Monday, June 25, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Firstborn

The Next Generation, Season 7
Airdate: April 25, 1994
172 of 176 produced
172 of 176 aired


While visiting a Klingon cultural festival, Worf and Alexander are attacked, apparently by the House of Duras. A mysterious stranger intervenes at the last second and saves them. He says his name is K'mtar and he was sent by Worf's brother Kurn to protect him. Compounding Worf's problems is the fact Alexander has declared he will not participate in any of the rites to become a true Klingon warrior. Can K'mtar help with this problem as well?
Father, what ever happened to the fire suppression systems mentioned in "Up The Long Ladder?"


Kevin: This is a basically good episode, but feels like its suffering just a tad from a form of television "senioritis." Everyone knows graduation is coming and they know where they are going to college, so I don't think the episode got the care and trimming of the story that it might have gotten in say, seasons 3 or 4. The basic problem is good, if not overly familiar. Worf has a contentious relationship with Alexander and Alexander one with his Klingon identity. Great stuff, and far less petulantly handled than other Alexander outings. Thankfully, we do get several mentions, and even a photo of K'Eylehr. I would have liked Alexanderr's objection to have a little more depth. He mentions his mother's ambivalence (at best) to Klingon culture, and maybe they could have spun it that Alexander was eager to please his father, maybe even genuinely interested in the rites himself, but felt going forward would betray his mother's memory. The version we got is fine, it just isn't terribly engaging. We know Worf won't force him, so there's not a ton of actual tension on this front. I will say I wish Troi had been a bit more involved, as she had been in the past. Processing cultural norms and grief over lost parents is right in her wheelhouse.

Matthew: I agree that this was essentially a good episode, and is certainly the best Alexander story in the series, and not just for the fact that they brought in a superb guest actor to play his older self. Alexander doesn't act like a little twerp, but like a kid without a responsive, sensitive father. The idea of trying to teach your own younger self how to avoid the pitfalls you remember is a potent one. All that said, there is a major pacing issue, typified by two plot points - the Duras sisters, and the time travel plot. The Duras don't show up until minute 35, which is a waste of their comedic gifts, while the time travel plot isn't mentioned until all the way at minute 38. So Alexander met a guy in the Cambra system, who gave him a chance to change the past? Come ON! This is the sci-fi crux of the story, and we learn nothing of it at all. Does this guy have a franchise? Is it a one time thing? Does his race control the universe? It's a humongous can of worms, and it is summarily abandoned in 10 seconds of dialogue.

Kevin: The K'mtar plot was good, and certianly energetic. I would put this in the better half of investigation storylines we've seen. The repartee with Quark was great, if a tad self-promotional, and the scenes in the mine and when they first find the sisters were great. The little exchange between Troi and Riker was really fun. The little clues, like the dagger and K'mtar's repeated inability to contact the Klingon homeworld were nice flags. I suppose I found the ultimate solution to be a bit...rushed. "Oh yeah, you get a time machine with your frappucino at the local Starbucks now," read a little too easy, but they at least did not dwell on it. The idea that Alexander was so guilt ridden, he would commit temporal suicide is interesting, but again, it was all a little too pat. Why not go back and save K'Eylehr's life? Being raised by her would almost certainly keep Alexander from assuming a leadership role in the House of Mogh, and it would retroactively give Suzie Plakson work, which I am also in favor of. I also like the final scene between Worf and K'mtar and Worf and Alexander. Both interactions had a lot of depth and emotion for Worf's journey as a parent. I do think Worf's kind of sanguine about being informed of his own murder, but I suppose he thinks forewarned is forearmed or something.

Matthew: I agree that Riker uncovering the cloaked ship was cool. I very much liked the "I love you" scene between older Alexander and Worf, but I would have appreciated a bit more verification. Even just a tricorder reading indicating that he is 1/4 human. I liked how young Alexander wanted to keep practicing with K'mtar - it indicated that he might indeed prosper under a bit sterner hand. Which was why Worf's blase indifference to training at the end of the story really undercut him as a fatherhood character. I left this episode feeling like Worf still has no idea in the universe how to raise a kid. More heart-to-heart scenes between him and K'mtar might have remedied this. Overall, the brevity of the time travel story really hurts my estimation of this show. Did K'mtar change the future? Did he change himself? Is he a refugee from an alternate quantum history, a la "Parallels?" Throw us a freaking bone, people.

Kevin: A few other notes. On the one hand, I like seeing Starfleet as a parent-friendly place, but the scenes where Picard magnanimously gives a wide berth to Worf's Klingon-ness have grown too many too close together. It starts to discredit Worf's position that Picard is so willing to alter his duties on a whim so he'll have time to comply with his cultural traditions. I actually really liked the scene on the Klingon colony. It had a genuine festival feel and felt like it fleshed out Klingon culture and society.

Matthew: The leave didn't bother me as much as the oddly placed co-workers at the festival asking lame expository questions. I was also bothered by the thinly explained absence of Picard. Was Stewart taking a half day or something?


