Worf’s adopted brother, Nikolai, tricks the Enterprise into helping a village from a doomed pre-warp civilization, in violation of the prime directive. This forces Picard into allowing Nikolai to attempt to trick this village into thinking it is making a perilous journey to a new land, when they are in fact only on the holodeck awaiting re-location to a new planet. The mission is ultimately successful, but one Nnative discovers the truth and takes his own life, unable to see a way forward for himself.
Teleplay by Naren Shankar. Television Story by Spike Steingasser. Directed by Alexander Singer.
Homeward is a serviceable episode of Next Generation which rises above some of the other drek of Season Seven of the show, but never becomes anything anyone will remember with any particular regard. Part of the problem, of course, is that the episode pits the Federation and the lead characters of the show as the antagonists. Not villains, of course, but those working in opposition to the heroic efforts of Nikolai Rozhenko, Worf’s foster brother. Of course we don’t want to let these poor people die, of course the Federation looks cold and uncaring for upholding the Prime Directive so strongly. And this isn’t even anything new – we’ve seen it several times in Next Generation’s nearly seven years. But where previous episodes that have dealt with this theme have usually involved some strong internal conflict amongst the crew, this one shows our main characters all basically going along with it. (Although that said, I did appreciate the brief moments that showed Beverly Crusher’s struggles with it all – her comment in the meeting, and her look of despondency on the bridge).
So it’s up to guest character Nikolai to show them the error of their ways. Although he doesn’t really show anyone any errors, he just forces the issue and everyone begrudgingly complies. Picard acknowledges at the end that he doesn’t regret saving the Boraalans, but there’s no real attempt to deal with the moral quandary this represents, or for him to reconcile his principles with compassion. In this sense, Season Two’s Pen Pals was a bit more successful.
This brings up the basic issue of the episode which is that all the key elements seem so familiar. We’ve done the Prime Directive before, we’ve done old relatives before, we’ve even done Worf’s backstory and childhood before…and we’ve done all of it better. Paul Sorvino is a good actor and brings strength to anything he’s involved with, but in this case the material between him and Worf is just not enough to make it really interesting.
In fact, this season is turning out a little Worf-heavy…maybe it would have been worthwhile using this episode to focus on someone else? It could have been about Geordi and his sister, which would have given a much-needed boost to the chief engineer’s profile this year. Or it could have been about Beverly and her grandmother, and we could have skipped Sub Rosa all together.
• Paul Sorvino plays Dr. Nikolai Rozhenko. He’s a famous actor with many roles, though best known to me as one of the lead police officers in the early days of Law & Order. He also appeared in The Rocketeer and in an episode of Moonlighting as Bruce Willis’ father.
• Penny Johnson plays Dobara! She later became best known in the Star Trek-verse as Kasidy Yates, the girlfriend and eventual wife of Ben Sisko on Deep Space Nine. She was also known for playing Sherry Palmer, the conniving wife of President David Palmer for several years on 24, and playing the police captain on Castle.
• Brian Markinson, who plays Vorin, has got loads of “genre” acting roles, but the only ones that I know him from are as the boss police inspector in Continuum, and as Lt. Peter Durst in Star Trek Voyager (the first crew member to die after the pilot episode – the guy who gets his face attached to the Vidiian scientist who needs body parts to survive).
Shout Out to the Past:
• Worf’s foster brother was established, but not named, way back in Season 1’s Heart of Glory. There is also a reference to Worf’s foster brother.
• “Captain, the Boraalans have a rich and beautiful culture, a deep spiritual life.” Of course, in previous episodes, like Who Watches the Watchers?, a rich spiritual life would be seen as drawback from Picard’s point of view.
• Michael Dorn definitely plays his relationship with Nikolai as warmer than it would be with any other random person, but it’s still hard to see them as brothers.
• Worf apparently has no officers in his security team who can just go and check things out, while he stays at his tactical command post.
• Nikolai has some decent lines that show his commitment to his values: “I wasn’t going to let those people die just because your Captain started quoting Federation dogma to me,” and “Duty. That’s all that really matters to you, isn’t it? Well, I refuse to be bound by an abstraction. The lives of the people of Boraal are far more important to me.” And finally, “I’m not here to work out the issues of our childhood. I’m here to save a people who I care about. And if that upsets you, then so be it.”
• They move at maximum warp – is that Warp 5, or is this a “special circumstance” situation.
• “You will reach your new home. I promise,” is a funny line when you see the context: Worf trying to avoid being put into an arranged marriage.
• If we’re monitoring the Holodeck closely, you’d think that someone would be noticing that a door on the thing opened!
• “How can we grow when everything that made us who we are is gone?” Poor Vorin.
• Why don’t they just drug everyone and put them all to sleep, and then beam them into position? That would solve a lot of problems.
Dialogue High Point
I guess my favorite is Nikolai’s response to Picard’s speech about honoring the lives of those people they are unable to save because of the Prime Directive.
I find no honor in this whatsoever, Captain.