Is it better to die, or live a life that is less than one’s ideal? Is it better to follow the rules, or cut corners to potentially save lives? Is it better to tell fellow players that you are sneaking a peek at their cards, or keep that information to yourself? An examination of these questions and more when we put Ethics in the Mission Log.

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  1. Dave Steph Taylor says:

    Ya, biggest lesson of this episode, don’t play cards with Geordi and Data

    • Earl Green says:

      Geez, and I thought all those times I played poker with Superman were annoying…

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        I promise I don’t look 😉

        Geordi just has too many ways to tell what is going on. Even if he is not looking at everyone’s cards, he still has an advantage of reading peoples in order to tell who is bluffing and who is not.

        And Data, well as we saw in the Casino episode, he can keep track of everyone’s cards so well and do all the calculations.

        Just a rigged game, good thing it is not for “real” money.

  2. CmdrR says:

    Riker is passing the officer’s loo, when a loud wailing booms from inside. Rusing in…
    Riker: Worf, did a Klingon just die? Were you alerting Sto’Vo’Kor that a warrior’s soul is on the way?
    Worf: (looking as sheepish as a Klingon can look) Um, no. I just got my ridges caught in my zipper.

    • Earl Green says:

      Imagine how much more dangerous it would have been if Donkey Kong was in that cargo bay, chucking barrels at everyone. (I really need to get more sleep before doing the headcanon thing, sorry.)

    • Earl Green says:

      Also, you’re asking for safety railing/netting from Starfleet, an organization that doesn’t even know what seatbelts are. Between Star Trek’s seat-belt-less future and Kylo Ren’s rail-free walkway over a mile-deep chasm, I think we can assume that OSHA goes extinct before we get much further into space.

  3. Muthsarah says:

    Hooray! Been looking forward to this one for a long time. Not that the episode is a favorite (it isn’t, but it’s good), but it just seems SO perfectly made for an analytical show like ML.

  4. Wildride says:

    “Tsk, tsk: You didn’t really follow the rules.”
    “You know what?!? I listened to what the patient really wanted and got the result that was desired. You may feel you have standing to lecture me, for some reason, but I certainly can’t see what it is. Call me when you’re even 10% the doctor I am.”

  5. Earl Green says:

    Pulaski might have her own cookbook, but do you know what’s missing from it? Georgia mint juleps. Seriously though, this would’ve made for better closure for Pulaski – perhaps written less reprehensibly than Dr. Russell – than Shades of Grey. Or, for that matter, accidentally stepping into an open turbolift shaft. (Wait, wrong show…)

    One thing no one commented on: Brian Bonsall. The kid’s alright. He had some heavy stuff to play here, and did it well. The bit where he’s going to try to do the Klingon Death Yodel and just breaks down in tears instead… that’s always gotten to me, I mean, *really* gotten to me. This was the first episode to show potential for that character other than merely being an obstacle/complication for Worf. It may actually be the only episode to do so – I don’t remember. Tune in next time for more Star Trek: Toddlers With Knives to find out.

    I really liked the idea that Troi was watching Alexander and thinking that odds are better than even in that moment that she’s going to wind up raising that kid as her own. I’d never thought of it that way; now I can totally see it. Turns out Marina’s really good at this stuff if she’s given the material.

    A friend of mine once observed, disturbingly correctly, that the scene in Picard’s ready room where he and Riker look at each other without speaking plays *totally differently* if you dub the sax solo from “Careless Whisper” over it. LCARS and chill, baby.

    • deaddropsd says:

      Great idea about Pulaski returning as guest star. Worf’s plan to ask Troi was a bit much. In reality, military people have to have a plan for deployment or death regarding care of loved ones. Family care plan…. Also, I thought Crusher was ridiculously backwards for the 24th century regarding the right to die, especially for a Klingon warrior. sigh, I guess they had to create conflict.

