[TNG] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Bloodlines"

WARNING: Spoilers for TNG's "Bloodlines" are held within. Those who have a hereditary fear of spoilers need not enter.

In brief: it was ... okay.

This is another "and the point being?" show, though, of which there have been too many of late. More, of course, after the synopsis:

The Enterprise intercepts a Ferengi probe, and Picard is shocked to see and hear the holographic image of DaiMon Bok, whose son he was forced to kill fifteen years ago in a starship battle, gloating at him. Bok says he's not been able to think of appropriate revenge, "until now. You thought you could hide him from me, didn't you -- but I found out about him! Jason Vigo is as good as dead; I'm going to kill *your* son, Picard, just like you killed mine."

As the probe is tractored in and brought on board for analysis, Picard orders a search made in Federation records for Jason Vigo, starting with Miranda Vigo. Riker, after starting an attempt to communicate with Ferengi authorities about Bok, shows Picard an old picture of Jason, who is now 23 years old. Picard tells Riker that he had a relationship with Miranda Vigo 24 years ago that was very brief, and that he may well be the father -- but if so, he never knew about it. The Enterprise heads for Camor Five, where Jason and Miranda were last known to be.

There, sensors pick up someone who matches Jason's physical description, and he is hastily beamed on board when seismic disruptions disturb the cave he is climbing in. Jason is surprised to find himself aboard a Federation ship, and even more so to hear what Picard has to say: that someone has made a threat against Jason, and that Picard may be Jason's father. Jason readily agrees to a genetic scan to verify whether Picard is his father or not. As the test is conducted, Picard attempts to get to know Jason a bit better, but is rebuffed. Finally, the test results come in -- and Jason *is* Picard's son.

Later, Picard shows some of his archaeological treasures to Jason, who is underwhelmed. He tells Jason that his relationship with Miranda (who Jason says died a few years ago) was brief and that he never knew about Jason -- if he had known, he says, "I would have been part of your life." "Maybe that's not what she wanted," replies Jason heatedly, and expresses a wish to return to the surface. Picard, however, suggests that he remain on board until Bok is located and the issue is settled for good; and Jason reluctantly agrees.

While the probe's navigational data is encrypted, there are some physical clues as to where it came from. However, those clues are not enough -- not enough, that is, until Ferengi DaiMon Birta informs them that Bok (who despite his uniform, is *not* a DaiMon any longer) bought his way out of prison two years ago and is now somewhere in the Durias Cluster. That is enough to pinpoint the probe's origin as the Xendi Kabu system, and the Enterprise heads there posthaste.

While they're en route, Picard talks to Beverly to get parenting advice. Picard is concerned about the barriers Jason is putting up to protect himself, and even though he realizes Jason has been fatherless for his entire life, he wonders if it wouldn't be better to back off and let Jason approach *him* rather than reaching out himself. Bev agrees it's a possibility, but suggests that Picard consider something: "Are you doing what's best for Jason, or what's easiest for you?" [Meanwhile, Troi goes to talk to Jason, but leaves rather hastily when it becomes apparent that all he wants to do is flirt.]

Late that night, Picard is asleep in his quarters, but is awakened by Bok's voice. He looks up to see Bok standing at the foot of his bed, renewing his threats against Jason and guaranteeing the boy's death. Picard calls security -- but when he looks back up, Bok is gone.

No one can figure out quite how Bok did what he did. It wasn't a hologram, for no generating device was picked up by sensors; it wasn't a regular transport, for no beaming was recorded; and it wasn't mind control like the one Bok had attempted six years earlier, for those transmissions are absent. Geordi and Worf decide to retune the sensors and sweep Picard's room for resonance traces. Meanwhile, Picard orders a security team to keep an eye on Jason -- and Data enters to tell Picard what he has found out about Jason's criminal record. (It's only petty crimes, but is rather extensive.)

In Ten-Forward later that morning, Jason tells the security team to back off and give him a bit of room, and then hides a shaking hand as Picard enters. Picard and Jason talk a bit about why Jason currently has a team looking after him, and then the subject turns to Jason's future. Jason is unhappy with the whole situation, and tells Picard brusquely that his attempts are useless: when things with Bok are resolved, he's leaving and that's it, so "you see, there isn't really any *point* in us ... getting acquainted." Jason leaves Picard alone to brood.

A few hours after reaching the Xendi Kabu system, there is still no sign of Bok -- that is, until another probe appears out of nowhere off their starboard bow. It approaches, then explodes, causing no damage but releasing a coded Ferengi message: "My revenge is at hand..."

Picard, ticked off, goes into his ready room to ponder the situation. He gets up for some tea, then turns to see Bok again, gloating. This time he doesn't call security, but stays and talks to Bok, trying to ease the situation. "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do to bring him back," Picard says, referring to Bok's son. "How _touching_," growls Bok, unimpressed. "Your apology is worthless," he adds, demanding payment for his loss. "You cannot put a price on a man's life." "Oh, but you can. You can pay me with *your* son's life." Picard refuses, but Bok gloats that he has no choice and disappears in a transporter beam. As if that weren't enough, Bev is then called to Jason's quarters to find Jason unconscious and convulsing...

