Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"New Ground"

**1/2

Air date: 1/6/1992
Teleplay by Grant Rosenberg
Story by Sara Charno & Stuart Charno
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Worf's human mother comes aboard the Enterprise and brings with her Worf's son Alexander, whom she intends to leave with Worf. The Rozhenkos are getting too old to properly care for a young boy who is misbehaving and needs his real father's influence in his life. This naturally turns Worf's duty-centric life upside down.

There's a scene where Worf stands in Picard's ready room and the intercom beeps; it's Alexander's teacher, who wants to schedule a parent-teacher conference. Beep again; this time Crusher, who wants to schedule the boy for a doctor's appointment. The humor is kind of obvious, but I enjoy this stuff nonetheless; it's always fun seeing the ultra-stern Worf thrown Human Situation 101 curveballs that are decidedly outside his comfort zone of Stern Security Guy.

This reasonable family drama is set against the testing of a new form of propulsion called the Soliton Wave, an experimental method of accelerating a ship to warp speed without warp engines. Geordi is positively giddy over the notion of witnessing this test, which is akin to breaking the sound barrier. The technical details of this Soliton Wave are plausible and simple enough to play well. But never mind any of that, because this is a character outing.

Alexander has behavioral issues. I'm not sure if the implication here is that Alexander's behavioral issues stem from his "Klingon tendencies," but such an implication wouldn't surprise me given that humanity has become so perfect that I can't even see the possibility a human child could or would — gasp — steal something. Worf finds himself stymied over the fact that Alexander does not obey him and continues to misbehave in school. After a second incident, he concludes Alexander must be sent to a Klingon boarding school to receive the proper guidance. (That seems like an awful quick conclusion to reach, but since this is an hour of TV, I'll grant it in the interest of dramatic expediency.)

No, this is not groundbreaking family drama. But it does offer a rare perspective of the domestic side of what is essentially a warp-speed traveling community. In particular, Worf's discussion with Troi reveals that Worf is considering sending Alexander away for the boy's sake and not his own. And it shows Troi being actually useful in the way her position was intended — as a counselor trying to help Worf deal with thoughts and feelings about this problem, with far less judgment than we often see from her in such situations.

Of course, there's no shortage of overcooked disaster-related storylines in TNG's fifth season, that's for sure. Spatial anomalies, nuclear winters, stellar fragments, and here this Soliton Wave, which ends up growing out of control and threatening to hit yet another colony. So the Enterprise must stop it. The way this jeopardy premise ends up directly affecting Alexander (who gets trapped under a beam after contrived disaster circumstances) is silly and predictable, but ultimately this story is about a father doing right by his son, and deciding he must be there for him. Not too shabby.

Previous episode: A Matter of Time
Next episode: Hero Worship

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16 comments on this review

Nolan - Thu, Apr 7, 2011 - 3:51pm (USA Central)
I always considered the possibility that Alexander was acting out, first because his mother had probably been discouraging Klingon behavior, then he saw his mother die at such a young age, then he got carted off to live with strangers after some guy who is supposedly his father could deal with a kid at that time. And now those strange humans don't want him. Hell, I wouldn't blame the kid at all for his acting out.
Nick Poliskey - Sat, Apr 9, 2011 - 12:57pm (USA Central)
I thought Worf was out of character here. This is the same guy who screamed in front of Dr. Crusher when a Klingon he didn't even know died, Killed a Klingon that killed his wife, and then left the federation to play klingon politics and asked Captain Picard to be his Chadich, and he doesn't understand how a klingon child would "be bad"??? Come on.

It wasn't a terrible outing though, it had it's moments.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:02pm (USA Central)
Jammer, I think you have this and the following episode "Hero Worship" reversed.

This one, first of all, features Worf and Alexander, both of whom can barely act their way out of a Targ cave, and second of all, turns TNG into the dreaded 90s family cliché formula drama. Are we expected to believe that the Son of Mogh would tolerate this trivial nonsense?

What I enjoyed from this episode was Worf's translation of said trivial 90s nothings into Klingon moral extremes. Star Trek works well when it's in allegory mode, but I think such a dramatisation works much better in, say VOY's "Fair Trade" or DS9's "The Alternate".

