Episode of the Week: 3x05 "The Bonding"

Discussion in 'The Next Generation' started by Jeyl, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    [​IMG]
    Memory Alpha Entry
    Chrissie's Transcript

    Legacy. It's the closest thing to immortality that one can hope for. To be remembered long after you have passed. Some will strive to achieve such a position while others are just happy to have lived a life that has given them the chance to experience emotions, a sense of accomplishments, ect. When Star Trek became very popular, Gene wanted to ensure that his legacy would live on through his visions of humanity's positive future. Only problem was that his insistence on these visions would be things that were dictated and forced rather than discussed in a creative manner. When writers wrote simple dramatic stories, he said it didn't work. When writers wrote the heroes as flawed, he said there are no flawed characters. For Gene, if the writers got what they wanted, it wouldn't be his Star Trek. That's how business usually went down when it came to the stories that the writers managed to get into the show. They were never the stories that the writers originally intended because the story had to go through Gene himself. For Gene, this was his act of cementing his legacy. For the writers, it was a prison they called...

    RODDENBERRY'S BOX

    Due to every writer from season one leaving the show by Season Three thanks to this box, Michael Piller had to figure out ways of coming up with stories for episodes since writers were in short supply. He turned to one fan submitted script called "The Bonding" written by the than unknown Ron D. Moore. He liked the script because it dealt with a boy who lost his mother and how, because of his grief, spends his time with a holographic recreation of his mother rather than letting her go. It was a nice, simple set up that treated the technology of Star Trek in a way that hasn't been done before. So when Michael Piller submitted the script to Gene, he was about to experience what many writers have tried warning him about since he came onto the show. I mean, how can Gene not like this story when it has so much emotional potential when it deals with elements that was making TNG unqiue?

    “In the Twenty-Fourth Century, no one grieves. Death is accepted as part of life. All the problems of mankind have been solved, Earth is a paradise.”

    And with that, we get the very problematic episode version of "The Bonding" that we know today. Instead of having a child grieving over his deceased mother, we have a child who promptly accepts his mother's death as a stern adult. It's so out of place and inappropriate in the final product because throughout the entirety of this episode, all of the main characters who are stern adults are grieving over the loss of this unknown character in many different ways. Riker laments to Data that even though he didn't know this officer all that well, her death shouldn't be considered any less serious than the death of someone close to you. It's also nice seeing Worf dealing with her death not as a sign of weakness in her part, but for what it actually was. A senseless death from a war that was over centuries ago. Picard is dealing with the fact that part of his duty in dealing with the death of an officer is informing the family of their passing. He even has a nice moment where despite his argument over letting children stay on the ship which Troi informs him would have resulted in someone else telling him of his mother's death anyway.

    See the problem? The best parts of this episode all involve the characters grieving over the loss of a crew member who is essentially a nobody. A bona fide Star Trek red shirt, yet her death carries weight to the crew. It's reassuring to see this kind of behavior in Star Trek where our characters actually care about crew members who have died in the line of duty rather than brush it off and forget they were ever there.

    As I read Michael Piller's unpublished "Fade In" book regarding this episode, I couldn't help but feel he missed one of the biggest opportunities that would have not only adhered to Gene's vision, but at the same time making it a story that could still have a lot of emotional weight. You see, Jeremy was literally dictated by Gene to not act emotionally over his mother's death. Tell me, when you put "Star Trek" and "unemotional" together, what's the first thing you think about? I know when I thought about it, the first thought I had was Vulcans. Why wasn't Jeremy turned into a Vulcan child? Not only would it have made sense in universe, it would also work perfectly with the rest of the characters. We have all of our main emotional feeling characters grieving over someone they hardly knew, yet this Vulcan child who is the son of this casualty seems unmoved by it. You could have the crew discuss how aliens deal with loss differently than humans, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, and learn a bit more about these said aliens as a result. Heck, you can keep the alien mother plot thing and still make it work.

