Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Firstborn”

“Firstborn”
Written by Mark Kalbfeld and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Jonathan West
Season 7, Episode 21
Production episode 40276-273
Original air date: April 25, 1994
Stardate: 47779.4

Captain’s Log: Worf is rehearsing a speech he wishes to make to Alexander—who is late in arriving to hear it. He finally shows up being chased by Eric, with whom he is engaged in a water balloon fight. Inevitably, Eric hits Worf with the water balloon, prompting Eric to run like hell.

Undeterred by the water stain on his uniform and baldric, Worf gives his speech, and mostly gets it right: it’s time for Alexander’s first Rite of Ascension. But Alexander doesn’t want to be a warrior. His mother always said he could avoid that Klingon stuff if he wanted, and Worf reluctantly admits that it is his choice. But Worf is not happy. He’s distracted during a staff meeting, and Picard asks what’s wrong. When Worf tells him, Picard reminds him that Alexander’s spent almost no time among Klingons. The following day is a festival called Kot’baval, and they’re proximate to a Klingon outpost that should be celebrating it, so the Enterprise heads there.

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The festival is going full blast, with Klingons and Enterprise personnel checking out the stalls and watching the performances. Worf even gets involved in an audience-participation segment involving singing and miming bat’leth fights against the tyrant Molor—and he convinces Alexander to do the same, to the initial confusion of the singer playing Molor, who then gamely lets Alexander defeat him. The performance ends with a singer playing Kahless defeating Molor. Alexander enjoys the heck out of it and the rest of the festival—though Worf manages to convince him not to pay fifty darseks to look at the mummified head of Molor—until they’re jumped by three assassins. A mysterious Klingon shoots one, and Worf is able to deal with the others.

The Klingon reveals himself to be K’mtar, the gin’tak of the House of Mogh. He says he was sent by Worf’s brother Kurn to protect Worf from a possible assassin. Riker’s a little peeved that K’mtar wasn’t more overt in his warning, neither contacting the Enterprise nor revealing himself to Worf until the attack happened. The assassin had a d’k tahg belonging to the House of Duras, which means Lursa and B’Etor are behind the attack. Riker offers to use the Enterprise’s resources to try to find them. Meanwhile, K’mtar is concerned about Alexander—he is the only male heir that either Worf or Kurn has, and he may lead the House of Mogh some day. K’mtar offers his assistance in convincing Alexander to choose the path of a warrior.

Riker contacts Quark on Deep Space 9, where Lursa and B’Etor were last seen. In exchange for Riker forgiving the debt Quark owes him for winning triple down dabo at his bar the last time the Enterprise was at DS9, the Ferengi reveals that the sisters were buying mining equipment to use in the Kalla system. K’mtar is impressed—he did not expect the Enterprise to be able to find the sisters.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

K’mtar brings Alexander to the holodeck, where he re-creates the scene of the assassination attempt. However, when given the chance to finish his opponent off, Alexander refuses and runs out of the holodeck, despite K’mtar’s rather insistent urging.

The Enterprise arrives in the Kallas system. Data leads an away team including La Forge, Worf, and a guard. They find a lone Dopterian named Gorta, who was left stranded in the mine by Lursa and B’Etor. In exchange for being rescued, Gorta tells them that the sisters were planning to sell the magnesite they mined to a Yridian in the Ufandi system.

K’mtar and Worf talk in Ten-Forward. Worf expresses frustration. He wishes to honor K’Ehleyr’s desires for Alexander to find his own path and not have “Klingon nonsense” forced down his throat. K’mtar insists that Alexander should be sent to the Klingon military academy or he will never become the warrior he will need to be to lead the House of Mogh. K’mtar even threatens to use his authority as House gin’tak to remove Alexander from Worf’s custody.

