Star Trek: The Next Generation: Firstborn   Rewatch 
November 26, 2021 6:14 AM - Season 7, Episode 21 - Subscribe

After years of struggling with being Worf's son, Alexander finally finds himself.

These are our stories. It is important for Memory Alpha to learn how to interpret them properly:

• Mark Kalbfeld's original premise did not involve Alexander at all. Rather, it dealt with a Romulan ship with Federation markings from a future where the Federation and Romulan Star Empire were supposedly at peace. However, both the ship and the future version of Riker on board it would turn out to be hoaxes, part of a plot by the Romulans.

• Jeri Taylor recalled, "We had bought that story and he wrote it, but it just seemed a little ordinary so we started messing around with it during one of our brainstorming sessions and then we hit on the idea that Alexander comes back from the future to kill his young self. That seemed wonderful but for a long time that's all we had. We didn't know why he did this."

• The notion of using Alexander in a time travel plot had originated with an unused premise created by Joe Menosky earlier in the season. Menosky had proposed a story where Alexander accidentally fell into a time portal and permanently aged into a bitter twenty-five year-old. Michael Piller hated the idea, commenting that "I think it's a hideous thing to steal somebody's youth from them." Although not used here, that plot would eventually be recycled into DS9: "Time's Orphan".

• Originally, René Echevarria wanted to include K'Ehleyr as Alexander's rescuer at the end of the story. While Suzie Plakson was interested in reprising her character, she declined due to other acting commitments. Echevarria noted, "The truth is, it was a blessing. There was enough exposition to explain at the end of the show as it is!" Piller noted, "I know Rick breathed a sigh of relief because he did not like the idea in the first place. But for better or worse, that might have helped the episode."

• Armin Shimerman makes his first appearance as Quark on a Star Trek series other than Deep Space 9. He later appeared in the Star Trek: Voyager pilot "Caretaker", and in a scene cut from Star Trek: Insurrection. This episode airs between DS9: "The Maquis, Part I" where Quark became involved in an arms deal with Sakonna, a Maquis operative, and DS9: "The Maquis, Part II" with Quark and Sakonna's business continuing.

• Rick Berman and Michael Piller were hesitant to cast Sloyan as K'Mtar, coming as it did so soon after his first appearance as Doctor Mora Pol in DS9: "The Alternate". However, Jeri Taylor convinced them that the Klingon makeup would hide this fact. She recalled, "I finally went to Michael and said, 'Look – we can take a lesser actor in this part or we can cast the actor who should be cast.'"

• Originally, the two actors playing in the Kot'baval Festival grunted their lines on stage. After filming, it was decided to make the Klingon opera more lyrical. Composer Dennis McCarthy provided the new melody, and both actors were good enough singers to reloop their lines to accompany it. Producer Wendy Neuss recalled, "It was one of our biggest jobs all year – figuring out what the on-camera instruments would sound like, breaking down all the syllables, figuring where the offstage line would be."

• Writer Ronald D. Moore, who is well-known for his Klingon episodes, praised Echevarria's different take on the major race. He remarked, "The stuff he did sixth season in "Birthright" and then what he did with them here is very interesting. Worf and Alexander celebrate at a Klingon outpost and they have this sort of mock opera singing, heroic fights and re-enactments of things in the streets and banners and this was a whole different cultural flavor to these guys that I hadn't thought of. My take on the Klingons was sort of more Shakespearean with the House of Mogh and that kind of stuff, and the rise and fall of political players. René brings in a much different element which I think serves them well."

• On the events of this episode, Michael Dorn opined, "We don't really know what happens now. Just that the future is uncertain. It's just like real life, but Worf is still a terrible father. He hasn't got a clue."

• Michael Piller commented, "I fell in love with the idea of 'Firstborn' in which we address the psychological implications of a man who feels a failure, who comes back to his own youth to destroy himself at a young age, in order to avoid the pain that he had caused and suffered. There is a tremendous science-fiction premise in that. And if you have been in on any of my therapy, you know that I've dealt with this on a number of different levels."

• The novel A Time for War, A Time for Peace established that, upon Worf's return to Starfleet, he nominates Alexander to succeed him as Federation ambassador to the Klingons. When Alexander asks why, Worf simply tells him that he once had a vision of Alexander's future (referencing "Firstborn") and Worf says Alexander's service to the galaxy will be one worthy of song.

"As time passes, a boy inevitably becomes a man but what is not inevitable is that a man becomes a sword."
"No, I meant… warrior."
- Worf, misplacing his words while preparing Alexander for the First Rite of Ascension

"What are you doing on this planet?"
"I… crashed here."
"Then you are denying involvement in illegal mining activities?"
"Mining? So that's what all this equipment is here for."
- Worf, Gorta, and Data, on Kalla III

"Yes, Lursa and B'Etor… big talk, small tips."
- Quark

Poster's Log:
Gotta be the best TNG Alexander episode. (Alexander is in two DS9s, aged up to a new actor, and those appearances are more enjoyable than any of the TNG ones IMO.) The always-reliable James Sloyan manages both menace and pathos in his performance here. It's nice, too, to see some new and subtler facets of Klingon culture at play here.