Kevin: Definitely the highlight of the episode. Worf and Alexander's interactions read as very relatable to modern parents fighting with their children. James Sloyan really sunk his teeth into the role as K'mtar. He was almost frantic in the holodeck training, and he had a sadness when talking about K'Eylehr that was genuinely touching. A lot of my problems with the plot are largely carried by the strength and energy of the acting. Between Dorn and Sloyan, their scenes together really kept the episode energized, even if the story didn't quite hit all its marks.

Matthew: Sloyan might be the best Klingon guest star. Which is saying something, because he pretty much holds that title for Romulans, too. There is something about the way he enunciates, carries himself, and really delivers his lines with both regality and gusto that makes his Klingon one I really admire, as opposed to just a violent buffoon. Dorn was good, but was limited by the plot and dialogue. Brian Bonsall was uncharacteristically good. Yeah, I know, he was really little for much of his time in the role. But he was far less annoying this time around.

Kevin: Seeing Lursa and B'Etor one more time was fun. The actresses definitely have a flair for that particular brand of Klingon drama, and for some I reason I like that Lursa was the one that got knocked up, given that B'Etor was portrayed as the more promiscuous one last time. It's always the quiet ones. The Yridian and the Dopterian were fun and acted well through the makeup.

Matthew: Armin Shimerman was typically good in a limited role. I definitely agree on the Duras sisters, too. They were under-utilized here. And not giving them a chance to play against Patrick Stewart again? Criminal.

Production Values

Kevin: The Klingon colony was great. I loved the quasi-medieval touches. The exagerated costumes of the fake combatants were great. I also really like the jungle-gym deally they were all hanging on to watch. The scene when Riker shoots the ore to reveal the cloaked ship was fun, but I have a question. Other particles must also be hitting the ship all the time. Why would the cloaking device not account for the vaprozied ore like any other gas? Just curious.

Matthew: We saw yet another "squibless" phaser scene on the planet. I'm glad they went back to real pyrotechnics on later series, because it looks a bit lame. Agreed on the planet overall though. It was similar enough to other Klingon locales to seem reminiscent, but it felt like a real "outpost."  They did some great things with day and night lighting, too. The Yridian ship looked pretty cool! They could have just gone with old triangle ship again, but they went the extra mile, and it is appreciated.

Kevin: Make up and costumes were great all around. I liked the holodeck scene. The freeze was obviously an optical effect, but still, it looked pretty good for the time and it was really well incorporated into the story. Overall, no complaints in this department.

Matthew: What is subtly effective about the makeup is how well they matched the turtle-heads of young and old Alexander. That, plus a well-staged scene at the festival, subconsciously hinted at their relationship.


Kevin: This is a solid 3. The acting is very good, but the story doesn't quite transcend its limitations. I liked exploring the relationship between Alexander and Worf in a more mature way and I liked the chase story for what it was, but the questions about Alexander's future ability and desire to do this hold this back for me.

Matthew: Yeah, I think a 2 is off the table, because the acting is strong enough to keep this one engaging. There are kernels of good story here, but they were kind of wasted on a story that developed too slowly and answered too few questions. The production was adequate and maybe even a bit above average. So overall that sounds pretty much like a 3, for a total of 6 between us.

1 comment:

  1. They didn't explain how he intended to circumvent the "kill yourself in the past" paradox.

    I also found it interesting not only that Worf had money to buy sweets (or whatever passes for sweets at a Klingon festival), but that Alexander knew what the stuff was and that it was for eating without even looking. Have they been to Klingon festivals before? When did Alexander acquire familiarity with whatever was wrapped in that cloth?

    It also frustrates me how crappy a father Worf is. He's one of my favorite characters, and they reduced him to, "No, you can't play with your human friends. Oh, you made Klingon friends? Nope, can't even say goodbye to them even though they're expecting you back. Oh, you want to get excited about Klingon culture just like I wanted you to? Nope, that's not in the plans, either. You want to practice with a bat'leth just like I've wanted you to want this WHOLE EPISODE? Nah, let's go do something else."

    If my father sent that many mixed messages, I wouldn't do anything he wanted, either. I wouldn't know WHAT he wanted.

    I'd also like to know how they reconcile this with the comic relief that they let Alexander grow into in DS9. Can he serve on a ship without having been through his Rite of Ascension? Does that mean he DID go through with it? Then why didn't he have a proper Klingon name? He wasn't Alexander son of anything when he arrived on the Rotarran. He was still Alexander Rozhenko. Even Worf has Rozhenko and ALSO "son of Mogh". Shouldn't he have been Alexander son of Worf?

    I could go on and on with the horrific things they did to Alexander as a character, but this has already gotten quite long.

    (As an aside, am I the only one who's massively entertained that magnesite explodes into glitter? Having looked the stuff up, it's even plausible that it might explode into glitter, too!)