Star Trek: The Next Generation


1.5 stars.

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

Review Text

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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Comment Section

136 comments on this post

    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".

    Quite liked this one, especially the slightly depressing ending, thought it was a bit different to the norm.

    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.

    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.

    "...human beings exercising choices over other human beings..."

    ...Or whatever they are.

    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

    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?

    @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.

    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.

    O, BTW, the last point I was going to make was that isn't this the exact same plot from "insurrection"? Just in reverse?

    @Nick P:

    "Just don't like bad things"? WTF? How is that a naive liberal philosophy?

    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.

    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?

    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..


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

    @ 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    I thought this was a pretty ok episode. I'm not a fan of the prime directive though.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    @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!

    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.)

    the hug at the end between Worf and his brother - that's an all-time TNG moment.

    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)

    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...

    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.

    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"

    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.


    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 :)


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

    I don't even remember this episode! :-)

    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.

    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.

    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.

    @ 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!

    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.

    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.

    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.

    This is one of the episodes that really made me really not like Picard sometimes.

    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.

    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.

    "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.

    @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.

    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.

    @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.

    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.

    @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.


    "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 :)

    @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.

    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.

    @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

    "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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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.

    On the one hand, I largely agree with Nikolai's position on the "Putting lives before abstract philosophy" thing. While, granted, there's a possibility that you save a race that goes on to become the next Space-Hitlers, the people who are living now matter now. And if you're really concerned about them developing in a dangerous way, you have the superior position from which to help adjust their development in a positive direction.

    Nikolai really is a jackass, though. What is he thinking? The villagers stated outright they were ready to die when the storms hit-- they couldn't make the Prime Directive easier for him to follow if they tried. He had to fight to convince them to try to escape their fate. And impregnating a local with an alien baby? He doesn't think *that* will freak them out? Unless he's already genetically modified his own sperm, or the baby in the womb somehow-- or intends to perform surgery on it as soon as it's born, and then follow-up surgery on any children that baby has in future.

    Not sure what I'm trying to say, really. I largely side with the ultimate decision Nikolai made? But almost every aspect of how he made it was the worst it could be? And the episode seemed kind of a mess in terms of not really laying out the best case it could on both sides?

    I have to disagree with you, Diana. Put yourself in Nikolai's shoes for a moment.....think about if it was you watching these people for several years, becoming very attached to them. Would it be such an easy decision to simply follow the Prime Directive?

    I liked that you pointed out the potential future problems of mixing DNA from two species - obviously the baby will have features from both parents, one of whom is obviously not Boraalan.

    Picard certainly has had his share of "living in the gray zone" in regard to following orders and rules, which is why I found it somewhat hypocritical for him to get so angry at Nikolai. Remember "A Matter of Time", where he gives an entire speech on 'bending the rules' when the circumstances justify it and lives are on the line?

    I would love it if in Discovery they are unyielding in the application of the PD. Civilizations go extinct? Look away. Children crying and scientists begging for help via radio. Ignore it.

    I like the PD in principle but it shouldn't be wishy washy make it clear that yes people die and pre warp societies go extinct with Starfleet crews watching on.

    Have it be unyielding and uncompromising no compassion and no malice simple adherence to the primary rule of the federation.

    That would generate discussion.

    >The Boraalans were selected by nature for extinction.

    This is such a false premise that shows up constantly, it's frustrating to the point of tears. Nature is not a force with intelligence. It doesn't "choose". It doesn't "select." Under terms of natural selection, what is happening is that some mutation creates a numeric advantage (in terms of number of offspring that survive to reproducing age), so that one population can gain that advantage and win out numerically.

    That's it.

    Nature did not "select" these people. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, much like Data's friend in Pen Pals. There is nothing inherently wrong about either species that suggests they "deserve to die", as a qualification about "nature selecting them" would entail. So, there is no reason to allow that to happen, as if they are destroyed, there is no longer any civilization to protect and nurture with non-interference (thus defeating the whole point of "helping' a civilization by staying neutral, because that neutrality destroyed the civilization completely; which the academics among us would note is the opposite of "nurture").

    The PD is basically saying if there is some social evolution (note, NOT natural phenomenon) that is leading to change in a society, don't interfere with that change, and let the species resolve it as they would without outside interference. It says (or shouldn't say) nothing about helping a species doomed to die because of natural phenomenon out of their hands.

    K9T let me say that I agree with you in this case that upholding the prime directive where doing so results in a race's extinction seems dubious - especially considering that the Federation will happily consider lending aid to more advanced cultures. So if your culture has warp drive, like say the colony on Penthara IV, Picard will go to the wall for you, but if not - so long so sad! It is just arbitrary in some ways.

    But to play devil's advocate, I'd say the PD is about more than just protecting others. The purpose of the PD is also to protect the Federation and its peoples from themselves and their own best (and worst) intentions.

    TOS had several episodes where even Starfleet officers were corrupted by the impulse to play god before less advanced races. In this case they were not just averting a natural disaster like in Pen Pals but taking custody of an entire species. That kind of power could be corrupting. We know Picard et al. would behave ethically but there is a sense that the Federation does not wish to take responsibility for entire races.

    What happens if the Boraalans don't thrive in their new home or suffer an even worse fate? Is the Federation hooked into becoming their guardians, like the Caretaker in Voyager?

    Remember that the seed of Rodenberry's vision is not technology but a better human being. One has to believe that the only way to cultivate and maintain that better state of man is to curb the lust for power and dominance. In an inherently unequal relationship of dependancy between a less advanced race and the Federation there is too great a risk of power corrupting and sliding into domination. Cardassia"s relationship with Baajor offers a hint of where such a path could lead less stalwart men than Picard. The Prime Directive is a firewall against this dark path.

    This is one of the most morally wrong Star Trek episodes. The Enterprise could have easily saved some of these people, yet chose to let them die.

    As Jamahl says, Picard could always have beamed them back into space, or even better, back onto the surface where they would have died in almost the exact same manner they would "naturally" have, except a few moments later. If Picard had did that though, he would clearly have been a monster. But that's what he wanted to do: leave all these men, women and children to die without attempting to help them.

    I understand the general purpose of the Prime Directive. We don't want to be disturbing pre-warp cultures all over the place. However, what's wrong with helping a species that is about to be wiped out when there is no cost to doing so?

    Starfleet is extremely hypocritical as others have pointed out. Would the Federation have refused help from the Q if the Federation was about to be wiped out by the Borg? I don't think that Picard would have accepted to see humanity being wiped out because the Q were following their own version of the prime directive.

    This shows the smugness of the Federation. They consider themselves so superior to these people that they don't consider what they would want if they were in the same situation. You bet that they would want to be saved if they were trapped on that planet and not stupidly die in a plasma storm. They wouldn't care if they were saved by a more or less advanced civilizations.