      • Earl Green says:

        Yeah, for anyone thinking Riker’s being a jerk this week, Beverly’s “hey, I’ll keep him restrained in sick bay forever!” pledge is almost mad-scientist-level crazy. Really, Beverly!? Um…are we absolutely *sure* we can’t get Pulaski in for a guest shot? Both doctors exhibit some disturbing zealotry in their own ways in this show.

      • Judie Liri says:

        I first heard about this idea in Tim Lynch’s review about…. 20 years ago. I don’t think it would have worked. They’d have to change Pulaski’s character a lot for this to work.

    • Earl Green says:

      Further thoughts: while I take Ken’s point that Dr. Russell is designed to be an adversary, full stop, for Beverly, you could still put Pulaski and Beverly in conflict with each other. We’d already seen in Unnatural Selection that Pulaski was willing to put everything on the line – including others’ health and including her own – to prove a theory. And she had an attachment to Worf (see also: Klingon tea ceremony) that could’ve driven her zeal to cut through the regulatory red tape and do an experimental surgery. And the conflict among the rest of the crew over which doctor – both of whom saved their butts countless times – is correct, that would’ve been delicious stuff. (Maybe, in an episode where we’re picking up spinal cords with futuristic salad sporks, I need to pick a word other than “delicious”.) Both doctors can be right and both can be wrong-headed on the road to being right. Now, I think the scene with the dead guy from the Denver…that either wouldn’t have happened, or would have happened differently.

      Man, the more we play with this Pulaski idea, the more I really like it. But I’ll also admit it’s kind of an endless headcanon detour. 🙂

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        Agreed. Pulaski would have been ideal for this.

      • Durakken says:

        They didn’t do it that way because they wanted you to not even question what the message they were pushing was right or wrong. You put Pulaski in and you know she’s doing it usually on ethical grounds, and usually good ones. Since they didn’t want people to make that link they couldn’t have her there.

  6. Troy Brooks says:

    I hate this episode. It spends the entire episode telling us that it’s wrong to try untested treatments, then the untested treatment works for Worf.
    And there’s a big difference between what we saw in Spock’s Brain and this, there was a treatment offered that would have worked, and Worf only rejected it because it wouldn’t give him 100% recovery. (I know many who could rant for hours about the ableism there) There was no other choice for Spock, it was put his brain back or his body would die.
    I think it would have much better for them to kick the killer doctor off the ship and Worf accepted the stimulators.

    • deaddropsd says:

      It seemed like a paralyzed Klingon was uncharted territory, but one would think this happens quite often w their war like ways….. ahhh the confines of the 44 minute tv show…and in the next episode….100% fine, running, jumping, getting his butt beaten up w/o mention of his injury!! lol

      • Earl Green says:

        Well, due to those time constraints they left an important development out:
        “We can make him faster, stronger.”
        *’70s computer sounds*
        “We will make the world’s first bionic Klingon.”
        *cue new theme music*

        (Please note that I don’t know what this hypothetical spinoff would be called because the Federation doesn’t have currency this week.)

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        You would think so, that’s why the ritual exists.

        • Earl Green says:

          Yeah – remember, we’ve already nailed down that old age and infirmity are not virtues or even badges of honor among Klingons. Wasn’t there an episode with a Klingon whose dad was a repatriated/returned POW, and he wouldn’t even speak to him? Geez. I mean…GEEZ. Klingons. *shakes head*

  7. Wildride says:

    “This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: Huge success!”

    The worst part of the episode is the “kill the cat” moment where Dr. Russell casually murders some guy, just to manipulate the audience into siding with Bev. It’s not bonk bonk on the head, it’s a sledgehammer to the cranium. If your point is persuasive, you don’t have to resort to such poorly written nonsense.

    If you want to make an interesting, well written story, you make it subtle. People can have a genuine disagreement without turning one of them into some kind of monster. The fact is Dr. Russell’s approach was better suited to this patient. She didn’t deceive Worf by overstating the chances. This is a risky thing that probably won’t work and will almost certainly kill you if it doesn’t. But, hey, you’re just gonna kill yourself anyway. This isn’t a good approach for most patients, but Worf isn’t most patients.

