(written from a Production point of view)
Worf decides to take into his House the child of a slain subordinate, but the child is having trouble accepting his mother's death, especially when she mysteriously reappears.
The USS Enterprise-D encounters a planet that appears to be uninhabited. Captain Picard sends an away team to investigate, led by Worf. Picard learns that the planet was once inhabited by a race called the Koinonians, but due to a war, every last person on the planet was annihilated; the civilization seems to have killed itself off.
An accident happens to the away team; one of the members, Enterprise archaeologist Lieutenant Marla Aster, is killed when an unexploded mine detonates in a ceremonial chamber. She is pronounced dead upon arrival at the ship.
Picard and Worf feel understandably very disturbed by this senseless death. The captain learns that the deceased crew member is survived only by a twelve-year old son, Jeremy. The son is now an orphan, as his father died when the boy was a child. Worf offers to go with the captain to tell Jeremy since he was the away team's leader. Picard says it is unnecessary, but does send another away team to the surface, headed by Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, to find out what happened.
On the bridge, Wesley Crusher tells Commander Riker that he understands what Jeremy will be going through since his father also died in the line of duty under Picard's command. Accompanied by Counselor Troi – expressing to her his disapproval of the policy allowing families on board precisely because situations like this on the turbolift ride – the captain reaches the classrooms and he breaks the news to the boy, who takes it bravely, but muses that he is completely alone now. Picard reminds him that on the starship Enterprise no one is ever alone.
Data finds Riker drinking in Ten Forward and asks why Humans ask how well one knows the deceased. Riker explains by using Lieutenant Yar's death. Data says he feels more loss when talking about Yar, and Riker says that is exactly how Humans feel when knowing someone close as opposed to someone one does not know well. Data muses why one should feel the same sense of loss when dealing with other people's death. Riker says that if that were true, Human history would be a lot less bloody.
In Picard's ready room, La Forge reports that five more explosive devices, left over from the Koinonian Wars, were found by the away team. However, unlike the one that killed Aster, these ones had recently been pulled up from the ground and defused despite there being no signs of any life on the planet.
Worf still feels very unsettled with the situation, understandably as he was also orphaned by parents who died in the line of duty. He feels awful for the senseless death of the crew member and frustrated that there is no enemy he can fight/kill to avenge her. While speaking to Troi in the Enterprise's computer access room, he has the idea of protecting the boy through a Klingon ritual that will bond the two together for life. Although Troi advises against showing too much affection to him so soon after his mother's death, Worf introduces himself to Jeremy.
Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher has called Wesley to her office so that he can talk to Jeremy about the loss of a parent. Dr. Crusher reasons that having someone not that much older to talk to would help Jeremy. Wesley asks his mother if she ever thinks about his dad. He says sometimes he can't remember what he looked like and then there are days like this one where he can remember every detail of the day, down to the last hug and Picard's eyes when he had to break the news.
On the bridge, Data reports an odd energy buildup on the planet's surface. The energy expands upwards from the planet, touching the ship. Soon afterward, Jeremy is alone in his quarters watching old videos of his parents on a PADD, when his mother appears to him, solid and seemingly real.
Marla explains to Jeremy that the crew "made a mistake" and that she is not dead. Then she tells him that they will live on the planet, in a home, like on Earth. She promises that everything is alright. At that moment, Worf enters to check up on Jeremy, and summons Picard and a security team to deal with the situation.
The Koinonian energy form posing as Marla Aster leads Jeremy to the transporter room where she wants Chief O'Brien to beam them to the surface. Picard and Troi catch up with them. The entity explains that she wants to take Jeremy to the planet, where they will live a happy life. Picard and Troi attempt to reason with her, but she is adamant. They take Jeremy from the transporter room by force, and the entity vanishes.
Troi comforts Jeremy as best she can, taking him back to his quarters, but the entity isn't gone for long, returning and transforming Jeremy's quarters into a facsimile of his house on Earth and even recreating his pet cat, Patches. She repeats her desire to return to the planet with Jeremy.
