Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Reunion

The Next Generation, Season 4
Airdate: November 5, 1990
80 of 176 produced
80 of 176 aired


The Enterprise is investigating strange energy signals when a Klingon ship uncloaks in front of her. On board is K'Ehleyr, now Federation Ambassador to the Empire, and Chancellor K'mpec himself. K'mpec is dying and has chosen Picard to mediate the succession of power. Complicating matters for both Worf and the Federation, one of the main contenders in Duras. Knowing what he is capable of, can Picard walk the tightrope between his duty as a Federation captain and Arbiter of Succession? And what will the Enterprise's latest foray into Klingon politics cost Worf?

Honey, I swear it wasn't me. Go talk to those numskulls Berman and Braga.


Kevin: This was Brannon Braga's first script for the show and his first collaboration with Ron Moore. I have to say I think it's one of his better ones. The episode does a really good job joining the two major plot arcs in Worf's character. We get another piece of the political story started in Sins of the Father, and I think this one stands up to that one just fine. It lacks a little of the tighter pacing of Sins, but overall, it has lots of layers and moving parts, but never feels out of control. For all our usual concerns about alien politics not being interesting, I was pretty damn entertained. It helped I knew most of the players already. K'Ehleyr's investigation of the Khitomer massacre was well done. It's a credit to her character how efficiently she obtained what information she could and pieced together the rest. I particularly liked K'mpec in this episode. I liked how he went from ruthlessly manipulating Picard to showing genuine regret in the same conversation, and it all felt credible.

Matthew: Definitely a well broken story - it flows with relatively good logic and a lot of momentum. One exception as far as logic goes is the bombing. What purpose did it serve except to give the characters something to suspect and investigate? Neither party was injured in the slightest. You'd think that Duras' man would have tried to sidle up next to Gowron or something. So instead of making sense, it just seemed artificial. But that aside, I was entertained generally by the story. I do think there were some more interesting angles that were ignored. Making Duras the unequivocal villain was less interesting than perhaps making Gowron the collaborator, but still having Duras kill K'Ehleyr for whatever reason (perhaps for exposing his father's complicity in the Khitomer massacre). Playing with those dynamics would have really put into relief the ethical quandaries. How guilty is a son for his father's sins? What if Gowron, despite being underhanded, is actually the better leader for the empire? And just to put it frankly - there is very little science fiction here. I can imagine a lot of sci-fi angles that could have been added to the story - maybe an investigation of K'Ehleyr's murder, in which the last images imprinted on her retinas or her brain are somehow downloaded technologically? Anyway, we just get a straight political thriller. Thrilling? Yes. Thought provoking in the way the best sci-fi can be? no.

Kevin: As the personal side of things, this episode is pretty damn awesome. The curve ball of K'Ehleyr having a child she didn't tell Worf about veers close to soap opera, but it doesn't cross a line. I don't know if it was the writing or the acting or both, but I loved that K'Ehleyr never telegraphed any resentment to Worf about having Alexander, only about whether they could be together as a family. It kept the episode from devolving into soap opera territory and was consistent with the character they established in Emissary. I would have liked a little more development of how Worf felt about being blindsided, but the episode is only 42 minutes.

Matthew: Sigh. SIGH. K'Ehleyr and Worf's scenes are SOOOOOO good in this episode. She should have been made a recurring character along the lines of a Keiko O'Brien. Having someone around to poke holes in his carefully constructed Klingon facade is so valuable for both characters, simultaneously telling us a lot about her as well as making him deeper and more identifiable, just as his scenes in "Family" did. Introducing a kid is always a live grenade, and has to be handled carefully. I liked the scenes with Alexander, with one exception - HOW OLD is this kid? 1/4 Human-Klinon hybrids must have a really accelerated developmental cycle. He should not be more than 2, but looks about 6 or 7.

