The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: The Bonding

When ship’s archaeologist Marla Aster is killed in the line of duty, she is survived by her twelve-year-old son Jeremy. Jeremy has no other living relatives aboard, and the senior staff are on hand to help him deal with his grief. But before he can grieve, Jeremy has to accept his mother’s death – and when an alien life form comes aboard and starts posing as Marla, it seems likely that the boy will choose a pleasant fantasy over harsh reality.

Ever since Peter Kirk ended up being the last survivor of the Denevan colony, kids on Star Trek have had it tough. This episode, which I’d conflated with the superior season five attempt Hero Worship, is TNG’s first look at what happens to the kids who are left behind when minor characters die. To its credit, it does try to explore several avenues worth looking into: the dangers of bringing families aboard a starship; Wesley’s anger at Picard for his father’s death; Worf’s guilt over losing an away team member – but somehow it all fails to gel together into a greater whole. Is it because everyone’s supposed to be perfect and thus can’t explore the true depths of human emotion? Perhaps it’s merely that we don’t focus enough on any one relationship enough for any of them to feel more than fleeting and superficial.

Life in the 24th century

  • Even though Jeremy has now been adopted into Worf’s family, he is never heard from again.
  • The original brief for this episode was that Jeremy would try to recreate his mother on the holodeck, which actually sounds a lot more interesting than this “random alien pretends to be Marla” story. And that’s from someone who disdains the holodeck!
  • When Wesley admits that there are times when he can barely remember his father, Crusher saying that there are times when she can’t stop thinking about him doesn’t seem at all the right thing to say. If anything, it might make Wesley feel worse – not only is he having trouble remembering, but his mother hasn’t forgotten anything!
  • Jeremy says Patches the cat is male, but as it is a tortoiseshell, she must be female (at the very outside it could be an intersex kitty, with sex chromosomes XXY).

Summary – The Bonding: Even redshirts might have kids, you know.

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