Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Birthright, Part I”

“Birthright, Part I”
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 6, Episode 15
Production episode 40276-242
Original air date: February 22, 1993
Stardate: 46578.4

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise has docked at Station Deep Space 9 to assist in the rebuilding of an aqueduct on Bajor. While Picard and Crusher head to ops, Worf and La Forge have lunch at the replimat: pasta al fiorello, one of La Forge’s favorites. However, while La Forge pushes his plate away, threatening to talk to O’Brien about the replicators and saying it tastes like liquid polymer, Worf loves it and continues to chow down as La Forge looks for more edible pastures. A Yridian named Jaglom Shrek approaches Worf once he’s alone, identifying him as the son of Mogh. Shrek claims that Mogh did not die at Khitomer, but is still alive, along with several other Klingons who were captured and brought to a prison camp. Worf refuses to believe this—a Klingon would rather die than be taken prisoner—and storms off.

On the Enterprise, Data detects a power drain that originates from sickbay. He investigates to find Dr. Julian Bashir, DS9’s chief medical officer, fiddling with a medical scanner (at least, Bashir thinks that’s what it might be) that was found in the Gamma Quadrant. Bashir geeks out over getting to meet Data, who suggests examining the device in engineering.

Worf is a bit cranky and out of sorts—he rips Ensign Lopez’s head off for a poorly prepared duty roster, and then snaps at Riker before leaving the bridge. He tries to lose himself in mok’bara moves, and instead smashes his table. Troi chooses that moment to enter and pretty much forces Worf to tell her what Shrek told him. He refuses to believe that Mogh would allow himself to be so dishonored; Troi points out that refusing to acknowledge something because it’s uncomfortable is stupid.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

In engineering, Data, La Forge, and Bashir play with their new toy. Bashir continues to geek out: asking Data about his hair growth, that he breathes, that he mimics a pulse. The doctor is fascinated by the lengths his creator went to make Data appear human.

They turn on the device, and a power surge hits Data, who collapses to the deck—and then finds himself wandering the empty corridors of the Enterprise. Following a noise, he finds a man working an anvil—that man turns around and reveals himself to be a very young Noonian Soong.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

Suddenly, Data wakes up on the deck floor. La Forge said he was out of commission for forty-seven seconds—but Data has memories of events during those seconds of when he saw Soong, whom he identifies to Bashir as his father. His positronic brain logs that he was not active during that time. Bashir posits that he might have been dreaming or hallucinating. Data rejects the notion, as he’s a machine and can’t do that—but Bashir points out that most machines can’t grow hair.

Data approaches Worf in Ten-Forward. Worf had a vision when he was a child—his human parents took him to a lava cave where one meditates in extreme heat, which puts one in a hallucinatory state. For this reason, Data goes to Worf for advice about his own vision, which he describes. Worf describes it as a powerful vision, due to its involving his father. He advises Data to determine the vision’s meaning—and while doing so talks himself into accepting Shrek’s word.

Worf goes to DS9 and finds Shrek, and—using the dangle-the-guy-over-the-Promenade-railing method of negotiation—arranges for Shrek to take him to the camp, which is in the Carraya system on the edge of Romulan space, and that Worf will pay Shrek only after the trip is completed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

Data’s next stop on his advice tour is Picard. Data has been researching other cultures’ visions, and Picard advises him to view it from his own culture—yes, it’s a culture of one, but that makes it no less valid. He encourages Data to let the vision inspire him. So Data tries painting the images he saw.

Shrek lands on Carraya and gives Worf a homing beacon so he can find the ship when he returns in two days. They landed thirty kilometers away from the camp to avoid detection, and Worf goes the rest of the way on foot through dense, predator-filled jungle. Because he’s just that awesome.

