(written from a Production point of view)
When Commander Riker is offered command of the starship Aries, his estranged father, Kyle Riker, is sent by Starfleet to brief him on the mission. Meanwhile, Data, La Forge, Dr. Pulaski, Wesley, and O'Brien help Worf celebrate the anniversary of his Rite of Ascension.
The USS Enterprise-D is en route to Starbase Montgomery in the hope that the base can provide a consultation regarding minor readout anomalies in engineering. While Lieutenant Commander Data believes the anomalies are insignificant, both Riker and Picard think it is necessary to investigate the issue. Data suggests that the best solution would be to re-program the system to correct the readout variables, with which Picard agrees, but with the Enterprise heading to Starbase Montgomery anyway, they should have it checked out by the starbase's maintenance personnel.
Riker points out that Montgomery was not in their mission itinerary. Picard mentions that a layover will not hurt crew morale and that he just received some priority personnel transfer directives. Riker asks if personnel are boarding or disembarking. At that moment, Ensign Wesley Crusher calls the captain from the bridge to inform him that they are within hailing range of the starbase. Picard orders them to proceed at half impulse and asks Riker to join him in the observation lounge for a moment.
In the observation lounge, Riker enters the room to a waiting Picard. Picard recalls Riker's impressive manual docking maneuver when he first arrived on the Enterprise. Picard offers Riker a belated congratulations in the way of informing him that the commanding officer of the USS Aries is retiring, and that Riker has been promoted as its new captain. The Aries may have found as-yet-unconfirmed indications of an intelligent lifeform which is in the Vega-Omicron sector, where it is stationed and which is months away at high warp. Starfleet wants to utilize Riker's impeccable exploratory and diplomatic skill to ascertain the situation.
Picard informs Riker that he has twelve hours to decide whether he will accept the position.
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Picard exits his ready room and asks Wesley to enter synchronous orbit with the planet. Picard informs Riker that a civilian strategic attaché with specialized knowledge of the frontier region will be coming aboard the Enterprise from Starbase Montgomery to brief him on the Aries mission.
Riker is called to Transporter Room 3. The attaché beams aboard. It is Kyle Riker, Will's estranged father of fifteen years. Kyle acts cautious around his son, while Will is cool – saying that he must attend to his duties, and when Kyle is ready, Will would be available to listen to his briefing regarding the Aries and her mission. Will exits while requesting that Ensign Herbert assign a security escort for Kyle, whom he calls "this gentleman."
Wesley finds Worf in one of the corridors and calls to him. Wesley asks Worf if he has heard of Riker's promotion, his father's arrival, and Riker's reaction to his arrival's presence. Worf informs Wesley that he did not know his father and curtails Wesley's persistent conversation by yelling "Enough!" and storming off.
In engineering, Geordi La Forge's ego is being bruised by the Montgomery's analysis crew. Wesley enters and mentions Worf's strange behavior. La Forge believes it may be the prospect of losing Riker, and while he and Wesley agree the loss would be great, Wesley is unconvinced that this is the issue.
In Ten Forward, Riker and Miles O'Brien are having drinks. O'Brien asks Riker what's troubling him. Riker answers "family". Kyle Riker enters then, with his son looking on, and greets several people. Among them is Katherine Pulaski, who seems to be an old flame of Kyle's, of which Will was not aware.
Back in engineering, Wesley, Data, and La Forge are discussing Worf's strange behavior. Data agrees that Worf is "out of sorts." They decide to observe Worf's behavior in order to come to a conclusion as to his issue.
In Ten Forward, Riker approaches his father, who is sitting with Dr. Pulaski, and informs him that he is ready for his father's briefing. Will abruptly exits.
La Forge and Data enter Ten Forward while Kyle Riker and Dr. Pulaski discuss their past relationship. Kyle inquires as to Katherine's marriages. She says she's had three, that they were all good men, and that she's still friends with them. Kyle asks, "Like us?" and Katherine says that her ex-husbands were a little more in touch with their emotions than Kyle is. She says that Kyle has a reputation for being tough and efficient, but that he is lovable to some people.
La Forge and Data observe Worf, who is looking out at the stars. They discuss whether or not to approach him. Data believes Worf may be lonely and that socialization may make him feel better. He joins Worf, telling him that he seems withdrawn and that his friends are concerned for him. Worf bellows at him to "be gone!" to which Data complies. Upon returning to La Forge, he remarks that Worf seems to be valuing his solitude. They leave.
