Friday, February 9, 2018

Episode Review - Firstborn (Next Generation, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Worf is frustrated that his son, Alexander, shows little interest in becoming a warrior, to the point of jeopardizing his Rite of Ascension. As he struggles to accept his son’s choice, he decides to take Alexander to a Klingon outpost for the Kot’baval celebration, hoping that the culture and folklore can inspire them both. One evening at the festival, Worf and Alexander are ambushed by three would-be assassins. Father and son are rescued by K’mtar, who identifies himself as the gin’tak, or adviser, to the House of Mogh. K’mtar, who has a strong connection to young Alexander, offers help in influencing the youngster as well as track down the source of the assassination attempt. While the Enterprise and the crew try to locate the Duras sisters, believed to be responsible for hiring the would-be killers, Worf makes a startling discovery about K’mtar and what the future holds for himself and his son.

Score: 7/10 – This was a nice episode and a change from the typical Klingon-centered shows. While there is still the ceremony and ritual we grew to expect from Klingons, there is a deeper familial struggle between the expectations of parent and the dreams of the son. Worf is never going to be given the “Father of the Year” award, but he does show some growth in that department here. There is a lot that works well in this story. We get to see the Duras sisters one last time before their fate is sealed in the upcoming feature film. We get a further look into Klingon myth and culture, including some Klingon opera. We have a hunt for the suspected assassins that shows some of the ingenuity of the crew (mostly Riker), we have time travel, and we even have a great scene with DS9’s favourite bartender, Quark. There are some funny scenes (Worf getting hit with a water balloon, for example) and some real tender moments. James Sloyan plays yet another character in the franchise (he has already been a Bajoran and a Romulan and will go on to make an appearance in Voyager), and he gives us something special in K’mtar/future Alexander. The idea that Alexander travels back in time to try to change his younger self is a new take on the time travel trope, and it is a bit of a surprise. We see some real depth to Alexander in this, and it reflects upon Worf as well. While the pacing gets a bit slow at times, the general flow is consistent. As Worf and the crew search for Lursa and B’Etor, we are introduced to a couple colorful characters that move the story along well enough. Although they are entertaining, they are really just token alien smugglers with otherwise little significance. So while this episode is not earth-shattering or a game-changer, it is pleasant to watch and gives us some interesting concepts to ponder.

Relevance -2 points. A point scored for using the death of K’Ehleyr as a means for Worf to verify the claim that K’mtar is the future version of Alexander. The way it was described was perfect and gives us the perspective of Alexander on an important part of Worf’s story. Another point is scored for the reference of the Duras sisters being on Deep Space Nine (from the episode “Past Prologue”). It was the events in this DS9 episode that led Riker to contacting Quark for information.

Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity is intact. Worf again stumbles around parenthood, trying to make his son into something Alexander simply does not want to be. In typical Worf fashion, he learns to accept his son for who he is. He is fiercely defensive of Alexander. Story continuity does work here as well. Universe continuity is also good. Of particular note is the Klingon culture that is explored in a bit more detail than before, highlighting the reverence for Khaless in story and song.

Character Development – 2 points. This is definitely and unsurprisingly a Worf episode, with very little attention given to other characters. Riker does show some ingenuity in his investigation and location of the Duras sisters (his detonation of some magnesite ore to reveal a cloaked Bird of Prey vessel is particularly impressive), but that is about it for character development of everyone else. Worf, meanwhile, is given another story that highlights his difficulties in being a single parent. He learns that his son does not have to be a Klingon warrior to make him proud. He starts to see the true potential in Alexander and allows him choose his own path of honor.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Ah, the delicate balance between allowing your child to find their own way and to influence to take the path you think that they are best suited for. Worf, as mentioned, wants his son to go one way, and has to accept the fact that his son will likely try to seek glory in his own way. As a parent, I understand how difficult that can be. There is also the concept of regret of one’s perceived failings. K’mtar goes back in time to try to persuade his younger self to choose the warrior’s path, hoping to prevent the assassination of his father in Worf’s future. When that he fails, he attempts to kill his younger self, perhaps in an attempt to take away the pain of his failure by preventing he, the older Alexander, from reaching his current situation. As much as Worf must accept that his son can choose his own destiny, Alexander/K’mtar must accept that his choices do not necessarily mean that he has failed his father. As Worf pointed out, by warning him of his fate, K’mtar may have set events in motion to prevent his future death.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. A point has to be scored for the fun and entertaining scene between Riker and Quark. We were still in the early stages of getting to know Quark at this point, and it was fun watching the banter between the two.

Rank – Captain (18 points). The final season of TNG may not have been the strongest of the seasons, but this episode does have some great moments. While it lacks lots of action, it does give us some nice drama. This is the last episode for which actor Brian Bonsal plays Alexander (the character returns in DS9, but much more mature and played by another actor). Definitely an interesting story that should be seen.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

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