    If I was to throw in my own little pet peeve, it's that this episode is another one of those "kill the female character off for the male characters' growth" kind of stories that TNG has been getting accustomed to as of late. We'll be seeing something like this happen not once, but two more times in season three and it unfortunately won't get any better in the long run. The next season especially when Ron D. Moore would revisit this episode's premise involving Worf with him taking on a son who's mother was killed, only this time the mother is an established character that I and many others here really liked.

    CONCLUSION:
    As one of the most tangible victims of Roddenberry's Box, "The Bonding" is a very hard episode to recommend. It's such a pity that the best parts of this episode are essentially scenes that were meant to pad out the episode in order to run it's full length. Not only is the main hook of this episode not good at all, it's further downgraded by some pretty bad guest actors. Gabriel Damon is almost a two by four, and Susan Powell is just.... bleh. I would only recommend this episode if you have Ron Moore's commentary track on, or if you're just curious to see how one man's attempt to solidify his legacy wound up hurting a potentially interesting premise.

    STINGER:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Kevman7987

    Kevman7987 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 20, 2013
    Location:
    Erie, PA, USA
    You know, it's really too bad that Gene went crazy/forgot how dramatic TV works in his final years. TNG could have been so much better than it was. And it would have been great from the beginning. Had TV been run back then the way networks and production companies run TV production today, TNG would have been cancelled midway through season 1.

    Later seasons of TNG and all of DS9 on may not have been Star Trek the way Gene would have wanted it, but "futurist" Gene's Star trek was boring.
     
  3. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    It would have been interesting if this "futurism" was really played to the hilt. We'd have true science fiction if people no longer feared death (despite not knowing how to cheat it, and not even wanting to know), just as in "The Neutral Zone" - but such a thing has consequences. We would essentially have an all-Vulcan cast even when most of the characters didn't have pointed ears or babble about logic this and logic that, or hold inner turmoil barely at bay. And with "The Bonding", we'd have an episode where nobody shows compassion at the death and expects that things will work out best that way - but an alien entity plays the compassion card on a weak and innocent child, nearly ruining the day until cooler minds prevail...

    Hey, we did get a little bit of that in any case. "The Bonding" subscribes to the school of trauma treatment where children are left to cope with loss in solitude - a concept commonly found in Star Trek, and perhaps the next step in scientifically validated child care for all we know.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  4. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Nice stinger. :lol: Jerrreemyyyyyyy! That was piercing.

    I never minded the "alien" aspect of the episode. Finding out it could have been a holodeck thing, that wasn't a dealbreaker.

    What was a dealbreaker was the kid actor. It got even worse after I saw him in Robocop 2.

    The show is straight-up in denial about grief, considering the backgrounds on most of the characters. The episode itself can't make up its own mind because on the one hand, the kid initially acts stoic about it, but on the other, we see Wesley still dealing with his own grief.

    Bah, no one wants to watch a show where everyone is an emotionless robot. The Star Wars prequels had the same problem. Only one emotion was ever expressed - anger.
     
  5. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2001
    Location:
    Hotel Transylvania
    So the original idea for this episode about Jeremy trying to deal with his grief by making a version of his mom on the holodeck? I would have greatly preferred that over the silly alien plot that we actually got.
     
  6. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Yup. Gene vetoed the idea that a child in the 24th century would long for his mom so much that he'd live out a fantasy in the holodeck. Ron Moore talks about it in the season 3 Blu-ray.

    Once again, Gene hamstrings an episode by making it about an outside alien force rather than about human conflict - ala Conspiracy.
     
  7. MikeS

    MikeS Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2008
    Location:
    Liverpool, UK
    That's a very depressing statement if I'm reading it correctly. Reminds me of the Black Eyed Peas line -

    "I think the whole world addicted to the drama, Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma"

    It's why there'll never be a peaceful utopian Earth like Roddenberry's vision. The news would just be too dull if there wasn't some 'splosions going off in some random arab country. Those aren't really people, right? And as long as we, in the West, are safe in our own beds at night...

    I do agree that the whole "we don't grieve anymore" thing was stupid. For us to achieve a utopian society we need to grieve/ get upset about death in order for us to do something about war, poverty and hunger. It is one thing to not fear death, but another to simply shrug it off. As already pointed out, it is contradicted in the very same episode by the command crew showing their grief. I put the kid's initial stoicism down to shock.
     
