Star Trek: The Next Generation



Air date: 1/17/1994
Teleplay by Naren Shankar
Story by Spike Steingasser
Directed by Alexander Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Worf's foster brother, Nikolai Rozhenko (Paul Sorvino), is a cultural observer stationed on the planet of the Boraalans, which is in the process of undergoing sudden atmospheric dissipation. This will result in the immediate deaths of the world's pre-industrial population, but Picard can't evacuate any of the Boraalans because that would violate the Prime Directive. But Nikolai, who has "gone native" and is determined to save a fraction of the Boraalan society, secretly transports a village of people into the holodeck while they're sleeping, with the plan of keeping them there until the Enterprise can find another planet for them to live on. If they can pull off this plan, the Boraalans would be none the wiser.

"Homeward" is a frankly tiresome examination of the Prime Directive that makes all parties involved look like pawns in a philosophical construct rather than human beings exercising choices over other human beings. By the end, we have a muddle of themes and inconsistent points of view rather than any sort of useful examination of the Prime Directive's virtues. When Picard has to sit idly while watching an entire society be destroyed, you can't help but wonder where the nobility is in this sort of non-interference. I also find Picard's reaction to Nikolai's solution, once he's found out, to be overstated. Picard is strongly disapproving of what Nikolai has done, and then has to be dragged practically kicking and screaming into being a part of the solution once it's been laid out. I couldn't help but think: Hey, you're the captain. You could always beam them into space if you feel that strongly about leaving them to the fate of the Prime Directive. Same net effect.

Worf is assigned to help Nikolai guide the Boraalans through the tunnels in the holodeck simulation so they can experience the illusion of journeying to their new home. This is all the better to encourage banal dialogue of sibling disagreements allegedly going back decades but mostly feeling completely invented for right now, considering we've never heard of Nikolai before. The opposing forces of Worf's rigid responsibility versus Nikolai's chaotic spontaneity makes for some dull scenes.

And I've had enough of vague primitive village societies seen through the boring lens of supposed anthropological study. These villagers (which include such spinoff Trek guest stars as Penny Johnson and Brian Markinson) are phoned in as story subjects. Meanwhile, we have all the predictable mechanics involving the holodeck, which, of course, is malfunctioning (introducing a needless problem in need of a solution), so all the malfunctions are explained to the villagers as "omens" and so forth. It's just tedious.

Inevitably, one of the villagers gets out of the holodeck, compounding the problem. At this point I was wondering, why isn't the damn door locked? Why doesn't someone just knock the guy out with a hypospray so he thinks it was all a dream? (For that matter, why not just put the whole village to sleep for the duration of the journey instead of using the holodeck at all?) Instead, people tell him exactly where he is and explain everything and make things worse. Then Crusher says she can't wipe the guy's memory. (Glad we're considering extreme options after having not thought of simple ones first.) Ultimately, the guy kills himself rather than go back to his villagers with knowledge about space and starships and stuff. Picard regretfully muses how he'd hoped maybe this guy could bridge the gap between the Federation and the Boraalans. And I'm thinking: Huh? A few days ago you wanted to wash your hands of this holodeck plan, and now you're willing to contaminate the entire village for an experimental first contact?

And so on. "Homeward" is an unfocused, ponderous, implausible, too-clever-by-half exercise in Prime Directive holodeck tedium, with a needless layer of season seven Family Tree Theater thrown in for no good reason. I wasn't a big fan of "Who Watches the Watchers," but it's a much better examination of the Prime Directive than this.

Previous episode: The Pegasus
Next episode: Sub Rosa

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61 comments on this review

Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 12:35am (UTC -6)
Pretty much agree. The real issue here is that the "journey" for the Boraalans is totally ham-fisted. As you noted, putting them to sleep would have been much smarter.

Also, why would the Federation station a cultural observer by himself on a planet like this? Without any company, isn't it pretty likely that someone like Nikolai would go native?

Oh, and Jammer -- Worf did mention the Nikolai backstory in "Heart of Glory".
Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 1:01pm (UTC -6)
Quite liked this one, especially the slightly depressing ending, thought it was a bit different to the norm.
Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 1:35pm (UTC -6)
I'm with tim--I enjoyed this mostly. Probably give it 2-3.

I loved Worf's brother. Paul Sorvino was such a surprise to find on Star Trek, I thought he was hilarious, and I enjoyed Worf's irritation with him.

Totally agree with you on Picard's idiocy in this one, though. We have seen Picard "get around" the PD so many times in the past this is just silly.

I was very sad when the kid committed suicide--made me consider how I would behave if it turned out my life was happening on a holodeck run by an advanced species. Really, think about it--kinda scary! Would I commit suicide though? Hmm.
Jeremy Short
Fri, Nov 16, 2012, 6:27pm (UTC -6)
As holodeck malfunctions go, the ones on this episode at least seem reasonable. The idea that the holodeck isn't supposed to run 24/7 without being turned off every now and then makes sense.
Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 1:01pm (UTC -6)
"...human beings exercising choices over other human beings..."

...Or whatever they are.
Sat, Nov 17, 2012, 10:22pm (UTC -6)
I agree with the majority of you on here, sorry Jammer....I've always liked this episode. Jammer, you say tedious but, while nothing special, I found it kind of fresh, at least slightly. The whole idea of transporting and tricking these ppl in this way made me rte-reflect on my fascination with just how the holodeck works distance-wise and how it tricks youe senses, even with MANY other ppl in there with could literally build an entire world in there, in a single I love History and study of primitive cultures and all, nowhere near who watches the watchers though, 3 stars...

4 stars for pegasus and parallels {did that ispire the series Sliders?, as Cause and Effect did Ground hog Day?}, 3 for inheritance, 2 for sub rosa for it unique quality and big, different sets, it never had the ambition to be anything classic though
Sun, Nov 18, 2012, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
Before the catastrophe that stripped the atmosphere off, did the episode ever say how it was that the entirety of a planet's population was just one village?
Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 2:18pm (UTC -6)
@Jay: I think the implication is that the village is the only part of the planet's population that CAN be saved -- and it just so happens that that village is where Nikolai has (ahem) gotten to know the locals.
Nick P.
Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 9:04am (UTC -6)
I agree with you Jammer. I think this episode really ended any fascination I had for trek to EVER do a "tribal villagers on a planet" theme again. All the series did it. And they were pretty much all uniformely bad. This is one of the worst of the worst.

I think part of my issue with this episode is that it illuminates why I am not a true "star trek liberal". I think Star Trek is noble in many ways, but I think it sometimes strays into the naive liberal philosohpy of "just don't like bad things." Right, so you don't want to violate the prime directive, so you will let them die? OK, so you don't want them to know they are on a starship so you create crappy caves on a holodeck. You don't want them to be aware of glithces, so you re-inforce their backwards religious beliefs?? It is just not wanting bad things to happen. Jammer makes a good point about Picard would be better off just transporting them into space.

Nick P.
Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 9:05am (UTC -6)
O, BTW, the last point I was going to make was that isn't this the exact same plot from "insurrection"? Just in reverse?
Tue, Nov 20, 2012, 9:17am (UTC -6)
@Nick P:

"Just don't like bad things"? WTF? How is that a naive liberal philosophy?
John (the younger)
Wed, Nov 21, 2012, 1:42am (UTC -6)
Wed, Feb 20, 2013, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
I think this is an enjoyable and interesting episode. However, very badly done. I like the idea of using holodeck to trick the people in order to preserve their culture. I think it fails in the way Picard and others are represented. They act childlish and stupid. Picard is far worse than the arrogant and dogmatic character in season 1, which I think made the episode less in tune with the evolution of the show. The dilemma is never presented and discussed because all act with a closed mind. I was expecting Crusher to present a strong case in favor of intervention. The way characters change mood during the episode is also absurd. All in all, it is not that bad, but it could have been far better.
Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 10:23pm (UTC -6)
The incident where the annoying primitive guy escapes the holodeck is ideal for a Crusher memory-wipe. Oh, but there's something about the Boraalan physiology that makes wiping his memory not an option! In the words of Dana Carvey, "How conveeeenient."

