“The Icarus Factor”
Written by David Assael and Robert McCullough
Directed by Robert Iscove
Season 2, Episode 14
Production episode 40272-140
Original air date: April 24, 1989
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise arrives at Starbase Montgomery. An engineering team is investigating some readout anomalies, while Riker is informed that he’s been offered a command. The captain of the Starship Aries is retiring, and Starfleet wants Riker to take the center seat and lead the ship’s exploration of Vega Omicron, a sector that has indications of new life.
The starbase sends a strategic attaché to give him a personal briefing on the Vega Omicron mission—that civilian advisor turns out to be Kyle Riker, Will Riker’s father. They haven’t spoken in fifteen years, and Riker’s demeanor toward his father could charitably be called “cold.”
However, “cold” is the exact opposite reaction that Pulaski has—turns out she and Kyle have a past, and they catch up. Riker, however, refuses every overture, while he vacillates on the subject of taking the commission. He gets advice from both Pulaski and Picard on the subject. Picard’s advice is particularly compelling: on the Enterprise, he’s still second in command, but on the Aries, even though he’d be on a small ship in an obscure sector, it would be his ship.
Meanwhile, both La Forge and Worf are out of sorts. The former is cranky at the rather large team of engineers the starbase sent to look over the engines. The latter’s issues take a bit longer to suss out: it’s the tenth anniversary of the Klingon’s Age of Ascension. It’s supposed to be a day of celebration with one’s fellow Klingons, but Worf doesn’t have any of those around.
Wes programs the holodeck to simulate the ritual, which he, La Forge, Data, Pulaski, and O’Brien attend. (Troi brings him there, but does not stay for the ceremony.)
The Rikers finally decide to have it out by facing each other in Anbo-jytsu, which Kyle laughably refers to as the ultimate evolution of martial arts. While wearing outfits that look like a combination of motorcross uniforms, Japanese armor, and Power Rangers costumes, they fight each other with giant staffs in a small circle with visors covering their faces. An evolutionary dead end, maybe….
Anyhow, it comes out that Kyle has been cheating since Riker was twelve because the son kept beating the father, and he had to keep the boy interested. Kyle says he loves Riker, Riker inexplicably says that he’s glad Kyle came, they hug each other, and Kyle goes off. Riker then comes onto the bridge, saying that he’s not taking the Aries because he finally remembered after 45 minutes that he’s in the opening credits, and therefore can’t leave the show.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Pulaski puts Kyle together with Troi, during which she psychoanalyzes him within an inch of his life. Later, she and Riker have a tearful, cliché-ridden, and utterly pointless goodbye, since Riker doesn’t actually take the command.
If I Only Had a Brain…: At the beginning of the episode, Data suggests that the Enterprise‘s readout anomalies can be solved by reprogramming the computer. After a lengthy once-over by Starbase Montgomery’s team, they recommend that they reprogram the computer, just as Data said. That’s why they pay him the android money….
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Pulaski has been married three times, all to men with whom she’s still on good terms. Kyle was almost number four, and she does say she loves him, but she didn’t think it would work. She tells Riker that she fell in love with him when he recovered from grave injuries under her care following an attack on a starbase where he was serving as a civilian advisor.
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf runs a gauntlet of painstik-wielding Klingons, admitting his innermost feelings—phrases like “blood of my enemies,” “bile,” “river of blood,” and other happy, shiny thoughts come out of his mouth, both in English and Klingon. At the end, he looks up at the others and utters a pained, “thank you.” It’s actually kind of touching….
I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Pulaski never thought it was worth mentioning her prior relationship with Kyle. She insists that it never came up, having apparently forgotten that it came up just last week in “Time Squared.”
The boy!?: Wes is the one who notices that Worf is out of sorts, figures out that it’s the anniversary of his Age of Ascension, and programs the holodeck to do the ceremony.
What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: The Klingon ceremony is re-created, allowing Worf to party hearty without having to leave the ship.
Welcome Aboard: Mitchell Ryan does an excellent job playing Kyle Riker as a spectacular jackass. Colm Meaney plays a major supporting role as O’Brien, for the first time acting as a serious part of the cast, sharing a drink with Riker, chatting with La Forge about the inspection, and joining the gang on the holodeck for Worf’s party.
I Believe I Said That: “Now, let me guess: twenty-piece orchestra, magnificent ballroom, everyone in formalwear?”
La Forge’s sarcastic speculation regarding the specifics of Worf’s Age of Ascension ceremony.
Trivial Matters: This is the second time Riker’s been offered a command and turned it down, the first revealed in “The Arsenal of Freedom,” when he said he turned down the Drake, choosing instead to sign on to the Enterprise. He will turn down yet another command, the Melbourne, in “The Best of Both Worlds,” and will finally sit in the center seat following Star Trek Nemesis on Titan.
Kyle Riker is the focus of about half of Jeff Mariotte’s novel Deny Thy Father, the other half of which follows Will Riker’s time in the Academy. He also appeared in two issues of DC’s TNG comic book in 1995 by Michael Jan Friedman and Gordon Purcell, and in the Voyager novel Mosaic by Jeri Taylor. He finally appeared in Robert Greenberger’s A Time to Love and A Time to Hate, during which he was killed and Riker accepted command of Titan.
Picard recalls Riker’s manual docking of the Enterprise‘s saucer section with its stardrive section in “Encounter at Farpoint,” admitting that he was “miserly” in his congratulations for his accomplishing it back then.
The cohost of Entertainment Tonight at the time, and also sometime New Age musician, John Tesh played one of the Klingons, apparently a lifelong dream of his. The overwhelmingly bland Tesh playing a Klingon is just too hilarious.
Make it So: “I can’t believe you fell for that.” What a dreadful episode. The entire plot revolves around a decision that is preordained by virtue of Jonathan Frakes’s position in the #2 spot in the opening credits. So we are subjected to endless scenes of pointless Riker agonizing combined with endless scenes of the Riker Family Drama. Kyle is an egomaniacal, self-centered jackass who deserves every bit of scorn that his son directs at him. Whatever redeeming features he might have had goes out the window when he dismisses his abandoning Riker at age fifteen: “I hung in for thirteen years, if that wasn’t enough, that’s just too bad.”
Worse, his very existence sabotages Pulaski as a character. Here’s a hint, guys: if you want your new chief medical officer to be sympathetic, don’t establish that she loves this guy.
And then we have the “ultimate evolution of the martial arts.” When I first watched this episode as a college student, I thought Anbo-jytsu was stupid. Now, twenty-five years later, I’m a first-degree black belt in karate, and I can say with authority that Anbo-jytsu was incredibly stupid. Staffs that long are completely impractical in a circle that small. Plus, the “ultimate evolution of the martial arts” would require physical skill beyond manipulation of a staff, none of which are in evidence in the Rikers’ match.
Finally, we have the ending. The Rikers have been sniping at each other the whole episode, culminating in Kyle revealing that he’s been cheating at Anbo-jytsu in order to keep beating his son at it. Then, Kyle says he loves him—suddenly, the sun comes out, flowers bloom, birdies chirp, and all is right with the world. Riker hugs him and says he’s glad he came. Say what?
The subplots with Worf and with La Forge and the engineering team are entertaining, but they’re B-plots that can’t carry this testosterone-drenched machismo-laced crap.
Warp factor rating: 3
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in a new anthology called Liar Liar that is filled with stories about lies, and also is the author of new novels Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his various podcasts, The Chronic Rift, Dead Kitchen Radio, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.