the story: DaiMon Bok returns with another diabolical plot against Picard, this time featuring Picard's...son?!?
what it's all about: This follow-up to the first season episode "The Battle" has to automatically be seen as better than its predecessor, even if "Battle" actually holds up better than most episodes from that season. "Bloodlines" also fits in with the seventh season's trend of looking at dark or overlooked chapters from the past, when Picard's Ferengi adversary Bok comes up with a convincing case for Picard having a son he didn't previously know about.
Bok, and the Ferengi in general, will never have the reputation of legitimate villains in Next Generation. Botched horribly in the first season ("Battle" wasn't their only appearance that season; their debut in "The Last Outpost" is downright pitiful). Two-for-two, Bok is betrayed by his own crew, who are outraged that he can so single-mindedly obsess over Picard against the basic Ferengi custom of fixating on profit. Deep Space Nine's Ferengi had far more convincing villains among them (including Brunt, who basically works for the IRS), and far more to do with being Ferengi. There's nothing intimidating about these alien trolls except their values, which are more or less indicative of everything humanity outgrew to reach Star Trek's future. Plus, they're natural cowards. The worst thing about Bok is not he's not even much of a Ferengi.
But his obsessive tendencies are familiar, if one-note. It's basically Bok with another con job, though. Harry Mudd he is not. So let's just put him aside. The real meat of "Bloodlines" is Picard confronting his wild past, all over again. I mean, wild by his standards, by the time we know him, anyway. The younger Picard, who was a lot like Kirk, we never really get to meet is always fascinating to explore, and this is a fun way to touch on him.
The best thing about the episode is Picard finally confronting the idea of having a family. This was a solitary man who hated the idea of children (his relationship with Wesley Crusher, as it evolved, was a major character aberration; just look at the continued awkwardness presented in "Disaster"). Remember how shocked Kirk was in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to learn of the existence of David Marcus? Well, this was Picard's David Marcus moment. And once more, we're presented with the extreme differences between Picard and Kirk.
The most surprising thing about "Bloodlines" is that Picard tries so hard to forge a relationship with the man Bok presents as his son. (Never mind that like David Marcus, the guy wants nothing to do with his supposed father.) The audience is asked to believe that someone would hate the idea of Picard as their dad (no doubt contributing to the ill-ease that greats this whole season, where Picard is joined by the rest of his senior staff in feeling extremely uncomfortable for such reasons).
Seeing Picard vulnerable always makes for good storytelling. For a man who is usually in control of himself, and a given situation, it's nice to see him struggling upstream. In a way, "Bloodlines" is an episode that had to happen, an update and not just sequel to "Battle," from a point in the series where his character has been firmly established, and everyone's on his side, including the audience.
franchise- It's a fun thought exercise, comparing this episode with Kirk's David Marcus moment, but you don't have to.
- series - It's a mark of the growth of the series since its first season.
- character - It's a good character moment for Picard.
essential- It could've been better.
Lee Arenberg (Bok)