Written by Spike Steingasser and Naren Shankar
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 7, Episode 13
Production episode 40276-265
Original air date: January 17, 1994
Captain’s Log: Worf’s foster brother, Dr. Nikolai Rozhenko, is a cultural observer on Boraal II, which is suffering from atmospheric dissipation. According to Data, the atmosphere will be gone in 38 hours, which is a problem for the culture that Rozhenko is observing, as this will kill them.
Rozhenko isn’t responding to hails, and while there’s no life-sign readings in the observation post, Worf does detect a deflector grid in a cavern. Picard sends Worf down alone to minimize possible Prime Directive violations, which requires him to be surgically altered to look Boraalan. Since the planet only has 38 hours, this seems to waste time they don’t have, but what the hey.
After Crusher alters his cranium and nose, Worf beams to the cavern. He is surprised to find Boraalans in the cavern—as well as Nikolai, who introduces Worf as his brother, saying that he’s come to help them. Nikolai describes Worf as a seer who can predict the atmospheric storms, and then says that he needs to help his brother get provisions and such for them. That’s his cover for beaming back to the ship to report to Picard. (Though, again with less than two days before the atmosphere’s gone, they take the time to go to sickbay to have their Boraalan prosthetics surgically removed.) He wants to set up an atmospheric deflector that will save at least this one village, so some segment of Boraalan culture will remain intact.
Picard refuses, despite compelling arguments from both Rozhenko and Crusher about not letting people just die like that when they have the power to save them. Picard won’t even give Rozhenko permission to beam back down. The atmosphere destroys itself, and the Enterprise watches as an entire population dies, then heads out of orbit. As they leave, a huge power drain registers, which Worf traces to Holodeck 5, where Rozhenko has re-created the cavern on Boraal—and also covertly beamed the villagers to the holodeck, using the sensor hiccups from the atmospheric disturbances as cover.
His plan is to tell the Boraalans that they’re going on a journey, they’ll use the holodeck to change the scenery gradually until it matches that of another Class-M planet that they can then be relocated to. Picard reluctantly agrees, but only because he doesn’t have a choice. They have a ticking clock, though, as Boraal’s atmospheric disturbances have done damage to the holodeck systems that can’t be fixed without taking the holodecks all offline. The simulation will break down eventually.
Rozhenkio and Worf get new Boraalan facelifts, and go into the holodeck to prepare for the “journey,” and also provide food. When bits of the holodeck grid show through a pool of water, Worf thinks on his feet and claims that it’s a sign that their journey will be a safe one.
Crusher and Data find two possibilities—the better one is too close to Cardassian space, so they go with Door #2, Vacca VI in the Cabral Sector.
On the holodeck, Worf talks with Vorin, who keeps the chronicle of the village. They compare methods of chronicling history—Worf defaults to Klingon methods of telling stories and making up songs—and one of the elders of the village tries to set Worf up with his daughter.
Vorin has dropped one of the scrolls, and goes back to get it. He finds it where the holodeck is futzing out and he reveals a door. Because Worf isn’t bright enough to post guards at the door and because apparently the Enterprise ’s internal sensors no longer function, Vorin walks out onto the decks of the Enterprise and makes it all the way to Ten-Forward. Riker and Troi are there and they take him to sickbay. Crusher can’t wipe his memory, so Picard tells him the truth. Vorin is devastated and can’t handle the notion of leaving his homeworld.
Rozhenko is appalled that Picard told Vorin the truth, and that they will allow him to return to the holodeck if he chooses—Worf pointedly uses this as an example of his brother’s inability to think things through. Later, a woman named Dobara tells Worf about how Rozhenko saved their village—and also that she’s pregnant with Rozhenko’s child.
They’ve given Vorin quarters, and Picard goes to talk to him. He wants to go home, but he can’t keep this a secret, nor can he tell the other Boraalans. Picard also offers to let him stay with the Federation. But Vorin can’t resolve the dilemma, and he commits suicide.
Worf and Rozhenko arguing about Dobara is interrupted by the holodeck malfunctioning even more. Worf tells La Forge to double down on it and create some storms, and then has them beamed down to the surface of Vacca VI. Rozhenko intends to stay and raise his child and keep the new chronicle.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Atmospheric dissipation is one of those things that just, y’know, happens. When it does, it’s quick and without warning.
