Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Carson
Season 5, Episode 1
Production episode 40275-201
Original air date: September 23, 1991
Captain’s Log: We get a summary of Part 1, then dive into the Hegh’ta, Kurn’s ship, in battle getting its butt kicked. In the time since the end of Part 1, Worf has transferred from the Bortas to serve under his brother. We get to see how awesome Kurn is, as he pulls a nice trick of luring a couple of ships into the corona of the sun and artificially creating solar flares to wipe out his enemies. There’s some tension between brothers as Worf questions Kurn’s decisions, and the captain snarls at him to keep his place. (Worf’s the older brother, but Kurn’s the captain.)
Picard meanwhile meets with Admiral Shanthi and another admiral, trying to convince them that, yes, the Klingon civil war is an internal matter, but what if the Duras family is being aided by the Romulans? It would explain how the Duras family continues to have the upper hand (though Shanthi points out that they may just have better leadership). Using pretty much the exact same words that Worf used on Picard in Part 1, Picard argues that the Romulans aiding one side in a Klingon civil war will tilt the balance of power against the Federation. Picard proposes no active aid to either side, but to form a blockade on the Klingon-Romulan border. La Forge has designed a tachyon net that will reveal any cloaked ships that pass through it. That will keep the internal struggle internal.
Unfortunately, Starfleet is still stretched thin—many ships are still under repair or construction following the Borg incident a year earlier. Picard yanks three ships from the yard whether they’re ready or not, and assigns Riker to command the Excalibur, with La Forge as his first officer, as her crew was reassigned, and—after a pointed conversation with Data in which the android expresses confusion as to why he hasn’t been assigned a command in the fleet—Picard gives Data the Sutherland to command.
On the Klingon homeworld, we find ourselves in a tavern. Klingons are headbutting each other, punching each other, and arm-wrestling over d’k tahgs. The capital city is neutral ground, so Kurn is drinking with Larg, the commander of the squadron they fought in the teaser. Worf brings Kurn a damage report, after complaining about his drinking with the enemy (against the Klingon code, as mentioned way back in “Hide & Q”), but Kurn could give a rip about port stabilizers. Tomorrow they go into battle that others can only dream of—tonight, they’re warriors who are celebrating glory. Worf gives in and parties hearty, but in the background, Lursa and B’Etor notice how unsure of himself he is.
Data reports on board the Sutherland, and meets his first officer, Lt. Commander Christopher Hobson—who immediately requests a transfer. He’s not at all comfortable with Data commanding the ship and thinks that, as an android, he would make a lousy captain. (By comparison, he says that a Klingon would also make a lousy ship’s counselor, and a Barellian, whatever that is, would make a lousy engineer.) Data says that he understands Hobson’s concerns—and then denies the request.
The fleet gets underway, led by the Enterprise. O’Brien—who ran tactical on the Rutledge—is at Worf’s old station as Picard leads the fleet to start the blockade.
Lursa and B’Etor meet with Sela and Movar, complaining that their supply ships are late. They’re also concerned about what Picard’s fleet might be doing. Sela sends Movar back to Romulus to organize the supply runs.
In Council Chambers, Gowron is furious that the Duras family continues to hold the Mempa sector, even though they destroyed the supply lines to that system. Another Klingon echoes Shanthi’s earlier words that maybe the Duras family has better leadership, and he challenges Gowron. Worf grumbles that they don’t have time for this crap, and tries to stop the fight, which only allows Gowron to win it.
The fleet starts deploying. On the Sutherland, there’s a radiation leak due to a power coupling malfunction, and the backup systems aren’t online as there wasn’t time to test them before leaving the yard. Hobson barrels ahead and takes action without consulting Data, which the android calls him on. He then tells everyone to stop what they’re doing and he consults Data on what to do next—Data, of course, tells him to do exactly what he was doing, but the breach in protocol and the insult is severe. (Of course, it also has no obvious effect on Data, either, who simply goes on with his duties.)
The Romulan fleet that’s en route—with Sela and Movar on board—detects the grid quite easily. If they go through, they’ll be detected. Sela then decides to decloak and hail the Enterprise, since the idea of going around the net never occurs to her. Picard, Troi, and O’Brien go wide-eyed at what appears to be Tasha Yar in a Romulan haircut and uniform. Is it a clone? Is it an evil twin? Did they save Tasha’s brain?
