Written by Rene Echevarria and Brannon Braga
Directed by Dan Curry
In the original Star Trek series, first aired in the sixties, the Klingons were just the bad guys. There was no reason to know anything more about them except that they were bad and the Federation was good. With a Klingon officer on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Klingon culture was explored in much greater detail as I learned about their codes and rituals. Here, in Birthright Part II, I am immersed in a Klingon cultural lesson.
When last we left the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn) at the end of Birthright Part I, he was being held in a Romulan prison camp with other survivors of the Khitomer massacre and their descendants. Worf had gone there on a quest to see if his father was among the survivors, but learns that he is truly dead.
However, the Klingon survivors are now in the situation which caused Worf a great deal of consternation in the prior episode. In the Klingon culture, to die in battle is considered noble. To be captured is considered a disgrace, redeemable only by suicide. Since these Klingons were prevented from committing suicide by their Romulan captors, they decided to remain hidden on this world (even when the Romulans were willing to release them) to prevent their families from being disgraced. The end result was a Romulan and Klingon colony living quite nicely until Worf happens upon it.
For fear of being discovered, the Klingons and Romulans running the place won’t let him go. Worf befriends two of the second-generation residents, Ba’el and Toq (Jennifer Gatti and Sterling Macer Jr.) and begins to teach them the Klingon ways. The effect this has on the camp is riveting, as those who have been denied their heritage up until this point embrace it. The Romulan leader, Tokath (Alan Scarfe), orders Worf be put to death.
This episode suffers on several levels, most notable of which is that although it’s a Part II, only one of the stories introduced in Birthright Part I is followed up on here. The entire story with the android Data (Brent Spiner) and his dreams is dropped. The other point is that other than Worf, none of the regular cast members are seen again until the very end. Although Michael Dorn is a terrific actor and carries the episode quite well, it suffers from it’s complete focus being on one storyline.
The story also feels like it’s being drawn out. The story ends up feeling as if there was too much for one episode, but not enough for two complete episodes, so filler was added. I imagine that adding in the Data and his father story to Birthright Part I was the cause of this, since the two episodes had similar themes, but it probably had a negative impact on the Klingon story overall which would have probably fit nicely in one episode.
What saves it from being terrible is Dorn’s acting. He is comfortable in the role of Worf and by this time knows the character so well that he makes it easy to believe all of the cultural Klingon lessons he is teaching the younger residents. He handles the Klingon artifacts with an ease that seems like he’s used them his whole life.
As with many of the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, the second half does not live up to the promise of the first. This one is even more disappointing than some others, even with the knowledge gained of Klingon traditions and culture. Either Worf’s quest to learn the truth about his father should have been left to stand on its own for one entire episode, or another good story to occupy the remainder of The Next Generation cast should have been honed out to fill in as necessary time. It’s not a terrible episode by any means, just disappointing.
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