Jason has a condition called Forrester-Trent syndrome, a neurological disorder that only manifested recently. It is degenerative and potentially dangerous, but Bev thinks Jason will hopefully respond well to treatment. However, since the condition is hereditary and neither parent seemed to have it, Bev decides to run a microscan to check into why Jason has it.

Meanwhile, Geordi and Data have used Bok's ready room appearance to deduce how he is getting on and off the ship. He is using an unstable technology involving transporting *through* subspace; it is unreliable, but works over a span of light-years. When it's used again, it might be used to track down Bok's ship -- but it could also be used again to beam Jason off the ship entirely. Picard orders a signal lock kept on Jason at all times, and heads to the holodeck to find him.

There, he climbs up to join Jason on the ledge where he sits. Here, Picard finally manages to make a connection with Jason, first by asking how his mother died [she was killed for the food she was carrying home for orphans she had adopted], and then by accepting Jason's criminal record without protest. Picard says that he was estranged from his own father, and has never been able to live with the fact that his father died before the two could settle matters. Like it or not, Picard says, they *are* father and son, and they have to deal with that. "One thing's clear..." adds Picard, "you'll never look at your hairline again in the same way."

Later, Bev calls Picard in to sickbay with some news. She's finished some tests on Jason; "there's something you need to know..." Suddenly, however, Bok attempts to beam Jason off the ship -- and despite Geordi's best efforts, succeeds. What's more, the beam decayed too rapidly for them to track Bok down, so they are helpless. When Bok sends one more probe to gloat, however, that is enough for them to locate his ship -- and while it is too far away for them to reach in time, Picard uses the subspace transporter himself to beam himself onto the ship.

There, he tells the Ferengi crew to lower their weapons or cause Bok's death. Bok responds by threatening Jason, but Picard informs him triumphantly that "you and I both know that this is *not* my son." Bok had earlier rewritten Jason's DNA to make it appear that he was, but the rewrite caused the genetic disorder that Jason now has. The rest of the Ferengi ask about the ransom for Jason, and Picard informs them that there never *was* a ransom -- that all Bok ever wanted was blood. With the Enterprise closing, he tells them that their only chance at avoiding Ferengi punishment is to turn Bok in and explain how they were duped, which they quickly decide to do. With the situation resolved, Jason returns to Camor Five -- but his condition has been cured, he has resolved to straighten out his life, and Picard gives him one of his archaeological finds as a keepsake.

There we are. Sorry for the length on that one, but there were a fair amount of necessary details to get in. Anyway, onwards.

I'm actually finding myself with very little to say about "Bloodlines". It wasn't bad by any means, but it left a fairly empty feeling afterward -- as I said at the outset, it was one of those "er, yes, and?" shows.

Primarily, I suppose, my objection to what TNG's been doing this whole season is at issue. While I've reconciled myself to the fact that loose ends are spontaneously being tied off right and left as if the Trek universe ends when TNG does, this one set my alarm off a bit more strongly. Of all the possible loose ends drifting around Development Hell, why was *this* one chosen to be resolved? Bok's situation, for the most part, was _resolved_ back in first season's "The Battle" -- or at least, as resolved as it is now. I understand that Patrick Stewart suggested Bok as a possible loose end to tie up, but (1) I don't entirely see why the need was present, and (2) if so, it *wasn't* resolved in any final way. Bok's just under wraps again. As such, the whole story felt like a tempest in a teapot.

[I'm also slightly frustrated that they couldn't get Frank Corsentino to play Bok again -- he did a wonderful job six years ago. These things happen, though. Sigh.]

However, putting aside the broader context, "Bloodlines" worked all right; it just didn't seem like anything we hadn't seen before. We've seen Picard try to play parent before (in "The Inner Light" beautifully, and in "Disaster" to the frightened children), we've seen revenge plots before all over the place, we've seen parent/child bonding before (Bev/Wes on a few occasions, for instance, and Worf's tried it with Alexander quite often); in short, this seemed like a "reshuffle the deck to combine old plots in a new way." It didn't have any major problems, but it didn't do very much that involved me either.

One thing that did work quite well was the direction during the appearances of Bok. Although Lee Arenberg didn't quite play Bok the way I was used to him, he did a great job of pulling off a fairly insane Ferengi -- Bok seemed fairly menacing when he was actually present taunting Picard. In particular, the ready-room scene was top-notch: Bok's "how touching" gave me the shivers. Congrats to Les Landau and Arenberg for pulling those scenes off so well.

The show in general seemed fairly well directed, in fact. There was one bit where I think they erred -- at the close, I think we needed to *see* that final handshake between them rather than infer it -- but on the whole, the show moved along at a decent pace and kept my attention. It didn't rivet it to the screen (ouch!), but it kept it.

