Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “New Ground”

“New Ground”
Written by Sara Charno & Stuart Charno and Grant Rosenberg
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 5, Episode 10
Production episode 40275-210
Original air date: January 6, 1992
Stardate: 45376.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is testing a new technology called a soliton wave, which could revolutionize space travel. Worf is contacted by his mother, who is on a transport with his son, Alexander. Helena and Alexander beam on board. Alexander makes it clear that he has no intention of going back to live with the Rozhenkos. Worf brings his mother to Ten-Forward. Helena explains that she and Sergey are too old to care for a boy as energetic and willful as Alexander. He needs his father.

Reluctantly, Worf agrees. Helena goes back to Earth on the transport, and Worf tries to talk to Alexander, and it’s the world’s most awkward conversation. Worf enrolls Alexander in the school. As the teacher, Ms. Kyle, fills out the form with his information, Alexander refuses to engage with Kyle at all, and then is disgusted to learn that Worf has no idea what Alexander’s date of birth is. (Of course, he wasn’t there for that, and didn’t even know he and K’Ehleyr had a child until Alexander was old enough to walk…)

Worf is late for a meeting with Picard, which is then interrupted by assorted bits of paperwork related to Alexander, leading Picard to shoo Worf away to take care of his son. He’s not the first officer on the Enterprise to have a new family member on board, after all.

The senior staff meets with Dr. Ja’Dar, who explains how the test run of the soliton wave will work. Afterward, Troi talks to Worf about Alexander being enrolled in Kyle’s class, and mentions the father-son field trip. Worf says he won’t be able to attend due to a personnel review, but after Troi nudzhes him, he reluctantly agrees to reschedule the review so he can go along.

The trip is to the ship’s bio-lab, which is at least partly the equivalent of a natural history museum, with many displays of animals of various kinds. In particular, she shows off the two Corvan gilvos, of which there are only fourteen left. The Enterprise is transporting these two to Brentalia in the hopes of eventually repopulating the species.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

The kids are left to their own to check out the place, and Kyle tells Alexander that he wasn’t supposed to take the models that were there for all the kids to play with. Alexander says he didn’t steal the lizard, but Worf finds it in Alexander’s pocket. Worf brings him back to their quarters and lectures him about how important a Klingon’s honor is. A Klingon’s word is his bond, he explains, and without it, he’s nothing.

Worf asks why Alexander lied, and he gives the classic little-kid answer of “I don’t know.”

He sits down with Alexander and says that when he was a boy, he lost everything—his parents, his people—so all he had left was his honor. He shows Alexander the statue he keeps on the table in his quarters, which, it turns out, is of Kahless and his brother Morath, who fought for twelve days and twelve nights, because Morath lied and brought shame to their family.

Alexander promises never to lie or steal again. Worf, rather naïvely, says he accepts Alexander’s word, and they will never speak of it again.

Troi asks how the field trip went, and Worf explains about the incident. Worf seems to think it’s the end of it, but Troi thinks he’s being optimistic. Worf, however, insists that this will not be a problem again. And everyone in the audience who’s ever dealt with little kids is just snickering…

They arrive at the bridge, where it’s time to test the soliton wave. The wave hits the test ship and takes it into warp. The Enterprise follows, getting within twenty kilometers of the test ship, which is at warp 2.35—faster than expected, but within mission parameters.

Unfortunately, the wave becomes unstable. The wave expands, becomes less efficient in transferring power, eventually destroying the test ship and damaging the Enterprise, taking out sensors and reducing shield efficiency. Hey, this is why you have test run, so things can go horribly wrong.

Worf meets with Kyle, who explains that Alexander is very bright—but he’s aggressive, inattentive, and is still stealing and still lying. Worf is dismissive of Kyle’s concerns right up until he realizes that his brilliant lecture had no effect whatsoever. He storms out of the meeting, furious, and tracks down Alexander on the holodeck, confining him to quarters, and threatening to put him in a Klingon school.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

The Enterprise finally gets sensors back, and they find the soliton wave, which is now travelling at warp four, still on course for the colony where the scattering field will be employed to dissipate the wave. However, the wave has increased power to the point where it can’t be dissipated, and will in fact destroy the colony and the planet it’s on.