Troi explains to Picard that the entity doesn't understand why there is such resistance from the crew. It only wishes to make Jeremy happy. To thwart her efforts, La Forge remodulates the shields to block the energy from the planet; she and the recreation of the house again disappear.
With a surge of power from the planet, the energy being enters the ship again, takes down a few security officers, and transforms Jeremy's quarters once more.
La Forge gives the command to shut down all power to the transporters because even though the entities can come and go, Jeremy is flesh and blood and must use a transporter to leave the ship.
Picard talks to the entity, trying to establish its motives. It explains that there were once two races of Koinonians – one of energy, one of matter. The physical beings living on the planet engaged in a massive civil war while the energy beings refused to intervene/interfere. After the physical Koinonians destroyed themselves, the energy beings felt a terrible guilt that they might have been able to avert the tragedy if they had acted. They vowed never to let the conflict hurt another person, and feel responsible for the accident that killed Jeremy's mother. Therefore, they offer to raise him on the planet, and cannot comprehend why the Enterprise officers refuse to let them take him.
Picard summons Worf and also Wesley to help explain his position – that Humans must learn to deal with loss in their own way, and that they become stronger people overall because of it. He and Troi argue with the entity: how would he live on the planet with no friends, no career, no family? Wesley explains that when his father died, he hated Picard for a time because he survived the mission that killed Jack Crusher, but he has since got over his anger. Hearing this, Jeremy is able to express his anger at Worf, but quickly understands that he is really just angry that his mother is gone and it was not actually Worf's fault.
Worf tells Jeremy how his own parents were killed at Khitomer, and he was raised by Humans – then makes his offer to perform the R'uustai ritual with Jeremy, a ceremony that would make him a member of Worf's House. The energy being, seeing that Jeremy will be well looked after, leaves the ship.
Later, Worf and Jeremy go through the R'uustai ritual in Worf's quarters, uniting their houses and making them brothers.
"Away team is aboard, Captain. One dead on arrival."
- - Beverly Crusher, announcing the death of Marla Aster
"How do you get used to it… telling them?"
"You hope you never do."
- - Wesley, clearly affected by the death, and Riker
"He is an orphan; I am an orphan. He will understand."
- - Worf, telling Troi he intends to perform the R'uustai ceremony with Jeremy Aster
"I've always believed that having children on a starship is a very… questionable policy. Serving on a starship means… accepting certain risks, certain dangers… Did Jeremy Aster make that choice?"
"Death and loss are an integral part of life everywhere – leaving him on Earth would not have protected him."
"No… but the Earth isn't likely to be ordered to the Neutral Zone, or to repel a Romulan attack. It was my command which sent his mother to her death – she understood her mission and my duty… Will he?"
- - Picard and Troi, on the turbolift talking about how to break the news to Jeremy
"I'm all alone now."
"Jeremy, on the starship Enterprise, no one is alone… No one."
- - Jeremy Aster and Picard
"Let's just hope it doesn't blow us to kingdom come while it's figuring out how to blow us to kingdom come."
- - La Forge
"How well did you know Lt. Aster?"
"We spent some time together. Not very well. How well did you know her?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well you just asked me."
"But why do you ask the question? Since her death, I have been asked several times to define how well I knew Lt. Aster. And I heard you ask Wesley on the bridge how well he knew Jeremy. Does the question of familiarity have some bearing on death?"
"Do you remember how we all felt when Tasha died?"
"I do not sense the same feelings of absence I associate with Lt. Yar. Although, I cannot say precisely why."
"Just Human nature, Data."
"Human nature, sir?"
"We feel a loss more intensely when it's a friend."
"But should not the feelings run just as deep, regardless of who has died?"
"Maybe they should, Data. Maybe if we felt any loss as keenly as we felt the death of one close to us, Human history would be a lot less bloody."
- - Data and Riker, talking about the death of people close to them and not close
"Do you ever think about him, Mom?"
"Your father? Sure, I do."
"Sometimes, I can't even remember what his face looks like. Scares me."
"It happens to all of us, Wes. Sometimes, I can't get his face out of my mind."
