In the eleventh episode of the seventh season of The Next Generation, this episode is a monumental achievement. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Look, we are now into the sixth year of Mark Watches existing. (!!!!! HOW IS THAT A REAL SENTENCE THAT I GET TO TYPE.) Over the years, I’ve frequently and obsessively spoken of my love of stories concerning parallel universes. I don’t even know if I have the words to explain why they interest me so much, but generally speaking? They’re just a lot of fun to me. I love taking an existing universe and peeking at the What If? in the parallel world. (Perhaps that’s why fanfiction is so fascinating to me, too. Hmmm.) A number of shows I’ve watched – from Fringe to Doctor Who to The X-Files to Buffy – have all explored the idea, and even Star Trek itself tackled it with “Mirror, Mirror.” And aside from Fringe, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a representation of parallel realities executed quite like “Parallels.”
Where do I even start? This episode is one of the most complex examples of the phenomenon that I’ve ever seen. I mentioned in the video for this episode that it would have been so much easier for Brannon Braga to rely on two universes, but no. That’s not what he does with this story, and it’s all the more incredible because of it. Let the opening ten minutes of my video reaction stand as evidence of that. I’m so used to the concept of a single mirror universe that I became increasingly confused by the events on the screen. I could not figure out that Worf was moving from one reality to the next instead of between two separate realities. By doing this, Braga has a bigger canvas to paint on. That allows us to see tons of possible worlds, ones that subtly change from Worf’s main existence to others that are HORRIFYINGLY DIFFERENT.
It’s a surreal trip through possibility and potential. I admit, I want some of those worlds to be real. Worf as the Captain! Dr. Ogawa! OH MY GOD, DEANNA TROI IS MARRIED TO WORF IN MULTIPLE UNIVERSES. Braga doesn’t just rely on positive changes, though. In some universes, people don’t exist or have died. (NO, WILL NOT ACCEPT THAT PICARD IS DEAD.) And then we get that glimpse of the Borg universe and… ugh, I AM SHUDDERING. What a terrifying thing to see, y’all. Honestly, though, Braga went about a million times further than I ever would have expected for this show, and I am going to appreciate this forever. It’s bold, it’s shocking, and it makes for one hell of a story.
And it’s a story so uniquely suited for Worf, who often tempers his reactions and clings to his aggressive stoicism when most other characters would react much more wildly than he does. That’s not an insult to anyone because JUST LOOK AT HOW I REACTED TO ALL OF THIS. I just think it’s fascinating that Braga chose Worf to be at the center of this, and I think that this absolutely matters to the story that unfolds. First of all, he’s the least likely of anyone here to seek out help from someone else. He doesn’t go to Dr. Crusher the first time he experiences a wave of dizziness because he’s used to his toughness and his independence. So, that means we get WAY MORE UNIVERSES before Worf gets assistance. SO MANY MORE. But I think there’s a more insidious reason for this: Worf doesn’t realize he’s jumping universes until super late into the episode, and that means Braga calls less attention to this through the script. Honestly, the entire birthday party sequence didn’t even seem weird to me. I REALLY THOUGHT THAT HE WAS SUFFERING THE ILL EFFECTS OF A CONCUSSION.
But I’ll be honest with each and every one of you. I love parallel universes. I do. This is evidence of it. I love how wacky and upsetting the episode is, too. And yet, DEANNA TROI/WORF IS THE BEST PART OF THIS. THE BEST PART. Look, the idea of them being in a marriage isn’t something that was remotely on my radar, but now I can’t stop thinking about it. My own shipping aside, this element of the story adds an emotional impact to the events in “Parallels.” Worf wants nothing more than to return to his world, but the existence of this relationship means that somewhere along the way, he found something in Deanna that made him fall in love with her. If parallel worlds are simply the result of every possible choice or decision or outcome that ever could be, that means that it’s not out of the realm of belief that Worf could still fall in love with her. It’s sad to see them part because there’s so much potential there, but Braga brilliantly doesn’t ignore this.
Instead, he ends “Parallels” with the beginning of a new timeline. You know, that timeline wouldn’t even exist without the events of this episode, and that’s why I love the conclusion so much. There actually isn’t a reset button here. Instead, Worf is influenced to invite Deanna to dinner, and he otherwise never would have pursued that, at least not in this reality. Will we see more of this in the future? I don’t actually know. But even if we don’t, I’ve now seen Worf in a different light. He’s not the same character in my eyes as he was at the end of “Inheritance.” I think that’s pretty fucking spectacular, y’all.
The video for “Parallels” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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