Will is in his quarters looking at old photographs of him and his father. There is a chime at the door and Worf enters. Worf begins by saying that words are not his strong suit, then he mentions the photograph. Riker indicates that the picture is of him at age 9 in Alaska holding a fish. He says he did not catch it. As soon as his father realized that Will's line was pulling, he took the rod because he believed Will would lose the fish. Worf asks after Riker's feelings for his father. Riker says he does not know and redirects Worf to his reason for visiting. Worf asks that, if Riker accepts the captain's seat of the Aries, he would like to go with him, too. Worf believes that there is a great risk for battle, and to die in battle, on the Aries mission. Riker understands, and Worf leaves knowing that Riker will "do the right thing."
Will arrives for the briefing. While Kyle is glad they are alone, Will is only interested in the briefing. Once he receives a memory chip with the relevant information, he asks why the data wasn't just simply transferred to him. Kyle says he has heard good things about Will, and Will asks why he hasn't heard anything from his father. Kyle tries to explain that there is no manual for being a parent and that communication is not one of his strong suits. Kyle tries to bring up the death of Will's mother, but Will excuses himself. As Will is leaving, Kyle says that he visited the Enterprise because, in the event his son accepts the captain's position, he would be going far away. Kyle says, "I'm here with my hand out, son." Will exits without saying anything.
In sickbay, Kyle and Pulaski are discussing her most recent patient who has a flu. When Kyle asks after the remedy, Dr. Pulaski mentions medicine and "PCS". Deanna Troi, overhearing the conversation, says that Pulaski's greatest medical skill is her empathy. The doctor introduces Troi to Kyle, saying that she thought they should meet. Kyle knows that it is a set-up, and Troi acknowledges the intent. The doctor leaves, allowing Troi and Kyle privacy to talk in her office.
Troi senses anxiety in Kyle about Will, recognizing that Kyle wishes to be closer to him. Troi says she wants to help, and Kyle tells her that he came to Enterprise to bury the hatchet with his son "only to find out that the ground was frozen solid." Kyle says he has not given up, but that he would like to have some sort of acknowledgment from Will. Troi responds, "Respect is earned, not bestowed." Kyle says he does not need respect, nor pride, from Will. Troi senses that Kyle covets Will's achievements – that he is still competitive with him – and tells him that Will respects honesty above all traits. Kyle balks at each accusation and insists that he is only on the Enterprise to assist his son with his first responsibility as captain. Troi asks why Kyle seems so sure that Will would take a dangerous post, and Kyle responds that his son will do it because it is something he would do.
Picard visits Riker in his quarters. He notices that Will is reviewing the assignment and asks if Riker has questions regarding the mission. Riker says no, though he is interested in the first officer, Commander Flaherty. Picard says the last time he saw Flaherty, the man spoke forty languages, had an uncanny ability to pick up new ones very quickly, and would be a valuable asset on the mission. A chime is heard, and Kyle enters. The captain exchanges pleasantries with Kyle and then excuses himself.
Will tells his father that he will not be pushed into a decision despite the opinions of his father and Starfleet. Kyle says that he is available if Will needs him. Will quips that he has been independent since he was fifteen, but Kyle says, "spare me the pain of your childhood. I hung in for thirteen years. If that wasn't enough, it's just too bad." Then he leaves.
Back in engineering, La Forge worries that he did miss something in his diagnostics. Data assures him that it is unlikely. Wesley arrives with news. It is the tenth anniversary of Worf's Age of Ascension. It is traditional to celebrate the tenth anniversary with ritual spent with fellow Klingons and family, so Wesley suggests a holodeck re-creation of the event with Worf's friends substituting for his family.
Riker visits sickbay to apologize to Dr. Pulaski for being judgmental of her personal life when it is not his business, even if it involves his father. Pulaski asks Will if his father ever told him why he did not remarry. Will is skeptical that any woman would want his father and his ego. Pulaski replied that she would have. She tells Will that twelve years ago, Kyle was a civilian strategist advising Starfleet in its conflict with the Tholians. The starbase where he was working was attacked and those on the station were not expected to live. And they didn't, except Kyle, who was the only survivor. He was the only one with the strength to face the pain and live. Will says his father never told him the story. Pulaski says she never saw a man fight so hard to live. She and Kyle fell in love, but marriage was not Kyle's first priority. His career was. Pulaski advises Will to get rid of his emotional baggage before he leaves to take command of the Aries.
