WARNING: The following article contains spoiler information concerning TNG's season finale, "Redemption". Those not wishing said spoiler information are advised to duck and cover, here and now.
The first 45 minutes: wonderful. The last minute: They are NOT allowed to do that!
No, I don't mean the cliffhanger ending: it's not a problem per se, and this one was a fairly light one anyway. Anyone who's been paying attention on r.a.s knows precisely what I'm talking about...and for those of you who haven't...I'll go into it later. Right now, it's time for a synopsis:
The Enterprise is en route to the Klingon homeworld to install Gowron as the next leader of the Empire. However, after Picard briefly talks to Worf and urges him to challenge the Council and restore his family's honor, all aboard are surprised to find an escort; the Bortas, with Gowron himself on board. Gowron tells them they must hurry--if they are to prevent a Klingon civil war.
You see, although Duras is dead, his legacy lives on. His family is still powerful, and Duras's two sisters, Lursa and B'Etor, are mounting their own challenge to the throne. Gowron asks Jean-Luc to see his duty as arbiter of the succession through to the end, and support Gowron's rightful accession. Picard says that he will only act within the bounds of Klingon law: but that may not be enough...
Worf takes Gowron back to the transporter room (and Picard, based on past experience with Duras's family, orders a search for Romulan communications nearby), and then asks Gowron for the restoration of his good name. Gowron refuses, even after hearing that not only was it Duras's family that was responsible for the Khitomer attack, but that the Council members _knew_ about it. Gowron is isolated, and needs the support of the Council to survive--so he cannot challenge them on Worf's behalf yet.
After Guinan and Worf talk on the phaser range for a bit (ending with Guinan's observation that Worf is only now discovering what it's really like to be a Klingon), Worf asks Picard for a leave of absence. Picard grants it, and wishes Worf luck.
Worf then locates and boards the ship belonging to his brother Kurn, now a captain. Kurn is initially *against* Gowron, preferring to sweep the entire Council aside in favor of new blood, but Worf, as the older brother, claims that he is the one to speak for the family. After Worf points out that they will not support him until he has nowhere left to turn (and insist on the restoration of their family's honor as recompense) Kurn agrees, and says he shall attempt to persuade his own allies to support Gowron.
Before the Council, Picard reports that Gowron is the choice for leader. At the last minute, however, there comes a challenge: from Toral, a mere stripling, and, apparently, Duras's heretofore unknown SON. Lursa and B'Etor tell K'Tal, interim leader of the Council, that Toral's bloodline is true, and K'Tal puts the whole matter in Picard's lap.
Some time later, Lursa, B'Etor, and Toral are talking to Movar, a _Romulan_. Movar is saying that everything is going well--and his companion, cloaked in shadow, says that when the time is right, they will deal with the Federation, and Captain Picard.
Kurn reports to Worf that of his four squadron-commanding allies, three are with him, one against. Most of the Fleet hasn't decided yet which banner to follow. Kurn shall return soon. Worf then works with Data on accessing Federation records of the Khitomer massacre, but Picard briefly takes him aside and yells at him about using Federation influence and privileges to influence local politics. Picard realizes that he's primarily worried about crossing that line himself (certainly he has no wish to see the Duras family in power), and backs off--but he insists he cannot take sides. He allows Worf access to the Khitomer records, and will also open it to anyone else who wishes it--but this is the farthest he will go.
Picard then goes planetside and briefly pays an invited visit to Lursa and B'Etor, who attempt to convince him that Toral's challenge must be approved. Picard, however, realizes that they've manipulated the situation to their advantage: if he rules in favor of Toral, they win; and if he rules against Toral, they claim Federation interference and declare war on Gowron (and, Lursa points out, if they win, it's the end of the alliance...). He congratulates them on a strategy worthy of a Romulan, and departs.
The next day, Picard rules in favor of Gowron, saying that Toral has done nothing to prove his worthiness. Toral claims interference and calls his allies to war; Gowron claims that the law is on his side. The Council splits, with nearly all in favor of Toral.
