Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 116 (Ethics)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

The episode starts with Security Chief Worf and Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge discussing a poker game. La Forge, who wears a special device to see, is commenting on Worf's hand, despite the fact that Worf folded. Shortly after the two split up to scan some containers, one falls on Worf. He awakens in sickbay; he tells Dr. Crusher that restraints won't be necessary. She tells him that she's not using any; his spine has been shattered leaving him paralyzed in his lower body.

For a proud Klingon, this is unacceptable; he wants to die. In Klingon society, he'd be allowed to, but Dr. Crusher maintains that he consider surgery to repair the spine. At best, she can restore 60% of his mobility. That's not enough. Worf doesn't want to be pitied. It's an all-or-nothing proposition for him. If he can't regain his former life, he wants to die. He asks Commander Riker to assist him.

Riker has a hard time coming to terms with the request. He almost does it, but refuses Worf on the grounds that it traditionally falls to a family member. Since Worf has a son on the ship, Riker has no place granting his request. The thing is that Worf can't bring himself to allow his son, Alexander, to see him like this. Worf is proud and stubborn. To be weakened is bad enough; to admit weakness is beyond him.

There is an alternative; Dr. Crusher has called in Dr. Russell, who has experience with Worf's type of injury. The problem with Dr. Russell, though, is that she has some radical methods. Dr. Crusher confronts her about a dead patient who might have lived had he been given a traditional treatment. Crusher believes that Russell's methods are extreme and unwarranted. In fact, Russell's proposed treatment for Worf is to actually create a new spine and replace the damaged spine with it. Considering that it's never been tested on a humanoid and has simulated success below 40%, Crusher wants no part of it and won't even let Worf consider it.

Russell brings the idea to Worf anyway. He accepts, even knowing that he might die anyway. (Actually, this option was perfect for his all-or-nothing mentality.) To those that have seen the final seasons of Deep Space Nine, it should come as no surprise that Worf lives. I thought it was a little cliche to have an ending where Worf dies, but comes back to life when everyone's given up hope on him. I think it would have been better to simply have the operation succeed.

The beginning was also pretty bad. I think it was one of the worst staged accidents that I've ever seen. However, the beginning and ending of the episode were the only two bad parts. Otherwise, I'd have to say that this is one of the best episodes that the series has to offer.

"Ethics" doesn't even begin to cover it. The episode deals primarily with the ethics of assisted suicide. It also deals with what a doctor is obligated to do (or not do) for a patient. Can a doctor do too much? It also brings up the ethics of cloning for the sake of medical uses, even though it doesn't really deal with it.

It looks like Worf is finally getting used to the presence of Alexander. Worf's involvement with Troi also develops a little more. I'd like to echo the sentiments of many other Star Trek viewers when I say that it was a total waste to end that relationship when Worf joined Deep Space Nine. (Speaking of Alexander, Brian Bonsall seems to be getting more comfortable with his role. In previous episodes, he seemed like he hadn't quite gotten the hang of it.)

I'd recommend this episode for regular viewer and occasional viewer alike. As I said, this is one of the best that the series has to offer. 

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