the others.
Alright Then
25. Lsana

Thanks. I could swear I remembered a scene between Jason and Bok after Bok beamed Jason off the Enterprise. In this scene, Jason congradulated Bok on having gotten his revenge and asked to be given his money and let go--at which point Bok reveals he's actually planning to kill him. However, I guess I either imagined this scene, misinterpretted it, or pulled it in from a different episode.
Alright Then
26. Lsana

Well, like everything else in biology, it's more complicated than a short description (or even a long description) can convey. Everyone agrees that the main gene that determines baldness is on the X chromosome, and if you want to know if you'll go bald, you look at your mother's relatives. However, they also acknowledge some pretty clear exceptions (like your family apparently). I'm hardly an expert on the subject of baldness, but some of the discussion I've seen suggests that while your mother's genes determine whether it will happen or not, if it's going to happen, your father may play a role in determining the exact pattern in which it does.

But it's biology, so doubtless that's still way oversimplified.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
27. Lisamarie
@25 - if I remember correctly, what you are remembering is the scene where Jason tries to convince him to let him go and just send over a shirt with a phaser blast or something like that, and says he'll pay him. But Bok says he wants there to be no doubt.
Alright Then
I just can' get over how inane Patrick Stewart is that over 7 years of plotlines the one he wanted to close was Daimon Bok???? Really???? this is why ST storylines shouldn't be given to people that do not love star trek!
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Love for ST has nothing to do with it. There are people who love ST but couldn't come up with a good story idea if their lives depended on it (browse any fanfic site and you'll find plenty), and there are people who have no special affinity for ST but are talented enough storytellers to distinguish a worthwhile idea from a poor one. People tend to forget that the most beloved Trek movie, TWOK, was made by a writer/producer and director who had little to no familiarity with ST before they were hired to do the movie. (Personally I don't like the direction Nicholas Meyer took Trek, but most fans love TWOK, so it's inconsistent when they turn around and claim you have to be a Trek fan to do a good Trek story.)
Christopher Turkel
30. Applekey
I also found the constant reference to "Sir Patrick Stewart" annoying. He hadn't been knighted then. Is this how it's going to be now, this reference in every summary? If so, count me out.
Alright Then
31. Eric T Reynolds
@9 and @30,

It's common to refer to someone's current title when speaking about what they did in the past. Only if KRAD had quoted Jeri Taylor would it have been in error.
Alright Then
32. Lsana

That sounds like that could be it. Misinterpretted it is then. We can blame it on the fact that I was pretty young when I saw this episode, that it just made more sense to me that Bok would have been able to re-write Jason's DNA with Jason's consent than without it, and/or the fact that the actor didn't really managed to convey "I've been kidnapped by a guy planning to kill me and I'll do anything to live" but rather "I'm waiting for my paycheck to clear."
Keith DeCandido
33. krad
Applekey: I've been referring (properly, I might add) to the actor who played Picard as "Sir Patrick Stewart" for almost two full years now and across 179 blog entries, so to start complaining about it now is leaving it a bit late in the game..... :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Turkel
34. Applekey
That's rather narrow minded of you, but carry on.
Jenny Thrash
35. Sihaya
#34: No, it seems about right. You complained that the address of 'Sir' is "how it's going to be now," as if it's some new ocurrance. You didn't notice it before and it didn't bother you. But since you've noticed now, you've called him out as if it's a sudden affectation. He pointed out that it's not sudden and it's hardly incorrect, and you call him narrow minded! Carry on, indeed, KRAD.
Joseph Newton
36. crzydroid
I didn't care for the long-lost son trope, and I also didn't think the actor that played Jason could really carry it at all. The only scene that had any sort of resonance was the cliff scene. I think I used to get this confused with "Suddenly Human," and it is sort of similar. Not only is Picard trying to be a father figure, but there is even a similar scene where Picard is trying to show off/explain his relics and the son figure does not care.

@17: I think you did not consider your maternal grandmother's father. But I was looking this up on wikipedia, and it seems that it may be a little more complex than that, as someone pointed out, and males can pass on susceptibility to their sons. They probably have no clue.
Alright Then
37. JohnC
The only thing funnier than someone "counting himself out" of reading this rewatch because krad insists on putting a three-letter title in front of an actor's name (the horror!) is the fact that he's doing it with 3 episodes left in the final season. The sacrifice borne of such high principles is awe-inspiring.

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