    Respect for other beliefs is a two way street. It’s one thing for Worf to insist that he’s doing the Klingon thing, but he needs to respect Riker’s right to say, “No way, buddy.” It’s one thing to enforce your right to die, even by assisted suicide, but that doesn’t compel anyone to help you if they don’t want to. Btw: This is an active debate in Canada with the supreme Court requiring Parliament to legislate to permit doctor assisted suicide. I’m fairly sure it won’t involve anyone stabbing people in the chest with knives.

    • Earl Green says:

      This reminds me of the (now sadly deceased) mayor of a city in my neck of the woods who had to travel to China to have a risky stem cell surgery performed to try to save his life, all on his own dime (though there was a community fundraising effort; he was a good guy and much loved by his constituency). His life expectancy without the procedure? Nil. Nada. Zilch. As it is, the procedure only extended his life by a few years, but it DID extend it. But could he get the same procedure performed here in the States? No. Were we even talking about stem cells in ’92? Because that seems like a big missed angle in retrospect – either that or this is one of those times where Trek was disturbingly ahead of its time. *goes back to listening to royalty-free 19th century classical music full-time*

      • Dave Steph Taylor says:

        A lot of the medical tech, (not the replace a spinal column), in this episode was seen as future tech in the 90’s is totally doable today.

      • deaddropsd says:

        I was an ER nurse and saw lots of patients on dialysis. A co-worker mentioned what a bummer way it was to live and I had to agree. Then my Dad went on dialysis. It extended his life long enough so he could see 2 more of his grandchildren, even visit Alaska. It is rough, but the memories are priceless. My Dad passed away in April and when “Cost of Living” was reviewed of course I thought of him a lot. As w most issues the key is choice. Self determination w knowledge of available options, risks etc….everyday is a gift….glad you’re mayor got a few more memories/time w his family

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      Ya, Beverly is a bit to stubborn in this and does not even advise Worf on a possible new procedure.

  8. deaddropsd says:

    Not trying to be a downer, but although the execution of this episode wasn’t the best, it is Star Trek doing what great sci fi does….

    Sadly I am thinking of euthanasia laws recently passed in Europe, for children….


    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      IF and only IF the patient in pain that is unstoppable or a diagnosis that is incurable should this be allowed.

  9. Brent Beasley says:

    As a doctor what I remember during this time period was the raging debate about allowing new AIDS treatments to go through the FDA process faster then what was the norm at the time. There were a lot of ethical discussions about how good was it for HIV patients to get treatments that had not been through rigorous trials.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      I believe there are times when drugs should be fast tracked, but she deliberately goes around the rules.

  10. wry observer of folly says:

    As often as the Computer mentioned Pulaski’s cookbook and various recipes therein, not a word about PCS. Pulaski’s Chicken Soup. (Ref: The Icarus Factor. You can thank me later Kendroid. :-))

  11. Dave Steph Taylor says:

    Final thoughts for me

    1- I agree, Picard is way to chill with Worf’s initial choice. If this was TOS, Kirk would be all “Hell No.”

    2- Worf is still a Starfleet officer. There have to be some rules against this, especially on the ship and in sickbay.

  12. deaddropsd says:

    too bad Worf doesn’t know of any blood relatives, familiar w Klingon traditions, honor and suicide rituals…….

  13. Will Wright says:

    Last night’s episode 10/ 27/16 ( and I’m sure there have been others in the past ) of Gray’s Anatomy Season 13, Ep. 6 -titled “Roar” dealt with a similar issue – where in a female patient who was diagnosed with having pancreatic cancer and just got pregnant – in a last ditch effort – at the age 40 – is offered the grim prognosis of having to chose to either terminate the pregnancy so she can undergo chemo and simply extend her life- or chose to undergo an experimental procedure that might gave her baby a chance to live, but she would die either during or before she gave birth. We are so conditioned to see the prolongation of life as always the best choice, but really ,that’s not always the case. So I guess I’m with Worf on this one. There are things worse than death, and “living” in the state he was in, to me – would be worse than death.
    On another note –
    When one of you guys wondered if at any moment a kid may come running around the corner with a chain saw in this episode – I thought of that new “ Your Not taking THAT” Subaru commercial, and finally
    Those red Heinz “63/57” =’s 120 Surgery outfits for some reason reminded me of those environmental outfits worn by our hero’s in the beginning of the episode “The Naked Time” . https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/33f013bdd17c42ef98feb5a368e78cd8221f2e37de6113b872781b28757aac11.jpg

