ST:TNG Treadmill Review #19: The Bonding

The Bonding
Season 3 Episode 5
Original airdate: October 21, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

A startling surprise awaits the crew of the Enterprise when a mission costs the life of a crew member, who left her son behind.

My Brief Review

Ugh. I’ll say this: you can tell this is a season 3 episode, because the writing and acting are a lot more cohesive than they would have been in a mediocre episode like this in one of the first two seasons.

I like kids in Star Trek about as much as Captain Picard does… which is to say, not much. But he manages to be kind and understanding towards Jeremy Aster, whose rando mom, Lt. Marla Aster — apparently the ship’s archaeologist, who we never knew existed — dies in the first minute of the episode.

Worf was leading the away team, so he feels an obligation to Jeremy, now orphaned, and so ultimately helps as Picard and Troi convince an energy being from the planet, who tries to recreate Jeremy’s mother and house from Earth as a refuge for him, that humans need to suffer loss as a natural part of life. In a genuinely heartfelt moment, Worf connects with the boy over their shared experience of becoming orphans, and bonds with him in a Klingon ceremony that joins their families and makes them brothers.

But guess what, just as Lt. Aster was a rando, so is her son. This “brother” of Worf’s is never seen again.

That’s what makes this a crappy episode. One of the few true “red shirt” moments in TNG (although Lt. Aster, being a scientist, wore a blue uniform), but we’re supposed to believe both that Lt. Aster was a valued member of the crew and that her son is now forever a part of Worf’s life. But it’s all throwaway, and the context — a barren planet and a simulated Earth house created to ease the pain of someone left alone — is way too similar to The Survivors an episode that had aired just two weeks prior to this one.

Once I had achieved my bare minimum running distance of 3K, I actually watched the majority of the rest of this episode at double speed with the closed captions on, just to get through it. It wasn’t bad enough to turn off altogether, but I wanted to hurry and get it over with.

Skip this and just watch The Survivors again.

Memorable Moment

Not the R’uustai itself, but I will remember the moment when Worf finally figures out how to connect in a meaningful way with Jeremy. Right as Troi and Picard are doing a terrible job talking to Jeremy, Worf steps up and shows he can be the most human of them all, convincing Jeremy that the energy being taking his mother’s form is not really his mother, and that from now on she lives in here (Worf’s heart) and here (Jeremy’s heart). It’s sappy, but it works.

Crew Rando

Lt. Aster, of course!

Distance Rating: 3K

IMDb score: 6.7/10