I honestly don't think Primitive Guy would have been able to cope intellectually with the new information. Think about it. It's not just "BTW, you're really on a spaceship." This guy doesn't even know that space travel is possible or that other planets with their respective populations -- species other than his own -- exist. That's basically screwing with a guy's entire belief system.

Also conveeeenient: (1) The Boraalans look just like humans, except for the Silly Putty on their noses -- imagine how Annoying Primitive Guy would have reacted to, say, a Cardassian or a Talaxian. (2) Humans and Boraalans are biologically compatible, to the degree that Paul Sorvino and Kasidy Yates can conceive a child together. And on that subject, how can you have an honest, meaningful relationship with someone if you have to withhold pretty important information, such as "I come from a different planet from you and I'm of a different species"? And what if the child takes after its father and is born without Silly Putty on its nose? How would Paulie have explained that one?
Wed, May 1, 2013, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
The holodeck simulation is coming apart at the seams, but Geordi can muster up a storm on demand. And then conveniently they arrive at the planet right then, at the same time of day(light) the simulation had..
Sat, May 4, 2013, 2:02am (UTC -6)

Uh.... Do you think, for example, that on Earth it is daytime simultaneously everywhere on the planet?

Sat, Jun 29, 2013, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
@ Lewis...they didn't just dump them anywhere on the planet.

they seemed to be copying the layout of the eventual particular settlement they were heading for, rock for rock, in the holodeck, and that settlement they arrived at on the planet was precisely at the time of day where the holodeck left off...convenient.
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
The final insult is when at the end Picard says, "Our plan for them worked out well." Excuse me, Captain? "OUR" plan? Your plan was to let them all die and let the Prime Directive soothe your conscience. Nikolai did all the hard work planning this out. But sure, now that it's all worked out, now you're sad that even one of them didn't make it.

I'd give an extra two stars to this episode if Q had shown up at that moment and smacked Picard across the face with all of that.
William B
Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 8:55am (UTC -6)
Yeah. I think that some ideas in this episode are interesting, and one thing I like about this premise, as opposed to "Pen Pals'," is that it creates a scenario in which any choice made is going to be brutal. There is no way to just save the planet -- the atmospheric dissipation (somewhat improbably, but whatever) is going to destroy it in no time, and the vast majority of the planet's population will *certainly* die. The Prime Directive as an abstraction is not a good reason to not interfere. (Especially *the episode after* "The Pegasus" in which following authority mindlessly is bad.) However, if we actually had Picard and the crew sit down and discuss this, and it were written well and in character, I think they would eventually recognize that even if they decide to save some of the people from the planet, doing so means choosing which people to save, from a whole planetary population. How could they possibly make that choice? And, in doing so, how could they possibly feel confident to swoop out, knowing that the number of people they could evacuate, which is at most a few villages, say, would surely be a tiny gene pool, extremely precarious? One could say, and I'd agree, that ultimately saving a few from death and total extinction is better than letting them all die, but there are actual difficult questions here which no one is interested in asking, with Nikolai's knee-jerk I'll-do-what-I-want attitude running up against Picard's, and Worf's, mindless authoritarian rule-driven mindset.

Picard does indeed look very bad here, as traditional authoritarian figurehead, but there are real problems with Nikolai's plan which no one bothers to call him on. HIS village deserves to live when all the other ones don't, I see? Why? Oh, right, because he secretly joined the village and married and got a woman pregnant. I'm sure that won't cause any medical problems during childbirth, or that no one will see the baby as a freak for having, I guess, an extremely unnaturally mild nose ridge, as a human/Boraalan hybrid; are there no other differences between humans and Boraalans that would become obvious over time?

The personal element of the Worf-Nikolai conflict leads to dull scenes, and mostly comes out of the blue. Still, Sorvino and to a lesser extent Dorn do what they can with the material, and there is the slightest hint of some Worf-character work in having him be required to think creatively. Nikolai and Worf do come to some kind of mutual understanding, Nikolai accepting responsibility and Worf accepting the value of interpersonal connections over abstractions, or whatever. It's not all that well executed, and is pretty unnecessary, but Worf does need to work on his imagination and this episode pushes him enough in that direction that it's not wholly worthless. On the balance, I agree with Jammer's 1.5 star rating.
Chris Harrison
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 9:13am (UTC -6)
You might be forgiven for coming away from this episode thinking: maybe Nikolai is right, maybe this was the right decision, in this case no cultural damage was done and adherence to the Prime Directive would have needlessly sacrificed these people.

But the more you think about, the more unforeseen consequences there will be for these people over the next hundreds or thousands of years.

For example, evolution by natural selection may not be discovered because all their hominid fossils would have been left behind on the old planet. What would that do for their culture? It could be absolutely devastating in the long run.
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 6:03pm (UTC -6)
Could have been good. Too many stupid mistakes. The one that irked me the most was Worf, chief of security on the federation's flagship, let's a guy wander through the holodeck by himself, knowing that the holodeck was having problems. My other beefs with the show were mostly due to the strict interpretation of the Prime Directive. This was just bad writing.
As to the PD, come on people, the planet is doomed, this way of life is doomed. Surely it would be better to save this handful of people than to just sit there and watch them die. Beam them up, give them some counselling, they'll adjust to the new life. Big deal if everything they believed in was shattered by the rescue. At least they'd be alive. If the earth was about to blow up and some alien race came to the rescue, I'd go with them.
Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 3:57pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was a pretty ok episode. I'm not a fan of the prime directive though.
Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 8:15am (UTC -6)
Ok episode with great premise. Transporting a race from a dying planet inside of a holodeck to preserve the prime directive? Terrific idea... Jeri Taylor unfortunately shot this down repeatedly until the writers offered to add the corny Worf/Brother relationship (well acted but poorly conceptualized).

Some of the prime directive banter was not top notch, but this was an interesting dilemma that could have been framed better. The Prime Directive IS important. Outside interference can regress growth and cause dependence. If the villagers knew about the Enterprise, they may not have struggled to plant crops/set down roots in their new planet, but waited for the Enterprise to resupply them. A LOT of people die all the time in the Trek Universe, so it is tough to feel that Starfleet has to try to save them all.

But if a culture will die anyways perhaps there should be an exception. The only remaining issue is if these people were going to evolve to be evil...then in this case you would want them to die...but that could happen to any race or colony.
Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
If mankind ever reached a point where it would willingly let an entire race die rather than lift a finger to help, it would be the complete opposite of enlightened.
Sun, Aug 3, 2014, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
This could have been much better but, even if Picard had decided in the end that he had to let the Boraalans die, there ought to have been some kind of wrestling with conscience before reaching that decision. The worst bit for me was them all standing on the bridge to "honour those lives which we cannot save". Given that Picard has shown no previous sign of any concern about those lives, this scene just makes him look like a pious hypocrite who is more concerned with dogma than he is with those lives he is claiming to honour. It's as if a whole seven years of character development has never happened.
Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 5:59pm (UTC -6)
Worf's brother is ok, but other than that this was a painful episode. I had the same thought that Kevin had a year ago. After Picard gave his little speech, I would have loved it if Q appeared and reminded Picard about that whole "superior morality" thing from True Q. This is about the most disgusted I have been with Picard's actions since season 1.