K’mtar then tries to go after Alexander directly, but has no more luck. Alexander doesn’t want to become a warrior, and K’mtar’s insistence is seemingly out of proportion to the situation.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

The Enterprise finds a Yridian freighter in the Ufandi system that has only some of the magnesite that Lursa and B’Etor mined. Riker offers to purchase the magnesite from Yog the Yridian, which he then beams off the starboard bow and has Worf blow it up with phasers. The explosion reveals a cloaked Bird of Prey, which is immediately tractored. Lursa and B’Etor are pissed, insisting a) that they’re engaged in a simple business transaction and b) they don’t know a damn thing about any attempt on Worf’s life (though they regret its lack of success). They beam over and Worf shows them the d’k tahg. It is indeed from their House—but then B’Etor notices something wrong. The markings on the hilt include one for Lursa’s son—but Lursa has no son, though she just learned two days ago that she was with child. Only she and B’Etor know she’s even pregnant. The dagger has to be a forgery.

Worf goes to speak with K’mtar and finds him preparing to shoot Alexander with a disruptor. As Worf is about to kill him, K’mtar says that he’s Alexander from forty years in the future. He proves he is really the adult Alexander by describing what happened when K’Ehleyr died in “Reunion” in gory detail. He came back in time in the hopes that he would change his own past. Alexander did not become a warrior, instead becoming a diplomat who, when he became head of the House of Mogh, tried to bring an end to inter-House feuding in the empire. He failed, and Worf was killed on the floor of the Council Chamber. “K’mtar” staged the assassination attempt in the hopes that it would scare young Alexander into becoming a warrior. But it didn’t work, and he tried to kill his younger self in a last-ditch attempt to keep him from having to watch another parent die in his arms.

But Worf points out that he’s already changed the past. He may not have affected Alexander directly, but he has affected Worf.

Later, Worf finds Alexander on the holodeck preparing to train. Worf tells him that K’mtar had to leave but that he wishes Alexander well. And then Worf takes him off the holodeck, saying that there’s time to train later.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: When Riker purchases the magnesite ore from the Yridian, Troi looks at him and says, “You’re up to something,” on the off chance that we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf really is the worst parent ever. He does such a bad job with Alexander that it leads to his own death and his son messing with time travel to try to fix it, and then doing so in a manner that was pretty much doomed to failure.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: “K’mtar” uses the holodeck to train Alexander, freezing his opponent periodically as a method of showing him how to notice shifting of weight and stuff like that.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

In the Driver’s Seat: Ensign Gates is back at conn, and back to being silent.

I Believe I Said That: “Big talk, small tips.”

Quark describing Lursa and B’Etor.

Welcome Aboard: This is Brian Bonsall’s last appearance as Alexander. The character will return on several episodes Deep Space Nine played by Marc Worden.

James Sloyan makes his third Trek appearance as “K’mtar,” having previously played Admiral Jarok in “The Defector” and Dr. Mora Pol on DS9’s “The Alternate”; he’ll play the title role in Voyager’s “Jetrel” and reprise Dr. Mora on DS9. Armin Shimerman makes his fourth TNG appearance as Quark (his regular role on DS9), having played two other Ferengi in “The Last Outpost” and “Peak Performance” and the greeting box in “Haven”; he’ll also guest star as Quark on Voyager’s pilot episode “Caretaker,” while continuing the role on DS9’s entire run. Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh, having last been seen on DS9’s “Past Prologue,” return as Lursa and B’Etor; they’ll be back for the final time in Star Trek Generations. Joel Swetow, last seen on DS9’s pilot episode “Emissary” as Gul Jasad, plays Yog the Yridian, and Colin Mitchell, who has never appeared on DS9, plays Gorta; both are delightfully smarmy and obnoxious. Finally, Rickey D’Shon Collins makes his third and final appearance as Eric having previously been in “Liaisons” and “Masks.”

Trivial Matters: Though Kurn does not appear in this episode, it’s established that he still has his seat on the High Council, as established in “Rightful Heir.”