    Star Trek greatly exaggerates the consequences of a primitive civilization being exposed to a more advanced culture. Picard and the escaped Boraalan have this conversation: PICARD: "On the other hand, they may believe your fantastic story. They will learn about alien worlds, starships." BORAALAN: "That would be disastrous. It would destroy everything they believe in."

    I strongly disagree with that. First, it's a lot better to have a few illusions destroyed than for your entire species to be wiped out. Second, on Earth cultures are not destroyed by mere contact with more advanced civilizations.

    Tribes in the Amazon don't change their way of life once they're contacted. They only do when the ever progressing deforestation of the Amazon forces them to adopt a Western lifestyle or disappear.

    Native Americans didn't change their lifestyle once they had met Westerners. They adopted some technologies, that's all. If they had not been wiped out by Western germs, guns and the ever increasing appropriation of their land by early American settlers, they would not have changed much.

    The Chinese and Japanese did not want to change their way of life, even after being contacted by Westerners. They only opened up and adopted Western technology after being attacked and having a gun put to their head by American and British warships.

    People tend to want to stick to their beliefs and their culture even after being exposed to a different and supposedly superior civilization. At their level of development, a starship would be no different than magic to the Boraalans. It would probably have very little impact on their culture. And what's the value of a dead culture anyway? If all the Boraalans are dead, it's not like anything of value was saved.

    IMO, they could have easily shut down the holodeck and told the truth to the Boraalans and there would probably not have been any great consequences. The Boaraalans would probably have been thankful and mildly shocked for a short while, but that's it. The escaped Boraalan could also have reintegrated the holodeck community and not told them about what he had seen. No need to commit suicide.

    On another note, the rivalry between Worf and Nikolai seemed a bit fake. The episode does little to explore the complexity of the issue of what Nikolai did. He violated his oath and not only contacted the tribe he was supposed to study from his outpost, but also conceived a child with a native woman.

    As for the first part (coming out of his outpost), I don't think it's a big deal. Anthropologists and linguists embed with native tribes all the time and they don't have a big effect on their culture. This is just Star Trek exaggerating the consequences of a Westerner coming into contact with a native tribe.

    The second part (conceiving a child), is a bigger deal. I actually looked at ethical guidelines for real anthropologists issued by the American Anthropological Association (AAA). ( p. 14). Interestingly, they don't say not to have sex, but to be aware of various ethical pitfalls if you do so. I don't see why Nikolai couldn't have married the Boraalan woman and brought her back to live with him.

    Interestingly, the AAA ethical guidelines also consider it okay for anthropologists to provide material assistance to natives, but they must take care not to influence their culture to much, or provoke conflict.

    There's another issue that nobody has talked about so far in the comments. At the end of the episode, Worf asks Nikolai if he can take the Boraalan's chronicles and Nikolai just gives them to him. Worf is stealing the only record of their history and their most valuable cultural artifact without their consent. He's depriving them of their history. Western archeologists have been criticized because they have taken artifacts from long dead civilizations (e.g. parts of the Acropolis), and many nations have asked for the restitution of those artifacts. But here Worf is stealing from a living civilization and he's taking the only record of their history. This is just wrong. Nikolai smiles and laughs and says: "it's yours!". This is a colonial and racist attitude. The Boraalans are considered inferior non-people who don't have any property rights and their things can just be stolen from them.

    Anyway, this is probably one of the most regressive and morally wrong episodes of Star Trek I have seen.

    To answer Ross, they had an ethical obligation to help them. Sure, Starfleet can't possibly save everyone everywhere, but if they can save a species from extinction for essentially zero cost, they have an obligation to do so. The Federation are not Gods. They are not superior to these people and as fellow sentient beings, they have an obligation to help them. As I have explained, saving them would not have destroyed their culture. There was no morally ambiguous situation. These people would not have developed warp technology for probably millennia, if ever. And would the Federation be prepared to have "done unto them, as they have done to others"? I bet not. If Picard and his crew were trapped on a planet, they would not accept to die rather than be helped by a more advanced civilization. If humanity or the Federation's survival was at stake they would accept the help of the Q or of any more advanced species. By refusing to help the Boraalans, the Federation is being incredibly smug and arrogant and plain evil. "how could they live knowing they saved only a small group" Well, how could they live knowing that they had saved none? How could you live with yourself knowing that you could have saved thousands of people by just pressing a button and yet you did nothing?

    @ Tom,

    I'm not particularly keen to support the PD in the context of this episode, but I will point out that sometimes following a necessary law will have unpleasant results in an unusual context. The question really ought to be "is it just for any law to be applied invariably, or should any law have the possibility for exceptions to be made?" There is the issue of, if exceptions are possible, whether this would lead to abuses that outweigh the benefit of allowing exceptions in the first place.

    Putting aside for the moment the moral quandry of whether the PD as stated should be the Federation's policy, it's also possible to infer that it *had* to be their policy whether it was ideal or not, in order to gain the cooperation of the other races at their founding. Imagine the Andorians, Tellarites, Vulcans and other races sitting down to discuss joining the Humans in a Federation, and you'd have similar questions as were addressed at length in Babylon 5: Who settles disputes? How are each race's borders managed and defended? How are the rights of each race protected from bullying and pressure from the others? With belligerent powers resistant to ceding control of their territories to a council in which they may or may not have their way, I can imagine that the only possible condition under which they'd accept Federation membership would have been one which would obey some rule like the PD, which would prevent the Federation from literally taking control of their home worlds and making them vassals, and similarly doing so to non-member worlds as well.

    I know Roddenberry probably intended the PD as a warning against Cold War manipulation and proxy wars in third world countries, but after watching "Journey to Babel" it sort of also becomes clear that the races involved in the founding of the Federation needed some strict rules to make sure everyone behaved and felt safe in the alliance; otherwise it would have fallen apart.

    Great dialogue going on so far. While I really enjoyed this episode and continue to watch it, I also have my own criticism with regard to how the various social issues were handled on this show.

    My main objection is with the somewhat cold-hearted approach both Picard and Diana had toward Vorin. They were both so obsessed with political correctness and 'cultural sensitivity' that they completely failed to give Vorin what he really needed during the whole time: a friend. That leads me to ask, where the hell was Guinan during this episode? She would have been the perfect friend who might have opened his eyes to the enormous and amazing opportunities awaiting him if he decided to leave his people and stay with the Federation.

    If he had been shown a very positive view of his future and all of the possibilities available to him, he might have been so excited that he would have had his head spinning with all the opportunities available in 24th century humanity.

    Instead, they basically left him alone in a room to stew and dwell on all the negative aspects of his situation, with zero encouragement whatsoever.