If the Prime Directive exists because you don't want to harm a society's development, then so be it. Whether or not I agree with that idea, at least it's a consistent philosophy. But I'm pretty sure planetary extinction rates as a greater harm than any meddling might do. So to stand there and say it's honorable to sit back and watch a intelligent species undergo extinction is just bizarre. So if a society doesn't have exactly enough technology, it's not worth saving? We've seen Picard et al do everything they can to save more technologically advanced species, so why are they more special than this primitive one?

If tomorrow we discovered that the Sun is dying, and we blasted a message into space begging any aliens to help us, would we be ok if an alien race looked at it and ignored it? Or if you think that we're technologically advanced enough to merit help under the Prime Directive, what if it happened 100 years ago?

What if instead of the crystalline entity being destroyed, it had made contact with Picard, and declared that from now on it would only eat planets with primitive societies on them. Would Picard have happily let it go to produce dozens of genocides just because the Prime Directive said so?

But besides the ethical issue, there are a lot of things to swallow here. So we are to believe Nikolai can hack into the computers and use the transporters without anyone noticing? So we are to believe that no one will notice his son doesn't look like the rest of the aliens? So this village of what looks like 20 people is enough to produce a stable gene pool? (I would have assumed Nikolai would want the aliens saved permanently). So after telling us the importance of maintaining these history scrolls for generations, they just up and give it to Worf? So none of the aliens feel the transporter beam?

And the subplot of the kid leaving the holodeck was just boring. We've seen similar things before, in Who Watches, First Contact, Pen Pals, and so forth. Did we need to see another person frightened of all the amazing technology? I found it hard to feel his suicide as a tragedy (wait, he was just randomly carrying a suicide pill with him?) when I didn't care about it in the first place.

And I guess that's the key takeaway here. Perhaps I'd be more forgiving of the episode if I cared for its central idea, or if I cared about the characters, but I didn't. The aliens were bland, the main characters were weak, and the idea frustrating. So good riddance to the whole thing.
Y'know Somebody
Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 7:01pm (UTC -6)
@Chris Harrison

"You might be forgiven for coming away from this episode thinking: maybe Nikolai is right, maybe this was the right decision, in this case no cultural damage was done and adherence to the Prime Directive would have needlessly sacrificed these people.

But the more you think about, the more unforeseen consequences there will be for these people over the next hundreds or thousands of years.

For example, evolution by natural selection may not be discovered because all their hominid fossils would have been left behind on the old planet. What would that do for their culture? It could be absolutely devastating in the long run. "

You're right! They should have let them be absolutely devastated in the short run instead.

We should probably have a law like that, too. Whenever something bad might happen to someone eventually, we just summarily execute them! We can spare them hurt feelings in the long run!
Wed, Oct 15, 2014, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
I don't disagree much with the review or most of the comments above. It is a bit funny to see Penny Johnson here pre-Kasidy Yates and Brian Markinson before his appearances on Voyager and, of course, as Dr Geiger in DS9's "In the Cards". I'd say "Soulless Minions of Orthodoxy" well describes the decisions of Picard and other Prime Directive dogma adherents.

Having said all that, I did like Paul Sorvino as Nikolai. It's too bad we didn't see him previously.

(I have to say that Nikolai's lavender turtleneck and fuzzy purple tailed jacket make for pretty bizarre fashion, even for this show.)
jack faith
Tue, Jan 6, 2015, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
the hug at the end between Worf and his brother - that's an all-time TNG moment.
Mon, Feb 9, 2015, 2:37am (UTC -6)
Man, there's going to be some serious inbreeding to get that population up to a viable level again. Say hello to genetic diseases.

Oh, and Picard acted like a douche. Yeah let's just sit and let an entire world die because to interfere would be damaging to their society (like Armageddon isn't)
Chris L
Fri, May 22, 2015, 12:31pm (UTC -6)
I TOTALLY agree Steve!

WTH is the point of a Prime Directive that allows entire species to die off?

Stupid in the extreme!

I didn't mind the episode as entertainment, but I really got hung up about the PD in this case and I'm irritated through the entire show because of the nonsensical nature of it's interpretation.

Like Jammer said originally... Beam the entire lot into space...
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 12:31pm (UTC -6)
This episode reminded me of why, as much as I like Picard, I like Kirk better. Faced with a decision between passively allowing an entire humanoid species to die by following the prime directive, or violating it one more time, Kirk would have moved to violate it without hesitation -- and with an impassioned and dramatic speech to boot.

Anyone watching this who has half a heart can't help thinking the prime directive is hogwash in situations like this. It's one thing to refrain from handing out phasers to random primitives, and quite another to stand by and let every last soul on a planet perish when you can easily do something to help. I'm surprised more of the crew did not immediately side with Nikolai.

The idea of atmospheric disturbances affecting the holodeck for most of the episode (even long after the Enterprise has left Borall's orbit) is just silly. They could have accomplished the same type of suspense in another way.

Still, I mostly liked this episode. I'd give it 2.5 stars.
Thu, Aug 6, 2015, 9:12am (UTC -6)
As I rewatch the episodes on Blu-Ray I tend to figure the episodes I really want to rewatch should at least merit a 3, so this one squeaks into 3 stars for me. It obviously isn't perfect. It is common in Star Trek to introduce a family member never heard of before and then make them a main plot point. Spock's brother in the movies for example. Still it does get old, especially in season 7.
The prime directive really doesn't apply here since it will result in the extinction of a race and culture still under study. One could argue the violation occured when Nikolai married one of his subjects. So rescuing a family member from certain death along with a small group should be acceptable.
I think a missed opportunity would be Nikolai mentioning Picard rescuing Wesley in the episode "Justice". It is much easier to live with the Prime Directive when you don't have any personal entanglements.
As for the beef of the episode using the holodeck as a ruse to make them think they are on a journey was a great premise. I love the "sign of LaForge"
Wed, Oct 21, 2015, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Oh. My. God! I'm just about stunned speechless by this episode. "Force of Nature" was bad but it left me laughing at the stupidity on display. I'm not laughing at "Homeward"! This is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the most offensive, repugnant and odious episode TNG ever gave us. I only wish that I had the eloquence of someone like Jammer or SkepticalMI or William B or SFDebris in order to adequately express the depth of the contempt in which I hold "Homeward".

I'm not even going to waste my time addressing all the minor problems here - things like the tedious childhood drama between Worf and Nikolai, the boring tension of the "save the village with the malfunctioning holodeck" plot, the way everyone reacts to one of the Boraalans discovering the truth, Worf's borderline racism upon learning that Nikolai fathered a child with a Boraalan - because, what's the point? It all pales, absolutely pales, in comparison to the episode's number one flaw - the one which puts "Homeward" not only in the running for "worst episode of TNG" but also for "worst episode in all of Trek".

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a god-damn argument in favor of genocide! Let's just cut all the fucking bullshit and get right down to brass tacks. Picard and company deliberately sat back and watched as an entire civilization (an entire alien species!) was killed off and they DIDN'T LIFT A MOTHERFUCKING FIGURE TO HELP! They sat there and watched all those people die and then patted themselves on the back for doing the moral thing. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!!!!! You morally bankrupt assholes! How that isn't genocide, I don't know. Picard even says "this is one of those times when we must face the ramifications of the Prime Directive and honour those lives which we cannot save." Honor? Paul Sorvino's character is absolutely right to say there is no honor in that! Lives which you cannot save? You didn't even try! Fuck you, Picard! The people who wrote this shit disgust me. At no point does Paul Sorvino's character even remotely move from his perch upon the moral high ground, even though the episode seems determined to get us to side against him. When he saved those Boraalans he showed that he was more of a genuine humanitarian and all-around "good person" than any of the main cast. (By, the way, why was everyone so shocked that he violated the Prime Directive in the first place? He isn't in Starfleet so therefore isn't bound by it anyway.) Someone in the previous comments said that Kirk would not have hesitated to violate the Prime Directive in order to save these people and that he is therefore a better character than Picard. I cannot argue with that. Good grief, just take this exchange from "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" - SPOCK: Captain, informing these people they're on a ship may be in violation of the Prime Directive of Starfleet Command. KIRK: No. The people of Yonada may be changed by the knowledge, but it's better than exterminating them. SPOCK: Logical, Captain. Enough said!

