Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Selling The Adventure From Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "The Birthright, Part 1" Is An Interesting Split Episode!

The Good: Great character development, Nice plot, Wonderful acting
The Bad: Awkward ending
The Basics: When Data begins to dream and Worf learns his father may be alive, both - and the audience - begin a pretty intriguing adventure.

By the time "The Birthright" came into being on Star Trek The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine had been on the air for a few weeks and it allowed the starship crew somewhere else to go. "The Birthright, Part I" represents the only direct crossover between Star Trek The Next Generation and Star Trek Deep Space Nine following DS9's series premiere. In this Next Generation episode, Bashir appears on the Enterprise and interacts with the crew.

When the Enterprise docks at Deep Space Nine, Dr. Bashir uses the opportunity to plug an alien artifact into the Enterprise's computer for analysis. When Data investigates a power drop as a result of Bashir's experiment, he is struck down with a beam from the device. As a result, Data experiences a dream. Meanwhile, on the station, Worf is approached by an alien who insists that he has information for Worf on the location of Worf's father, Mogh, who has been presumed dead for many years. Worf refuses to believe the trader, but as Data seeks to interpret his dreams, the two discuss the importance of fathers and Word decides to go in search of his long lost dad.

Worf, unfortunately, seems to take the brunt of the "long lost relative" episodes. In season three, he found out about his long lost brother, in season four he was shocked to learn he had a son, now he finds out his father might be alive. In the final season, one last relative is revealed. Those around Worf are either fruitful and multiply or just refuse to die. Still, even with this somewhat obtuse plot stretch, the writer's pull it off as believable and the audience is as intrigued as Worf is by Jaglom Shrek's offer.

The Data plot is at least equally compelling. Learning Data has evolved far enough to actually dream is an intriguing character twist. To see one of Data's dreams is very cool, after all, we finally have the answer to the old question Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep? Science Fiction puns aside, "Birthright, Part I" puts Data in an interesting evolutionary place where he comes face to face with the dream interpretation of his creator/father.

This, naturally, means more work for actor Brent Spine, as Dr. Soong, Data's creator, is played by the same actor who plays Data. Spiner handles the double duty well and sells the viewer completely on scenes where the two must interact directly, to the point of physical contact. Spiner makes us believe the two people are different and the personas he portrays as each individual are distinctive.

The guest actors in this episode are great. Siddig El Fadil's appearance as Bashir is a welcome surprise and he lends his enthusiasm to a role that enhances the episode. Siddig plays Bashir very enthusiastic in an episode that is otherwise devoid of humor and real positive energy. While there is intrigue and curiosity, there is not so much in the way of enthusiasm in this episode outside Siddig's performance. Similarly, James Cromwell brings quite a bit to the role of Jaglom Shrek. Despite being covered in make-up, Cromwell lends his vocal and facial expression talents to a role that was integral to the episode.

The real acting talent comes in the form of Michael Dorn. Dorn does a great job creating a character working through a dilemma. He wants to believe his father is alive, but if he is, it will dishonor him. Balancing the two conflicting desires creates a real tension in the character and his working through it is a very real process that the viewer may easily empathize with. Dorn uses a great range of vocal expressive ability in "The Birthright" to accomplish what his character needs to do.

While I suspect this episode will be more enjoyable to those who are fans of the series, seeing Data grow and getting into another twist in the Worf storyline, I see no reason anyone who enjoys decent science fiction would not like this. Despite being a setup episode, this is basically a piece about exploring the human condition and what it means to grow as well as opening one's mind to the possibilities in the world around them. You could do a lot worse for an hour of entertainment. And this episode is very rewatchable, to boot.

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

For other works featuring James Cromwell, please visit my reviews of:
The West Wing - Season 6
Six Feet Under
L.A. Confidential
Star Trek: First Contact
"The Hunted"


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

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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