- - Wesley and Beverly, talking about their memories of Jack Crusher
"I cannot seek revenge against an enemy who has turned to dust centuries ago. Her death was senseless. The last victim of a forgotten war."
- - Worf
"SoS jIH batlh SoH."
"What does that mean?"
"It honors the memory of our mothers. We have bonded and our families are stronger."
"SoS jIH batlh SoH."
- - Worf and Jeremy Aster, performing the R'uustai ceremony and becoming brothers
- First draft script: 7 August 1989
- Third revised final draft script: 23 August 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 23 October 1989
- Michael Piller recommends this episode, among others, in a memo to John Wentworth, president of Paramount's Network Television Publicity department: 7 December 1989 (The Making of Yesterday's Enterprise, p. 91)
- Mentioned approvingly in a one-page memo from Piller to TNG writing staff: 11 December 1989
- First UK airdate: 6 November 1991
Story and production
- This episode introduced Ronald D. Moore to the Star Trek writing fold, something he would be part of for ten years across three incarnations of Trek. Moore recalled, "I had been in LA for about three years, and I was doing an odd series of jobs – I was a messenger, I was an animal hospital receptionist… I did all kinds of things. Then I started dating this girl, and she had a connection to Star Trek: The Next Generation because she had helped work on the pilot, and she knew that I was a big fan of the original series. I had, like, books and posters and stuff in my apartment – I was a big fan of the old show. Next Gen was in its second season at that point, and she said, "You know, I could get you a tour of the sets." And I thought, "Oh, my god! I'd love to see the sets! It would be amazing!" It took, like, four weeks to set it up, and in the interim I just sorta decided to take a shot, and I sat down and wrote an episode. And I brought it with me. The guy who was giving the set tour, I conned him into reading it, and he turned out to be one of Gene Roddenberry's assistants. He really liked it, and he gave it to my first agent. She submitted it through the front door to the show, and it went into the slush pile. And it sat in the slush pile for about seven months. When the third season began, a new executive producer came on board – Michael Piller – and he went through the slush pile, and found it and bought it and produced it, and asked me to do a second one." 
- Piller recalled, "I came in without any shows to shoot. There were no stories and no scripts in the works, which is the greatest nightmare you can imagine. There's nothing to fall back on and the appetite of any weekly show is voracious, because as soon as you've got a script done you have to have another one right behind it and it continues that way. I went through every scrap of paper to see what was here from past administrations that I could develop. The first thing that came to my attention, the first thing I saw that had any value, was a speculative script that had been sitting around called 'The Bonding.' It appealed to me enormously. It needed a little work and hadn't tied the alien story in the other story quite right." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 187)
- The script went through a substantial rewrite by Melinda Snodgrass and Piller, and was according to Moore, "greatly improved in the process". (AOL chat, 1997) He noted, ""The Bonding" was completely out of my hands after I sold the script." (AOL chat, 1997)
- The biggest change to his script was that when Jeremy first learns his mother had been killed, he recreates her on the holodeck. Moore stated, "The thing I was playing with is what are the dangers of the holodeck. A kid goes in and recreates his dead mother. What do you do in that situation? They felt that they didn't want to do another holodeck show at that point, that it moved the focus away from the aliens. What sparked the idea was that we have this shipload of a thousand people, and this time they've brought their families. It never seems the series has dealt head-on with some of the question a family ship would inevitably bring up. I wanted to write a story about what happens when someone's mother dies, and what happens to that kid and our family on board the ship. That process naturally led to Worf, because he's an orphan as well." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 187)
- According to Piller, this change was at the behest of Gene Roddenberry, who objected that children in the twenty-fourth century would have a greater acceptance of death. It was Piller who suggested the alien involvement to fit the story into Roddenberry's vision. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 125; Fade In: The Making of Star Trek Insurrection [page number? • edit])
- Moore attended one day of shooting of the episode, where he met Patrick Stewart for the first time. Moore recalled, "He was very gracious and friendly when he learned that I had written the episode and then asked me if I was writing another. I had just gotten the assignment for 'Defector' and so I briefly told him the idea. He nodded his head, seemed intrigued, then said, 'Just remember one thing… the Captain doesn't do enough screwing or shooting in this series.' And then he turned and walked away. Now, THAT is the Captain of the Enterprise, if you ask me." (AOL chat, 1997)
Sets and props
- A model of a Constitution-class vessel (refit configuration) is on display in the Aster's quarters aboard the Enterprise-D.