I've had my issues with the Prime Directive before. But this - this is the final nail in the coffin as far as I'm concerned. If this is what the Prime Directive is all about, then (I'm just going to say it) I would never want to be in any way, shape or form involved with Starfleet if I lived in this fictional universe. Starfleet is nothing more than a bunch of morally self-righteous bigots and assholes if this is what they uphold. I'm reminded of something SFDebris once said about the Prime Directive, which I'll paraphrase .... Suppose you saw a little girl drowning and you were the only one around who could save her. Would you stand idly by and let her drown because you "don't want to interfere"? What would you do when the girl's grieving parents and an enraged crowd turned their anger on you for not helping? Would you say "it was the only moral thing to do"? .... There is a reason "Babylon 5" was able to convincingly parody Star Trek and the Prime Directive in its episode "Acts of Sacrifice" and this is it!

But, we don't only have an argument in favor of genocide. We also have an argument in favor of religious extremism. Now, I'm vigorously defended religion against Trek many times already, but this is just absurd. We have here a group of people who are supposedly the good guys and yet are so religiously devoted to the dogma of the Prime Directive that they are honestly willing to say that their adherence to that dogma trumps the lives of other people (and act on that belief!). Given that this is a franchise that once said that even the faintest hint of religion would immediately result in holy wars, inquisitions and general barbarity, this beggars belief. Given that the franchise will later (ENT: "Chosen Realm") do everything in its power to show religious extremists as morons, it even further begs belief.

In case I haven't gotten my point across yet as to how I really feel, let me be as blunt as I can. Fuck Naren Shankar/Spike Steingasser for writing this. Fuck Alexander Singer for directing it. Fuck Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Paul Sorvino and everyone else for acting it in! Fuck Rick Berman for producing it. Fuck Brannon Braga, Ron Moore, Michael Pillar and Jeri Taylor for co-producing it. Fuck everyone involved in its production, right down to the janitors who cleaned the sets after it was shot.

As a rule, I don't score episodes with negative points. However, I am sorely (oh so fucking sorely) tempted to here.

William B
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 3:52pm (UTC -6)
Hey, thanks for the plug Luke!

This is a bad episode. I don't hate it as much as you do, but that's not saying much :)
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 5:34pm (UTC -6)

Damn... I don't even think I hate TATV as much as you hate this one.

I don't even remember this episode! :-)
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 9:49pm (UTC -6)
Oh just wait, it will be a while but just wait, until I get to TATV. That one pisses me off probably just as much.
Fri, Oct 23, 2015, 7:49am (UTC -6)
New project, re-cut TATV so that it's Worf and Troi and the flashback is to this episode and see if the result can make Luke so angry that he loops back around to happy from the extreme negative number.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Nov 4, 2015, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
The Picard that said "History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous" aligns perfectly with the decision he makes early on in this episode. The Enterprise has 38 hours to save a planet's worth of people. How do you do that, exactly? How to you pick who lives and who dies? What do you do with those that are left? Where do they go? What do you give them to survive? How will that turn out hundreds or thousands years later? It might be a morally ambiguous decision but it is a consistent one, and rooted in the principle of non-interference.

That's not to say this episode is a success. In fact, it bundles together a whole bunch of unsavoury premises and disturbing conclusions and serves them up lukewarm. It's difficult to feel engaged with a surviving population that only appears to consist of about a dozen people, which would hardly constitute a viable population even with Nikolai's contribution to population growth. It all just feels forced. 2 stars.
Sat, Nov 7, 2015, 1:52am (UTC -6)
@ Diamond Dave -

"The Enterprise has 38 hours to save a planet's worth of people. How do you do that, exactly?"

You save as many as you can.

"How to you pick who lives and who dies?"

Picking even at complete random is better than allowing all to die. Even if the Enterprise could only save 1000 people (with them literally crammed into the cargo bays), even if they could only save one person, it's the moral thing to do.

"What do you do with those that are left? Where do they go? What do you give them to survive?"

You cross that bridge when you come to it. If you see a little girl drowning, you don't stop to ask things like "how will I feed her once I save her?" or "how am I going to find her parents afterwards?". You simply save her and then deal with the consequences.

"How will that turn out hundreds or thousands years later?"

That's an argument from ignorance. Yes, it's true that that little girl I saved from drowning might very well grow up to be the next Adolf Hitler or that her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson might start a nuclear war. It's equally likely that she could grow up to find a cure for cancer, or develop the first faster-than-light engine, or usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for all of humanity. None of that matters in the here and now, however. Right now in the present all we can go on is what we know and the information we have at our disposal. I doubt anybody would argue that they shouldn't save that little girl because of something she might, maybe, possibly do at some unforeseeable point in the distant future.

I agree that sometimes non-interference is the way to go. You don't want to go sticking your fingers in hornet's nests all the time for no good reason. But the reverse is equally true. You don't want to stay uninvolved all the time for no good reason either. The problem is that in this episode the Prime Directive is treated like dogma - it's not to be questioned simply because it's not to be questioned. If it actually serves any useful purpose, the Prime Directive should be something that makes you stop and think really hard before you commit yourself to any course of action.

Look at how it was applied in TOS. Usually when Kirk violated the Prime Directive (which he did a lot) he had a damn good reason to do so (not always - "The Apple" being a perfect case where he should have not interfered). However, usually when he did interfere it was because it was the moral thing to do. They didn't treat the Prime Directive as some unquestionable dogma from on-high.

Or, take this exchange from TNG: "A Matter of Time", where I absolutely, 100% agree with Picard....