There is no Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf and Rozhenko fall into old arguments pretty quickly. Worf was the dutiful son (of course), while his older brother was the wild one who kept their parents up night worrying about what stupid-ass thing he’s done now.
If I Only Had a Brain…: Data and Crusher have a conversation that raises the difficulties in what they’re doing, and the possible consequences that we’ll never see because it’ll all happen after this episode is over.
What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Because the holodeck’s usual absolute perfection wouldn’t be convenient for this particular plot, they suffer malfunctions that only can be fixed with a hard reboot.
In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Gates is back, but she once again has no dialogue that isn’t spoken off-screen.
I Believe I Said That: “I refuse to be bound by an abstraction.”
Rozhenko getting at the heart of the matter.
Welcome Aboard: For the second week in a row, we get a well-regarded character actor, this time Paul Sorvino as Rozhenko. Canadian actor Brian Markinson makes his first of three Trek appearances as Vorin; he’ll be back as the bizarre Elias Giger in Deep Space Nine ’s “In the Cards” and in the dual role of Sulan and Peter Durst in “Cathexis” and “Faces” on Voyager.
And this episode’s Robert Knepper moment is actually within the Trek family, as it were: I’d totally forgotten that Penny Johnson-Jerald (here still credited as Penny Johnson) played Dobara. She’ll have the recurring role of Kasidy Yates on DS9 (and can currently be seen on Castle, where Michael Dorn has a recurring role as a shrink).
Trivial Matters: This episode finally gives a name and face to Worf’s foster brother, and biological son of Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, that was mentioned way back in “Heart of Glory.”
In Worf’s First Adventure, a novel written before this episode aired and taking place during Worf’s first year at the Academy, Peter David gave Worf’s brother the name of Simon. Editions that were printed after “Homeward” aired changed the character’s name to Nikolai.
The notion of moving people to a different planet while making them think they were on the same one via a holodeck simulation would be used again in the movie Star Trek Insurrection.
Make it So: “I find no honor in this whatsoever, Captain.” I despise this episode with the fiery passion of a thousand white-hot suns because it turns our theoretical heroes into murderers.
I’m not really sure how we got from the philosophical discussion of the Prime Directive in “Pen Pals,” where it was explicitly stated as being incredibly complicated and difficult to parse (Worf’s assertion that it was an absolute was refuted in pretty short order), to “Who Watches the Watchers?” where Picard twisted himself into a pretzel against all reason and logic to avoid a contamination that had already happened, thus making the Prime Directive idiotic, to this absolute total nonsense.
I lost considerable respect for Jean-Luc Picard as a character in this episode, as he spews tons of self-righteous twaddle in defense of making sure people die the way they were “supposed” to. The Picard of this episode is compassionless, heartless, and despicable. The point of the Prime Directive is to avoid imperialism, basically—to keep from contaminating two cultures (the ones being interfered with and the ones interfering). But the equivalency between that level of protection (and self-protection) and letting an entire culture die for no good reason that this episode postulates is appalling.
There is something seriously wrong with your Star Trek episode when your theoretical heroes are trying to kill people (well, okay, let them die, but it amounts to the same thing) and your antagonist whom the script desperately wants to paint as the bad guy is the person who’s actually saving lives.
The episode has some really good acting talent behind it, from the always-great Paul Sorvino, to the underrated Brian Markinson (a particular favorite of mine, currently being seen on Continuum and who was delightfully skeevy as Chief Jacobs on DaVinci’s Inquest and DaVinci’s City Hall), to a quietly passionate turn by Penny Johnson Jerald, to a strong performance by Michael Dorn, who once again manages to show subtle emotions through the latex (though he gets to wear totally different latex this time, woo hoo). And it’s nice to finally meet Worf’s foster brother after all this time.
But ultimately, this morally bankrupt piece of crap is an embarrassment to Star Trek as a franchise.
Warp factor rating: 1
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be atFarpoint 2013 this weekend, along with actors John Billingsley, Lee Arenberg, Felicia Day, Giancarlo Esposito, Bonita Friedericy, and Rob Paulsen, as well as fellow Trek scribes David Mack, Robert Greenberger, Michael Jan Friedman, Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman, Allyn Gibson, and Howard Weinstein. His schedule is here.