Nope—inexplicably, the woman claims to be Yar’s daughter, which is a neat trick given that Sela appears to be the same age Yar was when she died, plus Crusher confirms that Yar was never pregnant. Then Guinan shows up in the observation lounge, asking what Picard knows about the previous ship called Enterprise. He says the ship was lost at Narendra III defending a Klingon outpost from Romulans, and that there were rumors of some of their crew being taken prisoner, but it was never confirmed. Guinan also knows—somehow—that Yar was one of the survivors of the Enterprise-C and that she was on that ship because Picard sent her there. Even though that seems impossible on the face of it, especially since the events of “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” in essence, didn’t happen. Exactly.
Picard requests that Sela beam on board, and she inexplicably acquiesces all by herself. Sela explains to Picard that Yar was on board the Enterprise-C, and taken prisoner at Narendra III. A Romulan general took an interest in her, and Yar had a daughter by him. When Sela was four, Yar tried to take Sela away, but they were caught, and Yar was executed. Sela makes it clear that whatever part of her was human died that day. (Well, except for her blond hair...) Picard makes it equally clear that her lineage will have no impact on how he responds to Sela or her fleet.
Back on the Klingon homeworld, Worf and Kurn argue over whether or not Gowron should have accepted the challenge. It’s a time of war and their commander must be obeyed, but Kurn does not believe matters of honor can ever be postponed. Kurn storms out—and then two of Lursa and B’Etor’s agents take Worf down and bring him to them. They try to get Worf on their side, but he wants none of it—the only future he sees with them is one where the empire is ruled from Romulus. Sela interrupts saying she needs Worf to tell them Starfleet’s strengths. (Worf, curiously, makes no reaction to a Romulan commander with blond hair who looks just like his dead comrade.) A Romulan guard takes Worf away, and Lursa gets an expression of true annoyance on her face—this alliance is obviously one of convenience for her, and it’s becoming less convenient by the moment.
Picard contacts Gowron and suggests a full-scale attack on a Duras stronghold. They will call for supplies, and Sela will have to run the blockade. Once the Romulan connection is exposed publicly, support will fall away from Lursa and B’Etor (and, though nobody mentions it, it might get the Federation to let Starfleet aid Gowron). After Gowron’s attack, Riker will take the Excalibur and two other ships out with “engine trouble,” exposing a hole in the net. The Romulans will move toward that, and then the Enterprise and two other ships in the main net will swoop in and expose them.
Movar reports to Sela—Gowron has attacked in three sectors, and Lursa and B’Etor are nearing defeat. Sela’s science staff has come up with a tachyon burst that will overload the net. When the Excalibur falls back, Sela doesn’t take the bait, instead ordering Movar to use the tachyon burst on the Sutherland and then move in there instead of at the gap. (She refers to the Sutherland as the ship with the android captain, which makes one wonder how she knows that, exactly....)
The Enterprise and the Sutherland see what they’re doing, and there’s nothing to be done—Sela will be able to sneak through this blind spot the Romulans have created. Picard orders the fleet to fall back and redeploy the net at Gamma Eridon.
Data, however, has an idea. The Romulans may have left a residual tachyon signature on their ships by using that burst. But it will only be there for a few minutes, so they have to act fast. He orders all-stop and the weapons back online, even though that will flood three decks with radiation. Hobson bitches and complains, until Data snaps at him in a manner very similar to that of Picard, and only then does he obey orders. Data sets the photon torpedoes to a low-yield energy burst and fires it on the tachyon emissions that have subspace intertial displacement (whatever that is). The torpedoes reveal Romulan warbird-shaped thingies.
Sela, realizing that they’re blown, as it were, orders a retreat. Lursa and B’Etor are on their own.
That, it seems, is not a good thing for Duras’s sisters, as Gowron’s forces rout the Duras family’s forces. A Romulan guard brings Worf in, who has obviously been tortured. Lursa orders the guard to kill Worf, who resists. Lursa and B’Etor beam away—without Toral, much to the boy’s shock and dismay. Kurn arrives to capture Toral and rescue Worf.
With Gowron victorious, Picard brings the Enterprise to Qo’noS and makes a full report. Then Gowron brings Worf, Kurn, and Toral in, the latter in custody. Gowron gives Toral’s life to Worf to take in revenge for his family conspiring to strip him of his family name.