I can't say the same for Ken Olandt's performance as Jason, though. Although he wasn't terrible, he just didn't seem to cast much of an impression at all; in fact, my main line for him was "which way to the Baywatch shoot?" He looked cute and brooded well, but for a show that has Picard trying to reach out and bond, there has to be something there he wants to bond *to* -- and I didn't get a sense of such a something, any more than I ever did with Vash. It just didn't fit.

Plot-wise, most of Bok's plans seemed fine, but I have difficulty with two aspects of it. First, there's what he did to Jason in the first place (i.e. "resequencing his DNA"). On many occasions, Trek has taken the (very wrong) stance that changing the DNA changes the physical appearance and characteristics of a person *dramatically*, a la "Genesis" or "Man of the People", or a host of other cases. Here, we get the opposite stance: that changing DNA does *nothing* beyond cause a genetic disorder. That stance is far closer to right, but any sense of continuity has now gone out the window. Frankly, I don't mind that so much -- but it's worthy of note for those who want Continuity Uber Alles. Second, however, I have to wonder how the hell Bok managed to do this without Jason remembering being abducted, altered, or anything -- it hardly seems plausible that all this could be done without him either remembering it or noticing that there's a large gap in his memory. ("There is a hole in your mind..." -- whoops, sorry, wrong series. :-) ) Once again, we have DNA invoked as the Magic Plot Device, and it was tiresome ten uses ago.

Second, I have a point or two about the subspace transporter. While it's an interesting idea, to be sure, it's probably another instance of Magic Technology We'll Never See Again. It's a bit odd that the Federation abandoned research into it as well; sure, it's somewhat impractical for regular use, but consider how helpful it could be in times of emergency evacuations or in times of war (imagine beaming a live photon torpedo _into_ a Borg ship, for instance). This may simply be a sign that the Federation Council is a little out of touch with reality (as has been hinted in DS9 lately), but it's worth noting in any event.

Characterwise ... well, we really only had three characters here that got much time: Picard, Jason, and Bok. Bok only had depth if you remembered him from "The Battle" -- but I did, and he was fine. Jason, as I've already talked about, seemed pretty much a cipher; he was there for Picard to react to, but not much more. (Lisa commented that he's the perfect son for Picard, though: already past the kid stage. :-) ) That leaves Picard -- and while he was all right, he was too talky here. Although I realize many of the scenes with Jason were _intended_ to be awkward for Picard, they felt awkward for everyone involved, actors and characters alike. That may have been intended, but it's not something I can really get behind while watching. (Many of the lines work on paper, though, so it may have been an off week for the actors.)

That's actually about it for the major stuff. Some short takes, then:

  • We had an alternate idea for the ending when Jason's disorder was revealed; that Bok found out about Picard and then *gave* him the disorder, which would be guaranteed to kill him. Basically, Bok would have "killed" Jason months ago and simply made sure Picard found him when it would cause the most anguish. Frankly, I like this idea better, but perhaps I'm sick. :-)
  • Picard's "you'll never look at your hairline again in the same way" was an absolute treat. Best line of the whole show by a landslide.
  • Many comments were thrown back at the screen during this one. For instance:

Picard -- "I need to talk to a parent."
Us -- "Well, in the last two years my son has caused someone's death at the Academy, then pissed off everyone on board this ship and gone off to become a hyperintelligent, pan-dimensional being -- what can I help you with?"

..and in the holodeck, the inevitable "oh, I hate to shoot a butt like that" and "Rock climbing", which MST3K fans will recognize immediately.

It was that kind of a night.

  • The scene where Bev is puzzled by Jason's disorder could have been made *much* more sensible with just five seconds of twiddling. Hasn't anybody heard of recessive genes? A simple "it's carried on a recessive gene, and your father doesn't have the gene present at all, so you shouldn't have this" would take just as much time as what was said and actually make sense. Growlf.
  • I thought the work Geordi and Data did to find the probe's origin was presented quite well, really -- it had a lot of sensible, deductive reasoning the way they should be acting *all* the time.
  • Similarly, Bok was reasonably intelligent for a fair portion of the show, only erring by letting his urge to gloat run away with him. He was a somewhat stock villain, but at least he was a fairly smart one.

That about covers it. "Bloodlines" isn't bad, but it's hardly earth-shattering. So, wrapping up:

Plot: Er ... mixed. Some fairly smart reasoning on the part of the charac- ters, but not a lot of plausibility.

Plot Handling: Mixed but generally decent.

Characterization: Pretty good Bok, and well *written* Jason and Picard -- but not all that well acted.

OVERALL: 6. Quite watchable, but not one to cherish.


Someone told the Enterprise "get a life!" once too often. :-)

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
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"One thing's clear -- you'll never look at your hairline again in the same way."
                                -- Picard
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