Monday, March 5, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 6: Birthright, Part II

The Next Generation, Season 6
"Birthright, Part II"
Airdate: March 1, 1993
142 of 176 produced
142 of 176 aired


While his father did die at Khitomer, Worf finds other surviving Klingons at a hidden colony. They were captured and held prisoner - voluntarily. To protect their families' honor, they stayed so no one would know they had been captured. Further, Worf discovers that the Klingons here have started new families, and that the Klingon children know nothing of their heritage, believing their parents came to the planet to escape war with the Romulans. Will Worf be able to leave? What effect with will his presence have on the colony?

A real Klingon does not wear deodorant, Toq. Inhale my musky odors and rejoice!


Kevin: Watching the cliffhanger, you kind of expect this is going to be a more action oriented episode, which when I was 11, I was fine with. The Worf-centered action episodes tend to have a strong political vein that makes them both good episodes and highly entertaining ones. And seriously, the dude is waaaaay overdue to kick some ass without being taken out on the bridge in the first two seconds of a conflict. Instead, we get a funereally paced episode filled with characters and plots I end up not really caring about. I'm not saying Worf teaching people what it means to be Klingon can't be a great episode, it's usually just delivered with a little more oomph.

Matthew: I think the bare bones of a good character story are here, they just weren't developed in the most exciting ways. It is potentially interesting, the idea of Klingons who were all displaced by the Khitomer massacre, healing each other and restoring to each other what was taken from them. I did like the scenes with the hunting, the singing, the storytelling, and so on. The Mok'bara scenes actually remind me of the Falun Gong controversy in China. I didn't find the pacing to be so bad, but then, I watched it at 1.5x speed.

Kevin: I find the politics of this set up poorly explained. If Tokath really sacrificed his career, why are there armed Romulan guards? Their presence suggests some official Romulan sanction, but what possible motive, even with Tokath's altruism, to do that? Even if the Empire may not have negotiated for their lives, if they found out there was a colony of Klingons being denied an honorable death, it could be causus belli. I get Tokath's motivation, just not his superiors. I also do not get the Klingons. Once given their freedom, why didn't they all commit Klingon seppuku and restore their honor. If they wanted to explore the idea of Klingons and Romulans working together, there had to be a less artificial way to explore it.

Matthew: Yeah, the rational viewer in me was waiting for some sort of deeper, darker secret. Maybe these Klingons had been in league with the Romulans at Khitomer? Principled dissidents against the Klingon way of life? Something. Instead, they seem like oddly ineffectual prisoners, who talk about honor but do nothing about it. What turned these people into parents who would not only ignore their cultural heritage when raising their children, but actively subvert and distort it? Tokath was an interesting character to me. I liked the compassionate side of Romulans on displayu here. But as you say, the other Romulans staying here made no sense. Were they being punished, too? Did they all take Klingon wives? I think things would have made more sense if Tokath had been the lone Romulan at the camp, and Worf would be surprised by this, given his position of authority. Then, some sort of ideological rationale could have been unveiled. One other thing - why did Tokath arrange to execute Worf in public? A secret execution would have completely forestalled the eventual youth rebellion, and could have even undermined it if Tokath had claimed that Worf fled.

Kevin: I also have some problems with Worf on this one. His reaction to Ba'el's ears felt a little too season 1 Worf for me not Season 6. On the one hand, I suppose you can argue some bigotries are too deeply seated, and it's nice when they make Worf complicated, but it read a little forced to me. Also, what was her mother's motivation? Even if they all decided to live there, wouldn't the Klingons still shun her and her daughter? Maybe there could have been more Klingon-Romulan  children to make the point that the prejudice had been truly overcome,

Matthew: Yeah, again, I do think that the idea of a Worf/Ba'el romance could work well to poke holes in his racism - if it were more organic and slower-developing, and if the reveal had been withheld for longer. But he finds out right away. Also, his attraction for her really wasn't demonstrated in a convincing way - she finds him in the woods, and kind of whines at him like someone with annoying intellectual issues. This made Worf want to jump her bones? They never consummate their attraction, and then, at the end of the episode, she seems willing to sacrifice her life. Why? For no reason we've really seen. And of course, there is no shred of a mention of her ever again in continuity - heck, she even disappears at the end of the episode, because presumably her hybrid nature would have tipped everyone off to Khitomer survivors. It was just sort of sloppy and perfunctory (and not in a good way, heh heh).

