Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birthright, Part I   Rewatch 
August 9, 2021 10:21 AM - Season 6, Episode 16 - Subscribe

At Deep Space 9, Worf investigates reports that his father is still alive and an engineering accident causes Data to experience a vision of his father, Dr. Soong.

Perhaps the key to understanding your experience is to stop looking into Memory Alpha for a meaning.

Story and script
  • Michael Piller suggested to break the story into two parts, believing that there was too much story to tell in one episode. He commented, "Because this was season six, the season of taking risks, of not being afraid of doing things Star Trek hadn't done before, I said 'Why not do another two-parter? Why wait until the end of the season or wait for a Spock? If a story justifies being bigger than an hour, let's do it.' I had been very happy with the results of "Chain of Command" and I said to Rick we should do it and he said fine. I also felt, much mistakenly as it turned out to be, that we would be able to save money if we expanded it into two hours by using the sets twice." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 273)
  • Ronald D. Moore suggested Data having some kind of religious experience. Taylor noted, "It came from the Klingons sort of having a mystical, mythical, spiritual side and we thought maybe Data can have one." Brannon Braga, building on this, considered the idea of Data having a near-death experience. However, as René Echevarria explained, the idea was considered too similar to "Tapestry". As such the writing staff came up with the idea of Data dreaming. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 273; Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 237))
  • In developing the dream imagery, Braga recalled, "I really tried to delve into Jungian archetypes and dream images that had never really been shown before." He added, "At first Michael didn't find the Data dream story very compelling and he'd had a couple of notions to fix it, namely showing a piece of the dream early on, which I had not done. His suggestions were very good and made it work." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 273
  • Data's paintings were computer-generated collages contributed by art department staffers Alan Kobayashi, Jim Magdaleno and Michael Okuda. Kobayashia noted, "I remember Jim working on one of the paintings. It was the first digital painting onto canvas that I ever saw. I was very impressed!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 295; Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, p. 180)
  • During Data's second vision, after he turns into a bird and flies past Noonian Soong, makeup artist June Abston Haymore can be briefly seen sitting in the side corridor behind Dr. Soong. Her accidental appearance was digitally removed on the remastered Blu-ray edition but still visible in the first sequence (albeit less noticeably). This is the fifth time in TNG where a production staff member was accidentally filmed. The first was a camera operator in "The Naked Now", the second were two boom operators in "Angel One", the third was boom operator Bill Gocke in the episode "Unification II", the fourth an unnamed production staff member in "Time's Arrow", and the sixth an unknown boom operator in the episode "Journey's End".
Cast and characters
  • Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) was to appear in this episode, but she was busy filming the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Move Along Home". Siddig El Fadil (Julian Bashir) appeared instead. Farrell commented "I cried. I thought I should have fallen off the rock so I could have gone over there instead of Sid disappearing, because when we were filming "Move Along Home" his character disappeared, and I was acting throughout the rest of it with Nana and Avery, and we got caught up together". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 48)
  • James Cromwell, who portrays Jaglom Shrek, previously played Prime Minister Nayrok of Angosia III in TNG: "The Hunted". The producers had enjoyed his performance in the earlier episode, and one of the considerations in bringing him back was that the prosthetics would make him less recognizable. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 296; Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Continuing Mission, p. 181) Cromwell subsequently appearred as the inventor of the first warp drive, Zefram Cochrane, in Star Trek: First Contact and Hanok, a Karemma official in DS9: "Starship Down".
  • This is the first time Worf is seen aboard Deep Space 9. Worf agrees to be assigned to the station in DS9: "The Way of the Warrior".
  • This is the Enterprise's third on-screen visit to Deep Space 9. The first and the second were featured in the DS9 pilot "Emissary". This is therefore the first time Deep Space 9 can be seen in HD as part of the TNG Remastering project.
  • This is the second episode in TNG in which a table is destroyed by a Klingon (in this case, Worf). The first occurrence was when K'Ehleyr broke a table in "The Emissary". In both occurrences, Deanna Troi walked in shortly after.
  • The Replimat scene with La Forge and Worf's food is a reuse of the same joke used in "Time Squared": La Forge hates the food, while Worf loves it.
Poster's Log:

"20 megajoules" sounds like a lot, but that's only about 5.5kWh, or about 0.6% of the average US household's monthly electric usage.