In the final episode of DS9, Worf was made Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. By the time we saw the character again in Star Trek Nemesis (which took place four years after DS9’s finale), he was back in Starfleet. Your humble rewatcher was tasked with resolving this discrepancy in his novel A Time for War, a Time for Peace, and when Worf resigns his ambassadorship, he nominates Alexander to replace him. When he does so, he mentions that he had a vision of Alexander’s future, an oblique reference to the events of this episode. Alexander continued as ambassador in Articles of the Federation.

Alexander says he has never been to the homeworld, which is a neat trick given that he was the son of the Federation ambassador to the empire. In the aforementioned A Time for War, a Time for Peace, I established that K’Ehleyr never let Alexander out of the embassy, which was Federation soil, so technically his statement would be true, while still allowing his childhood to make sense.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

The term gin’tak was also used in “Birthright, Part II” as a spear. I established in my Klingon Empire novel A Burning House that a House gin’tak like K’mtar is the spear that defends a House.

“K’mtar” tells Alexander the story of Kahless and Morath that Worf told Alexander in “New Ground.”

Riker’s success at Quark’s dabo table will become something of a plot point in the DS9 episode “Defiant.”

This story was the folding together of two concepts, one by Mark Kalbfeld, who got story credit, and one from staff writer Joe Menosky, who pitched the notion of Alexander falling into a time portal and coming back moments later as a twenty-five year old. The latter was later recycled into the plot for DS9’s “Time’s Orphan” with the character of Molly O’Brien.

It is unclear whether or not Lursa has her son before she and B’Etor are killed in Star Trek Generations, and the infant may even have been on their ship when it was destroyed. Either way, Alexander’s time travel had to have changed history to bring about their deaths sooner. If they had successfully held onto the magnesite, they might not have gotten into bed with Soren.

Worf is very sure that Alexander has created a new timeline, a surety no doubt born of his adventures in “Parallels.”

Make it So: “I love you, father.” This actually isn’t a bad little episode—but it isn’t really a good little episode, either. For the second episode in a row, we get a final look at an annoying kid on the Enterprise (though Worf being placed in DS9’s cast two seasons hence means it’s not Alexander’s final appearance altogether), and it’s filled with some nice bits but doesn’t really add up to much.

The biggest problem is that Alexander’s plan is dumb from the ground up and dumb from the roof on down the other side. To make matters worse, it’s badly executed. The detail of the extra character on the d’k tahg was an obvious problem, but it’s also obvious that Alexander never expected the sisters to be found. That, however, points up another problem: Alexander lived on the Enterprise. He knows exactly how resourceful this crew is. Why would he be surprised that they’d go after Lursa and B’Etor or that they’d be successful? And while seeing “K’mtar” aim his disruptor at himself makes for an impressive image, on what planet does killing his younger self make sense?

Then again, Alexander was a dumb kid, makes sense he’d be a dumb adult.

Star Trek The Next Generation rewatch Tor.com Firstborn

Having said that, the episode has some magnificent bits. The Kot’baval festival is very well done and adds nicely to the tapestry of Klingon culture. James Sloyan is as stupendous as ever as “K’mtar,” his amazing voice and superb emotional range utterly selling the adult Alexander’s intensity and obsession with his mission. It’s always fun to watch Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh sneer as the Duras sisters, the scenes with Yog and Gorta are absolute delights, and it’s almost impossible for a scene with Armin Shimerman as Quark to be anything other than fantastic, and his banter with Jonathan Frakes here definitely qualifies.

 

Warp factor rating: 5


Keith R.A. DeCandido actually enjoyed writing Alexander in A Time for War, a Time for Peace and Articles of the Federation, despite having always found the character dopey and annoying. Go fig’. Keith is a best-selling and award-winning author of some 50 novels, the latest of which is Leverage: The Zoo Job, and tons of other stuff. Go to his web site for links to order his books, to his blog, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his various and sundry podcasts, and tons more.

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