    I think if he had gotten real friendship from just one single person, he would still be alive and well into a fulfilling career by now. Picard and Diana were so bent on being 'culturally sensitive' that they were walking on egg shells every time they communicated with him, which only made the situation worse. How about some common sense for a change, realizing that Vorin is a person instead of labeling him as a 'pre-warp inferior civilization' that they can't talk to normally.

    @Peter G.

    I agree that there might have been a need to have such a rule at the start of the Federation, but we know nothing about this. The biggest problem is that the reason for why there is a Prime Directive are never discussed. In the episodes where it shows up, there's almost never an intelligent discussion about why it should or should not be applied.

    Captains seem to go between extremes of "it's just a technicality", to "A starship captain's most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive." -James T. Kirk, 2268 ("The Omega Glory").

    I agree that there's a general wisdom to not intervening in pre-warp cultures. However in cases where there's a clear humanitarian justification and no downside, I don't see why the Federation should not intervene.

    Ultimately, it's complicated. But on Earth we intervene when there are natural disasters. Should the United States have not helped Haiti after the earthquake? Should the Bill Gates foundation stop trying to eradicate malaria in Africa, or help people in that region in other ways because they are not sufficiently advanced?

    It would be absurd to say that the Bill Gates Foundation should only be allowed to help poor people in already rich countries. But this is essentially what the Federation seems to be doing. "In the future, there is no hunger, war, or poverty. Unless you’re not a member of the Federation’s Country Club, then f*** off and die." from the following essay: The Prime Directive: Star Trek’s doctrine of moral laziness by Edward Clint.

    Tom the justification is protecting the Federation and its people from the corruption that inevitably arises in such circumstances of extreme inequality. The danger of this kind of interaction between beings of greater power with those of lesser power was explored back in TOS with episodes like Where No One Has Gone Before and even with the Cardassian / Bajor situation. In Who Watches the Watchers there was a very quick jump to thinking Picard was a God. In TOS that was always a very very bad situation for all involved.

    I started out thinking as you do but as I think of it more, I feel more convinced that this is a valid concern and the PD was a real safeguard.

    As an aside Tom it is interesting that you mention foreign aid to developing countries because one of the biggest obstacles these groups face is how to help without causing unintended consequenes that make things worse, not better. I will agree that the colonialists in the era of the Portugese and Spanish had less than pure intentions, yet there was also a real motivation to civilize (as they saw it) and do good that went horribly wrong. Even now money and aid we funnel to poorer nations too often gets scooped up by local powers or feeds corruption, doing more harm than good at times.

    Hello Everyone!


    Interesting thoughts...

    Federation discussion: are there any private foundations that send needed items to lower technology planets, to help them survive a natural calamity? Or a plague? Would StarFleet shoot down a non-StarFleet/Bill Gates ship to keep them from helping a developing planet that was in need? That... is a very interesting question.

    Looking on Wiki (I know, not always reliable), I found that perhaps either Gene L. Coon or Theodore Sturgeon came up with the Prime Directive, not Gene Roddenberry. And the first basic definition of it was in TOS, 'Bread and Circuses': "No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations."

    I think it has been misinterpreted by the writers over the years to include world-ending calamities, under the "natural development" phrase we've heard, a cousin of "social development". While they aren't there to "Play god", I honestly believe TOS Enterprise would have been able to swoop low to spray a medicine and end a plague, or deploy a gadget to stop a volcano from destroying a world. The original PD was only to keep them from giving phasers to folks with flintlocks, to stop them from altering where the natural societal evolution was heading, to keep from steering them in the direction they want, and if they don't know about you don't tell them. It was never meant to stop them from saving millions or billions, who would never know...

    Stepping down slowly from the soap-box (bad back, must be careful)... RT

    The crew in this episode cling to the Prime Directive like American gun lovers like the NRA seem to cling to the 2nd Amendment, as if there are literally no exceptions and that rules cannot be changed or broken whatsoever in anyway shape or form regardless of how many lives it costs in the process.

    I found it odd that Troi didn't support Beverleys stance on this, during the episode "Conundrum", Troi was the single and main voice of "We can't just kill these people we don't know, it feels wrong" yet now shes a hoity-toity Commander she suddenly seems fine with letting people die miserable painful deaths to satisfy their, in the words of Gul Dukat "holier-than-thou Federation fair-play dogma". She must have taken that holodeck simulation where she killed Geordi quite seriously as she seems fine to let innocent people die off too as do the others. Rikers attitude in this is expected, hes always perfectly fine with letting people die, thats like his jam.

    How many times has Picard or some other crew member violated the prime directive, yet now he's mad someone else has? The hypocrisy of the Enterprise crew really annoys me. And I'm tired of the season seven staple of introducing an important family member never before seen or mentioned and probably never going to be seen or mentioned again just to create fake drama.

    I love how Picard et al are horrified at the possibility of the culture being violated but scandalized by attempts to save it. How can they justify using a rule meant to protect pre-warp cultures as an excuse to let them die? I really hate TNG's reinterpretation of the prime directive.

    Pretty much every character acts idiotic this episode, no surprise there. Lock the holodeck door, idiots. The chronicler's death is entirely on the shoulders of the imcompetent crew. And why did Picard pretend to be so remorseful over the suicide of a guy he wanted to let die a few days ago? Hey writers, quit making your captain a psychopath. Either he has compassion for other life forms or he's utilitarian to the extreme, having him flip flop, especially in the same episode, just makes him seem deranged.

    The problem with the prime directive as expressed here is that it doesn't work the way modern law does; not in absolutes. Maybe it begins in more absolute terms, but through the ages it gets challenged in court cases, and judges write up what basically amounts to exceptions based on higher principals. For one thing the prime directive would likely not be a simple "do not interfere with species that do not posses warp travel", it would more likely be a complex document stipulating intent, exceptions etc. and through the ages it would have been challenged in courts and more exceptions would likely exist. How does this effect this episode? It means that it's not particularly useful to examine the human condition using absolutes that don't exist. And it's not even very useful more making a very good episode.

    This is a case where one character (Picard) goes antagonistic just to have some 'TV drama'.

    Change Picard attitude, make him fully support Nikolai's plan, and the episode is consistently improved.

    Sheldonari said: "This is a case where one character (Picard) goes antagonistic just to have some 'TV drama'. Change Picard attitude, make him fully support Nikolai's plan, and the episode is consistently improved."

    I don't find Picard antagonistic, here. He's simply following the rules, and when his hand is forced, readily and quickly sides with Nikolai's plan.

    Anyway, I found this to be one of the better episodes in a generally weak season. I'd have liked the writers to have been a bit more robust in their thinking and problem solving, though: you could gas the locals, for example, and transport them whilst asleep.

    Possibly one of the worst TNG episodes ever.

    Look, Picard and the Enterprise crew here are guilty of gross moral cowardice. The argument that if they do something to save the planet it could work out badly in the future can be applied to literally ANY situation where you have the power to intervene, so that's just crap.

