Monday, May 2, 2011

Jonathan Frakes Directs Something Real Close To Perfection In "Reunion"

The Good: Excellent acting, Great plot, Wonderful character development, Nice effects
The Bad: One obvious bit of looping
The Basics: When K'Ehleyr returns, she has a son for Worf and an empire for Picard in one of the series' best and darkest episodes.

One of the distinct advantages any show may have is a director who understands exactly who they are working with as well as all of the parameters of the universe in which those characters exist. Perhaps that is why Star Trek The Next Generation opened the series up to the actors, allowing them to direct episodes. In his second attempt at directing, Jonathan Frakes makes magic and hits something right near perfection in "Reunion."

Following his discommendation in the third season's "Sins of the Father" (reviewed here!) and his reuniting with a past love, K'Ehleyr, in the second season's "The Emissary" (reviewed here!), Worf has a lot on his plate. Now, the Enterprise is intercepted by a Klingon warship carrying K'Ehleyr, a little Klingon boy and K'Mpec, the leader of the High Council. Worf deals with K'Ehleyr and her son, Alexander while Picard interviews the dying chancellor of the Klingon Empire. Poisoned for months, K'Mpec dies determined to have Picard choose the next leader of the High Council, relaying that the two leading candidates are Duras and Gowron. Worf and K'Ehleyr reunite and rekindle their romance as Worf wrestles with his dishonor and his desire to be a father while K'Ehleyr begins to ask too many questions. As the Enterprise investigation into K'Mpec's death and a subsequent bomb attack points towards Romulan involvement, Duras makes it clear that his father's affiliations are his own and he intends to change Klingon/Romulan relations.

The magic of the episode is that it essentially takes three plots and weaves them seamlessly together. Worf's sudden parental status and his relationship with K'Ehleyr balance the Picard as mediator plot while complicating the Enterprise officer investigation arc. All three plots come together wonderfully in the end with Worf making the deciding move that binds all three.

The joy of the episode is that it is shocking in its first viewing, yet no less enjoyable upon subsequent rewatchings. Everything fits together well and an almost assuredly boring detective story becomes a wonderful humanistic plot with Worf. His actions at the end are gory and shocking given his character up until now. In fact, "Reunion" is possibly the precursor to Star Trek Deep Space Nine, as it is a darker, more character-oriented story. Binding loose ends from the past and forcing the characters forward, "Reunion" has everything.

The support for the episode comes in the acting. Michael Dorn is wonderful as Worf, playing the torn officer with great facial expressions and body language; "Reunion" is quite possibly the only time Worf has shoulders hunched in a futile gesture of confused surrender in a wonderful scene with K'Ehleyr. And that's Dorn's work. He infuses in his voice a tension to his angry moments and a sorrow to his frustrated scenes and he plays the character as very real and upset.

Aiding him is Suzie Plakson who returns as K'Ehleyr. Again more than a pretty face - and fabulous body -, Plakson creates the ultimate strong female character and her fate in the episode is unfortunate. She is vocally strong and her body language, her ability to get in the face of Worf and the viewer, is admirable. Plakson is a great actress and K'Ehleyr is one of those roles that is so strong it's no wonder every convention company wants to book her.

The characters make significant moves here, most notably Picard and Worf. Worf finds himself suddenly a father and his reaction and development through the course of the episode is quite strong. Add to that the political difficulties his character faces and Worf becomes one of the most intriguing characters in the "Star Trek" franchise.

But Picard here begins a difficult path as he becomes the Arbitor of Succession, playing a key role in Klingon politics. His tightrope is a thin one and he has a great balancing of his demands in this episode.

But the true greatness of "Reunion" comes in its direction. Jonathan Frakes uses all of the pieces given to him wonderfully creating a memorable and powerful episode of Star Trek The Next Generation. Indeed, even with the one bit of reused footage involving the Klingon Bird of Preys that arrive when Duras and Gowron come, this is a masterpiece for Frakes, cementing his status as a director with a vision. Here that vision comes out clearly and it's a great sight to see.

Accessible to anyone who likes a good political thriller, "Reunion" is best appreciated after watching "The Emissary" and "Sins of the Father." There is action, romance and a particularly violent confrontation that make "Reunion" one of the darkest episodes of the series up until now. Director Jonathan Frakes takes a teen-oriented show and makes it adult, at least for an episode.

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


For other Star Trek episode or movie reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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