I wonder if there's an intended meaning to dream Soong hammering on unforgeable metal (that clanking sound says the temperature is too low for forging).

Kudos to Michael Dorn for his performance in Worf's discussion with Data. The moment he realizes that he's talking about himself and his own father is subtle but powerful.

Richard Herd, seen here as Mogh's old friend L'Kor, is probably better known to Trek watchers as Voyager's Admiral Paris.
posted by hanov3r (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So, it's a big Worf episode, which means that I'm bound to like it, with plenty of neat Worf moments (although there's a Worf moment in the second part which is not at all neat, and you might be able to guess what it is). One thing that occurred to me is that, in DS9's "The Way of the Warrior", which is about three years or so in the future, he's wearing the same uniform and hairstyle when he first arrives on the station that he's got here. It would have been kind of neat if they had referenced it in "The Way of the Warrior", but oh well. (The only other DS9 regular besides Bashir that appears is Morn.)

Speaking of whom, finding out that Jadzia was supposed to be the DS9 cast member to interact with Data makes a lot more sense than Bashir; I agree with Farrell that they could have easily made Jadzia the one kicked out of the game early. (It also doesn't help that Siddig is still clearly figuring out the character and is overacting a bit; the part where he meets Data and his eyes nearly pop out of his skull has been memed.) The set-up for that meeting is also kind of weird; Bashir is wearing his combadge, and you'd hope that security on the ship would be better (given that the station is still somewhat in its early hive-of-scum-and-villainy stage) so that someone couldn't just wander aboard and around the ship without their identity and presence being known.

I'll have a bit more to say about Worf and the prison camp/secret colony when the second ep comes up; in addition to That Moment, there's some very interesting subtext, both in the secret POW camp and in the issue of the preservation and perpetuation of culture by a people being held against their will.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

First the Yridian claims the prisoners were sent to a distant planet, but then he says it's close to DSNine. Confusing! For the sake of convenience, I'll address Worf next time. On to Data...

Julian, Data, and Geordi are playing with Julian's thing he has from the Delta Quadrant in Engineering. For some reason they need to hook it up directly to the dilithium chamber for power. Then Data stands in front of the device at what is obviously its "pointy" end. Ugh.

Why can't Data ever just become more human on his own? Why does he always have to discover that there is some previously undiscovered circuit or chip that gives him additional abilities? Data isn't really growing, he's just turning more stuff on over time.
posted by Fukiyama at 11:12 AM on August 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

So… that device Bashir was testing. What does it do? We never find out it’s intended function.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2021

Why does he always have to discover that there is some previously undiscovered circuit or chip that gives him additional abilities? Data isn't really growing, he's just turning more stuff on over time.

1) Deus ex machina is easier to write than character growth over time, especially in an episodic show like TNG, no matter how hard it tried in later seasons.
2) What can be turned on can be turned off. Again, convenient for the writers, not so much for Data.
posted by Stuka at 11:21 AM on August 9, 2021

Oh, it's a DS9 crossover! Will we meet any of our favorite cast members? Perhaps the brave Captain Sisko, or the ornery shape-shifting sherrif Odo! Maybe there will be an awkward moment between Beverly Crusher and the trill symbiont Jadzia Dax? Or an encounter with that rogue Quark, and his awkward brother--

JULIAN BASHIR: Hello! I'm on the Enterprise now!

*one full minute of dead silence*

JULIAN BASHIR: I brought aboard an unknown alien device! I don't know what it does, but I understand the Enterprise is really good with this stuff.

what no

JULIAN BASHIR: I'm fascinated by your android, Data! I want to know how he eats and breathes, and other science facts.

please can you not
posted by phooky at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2021 [14 favorites]

Cards of the episode coming right up...
posted by StarkRoads at 12:29 PM on August 9, 2021

Star Trek CCG Cards in the episode:

Jaglom Shrek - Information Broker gave you information about your opponent's deck. Interesting, but not as used in the tourney scene as you might expect. Then there's the Yridian Shuttle, a wimpy little ship, but at least it gave various non-Federation players a use for their Launch Portals.