    Even worse is the fact that the crew here shows horrifying technological prejudice. Had the aliens been able to ask for help, it would have been rendered. Because they lack technological sophistication, millions die horribly while the bridge crew watch. UGH!

    Agree with Worf's brother - there is no honor in this. It makes it look like the Federation are hypocrites who will act save the far more dangerous Klingons but leave these helpless farmers to their miserable fate simply because there is nothing in it for the Federation.

    @William B

    "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."

    I don't wish to be misunderstood here - I am not at all making assumptions about who you are William B. I think though that your response would be most likely, and perhaps you realized this yourself when you question your own conclusion that this is a universal response, coming from someone who is white, male and heterosexual, has no chronic illness or disability, and enjoys at least a middle-class life.

    Sure, it's a great shock to have god-like beings show up one day, announce that your world, culture and way of life is doomed, and that your choice is to either die in a cataclysm, or be taken away to live in some alien society.

    I imagine though that a person who is quadriplegic, or very slowly but extremely painfully dying from a genetic degenerative condition, would warm up to the idea rather quickly when it becomes apparent that completely curing the condition requires only a trivial medical intervention from the alien doctors.

    LGBT people or women in repressive societies - Saudi-Arabia comes to mind - or people in racist societies who don't have the dominant skin color, would also be rather likely to choose alien exile, and subsequently get over Earth fairly quickly, living in an alien utopia where people are respected and valued as they are, and discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation is literally unthinkable.

    Let's also think of the world's poor - the billions who are struggling every day just to not starve to death, who suffer economic exploitation, lack of shelter and clean water, and who will die early and miserable due to lack of health care and the miserable working and environmental condition they have to endure. I think they too would overwhelmingly go for living in a post-scarcity alien society with a pristine environment, leisure and self-improvement as life's sole purpose, and replicators.

    This brings me to an important moral dimension which Homeward, and (as far as I can remember) all Star Trek prime directive tales ignore - that primitive societies often inflict incredible suffering on many or most of its members. "Homeward" evades this question by showing an idyllic, idealized primitive village. The story is not interested in the hardship that inherently comes with such a life, or the brutalities that this primitive society may inflict on its members.

    Does it require young girls to have parts of their genitals removed with razor blades and without anesthesia? Does it require boys to undergo horrific initiation rituals to "become men", like being suspended by hooks inserted into their flesh, or raped by the elders of the tribe?

    Are some of their members being kept like animals, as the property of others?

    These are the atrocities that we humans have inflicted, or are still inflicting, on each other. I doubt primitive Alien societies would be any different.

    I can think of no other Star Trek "prime directive" episode that addresses this central moral question. "Who Watches The Watchers" features a relatively primitive but enlightened and peaceful society. "Half a Life" and "The Outcast" came close, but ultimately hid behind the dogma of "we must not judge the customs of other cultures". Sorry, I think we do.

    The highest moral law is to prevent the suffering of sentient beings. Sentients' rights are universal. Culture and tradition can only be respected as long as fundamental rights are not violated. A non-interference policy can only derive its moral justification by furthering the goal of preventing suffering. It cannot be an end in itself.

    When a primitive society brutalizes even some of its members, then interference is not only permissible, it is a moral imperative. Naturally, interference must be measured, based on solid understanding of the society and probably covert. The goal is to preserve what is good about a society and eliminate the clearly bad.

    This is not my original idea, it's basically the philosophy of The Culture in Iain Banks' Culture universe. A highly evolved society has a moral duty to perform "good works", to interfere in the development of less evolved societies, to prevent suffering of sentient beings.

    @ ReaperX,

    "This brings me to an important moral dimension which Homeward, and (as far as I can remember) all Star Trek prime directive tales ignore - that primitive societies often inflict incredible suffering on many or most of its members. "Homeward" evades this question by showing an idyllic, idealized primitive village. The story is not interested in the hardship that inherently comes with such a life, or the brutalities that this primitive society may inflict on its members."

    Are you saying that suffering at the hands of other humans is worse than being wiped out to a man by a natural disaster? Because the stakes in this episode are that they will all die if nothing is done, and the Prime Directive seems to say that they should meet their natural fate. The 'hardships' you describe are surely a lesser case and are therefore covered by this episode.

    "The highest moral law is to prevent the suffering of sentient beings."

    How do you know that? Why are you so sure it's more important that determining your own fate and learning to think for yourself?

    Does anyone else find it odd that Jammer will criticize the Prime Directive here, yet praise it endlessly in something like "Dear Doctor?" Especially with its nonsensical magic masquerading as science, used to justify letting a whole race die? Feels rather inconsistent, tbh. I think SF Debris's discussions on the Prime Directive are more cohesive, make more sense, and ring truer, at least to me.

    @Chris Harrison

    “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.”

    I teach a whole course which is nothing but unforeseen consequences of political actions taken during the 20th century. And yet . . . “Oh no, not my fossil record?” In the hierarchy of needs, “fossil record” is surely out-ranked by “survival.”

    The holodeck is one room. Yet these guys can spend days walking through it. They'd have to be constantly going in a tight circle.

    So much dumb in this episode.

    A few old ideas recycled in a weak and frankly boring episode -- felt like a mix of "Up the Long Ladder" and "Who Watches the Watchers". Inadequate Prime Directive examination, artificially constructed relationship between Worf and his brother (Paul Sorvino being the great actor he is could not save these parts), poor writing for Picard's actions, unsatisfying conclusions (no punishment for Nikolai's actions) are all drags on this episode. Would appear TNG S7 is running on fumes and threw this one together pretty quickly.

    One had to know one of the natives would find his way out of the holodeck and onto the ship -- so predictable. That he kills himself is interesting, but I agree with Jammer about Picard's idea of that native bridging the gap between the 2 cultures as ridiculous. Troi had an annoying moment with that native when he gets to 10-Forward: "He is my friend. That means you are too." Almost cringeworthy.

    As for the Nikolai/Worf dynamic -- this just isn't anywhere near good enough. Nikolai the loose canon and Worf the duty-bound responsible one -- of course in the end they make up. Picard was initially very upset with Nikolai for what he did (Worf was too), but there's no discipline for him. Guess you can screw with the Federation all you want but if the outcome ends up luckily being good, all is cool.

    One redeeming part is the respect for the past that the native who makes it out of the holodeck has. Of course, it's not elaborated upon but I think it's worthy to note the point of a people's traditions/record of the past are key to their futures. His "village chronicle" is so important to him.

    Also have to think the Prime Directive needs a reworking if Picard is perfectly prepared to let the natives all die as their atmosphere gets wiped out. In principle, Nikolai's plan could actually be something close to recommended procedure. But the way Nikolai springs it on the Enterprise, of course, is not good -- but then we wouldn't have an episode.