Worf takes the dagger—and spares Toral. Kurn insists that it is the Klingon way, and Worf replies that it is not his. The boy has done Worf no harm, and he will not condemn him for the crimes of his father (or his aunts). He then asks Picard permission to return to duty, which Picard happily grants.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: A bunch of ships throwing tachyons at each other can detect a cloaked ship as it passes through this “net.” At no point is it ever made clear why a two-dimensional net of limited circumference is in any way effective in three-dimensional space.
Thank you, Counselor Obvious: Troi confirms that Sela completely believes that she is Yar’s daughter, which isn’t enough to convince Picard that she is.
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is obviously tortured by Sela’s Romulan thugs, but despite that, he is able to singlehandedly defeat the guard that is on him. Because he’s just that awesome.
If I only had a brain...: Data gets his first command, and has to overcome the prejudice and insubordination of his first officer, mostly by imitating what Picard and Riker do when a subordinate is recalcitrant.
Syntheholics anonymous: In “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” Guinan had a plot-conveniently vague recollection of the mainline timeline, and she has an equally vague recollection of the alternate timeline created in that episode, which is enough to convince Picard to talk to Sela.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: B’Etor slinks all over Worf, and Lursa proposes that Worf and B’Etor mate. Despite her impressive Klingon Kleavage, Worf refuses.
I believe I said that: “You always did have fools working for you, Larg! Now you don’t have as many!”
Kurn taking the piss out of Larg.
Welcome aboard: Quite a lengthy list of guest stars in this one. Back for more after Part 1 are Robert O’Reilly as Gowron (who will next be seen in “Rightful Heir”), Tony Todd as Kurn (next in Deep Space Nine’s “Sons of Mogh”), Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh as Lursa and B’Etor (next in DS9’s “Past Prologue”), Denise Crosby as Sela (next in “Unification”), J.D. Cullum as Toral (the character will next be seen on DS9’s “The Sword of Kahless” played by Rick Pasqualone), and Nicholas Kepros as Movar. We also get an entertaining turn by Michael G. Hagerty as Larg (he’ll be back in “Thine Own Self” as Skoran), a tiresome cliché-ridden turn by Timothy Carhart as Hobson, and an unremarkable turn by Fran Bennett as Admiral Shanthi.
Trivial matters: This obviously continues the story in Part 1, and continues the Klingon political arc that will next be seen in “Rightful Heir,” and which will continue through both TNG and DS9. Gowron will next be mentioned in “Unification,” and seen in “Rightful Heir”; Kurn will be mentioned in the latter episode, as well.
It also picks up on “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” revealing the fate of Enterprise-C after it went back through the rift to finish the battle at Narendra III. The details of the aftermath of Narendra III, including Yar’s capture, was dramatized in the novel Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz.
Worf’s own exploration of and confusion regarding his heritage will next be seen in “Birthright.”
Reportedly, Denise Crosby herself came up with the idea of coming back as Yar’s daughter. Her original conception was that the character that became Sela was the daughter of Yar and Castillo.
Admiral Shanthi will not be seen again, but she’ll be mentioned in “The Pegasus” and also appear in the novels Hollow Men by Una McCormack and your humble rewatcher’s Articles of the Federation. She was intended to appear in “Unification Part 1,” but she was instead replaced by Karen Hensel as a different admiral.
Data’s methods of dealing with Hobson will be revisited during an inspection tour of the Enterprise-E in your humble rewatcher’s A Time for War, a Time for Peace.
This is one of two times Gowron is challenged during a time of war; while Worf interfered this time, the next time, in DS9’s “Tacking Into the Wind,” it’ll be Worf himself issuing the challenge.
The Excalibur will later be the main ship in the Star Trek: New Frontier novel series by Peter David, and which will feature TNG guest characters Shelby (“The Best of Both Worlds”), Selar (“The Schizoid Man”), and Lefler (forthcoming in “Darmok” and “The Game”). Because this episode reused footage of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-C from “Yesterday’s Enterprise” to show the Enterprise and Excalibur, the latter ship remained an Ambassador-class ship in New Frontier (until it was destroyed in Dark Allies and replaced with a new Excalibur that was Galaxy-class). Riker will once again command the Excalibur briefly in the Double Helix novel Double or Nothing.