He sees a woman bathing, and stares at her long enough for her to notice that he’s there—though she assumes it’s someone named Toq. Worf is confused by her ability to leave the camp so cavalierly, and the woman—named Ba’el—is confused by Worf’s talk of rescue and going home, as this is her home. Worf urges her not to tell anyone she saw him, to which she nervously agrees, and then she speaks to a Romulan guard. Worf is, to say the least, befuddled, as the woman is very young (Khitomer was two and a half decades ago) and isn’t acting like a prisoner.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

La Forge checks on Data, who has uncharacteristically missed a meeting, and finds that Data has made two dozen paintings based on his vision, and is currently painting two things at once (which is delightful). At one point he was inspired to paint an image of smoke, which he didn’t see—but it does look like the steam coming out of a water bucket used by a blacksmith. That led to several avian images, including a wing, a bird, and a flock of birds, none of which were in the vision, either. It’s increasingly clear to him that the vision wasn’t finished and he wishes to re-create what happened. La Forge is iffy, but agrees.

Bashir and La Forge do the same thing they did before, the plasma shock hits Data, and then he’s back in the corridor, again walking toward the blacksmith who looks like a young Soong. This time he sees what Soong is working on: a bird’s wing. He places it in the water bucket, which raises steam, and when the steam clears, there’s a raven, which flies off. He says the vision is different, at which point he’s on the bridge (sort of) with Soong again. Soong explains that his cognitive functions have proceeded far enough to allow him to dream, something Soong wasn’t sure would ever happen. Soong also says that Data himself is the bird, at which point we get a POV shot of him flying through the Enterprise corridors and out into space.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

And then he wakes up.

Later Data explains to Bashir that the dream program was activated prematurely by the plasma shock. However, Data intends to deactivate himself once a night to see where the dreams take him. Bashir asks if he can write a paper on this, and Data agrees.

On Carraya, Worf breaks into the prison camp. He hears a Klingon voice singing, and avoids Romulan guards. He finds several Klingons, of varying ages, sitting around a fire, listening to one of the older ones sing a song. After the gathering disperses, Worf grabs the one who was singing—L’Kor, who tells Worf that Mogh died in battle at Khitomer. Worf is all ready to free them, but L’Kor says it’s a bit more complicated. “We are not leaving here,” L’Kor says, as two Romulan guards show up with disruptors out, “and neither are you.”

To be continued….

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Bashir is never able to figure out what his medical scanner’s supposed to do, but it does provoke a plasma shock in Data that activates his dream program.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi, knowing full well that asking Worf if he wants to talk is pointless, simply walks into his quarters, snarks him off, and sits down on his sofa staring at him pointedly until he starts talking.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data can stimulate hair growth (that explains the beard in “The Schizoid Man,” and is also a handy way of explaining the different wigs they’ve put on Brent Spiner), and he breathes (a handy way of explaining why Spiner breathes) and has a pulse. And now he can dream. Pretty danged impressive.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Worf enjoys watching Ba’el bathe so much that she sees him hiding in the shrubbery. Obviously, he failed his stealth roll….

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf is able to navigate the thick, dense jungle at night with its aboreal needle snakes and whatnot, and later sneaks into the camp without anybody noticing, including the guards who wear Romulan military uniforms. Which makes it even more hilarious that he’s discovered by a nude bather….

I Believe I Said That: “Did the table do something wrong?”


“I’m glad you weren’t that hard on Ensign Lopez.”

“He made a mistake. The duty roster was inaccurate.”

“Would you like to talk about what’s bothering you, or would you like to break some more furniture?”

Troi snarking Worf by way of getting him to open up.

Welcome Aboard: Siddig el Fadil takes time off from Deep Space Nine to wander the corridors of the Enterprise as Dr. Bashir. James Cromwell—having previously played Prime Minister Nayrok in “The Hunted,” and who will play Hanok in DS9’s “Starship Down” and Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact (and a couple of Enterprise episodes)—plays Jaglom Shrek. Cristine Rose, Jennifer Gatti, and Richard Herd all make brief appearances as Klingons who will have much bigger roles in Part 2. And Brent Spiner, having played the elderly Noonian Soong in “Brothers,” now plays an image of his young self here. (He’ll play a middle-aged version of Soong in “Inheritance.”)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

Trivial Matters: For Deep Space Nine’s pilot, Sir Patrick Stewart guest-starred and the Enterprise appeared both externally and internally. For this episode, DS9 returns the favor, as several scenes take place on DS9’s Promenade, replimat, and corridor sets and Siddig el Fadil guest stars. Based on stardates, the episode takes place between “Q-Less” and “Dax,” though the episode aired the same week as “The Passenger.”