RASMUSSEN: So do nothing and thousands will die. Do something and millions could die. That's a tough choice.
PICARD: Not if you were to help me.
RASMUSSEN: You're not suggesting I tell you the outcome of your efforts?
PICARD: Oh no, I'm not. Everything that Starfleet stands for, everything that I have ever believed in, tells me I cannot ask you that. But at the same time, there are twenty million lives down there, and you know what happened to them. What will happen to them.
RASMUSSEN: So, it seems you have another dilemma. One that questions your convictions.
PICARD: Well, I've never been afraid of reevaluating my convictions, Professor, and now, I have twenty million reasons to do so.
RASMUSSEN: And why did you ask to see me?
PICARD: Because your presence gives me potential access to a kind of information that I've never had available to me before, and if I am to re-examine my beliefs, then I must take advantage of every possible asset. It would be irresponsible of me not to ask you here.
RASMUSSEN: However you come to terms with your beliefs, Captain, I must tell you that I'm quite comfortable with mine.
PICARD: How can you be? How can you be comfortable watching people die? (((((THAT'S A PRETTY BOLD STATEMENT IN LIGHT OF THE EVENTS OF "HOMEWARD".)))))
RASMUSSEN: Let me put it to you this way. If I were to tell you that none of those people died, you'd easily conclude that you tried your solution and it succeeded. So, you'd confidently try again. No harm in that. But what if I were to tell you they all died? What then? Obviously, you'd decide not to make the same mistake twice. Now, what if one of those people grew up...
PICARD: Yes, Professor, I know. What if one of those lives I save down there is a child who grows up to be the next Adolf Hitler or Khan Singh? Every first year philosophy student has been asked that question ever since the earliest wormholes were discovered. But this is not a class in temporal logic. It's not theoretical, it's not hypothetical, it's real. Surely you see that?
RASMUSSEN: I see it all too well. But you must see that if I were to influence you, everything in this sector, in this quadrant of the galaxy could change. History, my history, would unfold in a way other than it already has. Now what possible incentive could anyone offer me to allow that to happen?
PICARD: I have two choices. Either way, one version of history or another will wend its way forward. The history you know or another one. Now who is to say which is better? What I do know is here, today, one way, millions of lives could be saved. Now isn't that incentive enough?
RASMUSSEN: Everyone dies, Captain. It's just a question of when. All of those people down there died years before I was born. All of you up here, as well. So you see, I can't get quite as worked up as you over the fate of some colonists who, for me, have been dead a very, very long time.
PICARD: Of course, you know of the Prime Directive, which tells us that we have no right to interfere with the natural evolution of alien worlds. Now I have sworn to uphold it, but nevertheless I have disregarded that directive on more than one occasion because I thought it was the right thing to do! Now, if you are holding on to some temporal equivalent of that directive, then isn't it possible that you have an occasion here to make an exception, to help me to choose, because it's the right thing to do?
RASMUSSEN: We're not just talking about a choice. It sounds to me like you're trying to manipulate the future.
PICARD: Every choice we make allows us to manipulate the future. Do I ask Adrienne or Suzanne to the spring dance? Do I take my holiday on Corsica or on Risa? A person's life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices. Now you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one found in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well, you know, Professor, perhaps I don't give a damn about your past, because your past is my future and as far as I'm concerned, it hasn't been written yet!
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 6:05pm (UTC -6)
Add me to the list of people who find the entire premise of this episode and its handling of the Prime Directive profoundly offensive. Picard et al. should be ashamed of themselves. And shame on the writers for coming up with this indefensible storyline.
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 1:28am (UTC -6)
I always hated the hypocrisy of the Prime Directive and this may be the most blatant abuse of it in all of Trek.

So, the choice is as follows:

1 - let them be exterminated and cease to exist
2 - Let them survive, with an altered cultural direction, with the chance to become space faring in 5000 years and join the rest of the galaxy; find out about their true history, and develop a great culture

Picard's choice is #1. He would rather they cease to exist than have thousands of years of history ahead of them; simply because it will be different

History changes every day. We have a natural disaster, a mass extinction event, a war.... our "direction" changes all the time.

This episode is really a black eye for the Federation and what the writers were trying to do.

Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 1:29am (UTC -6)
And JJ's Trek 2 did this shit too.

Pike was ripping Kirk a new asshole for helping those people at the beginning of the movie. He preferred a mass extinction event over the planet surviving and changing it's direction.

Such nonsense.
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
This is one of the episodes that really made me really not like Picard sometimes.
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 2:30am (UTC -6)
I think Luke and others clearly highlight the main problem with the episode: Just plain bad writing that clearly violates the established personalities of Picard and other crewmembers. His snippet of dialogue from "A Matter of Time" is pretty damning evidence here.

I can't bring myself to hate the episode as vehemently, perhaps. I just see it as a failed idea and terrible interpretation of the Prime Directive, and Picard's character.

I believe there is no shadow of a doubt that Starfleet would have enough experience with this exact scenario to have a clearly established set of procedures guiding Picard's hand here. Obviously the PD should not apply in it's usual sense when there is no future left for an entire planet full of life. There really should be little left to interpretation or discussion, ethically speaking, amongst whatever starship was on scene:

If a planet and it's native species (intelligent or otherwise), faces certain annihilation for reasons outside their own making - Any and all available Starfleet vessels would be authorized, and indeed obliged, to save and/or preserve as much of the planet's native species, culture and history as possible. All life, no matter how primitive, has something to offer the Galaxy simply by 'being'.

Life in the universe is (one imagines) just too precious to let go to waste like this. Now, how Starfleet and it's ships and crews react would depend on the situation.

If time and resources permitted, maybe there would be guidelines for 'Holodecking' a genetically diverse enough portion of a species, as we saw crudely implemented in this episode. Or putting them in stasis, or beaming them to a colonization vessel, whatever. Perhaps all they could do is beam up as many 'samples' of animal and plant DNA as possible...building a kind of genetic library (or museum) of whatever the planet had evolved at the time. In the worst case, maybe all they could do is deploy a few dozen satellites to take detailed imagery of every square foot of the planet before the disaster hit. A final 'printscreen' of everything on the surface of the planet for study by galactic historians, anthropologists, etc. Ideally a combination of the above would be put into effect.

Doing something - anything - that preserves, in actuality or in memory, who and what lived on a planet before it was wiped clean is better then simply doing nothing.

I'm pretty sure both Starfleet and the PD would be mutable, and moral, enough to see through the dogma and realize the value of preserving life in all it's forms as much as possible.

It's the old 'cannot see the forest for the trees' syndrome. It's one thing not to interfere in the internal workings of a planet's biosphere and all it's complex intra-species relationships. Fine, we get that. If the planet evolves a species that wants to nuke itself, and any other creatures they share the planet with, into oblivion...then you must stand aside and let their own self-defeating nature run it's course.

But something as world-destroying on this scale is another thing entirely. Just sifting through the rubble of what was and saying, "well isn't that a shame" isn't good enough. Pretty sure enough ethicists would exist in the Federation to say 'look, we can't save everyone, but if we have the resources we need to make a decent attempt at helping doomed planets in some small way'...if for no other reason then to affirm that, in our insatiable trek for new life and new civilizations, we hadn't forgotten to take our very souls along for the ride.
William B
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 8:09am (UTC -6)
Just a few thoughts:

I agree that Picard et al. are out of character in the degree of their dogmatism here, and also that Picard fails to provide any arguments backing his position up. That latter point is what damns this episode and makes it really seem as if the authors of this show didn't particularly have a strong idea of why it would be considered wrong to intervene.

I very much agree with mik73 that there should be procedures in place to preserve elements of a doomed planet, if only through a "snapshot." To some extent we see that in this episode with Nikolai's upload of information to the Enterprise computer, but it would be nice to get a better sense of what it is.

That said, I tend to see things this way:

1. I really doubt that Nikolai's plan would work. OK, so they get on the other planet. Now what? They do not have a diverse genetic sample, are not adapted to their environment, and don't have technology. Nikolai will use his advanced technical and scientific knowledge to change the Boraalan culture enough so that they simply survive on a planet they are ill adapted to, and then they will probably still die out from lack of genetic diversity.

2. Even in this episode, Nikolai installs himself as something like a leader of the community and makes Worf a religious figure (a "seer" with mystical powers) in order to manipulate the Boraalans into doing what he wants them to, which is ripe for big abuses of power. This (not racism) is the reason for Worf's horror at Nikolai's fathering a child.

3. I get the impression from eps like this and "Pen Pals" that there are a *lot* of pre-warp civilizations that live a short time and die out and that it's not actually within the Federation's power to save them all even if they could. I tend to doubt that the Boraalans actually were saved, and that the destruction of the species was just delayed a few generations. The reason for the PD to have noninterference even in cases of planetary destruction seems to me to be a protection against hubristically believing that all large-scale destruction can be prevented when, in fact, most of it can't.

4. The Boraalans who don't die have a right to know that their entire species besides them are dead; that every species they have known is gone; that whatever spark of creation took place on their planet has been ended; that their cousins who live in other villages are dead and cannot be saved by a sheer reality of numbers, under the assumption that the Enterprise saves a village or even a few thousands.

