WARNING: The following post contains spoiler information regarding
"Birthright, Part II", this week's latest offering from TNG. Those devoted
to the principle of avoiding spoilers are advised not to compromise themselves by reading any further.
What an *incredible* ... disappointment.
This is probably the first time a second part of a promising two-parter has
made me outright *angry* at TNG. There were so many promising directions
this show *could* have taken that I'm really annoyed none of them were. Grr. Anyway, more after a synopsis:
As Worf is subdued, L'Kor and Gi'ral tell him of their capture. Knocked
unconscious and then found, they were never given the opportunity to die,
even by starvation. The Klingon High Council would not acknowledge their
existence when it was made known to them, so in the end they chose to stay
rather than dishonor their families. L'Kor rebukes Worf for his search for Mogh, saying that he wishes *his* son "would be Klingon enough to kill me".
Worf sees a youth, Toq, gardening with an old Klingon weapon, and is further
surprised by several references from the children to "the war" that their
parents came to the prison to escape. After a brief conversation with Ba'el,
the young girl he saw at the pond, Worf notices his homing signal beeping and
returns to his quarters to plot an escape. While there, he meets Tokath, the
Romulan "jailer" of the camp, who points out that he, too, sacrificed himself
by remaining to keep watch over his "captives". He talks to Worf of the
unprecedented peace between Klingons and Romulans in the camp, and warns that
he will not allow Worf to destroy that community -- including Tokath's family, for Tokath even married a Klingon.
Worf, unmoved, rigs an explosion in the compound and attempts to escape. He
nearly succeeds, but is captured after refusing to harm Toq. As, far away,
the Enterprise begins to search for the now-overdue Worf by asking for the
trader's flight plan, Worf returns to the compound, now with an implant
allowing him to be tracked and with Toq as his guard. He chooses an
alternate approach, and begins altering the camp by educating the children,
teaching Ba'el and others meditation exercises, explaining old artifacts, and
telling them old Klingon legends. He finds himself drawn to Ba'el, but is taken aback when he sees her ears, which are *pointed*. "You are a Romulan!"
Actually, Ba'el is a crossbreed, the thought of which causes Worf to recoil
in disgust. She insists that her father, Tokath, is a good man that would
never have caused harm to anyone. When Worf challenges her to ask him
about the *truth* of how they all came to the camp, she leaves angrily. The
next morning, Worf attempts to apologize, but muffs the job. Ba'el tells him
to "leave the old hates behind" and keep the attraction to her, but he
confesses that he doesn't know if he can. Worf continues "training" the
children, now involving Toq in a game that hones hunting skills. When Toq
proves a fast learner, Worf suggests an actual hunt, with Toq as his guard.
Tokath refuses, but L'Kor intercedes, pointing that Worf has given his word as a warrior.
The hunt goes well; too well, in fact. Toq finds his Klingon side and
rejoices in it, even challenging Tokath upon their return. He rouses all the
youth of the camp, and even some of the older Klingons, in a *proper*
rendition of a battle song they'd heard only as a lullaby. Tokath, noting
correctly that all of this is due to Worf's influence, appeals to Worf to
live with them as one of them, and not to wreck the "harmony" Tokath has
created. Eventually he offers Worf a simple choice: submit, or be executed.
Worf chooses the latter, even refusing Ba'el's offer of helping him escape -- which all but breaks Ba'el's heart.
When morning comes and Worf remains defiant to the last, Tokath prepares the
execution. At the last moment, however, it is challenged -- by Toq, now
dressed in his forebears' warrior garb. He insists that he and many others
want to leave, and that to keep them here will require killing them as well.
Slowly, more Klingons choose to stand with him, even including L'Kor -- and
Ba'el. Gi'ral accepts this new reality, persuading Tokath that there is no
reason for this to be the *children's* prison as well as their own. Worf, in
recognition of the elders' sacrifice, swears the children to secrecy
regarding the camp's very existence. They leave a few days later aboard a
Romulan supply ship and rendezvous with the Enterprise, where Worf tells Picard that his quest was a failure: "No one survived Khitomer."
Well, that takes care of that. You'll note this was a shorter synopsis than I've done lately; there wasn't much to tell. Now, on to some comments:
First, I want to remind everyone that I rather enjoyed the first part.
"Birthright, Part I" set up some promising ideas, particularly on the Data end of things, and suggested lots of possibilities for the conclusion.
So what did we get? As far as I'm concerned, nothing worth speaking of. The
story part II decided to tell was a potentially interesting one that turned
out to have nothing to say we haven't already seen countless times already.
And the most promising ideas of all, the Data subplot, simply _vanished_.
Until I went back and watched the show a second time for the synopsis, I
hadn't even noticed that Data appeared *at all*. (Not a difficult thing to miss -- he only shows up in one scene, and I don't believe he had any lines.)
That suggests to me that the Data subplot in part I was primarily intended to
be *padding*, to make sure that the Worf story could make it into a full two hours. And *that*, quite frankly, I object to. A lot.
Two years ago, perhaps even one year ago, I wouldn't have objected, because
I'd have thought that further developments here were being reserved for
future storylines. However, given the long, *long* list of things still
waiting to be looked at again in the filmed Trek universe, I'm pretty certain
that any examination of Data's new abilities and circumstances simply _will
not happen_. And when the scenes setting the stage for those abilities were
so interesting, and so *breathtaking*, I get rather offended when I'm made to realize that it was probably just there to fill time. Growl.
Enough of what they didn't attempt to do. What about what they _did_ attempt to do?
