Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992): S05E16 – Ethics


“Ethics” is the 116th episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The 16th episode of the fifth season.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, after an accident leaves Worf paralysed, his only hope may be a visiting doctor with questionable medical ethics.


In a storage bay, Worf is hit by a barrel that falls from above. His spine is damaged, resulting in paraplegia. Dr. Crusher consults a specialist, Dr. Russell, who suggests a risky, possibly life-threatening, experimental, untested procedure that might allow Worf to regain all mobility; essentially, they clone his spine, extract the original and replace it with the new one. However Dr. Crusher does not think the risk is worth it.

Dr. Crusher recommends implants that transmit neural signals which would allow him to regain about 60% of his mobility. However, Worf does not like the idea of being an injured warrior nor “lurching through corridors” so he considers his life to be over.

Dr. Russell volunteers to assist in treating injured colonists whose transport had struck a mine. Crusher finds that she has used an experimental drug on a patient who subsequently died, and quietly but strongly reprimands Russell for not using proven methods first.

Worf asks Commander Riker to assist him in performing a ritual suicide, but Riker does not wish to help kill a friend. Riker points out that it is his son, Alexander, that the ritual states should assist. Unable to ask his son, Worf decides to risk undergoing the untested spine replacement procedure, against Dr. Crusher’s advice.

The operation proceeds as planned until Worf loses synaptic function, resulting in cardiac arrest and apparent brain death. In tears, Dr. Crusher informs Troi and Alexander of his demise, but minutes later they are pleasantly surprised as Worf revives due to the redundancies built into his body that back up even his neural functions.

Later Dr. Russell enters Dr. Crusher’s office, and Crusher tells her that while she is delighted that Worf will recover, she is horrified by Russell’s immoral methods of putting her own interests in collecting research data and gaining recognition for herself above patients’ interests and lives. Russell silently leaves the room.

Back in his quarters, Worf begins physical therapy to re-learns to walk, and accepts help from Alexander in mastering the use of his legs once again.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Chip Chalmers.
  • Writer(s): Sara B. Cooper and Stuart Charno.
  • Release Date: 02 March 1992.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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