Kevin: I also have some serious issues with the resolution, both practically and philosophically. First, how the hell are these kids supposed to function in Klingon society without blowing their cover? I could better blend into Klingon society. They'll have none of the reference points or common experiences that would make maintaining their cover difficult, but make living a very isolated experience. Is Ba'el getting cosmetic surgery? What happens the first time she gets sick? I liked Ba'el's line about why did Worf come there as they were all happy and didn't know what they were missing. I think there's almost a Prime Directive argument to be made. What business did Worf have upending this society? I'm not saying it's open and shut. There's an argument to be made, certainly, in favor of honesty and self-determination in the face of new information, but some exploration of that could have been fun.

Matthew: The idea that the Enterprise crew bought Worf's story is laughable. Picard seems to wink at it a bit, but this is also rather unbelievable - we essentially have secret prisoners of war, and Picard now knows about it, and is completely sanguine about leaving it be, absent some clarifying explanation? I think not.

Kevin: The complete lack of any follow up on the Data story is almost inexcusable. It makes it not a two-parter. These were two different episodes, and maybe trimming the Worf story to 43 minutes could have forced some revisions to make the story a little less leaden. Also, the Enterprise's search for Worf was a needless set of sequences. "We need to find Worf. Oh, there he is." It's like the Mr. Sparkle episode of The Simpsons after they watch the promotional video. "That was fun, now let's go home." "We are home, Dad." "That was fast."

Matthew: Yeah, it was quite telling to me how little of the previous episode was mentioned in the "last time" teaser. Why this was a two-parter is beyond me.


Kevin: Michael Dorn tried. He did. He did his tai chi and everything. I even think he played the internal struggle of his racism pretty well. He didn't bring up a weak script, but to his credit, he did not let it bring him down. I didn't think he and Ba'el had a great deal of chemistry, but I think that was the script. His interest in her seemed to be a little forced. He saw her bathing in a pond and that was about it.

Matthew: I liked Dorn's performance here. I thought it was the one of the most mature renderings of Worf's love for his culture, as well as his basic bigotry towards all things Romulan. I agree he didn't transcend a problematic script, but his character's journey was the one I bought into most on this episode. As far as the romance, I wonder if Dorn simply didn't believe what he was given in the script, and played it that way. I really liked his reverence and passion when recounting the Klingon myths. Those scenes show what he is capable of.

Kevin: Jennifer Gatti was pretty good in and of herself as Ba'el. She at least had some energy when she delivered her lines. Sterling Macer Jr. was less awesome for me as Toq. His line reading was a little too conventionally Klingon for someone who is supposed to not have had contact with their culture. Alan Scarfe previously played Mendak in Data's Day, and I liked him more there. He is naturally a little too menacing, so his transition to tyrant by the end doesn't really pop. But seriously, it must be fun to able to speak like that. Even ordering through a drive-thru has to sound pretty awesome. "If you ask if I want fries again, I won't be responsible for the consequences."

Matthew: Gatti didn't really do it for me here, as opposed to her much better appearance in Voyager's "Non Sequitur." Her character didn't seem alluring enough to woo a widower with a child and serious honor issues. On the other hand, I liked Alan Scarfe's Tokath quite a bit. The actor definitely underplayed him, but this fit the character, who has had to make peace with a life-changing decision over the course of two decades.

Production Values

Kevin: The colony looked pretty good. The white-washed walls were reminiscent of the Kataan colony in "The Inner Light." It had a lot of rooms and courtyards for its size which helped the general feel. I liked the greenery and the dirt in the garden, it gave it a very lived in feel. The costumes were okay. They looked of a piece with Kahlest's spinal armor/bathrobe from "Sins of the Father."

Matthew: I also noted the similarity between this colony and Kataan. There was probably at least a bit of re-using here and there. I liked the interior sets, and most of the exteriors, too. The composite work of melding the colony overhead shot and the forest was a bit rough. For as much as the Enterprise scenes seemed superfluous, they did afford us some nice looks at the detailed model of the ship, and we got a decent Okudagram depicting the space near the border.


Kevin: This is the weaker of the two parts for me. The funereal pacing and underdeveloped political and social themes really make this one fall short. I am on record as LOVING a good Klingon/Romulan political thriller, even at the cost of a strong sci-fi element, but this is just not it. Condensing this to one episode and making some choices about where to cut could have forced this into a more interesting episode. This is a 2 from me.

