Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Occasionally Heartless Adventures Of Klingons In Roddenberry's Philosophy: "Heart Of Glory"

The Good: Acting, Use of Worf
The Bad: Pointless opening, Basic plot
The Basics: An overall continuity nightmare, "Heart Of Glory" reminds us that Worf exists and who he is.

In the Star Trek The Next Generation story, there is much that we, the viewers, are supposed to not question. I'm talking about how things like how Data got along for 22 years before ever hearing the word "snoop" or why Riker turns down command after command while claiming commanding a ship is the most important thing to him. It seems, if one was to look at the characters objectively, that we've come into the story of their lives when all of the characters on Star Trek The Next Generation are undergoing great personal upheavals and radical changes in personality. In short, if we were to look at the lives of our characters, we would see we've caught all of them having mid-life crisises; these are the most active seven years of their lives.

I mention this because "Heart Of Glory" is finally an episode which capitalizes on the long-pointless character of Worf. In the first season of Star Trek The Next Generation, one of the overriding questions is "What's the point of this guy other than he's a Klingon?!" The producers can't even keep him at a consistent bridge station from week to week. And "Heart Of Glory" simply reaffirms what we know about Worf up until this point: he is a Klingon, raised by humans, whose allegiance is entirely to the Federation. Now, that will change in two seasons, but here we have him as the same static, stalwart character he has been for years and years prior to our ever seeing him.

"Heart Of Glory" finds Worf in contact with other Klingons for the first time in the series. When the Enterprise encounters a damaged freighter, the Batris, an Away Team is sent over and they discover the only survivors of the doomed ship are some Klingons. These Klingons are renegades, wanted by the Klingon government for disturbing the lasting peace between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. They attempt to appeal to Worf, playing on his instincts as a Klingon warrior as opposed to his role as a StarFleet officer. In the process, Worf makes his obvious decision, remains with the crew and helps thwart the Klingons.

Well, it sounds pointless when I phrase it that way and, unfortunately, much of the episode is pointless. "Heart Of Glory" opens with an entirely gratuitous segment whereby the bridge crew is afforded a view through Geordi's VISOR aboard the damaged freighter. Several minutes are wasted on the sheer spectacle of seeing through Geordi's eyes. The problem with the sequence is it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode. Indeed, it has nothing to do with the rest of the series as this is the only time we see through Geordi's VISOR in this way (there's another time we see what he sees, but it's a very different context and view).

On the more important front of the character aspects, the conflict between Worf and the other Klingons seems pointless, not only in this episode, but in the larger mythology. Worf has been established from episode one as a StarFleet Officer who is not a Klingon Warrior. The point of reinforcing that in this episode is lost when in the future he will do a complete turn on that view.

But what's even more disturbing is the basic plot. The premise of Star Trek The Next Generation was that there was a lasting peace established with the Klingons and yet, this episode makes it seem quite tenuous. In fact, though it had not been written yet, this episode makes even less sense when Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country is considered. Why would renegades still exist almost a seventy five years after the Federation made peace with the Klingons?

Excusing the continuity errors in the larger context, this episode is nice to finally see Worf doing something. He comes alive for this episode and he is well acted by Michael Dorn. After nineteen episodes of pointless appearances, Dorn gets a role worthy of his talents and that alone is refreshing. As well, it's nice to solidify some of the Klingon culture that was created in the film versions of Star Trek and make it cannon. As well, this episode begins a larger exploration of the Klingon Empire which seeks to define the entire culture and does so with such vividness that there is now a whole fan subculture dealing with this race.

In the end, however, this episode is too insular to be accessible to non-Star Trek The Next Generation fans and it's such a drastic departure from the '60s Klingons that the sensibilities of fans of Star Trek will be offended. In the long run, this is Worf's coming out episode, but there will be better ones in the future and watching them instead are more worth your time and attention.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please click here to visit my index page.

© 2010, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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