Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – New Ground

Written by Grant Rosenberg, Sara B. Cooper, and Stuart Charno
Directed by Robert Scheerer

If you’ve never seen it, there was an episode of the television series The Carol Burnett Show where Carol made fun of soap operas by demonstrating that once a character had a child he or she was dumped in the proverbial “umbrella stand” and never to be seen again until they were at an age where they could begin to stir up their own trouble.

Star Trek: The Next Generation followed that same path in a way, when at the end of the fourth season episode Reunion, Worf (Michael Dorn), the Enterprise‘s Klingon Chief of Security, dispatches the son he has just learned he has to live with his adoptive parents on Earth.

Almost halfway through the fifth season, however, the Star Trek writers had a change of heart and brought Alexander (portrayed by Brian Bonsall) back to the Enterprise to live with his father. Worf’s Russian adoptive parents had been caring for him, but are finding it too difficult to care for a young Klingon with their advancing age.

This is a believable plot twist as we look at the many grandparents in this country struggling to raise their grandchildren when their parents can’t or won’t for whatever reason. In this case, Alexander learned he had a father, lost his mother, and then was sent to live in an alien world with people he didn’t know in such short order that the problems which crop up seem inevitable.

Worf must cope with a child who is “acting out”. He doesn’t know how to do this. He turns to Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) for help, which foreshadows a relationship that will be pursued by the two of them during the final seasons of the series.

It’s interesting to see the father/son dynamic play out for fans of the series who have seen Worf’s character until this point. Worf has always been a rather conservative person and hasn’t really interacted with children on the Enterprise prior to this. It’s been made abundantly clear that Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) does not relate to children well, but there has not been much said about Worf’s feelings around them.

Michael Dorn does an excellent job as a father who does truly love his son but doesn’t know what to do to relate to him. He is also coping with his new responsibilities and how to integrate them into his daily routine and job responsibilities on the Enterprise. Brian Bonsall (formerly of the sitcom Family Ties) does an excellent job as a child who wants his father to love him but is so afraid of that not happening that he pushes his father away and actively tries to test whether his father loves him.

What is also good about this is that Alexander is not a “Worf Jr.” type of character. From this point that fans really begin to know him throughout the remainder of this series and onto Deep Space Nine, he is very different from his father. Part of this could be his one-quarter human background which may explain his mother’s contempt for the traditional Klingon values Worf always makes so much of. The father/son dynamic here is subject to the individuality many people see occur within their own families, and it’s nice to see Michael Dorn have to deal with this, expanding his range from the usual snarling and growling of the character.

Only fans of the series will really get something out of this episode. For others, I’d recommend viewing other episodes before this one. If you find yourself liking the Klingon characters and want to follow Worf’s saga throughout the two series, however, this episode is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Time

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Hero Worship

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