Later, Worf goes on the Bortas to offer his assistance to Gowron. Gowron is not impressed--until Worf mentions that Kurn is his brother, and brings four squadrons. Gowron is then willing to listen, but also demands Federation help, and becomes very angry when Worf refuses to talk to Picard about it.
Their argument is interrupted, however, when the Bortas comes under fire from two ships. ("It's begun," says Picard.) The Bortas is heavily damaged, but Picard, bending over backward to avoid taking sides, merely orders the Enterprise out of the fighting area. Worf deceives the two ships and suckers them in close, managing to destroy one; and Kurn returns just in time, causing the other to flee. He offers his allegiance to Gowron, who accepts, and invites all down to witness his installment as leader.
His first act as leader is to restore Worf's good name, saying that in the recent struggle, he proved himself to have the heart of a Klingon. "Let your name be spoken once again. You are Worf, son of Mogh." Gowron then formally requests Federation aid as leader of the Empire, but Picard refuses to intervene in what is clearly an internal conflict, even refusing Worf's plea. Worf, unwilling to leave the sector in such a critical period, resigns his commission.
Later, Worf, in old Klingon garb, is packing his bags. Picard comes by to check that he's certain he's doing the right thing. Worf is sure he is, and Picard congratulates him for taking the best of humanity into himself. Worf, with a full honor guard, makes his way to the transporter room and departs for the Bortas (there to serve as weapons officer).
Finally, we see Movar, Duras's sisters and son, and Movar's companion, still cloaked in darkness. Movar smugly reports, "Picard has rejected Gowron's plea for help. The Enterprise has left orbit." Toral, brash and foolish as ever, says "Coward! He didn't have the courage to face us! The Federation--"
"Celebrate later, Toral!" says Movar's companion, now stepping into the light to reveal a slim, blonde figure who bears more than a passing resemblance to Tasha Yar (although her name is not said). "You should not discount Jean-Luc Picard yet. He is human--and humans have a way of showing up when you least expect them."
TO BE CONTINUED...
There. NOW do you see why I said they can't do that? :-)
For those who weren't paying attention a few weeks ago, I've been crusading against having any connection between this mysterious Romulan (first seen in "The Mind's Eye" three weeks ago), and Tasha Yar--and it looks very much like they're going to have one. I'm not certain yet, and I'm not going to scream and yell (figuratively speaking, of course :-) ) at them about it until they firmly do so...but the odds aren't looking too favorable here. Damn.
However, apart from my own frustration at the chance they're doing something so silly, I must say I was _very_ impressed by the finale. It wasn't quite as riveting, as earth-shattering, or as edge-of-your-seat suspenseful as "The
Best of Both Worlds, part I", which as last season's finale is the obvious comparison--but on the other hand, it's been led into far better. BOBW1 could have happened any time--but "Redemption" is dealing with elements we've slowly seen building for the past season and more. Something had to come to a head soon--and thanks to a 26-episode season limit, it's now. :-) Generally speaking, well done.
As for specific comments...wow. Bunches of 'em. I'm not sure where to begin.
First of all, the previews were TREMENDOUSLY misleading. I could swear from the previous week's previews that Gowron was going to at _Worf's_ throat beyond all others, and that somehow Worf's honor was a key element of the cause of the war. That turned out, as you can see, to be completely, 100% wrong. About the only thing the preview wasn't misleading on was Worf's resignation. Not that I'm complaining about all this, mind you; it led to some very pretty surprises while I was watching. ("Huh? Gowron's being a GOOD guy?" :-) ) Just worthy of note.
Second, I thought the casting was for the most part excellent. In particular, I found it interesting that nearly all the Council members apart from Gowron himself were rather old Klingons--perhaps Kurn's desire for new blood isn't such a bad one. (It also leads to an interesting question: WHY are there so few young Council members? Even nepotism, which the Klingons appear to thrive on, should lead to some younglings here and there. Hmm...)Also, B'Etor was exceptionally well cast and acted--I thought she looked, moved, and sounded a LOT like one of Duras's relatives should sound. Nicely done indeed.