- The bird sculpture seen in Marla Aster's home can also be seen in the reception area at Arkaria Base in the sixth season episode "Starship Mine", in the conference room of the Maquis in the seventh season episode "Preemptive Strike", and in Annorax ready room aboard the Krenim weapon ship in the Star Trek: Voyager fourth season episode "Year of Hell".
- This episode features the second and final usage of the Enterprise computer access room, which debuted four episodes earlier in "Evolution".
Several scenes were filmed but later cut from the episode during editing. These scenes came to light in May 2013 when Star Trek collector Cyril "Patchou" Paciullo (owning several more The Next Generation episodes work prints) uploaded the contents of an early work print VHS tape of the episode to the internet.  
- Act 1, Scene 6 – Portions of the sickbay sequence involving Worf and Crusher.
- Act 1, Scene 12 – A scene of Picard and Troi visiting Jeremy Aster in his shipboard classroom. Features guest actor Raymond D. Turner as Aster's teacher.
- Act 2, Scene 16 – A long scene between Troi and Aster, regarding the boy's feelings towards his mother's death. Features Troi's description of her own experience losing her father as a child.
- Act 2, Scene 18 – Troi cornering Worf in a corridor to discuss his feelings.
- Act 2, Scene 22A – A portion of Worf's introduction to Jeremy Aster.
- Act 3, Scene 31A – A portion of the initial discussion between Jeremy and the Marla Aster impersonation; cut due to references to also-cut A2/S16, listed above.
Paciullo submitted his tapes to TrekCore, who in turn brought him into contact with CBS.  However, this tape was discovered too late for the deleted scenes of the episode to be incorporated in the remastered episode, or otherwise be included on the 2013 TNG Season 3 Blu-ray release, as was his tape of companion episode "Evolution". Likewise, his tape of the second season episode "The Child", was uncovered far too late for any inclusion of the deleted scenes on its 2012 corresponding release. Still, his tape of the fourth season episode "The Wounded" was just in time uncovered for the deleted scenes, remastered in high definition, to be incorporated as part of the bonus features "Deleted Scenes" on the later that year released TNG Season 4 Blu-ray set.
- The fate of Jeremy Aster was never revealed. However, Marla Aster was mentioned once more, in TNG: "Ethics". It can be assumed, however, that Jeremy was reunited with his aunt and uncle on Earth. According to Moore, while the writing staff considered bringing Jeremy back for future stories, but that kind of continuity wasn't really done then. Later, they had introduced Worf's son, and decided Worf's story had gone off in a different direction and Jeremy was back on Earth, sending him occasional postcards (TNG Season 3 Blu-ray, episode commentary).
- Regarding the possibility of a sequel, Moore commented, "I've never felt like I wanted to follow up on Jeremy after "The Bonding". I'm not against it, but I don't have any interesting stories to tell with that character." (AOL chat, 1997)
- He later added, "I was not a big fan of the actor playing Jeremy, so in that sense I wasn't disappointed at all. It would've been interesting to continue the relationship on the Enterprise (with a different kid), but at that point in Trek, no one was even willing to think about continuing storylines, so it never came up." (AOL chat, 1998)
- In this episode, Riker and Data share an exchange reminiscent of one between Spock and McCoy in TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome". In that episode, Spock muses that if Humans felt the death of large groups as strongly as they felt the death of one, "it might have rendered your [Human] history a bit less bloody." Here, Data wonders why Humans do not feel the loss of a stranger as strongly as they feel the loss of a friend. Riker responds, "maybe if we felt the loss of any life as keenly as we felt the death of those close to us, human history would be a lot less bloody."