    1.5 stars for "Homeward" -- another one of TNG's bland, forgettable episodes. Interesting that Paul Sorvino acted in this one -- couldn't TNG come up with something like TOS's "A Piece of the Action" for him to act in? Some contrivances to try to generate something interesting here (holodeck going on the fritz, Nikolai's total lack of professionalism, etc.) Felt like TNG had done this episode a few times already.

    tng: "Oh no the plasmonic storms on the planet are going to break the holodeck"
    me: "move the ship"
    tng "what can we do, the simulation might break down. Oh well lets just hope"
    me: "move the ship"
    tng: "its not a question of if but when"
    me: "move the ship"
    picard: "very well go and get new latex prosthetics for Michael Dorn again"
    me: "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"

    Okay As others have stated and I should have paid attention to, this Prime Directive is a little fishy. Wouldn't people choose to live on a different planet or with intervention rather than die? The Federation's own ethics don't seem developed enough for a Prime Directive.

    I guess 7/10 for the lofty ideas

    I quite liked this episode, and I don't quite understand why others did not. It an example of how compassion and humanity can win over the abstract, heartless Prime Directive. I was only sorry that Vorin killed himself, there wasn't really any good reason to do so. We have many examples in the Star Trek saga of people from less advanced civilizations who were very happy to join the more advanced reality. It seems that nobody really bothered to explain Vorin the many advantages of 24th century federation

    I definitely think jammer is too harsh on this one. I wish I could remember why I made a note to check this episode out, because I’m fairly certain it had to do with a discussion on some episode thread somewhere on this site.

    Anyway, I thought this started very strong and lost a little steam toward the end, but I would still give it three stars overall.

    BTW, Penny Johnson clearly has some anti-aging genes, because she does not look like she’s pushing 60 now on “The Orville”, and she did not look in her mid-thirties here, more like 25.

    Quoth Jammer: "(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?)"

    Agh, I'm glad I wasn't the only one thinking that. Pump the holodeck full of anesthatine gas or whatever they call it on the show, and instead of villagers becoming increasingly doubtful from the glitches they keep seeing, they sleep through it all and wake up on their home planet. They already used the "I beamed them over while they were sleeping" once in the episode, why not a second time?

    But I put that aside. I enjoyed this, honestly. My partner did too, and told me this would be one to look forward to. I appreciated the dilemma... even if I could see easier ways out of it than they could... and was particularly concerned by the plight of the lone holodeck escapee. His ritual suicide might have been an easy way out for the episode, but I do think it brings home how there really were no good options for the man.

    Also it's fantastic (and also somewhat surreal, to someone who's definitely seen more of the characters than the cast members) to see Michael Dorn in comparatively light facial prosthetics for once.

    The acting for Worf's "foster brother", who magically appears and then disappears from the Trek universe, is absolutely horrid. He makes Vedek Bariel seem interesting.

    Also, good job Picard: in the episode after you sold out an Admiral and a bunch of intelligence operatives while relinquishing a tactical advantage, you condemn a planet to death then get shitty with the man who tries to save them. This writing is nothing short of pure Star Trek.

    I think Worf improvising as a shaman is funny enough to bump it up to 2 stars, but not a great ep.

    I just watched this episode and I liked it. I liked the simple, natural ways of the villagers, I like the emotional conflict between Worf and Nicolai, I like how Picard has to make tough choices, I liked Deanna's compassion when Vorin found himself terrified in ten forward, I liked the surprising ending where Vorin committd suicide. I'm not going to analyze ir further to find flaws

    The comments, especially the angry ones about the hypocrisy of the Prime Directive had me in stiches. @Luke ... Something about full sentences done in all caps with colorful expletives is immensely entertaining....but I'm in total agreement that the Federation is in certain episodes deliberately shown as completely bankrupt philosophically. Utopia it isn't.

    That scene in Ten Forward when Vorin stumbles in terrified, reminded me a little too much of the scene with the Tsarist aristocrats in the restaurant in "Doctor Zhivago" having dinner while a mass of ragged proletarians march by chanting a dirge for a little compassion. The diners are struck dumb with fear until Rod Steiger's character stands up and says "Maybe they'll sing on key after the revolution"! everyone cheers and returns to their filet mignon.

    As someone else mentioned, Deanna to her credit at least interceded to comfort the poor guy. But boy, it sure made the rest of those Starfleet lackies wobbly and almost drop their Appletinis.

    Clearly if there is a world where the inhabitants have technology equal to or better than the Federation's, the Enterprise doesn't miss a beat before it organizes a relief mission. But those poor primitives with the 1485-style hauberks are allowed to get vaporized....obviously there was no dilithium there.

    The episode was, I think, intended to cause this kind of horror in the audience....and debate over the vapid Prime Directive. Good fun, especially when everyone must have been thinking or saying out loud what Jammer expressed in his review: "where is the lock on that door..."

    Geordi, Geordi, Geordi. When my computer starts acting up, I reboot it. Wait until these people go to sleep, then Ctrl-Alt-Delete the holodeck. Or do as others suggested and just gas all of the people and put them asleep. Then toss Mr Cry Baby who got out of the holodeck, back in with them. Drop them off on a planet and leave. They will wonder where they are, but they'll get over it. Let them think what they want. There would be no way for them to figure out they are now on a planet 10 light years away. They'll adapt and life goes on. Better than waking up dead on their old planet.

    Just watched this this evening. I admit I do like the episode. Worf sometimes bored me with all his Klingon honour blah blah. But seeing him with his human "brother", I enjoyed the sparring dynamic between the two.

    This episode also gives me yet another reason to not like Picard. He rails at Nikolai throughout the episode, yet at the end says "Our plan worked". Oh right, take credit once its been shown to work. Shut up, Picard!

    Despite all the contrived plot devices--computer failure, can't wipe memory being the two big ones, I like this episode, especially the part of guy ending up on the Enterprise and his decision of suicide and Picard's regret.

    As for the computer problem, I can't resist offering a simple solution. Release some sleeping gas to put everyone to sleep and then reboot the computer.

    A Prime Directive story! I like 'em.

    And I really enjoyed this one. I hadn't seen it before. I have to wonder though if the writer even understands the notional purpose of the Prime Directive? I mean - what level of interference in a planet's society could be more harmful than all of its sentient life being wiped out in a catastrophic ecological disaster? Natural causes or not, that's really going to put a crimp on the normal development of their culture and society.

    And there lies my problem with this episode. Picard is so obviously in the wrong, and Nikolay so clearly right. But the script never forces Picard to face up to this.

    There's a wider point regarding the Prime Directive in any case - there's nothing stopping the Ferengi, or the Romulans, or even the Q from interfering in underdeveloped cultures, so there's a question mark over how effective it is anyway.

    There's a really powerful moment when the crew on the bridge witnesses the apparent death of life on the planet, before it transpires that some of it has been saved. Yet it seems so callous just to watch this without lifting a finger, then leave.

