Monday, September 26, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 4: Redemption, Part 1

The Next Generation, Season 4
"Redemption, Part 1
Airdate: June 17, 1991
99 of 176 produced
99 of 176 aired


The Enterprise is called upon by Gowron, who awaits his installation as the next Klingon chancellor. It seems he is worried about a budding Klingon civil war, instigated by the surviving members of the Duras clan, whose leader Lieutenant Worf had killed in revenge of his wife. Worf sees an opportunity to set right the wrong that had been inflicted on his family's honor... but Picard worries that the Enterprise's presence might leave it inextricably mired up in a violent political morass.

Lursa and B'Etor argue forcefully for leadership of the Empire to be split between four equally awe-inspiring entities.


Matthew: This episode cements the trend of seasons ending on cliff hangers. On the one hand, this does a great job of giving a certain amount of closure to the ongoing Worf story line. It brings in all the old players from his discommendation and Picard's role as arbiter of succession, and adds two new sets of players, the Duras sisters and Sela. So it is easy to say that this is an entertaining episode. But my criticism has to start off with the acknowledgement that there is little to no "hard" science fiction going on. This is a straight political/revenge thriller, and will have to be judged on that score. It could have been peopled by characters Shakespearean or taken place in settings contemporary to us. I'm willing to take it down a tick because we've seen other examples of stories that integrate character stories just as weighty with sci-fi stories that tickle the brain.

Kevin: I've said before how much I loved the Ron Moore Klingons and their arc, so this is a fun episode for me. The lack of hard science fiction is a valid criticism, but I tend to give a little more leeway than Matt generally, and what the episode lacks in science fiction, it has top notch political thriller/character development in spades. Maybe that's why I'm more forgiving. When Star Trek tries for a more purely focused character episode, it really delivers. If it tried and failed at political thriller, I might be more annoyed at the absence of a hard sci-fi element.

Matthew: I don't have any criticism for the way Worf is handled. It's nice to see him come into his own as the leader of his house, and as a player in galactic politics. He is given strong opinions and beliefs, and the character fights and advocates for those beliefs well. So it's a lot of fun to see Worf grow. His dialogue with Guinan is revealing, too, inasmuch as it shows he is a particularly rigid and conservative Klingon, making up for his alienation from his people as a child.  On the other hand, some of the motivations of other characters are a bit... murky. Picard, for instance, pushes Worf to sue for his family's honor, but then back-pedals and reneges on this feeling each time Worf wants assistance in the task. His wishy-washy response to releasing the Khitomer data put me off. Kurn, too, is odd. He seems to want to become Chancellor himself, but then demurs when Worf instructs him as older brother. Either Kurn is honorable enough to accede to such a request, and thus would not have considered treason in the first place, or he would not cast such a lofty ambition aside.

Kevin: I agree on Picard, though I chalk that up to inconsistent writing on the Prime Directive. These aren't natives of a pre-warp civilization. They are an advanced space faring people, and both action and inaction are going to have consequences for both the Federation and the Empire. I always liked how they played Worf as personally subscribing to and attributing to other Klingons a stricter adhere to an older set of ideals than we ever actually see. It's understandable from Worf's perspective as the outsider, and makes his isolation all the more heartbreaking. Even when surrounded by other Klingons, he still never quite fits in.

Matthew: The secondary players were a lot of fun and show that Ron Moore gets how to create juicy antagonists. Gowron ceases to be the boob he was in his first appearance and becomes a cunning politician in this episode. And I don't say that to indicate he is unlikable by any means. This episode establishes Gowron as a really cool character. I love how he reacts to the news that Duras' father betrayed the outpost to the Romulans. Lursa and B'Etor are similarly juicy, and do not come off as cartoonish, even though they are "over the top." The only minor disappointment is Toral, I wish he could have been shown to possess some of his own guile - maybe he felt he could turn the tables on his manipulators.

Kevin: I love the Duras sisters. For only appearing in a few episodes and a movie, they are really well developed, interesting characters. The scene with Picard and the tea was some top notch writing and acting. I enjoyed how well the veiled threats and political maneuvering were handled. There was just the right amount of exposition to clarify the political situation without bogging the conversation down, and not so little that all the innuendo ends up saying nothing. Part of what I enjoy so much in this episode is how well it pays off the build up of all the previous episodes. I feel like I have a pretty well sketched out picture of Klingon politics and it never once felt like an alien of the week problem that I don't care about.

Matthew: Sela is introduced, finally, but not really explained in this episode. So I won't judge her part too much when considering this show's merits. All I can say is that her last line of the episode, "Humans have a way of showing up when you least expect them,"  was pretty cheesy. Speaking of cheese, I was a bit off-put by Worf resigning his commission. It's rather cliche, especially when you know it won't stick. I remember having no doubt that he would be back, at the same post, with the same rank, next season. It's too bad, too, because his send-off was touching.