The plot, I would say, was quite sound--everything fell neatly into place, leading everything down into flames. (Worthy of a Romulan, hell; everything was so fatalistic, I thought it was rather Wagnerian myself.) Kurn's sudden return to save the Bortas was, in hindsight, almost a given; but I was caught up enough in the battle itself at the time that it caught me off-guard. (Okay, who else thought of the Falcon streaking to the rescue at the last minute at the end of "Star Wars: A New Hope"? Uh-huh. I thought so. :-) )
I can't say I'm too surprised about that, though, since this was written by Ron Moore. Ron helped, at least, on the teleplays to both "Sins of the Father" and "Reunion", so it was to be expected that he was paying attention to what had gone before. Of course, he also helped on the teleplay for "Yesterday's Enterprise", so maybe my worries about a Tasha connection are more founded than I thought...uh-oh...
I won't be around to see all the complaints raised (and I have no doubt there will be some, given the nature of the net :-) ), but I can guess one of them already: why didn't we hear some explanations of Kell's actions in "The Mind's Eye"? Simple--Romulan machinations were not the focus of this show; the stability of the Klingon Empire was. In fact, it looks like this particular two-part show is going to neatly evolve from a Klingon-centered story to a Romulan-centered story, given that the ending did all but guarantee a strong Romulan presence in next season's premiere. I suspect that all about Kell's situation will be revealed in due course.
Another objection I'd anticipate (damn...and I won't even get to find out if these guesses are right! :-) ) would be a few condemnations of Picard turning tail during the battle. I don't agree. Picard is doing everything he can to keep the Federation out of what looks to be a very bloody war--and unfortunately, that does sometimes include letting your friends, maybe even letting short-term justice, fall by the wayside. He did it in "The Wounded", and he did it here--and I expect him to at some point do it again. (I also expect him to eventually get really pissed off at Starfleet continually giving him these type of expectations...but for now, that's neither here nor there.)
I would agree, however, with those who object to Picard's lecture to Worf about conflicts of interest....at least, I would agree a little bit. I think he went overboard, considering that he was more than happy to contribute information back when the question of Worf's father's honor was first raised (although I'd certainly argue there that at the time, he didn't consider it major political interference the way this one would be). However, most of my objections were removed when Picard stepped back, emotionally, and realized he was stepping on toes because he was worried about doing so himself. So it's still an objection, but only a minor one.
I'm also a little bit miffed that Gowron has turned into someone who really does seem almost totally honorable. There were a lot of hints back in "Reunion" that he was hardly squeaky clean, and I'd like to have seen a little more questioning from the Federation on that angle.
On the whole, though, I can't say I have any major complaints. Worf, in particular, was done absolutely splendid through and through. The effects were superb throughout the entire battle sequence, and the music is beginning to stand out a little more; certainly, it managed to accent the situation a bit better during Kurn's rescue than it's done in similar situations before. Worf's departure had some nice music as well, but that entire farewell sequence was exceedingly good. (Good enough, in fact, that for a moment I had to stop and remind myself that no, Michael Dorn doesn't have any plans to leave.)
So, that should just about cover that. A very worthy finale...and let's hope the second part lives up in September. (I'm not going to take off more than a token bit for the possible Tasha connection yet, because it hasn't been made clear yet. If they do so in September, then part 2 gets blasted for it.)
Anyway, the numbers:
Plot: 9.5. Half a point off for the hints at Her Tashaness.
Plot Handling: 10. No complaints here.
Characterization: 9. Half a point off each for Picard and Gowron, but nothing major.
TOTAL: 10, once I round up for absolutely phenomenal effects and good music. A very pleasant way to end a season, methinks.
Well, we've got reruns for the next 13 weeks now...and I must take my leave. I'll see you folks again in the middle of July.
Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
"The grasp of Duras reaches out from the grave."
Copyright 1991, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
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