  8. hIndsIght

    hIndsIght Ensign Newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2013
    I kept waiting for the scene where Jeremy sells Nuke to crew members... Until I discovered this episode was produced prior to Robocop 2. :(
     
  9. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    What does Earth being a paradise have to do with being unemotional anyway?

    My idea of a paradise wouldn't have violence, hatred, intolerance, poverty, things like that. But you'd grieve over the loss of your loved ones, Jesus Effing Christ.
     
  10. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    I've always asked that question in regards to why Earth is relevant at all in Star Trek, let alone why it being a paradise should dictate a story that doesn't even take place on it. But when you take Gene's vision of a perfect humanity and see what he does with it in this series, there isn't much to reflect that at all. Picard openly hates children, Riker acts like an jerk a lot for no discernible reason, and probably the biggest element that contradicts this whole "perfect humanity" deal is that a therapist who can read emotions must be present on the bridge sitting next to the Captain at ALL TIMES.

    It's funny how despite how many feel DS9 is detached from Star Trek, it certainly does a better job at giving us this vision of a better humanity than TNG does when it has characters of different races and gender actually being treated as people. Heck, there was a moment where being in the same sex relationship wasn't a cause for thought (Well, only the relationship that exists at all). I think Sisko said it best.

    Sisko: Do you know what the trouble is?
    Kira: No.
    Sisko: The trouble is Earth.
    Kira: Really?
    Sisko: On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise. Well, it's easy to be a saint in paradise, but the Maquis do not live in paradise. Out there in the Demilitarized Zone, all the problems haven't been solved yet. Out there, there are no saints — just people. Angry, scared, determined people who are going to do whatever it takes to survive, whether it meets with Federation approval or not!"

    If that's not an allegory on writers having to put up with Roddenberry's Box during the TNG years, I have no idea what is.
     
  11. BillJ

    BillJ Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2001
    Location:
    alt.nerd.obsessive.pic
    Nice write-up but the episode itself is pretty poor.
     
  12. Captrek

    Captrek Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    I like the commentary track. I wish there were more.
     
  13. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Personally, I think the statement TNG makes, that humanity is capable of overcoming all its social problems through combined determination, is excellent. Maybe less realistic than DS9's vision but it makes the mission statement of the show more memorable.

    I also like that the writers were not allowed to rely on standard TV show storylines so they were forced to make the threat something external to the ship. I think that resulted in more creative storytelling.

    But come on, a ten year old who doesn't cry when his mother dies?! I'd say real 'heroic' people are more willing to experience and express feeling, not less.

    That's why I think seasons 3-6 are Star Trek's best run. It took Gene Roddenberry's mission statement and filtered it through a lens of identifiable humanity.
     
  14. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    I think that's the very definition of "Episodic" story telling, or in this episode's case, "Monster of the Week". You introduce a threat, our characters deal with it, and everything is back to normal afterwards. TNG as a whole takes this step a bit further when it comes to "The Bonding" by simply ignoring the events entirely. Not saying that having no more Jeremy is a bad thing, but when you don't commit to your own stories or moments of character growth, events in your show start to feel like they don't even matter.

    Another problem with having conflict come only from outside of the ship is that it makes our main characters seem less three dimensional. They have no opinion of their own and they are always in agreement with one another. When Michael Piller talks about Gene's insistent vision on how his depiction of Star Trek, he's actually convinced it's the right way to do things in Star Trek as a whole. So much so that when he wrote Star Trek Insurrection, he made that vision the pinnacle of the story where the crew discovers a means of helping end the Dominion War. Instead of having an honest discussion on the merits of using such superior medical advancements, Picard decides not to because he doesn't want to inconvenience a group of 600 self-cenetered arrogant hippies. It's one thing to have Picard feel this way, but when you have every single member of his crew agreeing with him completely, you are not telling a creative story. You're giving us your own opinion on the matter and making us believe it's the right thing to do by having every character agree with it. Well, I don't agree with what the characters were doing in Insurrection, which is why I don't like the film, and many other TNG episodes that followed suit to this storytelling method in general.
     