Kevin: The Klingons and by extension their episodes can get away with a little more cheese than usual for me. There's something so grand and Shakesperean about them, that had she quoted Hamlet or something, I probably would have let it slide. As for Worf, I agree that it lacked the shocking uncertainty of Locutus' "Number One." I too, never questioned if it wouldn't be solved by the end of the episode. Had it been DS9, we probably could have gotten to see Worf in the Empire for a while before finding a more organic way to bring him back. I'll discuss this more in Part II, but I liked Sela, but I liked more what it said about the writers. There's a fearless bravado to trying to construct this plot and hope it doesn't come crashing down around you or confuse casual viewers, and I like that they went for it with such vigor. I imagine writing this plotline must have been thrilling and terrifying for the writers, and its to their credit they neither failed nor chickened out.


Matthew: This is obviously a great turn by Michael Dorn. He does everything he needs to do to sell the character. He is hurt, cautious, then strident when he sees his chance to restore his family's honor. His scenes with Gowron, Picard, and Kurn are all really crackling and energetic.

Kevin: The final scene with Picard and Worf is among the best in the series. Both actors played it very subtely, and that works for the reserved nature of their characters, but still having such an honest moment of regard and respect was pretty powerful. I also want to give a shout out to Doctor Crusher in the final scene. It was Gates McFadden's one scene in this episode, and with no lines, she still sold genuine sadness at Worf's departure.

Matthew: Robert O'Reilly dials it back a few notches (from 11 to about an 8 or so), and the character really benefits. No longer does he bug his eyes out (well, not quite as much anyway) and hiss like a serpent.  He comes off as cunning, dangerous, and slippery - the perfect qualities for a master politician. Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh were terrific as the Duras sisters. Yet another stroke of casting genius by the TNG staff. They perfectly fit their roles, seeming both quintessentially Klingon as well as brilliantly individual. When actors can create such memorable character through all that make-up, you know you've got some winners on your hands. Tony Todd does his typical yeoman's job as Kurn. He is so much fun, it really is too bad he didn't get a regular role on one of the future series.

Kevin: I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating here. JG Hertzler, who played Martok, said in an interview that the actors who played the big Klingons all had pretty strong Shakespearean backgrounds, and it really shows. They exhibit the height of believing in the universe they are acting in. They more than just act through the make-up; they make me forget that it's there.

Production Values

Matthew: Many of the sets and mattes from "Reunion" make their re-appearance here, and I'm not complaining. It worked then, and it works now. We get a few new rooms with Kurn's vessel and the Duras sisters' house, and they are dressed well (albeit with what look like the same set dressings from Worf's quarters). It is atmospheric and successful, if not as original and surprising in quality as the original episode.

Kevin: I thought the Hegh'ta and the Bortas were a little underlit, but it's a thing for Klingons, so I go with it. I liked the Duras sisters' house. I also want one of those tiered goblets they served tea out of. It's the same goblet that K'mpec had in Reunion. Coincidence? You decide.

Matthew: The phaser range is... kind of disappointing. I have a really hard time imagining people firing at little blinking dots in utter blackness. How in the heck is that like any real world scenario when discharging a weapon? You have the ultimate virtual reality machine, and you can't simulate a firefight with some Romulans or Ferengi or something?

Kevin: Patrick Stewart did a thing with his arm to look like he was sighting in Matter of Honor and it works better. I liked the space battles, and they clearly spent their remaining budget. My only complaint is that much composite work degraded the final picture a little. If the much-hoped-for Bluray rerelease comes to pass, this would be an ideal episode for a CGI makeover.


Matthew: A 5 was never in the cards from me. There's just not enough science fiction here, and Star Trek is fundamentally about the sci-fi for me. But I can't deny the entertainment value of this episode, and I have to end up giving it a 4. It is certainly an above-average hour of television, with some tight (but not airtight as far as some characters go) writing, nice visuals, and very good acting.

Kevin: I agree. Even if episodes that lack science fiction, I'll still give a five if there is some kind of reach for something truly great, even if it is in terms of character development. This is a great episode. It remains fun to watch and a personal favorite after many years, but it doesn't try to be a transcendental hour of television, but they can't all be cities on the edges of forever. This is a solid 4, and certainly makes me eager to see Part II. That's a total of 8 from us.


1 comment:

  1. I have always liked this episode. The more I watch Trek I realize that I actually like the vaguely more political stories than the straight syfy ones. The Duras sisters always freaked me out I actually liked how Toral was played. He is clearly supposed to be a puppet and maybe doesn't truly realize his own role. I did not know that about Kurn. Tony Todd does kick ass. I now have to go listen to the podcast.

    BTW on Eureka this season Will Wheaton is a guest star and in one episode he calls another character Number 1.