    The other big problem is the convenience of the Holodeck malfunction. A more imaginative solution was required, I think.

    And when the young man leaves the Holodeck - it seems so hypocritical that Deanna tries to calm him, and emphasise that he is among friends, when they were going to let him choke to death on the surface of his planet, mere hours earlier. Why not just kill him with a phaser? End of problem. What's the difference?

    And speaking of hypocrisy, Beverley asks Data "how do we even know they'll be able to survive?" when they arrive at a choice of new home planet. Why do you even care?

    Despite all of this, I really enjoyed this one. The dynamic between Worf and his brother is excellent, and I don't normally like Worf episodes.

    I didn't know Penny Johnson Jerald, of 24 and Orville fame, had ever been in the Star Trek franchise, but I recognised her straight away.

    I note that some other commenters have happened upon the same solution that probably occurred to at least 90% of viewers - just make the Holodeck guests unconscious and put them in stasis for a bit. Much less hassle.

    Really very good. Probably not quite up there with Who Watches the Watchers? but not far off.

    @James G

    Yeah, I agree with you about the scene when the native showed up in 10 forward. I am not big on Woke and identity politics, but my immediate reaction to that scene was: what a bunch of privileged jerks. An intelligent species had just been wiped out and you are enjoying the scene while drinking synthehol?

    Yeah, right! Pull the other one, will you?
    A whole village transported to a holodeck and subsequently to a new planet without realising it! And the only person accidentally discovering the truth killed off conveniently so the Prime Directive could maintain its integrity?
    Didn't the Voyager crew, Paris I think, say the Prime Directive was "a lousy idea"?
    Well, this episode is ample proof of that!
    What a crock!
    What a pity to see the glorious Paul Sorvino, a spectacular character actor, cast in this highly dubious role of the do gooder "brother" of Whorf.
    Dorn looks so sexy without the Klingon forehead.
    And how big is the holodeck exactly? Big enough to accommodate a small mountain and scores of villagers climbing all over it with all their chattels?

    It's been 5 years since your review, and I don't know if you'll get to see this, but I wholeheartedly, completely, totally agree with every point you make.
    The Prime Directive used as a plot device here represents a totally morally bankrupt policy, where genocide becomes more acceptable than breaking a few bureaucratic rules.
    I hate Picard when he plays God like that, his sanctimonious self-righteousness makes me want to puke.
    The moral hypocrisy is off the scale!
    Cheers from Oz

    Picard just looks so terrible here. It would have helped if he were shown to be delighted from the get-go at what Nikolai did, even if only to the audience. Perhaps stoically walking to the ready room and a huge smile once inside.

    After rewatching The Masterpiece Society, I'm wondering if that episode and this one are where Patrick Stewart just phoned it in.

    Both are not Picard centric and both feature him having seemingly strikingly incongruent positions within each episode. Stewart is such a good actor, he can do longer and scenes very convincingly on their own.

    Though it's also possible the writing for Picard is just lousy in both episodes for basically the same reason, that they aren't Picard centric.

    I liked this one a lot. One of the better Holodeck episodes, with a malfunction playing a more interesting and plausible role than usual.

    I very much enjoyed the determination of Nikolai to save the villagers and his clever plan to do so using the Enterprise; I felt both Sorvino and Dorn put in good performances, and their relationship was believable. The way in which Worf was forced to explain the malfunctions as quasi-religious signs was nicely done.

    It struck me that many viewers might question the long-term biological viability of a saving a civilisation based on what seems to be just 20-30 founding individuals, but it is possible: I was reminded of the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789 which ultimately saw nine British mutineers and 20 Polynesians settle on Pitcairn Island in the Pacific. By 1856, their numbers had increased to 193; and there are now nearly 1000 people of Pitcairn descent worldwide (mainly on Norfolk Island and in Australia and New Zealand).

    The one thing I very much disliked about the episode was the absolutely throwaway suicide of Vorin. I actually like it when representatives of pre-warp civilisations are shown the great big universe out there - there's a long history of it in Trek, and it's usually handled with a wholesome sense of wonder and awe. 'Homeward' is however one of the very few times such an encounter is portrayed as having an almost wholly negative and traumatic impact: it would have been much better to see how Vorin integrated his experience back into his Boraalan everyday life (or not, as the case might have been). But no; we're robbed of this, and Vorin's entire arc is ultimately swept aside in an appallingly perfunctory manner, with Crusher covering Vorin's body with a blanket and engaging in some idle, almost glib, speculation as to why he did it.

    That said, 'Homeward' is still one of the better episodes in season seven. A solid hour.

    They are such hypocrites in this episode, millions of lives weren't worth violating the PD but one Wesley Crusher in "Justice" was. They should repeal that federation law.

    I agree with Luke 100%. This is the worst episode of Star Trek I've seen. Nikolai is right. Everybody else is wrong. 0 stars.

    Ah, yes, another episode that fails to notice the Prime Directive is morally repugnant. There's no reason this episode couldn't have had a more nuanced debate of a morally defensible Prime Directive, one that allowed Federation captains to prevent, oh, say, extinction. The debate could have been over any number of competing options that could save the endangered populace, each option having a different risk of cultural contamination. The stakes could be laid out, sides could argue their positions, surprise twists could force hands, etc.

    But instead, we got this. Sigh.

    Culture is such a BS concept. What's important is improving the quality of life, regardless of how it affects their STUPID, reprehensible belief systems, whatever they are. This is an episode where Q should have disciplined the entire crew. How the world would be soon much better without childish religions. I always rude for the born now.

    The only argument against putting the Boraalan's to sleep is that when they woke up, their world would be different.
    They had to believe that they were going on a long journey to even make that prospect a little believable.
    But, yes, I wholeheartedly agree that the frickin' holodeck door should be locked

    I don’t remember ever seeing this episode before? At its heart, buried beneath a ton of issues and problems, is a nice story of journeys to a new life - for the Beraalans but also for Nikolai and Worf. A kind of Odyssey, if you like.

    But oh! the problems…

    1. The endless handwringing over the PD. Better to allow a whole species (Nose Wrinkle #147 to distinguish them from humans) to die from “plasmonic atmospheric” technobabble rather than infringe the precious Directive? I thought that was supposed to protect cultures, not allow them to become extinct? In this episode, Nikolai comes across as 100% reasonable, whereas Picard - for once - is callously rigid and unbending.

    2. The boy who escapes the holodeck can understand the crew members even though he doesn’t have the universal translator? Oh sure!

    3. Perhaps the biggest problem of all: the holodeck. How on earth can they simulate an entire planet to the extent that those inside can go on a long journey? Then there was the grid appearing in a pool of water: the pool wasn’t at floor level, so how could the grid appear where they saw it? Then there were all the problems Geordi had maintaining the simulation, yet he had no trouble creating an artificial storm. The holodeck is a great idea but the way it was used in this episode was so unbelievable.