Wesley, Data, and La Forge discuss the details of the Age of Ascension ritual which includes the use of Klingon painstiks. La Forge is not keen on watching Worf submit to pain, but he will do it for his friend.
Will enters Picard's ready room to talk about his promotion. Picard says he cannot tell Will what to do; it is his decision. He says,
- "I can spell out for you, albeit crudely, what you are choosing between. As the first officer of the Enterprise, you have a position of distinction, prestige, even glamour of a sort. You are the second in command of Starfleet's flagship, but, still, second in command. Your promotion will transfer you to a relatively insignificant ship in an obscure corner of the galaxy. But it will be your ship. And being who you are it will soon be vibrant with your authority, your style, your vision. You know... there really is no substitute for holding the reins."
In engineering, La Forge is still worrying over the inspection. O'Brien asks if any progress has been made, and Data says there is none to find. He does point out that he would find the scrutiny insulting if he "were not a consummate professional and an android." La Forge is thankful. Wesley invites O'Brien to Worf's ceremony, and O'Brien says he will attend. Wesley also requests that O'Brien keep the ceremony a secret from Worf. O'Brien agrees.
Will and Troi meet. They do not want to say goodbye, so they settle on "until next time." They share an intimate moment discussing their emotions. Will says he is feeling sad. Troi confesses she is too, and they embrace.
Kyle is waiting outside of Will's quarters for him. He asks for a minute of his son's time, and Will ushers him in. Their conversation immediately devolves into an argument. Finally, the two challenge each other to an anbo-jyutsu match, a traditional Japanese martial art form of combat.
Kyle arrives in sickbay after hearing the doctor wanted to speak with him. Pulaski disapproves of the anbo-jyutsu match, insisting that violence solves nothing. She also expresses her concern for his health, but Kyle is confident.
In the holodeck, La Forge, Data, O'Brien, Wesley, and Pulaski set up the Rite, while Counselor Troi is escorting Worf to their location. Worf is resistant to follow, as he dislikes games, but Troi insists that she knows the importance of this day, his Rite of Ascension anniversary, and asks him to bear with her. They arrive, but she leaves him as he enters. He enters a hall with eight Klingon warriors, four to each side on two raised platforms. His friends wish him a happy anniversary, and Data asks if they may begin. Worf recites in both Klingon and English: "Today I am a warrior. I must show you my heart. I travel the river of blood..." while being prodded by the Klingons with painstiks parallel to each other. The ritual involves being able to endure intense pain while expressing one's true feelings, and Worf continues to express his determination. Halfway through he falls to one knee; Pulaski's first instinct is to try to go to him, but O'Brien holds her back. Worf gets to his feet and continues, finally enduring all eight painstiks and reaching the end of the hall. Despite being out of breath, Worf genuinely thanks his friends for allowing him to observe the tradition.
Pulaski joins Troi. Deanna asks if the Rite was successful, and Pulaski says that it was, but that she is happy Humans have moved past such barbarism. Troi brings up the match that Riker and his father have agreed to. She believes that certain traits are endemic to gender, in spite of evolution. They come to the conclusion that these are the very traits that make Human males so attractive, including Riker and his father.
Riker and his father begin their anbo-jyutsu match, a sightless sport that takes place in a ring where each fighter uses a stick to attack the other. One end of the stick is padded and the other has a type of sensor on the end of it to help detect one's opponent. Will says his father should have died instead of his mother. Will successfully takes down his father once. Kyle confesses that when he lost his wife, the only thing that kept him going was Will. Will is skeptical. Kyle takes his son down, but Will protests. He says that the move, Hachidan kiritsu (Will pronounces it as "karitsu"), is illegal.
He realizes that his father only won by cheating when he was younger. Kyle tells Will that they both were affected terribly by the death of Kyle's wife, Will's mother, but Will barely knew her, and Kyle had loved her. He could not talk about it in the past, and then they grew distant. He says, "It's funny. I can talk to a whole room of admirals about anything in the galaxy, but I can't talk to you about how I feel." Riker asks how he feels, and Kyle says that he loves Will. Will says he's glad Kyle came. They hug.
Back on the bridge, Worf informs the captain that the analysis team and attache have left. Picard asks La Forge what the results of the analysis team were. La Forge reports that they suggested he reprogram the system to correct the readout variables, which Picard points out was what Data had initially suggested. As the Enterprise prepares to leave, Riker joins the bridge and requests that, with the captain's permission, he would like to remain aboard as first officer. Picard grants the request. He asks what changed Riker's mind. Riker replies, "Motivated self-interest. For now the best place for me to be is here."