  14. Durakken says:

    Both Picard and Riker were right…Worf was just going to find a way to do it eventually and Suicide is stupid and Worf shouldn’t be asking him to do something like that. Beverly is in the wrong and shows no sense of who Worf is, Klingon culture, or even basic medical ethics. It’s not her place to to tell him how to get treated or to force him to go one way or the other and she is a terrible friend for acting the way she did.

    As far as Worf goes… While I don’t agree with him on the suicide thing, I do agree with him, based on his options and beliefs, that he did the right thing. What you guys argued during the show is that “Oh no, but think of the kid.” Well, I’d say Worf is. Worf sets the example that if you believe something should be a given way you should hold to it even in the face of everyone telling you, “you’re wrong.”

    We can talk about this on many fronts, but, let’s talk about it in terms that many could make the arguments are the same that many people who love Star Trek make. The majority of people around you are theists and believe if you don’t believe there are gods or don’t follow some set of rules you’re going to burn for all eternity, blink out of existence, etc. They may very well be right and by not believing, and worse yet, arguing that others should also not believe that I am doing something insanely harmful to myself and others. By the logic that Worf shouldn’t commit suicide because everyone is telling him it’s wrong and Alexander is affected by it, I should just shut up and act as though and say I am a theist. In the modern world, and long before this star trek was made, we have learned that this is not how one should act. So while I may disagree with Worf on the action, I agree with him in that he is setting a good example for Alexander… which funny enough is an underlying theme of Alexander in the future.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      Interesting idea that Worf by committing suicide would be showing Alexander his ultimate commitment to the Klingon way.

  15. JimgDenver says:

    Geordi can see through cards, Troi can read emotions and Data can detect lying…why the heck is anyone else at that poker table?

  16. nathankc says:

    re: the discussion on Worf and his understanding / implementation of Klingon culture it occurred to me – is Worf basically a Sigma Iotia II (A Piece of the Action) version of being a Klingon? We have already seen and will continue to see him chastized by people who have first hand experience with actual Klingon culture – not just book learning (which is all it seems Worf has). Worf gets the details right but none of the nuance. It just really struck me that Worf may have fit right in with Oxmyx.

    • Dave Steph Taylor says:

      Ya, Worf was not raised by Klingon’s and as far as I know only spend a limited amount of time with them.

      • nathankc says:

        Exactly – almost the exact same situation with the planet in TOS. He’s basically living his life from books with no real context or knowledge of the actual culture.

        • Earl Green says:

          That’s a wild thought. Worf’s appropriating his own culture! Considering that further down the timeline, in his first DS9 episode, Worf is considering resigning from Starfleet to study Klingon culture, it seems like he’s somewhat self-aware of this; he’s aware he hasn’t really absorbed Klingon culture from other Klingons and means to correct that.

          • deaddropsd says:

            ugh….I have to admit being a bit tired of cultural appropriation complaints…sigh…I think there’s a few DS9 episodes w a Cardassian being adopted by Bajorans…and…hmmm I thought there was a human raised by Klingons one…oh well anyway…interesting stuff…

  17. John Anderton says:

    Interesting ideas about assisted suicide effecting Riker’s character. I thought Crusher was supposed to be wrong about worf, which was cool.

    But, sure, a bit too much soap opera to be .The top 10. Also, the resolution of Worf choosing his son over the absurd Klingon way was good, but mainly for fans. Might seem obvious otherwise.