I'd forgotten that Lursa and B'Etor got one last TNG appearance this season. (They also showed up early in DS9's first season, and will finally get their long-postponed deaths in Generations.)

Reeeeally too bad they couldn't get Plakson back. That would've added some verve to this largely stern outing. The Quark and Gorta scenes help in that regard, though.

Pointless STO Comparison:
K'mtar is a major NPC in an early Klingon faction story arc in Star Trek Online.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Batrell gets a bit of biography invented by Decipher about his career history. And 3 cunning? This guy's in danger of losing a battle of wits with Spot. Officer and Honor are the most common Klingon skills, but with Assign Mission Specialists he became an awesome source of bonus points in red decks.

Gorta clearly knew more about that mining operation than he let on given his skillset. One of the most common cards out there due to his inclusion in the Warp Pack. Greed isn't the best skill, he's kinda engh.

Did Kitrik strike anyone as a Cybernetics expert? No? This bit of invention allows him to report free androids and avoid nasty Borg Servos. along with his clearly invented Medical/Science combo, he's not the most screen accurate Klingon but really dang useful.

Qapla'! is based on the banners in this episode and is designed to represent the layout of the Star Trek CCG in the original Klingon. A very average card with novel presentation.

K'mtar has the common Klingon Diplomacy/Leadership/Honor combo we see on Gowron and such, and delivers a stat-boost to one of our young crewmembers similar to Lakanta, but you'll need a treaty to take advantage of it. His red Alternate Universe icon helps pilot all kinda ships like I.K.C. Gr'oth. Not bad...

Klingon Disruptor Pistol is a standard hand weapon, not much to say. A Klingon Matter wouldn't see a huge amount of play because Leadership is common as dirt to beat it. Kitrik, "The Tyrant Molor" is a simple but strong Second Edition update with a lil extra card draw. In 2E the real star of this episode is Alexander Rozhenko, K'mtar which provides huge resource advantage with two Event downloads and cost reduction. He's the kind of card decks are built around.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:57 AM on November 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Even by Star Trek standards, as far as lame, shoehorned-in explanations for time travel go, "I met a guy" deserves some sort of trophy.
posted by phooky at 1:11 PM on November 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

The idea that Alexander comes back from the future to kill his young self. That seemed wonderful but for a long time that's all we had. We didn't know why he did this.

Have you ever met Alexander? This seems pretty self-explanatory if you have.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:47 PM on November 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

I liked this episode a lot... but I can believe that they originally had K'Ehleyr in mind for the climax, because the ending as it was seemed kind of rushed; it seemed like, suddenly, K'mtar is giving this big info-dump. Even the "I met a guy" explanation seems like they just went, "Oh, there have been so many different methods for time travel in the show, let's just go with the 'I know a guy' thing." But the front end of the ep, with the audience-participation street theater, was pretty cool. And I like the bit about someone going back in time to help themselves out; it was used in TAS' "Yesteryear", of course, and is also a plot element in Terry Pratchett's Night Watch. (How do they rise up?)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:54 PM on November 26, 2021

(They rise heads up, heads up, heads up, they rise heads up, heads up high!)

I had totally forgotten about the Alexander traveling back in time thing.

Although in this instance, future version ought to annihilate that version of himself that traveled back.

I never "got" Alexander. His dad grey up by doubling down on his own perception (correct or not) of his original culture, his mom was super successful integrating both cultures and serves her original. Alex rejects the doubling down, but doesn't really adopt what Trek wants to say about humanity (when first introduced, he was a bully because he was bigger, now he's just following the path of least resistance [buying into the human social contract to avoid conflict]).

I guess here might be a message that there is value to one's original culture, but not to overly romanticize it like Worf does?

oldfutureAlex Back to the Future fading out could have worked, but I kind of like the idea of an oldfutureAlex bitterly wandering Klingon frequented space as a former wimp-turned-mercenary, quietly promoting the more regressive Klingon traditions wherever he goes. But that thought travels down a dark path recalling incels and nationalists.

The street opera with traditionalized audience participation is admittedly a very cool bit of Klingon cultural worldbuilding. Like the kind of movie-based theater production where the first few rows get splattered with fake blood or screenings of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.'
posted by porpoise at 10:35 AM on November 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Like Lakanta the previous week, the how and why of K'mtar being where he is is so minimally explored. How long has the dude been meddling in time such that he's a trusted advisor to the House of Mogh or was it some kind of bluff? Was there a real K'mtar that he's impersonating? For the number of times we see Klingons with time travel stuff, (VOY: "Endgame" and DSC: "Through the Valley of Shadows" notably) they sure don't seem to be able to use it to advance their empire very well. Maybe the DTI are really good at their jobs...

Of all the characters that were dropped around the beginning of Season 6 that we're now arbitrarily wrapping up at the end of the series, I think my favorite might be 'Riker charms his way around the seedy side of the Federation' last seen in "Unification".
posted by StarkRoads at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

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