Written by Rene Echevarria, Mark Kalbfeld, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Jonathan West
The previous episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation gave some closure for Dr. Crusher’s son Wesley. Firstborn attempts to do the same for the Klingon, Worf, and his son, Alexander. Alexander is of mixed heritage, his mother being half-human and half-Klingon so at times his disposition has proved to be frustrating for his father. This is despite the fact that Worf was also raised on Earth.
The Klingon Worf (portrayed by Michael Dorn) prepares to initiate his son, Alexander (portrayed by Brian Bonsall) into Klingon culture by participating in the First Rite of Ascension. Alexander is resistant to the idea of becoming a warrior.
When Worf confides his frustration in Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart), the Captain suggests the Enterprise make a stop at the Klingon colony Maranga IV. There is a festival of Kot’baval which will allow Worf to expose his son to more of his Klingon heritage.
While there, Worf and Alexander are attacked. They are aided by a stranger calling himself K’mtar (portrayed by James Sloyan) who was sent by Worf’s brother to protect them. K’mtar helps investigate who was behind the attack as well as helping Worf better train Alexander in the way of a warrior. Worf, however, is suspicious of K‘mtar despite the rapport he seems to build with Alexander.
Firstborn works on so many levels. The story of the often strained relationship between father and son is one common to many relationships. The father has one goal for his son. The son wants to do something different with his life. The character of K’mtar works as a bridge between the two, and who K’mtar really is does a lot to explain why. The actor who portrays him, James Sloyan. Does a wonderful job with the role. K’mtar is tender and understanding with Alexander while at the same time displaying a toughness Worf grudgingly respects. Sloyan vacillates between these two points nicely.
The story also draws on the history of the show and the interaction with the Duras sisters (portrayed by Gwynyth Walsh and Barbara March). The two are brought back as a plot point and the familiarity with them makes it easier for the writers to convey the situation without having to go into an extensive explanation. This might be a problem for casual viewers who aren’t aware of the history, but it works well for fans. In addition to bringing back characters who are enjoyable in their own way, it helps the story to move along better.
Bonsall gives a terrific performance as Alexander. Too often, child actors are effective but the overall feeling of their lines is forced and they seem uncomfortable in the role. Considering Bonsall is beneath all the Klingon makeup as well, his performance is surprising. I haven’t been impressed with his earlier work in this series and others, but here he shines.
There seems to be a chemistry with Michael Dorn as well. With the way Worf has been written, Dorn has had to feel uncomfortable many times throughout the series and perfected it. He covers all the angles of concerned parent and proud Klingon warrior.
One of the downsides of Firstborn is the gratuitous use of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When the station is contacted, Quark (portrayed by Armin Shimerman) responds. He owns what is essentially a gambling club on the station. Why would he be responding to a transmission from a Federation vessel? Why wouldn’t it be one of the Starfleet staff who man the station? It doesn’t make sense and the way it is put in and the dialogue he has with Commander Riker (portrayed by Jonathan Frakes) feels very forced.
Otherwise, this is a terrific episode that does a lot to round out the story of Worf and Alexander. We’ve already seen Worf think about his universe differently based on events in Parallels. Although the writers didn’t know it at the time, it was nice to see him build on events here once he turned up on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Alexander visited him there. 3 1/2 stars.
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