Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Birthright, Part I"


Air date: 2/22/1993
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise docks at Deep Space Nine to assist with Bajoran equipment repairs. While there, a Yridian who traffics in information (James Cromwell, nearly unrecognizable) approaches Worf and says that his father Mogh did not die at Khitomer 25 years ago but instead was taken prisoner and is still alive in a Romulan POW camp. Meanwhile, DS9's Doctor Bashir (Siddig El Fadil) comes aboard the Enterprise to run an experiment and becomes fascinated with Data. (Bashir is mostly interested in Data's human personality traits as programmed by his creator Soong; this plays into the story's theme about fathers and sons.)

"Birthright, Part I" is TNG's only explicit DS9 crossover episode. Looking back ex post facto, it's interesting, almost funny, to revisit this version of Julian Bashir, so greenly wide-eyed and enthusiastic, knowing how much more serious and grown-up he will become. That's really neither here nor there as far as this episode is concerned, but it was something that caught my attention.

What's of more relevance is when Data gets zapped by an energy beam and is knocked unconscious for about 45 seconds, during which he has an intriguing vision that includes his father. He spends much of the rest of the episode trying to reconcile the meaning of the imagery. He creates dozens of paintings of what he saw in the vision and ultimately decides to recreate the circumstances of his unconsciousness. While Data's subsequent exploration of this dream realm gets a little heavy on arty, new-agey mumbo jumbo and imagery, there's a resonance in the message Soong has for him that feels like a rare moment of actual growth for the character. By the end, Data realizes that he should shut down every night and try dreaming, to see where it might take him.

Meanwhile, Worf struggles with the idea that his father might be a live prisoner rather than having died at Khitomer (which, of course, would be a grave dishonor; what isn't a dishonor for Klingons?). This is mostly setup for the second part, but what we have here is reasonable table setting, as Worf travels with the Yridian to the Romulan prison camp and discovers that although his father did in fact die at Khitomer, there's an entire colony of Klingons that survived. Before this final revelation, however (which kind of feels like a bait-and-switch), "Birthright" is about two orphaned sons who are confronted with new things about their fathers that could significantly alter their own self-identities.

Previous episode: Tapestry
Next episode: Birthright, Part II

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11 comments on this review

Tim - Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
Found this one rather dull, and kept busying myself with other things.
David - Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - 4:53pm (USA Central)
3 stars???? Sorry More like 2 or 2.5 stars. Bashir and DS9 were totally gratuitous and a waste, Bashir was annoying. The episode was plodding. And you could tell TNG was getting long in the tooth when they thought a show like this needed to be 2 parts--I mean really! By this point in the show the Klingon stories were yawn-inducing and the only interesting part was the possibility of Mogh was still alive except that never materialized.

Also Data's new age soul searching wasn't any more involving.
Landon - Fri, Jul 13, 2012 - 9:49am (USA Central)
I agree this was a moment of true growth and progressio for Data. I loved the idea of him dreaming {and I really liked the follow-up in "Phantoms"}. Great visuals. I liked the ds9 element too, the whole episode had a large scale/scope to it really. And I always appreciate the crossover stuff, it reinforces how big and connected the whole universe of star trek is.
Good worf-data connectio. Unfortuately part 2 was REALLY boring, dull and slow.
I give part one 3.5 stars.
Greg M - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - 6:52pm (USA Central)
I think 3 stars is a fair review. This didn't need to be a two parter, but I still think the final dream sequence is one of the best dream sequences in the entire series. It was just a beautiful atmospheric scene with a beautiful score.
Elliott - Fri, Jul 20, 2012 - 12:33pm (USA Central)
This is one of those episode's where the Berman-era musical directives really take their toll. The dream sequence was visually sufficient for the time, but the music is saccarine and minimal, totally sabotaging the moment. I giggle every time I see it.

I found the Bashir scenes redundant and ponderous. I like talky, I enjoy patiently-paced dialogue scenes, but I need the characters to SAY something of interest. I think Data's general "who the fuck are you?" expression is very telling about how poorly the actors and director understood the scenes: ironic that the executors of an episode about identity crises seem not to understand what this show is about.