  15. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    I disagree about Insurrection. I see that as a matter of individual freedoms, and Star Trek is all about defending people's rights (Unless you're genetically enhanced). Insurrection is basically Avatar but less competently preachy.

    There's a fine line between characters having their own opinion and using that disagreement to drive the drama. This is a hierarchical command structure that everybody on the show has solely devoted their life too, and all their relationships are established very early to be like any military team, unflinchingly loyal to each other. They say what they think and then follow the captain's commands.

    There are a few cases where there should have been more tension, like Beverly should have changed her attitude toward Worf after Defector. But I'm glad the series didn't have too much griping among the crew, and I'm especially glad they didn't get to do episodes like Hippocratic Oath where one character acts like a child for an episode then realizes he was wrong.
     
  16. jimbotron

    jimbotron Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Insurrection is also Journey's End, Who Watches the Watchers and Homeward put in a blender. :lol:
     
  17. Dream

    Dream Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2001
    Location:
    Hotel Transylvania
    Let's not insult Journey's End, Who Watches the Watchers and Homeward! Those episodes are leagues better than Insurrection!:p
     
  18. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2009
    Location:
    Asheville, NC
    The difference between Avatar and Insurrection was that there was really nothing at stake for humanity by not having unobtainium. So fighting against the corporate humans who are in it just for the money is a far more understanding motivation. In Insurrection, the Federation is dealing with the Dominion who at this point in time have actually been winning the war against the Federation. Since the Federation doesn't deal with money, they can actually use this medical advancement to save lives of those on the battlefield and bring in more allies with the tangible promise of a healthier life with an increased life span. It's beneficial to everyone in the galaxy, and the Baku don't even give a crap.

    And as for Star Trek being about protecting individual freedoms and defending people's rights? We've seen again and again how our heroes must not interfere with any culture's way of life even if it contains the means to save the whole freaking galaxy. What do you say to that "Up The Long Ladder"?

    PICARD: They started out together. It seems only fitting they should end up together.
    PULASKI: It's a match made in heaven.
    RIKER: Unfortunately it will have to be a shotgun wedding.

    *Later*

    Picard: Now, Commander Riker has asked that your laboratories be inspected for stolen tissue samples, and I understand his concern. We may have to transport all your equipment here, to the Enterprise.
    Granger: I see. When reason fails, you'll resort to blackmail.
    Picard: Fine. Destroy yourselves.
    Pulaski: It's not so bad, Captain. In fifty years we'll have a new class M planet, complete with cities, and ready for colonisation.
    Picard: You see, the end is closer than you like to think.

    Yep. They'll find ways to force a human colony to breed with another human colony that they DON'T WANT TO BREED WITH for the sake of... uh... something. Defenders of individual freedoms and people's rights my aunt fanny. The crew are treating these colonists as nothing more than livestock, and you're defending them for not advancing medical science because they didn't want to inconvenience 600 people. I'm sure if the Dominion had actually won the war, they would have been very, very understanding towards the Baku's wishes for the Dominion to leave their planet alone.
     
  19. Captrek

    Captrek Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    We don't know that. The corporate execs talk about share price—that is their function, after all—but the movie never tells us why someone is willing to pay so much for it. For all we know it's the only way to stave off a catastrophe that will end the human race, and the survival of humanity is traded in the end for a tree.

    What Avatar and Insurrection have in common is that they look only at one side of the dispute. Avatar doesn't show us why the unobtanium is important just like Insurrection doesn't show us the millions of sick and dying people desperately awaiting the medical treatment only these particles can provide.

    As Picard says in Insurrection, "It's too easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of a people you don't know." Both films exploit that by not letting us know the people whose suffering the heroes so gleefully cause.
     
  20. Makarov

    Makarov Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2013
    I like this episode a lot, although the kid is a bit strange. Mainly I just like the whole ceremony thing with Worf.

    I wonder if Jeremy Astor would actually have any more interaction with Worf as he got older? "We will be brothers." Do they just drop him off at the next starbase? Or does he stay on the enterprise?
     

Share This Page