"You know, Wesley should really be doing this on his own."
"But he needs his study time."
"Huh, I can't believe you fell for that."
- - La Forge and Data
"This is more than a surprise; it's total shock."
"You mean you didn't bake me a cake?"
- - Pulaski and Kyle Riker, reuniting in Ten Forward
"And they use those?"
"Those are Klingon painstiks. I once saw one of them used against a two ton, rectyne monopod. Poor creature jumped five meters at the slightest touch. Finally died from excessive cephalic pressures."
"That's right. The animal's head exploded like a -"
"I think that's enough Chief O'Brien."
- - Wesley, O'Brien, and Dr. Pulaski, discussing the effects of a Klingon painstik
"If I were not a consummate professional, and an android, I would find this entire procedure insulting."
- - Data, commenting about the engineering consultation
(Riker doesn't answer)
- - O'Brien asks Riker what's bothering him
"You choose your enemies, you choose your friends; but family? That's in the stars."
- - Miles O'Brien
"I know her, too; but we don't do that."
- - Miles O'Brien
"With... all due respect – BEGONE! ... Sir."
- - Worf, to Data
"Respect is earned, not bestowed."
- - Deanna Troi, to Kyle Riker
- Second revised final draft script: 2 February 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 24 April 1989
- First UK airdate: 24 July 1991
Story and script
- The teleplay credits Burton Armus as co-writer, but his name did not appear on the finished episode.
- Director Robert Iscove accepted this assignment as he was a fan of the original series. He remarked, "It was an emotional piece, a character piece between two people. The father has deserted Riker for 25 years, then he comes back and they have this confrontation. Well, according to Roddenberry, by the 24th century we've all kind of resolved those feelings of anger. So it's very hard to play. If you're not going to serve the resentment and the anger, what happens once the two of them get together, you can't get into any real Human drama... The original series was much more humanistic in its approach." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
- While Rick Berman and others supported Iscove's attempts to add more emotion, they were all overruled by Roddenberry. Iscove's dissatisfaction with Roddenberry's handling of this episode led him to turn down offers to direct further Star Trek installments. He commented, "If you can't deal with the emotion, what's the point?" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
- The painstik ritual was heavily edited for the episode's first screening in the United Kingdom on 24th July 1991, due to the series' "family viewing" time slot of 6 pm. The scene was restored for subsequent screenings.
- Act 2, Scene A21 – Wesley Crusher convinces Data to talk to Worf on his behalf, as Geordi La Forge protests.
Sets and props
- This episode marks the first appearance of Counselor Troi's office.
- Two of the Klingons in the holodeck ritual had to wear old gorilla boots from Planet of the Apes, since all other Klingon costumes were being used in the shooting of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, p. 38) However, that film finished principal photography on 28 December 1988, while this episode was filmed in February 1989.
- Rick Sternbach incorporated numerous anime references to the anbo-jyutsu mat and set pieces seen in this episode. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
Cast and characters
- John Tesh, co-host of Entertainment Tonight from 1986 to 1996 and a devoted Star Trek fan, appears in a cameo role as a Klingon during Worf's painstik ritual. The experience was documented in a segment on the show. As an homage to him, the Star Trek Customizable Card Game identifies his character as "K'Tesh".
- This episode introduced Riker's father, who had a very close relationship with Dr. Pulaski.
- This is this second episode to mention Commander Riker being offered command of a starship by Starfleet. He had earlier been offered the USS Drake, as mentioned in the first season episode "The Arsenal of Freedom", and was next offered the USS Melbourne, in "The Best of Both Worlds".
- This episode establishes that Dr. Pulaski has been married three times, and remains "good friends" with all three of her ex-spouses.
- A mission report for this episode, by Patrick Daniel O'Neill, was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 9, pp. 6-9.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 20, catalog number VHR 2503, 2 September 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 2.5, catalog number VHR 4741, 7 June 1999
- As part of the TNG Season 2 DVD collection
- The summary for this episode on US VHS releases in the 1990s listed the USS Dreadnought instead of the USS Aries.
- As part of the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Special appearance by
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- John Lendale Bennett as Starbase Montgomery technician
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Josef Cannon as holographic Klingon
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Bob Smithson as holographic Klingon
- Teo Smoot as holographic Klingon
- John Tesh as holographic Klingon
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
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- "The Icarus Factor" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Icarus Factor" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Icarus Factor" at Wikipedia
- "The Icarus Factor" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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