Worf, for what may be the first time since reporting on board the Enterprise, has a session with Troi in her office, explaining what he’s doing with Alexander. Troi, though, is more concerned with how it affects Worf. He says he was mainly concerned with what was best—he did not think he was capable of raising him properly alone and on a ship, and he knew the Rozhenkos could handle it, having already done so. Troi asks if he understood how Alexander felt about it—if he felt abandoned. He lost his mother and father all at once. Worf realizes that this feeling of abandonment might be why Alexander’s acting out now.

She asks Worf about his last conversation with K’Ehleyr. It was, naturally, an argument about Alexander, and Troi wonders if the anger of that argument led to his sending Alexander away.

A more thoughtful Worf goes to his quarters, where Alexander is packing. The boy insists that he’s being sent away because Worf doesn’t care about him. Before the argument can continue, he’s called to a meeting about the soliton wave. The best option is to go through the wave and take up position in front of it (the wave has grown too large to go around before it hits the colony), then fire photon torpedoes to disrupt it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

Riding through the wave proves bumpy, as the ship’s shields are not up to full power yet. Once they come out the other side, there’s some damage—no tractor beams or transporters, and there are gaps in the aft shields that will require several sections to be evacuated, as they’ll be hit with ion radiation when the torpedoes explode.

A fire breaks out in the bio-lab, and the fire suppression system is offline. Worf’s about to manually evacuate the air from the room, but there are life forms in there: not just the gilvos, but also Alexander, who disobeyed Worf again in order to go see the gilvos. They can’t transport him out, as transporters are still down, and that lab is one of the areas that is exposed by the gaps in the shields. The Enterprise is losing speed thanks to damage from the wave, so they have all of three minutes to get Alexander safely out before they have to fire the torpedoes.

Worf and Riker head to the lab—because, apparently, there are no security personnel on board trained to rescue people—and get the door open. They rescue Alexander and the gilvos in the nick of time.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

Alexander is suffering from a hairline fracture of the fibula (“That’s a bone in your leg,” Crusher explains helpfully) and smoke inhalation. Worf then challenges Alexander to stay on board the Enterprise. It won’t be easy for either of them—but he believes Alexnder’s mother would be pleased.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The soliton wave, in theory, would allow ships to travel faster than light without a warp engine: you just need a wave generator and something to dissipate the wave. In practice, of course, there are still bugs to be worked out, but it’s actually kind of a neat concept.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi takes an immediate interest in Worf’s travails with Alexander, which makes sense, since she is intimately familiar with how dreadful Worf would be at parenting. It takes Worf a little longer to come around to the notion, but he does eventually go to her for assistance.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf for the first time has to deal with having a son, something he’s horribly ill-equipped to do, as he mistakes lecturing for parenting and assumes that Alexander is telling the truth when he so totally isn’t.

Also at the climax, Worf and Riker are both unable to move the beam that’s fallen over Alexander, so Riker goes to get something to lever it with. Then Alexander mutters that he’s scared, and suddenly Worf goes all Popeye-after-eating-spinach on the beam and lifts it all by himself. (The look Riker shoots him as he sees that and tosses away the pipe he was going to use as a lever is hilarious.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

What Happens On the Holodeck Stays On the Holodeck: Alexander uses Worf’s calisthenics program, previously seen in “Where Silence Has Lease” and “The Emissary,” but uses the novice setting. He manages to kill the skull creature, and thinks Worf should be proud of him, but considering he took Worf’s bat’leth and went to the holodeck without permission, and this was right after Worf found out Alexander lied and stole again, Worf is less impressed than he might otherwise have been.

