After Worf is paralyzed by a freak accident, his only hope may be a visiting doctor with questionable morals.
Lt. Worf and Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge are in a cargo bay investigating strange readings. The tricorders aren't able to detect the exact problems, and no one knows that a large, heavy container sitting on a high shelf is leaking. Another similar container is sitting on top of it. Eventually enough of the material leaks out that the lower container begins to buckle under the weight of the upper container. The two containers fall, and the upper container hits Worf in his back. La Forge summons emergency medical care.
Worf wakes up in sickbay to find that his spinal cord has been crushed, resulting in paralysis. Dr. Beverly Crusher has Dr. Toby Russell, a neurological specialist, called in. The two doctors find themselves in uncharted territory: in Klingon medicine those who are paralyzed are allowed to die. Klingons with these injuries would often commit ritual suicide. Dr. Russell is amazed by Klingon anatomy, which has 23 ribs, two livers, and an eight-chambered heart. For Klingons, every vital function has a backup system.
Commander Riker goes to visit his friend in his hospital room. Worf asks him for a favor. When Riker tells him to name it, Worf asks Riker to help him commit ritual suicide. Riker is shocked and repulsed by what Worf is asking for — basically to hand him a knife and leave him to stab himself in the heart.
Alexander is upset over his father's accident, and even more upset that Worf will not allow Alexander to see him in his condition.
Dr. Russell proposes a new surgical procedure to help Worf to Dr. Crusher. Dr. Russell believes that she can use what she calls a genitronic replicator to create an entirely new spinal column for Worf. But it would be the first time she would do this on a living being. Despite this Russell wants to continue. At first, Russell and Crusher have Worf try using devices to transmit impulses to the appropriate muscles. But when it is revealed that Worf would not have full mobility, he refuses to use the devices. Against Crusher's wishes, Russell proposes the genitronic procedure to Worf.
Meanwhile, the USS Enterprise-D diverts to render aid to the USS Denver, after the latter struck a Cardassian gravitic mine while transporting over 500 colonists. Dr. Crusher sets up triage units in the shuttlebays, and accepts Russell's offer for assistance. After meeting the other ship, the Enterprise medical staff begin treating casualties. Dr. Crusher discovers that a patient under Dr. Russell's care had died after Russell tried an untested, experimental treatment on the patient. Outraged by Russell's reckless choice of a radical approach over conventional treatment, Crusher relieves Russell of duty, and tells Russell that she will not be permitted to practice medicine on board the Enterprise.
Captain Picard meets with Dr. Crusher after he learns that she has relieved Russell of duty. She had found that Starfleet had refused permission to allow Russell to use living subjects for her procedure. Crusher says that Worf was basically healthy for the time being, but that if he went into surgery he could die. Picard tells her that she should consider allowing Russell to perform the operation. He tells her that the only way to save Worf's life is to do this. Even though Crusher knows Worf could have a full life even with this paralysis, Picard knows that Worf's Klingon upbringing says that his life was over the moment he was struck by the container.
Riker studies the Klingon death ritual, and finds that Worf's son Alexander — his only immediate family member — would need to be the one to help. It is not Riker's place to help Worf commit suicide. In light of this, Worf summons Alexander to sickbay and informs him that he has chosen not to kill himself, but instead to try the surgical procedure suggested by Dr. Russell.
Worf goes into surgery. Before going, he asks Counselor Troi if she would raise Alexander if he does not survive the operation, and she accepts. Russell and Crusher remove the old spinal cord. They use a scanner to try to scan Worf's spinal cord, but the main scanner has trouble reading the cord. Russell scans the remainder of the cord herself. Once that's done, they begin generating a new spinal cord. Everything seems to go right up to the end of the operation, when suddenly Worf crashes and apparently dies on the operating table.
Crusher goes to tell Alexander that Worf has died. Alexander demands to see his father. When they come back they find that Worf's synaptic functions have reactivated; his brain also had a backup system. This allowed him to survive the operation. Soon his body begins functioning again.
While thrilled that Worf will recover, Crusher is disturbed by Russell's attitude of "the ends justify the means." Crusher tells Russell that real research is a slow and painstaking process, and that she cannot abide Russell's shortcuts.
After the operation, Worf begins the process of physical therapy. The process is slow as it takes time for Worf's body to adjust to the new spinal cord; Worf stumbles while he re-learns to walk. Watching his father stumbling, Alexander starts to move to him, but Deanna reminds him of the Klingon stoicism about which she's spoken to him. Surprisingly, Worf asks for Alexander's help, and tells him that they will struggle together. Within a few weeks, Worf heals completely, regains full mobility, and returns to his duties.
"No question about it: she was bluffing, Worf."
"Bluffing is not one of Counselor Troi's strong suits... It would have been unwise to call. Yes, my hand was not strong enough!"
"You had Jacks and eights; she bluffed you with a pair of sixes!"