- Piller remarked, "I liked that show a lot and am very proud of it. I think it struck the heart of Star Trek, exploring the Human condition. This was a marvelous example of that." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 187)
- Director Winrich Kolbe opined, "Interesting show. I'm a little bit ambiguous about the little boy who I used to call Clark Gable, Jr. because of his ears. Again, it was a cute episode and a good one for Michael, but again it's not something that intrigued me that much. It's just not as strong as some of the others." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 187)
- A mission report for this episode by Robert Greenberger was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 11, pp. 9-13.
- Director Kolbe also remembers, "Vulnerability in Worf is an interesting concept, because the guy seems so invulnerable. To let him open up a little bit gives me a dichotomy I like. It's an intriguing concept visually and also as far as Worf is concerned. I have fond memories of that show." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 21, p. 31)
- While Jeremy Aster's story starts and ends with this episode, other sources show that Jeremy's relationship with Worf remained strong after his return to Earth: he seeks, and receives, romantic advice from Worf in DC Comics' "The Lesson", joins the House of Martok in Genesis Force, and has become close with Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, visiting them quite often, in Diplomatic Implausibility.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 27, 21 October 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 3.2, 3 April 2000
- As part of the TNG Season 3 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 3 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- George Colucci as security officer
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- John Rice as science division officer
- Lincoln Simonds as security officer
- Raymond D. Turner as Teacher (deleted scene)
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- June Jordan – stand-in for Gabriel Damon
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
2340; 2346; 2354; 2361; "a little"; "a lot"; accident; acting ensign; affection; alien; "all right"; anger; anguish; anti-grav lift; antimatter; antimatter containment field; antimatter containment pod; archaeology and anthropology officer; archaeologist; archaeology; Aster's aunt and uncle; Aster home; attack; away mission; away team; betrayal; body; brother; cabin; cadaver; candle; captain; career; cavern; century; ceremonial chamber; ceremony; children; choice; class; clock; "come in"; "come on"; computer access room; Constitution-class; corridor; corridor A; corridor B; Crusher, Jack; culture; d'k tahg; danger; day; dead on arrival; death; detonation; distance; dust; Earth; education; emergency; enemy; energy; energy field; energy force (aka energy form); energy source; era; evidence; "excuse me"; existence; explanation; explosion; explosive device; eye; face; father; Federation; Federation records; feeling; fiction; force field; friend; Galaxy-class decks; generation; "go ahead"; "go away"; "go on"; grieving process; ground; guilt; hand held screen; health; heart; "hello"; historical record; home video; House of Mogh; hug; Human; Human history; Human nature; husband; "I don't know"; "in time"; individual; injury; intruder; investigation; joy; Khitomer Massacre; "kicked me in the head"; kilometer; Kingdom Come; Klingons; Klingon language; Koinonian (energy form); Koinonian (physical being); Koinonian homeworld; Koinonian Wars; landing; leader; lens; life cycle; lifeform; line of duty; location; love; M-class; magnetic flux; main viewer; manual override; matter; meaning; memory; meter; microscope; mission; mistake; mister; Mogh; mortal; mother; motive; Much Ado About Nothing; "my God"; non-corporeal; north; number one; "of course"; offer; orphan; pain; painting; parent; pattern; person; phenomenon; philosophy; physical being; plan; policy; puppet; quarters; question; R'uustai; race; radiation; reality; reason; relative; report; revenge; right; "right now"; risk; rock; Romulan Neutral Zone; Romulans; room; scan analysis; school; sculpture; security alert; sensor; shield harmonics; "sit down"; sofa; sorrow; souvenir; species; spirit; "stand by"; standard orbit; Starfleet; starship; string; subspace proximity detonator; suffering; surface; survey; sword; thing; tradition; transporter; transporter power; Transporter Room 3; trap; tricorder; truth; tunnel; universe; victim; "wait a minute"; weapon; wife; Worf's mother; Yar, Natasha; year; yellow alert
- "The Bonding" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Bonding" at Wikipedia
- "The Bonding" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Bonding" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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