Well, unfortunately, a lot of that didn't work too well for me either. One
point that was very strongly avoided throughout this whole thing was the
irony of having *Worf*, who is a very *atypical* Klingon in many respects,
trying to teach children who know nothing of "how to be Klingon". You'd
think there would be cases where he'd screw up, and also that there would be
times when he'd think "Wait a minute. Some of this stuff I'm teaching is stuff I don't even believe." None of that was in evidence, either.
Now, I realize it's very arguable that Worf was teaching based on what he
thought a Klingon *should* be, not on what Klingons really *are* like. In
fact, given what we know of Worf it makes a lot of sense. But we're never
given any hint of that, either -- not from Worf, and not from any of the
elder Klingons. Tokath at one point tells Worf that he is molding the kids
into what Worf *wants* them to be, not Klingons. That's a step in the right
direction, but Tokath's the wrong person to be saying it. Give that line to
L'Kor and the show suddenly starts grabbing at the depth it desperately needs.
The most interesting thing to me was not the "Klingon culture" idea, since
that's an idea that's working on being done to death without some different
approaches, but the *rebellion* it slowly engendered. The scene where Toq
begins his battle song reminded me of the "World Series" scene from "One Flew
Over the Cuckoo's Nest", which I had the opportunity to see an adaptation of
recently. *That* scene had some power, particularly when we saw Tokath lose
some of his composure and L'Kor joining in. I'm not happy with all the logic that led up to that scene, but the scene itself worked beautifully.
But as long as I'm on faulty logic ... there was an ample supply of it handy, particularly if it's extended to include "stupid crew tricks". For instance,
-- There was *still* absolutely no explanation given for how Shrek came by
his information or why he sought Worf out. Nothing at all; not even an *attempt* at closure.
-- While Worf was at least bright enough to mention to the Enterprise that he
was going, he apparently was *not* bright enough to send them Shrek's flight
plan _beforehand_, so that they could find him if need be. (And don't tell
me Shrek wouldn't give it to him. Worf wasn't in the mood to accept refusals
at the time.) Nor was the crew of the Enterprise swift enough to, for
instance, give Worf a homing signal that *they* could pick up. Dumb, dumb thinking.
-- Worf's move to accept execution, claiming that his martyrdom would inspire
the children, was a particularly silly idea on his part. It would not
exactly have been difficult for Tokath to *secretly* execute Worf and then to
say either that Worf escaped or that Tokath decided to let him leave. Now,
it appears Tokath wasn't bright enough to take advantage of that, but one person's muddled thinking does not justify another's.
I think the point is made. Lots of things here simply _weren't thought
through_, and they really needed to be to justify the situations we found ourselves watching.
Then, of course, we had the Worf/Ba'el romance. I didn't buy it -- not one
iota. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was about it that rang false,
because I can't localize it that closely. Nothing about it felt *right*,
that was for certain. And "I never thought it possible that I could love a
Romulan" -- please, no. This is Harlequin romance dialogue, folks -- not the
words, or the *ideas*, I would expect from the Worf who was involved with K'Ehleyr.
That may also be partially due to Jennifer Gatti's performance as Ba'el,
which I found somewhat lacking. The only two guests who I thought did
reasonable jobs were Richard Herd as L'Kor, who was *quite* good, and Alan
Scarfe as Tokath, who was decent. But Ba'el and Toq were fairly important
characters with lots of screen time, and I didn't manage to get through the *acting* to the *characters* there at all.
This is all sounding awfully harsh, and I'm surprised I disliked the episode
as much as I did. I expected to like it a *lot* -- Rene Echevarria has
written several good shows. "The Mind's Eye" had fantastic tension and
suspense (including several good Klingon roles), "I, Borg" was a great
character piece for several characters, and "The Perfect Mate", though
flawed, had a great romance in it. Echevarria is more than capable of doing
great jobs with *all* the elements that were sitting in this story -- so what happened? I've no idea, but it's a hell of a disappointment.
Some other short comments, then:
-- As you might expect given my opinion, MST3K-style taunting was *very* much
in evidence this week. Most of them aren't worth repeating or remembering, but two of them are ones I thought were worth sharing:
1) [Worf and Toq on the hunt, as Toq is catching the scent of the prey]
Toq: I *can* smell it! Me, in my best Michael Dorn voice: Er ... that was me. Sorry.
2) [Worf is training Ba'el and others in the meditation exercises] Me: It's just a jump to the left...
The latter, in particular, I'm rather proud of. Those who wish to harm me for a lousy sense of humor are welcome. :-)
-- If Ba'el being a crossbreed was supposed to be a surprise, they need to
work on their secret-keeping. I had her pegged as one roughly ten minutes into the episode.
-- So, Klingons and Romulans have never peacefully coexisted and have been
blood enemies for centuries? I can't have been the only one responding "You
were *allies* a hundred years ago, you morons!" Granted, they may not have
liked each other much even then, but that's not the same thing as "blood enemies". Sheesh.
-- How did Worf manage to still have the homing signal on him after being
taken captive? Boy, *great* security measures on the part of the Romulan guards...
That's about it. I've seen far worse shows, but I can't remember that last
one that I found this *surprisingly* disappointing. "Birthright, Part II"
deserved to be a hell of a lot better than it was, and I wish I knew where it took a wrong turn.
Plot: 3. Riddled with faulty logic and not telling much in the process.
Plot Handling: 4. The only scene with any fire in it was the song.
Characterization: 5. Good Worf and L'Kor, but not nearly enough to make up for everyone else.
OVERALL: 4. What a letdown.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "A Fistful of Datas", so I can rest. (Both TNG and DS9 are in reruns, for that matter...)
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"No one survived Khitomer."
-- Copyright 1993, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...