The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Icarus Factor

When Riker is offered a command of his own, Starfleet sends an advisor to brief him on his first mission. But tensions run high when that advisor turns out to be Will’s estranged father Kyle, who walked out on his son when Will was just 15, and who hasn’t been in contact since. Is Riker senior here to offer an olive branch, and if so, is Will prepared to accept it?

Riker’s been a fairly bland character so far, but with the advent of the beard, the writers seem finally ready to flesh him out. This is a fairly typical ‘my dad is a jerk’ storyline, with Kyle showing up, generally being an arrogant prick, and finally working out his differences with his son through the medium of physical – BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT MEN DO, AMIRITE? Anyway, whilst hardly inspiring in its originality, this is a solid enough episode, and, strangely enough, one completely lacking in any odd space phenomena. Even the B-story is character focussed, featuring Worf getting grumpy because he has no one to celebrate his Day of Ascension Anniversary with.

Character development

  • Riker is obviously the star of the show – continuing on from his brief mentions of his family in the previous episode, here we learn that his mother died when he was two, and his father Kyle raised him until walking out when Will was 15. Father and son used to play anbo-jitsu together, and Kyle always cheated to ensure that he won and Will came back for more.
  • There’s also the supposed “will he, won’t he?” tension about Riker leaving the Enterprise to take up his own command, except we all know that he isn’t going to.
  • Dr Pulaski met and fell in love with Kyle Riker after he was the only survivor of an accident. Apparently, she would have married him “in a cold minute” had he been amenable to matrimony. I’d say that was a lucky escape for Kyle, but in all honesty they’re both as bad as each other. It also turns out that Pulaski is the one who fills that important ensemble TV show role of “the one with three failed marriages”.
  • Although it was called the Age of Inclusion in Heart of Glory, from now on, the Klingon rite of passage into adulthoos is known as the Age of Ascension. The tenth anniversary celebration of this event involves inviting one’s family and friend to watch you get repeatedly jabbed in the side with Klingon painstiks. Painstiks are apparently powerful enough to make an animal’s head explode, but for a Klingon they merely deliver a pleasantly intense jolt.

Other points

  • Worf snaps at Wesley that he has no father, completely ignoring his adoptive father Sergey Rozhenko. You know, the guy who raised Worf for twelve years? I guess Worf was pretty grumpy.
  • Who arranged Worf’s original Age of Ascension, given that he was living with humans by that time?
  • Worf claims that the Age of Ascension is a very personal and closely guarded secret among Klingons, but since Wesley was able to look it up on the 24th century equivalent of Wikipedia, it can hardly be that secret. And that’s before we even consider the fact that there were enough details on the Enterprise computer to be able to perfectly recreate the ceremony on the holodeck.
  • Troi and Pulaski basically reaffirm that gender stereotypes are fine, and that human males are particularly prone to solving their differences through displays of violence. So progressive!
  • Anbo-jitsu appears to be a Japanese-inspired martial art where players don ridiculous body armour, and wave Gladiators-esque sticks around whilst blindfolded. The worst part is listening to the Rikers mangle “yoroshiku onegaishimasu”.
  • Most of the starbases we have encountered thus far have had numerical designations, but in this episode we have “Starbase Montgomery”. Maybe it’s named after Montgomery Scott.
  • Pulaski claims that she never mentioned her relationship with Kyle Riker because it simply “never came up”. What about in the previous episode, when Pulaski came over to dinner and Riker started talking about his father? Pulaski’s hardly one to be shy about mentioning these things.
  • Apparently Starfleet was in conflict with the Tholians around twelve years ago.
  • Pulaski claims Kyle was the only survivor of the attack on his starbase because he was the only one with the strength to live through it. Now, whilst personal strength and a positive attitude can be helpful, they aren’t a cure-all. If your legs are blown off and you die from blood loss, all the strength in the world won’t help you.
  • There is a Starfleet officer named Flaherty who apparently knows forty different languages and is able to pick up new ones amazingly quickly. His abilities sound superhuman, so either he isn’t human, or he’s some kind of mutant with superior mental abilities.
  • Note how O’Brien has basically started insinuating himself into the lives of the senior officers.

Summary – The Icarus Factor: Yet another TV dad turns out to be a jerk.

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