Second Edition included skill fillers Lopez and Jaglom Shrek, the fairly useful mission Sensitive Search (also in 1st Ed and even more basic there), the dangerous but expensive Plasma Shock, and the Romulan control card Out of Options.

Playmates toys released a Rescue Worf figure, we see a characters from a lot more specific episodes as we move into the late era of the series.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Lotta missed opportunities here. Dax seems better suited to helping Data with this task, what with her lifetimes of experience, her atypical experience with consciousness itself, and her lack of Julian's fanboy nerdery. The Data painting stuff was paced glacially; you could easily buy another scene here to add drama to the Worf-Shrek stuff or maybe some more fun DS9 crossoverage. Would've been nice too to get an O'Brien and/or Keiko cameo, rather than just a mention in dialogue.

I liked this episode a lot more the first time I saw it, because its strangeness meant you had no idea what was going to happen next. Now, especially with foreknowledge of Part II, it just feels clunky.

I do like how the writers added the little TV-writing meta-joke where Data is all "But I am not looking for my father." That bit is downright Lower Decksesque.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:41 PM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Worf sure is putting a lot of faith in a man he clearly doesn’t trust to come back and pick him up. If I was big-eared James Cromwell I’d be leaving the guy who assaults, threatens to kill, and hijacks me and my ship to rot. Worf must be promising a lot of… wait, what is Worf even paying him with?
posted by rodlymight at 7:04 PM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Worf sure is putting a lot of faith in a man he clearly doesn’t trust to come back and pick him up.

The weirdness of the Shrek stuff is explained in the MA behind-the-scenes details for Part II. I'll be excerpting that bit in Thursday's post.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:20 AM on August 10, 2021

wait, what is Worf even paying him with?

Gold-pressed Latinum, I presume. And for some reason, a lot of Starfleet officers (see esp. DS9) seem to be pretty flush with the stuff, willing to gamble or pay large amounts of it whenever necessary, despite being a post-scarcity, post-money society. Maybe Starfleet just has huge stockpiles of the stuff that they let their officers use whenever they need, sort of like when the FBI needs to send in an undercover agent to buy drugs or whatever.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:57 AM on August 10, 2021

Worf is doing this on his own time though, so it’d be more like FBI agents taking drugs out of evidence to sell as a side hustle. And it makes some sense for the DS9 crew to draw a paycheque because they’re outside The Federation in a frontier economy and need to actually pay for things, but not for the Enterprise crew.
posted by rodlymight at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2021

Worf is doing this on his own time though, so it’d be more like FBI agents taking drugs out of evidence to sell as a side hustle.

Heh, I was actually thinking of Rust Cohle in True Detective season 1 doing this...

As for DS9 crew getting a salary, I think that's possible, but they still don't need to pay for very much. Although Quark charges money for the food and drink at his bar (and apparently pays rent to the station, and presumably, an electric bill for his holo-suites and replicators), there's also the "Reclamat" (sp?) which appears to provide food for free, and of course, anyone who has quarters on the station also has access to their own replicator. So they really only spend money on indulgences, it would seem: clothes from Garak, food/drink/holo-suites from Quark, or something from one of the other oft-mentioned & seldom seen shops on the Promenade. Or I guess if they were taking a trip down to Bajor.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2021

there's also the "Reclamat" (sp?)

That's the "Replimat", a bank of automated replicators where one could get food without interacting with another being. Probably named after the German "Automat" concept, popularized in the eastern US in the early 20th century by the Horn & Hardart chain.
posted by hanov3r at 12:02 PM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

That's the "Replimat"

HA! That name makes way more sense than what I kept hearing. I was trying to figure out, thinking like, "Why call it a reclamat? Is that like, re-claim? Like it's where all the garbage from the rest of the ship has been "reclaimed" and recycled for the replicators, so it's where you get your reclaimed food? That seems like a terrible name!"

Anyway, it's free though, right?
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:05 PM on August 10, 2021

I just like the idea that Data breathes, but it's to dump heat.
posted by figurant at 8:19 PM on August 10, 2021

I just like the idea that Data breathes, but it's to dump heat.

Maybe also vents heat out of his butt, like Bender :)
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:22 AM on August 11, 2021

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