5. That said, these assumptions are not necessarily tenable within the Trek universe, whose rules are fundamentally contradictory. The PD, even in its most dogmatic forms, makes a lot of sense in a universe which is fundamentally alien and unpredictable and in which big reminders of limitations on power are important, which is *sometimes* what Trek attempts to convey, but much of the time it really is *just* about human metaphors, in which case noninterference takes on a different timbre. But really, saving a village's worth of humanoids (no animals, no plants) from a planetary destruction and altering who they are in order to make them more adaptable to a new planet really does not represent saving a planet at all.

All that said, there is another possibility which the episode actually does address and clumsily dismiss. The culture of the handful of Boraalans who were saved will be so warped by the need to transform them to be adapted to their new planet that "Boraalan identity" will hardly be preserved. So screw it -- here is where they really can just save a handful of Boraalans, maybe a few families, bring them onto the Enterprise (or whatever), tell them the truth of what has happened to their planet, and give them the choice of how to proceed. "Your species is dead. There is nothing we can do. Your genetics will be lost. But you can decide how you want to be remembered." In a sense this is how things were dealt with with the suicidal Boraalan, which seems to me to be much more honest than the holo-swap material. Having the guy kill himself strikes me as frankly believable -- *I* don't think I would want to have the responsibility of being the sole survivor of a planet, find that my entire belief system was wrong, be forced to "grow up" as a species all at once -- but I also get how the suicide is in some ways a sop to people like me who are frankly very skeptical of the meaning of salvation of a handful of individuals on a whole planet, arbitrarily selected by a race of higher beings. I wouldn't want to be part of the village that survives rather than the planet that dies, or at least I believe I wouldn't, and so I will tend to believe that it's a universal trait, but I know that's not really fair or true. So really some Boraalans might prefer to continue existing, to try to find their own way of mourning their planetary destruction and the death of their people and to make sense of it over time, to find (e.g.) their own The Inner Light-like way of coping with their planetary destruction. To be like the El Aurians, scattered and alone.

So I dislike this episode a great deal, too, and think Picard's behaviour and characterization is wrong, but I am unconvinced by Nikolai's solution and the episode's presumption that what he did is somehow an honourable alternative to dogma. I think an episode that very seriously dealt with the issues in this episode could be great -- to genuinely ask what how a species deals with its own destruction, from the perspective of the Enterprise. To have the crew consider what it would mean if Q snatched up the Enterprise, and the Enterprise alone, and told them that their galaxy is now gone, or, worse, did not tell them that. To have Guinan talk about how few El Aurians are left. To consider how to choose which Boraalans to survive, if none at all, and the reasons why the PD generally prefers staying out entirely because of the existentially shattering weight of these choices. To show Boraalans seeing their civilization killed in the cradle, that sheer numbers and genetics mean that however meany survive will not be enough to have them survive as a species in an existentially meaningful sense -- to have one representative character commit suicide, perhaps, under the weight of loss (as one Boraalan does) and to have another see it as their sacred duty to continue living for the rest of their people who cannot.

It is hard for me to hate this episode as is, because it is clumsy and unfocused and because the Worf/Nikolai conflict is given centre stage and is well acted if cliched. But taken seriously it could be something special.
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 9:36am (UTC -6)
"2. Even in this episode, Nikolai installs himself as something like a leader of the community and makes Worf a religious figure (a "seer" with mystical powers) in order to manipulate the Boraalans into doing what he wants them to, which is ripe for big abuses of power. This (not racism) is the reason for Worf's horror at Nikolai's fathering a child."

That's a good point. You're right that Nikolai does insert himself himself into the community and does convince them to accept Worf as a religious figure. That is indeed ripe for abuses of power on Nikolai's part. But, I'm reminded of this from DS9: "The Search, Part I" (only because I literally just got finished watching it):

KIRA: I thought Starfleet didn't believe in warships.
SISKO: Desperate times breed desperate measures, Major.

These people are in truly desperate need of help. Maybe Nikolai did overstep the bounds somewhat in forcibly making himself such a powerful man in the community, but I can't hold that against him given the severity of the situation.

As for Worf thinking of those potential power abuses when he condemns Nikolai for fathering a Boraalan child, I'm not convinced of that. I think the implication from that scene is quite clear that Worf's problem is that Nikolai was with a Boraalan. Here's the exchange....

WORF: How could you have mated with a Boraalan? What were you thinking?
NIKOLAI: I don't owe you an explanation. This is a matter between Dobara and me.
WORF: As usual, you are thinking only of yourself.
NIKOLAI: And as usual, you are here to point out the error of my ways.
WORF: You have treated Dobara with dishonour.
NIKOLAI: I have not! I love her and we're going to raise our child together.
WORF: That is not possible. I cannot allow you to stay here.
NIKOLAI: You will have to kill me first.

At no point do either Worf or Nikolai treat this argument as anything other than an interpersonal one. There is no mention, or hint of a mention, about community power dynamics. Even Worf's tone of voice lends credence to my reading (I know "tone of voice" is flimsy evidence, but I do think it's illustrative) of him being disgusted with the thought of a Human/Boraalan pairing. You seem to be criticizing the episode for wanting to explore certain themes but not really making them all that clear, or simply not exploring them at all. To me, it looks like that's what's going on here. If the writers were trying to say that Worf disapproves of this paring because of the potential for abuse, then they were being extraordinarily subtle about it. Sorry, but I can't see it in the episode at all, which makes Worf look like a racist to me.
William B
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 9:53am (UTC -6)
@Luke, I do get what you mean about the severity of the situation.

As for Worf, that is how I interpret his "you treated Dobara with dishonor" line -- that it is not fair to HER to have a romantic relationship founded on a lie (Nikolai does not tell her his true identity and knows far more than her about the nature of the universe). But it's true they quickly devolve into sibling bickering which makes it hard to interpret Worf as making a coherent argument.
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 10:53am (UTC -6)
For what it's worth, I think a more straight reading of the words is warranted.

WORF: You have treated Dobara with dishonour.
NIKOLAI: I have not! I love her and we're going to raise our child together.
WORF: That is not possible. I cannot allow you to stay here.

The only SUBSTANCE in these lines is

NIKOLAI: I love her and we're going to raise our child together.
WORF: That is not possible. I cannot allow you to stay here.

Worf thinks it is dishonorable because Nikolai is going to LEAVE. Nikolai knows why Worf thinks it's dishonorable (because they are brothers) and answers it immediately. I don't think it's about lies or racism... I think it's about absentee fathers. Which is a hilarious argument from Worf, but the dialog supports this reading.

I think the issue is that since Worf's default assumption is that Nikolai is going to leave when the mission is over that it was disgustingly inappropriate to impregnate a Boraalan. I may be wrong, but Nikolai's response indicates he agrees with me.
Andy's Friend
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 4:49pm (UTC -6)
@Robert: your interpretation is absolutely correct.

This hearkens back to "The Emissary": Worf would marry K'Ehleyr after mating with her, simply because Klingon tradition and honour bid it.

...which is not so different from our own traditions and notions of honour: if I ever impregnated a girl in my youth in my native country, I would certainly be expected to marry her. It would be the responsible, honourable thing to do.

Klingon honour isn't much different from human honour. Most of us have just forgotten what honour is all about.
William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
Right, but, like, Worf also says "I cannot allow you to stay here." The issue is that either way, Nikolai is breaching an honor code:

Case 1: Nikolai leaves Penny Johnson. He dishonors her by abandoning their child and leaving her to fend for herself.
Case 2: Nikolai stays with Penny Johnson. He betrays his duty as a Federation anthropologist, which requires that he keep distance from the culture for the various reasons the PD is important -- in particular that the extreme information asymmetry between spacefaring human and tribal pre-industrial Boralaan is automatically unfair. Really, I think Worf takes duty seriously enough that he doesn't particularly care what the reasons are -- only that the Federation anthropologist code of duty prohibits what Nikolai is doing (joining the culture).