    4. Then there was the issue of beaming the villagers down to their new home; they were awake inside their tents, yet didn’t notice themselves be disintegrated then reassembled by a transporter? Oh please! If that didn’t break the PD, I don’t know what else would!

    However, despite all the problems - which sadly I couldn’t simply shrug off - it deserves at least 2 stars for being a potentially good story.

    This episode actually challenges the dogmatic use of PM, therefore I dont understand the emotional fuss over it.

    With that said,saving a race comes attached with responsibility. You have to monitor them and make sure they dont create problems i for other races. It is not responble to let the galaxy take care of itself.

    Man, I hate it when I'm just chilling, minding my own business, and then the atmosphere is like "aight, I'ma head out."

    I agree with the criticism of this episode, especially on Picard that came off very unlikable and phony, but the one thing that annoyed me the most and yet noone mentioned it here:

    Did Nikolay just let Worf have the chronicles to himself at the end of the episode???
    Did i get that right?
    That's almost everything they have left from their planet and village and he just takes it with him as a souvenir?

    Maybe it was as a "We start new life from scratch on a new planet" type of gesture, but it's not his decision to make.

    Very bad episode, season 7 has a lot of those, unfortunately...


    [[The only argument against putting the Boraalans to sleep is that when they woke up, their world would be different.]]

    NIKOLAI: "Even the stars might be different."
    ANNOYING PRIMITIVE GUY: "Why would the stars be different?"
    WORF: "STFU already! God, you’re so annoying."


    [[Man, I hate it when I'm just chilling, minding my own business, and then the atmosphere is like "aight, I'ma head out."]]

    Review of the first restaurant on the moon: "Great food, no atmosphere."

    I do like Sorvino and Dorn here, and do find them convincing as brothers with a history.

    The actual holodeck malfunction here seemed relatively plausible compared to most. It's just there were so many holodeck malfunctions at this point, it's hard not to roll your eyes.

    But so many problems here.

    Why didn't they drug the heck out of Vorin instead of telling him EVERYTHING? Drop him back in the holodeck and tell him he had a Spell of Crusher caused by the storms?

    Considering this situation became a Big Whopping Deal Mission, why weren't guards stationed at the holodeck doors considering the malfunctions? Etc.

    Bleh. Some good stuff, but it definitely had Season 7 Senioritis all over it.

    I like these reviews alot, but every once in awhile I don't agree. I love this episode I think it's more for comedy than any real meaning. If you ignore it's flaws and just enjoy watching worf in another awkward scenario it's great.

    Why on Earth, in this episode where Picard is represented as a doctrinaire pedant, doesn't he the episode end with him arresting Nikolai for sabotaging in the Enterprise?

    @ Luke

    Using the logic applied by the characters in this episode, we shouldn't even have storm warnings or evacuations for people who live in areas prone to hurricanes or tornadoes, nor should we have any humanitarian aid after earthquakes. We should just let nature take its course and allow those people to die.

    If you're just gonna sit back and allow a natural disaster to kill the entire population, then you might as well be bombarding the planet from orbit or beaming down security teams to phaser everyone to death. Because what difference does it make at that point?

    Very sad news to hear of Paul Sorvino's passing -- to think he did Goodfellas in 1990 and then a few years later with all his popularity to guest star on TNG. Glad he did. A terrific actor. RIP.

    Yeah, Sorvino was a big fan. I remember being quite vocal about it even well before this episode aired. Alas, I think he's a little miscast in this one (in his mid-50s, it's hard to accept him as a peer of Dorn's) but does his best.

    I think the Prime Directive was one of the worst things the Star Trek writers ever came up with.

    @Tidd: "The boy who escapes the holodeck can understand the crew members even though he doesn’t have the universal translator? Oh sure!"

    It has been established that only one person needs to have the universal translator, otherwise they would never be able to talk to any aliens they meet. In DS9's "Little Green Men" when Quark and Nog's translators weren't working they couldn't communicate with the Area 51 officers, but once they fixed them the were able to start speaking to each other.

    Eh, I thought it was all right. Not the worst, not the best. Interesting to see that Penny Johnson Gerald has been in TNG, DS9, and The Orville (as well as many other shows, I know-- Larry Shandling, etc ).

    She gets around the Star Trek and Star Trek related universe. Good for her.

    The Prime Directive is a useful plot device and like much of Star Trek cannot be forced into logical consistency. The main narrative purpose of the Prime Directive is to find ways round it or justify breaking it. It does lead to interesting debate among fans about ethics.
    This episode represents a sort of reductio ad absurdum, a bit like the Vietnam War thing of "destroying the village in order to save it". The idea that benevolent interference may be harmful to a society in the long term, so you will refrain, is a reasonable proposition. So you let some die. OK. But if you let them all die, there is no long term, so in that case the argument makes no sense. This is so obvious that it's very hard to suspend enough disbelief. I have a sense the writers had a bit of trouble with it. Captain Picard is very odd at the end when Dr Crusher asks "Are you saying you're sorry we saved the Boraalans?" he replies "No, of course not. Our plan for them worked out well." Does he mean that he's glad someone else had the courage to break the rules and do what was right at the expense of his career?
    Another very odd exchange: in response to "And isn't that what the Prime Directive was truly intended to do, to allow cultures to survive and grow naturally?" Troi says "Not entirely. The Prime Directive was designed to ensure non-interference." At this point, Data should have intervened: "Excuse me, Counselor, but that is a tautology."
    Incidentally, Earth itself only survived the twentieth century because of intervention (interference) by a more advanced civilization represented by Gary Seven and Isis ("Assignment Earth", TOS).

    Im sure someone mentioned it, but Im not reading 1000 comments tonight to confirm it, but we HAD heard of Worfs brother...he even mentions how he dropped out of Starfleet...So therefore would presumably have some idea of their operations, as in The Holodeck..and be able to get around its systems, and security (as someone complained about him being able to do un-noticed).

    Anyway,..I didnt read NO comments, just cant read them all...getting late...I love the comments in here cuz people point out stuff I never thought about before.

    I may not agree with too many people, but its a smart audience that comments here..I still just wish there was an "edit" button for my fat finger foul-ups...and a means to be notified of replies!!!

    It's sickening that people like Beverly Crusher would even suggest something like erasing someone's memory, essentially causing them brain damage for the dogma prime directive crap, and people like Deanna being fine with letting an entire planet die off. That's the main reason I absolutely hate TNG, the unconscionable characters, Picard, Troi, Worf, and in this case Beverly, are just scum.

