Written by Brannon Braga, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Robert Wiemer
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was good, it was very, very good. Parallels was one of those episodes that really showed all the potential it had as it came together perfectly. Good script, great acting, and a good mystery revealed at a decent pace.
The Klingon Worf (portrayed by Michael Dorn) is returning from a Bat’leth competition in one of the Enterprise‘s shuttles. When he arrives back on the ship, there are subtle differences in what is happening. He thinks a cake for his birthday is chocolate and it’s yellow; Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) can’t attend the surprise party, and then he is there.
Soon the differences are more drastic. He knows he won the competition, yet his trophy and logs are showing he only took 9th place. Suddenly, things change yet again, and Counselor Troi (portrayed by Marina Sirtis) is his wife!
This is a great show that draws the entire cast into the mix, instead of just involving one or two characters. Although the focus is on Worf, there is plenty for everyone to do. He interacts on a regular basis with Counselor Troi, Commander Riker (portrayed by Jonathan Frakes), and Captain Picard.
*** SPOILER AHEAD ***
With the help of his “wife” and the android Data (portrayed by Brent Spiner), Worf soon learns that he is skipping through various realities. Apparently, his shuttle went through a quantum fissure in space which has triggered the events he is experiencing.
It is great to see all the potential different realities from events that have happened over the past seven years on the show. Better than many other television shows and movies that try to depict the “what would be like if..” theme, Parallels just shows snippets of what could have been if, say the Borg hadn’t been stopped, if the Bajorans had asserted themselves a bit more, etc.
*** END SPOILER
I thought it was great watching Dorn as Worf. He becomes increasingly confused and frustrated as the episode unfolds. This is a good story for Worf, rather than being comic relief. It doesn’t seem that way initially when he is at his surprise party, but it gets better from there. Dorn gets to stretch his acting a bit and it becomes easy to understand why he was plucked from among the Enterprise cast to join Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In general, he was way underused for his abilities and story potential. When he was used, it seemed like he was more the straight-man in comedic events around him. In Paralells, he is given some really good material and pulls it off flawlessly.
It also gives Marina Sirtis a bit more to do than her usual “I feel pain….” She interacts with Dorn throughout the show and her angle changes throughout. She pulls it off believably, from close friend, through his asking her to be his son’s “guardian, to her role as his wife. It’s also nice to see their story take a bit of a different direction near the end, which was one of the things that made me sad the series ended and I never got to see where their story could go. Later on the writers backed off on this, most likely so Worf could have his love interest on the other show, but it was nice to suppose what would have happened between the two.
There are some great special effects in Parallels, especially where all the Enterprises are appearing in space. The attention to detail is wonderful too. The subtle difference in the ship itself, along with the clothing and hair of the stars is a terrific way to signal a change in Worf’s reality and is done with a subtleness for the most part that doesn’t overwhelm me while I am watching, but is enough to know that something has changed.
It was nice to see how the writers of both series, and in the movies to a degree, took Worf in a slightly different direction after this episode. It becomes a life-changing event for the character and makes him think of the universe he lives in and the people who inhabit it in quite a different way. It’s almost as if the relationships deepen with the people around him and he appreciates what he has all the more. That’s never said overtly, but it just seems to be a subtle change in the character that’s traced back to here.
All in all, this was a very strong episode for the character and a terrific part of the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.