Star Trek: The Next Generation – Firstborn [7.21]

Worf is concerned by Alexander’s lack of interest in becoming a Klingon warrior.  Attending a Klingon celebration in order to draw Alexander’s interest in that aspect of his culture, Worf is saved from an assassination attempt by a family friend, K’mtar.  K’mtar attempts to convince Alexander to embrace his heritage as a Klingon and to become a warrior.  Eventually, K’mtar is revealed to be Alexander from the future, who has returned to the past because his peace-loving ways led to the murder of Worf by Klingons who perceived Alexander to be weak.  Worf assures him that even if his apparent mission has failed, Alexander from the future has changed a great deal by his presence.  K’mtar leaves and Worf displays greater understanding to his son.

Teleplay by René Echevarria. Story by Mark Kalbfeld. Directed by Jonathan West.

Previous Episode: Journey’s End • Next Episode: Bloodlines

Comments:
As we go through this last run of Next Generation episodes, we find that Firstborn has the makings of a good episode.  It’s our last real look-in on Klingon politics for this series, and brings up some decent and believable conflict between Worf and Alexander, who hasn’t actually appeared for over a year.  Now, Alexander is not a character that you’d say has been missed, precisely, but it is nice to see the producers actually acknowledge the status quo they’ve created for their characters.

Unfortunately, it’s all undermined by the bizarre and abrupt ending that the episode delivers.  Up until that point, it’s a really baffling mystery.  K’mtar seems like a likable character, and his motivations for lying or wanting to harm Alexander seem impenetrable.  But then when the answer comes, we are left just staring at the screen in confusion.

Sure, the idea of time travel is pretty old hat for Star Trek at this point.  And the idea of really powerful beings sending people through time on some sort of morality play is also something that we can accept.  But come on, this stuff is not so “normal” that we can just throw out that sort of plot twist, with no attempt at explanation at all, and expect people to accept it as a key explanation underpinning the entire story.  What’s supposed to be going on here?  Is it meant to be Q up to the same tricks he pulled in Tapestry?  Why isn’t there anything from Worf in the way of skepticism, or even inquiry?  Indeed, how does adult Alexander even leave at the end?

It honestly gives you the feeling that the writers just don’t care.  Doesn’t matter if this show gets good ratings or good reviews or not...it’s ending, Deep Space Nine is underway, Voyager is coming, let’s get on with things.  And this is a shame because this episode had a lot of good going for it.  James Sloyan delivers a fine guest performance, it’s fun to see Lursa and B’Etor again, and overall the Klingon cultural stuff is more interesting than we had in the last few episodes with a similar focus (Rightful Heir, Birthright).  It’s just too bad the team couldn’t be bothered putting out a complete story to go along with all of that.

Guest Cast:
• James Sloyan plays K’Mtar, aka grown up Alexander.  He also played Admiral Jarok in The Defector, as well as the Bajoran scientist who first discovered Odo in two episodes of Deep Space Nine.  He was also in a memorable two-part episode of Buck Rogers, the one in which Buck infiltrates a gang of assassins called the Legion of Death.  He also played an insurance agent named Robert Butler in 5 episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

• Joel Swetow (Yog) played a Cardassian in the first episode of Deep Space Nine, and an Andorian in an episode of Enterprise.

• Armin Shimmerman shows up as Quark, who of course was a regular character on Deep Space Nine.  He had already appeared in Next Generation a few times, mostly as other Ferengi. He’d also had a recurring role in the TV series Beauty and the Beast from the 1980’s.

• John Kenton Shull plays Molor.  He’ll appear again in a number of small roles in Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

• Rickey D’Shon Collins makes his third and final appearance as Eric (albeit for only a couple of seconds).

• Gwyneth Walsh and Barbara March make their final Next Generation appearances as Lursa and B’Etor, though they will both reappear (and be blown to smithereens) in Star Trek Generations.

• And this is also Brian Bonsall’s last appearance as Alexander, or anyone else, in the Star Trek franchise.

Shout Out to the Past:
• There are direct references to Alexander’s backstory, and especially K’Ehleyr’s death in Reunion, and all the trouble with the Duras family. There’s even a photo of K’Ehleyr at one point.

• Kurn is also referenced.

• There are reference to the rites of ascension, the second of which was previously seen way back in The Icarus Factor.

• Lursa and B’Etor appear, and their previous appearance on an episode of Deep Space Nine is directly referenced.

• When Quark appears, he refers to his brother Rom.

• Pakleds also get a shout out.

Setting Up the Future:
• Well, Alexander will appear again, only a long time later when he will have science-fictionally grown up multiple years and we’ll find out that in spite of the progress made here, he and Worf still have lots of problems. Knowing this in advance kind of makes this episode feel a bit pointless.

• Kahless appears, after a fashion (as a character in a Klingon opera).

Observations:
• Cute opening scene with Worf fumbling his speech to Alexander:  “As time passes, a boy inevitably becomes a man, but what is not inevitable is that a man become a sword–”  I also like how Alexander undermines Worf’s reverential tones with his honest questions, “Is that when they hit you with pain sticks?”

• Apparently, this conference room sequence is Picard’s only scene in the episode.

• I like the way the non-Klingon crew members, including Dr. Crusher, are all standing a bit uncomfortably as they watch the Klingon performance.

• Oh, Worf joins in the singing.  And Alexander gets into it.

• Quark appears!  (I didn’t remember that).  He has a funny relationship with Riker which is quite fun to watch.  It might have been interesting to see more of that.

• Quark gets a good line when talking about the two Klingon women:   “Yes, Lursa and B’Etor.  Big talk, small tips.”

• Pretty stressful moment on the holodeck with Worf, Alexander and K’Mtar.

• I’ve pretty much given up on the notion that maybe Next Generation would have been better if Riker had become Captain, but if it had, this episode would barely have had to adjust at all.

• Gorta has got a funny line:  “My personal code of conduct prohibits sharing.  But I’d consider a trade.”

• I like the way the conversation between Worf and K’Mtar breaks down.  That feels natural.

• Riker’s pretty clever the way he flushes out that cloaked ship!

• Great insult from Worf about the Duras sisters complaining about their reputations being tarnished:  “You cannot tarnish a rusted blade.”

• It’s a little obvious, but I do like Worf’s speech at the end to Alexander:  “The cause of peace is a just cause.  The struggle must continue.”

Dialogue High Point
A lot of the best dialogue is in the mouths of guest characters this time.  I think my favorite is adult Alexander’s memories of his mother’s death:

I was three years old.  She was dying when we found her.  She barely managed to whisper my name and then she took my hand and placed it in yours.  Then she died.  And then you howled in rage and said, look upon her.  Look upon death and always remember.  And I always have.

Previous Episode: Journey’s End • Next Episode: Bloodlines



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