This episode's basically a snore-fest and features two members of among the most fearsome aliens in the galaxy enacting an episode of "Full House." No thanks.

1.5 stars
TH - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 8:35pm (USA Central)
I agree that Worf is a bit off-character in this episode. That said, my only major comment is, if the Federation is going to participate in a new high-speed propulsion test, why on Earth would they send the Enterprise, full of families and civilians. The premise is a giant energy wave is going to come and smack the ship at warp speed. If we do it right, it’ll push the ship. Seems slightly risky to the point that perhaps a Science ship or unmanned ship ought to have been used instead.
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 10:31pm (USA Central)
WOrf's parents here are indicated tob e too old to care for ALexander, but sometime between here and his time on DS9, Alexander once again ends up living with Worf's parents some more...will they ever get a peaceful retirement?
Paul - Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - 8:15am (USA Central)
I just watched this episode after a decade or more and man is it boring. It showcases the TNG A/B plot format in the worst way possible. The two plots have absolutely nothing in common until a manufactured crisis brings them together in a dreadfully mechanical way.

Also, both plots are dull as hell and extremely by-the-numbers. So, an energy wawe slips out of control and threatens to destroy a planet while Enterprise rushes to the rescue. I mean, how many times have we seen this exact type of technobabble nonsense that gets resolved in a way that has no dramatic impact whatsoever?

The less said about the Alexander plot, the better. Again, it's so painfully cliche and routine that it's... well, painful to watch. alexander has problems, he steals and lies, so we have to sit through several dull scenes where Worf spouts out nonsense about honor and duty without actually revealing anything new or important characterwise about him or his son. And sure enough, in the end their interpersonal father-son conflict isn't resolved by, you know, themselves, but by oh-noes-Alexander-will-DIE! moment that forces Worf and his son to come to an understanding of sorts.

My God, this is just unwatchable.

/rant
Jay - Sat, Nov 26, 2011 - 10:42pm (USA Central)
They have to go through the wave because there isn't time to go around it because it's so big. But from what we saw of it, it lookss rather flat...why can;t they go over it or under it?

Silly plot contrivances, oh how I hate thee...
TH - Tue, Dec 13, 2011 - 10:04am (USA Central)
@Jay The one time Trek tried behaving like space is 3D, (Wrath of Khan) they made a big show of how Khan thought 2 dimensionally. For some reason they then continued to do the exact same thing for the rest of all Trek series. Only on occasion did the Definant use up/down as a strategy, but even then, it was up/down-esque (like a plane) and not using a new plane of attack.

I believe the reason Trek and other scifi avoid use of 3D is simply because it films better. When the Enterprise D goes vertical to escape the dyson sphere in Relics, it's a cool visual. It would look odd if two ships approached each other at a 30-degree tilt to each other. The only perhaps practical answer is that the ships use the plane of the galaxy as arbitrary up-down axis.

Even in the 20th century, pilots in warplanes think 3-dimensionally. They don't fly upside down much because we have gravity, but they frequently attack from above or below.

@Paul: "I just watched this episode after a decade or more and man is it boring. It showcases the TNG A/B plot format in the worst way possible. The two plots have absolutely nothing in common until a manufactured crisis brings them together in a dreadfully mechanical way."

I hadn't ever considered this until you said it, but this episode DOES in fact remind me of a bad Voyager episode; trade Alexander and Worf for Naomi Wildman and her mother and I could totally see it. Voyager relied heavily on manufactured A/B convergence based on action plot devices.
Paul - Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - 12:26am (USA Central)
Speaking of 3D, there is a very nice Trek 3D battle in The Undiscovered Country when Chang's Bird of Prey pummels Ent-A from just about any angle imaginable. Remember that great scene where a torpedo goes right through the Enterprise?
John - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 9:18am (USA Central)
Agree with Paul's comments above. So cringe worthy. And rest assured the implications of raising a son alone on a starship are pretty much ignored for the rest of the series.
Patrick - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 3:57pm (USA Central)
The only thing about this episode I liked is when Geordi is voicing his excitement about the soliton wave:

"This is going to be like being there
to watch Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier or Zefram Cochrane engage the first warp drive!"