Kevin: From an acting standpoint, killing K'Ehleyr was stupid, stupid, stupid. Suzie Plakson is a terrific actress and her scenes with everyone always pop. From a character standpoint, I can tolerate it a little more, because it does really open up some vistas for Worf. The brutal death of a character we care about is a bit of a gear shift for the franchise and the shock propels the rest of the Klingon arc a little. A Duras family member is now responsible for the death of his parents and his spouse. Watching Worf lose control and deal with the problem in a flatly Klingon manner is interesting. It echoes his refusal to help the ailing Romulan in "The Enemy." I'm glad they eventually bring Alexander back in Season 5, because shipping him to Earth here felt like a cop out.

Matthew: As I aver above, I think overall the writing choice here actually closes future vistas for Worf. It isn't until DS9 that we get to identify with him in this way again. It also displays a shocking lack of recognition on the part of the writers and the producers of what a potential goldmine Suzie Plakson is as an actress. But you're right, it did lead to a pretty kick-ass fight scene, and a nice "Revenge" moment. I will say, I thought the fact that K'Ehleyr could still talk and put father and son's hands together kind of called into question how serious her injuries were with respect to 24th century medicine. I mean, dudes who get stabbed in the effin' heart can be fixed. Why not K'Ehleyr? Some dialogue explaining the rationale would have been nice.


Kevin: Suzie Plakson is awesome, no two ways about it. For some reason, I've always loved the scene where she's trying to access the logs on the Khitomer massacre. There's just a way she says "pah doQ cha" thanks makes it sound like it's a real password for a real computer system. I guess I always like when an actor can interact in with computer by themselves and still sell a scene (see: Dr. Crusher in Remember Me). Her sparring with Duras and Gowron was also really well done.

Matthew: Plakson just absolutely chews her lines and spits them out with authority. She is SO GOOD. Had she just been dropped for good after "The Emissary," it would just be stupid. But dropping her after she tops that performance here? It is outright criminal. It is a crime against humanity in general and Trek fandom in particular to deny us Suzie Plakson. This could even have been rectified by giving her a different, starring role in DS9, Voyager, or Enterprise.  But no. I don't think I'm exaggerating here. Suzie Plakson is by far the most obviously superb guest female actor in the history of the franchise. That someone could fail to recognize this seriously calls into question their judgment and ability.

Kevin: For just getting to sit in a chair, I thought Charles Cooper did another good job. He's not above deceit and other sins in the name of the Empire, but neither is he cavalier or heartless. It really adds some gravity to the character. Robert O'Reilly, who previously appeared as "Rex the Bartender" in Manhunt makes his first of many appearances in the franchise as Gowron, and he does a good job. We don't know much about him, but he comes off as threatening, but less bombastic than Duras. Even though the information on Gowron is pretty slim, I always got the impression O'Reilly had a clear picture in his head and acted from that.

Matthew: I thought the bug eyes were a bit much as far as acting choices go. But his line readings were great, especially when he tries to enlist K'Ehleyr's help. All of the Klingons in this episode, Worf included, do a wonderful job. Michael Dorn obviously gets a lot to do in this episode, and he proves that he can carry a show. He is tender, wrathful, hurt, proud, a whole gamut of emotions, and he really gives a performance that we can identify with. Patrick Stewart gets several scenes as the arbiter of succession. I enjoyed the scenes with K'mpec, and the ones  in which he was coolly extending things despite the claimants' irritation. I do have to say that his line reading when he souted "Mev Yap!" sounded ridiculous.

Production Values

Kevin: This is the first appearance of the Vor'cha class cruiser, and it's a particular favorite of mine. It's of a piece with the other Klingon ships, but is an interesting design in its own right. The shots of the ships approaching and departing was particularly well done. It really looked like several objects in three-dimensional space, not merely layers of film on top of each other.

Matthew: Oh yeah. Totally cool ship. Maybe even better than the BOP, if only for being less ubiquitous. The space scenes were nice, though there weren't really any effects shots with the ships.

Kevin: The interiors default to the standard hazy/dark of a lot of alien ship design, though the lighting dude did a good job making Duras' and K'mpec's ships look different. As far as costuming, I loved K'Ehleyr's outfit. It looked like something an actual person might choose to wear, but still have some neat detailing that sets it apart from Earth fashion.