Data's growth is a joke in the final seasons of TNG. With the exception of "All Good Things..." and ST: VIII, nothing after "Time's Arrow" feels genuine for the character. A shame really as he was given so much attention and was, by that point, such a strong and defining character in his own right.

On the other hand, Worf's story (in this part of the 2-parter, anyway) is pretty strong. I didn't need it explained to me about Klingon suicide and honour and so forth; Mogh's death at the hands of the Romulans is such a key element of Worf's personality--his hesitation to get close to people, his lack of imagination and his commitment to duty--that to have this idea shattered was very involving. I recognised Cromwell the moment he spoke in that signature rasp of his, and boy does he sell the oily Yridian perfectly. It's also a shame then that part 2 was so terrible.

Overall, this is a 2.5*
Kevin - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 2:41am (USA Central)
Did anyone else notice how bad the makeup was? To me, Worf, the Yridian, and Data's makeup jobs were extremely artificial and plastic-y. Spiner's closeups really show his age lines and Data's color seems to change several times between scenes. Even some of the human characters seemed worn or overdone.
I'm usually not picky about these sorts of things, but the crappy makeup on this episode really ruined it for me.
T'Paul - Mon, Jun 17, 2013 - 9:54am (USA Central)
I think the mystery should have been kept a bit more with the dream, it was quite intriguing before Noonian explained it to death.. Agree that we should have met Mogh, and that Bashir was gratuitous in this episode. Was surprised that they didn't throw Quark in.
mephyve - Mon, Sep 2, 2013 - 6:19pm (USA Central)
Doing these two stories together hurt both of them. Also I think it was dumb for Data to stand in front of a machine that they were working on. That to me is like working on an eletrical appliance with the plug in and the power on.
Smith - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 5:59pm (USA Central)
DS9 tie-in was underwhelming and didn't realize potential. Data dream sequence had potential...but never "took off" IMO. Just seemed like simple pycho-babble + data's background. No sense of mystery for which dreams should have. The original concept from Ron Moore and Braga was more of an NDE...THAT would have been interesting! Can you imagine data being programmed with a "NDE" program for Data to experience when he was about to die? Would have been "meatier" than the dream sequence which was weak.
dpc - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
I just saw this, and all of Bashir's dialogue would have made more sense coming from Geordi. It's nice to see Bashir, but they were shoehorning the role in an artificial way. Like making rebel Chekov into the idea lapdog in "The Way to Eden" (TOS)

Having said that, Data's story is magnificent and the music almost has a Ron Jones style to it...
Dave in NC - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
While Part 2 is a major snooze, the first part definitely resonates with me. The A and B stories (really, the two A stories) compliment and echo each other in surprising ways: I liked how both Data and Worf's father issues and struggling to exist in a alien (human) society seemed to dovetail each other. I thought the dream program storyline is just fantastic- I knew they'd never give us a emotional Data (at least until the films) but it was nice to see him evolve. Continuity on TNG! ;)

The dream sequences were wonderfully directed (although who was that person sitting in the corridor during the "crow's eye view"?) I don't know how they got the crow to respond to direction like that, but for once having an animal in an episode didn't seem gimmicky. (Note: Spot the Cat is immune from criticism.)

And Bashir's appearance is actually a nice touch- it's nice to see the Enterprise actually go to a Starbase and see crews interact. Other than the Bynar episode, Starfleet mostly seemed to be made up of Excelsior class starships we never get to explore, Admirals on subspace, and Starfleet HQ in San Francisco.

I also have to agree with "dpc"- for a later season episode, this really does have some effective music. The DS9 theme NEVER sounded better than here. (I just Googled it and the composer was Jay Chattaway. I'm sure the producers chastised him for writing it and they were wrong. It was nice to hear some REAL melody actually enhancing the drama.)

Much better than I remembered it being. This is easily a 3-star episode.

PS- Part 2 should have been about Data. Bo-ring!

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