If Worf were ONLY concerned that Nikolai wasn't going to marry PJ, then Nikolai's assurance that he would marry her would close the book on Worf's concerns. The issue is that by getting PJ pregnant Nikolai must either forgo honor (to his girlfriend) or duty (to the Federation). I think Worf ultimately does see duty to the Federation and its principles as an even higher priority than responsibility to the Boralaan woman, based on his reaction.
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
@William - Absolutely. The default assumption is that he's dishonoring her because he HAS to leave. Before he says otherwise the possibility of staying is off the table. Raising the possibility that he's going to violate Federation ethical codes to remedy the dishonor of leaving his wife and kids adds a new dimension to it.

But assuredly from Worf's perspective he's messed up real good.
Andy's Friend
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 7:56pm (UTC -6)

"If Worf were ONLY concerned that Nikolai wasn't going to marry PJ, then Nikolai's assurance that he would marry her would close the book on Worf's concerns. The issue is that by getting PJ pregnant Nikolai must either forgo honor (to his girlfriend) or duty (to the Federation). I think Worf ultimately does see duty to the Federation and its principles as an even higher priority than responsibility to the Boralaan woman, based on his reaction."

This is very interesting: I believe that it is not exactly that he sees the duty to the Federation as a higher duty -- which he certainly does not --, it is that the notion of Nikolai staying with her does not even begin to compute for Worf initially *as a result of* longtime exposion to that Starfleet duty.

You just said so yourself in your reply to William B: "The default assumption is that he's dishonoring her because he HAS to leave." But "HAS" should not be interpreted as *a matter of duty* -- but rather, as *a matter of course.* Not because of duty: because of course. I hope you see the slight, but very important difference.

Thus, even based merely on this, only your Case 1 applies. Worf says so himself: Case 2 is not an option at all. And you had precisley pointed this out.

But the truth is that Case 1 and Case 2 are not in the same league. Yes, Worf certainly cares about "Duty to the Federation" also. But no more than he will disregard it whenever higher (Klingon) duties are involved, from taking a leave of absence in "Sins of the Father" to resigning from Starfleet altogether in "Redemption:" Worf will gladly abandon Starfleet duties whenever Klingon duties call.

And Klingon duties, reflecting a European mediaeval mentality, are above all personal, and not for institutions as such other than the family. Again: totally honour-based: an oath of allegiance, a marriage vow, etc.

We see this with K'Ehleyr in "Reunion", when he refuses to marry the mother of his son to spare them his dishonour. And we see it most notably when he saves the life of his mate at the cost of aborting *a wartime mission* in "Change of Heart". This is Case 1 trumping Case 2, right there: the duty to the Federation be damned, it is Klingon honour that matters.

This is wholly consistent with the Klingon wedding cerimony we see in "You Are Cordially Invited..." .....which, by the way, is why "Change of Heart" is fundamentally bad writing: there is no way those two would be sent on such a mission together. I actually like that episode, but the premise is ludicrous.

In any case, we see a remarkable consistency in Worf, from early TNG to late DS9: he sticks to Klingon code and Klingon concepts of honour. And there is nothing as holy as one's mate. But this is really simply analogous to good, old Christian honour:

"With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

And again, and always: surely what you promise your spouse in the name of God must take precedence over whatever you have promised your government in the name of a salary -- even if governments don't agree ;) Of course, the first Klingon hearts *killed* their gods, so the analogy isn't exact; but I trust you see the parallel.

The bottom line is, there can be no doubt whatsoever: Klingon honour matters most to Worf and trumps Starfleet duty any time; and according to it, it is Nikolai impregnating a woman he cannot stay with that constitutes the highest degree of dishonour, not his petty duties as a civil servant.

Interestingly, Nikolai himself isn't Klingon. This, however, doesn't change much: Christians will judge Hindus based on Christian beliefs, Communists will judge Conservatives based on Communist beliefs, and even a Klingon Starfleet officer will, deep down, judge a human based on Klingon beliefs.

But you are ultimately right: to see that Klingon honour and Starfleet duty converge into one big mess certainly doesn't make things better :)
William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 8:15pm (UTC -6)
@Andy's Friend, that was me you were quoting :)

I would agree with you about Worf in general, except that he specifically tells Nikolai that *he*, Worf, cannot allow Nikolai to stay. "That is not possible. I cannot allow you to stay here." I agree that Worf's *initial* shock is fully consistent with Worf failing to consider that Nikolai might have planned to stay there. But Worf immediately jumps to that *he* must stop *Nikolai*.

And in that sense maybe it is really more that Worf, instinctively, recognizes his duty to the Federation. As he says in "A Fistful of Datas" with excitement, "We are in law enforcement." As a security officer of the Federation, it is his responsibility to stop anyone, including his brother, from breaking fundamental oaths to the Federation. That Worf has seen Nikolai as an irresponsible troublemaker underlies Worf's perspective that it is his duty to be a barrier for Nikolai's behaviour here. However, this, as it turns out, is not the full truth. Worf eventually relents when he sees that Nikolai genuinely wants to be responsible to the Boralaan woman and to marry her -- at which point Worf is able to recognize in Nikolai something like his own honour.

So I suppose the chronological order of events is this:

1. Worf has a set of beliefs about Nikolai which predispose him to view all of Nikolai's actions through a certain lens. Nikolai is a Federation anthropologist, ad thus Worf assumes that at the end of this mission Nikolai will return to the Federation. Nikolai is an irresponsible troublemaker, booted from the Academy, and as such he cannot be relied upon to do the honourable thing, even if he is ultimately perhaps good-hearted in other respects.

2. Worf finds out Nikolai has impregnated a local woman. This is shocking because Worf assumes, as we mostly agree, that Nikolai will leave the Boraalan woman. So Nikolai has dishonoured her.

3. Nikolai points out that he will stay. Normally this would calm Worf down, but Worf is still in his initial mode. As a Starfleet security officer, Worf must prevent Nikolai from abandoning his Federation duty. And Worf *still does not believe* that Nikolai's desire to stand by the Boraalan woman is genuine, even as Nikolai says it. And so Worf reflexively jumps to his usual values.

4. time passes and Nikolai demonstrates that he is committed to the Boraalan woman, to the point where he manages to convince Worf that he is ready for responsibility. Worf is thus convinced to be fine with Nikolai staying, at which point Worf's "duty" to remove Nikolai vanishes, because Worf recognizes the (to him) higher value of Nikolai's authentic commitment to this woman.

So I suppose I was skipping some important points. What I was thinking is that *WORF* would see that, FOR NIKOLAI (*not* for himself), the duty to the Federation was more important than the personal duty to the woman he impregnated. And that is apparently borne out by Worf's line that he cannot let Nikolai stay. However, upon consideration, it is true that Worf more or less drops the duty-to-Federation-style concerns in favour of personal or religious ones, and applies this not just to himself but to others, PROVIDED THAT WORF BELIEVES THEY ARE GENUINE. So we have Worf agreeing to help Riker rescue Soren because Worf recognizes that Riker is acting out of love and personal conviction; we have Worf supporting Kira's faith in the Prophets even though it is not his faith. What was missing was Worf believing that Nikolai was acting out of conviction or love, and that is what changed over the course of the second half of the episode, for reasons that escape me to some degree.
William B
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 8:23pm (UTC -6)
sorry, on point 4

"Worf reflexively jumps to his usual values"

should be

"Worf reflexively jumps to his duties as a Starfleet officer -- and as the 'responsible brother,' who must act to ensure that Nikolai takes his duties seriously."

