Tuesday, July 30, 2013

And They Were Never Seen Or Heard From Again...

Welcome to And They Were Never Seen Or Heard From Again, where we'll examine the phenomenon in which a TV series introduces a new character who's befriended by the main cast, becomes very important to them and then vanishes forever without a trace the moment the episode ends. It happens more often than you think.

Today we'll take a look at the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Bonding.

The episode opens as Lt. Worf, the show's token Klingon, is leading an Away Team on a seemingly deserted planet. We don't actually get to see any of this; instead we get to watch Captain Picard, safe and sound aboard the Enterprise, listening tensely to Worf's running monologue of the mission.

Suddenly Picard and Co. hear a loud explosion over the loudspeaker. Realizing that's probably not a good thing, he orders the Away Team to be beamed directly to sickbay.

So if the transporter room can beam anyone to any part of the ship, why don't they do that all the time? Why do they always beam the Captain up to the transporter room so he then has to walk a mile to the bridge? But I digress...

Worf and company, looking mighty disheveled, materialize in the middle of sickbay.

Dr. Crusher, modeling her smart teal lab coat, springs into action!

It seems the Away Team accidentally set off an ancient mine which killed Lt. Marla Aster, a character who naturally we've never seen or heard of before. 

Despite the fact that Dr. Crusher has cured dead people many times before, she takes one look at Marla, shrugs and says, "THIS is an ex-lieutenant."

This is a Next Generation episode so that means there's kids on board the ship. Yep, you guessed it, Marla was a single mom with a twelve year old son named Jeremy.

Before Jeremy can speak in class today, Picard and Counselor Troi sit him down and tell him his mom's dead and he's all alone in the world. Jeremy does his best to not stare at Troi's, ehh... communicator.

After telling him he's an orphan, they leave him completely alone in his cabin. Chew on that, kid!

A little later, Jeremy gets a visit from a guilt-stricken Worf. Jeremy visibly shrinks away from the Klingon, unsure whether he's there to console him or kick his ass.

Wait a minute... I thought this was the touchy-feely, walk-hand-in-hand-singing-Kum-Ba-Yah 24th Century? I thought everyone had moved past prejudice and racial profiling. So why's Jeremy acting all "You're in the wrong neighborhood" toward Worf?

Anyhow, Worf barges on in and says, "Hey kid, sorry your mom's dead and you're all alone, but I just wanted you to know she died... with honor!" Needless to say this concept is somewhat lost on a twelve year old. An honorable death is all well and good, Worf, but who's gonna pour Jeremy's cereal at breakfast now? You?

Worf finally leaves and Jeremy sits and watches home movies on his iPad (which seemed futuristic back in 1989, but is perilously close to becoming dated today).

But what's this? Jeremy hears a familiar voice. He turns to look and sees... Marla, his dead mom, now looking 100% less dead!

Jeremy promptly soils his 24th Century jumpsuit. Is he hallucinating? Is he dreaming? Is it a g-g-g-ghost?

Nope, none of those. It's Jeremy's mom Marla, somehow brought back to life. Everything's fine again! She's come back to take care of him so they can be together forever, and ever, and ever, and...

Well, not really. It seems the planet below was originally home to two different races. One was a mean old physical race like us who wiped themselves out with the wars and the killing and the hurting. 

The other was a race of energy beings who are peaceful, benevolent and very full of themselves. One of these energy beings has flown through the side of the ship and decided to take the form of Jeremy's mother and take care of him so he won't have icky bad feelings.

This Fake Marla even used magic to transform their cabin into their home back on Earth, complete with a copy of Jeremy's cat Patches.

Actually I'm not sure why Fake Marla went to all the trouble of transforming their cabin. The second she does so, she tells Jeremy she wants to take him down to the planet so he can live there with her and she'll cater to his every need. Apparently she was just showing off with the room makeover.

She tries to get Jeremy to go to the transporter room so he can beam down to the planet with her. You'd think that an energy being that can take the form of a dead human and magically transform a starship cabin into a luxury Earth condo could just, oh I don't know, zap the kid down to the planet, but what do I know. Of course if she did that the episode would have only been twenty minutes long (would that she'd have done so).

Lt. Worf pops up again and is still feeling guilty about Marla dying on his watch and wants to take responsibility for Jeremy. Worf wants to perform the Klingon R'uustai ritual, which will make Jeremy his brother. Troi tells Worf to tone down the Klingon schtick a notch or twelve. And to stop staring at her, ehh... communicator.

Captain Picard and Counselor Troi get wind of Fake Marla's plan and don't like it one bit. They've decided that Jeremy isn't feeling properly bad about his maw dying, because dealing with death is part of the "human condition" or some such pretentious hooey. 

Two factions are now battling over Lil' Jeremy's soul: Fake Marla who wants him to be happy, and Real Picard who wants to see a kid cry. Oddly enough, no one ever thinks to ask Jeremy what he wants to do.

The  late 1980s new-age psychobabble reaches a fever pitch, and Fake Marla finally realizes that the Enterprise crew has Jeremy's best interests at heart and gracefully bows out.

With Fake Marla gone, Jeremy's finally forced to be sad.

Cut to some weird bluescreen room, where we see Worf and Jeremy undergoing the R'uustai, which officially makes them brothers for all time.

It's a great honor and a part of Klingon culture that most humans will never see or experience. Jeremy will never be alone again, as he's now officially part of Worf's family.


Seriously Worf? You're the one always going on about honor and family being the most important thing there is. So you feel guilty for letting a kid's mom die and adopt him and he promptly disappears from the universe.

If I was Commander Riker I'd be asking you some hard questions. "By the way Worf, how's your little brother? You know, the one you adopted into your family? Skinny human boy? Twelve years old? You let his mother die? Told him you'd take care of him from now on? Whatever happened to that kid? Ever hear from him? Do I need to contact the authorities? Or the coroner?"

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