    I really have a lot of problems with this episode, and really I always have. It's not that it's challenging us about the PD. In fact I wish it did. The issue of whether a people should have saved rather than being let to die doesn't really get addressed in the episode, as we get no serious arguments for, and actually a surprising lack of arguments against. And given that we do see these people with our own eyes, the arguments against are glaringly absent other than a few armchair comments made in the Observation Lounge. What we are really given is a series of scenes where we get to learn about this peoples' culture. Or at least, a really lame version of it. My wife was up in arms about how absent of any semblance of culture these people seem. Then again, my reply was "what do you expect from people reduced to rags after losing their village?" And therein lies the problem. Whatever culture they supposedly have that is so amazing, we don't see it and so don't care about it. We are told, not shown.

    All we are given to focus on that is actually there is the Nikolai/Worf relationship. And let me say that while I welcome the chance to see a conflicted relationship in TNG, especially one where Worf is the voice of reason (!), the balance in this one is all off. Worf keeps saying that Nikolai is a loose canon, never listens, creates trouble and expects others to fix it. And unfortunately that appears to be correct. What we get on Nikolai's side is the impassioned plea to put aside abstractions and save the people right in front of them. On this particular view I think many Trek fans would agree, and we do have a 'raging debate' about the PD often centered on this episode. But the only spokesperson we have on the side of saving them is Nikolai, who we learn has not only broken the Federation's rules, but has also gone native, and in a (I suppose) shocking twist, impregnanted one of them and intends to set up house. He later calls this "taking responsibility", which honestly made me cringe. And since Penny Johnson knows she's pregnant, I'm assuming this all happened well before Nikolai took the people below into the caves. Maybe he was courting her before the storms even really got started. That really does seem problematic to me, for multiple reasons, not the least of which because he was a literal space alien to them and was lying to them about who he was. But more because it frankly makes him look like he really will just do anything he feels like it and doesn't care what anyone thinks. That's not really a virtue, and in fact my wife (not too long into the episode) said about him "Oh look, another insane genius." Apt, I think. I kind of laughed at the end when he tells Worf he's going to stay with these people on their new planet and be their new history-keeper. I was like, yeah, until a few days from now when Starfleet security comes to collect him. They don't take PD violations lightly.

    More interestingly, there's a scene between Picard and Vorin that is MUCH less interesting than it should have been. It includes this exchange:

    VORIN: I don't think I would like to live my life knowing what I know and being regarded as a madman.
    PICARD: On the other hand, they may believe your fantastic story. They would learn about alien worlds, starships.
    VORIN: That would be disastrous. It would destroy everything they believed in. I can't tell them the truth, but I don't think I can live with a secret.
    PICARD: Then stay here. Make a future for yourself with us.

    This scene is so grossly miswritten, partially because of what came before, and partially because of what's implied but not present in it. Earlier in the episode we're (I suppose) rooting for Nikolai and Worf to succeed in their plan. This Vorin guy is already annoying us by questioning Nikolai earlier and causing 'trouble'. Likewise he strikes us as a fool for having dropped his precious history scrool in the tunnels, and now going off to get in trouble, which is awfully telegraphed. By the time he wanders into 10-Forward we are already irritated by him, and by the time this scene rolls around he's impossible to sympathize with. Even the scene in sickbay where they explain that they saved his people, has him react with some kind of morbid horror, where in his case I wouldn't care what aliens I was talking to, if they told me the Earth blew up and they saved humanity I'd thank them profusely. What an ingrate. In any case by the time Picard is speaking to him we get this exchange about the impact Vorin's choices will have. What is fascinating is Vorin clearly sees that it would be disastrous to tell them the truth, without having anyone explain to him about culture shock, pollution of a younger race, and all that. He also seems to say it can't happen, and that his life is less important than keeping his people well. That's a rather enlightened attitude (even though he kills himself), and I *think* we are supposed to get the idea that Picard is really impressed by how quickly he puts together all the pieces of this puzzle without assistance. Later in sickway we get this:

    CRUSHER: Are you saying you're sorry we saved the Boraalans?
    PICARD: No, of course not. Our plan for them worked out well. But I wish that Vorin could have bridged the gap between our two cultures. I would have liked the chance to have known him better.

    That's quite a statement, and it must have come from their scene together. But the scene is written so badly, and with so much annoying detritus already attached to Vorin, that we absolutely do not see him as being an equal and opposite to Picard, the exemplar of reason among his people. He keeps a chronicle, appears to care about understanding rather than listening to what random people say; I think this guy was supposed to be a highly intelligent and thoughtful people. But the actor can't portray that, and the script undermines it for no good reason. It would have been really nice for Picard to actually get to know one of them enough to regret not getting to know him better. It would have gone a long way to portray Nikolai's side of things more and to give us a taste of what kind of people were nearly lost. But instead they are just 'primitives', and Vorin mostly a problem to be dealt with rather than a person whose vision of his people carries a lot of weight. Maybe instead of Nikolai being their only leadership figure the Chronicler should have been a VIP in that village. Anything to make us actually respect them and feel the burn at the thought of all of them dying.

    Instead the episode is a giant bore, and as is typical in S7 has not much of a story to tell. Just for all the nay-sayers, though, S7 episodes have the most terrific incidental scenes in the series, though. The cast has so much fun in scenes not related to the plot that it's just marvelous. Captain Picard Day is just one such example, but there are many. It's also Marina Sirtis' best season as she really proves IMO how excellent she is despite being misused for a few early seasons. But we get none of that fun romping here, and nothing much else besides.

    hello from a decade in the future to whoever said

    "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!"

    because you summed it up far better than i ever could

    I have to agree with Jammer’s review on this episode. I’m usually pretty kind to the stories presented by the writers of TNG, but on this puppy I gotta give it a big thumbs down.
    I can understand (I think) what they were attempting to accomplish with the plot; How the prime directive in it’s extreme, requires Star Fleet to sit back and watch a civilization die instead of stepping in and assisting them in extraordinary ways. Pretty cold blooded huh….
    Anyway, this episode had to use way too many contrived plot devices to carry the story through to it’s “satisfying?” conclusion.

    A malfunctioning holodeck at a critical time when 99% of any other time the infernal contraption works perfectly to provide any Star Fleet officer with some disgusting sophomoric sexual fantasy program that probably requires some low ranking junior enlisted man with a mop and bucket to clean it up after each use.

    @ Gray W

    It's a common trope here and elsewhere, to assume the Holodeck is regularly used for porn, Riker even makes a joke about it in one episode (“The Perfect Mate”) but it's worth pushing back on a bit.

    The evolved version of humanity we see would presumably have largely moved past such things. People like Barclay (and Geordi a few times) who retreat into the Holodeck rather than live real life are not viewed as normal and are encouraged to do better.

    No doubt it would happen, as Riker alludes to, but I would dispute the characterization that it happens on the regular. If I woke up on the Enterprise-D tomorrow it wouldn't be the first, second, or third thing I'd do with the Holodeck. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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