In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Felton is back for the second week in a row, and gets to do some dangerous piloting through the wave.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

I Believe I Said That: “We are gonna see something that people will talk about for years! I mean, think about it, no more bulky warp engines or nacelles! A ships just generates a soliton wave and then rides it through space like a surfboard! This is gonna be like being there to watch Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier—or Zefram Cochrane engage the first warp drive!”

“It should be interesting.”

“Very exciting.”

“I’m talkin’ to the wrong crowd.”

La Forge getting all excited about the soliton wave, and the unemotional Data and the taciturn Worf’s lack of enthusiasm harshes his mellow.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

Welcome Aboard: Georgia Brown returns as Helena Rozhenko, having last appeared in “Family,” for what turned out to be her last role before she died in 1992. While the Rozhenkos will be mentioned many times again on both TNG and Deep Space Nine, this is the final onscreen appearance of either of them. Brian Bonsall takes over from Jon Steuer as Alexander, a role he will continue for the rest of TNG‘s run (Marc Worden will take over the role on DS9, and James Sloyan will play a time-traveling adult Alexander in “Firstborn”). Jennifer Edwards acts just like a teacher while playing Kyle (who’s referred to in the script as “Miss Kyle,” by Troi as “Mrs. Kyle,” and by Worf as “Ms. Kyle”), while Richard McGonagle is mostly harmless as Ja’Dar (he’ll return twice on Voyager as Commander Peter Harkins in the episodes “Pathfinder” and “Inside Man”), and Sheila Franklin is back for her second turn as Ensign Felton.

Trivial Matters: This episode establishes Alexander as a recurring character, as he will remain on board for the rest of TNG‘s run.

La Forge likens the soliton wave experiment to the breaking of the sound barrier and the first warp flight—thanks to time travel, he really will be there for the latter a few years hence, riding along with Zefram Cochrane in the Phoenix in Star Trek: First Contact.

This is the first time the statue in Worf’s quarters has been identified, and also the first time the story of Kahless’s brother Morath had been told. Morath would be mentioned again in “Firstborn” and on Voyager‘s “Barge of the Dead.” Michael Jan Friedman’s novel Kahless would show that the legend embellished somewhat on the real history of Kahless and Morath.

Another gilvo will be seen on DS9‘s “The Nagus.”

Make it So: “I accept your challenge.” I find myself more disposed toward this episode than I was when it first aired. For one thing, it brought back Helena Rozhenko, and the scenes with her and Worf are as magnificent as the ones in “Family.” Michael Dorn does such a great job of playing up Worf’s affection for his parents in subtle ways, and Georgia Brown is radiant as ever. For another, La Forge’s enthusiasm for the soliton wave is infectious.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: New Ground

Plus, it always irritated me that they went to the trouble of establishing families on the Enterprise, and then did so very little with it. Crusher was the only one of the main cast to have a child on board, and they only spent two-and-a-quarter seasons together. Marrying off O’Brien and later giving him a kid helped address this, but so did bringing Alexander back in this episode.

Having said all that, the execution is still pretty dreadful. You can see the bright, neon numbers by which the episode was painted, as it hits every cliché in the book regarding difficult parenting (all the way down to the father threatening the son with military, er, that is, Klingon school).

And holy crap, is the crisis at the climax embarrassingly contrived. The damage just happens to take out the transporter, so they can’t use it to rescue Alexander from the bio-lab, which just happens to be in the area that just happens to be exposed by the gap in the shields, so our intrepid heroes only have minutes to save the boy! (And the endangered alien lizards. Riker’s initial reluctance to save what is a full 1/7th of the entire population of a species is kinda icky, but we’ll let that go.)

Finally, while this is hardly this episode’s fault, most of Alexander’s subsequent appearances on TNG would be some of the show’s most inept, embarrassing, and awful stories.

A good idea, sabotaged by just awful execution.

 

Warp factor rating: 4


Keith R.A. DeCandido never liked the character of Alexander, and yet had fun writing him in A Time for War, a Time for Peace and Articles of the Federation. Go fig’.

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