^^This bit of unintentional foreshadowing (to Star Trek: First Contact) is one of the reasons why I love TNG.
Jay - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
@TH...it's true, rarely is the third dimension utilized...I recall in the otherwise very mediocre Endgame being mildly impressed simply because when Janeway's time-travelling shuttle materialized, they showed Voyager way above where it appeared...it was striking merely because it never happens.
gibbygoat - Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - 3:21pm (USA Central)
This wave was going to destroy most of the planet but ships can just cruise through?

Is this not a serious warp speed weapon?
mephyve - Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - 11:46pm (USA Central)
TNG had its share of mediocre storylines and for the most part, this was one of them. Still it brought Worf face to face with actual fatherhood rather than just gene donor. It was kind of shameful how he pawned the kid off to his parents without ever establishing a relationship with him.
I like how his mom handled it. 'O son how nice to see you. Here take your brat!'
William B - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 7:54am (USA Central)
This episode gets a lot of hate, and I do understand why. And yet.... OK, I think I'm with Jammer on this -- it's not exceptional, but it does have some significance for Worf's character and for the show as a whole. I like the way Troi deals with Worf and (eventually) gets to part of the heart of the matter, when she talks to Worf about K'Ehleyr and the last conversation he had with her. Worf did give Alexander away to his parents, and plans to send him to a Klingon academy, partly because he wants what's best for Alexander and doesn't think he can provide it. But partly, every moment Alexander is present is a reminder of K'Ehleyr: her brutal death, her not telling him of their son, that they had so little time and that most of that time was spent arguing. Every passing day, week, month in which Worf mostly pretended Alexander didn't exist (only Guinan brought Alexander up after "Reunion" in season four, in "Redemption") was a failure to live up to K'Ehleyr's dying wish, as she put Worf and Alexander's hands together; refusing even to try was a continual act of cowardice from the bravest man on the ship, and made it more and more important to believe that it was best for Alexander to stay far away from him (and, indeed, probably even worked to confirm that Worf was not fit to be a parent). I like that this episode ultimately forces Worf to confront it in some measure, and (in that conversation with Troi, in particular) forgive himself for having been unable to being raising Alexander before here and allow himself to begin the hard responsibilities of parenting. This all is mirrored in Alexander's behaviour, in which he lies and steals mostly for attention, but also because he is flagrantly avoiding responsibility, and because he's been repeatedly abandoned and doesn't want to try trusting Worf (or anyone on the ship) anticipating that he'll get packed up and sent away again. I like the teacher telling Worf that Alexander had said that Klingons don't need to listen to teachers, and Worf's angrily stating that he hadn't said that, and then storming off, interrupting the teacher in mid-sentence; while Worf is not a thief and is not dishonourable, some of Alexander's anti-social traits *are* something that could reasonably be described as something he picked up from his father's (and other parent figures', no doubt) behaviour.

All that said, of course, the episode is very slow-paced and the low-key family drama doesn't really use the show's metaphorical structure to do much of anything different than any other family drama might do. The resolution is too quick and forcing Worf to save Alexander in a jeopardy plot is fairly ludicrous -- yeah, Worf is strong! good to know. (I admit that, goofy though it is, I like Alexander's insistence that they save those endangered animals; it's nice to see Alexander caring about something, and especially resonant given that his mother is dead forever and that this is probably the reason for his acute awareness of death.) I don't think it's a good show -- but it is good that the show ultimately comes down on the side of responsible parenting even if it's unglamorous. The soliton wave stuff is also mostly useless. I guess I'd say a high 2 stars -- since ultimately only a few scenes really clicked and most of it was a bit of a blur and not particularly resonant.
Chris - Wed, Dec 25, 2013 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
The "over/under" would probably avoid the loopy problem from S7's "Force Of Nature". Move the "space lane" in the vicinity of that system "up" or "down" a little bit to give the busy chunk of space a rest.

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