Star Trek 223: Ethics

223. Ethics

FORMULA: The Loss + New Ground

WHY WE LIKE IT: Surprisingly moving.

WHY WE DON'T: A little too much sermonizing.

REVIEW: Star Trek takes another stab at euthanasia, but also throws in the ethics of medical research and the role of the handicapped in society. Gee, could be a real heavy-handed snorefest, right? Though the argument between Beverly and the less-than-ethical Dr. Russell sometimes veered into that territory (especially right at the end), the episode managed to stay with the characters. The difference between pulpit-thumping and good drama is that the former is about what the writer thinks, the latter is about what the characters think.

This is, at its root, a Klingon episode, and Ron Moore does his usual excellent job not only on Klingon culture, but on people's relationships with Worf in general. Worf is as hard-headed as ever, but as Picard explains, committing suicide after such mutilation is the Klingon way (though I'm still surprised he would undermine Crusher's orders like he does here). Riker seems a good choice for suicide assistant (he's been immersed in Klingon culture), but he passes the buck to Alexander. It's a great gambit that actually works out.

But wait, Alexander? He's the anti-Ro! All the episodes he touches turn to crap. Well, not this time. With Worf so injured, you can't ignore he has a young son onboard, and his reactions feel right as well. There's a lovely bit of direction (pictured above), when Alexander's face is split by the shadow of his father's knife - part Klingon, part human. And it is that humanity which saves his father. Indeed, it's interesting that Worf would leave Alexander in Troi's hands. Could there be an upbringing more different than the Klingon way? But this solidifies their relationship and may tell us that Worf's plans for Alexander are a lot more open-ended than he lets on.

But we know Worf's paralysis won't stick, he's a regular on the show. Or will it? When Worf dies on the operating table, it is wrenching. A montage of people waiting for the operation to be over builds up the tension so that when Beverley shows up teary-eyed at Troi's door, there's a major release of emotion. So it's really too bad to undo it all with one of the worst deus ex machinae in the show's history. Worf's got backup organs (including his BRAIN!!), and he simply revives himself. Organ redundancy may be an interesting Klingon feature, but we've seen so many Klingons die from simple knife wounds, it hardly seems plausible (I'd think of those blades as poisonous if only they'd stop sliding their hands open for fun). And ok, he has to learn to walk again, etc. Except he's fine by the very next episode. Reset button successfully pushed.

LESSON: Sometimes you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. They couldn't very well kill Worf, but we'd have felt little if it were just a guest-star on that operating table.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Could have hit High if not for the deus ex machina, but that would mean Worf would be dead and we don't want that.


De said...

I think my favorite moment in this episode was when Riker more or less says, "I did some reading on this whole ritual suicide thing and it's stupid."


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