Written by Naren Shankar, Spike Steingasser, William N. Stape, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Alexander Singer
As the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation wound down, it seemed that family was coming out of the woodwork, if there was woodwork on the Enterprise. It began with Geordi and his family in Interface and continued with the android Data’s “mother” in Inheritance. In between, the show also visited Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana in Dark Page and brought in a sister who died that Deanna never knew about.
Now around halfway through the season, we have Homeward. This story brings in another relative no one knew about until now, the Klingon Worf’s (portrayed by Michael Dorn) foster brother, Nikolai Rozhenko (portrayed by Paul Sorvino). He is a cultural observer on the planet Boraal II, which is about to lose its atmosphere and be destroyed.
In direct contrast to the Prime Directive, Nikolai is trying to take action to save some of the people of their world, despite the fact that they exist in primitive tribes. Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) vehemently objects to Nikolai’s actions and tells him they have to essentially let nature take its course. Nikolai has his own plan and under the cover of the solar storms, he beams one of the tribes into a setting on the holo-deck designed to look like the caves in which they took shelter.
His plan is to have them take a journey on the holo-deck which will seem as if they are traveling from one place to another, all the while transplanting the tribe to another habitable planet. This sounds good until one of the Boraalans, Vorin (portrayed by Brian Markinson) manages to get off the holo-deck and see the Enterprise.
While on the “journey”, Worf lears Nikolai has taken one of the Boraalan woman as a mate. The two argue over Nikolai’s methods as well as bringing up old rivalries from their youth.
Despite the fact that they have arrived at the beam-down site on the planet Vacca VI, Geordi (portrayed by LeVar Burton) worries that the holo-deck won’t hold up to give them the time they need. Picard talks to Vorin about how he wants to proceed. Feeling he has no place with his people and no place in the world of the Federation, he commits suicide.
There’s a lot of wasted potential in Homeward. First is the problem of a brother that was never talked about, not even when Worf’s and Nikolai’s parents, the Rozhenkos, visited Worf on the Enterprise previously. You would have thought that he would have been mentioned once, but I guess fans are supposed to believe that all their conversations about him took place off-camera.
Then there’s the wasted talent of Paul Sorvino. Sorvino is 14 years older than Dorn, and it shows, so it’s not convincing that he and Worf grew up together, especially considering that Klingons age in their early years more rapidly than humans. The moments that should have some teeth for Sorvino, when the brotherly rivalry and some bitterness rear its ugly head, just fall flat. It’s as if he doesn’t have a handle on the part, but I believe the main reason for this is the weak writing for his character.
Finally, there’s the wasted potential of exploring the ramifications of the Prime Directive. Yes, by all rights they should have let the civilization die out. But when it comes down to intelligent beings that have attachments to some people, just what does that mean? Nikolai raises the question that aren’t they essentially playing God by not doing anything to save them just the same as they would be if they did something. It’s a good question that is glossed over and nothing much is done with it. In the end, he gets a tongue-lashing from both his brother and the Captain, then patted on the head, given a cookie, and told to go on his merry way. Okay, not really.
Dorn is good as Worf. He does the best he can with the material, it’s just a shame that in another episode where he’s given the opportunity to be more than comic relief or intimidate people, he gets a less-than-stellar script. The story had potential in the concept of transplanting people without their knowing it, it was just poorly executed.
The problems with Homeward outweigh what’s good and with too many episodes this last season involving the crew’s family, it feels tired very quickly. On the most enthusiastic of fans will really appreciate and enjoy Homeward. For people who haven’t seen the series, you can probably just wait for something better to come along.