Matthew: There were a lot of missed opportunities here. So the question is whether any aspect of the acting or production surmounted these missed opportunities and brought things into the average range. Sadly, I don't think they did. The basic skeleton of the story could have supported a 4 episode easily, talking about exile from one's culture, overcoming ancient hatred, engaging in radical social experiments, and so on. But what we got was muddled and half baked. So I agree with the 2 for an unfortunate total of 4.


  1. Wow. This is one of my favorite episodes. To each his own I guess. As for Worf and the Prime Directive, he doesn't have much respect for it. Remember he is always the one yelling CAPTAIN WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!

  2. I always had the hots for the Ba'el. Yeah there were some serious logic issues. As was discussed in the review. Plus I think Ba'el stayed on the planet. But what happens when the kids are DNA tested and it is revealed who their ancestors are. But I like this episode more than you guys do.

  3. I think there is a kernel of a great idea here, especially given the background for Worf and his identity. But gluing it to the Data story and shoe-horning a DS9 guest turn, it prevented this one from even getting out of the gate.

  4. Klingons cannot wear deodorant. It's a deadly poison for Klingons!

  5. I dont understand Klingon society. I mean here you got this race of warriors and warriors alone, who, all they want to do is fight and die and be in battle. How does a civilization that is all about that and nothing else survive, thrive, develop warp drive or make strides and advances in medicine and technology? if being a warrior is the prime goal of every Klingon, their raison d'etre, then how do they have anything else? Do they have universities? Institutes of higher education? R & D? restaurants? Opera? Music? Clothing shops? Baby sitters? Toy stores?

    If being a warrior is all that makes you Klingon, then who are the people singing operas or serving food in restaurants or doing research, developing warp drive and all the things that make you not be a caveman?

    There is a lot of that in Star Trek: species you cant figure out why they are so advanced, like Nausicaans (spelling?) or the Aquatic Xindi (who dont even have hands and are huge and clumsy and swim, how did these whales come up with sophisticated technology like we see in ENT?), or the Hirogen in VOY.

    I try to not let such things bother me too much, I just suspend disbelief for the heck of being able to enjoy it, but then there is an episode like this that makes you think about it. All Worf wants them to do is go hunt, kill, eat, drink, man woman. grunt, fornicate, burp, hunt, kill. I mean really? Is that all klingons are? Caveman with warp drive? No one ever wonder how they got this far being so primitive?

    1. I think we might find it believable that they could conquer races with technology, but that of course raises the question of how primitives would best a race with phasers and warp drives. Alternatively, I suppose it's believable that a warrior race would find technology valuable enough as a tool for war to allocate resources towards developing it.

      But I totally agree that the full variety of Klingon culture is underbaked. We do get a bit of discussion of this in "The Drumhead" and "The Chase."

  6. Romulan: do you know of any place, any time in history, when klingons and romulans have lived together in peace? We have despised each other, fought each other for centuries, except here where Romulans and Klingons live together in harmony. No government, no leader has ever done what I have done here.

    Worf: [grunt, oink. hits head with both hands, grunts] Yeah who cares about that? [grunt]. What about Toq who was overcome with blood lust engaging in the primitive act of hunting swine and who is being deprived of being of his BIRTHRIGHT AAAARRGH to be a primitive caveman as we speak? [grunt, oink, grunt]. Who cares about peace between our peoples when there are wild animals to be hunted for the dinner table and potential battles fought and won for the sake of fighting and winning battles? [grunt, oink] Romulans and Klingons live in harmony? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAH...I DONT THINK SO. NOT WHEN YOU CAN SMELL THE BLOOD OF YOUR PREY AGAINST THE WIND AND FEEL POWERFUL IN YOUR BALLS. *grunt* *oink* WUHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH.....AAAAARRRRGHHHHH. OINK. GRUNT

    1. The thing about that was, there was a specific mention in TOS of a time when Klingons and Romulans cooperated, to the point of sharing technology (it was to explain why they reused a Klingon model in "The Enterprise Incident")

    2. Well for me it is the just sheer stupidity and primitiveness of Worf's response in this conversation which is just emblematic of him and Klingons in general. Here you got this Romulan make a rather sophisticated point about what this place is, how unique and important, and Worf is hung up on the stupid caveman stuff. It was embarrassing. No wonder Q once asked him if he'd eaten any good books lately. lol