Sunday, August 14, 2011

You Can't Go "Homeward" Again.

The Good: Excellent acting on the part of Michael Dorn, Moments of plot
The Bad: Obvious set ups, Forced character aspects
The Basics: When Worf's brother tries to save a dying people, all attempts at cleverness fail and boredom ensues.

As Star Trek The Next Generation continued its march toward the inevitable series finale, it seemed to become obsessed with exploring the families of the various crewmembers of the U.S.S. Enterprise. That unfortunate habit keeps up a tradition of being disappointing in "Homeward."

When Worf's adopted human brother makes a visit to the Enterprise, he reveals that he has been in contact with an alien species that is rather primitive, a bending - if not, outright violation - of the Prime Directive. Nikolai wants to save the people of this planet when they are put in serious jeopardy and it appears they will all die from the planet breaking up. Because it is against the rules to interfere with primitive cultures, Picard says no and Nikolai takes matters into his own hands. Nikolai beams the aliens to the holodeck and insists that Picard transplant them on a planet similar to the one they just evacuated. Worf acts as an intermediary and attempts to keep the holodeck running long enough to accomplish this mission.

"Homeward" is an episode that plods along. We've seen episodes with Prime Directive dilemmas in the past and the only thing that makes this one different is that the viewer is supposed to care that Worf's brother is involved. The problem is, there is no emotional investment here. We've seldom - if ever - heard Worf refer to his brother and they aren't close when the episode begins. It makes it very difficult to find any emotional rooting in the conflict when the antagonist - who is trying to save lives - has no real likability.

The highlight of the episode is supposedly in the acting of Michael Dorn, who goes sans make-up on the holodeck. Dorn does an excellent job playing Worf and acting as a leader, something that he has not had a real opportunity to do up until this point. It's unfortunate that the character gets such a dull mission to test his leadership chops on. Nevertheless, Dorn never appears bored with the role in this piece and that goes a long way to making it watchable.

The plot, the idea of transplanting an entire population while fooling them into believing they are still on their home planet is an interesting one. However, every twist - like one of them getting out of the holodeck and learning the truth - has been done and they all seem forced in this context. Nikolai's indiscretions seem obvious and none of the writing seems particularly inspired.

Paul Sorvino plays Nikolai without any real charisma or passion, which is fine because all of the conflicts between Nikolai and Worf seem poorly written. That is to say there is little organic in the way their relationship is written so Sorvino's acting does not seem as bad as it would in any other context.

"Homeward" is for hard-core science fiction or Star Trek fans only; it is way too much of a science fiction premise for those who are not fans to enjoy. And for fans of science fiction, this is nothing special. For a good Prime Directive moralization, there's the third season episode "Who Watches The Watcher?" and for a decent holodeck episode, there's "Ship In A Bottle."

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


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

© 2011, 2007, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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