As for the other ships in Picard’s armada: The Sutherland is named after the main ship in C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels, one of Gene Roddenberry’s prime inspirations in the creation of Star Trek. The Hood was seen in “Encounter at Farpoint” and “Tin Man.” The Tian An Men was named after the location where several people lost their lives in a government protest in 1989. The Aries was almost Riker’s first command in “The Icarus Factor.” The Akagi and the Hornet were named after carriers in World War II that fought on opposite sides, the former for Japan, the latter for the United States; Ronald D. Moore thought it appropriate to have those two ships fighting side by side in Star Trek’s future.
Make it so: “Doubts? I’m full of them.” What an ungodly mess. There are three different stories being told here, and two of them suffer from not having nearly enough storytelling space, in part due to the third taking up way more time than is necessary or wanted.
First we have the strongest portion of the episode, which is the actual Klingon civil war. The opening battle scene on the Hegh’ta is excellent, a good showcase for Tony Todd, and a reminder that Kurn didn’t become a captain by accident. That’s followed by a truly brilliant scene in the tavern in the capital city, which all by itself elevates the episode’s warp factor rating a bit.
The ending doesn’t work as well as it should. The climax of “Reunion” worked because Worf didn’t follow human convention. Here he does, and it weakens him a bit—but also strengthens him, in an odd way. It was established way back in “Heart of Glory” that he’s spent almost no time among Klingons. Now he has, and it isn’t working because Worf is the ideal Klingon, not a real Klingon, and being among real Klingons reveals tremendous conflict between the ideal and reality—which only makes sense.
On the one hand, he’s probably right to spare Toral, because Toral’s just a pawn and has done nothing except be a twit. And Gowron did give Worf his life, which implies that he can spare it if he may. (This will bite Worf on the ass in “The Sword of Kahless” on DS9.)
Then we have the blockade plot, which has one strong element—Data on his first command—and one overwhelmingly stupid one—the blockade.
Okay, let’s do the second part first: there is no way, none, that Picard’s blockade could possibly be effective, because space, as Douglas Adams reminded us, is big—really big. The Klingon Empire and Romulan Empire are two gigunda empires spanning many solar systems. It’s impossible to credit that there’s only one possible route between them. Interstellar space doesn’t have narrows or rivers or eddies or anything like that, it’s just really big. So why doesn’t Sela just go around the blockade?
Having said that, it’s fun watching Data learn how to be a ship commander. I would have preferred it if his first officer wasn’t such a blatant straw man (as an added bonus, he’s played by Timothy Carhart, who’s never played a non-slimy character in his career), but it’s a nice step in the character’s evolution.
Unfortunately, the whole episode is done in by the character of Sela, who makes no sense on any level. First of all, Romulans are a very long-lived people. Sela is only 24 years old—we’re supposed to believe that she managed to rise to the rank of commander and be put in charge of so important an operation as this one in so short a time? Especially when she’s not bright enough to go around a blockade?
Plus, on top of that, her backstory is so convoluted, and rooted in events that the characters never really experienced that the story grinds to an absolute halt so that first Guinan (in a scene that is a weak echo of a similar scene in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”—the previous one was tense, this was leaden) and then Sela herself can provide lengthy bits of exposition. That a Romulan commander would even agree to beam over to an enemy vessel unescorted and then provide intimate details of her family simply cuts off the oxygen supply to my disbelief.
At the end of that scene, Picard tells Sela that her parentage will have no effect on his strategy—and he’s right, because he doesn’t even believe her story, despite indications from both Guinan and Troi that she’s telling the truth. And why should he? The only reasons those scenes exist is to explain to the viewer who Sela is—which is utterly meaningless to the plot, which makes it a complete waste of time in an episode that simply cannot afford it. Worse, Picard comes out and says that it’s meaningless, which just makes the offense worse.
If this was all for a beloved actor or a beloved character or, y’know, someone other than Denise Crosby, I could see it. But all Crosby did was take the most interesting character in the series bible and make her mediocre, and then leave before TNG had a chance to settle into the good show it would become. The last time she came back, she was the weak link in an otherwise brilliant episode, and this is more of the same, except that “Redemption II” isn’t anywhere near as good as “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
Though it might have been without her.
Warp factor rating: 4