Matthew: Yeah, it looks like motherhood has improved K'Ehleyr's fashion sense. Her ensembles in this show were less Bad-Era Michael Jackson, more "sexy ambassador who gets shit done." Hillary should watch this episode and take notes.

Kevin: The scene of K'Ehleyr's death was surprisingly grisly. I would have liked to have seen a few injuries on Duras on his ship. I can't believe she went quietly. The final battle with Duras and Worf was really well done. It was paced well, and Duras' death was bluntly shocking without being gratuitous.

Matthew: The bloody hand print is what did it. Pretty graphic for the early nineties!


Kevin: The lack of a hard science fiction element keeps this from a 5, but this is a solid 4. It ties together two really awesome Worf storylines, and provides a pretty neat hour of political intrigue and drama. The effects, while not the star of the show, were certainly well done. The only thing that makes me really want to give it a lower score is killing of K'Ehleyr, which while working in the story, just makes me sad we won't see her again.

Matthew: I'm having a hard time figuring out how much to penalize this episode for killing K'Ehleyr. I do think it is fair to rate a show downward for this sort of egregious mistake. So: I would have given this a 4 as a solidly entertaining show that lacked sci-fi credibility. But killing K'Ehleyr results in one demerit. So I think it's a 3, which makes for a total of 7.


  1. I had seen this episode before. But it was not until that I started following the blog and saw it again, that like all others I guess fell in love with K'Ehleyr. Her scenes were just awesome. I can sort of understand why the writers killed her. But I agree with Matthew that she made Worf so much cooler.

  2. I'm a bit behind here, but I just wanted to point out that Matthew and I have a signed picture of Suzie Plakson as K'Ehleyr hanging above our bed. It's not quite as creepy as it sounds, since we recently moved the bed and haven't bothered to move the picture yet, but still, I do love her. However, I can't enjoy this episode because I spend the whole time sighing and saying, "Why? Why would you get rid of such an amazing character." This is one of the major crimes of the entire series as far as I'm concerned.

  3. The way I solve the problem is to be that much more angry at Duras, like its completely his fault K'Ehleyr is gone, and not the writers who made him do it. It allows me to really get behind the idea of Worf killing him. I'm sure more than a few fans wanted to plant the business end of a bat'leth in Moore and/or Braga's neck over this one.

  4. Yeah, but I have a problem with Worf killing him too. How many times can Worf go to Klingon stuff without it getting him in trouble with Starfleet? I know they respect other cultures, blah, blah, but surely he's held up to a certain standard as a Starfleet officer? It just bugs me. Sure, I hate Duras (even if his character is a bit two-dimensional for me), but I would have respected Worf more if he hadn't killed him. Maybe Duras could have died some other way. The best would have been if K'Ehleyr managed to strike a fatal blow to him as she was dying. Oh well.

  5. I would have enjoyed it if Suzie Plakson, out of make-up just barged in the scene with Worf fighting him, and killed him herself, and everyone just went "Temporal distortion. It's cool."

  6. Oooh, or Plakson as Lady Q! (I know, I know, doesn't make sense in the real world timeline, but that would have been awesome.)

  7. I've been rewatching Voyager on Netflix, and forming all kinds of opinions, like my renewed love of Roxann Dawson, who is awesome, and I was watching Q2 and there's the line about his mom disowning him, and I actually screamed at my computer "No! Why do you keep bringing her back to write her out again?!?!"

  8. Everytime I watch this I say to myself I wish Picard or Worf had said something to K'Ehleyr and been open to her so she doesnt have to go investigating on her own and be killed. I know it is not that simple but it almost feels like had Picard and/or Worf been more forthcoming with her, she may have lived. I understand Picard wanting to not betray Worf's trust, but why didnt Worf just tell her? This was an important issue after all: he had a son with her h couldnt acknowledge and an oath he couldnt take with her. He really should have told her.