Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birthright, Part II   Rewatch 
August 12, 2021 3:56 AM - Season 6, Episode 17 - Subscribe

OR: "The Bridge on the River Q'aiY"

Remember Memory Alpha. More than anything else, it will guide you:

• René Echevarria remembered, "It was very personal, somehow. My parents were immigrants from Cuba, and all of the issues that came up in the episode – about assimilation and how do you keep your heritage – is something I grew up with."

• Michael Piller saw this episode as a chance for the character of Worf to re-affirm his Klingon nature. "I had just seen Malcolm X, and I said Worf is the guy who's saying 'You're black and you should be proud to be black.' That's where I started from with the character standpoint, but when you get into it and you realize there is something good in this society and that he'll lose this woman he's in love with when he can't shake his own prejudice, it's a price he has to pay for his character and his code… I think it's wonderful when people act in heroic ways that turn back on them."

• Although James Cromwell (Jaglom Shrek) appears in this episode, he has no lines. This was, in part, due to Cromwell breaking his leg in the period between filming the two parts of the episode, which entailed cutting most of his lines. A sympathetic scene in which Shrek confesses he was once a prison inmate himself was lost, as was a scene in which he would have been assassinated by one of the Klingons' grown sons who was determined not to hear the truth about his father. René Echevarria elaborated, "One idea was that Worf was going to see [Shrek] had some tattoo of having been a prisoner and Shrek was going to talk about being a prisoner and that his government let him rot and it took his family to come and risk their lives to free him. He says he knows how governments can be and doesn't trust them. 'You think I do this for money, but I actually do it because I know what it's like,' Shrek tells Worf."

• Michael Dorn enjoyed the episode. "I thought it was great. It also showed that this is like a bottomless well. It will never go dry. The Klingon story will just go on and on."

• René Echevarria commented that so much effort had gone into making the Klingons and Romulans sympathetic here that many fans complained that Worf came off as a fascist racist who ruined a peaceful place. "His motives are in fact racist, when he's dealing with Romulans. But his actions are different; all he said was these people should know the truth and be free to leave. He never advocated violence and bloodshed."

• Michael Piller commented, "I thought there was a wonderful Bridge Over the River Kwai-type story where you had a fundamentally charged relationship between a Romulan camp leader and Worf and this very interesting love affair where Worf had to reexamine his whole attitude towards the Romulans again. It is always interesting to me whenever you can look at prejudice. I think the script turned out pretty well, the show just did not have quite the power I had hoped it would have. I don't really know why."

"It is a strange thing when a jailer concerns himself with his prisoner's comfort."
"Mine is a strange prison."
- Worf and Tokath

"I have done nothing more than show them what they are."
"No. You have shown them what you want them to be."
- Worf and Tokath

"I will NOT run away!"
"But they will kill you."
"Yes. But they will not defeat me."
- Worf and Ba'el

Poster's Log:
It's inescapably strange that this half of the two-parter completely dispenses with the B-story of part one. I mean, it was probably the right call, but it's like structural whiplash. And in any case, MA reminds me that Data's dream program will return in season seven.

Piller's comment about Birthright II: Electric Birthaloo not quite sticking the landing is I think partly attributable to the problem of Worf's commitment to this whole business. His relationship with Ba'el is way too rushed, and he really doesn't seem to have much of a connection with anybody else here. I mean, it's in character for Worf to be this much of a Klingon-ways proselyte in a camp full of strangers, but that doesn't automatically translate to compelling drama. Maybe if Mogh HAD actually been there, that might've saved the concept; take Ba'el out entirely. (That might also have allowed for more screen time for the excellent Alan Scarfe, whom we've discussed before.) But then the challenge becomes, do you figure out some way for Mogh to die before the end of the ep, to keep the cool closing scene with Worf and Picard? …Or does Mogh survive, leave the camp, and become a new option for Worf to offload Alexander?

And just for fun: who do you cast as Mogh? I think I have to go with Paul Winfield.

Worf's attitude toward Romulans, and particularly Ba'el's Romulan-ness, is of course awful and I find this episode hard to watch due to its complete failure to address it with integrity. Regarding his racism, it was ironically just this morning that I found myself idly musing that if I had a "Canon Cannon" with which I could blast any bit of Trek out of canon as was done with STV and most of TAS, I'd use it not on those but on Star Trek Nemesis; I couldn't think of a single redeeming quality of its story—until just now: when Worf says to Riker, "The Romulans fought with honor." It's too perfunctory a moment, and given Worf's career it seems like it should have happened a season or two prior to this episode chronologically, but at least they managed to squeeze it in there…in what I now realize is Worf's last on-screen moment of dialogue of the entire Berman era. Is that enough to spare Nemesis from my Canon Cannon? I dunno, but if it is, then maybe the next strongest candidate to fire it at is VOY: "Tattoo."

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
We will see Jennifer Gatti (Ba'el) again in a stronger performance as Harry's girlfriend Libby in VOY: "Non Sequitur." According to MA, her screen debut was "as the title character in the video for Bon Jovi's hit song 'Runaway'," a song I did not know was a Bon Jovi song until just now.

Season 2 of Lower Decks is starting forthwith, so I'll switch these Thursday TNG posts to Fridays for the duration, assuming the LOW posts are happening Thursdays.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have to agree with you about Ba'el and the episode's failure to really process it. It's not impossible to have a character who's sympathetic and yet has problematic attitudes toward a particular species (*cough*mileso'brien*cough), but the whole thing with Ba'el was indeed rushed; it's like "hey caught you taking a bath maybe I love you but you're half Romulan so maybe I hate you but maybe not whoops gotta go". And it's never really addressed again AFAIK; they probably could have done a DS9 episode after the Romulans join the war in which he has to work with a Romulan who has similar feelings about Klingons; it wouldn't have had to be a full-on Enemy Mine pastiche (which they've already done, and would do again on ENT), but it would have been better than, say, the one where he has to choose between the mission and saving his wife's life. Anyway, yeah, they could have dropped the whole Ba'el subplot; I'm kind of lukewarm on their bringing in Mogh (the trope where a long-lost relative thought to be dead turns up alive isn't one of my favorites), but if they were going to, I think that someone like Calvin Lockhart might have been good.