"How did you know what I had?"
"Let's just say I had a special "insight" into the cards..." (points to his VISOR) "Maybe next time you should bring a deck that's not transparent to infrared light."
- - Geordi and Worf, discussing a recent officers' poker game
"I've done dozens of holo-simulations. The success rate is up to 37 percent."
"Even a holographic patient would balk at those odds."
- - Dr. Russell and Dr. Crusher, discussing Dr. Russell's experimental surgery
"He's been injured and he's embarrassed. And to have anyone see him now would make him feel worse. Even if it were you."
"This is part of that Klingon stuff, isn't it? My mother always said Klingons had a lot of dumb ideas about honor."
"That Klingon stuff is very important to your father."
- - Alexander and Deanna, discussing why Worf wouldn't see his son in his injured state
"Do you remember Sandoval? Hit with a disruptor blast two years ago. She lived for about a week. Fang-lee, Marla Aster, Tasha Yar! How many men and women, how many friends have we watched die? I've lost count. Every one of them, every single one, fought for life until the very end."
- - Riker, arguing with Worf about his decision to commit ritual suicide
- - Dr. Crusher and Dr. Russell, attempting to revive Worf
"I am delighted that Worf is going to recover. You gambled, he won. Not all of your patients are so lucky. You scare me, Doctor. You risk your patients' lives and justify it in the name of research. Genuine research takes time. Sometimes a lifetime of painstaking, detailed work in order to get any results. Not for you. You take short cuts. Right through living tissue. You put your research ahead of your patients' lives. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a violation of our most sacred trust. I'm sure your work will be hailed as a stunning breakthrough. Enjoy your laurels, Doctor. I'm not sure I could."
- - Dr. Crusher, confronting Dr. Russell
- In an alternate reality shown in the 7th season episode "Parallels", Worf and Deanna Troi fall in love after his operation, and the couple soon marries.
- During most of the surgery Worf is played by Al Foster, the photo double for Michael Dorn.
- Unlike DS9: "Sons of Mogh", it was not clarified if this form of ritual Klingon murder/suicide would allow a Klingon soul to enter Sto-vo-kor (though it can perhaps be inferred as such, from the fact that it is an accepted ritual of the Klingon culture).
- It is worth noting that while Commander Riker was encouraged by Captain Picard to carry out the ritual of Hegh'bat, Worf himself was arrested by Odo for attempting a similar ritual on his own brother in DS9: "Sons of Mogh".
In the novel A Time for War, A Time for Peace the Enterprise is being inspected by a Starfleet team and Dr. Russell is inspecting the medical department. In another argument between Russell and Dr. Crusher, Crusher remarks again about genitronics. Russell is still amazed that Crusher is upset about her procedure, one which worked and Crusher remarks that it only barely worked and then did so because of the unique nature of Klingon physiology. And Crusher is also able to comment, much to Russell's irritation, that in the decade or so since Worf's surgery, after the initial wave of articles about genitronics after the procedure, nothing has ever been heard again regarding genitronics.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 58, 11 January 1993.
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 5.6, 18 November 2002.
- As part of the TNG Season 5 DVD collection.
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- Lena Banks as an operations divisiosn ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Carl David Burks as Ensign Russell
- Grace Harrell as an operations division ensign
- Mark Lentry as a science division lieutenant
- Sissy Sessions as an operations division ensign
- John Tampoya as a command division ensign
Photo doubles and stand-ins
- Al Foster as photo double for Michael Dorn
- Sissy Sessions as photo double for Patti Yasutake
- Dru Wagner as photo double for Caroline Kava
Adelman Neurological Institute; alkysine; Marla Aster; Beloti sector; biobed; borathium;brak'lul; Cardassian war; cargo bay; chlorinide; chloromydride; cordrazine; cortical stimulator; CPK enzymatic therapy; Beverly Crusher; cybernetics; USS Denver; detronal scanner; drechtal beam; USS Enterprise-D; exoscalpel; Fang-lee; inaprovaline; genitronic replicator; genitronics; gravitic mine; Hegh'bat; Klingon; Klingon Medical Division; laser scalpel; leporazine; Mericor system; morathial series; motor assist band; neural metaphasic shock; neural transducer; neurogenetics; Alyssa Ogawa; pia mater; poker; polyadrenaline; USS Potemkin (NCC-18253); restraining field; William T. Riker; Alexander Rozhenko; Helena Rozhenko; Sergey Rozhenko; Toby Russell; ribosome infusion; Sandoval; Sector 37628; shuttlebay; sickbay; Spinal cord; Starfleet Medical; steri-field; surgical support frame; thalamic booster; tricorder; Deanna Troi; VeK'tal; VISOR; Worf; Natasha Yar; Mylaira system; Kelnaria region; dynoscanner; Duras, son of Ja'rod; Romulan; Klingon Civil War; inoprovaline; isocortex
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