However, it's interesting. Worf values personal honour far above the law and the duty to the Federation. However he recognizes that the law *is* something he can impose, whereas honour is something internal, over which he has less control over others. Worf sees Nikolai in a bind where he must either break with his duty to the Federation *or* his honour to a local woman. In this moment, he is sufficiently fed up with Nikolai, it seems, that he seems to believe Nikolai is breaking with *both* personal honour and duty, even though Nikolai claims that he is honouring his personal commitment to this woman and breaking with the Federation (by staying). Worf ultimately is okay with the idea of Nikolai abandoning the Federation for his personal honour/responsibility to this woman, as we find out, and that is consistent with Worf's ethics.

However, in the moment, Worf says that he cannot let Nikolai stay with the Boraalans. He does not say that he will force Nikolai to take responsibility for the child and marry the Boraalan woman. And of course this makes sense. He has the authority to force Nikolai to do his duty to the Federation. He does not have the authority to force Nikolai to be an honourable, moral person -- that is outside Worf's abilities. Only Nikolai can do this. And since Worf at the moment believes that Nikolai cannot be trusted to be true to either his duty to the Federation or his responsibility to the woman, Worf jumps to the one he can do something about, even if it is not, as it turns out, the one that Worf would value the most.
Andy's Friend
Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 8:37pm (UTC -6)
@William B

Hehe, it's half past three in the morning here, I can't see who I'm quoting anymore! :D

I'd say you're right, expect for No. 3. Look at the way Worf is speaking: he is not speaking, he is shouting, clearly agitated. And yes, he is agitated because of No. 1 and 2. This is his emotional self, not his rational one. He is not speaking as a cool Starfleet officer: he is being his hotblooded Klingon self.

In other words, this is Worf reacting on 1. "Nikolai is an irresponsible troublemaker" and 2. "Worf finds out Nikolai has impregnated a local woman."

So yes, he shouts "I cannot allow you to stay here!" Worf gets mad, and he gets personal. But duty to Starfleet, I insist, has little to do with that line. That's my take on it, anyway. But as I said, it's half past three in the morning here. Maybe I should get some sleep! :D
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 7:39am (UTC -6)
"I find no honor in this whatsoever, Captain." -Nikolai

Agreed! What the hell, Starfleet? This doesn't make any sense at all. "...honor those lives which we cannot save," says Picard. Um, yes, you *can* save them! You have all the technology and terraformed new planets at your disposal for the job. It's not like you lack for resources to save them. So, you're worried about what? That their culture will be screwed up if they find out about alien races? Yes, yes it will. But they will be *alive*! Nor is it as if this is one natural disaster about to kill a few thousand on an isolated and primitive alien world, where there are millions more to carry on their culture. These are the last of their entire planet! Doing nothing is tantamount to permissive genocide.
Tue, Dec 20, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
One of the more entertaining examples of "surgical alteration" in this episode. Worf's ridges and facial hair seem to presumably be removed, then when he's back on ship, they are back. He didn't have time to regrow his beard...did Bev "reattach" it? Then he has to go back down to the planet again.
Wed, Dec 21, 2016, 4:12pm (UTC -6)
We have to assume that "surgical alteration" in the time of Trek means something pretty different from what it would for us. Fewer scalpels, more replicator tech (or something on that order).

Terrible episode.
Thu, Dec 22, 2016, 9:14am (UTC -6)
I gotta' say I'm a bit surprised of all the poop being flung around at this episode. I liked it back then and even now. THE SIGN OF.. LAFORGE!

Also when that guy killed himself rather than deal with the reality of what was happening to his tribe- I mean that has to account for something, eh?

And when you look at S7 as a whole this is nowhere near as bad as episodes like Genesis, Masks, or that horrible one with the telephone ringing in Data's stomach. Now THOSE.. Those are bad! pid=15.1&P=0&w=259&h=195
Mon, Dec 26, 2016, 2:35am (UTC -6)
While this is certainly a bad episode it's far from one of the worst (Masks anyone, ugh). To all those commenting that they could have or should have saved the Boraalans exactly how would they have done that? By the time they arrived at the planet there was very little time left before it was to lose it's atmosphere. They could have (and due to Nicholi did) save what, 200 people? Let's round up and say 1000. How would they pick those 1000? Figure out the smartest and save them? The most fit? What criteria would you use that wouldn't be called out as selective in some negative way. And what would happen to the culture? Sure you'd keep 1000 people alive, and clearly that's a very good thing, but the culture would absolutely be lost. That is the entire point of the prime directive, to not allow for the destruction or perversion of other cultures who are not yet warp capable.

It's very easy to say they should have saved them as it puts you on some moral high ground that doesn't really exist. Sure, you're being "good" and saving lives but at what cost and how? This is very "tree falls in the forest and no one hears it". Had the Federation never studied this planet everyone on it would have died just like they did. Should the Federation be spending as much effort as possible flying around the galaxy trying to help or save other cultures at risk of destruction? What right would Starfleet have in changing the course of these worlds by not only saving them but by forever altering their future.

The Boraalans were selected by nature for extinction. There is nothing moral about that one way or another. Nature knows nothing of morality, it only knows of the realities of life. Things are born, they live, they die. Nature decides this. For the Enterprise to have stepped in and chosen a group to not die would have been monumentally arrogant on their part. They have no place in choosing who lives and who dies. What about all the other life on the planet? Of course I understand that humanoids are sentient but there were far more lives at risk than just the Boraalans. If it were possible to save everything living on the planet that would be one thing. I forget the episode where the used the Enterprise to change the entire atmosphere of a planet thereby saving everyone. If that could have been done without the Boraalans knowledge that would be very different. You could save everyone without destroying their culture at the same time. That's not what happened here and as such the Enterprise had no place nor moral obligation to save only a small group of the lifeforms on the planet. Sad, yes. Starfleets responsibility, no, not at all. Put another way what if two races on a planet were at war with each other with one side about to win and destroy the other. Should the Federation intervene and save the side that's about to die? Who at Starfleet would decide which side is "right" and which is "wrong"? What if the Federation had seen the end of WWII and decided that beating and therefore killing a lot of the Nazis was wrong and should be stopped. Of course we think of the Nazis to be evil (being clear of course I believe that) but how would the Federation make that judgement from their perspective. In an effort to save lives they stop the war, Hitler lives and 10 years later is able to wage another war killing many more.

In short the Federation simply can't play sides. They can't change the natural course of a planet's evolution. They can't save a small subset of people just like they can't help another progress faster. They must remain impartial and separate as they have absolutely no right nor moral obligation to change the course of history for a world and by extension the galaxy. I'm sure I'll be called heartless, as you don't know me you can't know how far from the truth that is. Am I glad that Nickoli's half-baked idea saves about 50 people from an entire planet/culture of course, I didn't want those people to die. But who is he or anyone at Starfleet to play God and decide that this group of Boraalans live and this group dies. As I see it that was decided by one thing, Nickoli's sex drive. He mated with a Boraalan and as such chose her village to live. Why is no one outraged that the only reason this group was selected to be saved was due to an inappropriate sexual relationship? I say inappropriate as he was sent there as a scientist, not to jump into bed with one of the people he was studying.

Is it sad the Boraalans died, of course, it's terribly tragic. It's sad when anything dies, period. Placing the burden to choose who lives and dies on a captain and crew is absolutely unfair to them. How could they live knowing they saved only a small group, they would second guess the decision to save this person or group against that person or group forever. It would be absolutely unfair to place the burden of that decision on a group of explorers, especially with a case like this where the choice needed to be made so quickly with such little information. Nature is a cruel mistress at times and we have neither a moral nor ethical obligation to step in and stop her.

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