The rest of the episode was pretty good, I think. I was kind of amused by Tokath insisting that things were fine and dandy the way they were... and yet, you don't see any of the Klingons with disruptors. I thought that it was wise that they avoided any overt comparison to this issue, which was more of a current concern at the time of the episode's release than now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on August 12, 2021

On an unrelated note, the teaser for Star Trek: Prodigy is out; the animation style is definitely different from Lower Decks, which just started its second season (and thanks for the consideration, COB).
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:41 AM on August 12, 2021

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Premiere included a bunch from this episode, including Tokath, Ba'el, L'Kor, and Toq. Archetypical low-skill non-rare Premiere personnel, not that useful for the most part, although they tried to give them a theme deck with Gi'ral. It's unfair of me, but I sorta think of this episode as being bad cuz the cards are so meh. Throw in some T'Ongs and Colony Prep and maybe you'd have something.

Second Edition Klingon players get Losta, Romulan players get Discovered. Okay, the episode does feature one really powerful card, Necessary Execution, which has such a powerful effect that many players would go for a space mission first to avoid the second casualty of their opponent's choice. A few cards had an outsized effect on how the game was played on a competitive level, this is certainly one.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:46 AM on August 12, 2021

"Birthright, Part II" isn't a bad episode on the face of it. But I've never considered it a particularly strong episode; it easily comes comes apart. Like a lot of BermanTrek, the episode's idea, Worf visits a prison camp and causes trouble (as well as being a step forward in Worf's spiritual crisis arc), seems to have taken precedence over a well thoughtout story and backstory. I'm not exactly sure what is going on in the "prison camp." There are Romulan "wardens" who want peace and Klingon "prisoners" who can't go home again. Okay. There are their full-blood and mixed-species children who are restless, but their parents don't want them to leave. Okay. But there are also young full-blood Romulans with disrupters. Are they colonists too? If it really is a prison camp being run by the Romulan government, why?
posted by Stuka at 10:13 AM on August 12, 2021

I actually liked this quite a bit, I don't remember having watched it all the way through since it came out, because I think I didn't enjoy part I much. It definitely doesn't quite stick together, there's too much pastiche from Bridge Over the River Kwai, Spartacus, Ghandi, Malcolm X blended in. It was a very ambitious episode, I think there just wasn't enough time to develop the ideas without leaning on some pre-established tropes, which makes it seem kind of trite. But there were a lot of elements to enjoy, like Toq's over-the-top reaction to the hunt, and leading the other Klingons in song, and Michael Dorn's overall performance.

This would have been a great backdoor pilot to a series where Worf is an itinerant agitator--he could have uncovered some evidence toward the end of the episode that maybe Mogh is still alive in some other Romulan camp, and he goes off with Shrek on a series of weekly adventures.
posted by skewed at 10:44 AM on August 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

and that he'll lose this woman he's in love with

Is he, though? Is he really? Because all I get is a 404 error, file not found.

This is the first time I've suffered through a rewatch of this in years and years. I'd blissfully forgotten most of it and how boring it all is. Michael Dorn just deserved so much more. (Sorry, it's just hot as balls here and I'm super cranky about these episodes.)

Season 2 of Lower Decks is starting forthwith, so I'll switch these Thursday TNG posts to Fridays for the duration, assuming the LOW posts are happening Thursdays.

Oh, bummer. I really look forward to Mondays and Thursdays! But I just cannot afford another streaming service, so no Lower Decks or Picard or anything else for me.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:15 AM on August 12, 2021

I got about ten minutes into this one and had to stop...

Worf's first interaction with Ba'el is so ugh. And that little chat he has with the young guy... It's always bothered me how the Klingons were taken prisoner and held for interrogation, but the young guy has what looks like a brand new spear that he is using on his little plot of garden.

I can't bring myself to crawl through the rest of this one.
posted by Fukiyama at 11:46 AM on August 12, 2021

Tokath claims that the Romulans and Klingons have been enemies for centuries, but they were trading partners and allies within living memory (the Romulan-Klingon Alliance ended in 2271; McCoy, Spock, Scottie, and Morgan Bateson were all alive, as were Kor, Koloth, and Kang).

This is one of very few individual episodes with no B plot, isn't it?
posted by hanov3r at 8:04 AM on August 13, 2021

This is one of very few individual episodes with no B plot, isn't it?

TNG or the franchise in general? The only TNG one that I can think of off the top of my head is "Conspiracy", but I'm sure there's more... maybe more in the first season? I can't remember "Heart of Glory" really having one.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2021

I've always felt like Worf's recurrent racism (and, moreover, intense race-consciousness) as an opportunity for Captain Picard or someone to point out how the Federation has risen above such biases, or just implicitly to compare the Klingons to the humans/Federation, the former still bound by outmoded ideologies, the latter progressive and open-minded.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:58 PM on August 13, 2021

"Why did you allow it (being captured) to happen?” -Worf, after allowing himself to be captured.
posted by rodlymight at 8:22 PM on August 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Me: I would like more Worf content plz
TNG: [provides Worf content]
Me: [Picard holding head in hands meme]
posted by phooky at 3:02 PM on August 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

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