The script originally called for Dax to be the crossover character, but Terry Farrell’s shooting schedule for “Move Along Home” precluded that, so they subbed in Bashir.

This is the first appearance of the Yridian species, which will continue to appear regularly on TNG and the other three spinoffs.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

Worf will return to Deep Space 9 as an officer in the DS9 episode “The Way of the Warrior” when Michael Dorn joined the cast of the show.

This episode has two callbacks to second-season episodes: “Time Squared,” when Worf loves food that everyone else hates, and “The Emissary,” when K’Ehleyr (like Worf in this episode) smashes a table just before Troi comes in to say hi and be snarky.

This is the last true crossover between TNG and DS9 on screen, though the crews will be seen working together in the tie-in fiction quite a bit. Among the many examples: the comic book miniseries Divided We Fall, written by John J. Ordover & David Mack, and The Landmark Crossover, co-published by DC & Malibu, written by Michael Jan Friedman & Mike W. Barr; the novels Avatar Books 1-2 by S.D. Perry; and your humble rewatcher’s eBook novella Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment (the last part of the Slings and Arrows miniseries).

Data’s dream program will next be seen in “Phantasms.” More details of Worf’s experiences with visions will be seen in “Rightful Heir.”

In Bashir’s final scene, when he walks away from Data down the corridor after wishing him “sweet dreams,” Siddig el Fadil is wearing sneakers instead of his uniform boots. And during the part of the final dream sequences, when Data is “flying,” if you look really quick, you can see makeup artist June Abston Haymore sitting in a corridor.

Make it So: “Your father is a part of you.” I’m inordinately fond of this two-parter, but I actually have always skipped this part in order to get to the much more interesting (to me, anyhow, but we’ll get to that on Tuesday) second half. So I had forgotten how good a spotlight this was for TNG’s two breakout characters, Worf and Data, as they deal with their unique father issues.

(It’s also amusing to see the wide-eyed first-season-of-DS9 Julian Bashir. There’s a character who grew up a lot over seven years…)

There are three great conversations here. The first is between Bashir and Data, where Data expresses surprise that Bashir asks about the more mundane aspects of Data’s artificiality—growing hair and such—rather than the parts of him that are better, faster, stronger. The second grows from that, and it’s Picard telling Data that he’s a culture of one—which is really such a great moment, and you can see the light bulb going off over Data’s head. Yes, he’s tried to become more human, but sometimes that’s less important than becoming more Data. He is more or less unique (Lore’s still floating around out there, after all, as we’ll be reminded at season’s end), and for all that he looks human and can do human things, he is also something other. Even his dreams are detailed and unique—I’ve never had a dream as coherent as what Data dreams in this episodes (and what we’ll see from the program in the future), which makes sense given the way Data functions.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Birthright, Part I

The third is between Worf and Data, as Data queries the only guy on the ship who gets spirituality about his vision. The talk is very enlightening regarding both characters, with Data as always trying to research everything, and Worf finally able to realize what he must do.

Even as Data pursues the vision of his father, Worf eventually realizes he has to do likewise for the “vision” provided by Shrek. Worf has had so much crap thrown at him that it’s understandable that he would want to avoid yet another bit of mishegoss to add to the very large pile, but ultimately, he has to follow Shrek’s lead and see where it goes.

I think I often skipped this episode because it felt too small, but sometimes small is good. The steps that Worf and Data take in this episode aren’t massive or earth shaking, but that doesn’t make them any less revelatory or any less important to them as people. And over five-and-a-half years, these two characters in particular have become people about whom we care enough that even the short journeys are worth taking.


Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Philcon 76 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey this weekend. Check out his schedule here. He’s moderating a panel on TNG at 25, alongside Glenn Hauman, Kim Kindya, and Allyn Gibson, on Saturday at noon. Come check it out!


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