Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S07E13 – Homeward

In the thirteenth episode of the seventh season of The Next Generation, EVERYTHING IN THIS EPISODE ESCALATES SO QUICKLY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of consent, gaslighting, suicide.

Coming off of “The Pegasus,” it’s almost as if the show intended to run two episodes back-to-back that critically engaged with the very framework of Starfleet within their scripts. If we accept that “The Pegasus” demonstrated the complexity within Starfleet command, then “Homeward” shows us the disastrous ramifications of the Prime Directive. Of course, it’s also about the disastrous ramifications of NIKOLAI ROZHENKO, but we’ll address that, too.

Disaster #1

Boraal II was always destined to die, and there was no way around that. This script is full of hard, immutable facts, and the show throws these characters from one moral conundrum to the next. At the opening of “Homeward,” Worf’s foster-brother sends a distress call to any Federation ships because Boraal II is about to be decimated by… something. The atmosphere sucks. (My god, there’s so much science babble in the show lately, y’all.) That’s all we need to know, aside from the fact that absolutely no life forms will survive that atmospheric destruction. When the Enterprise arrives, they discover that Nikolai has already violated the Prime Directive.

Now, here’s the thing: my initial reaction was to support Nikolai. The idea of letting an entire species die when they could be easily saved seemed inhuman. Indeed, when Nikolai pleaded his case and Picard shut him down IN RECORD TIME, I was gutted. That scene on the bridge where Nikolai refuses to watch Boraal II get destroyed… seriously, that was one of the darkest things The Next Generation has ever done. Even if the crew was just following protocol, you could tell that they all knew that the act felt wrong on some level. Okay, maybe not wrong, but it was awful. They could have saved people, but the rules prevented it. Yes, they could sit on the comfort of the Enterprise while an entire civilization perished, and I think that’s what that scene felt like for me. The contrast was glaring.


Disaster #2

Look, I didn’t think that this episode would wander aimlessly after that opening scene. The main conflict was violently resolved in ten minutes. CLEARLY, SOMETHING ELSE WOULD HAPPEN. And clearly, Nikolai would be a part of that! But holy shit, the sheer scope of what he does here still blows me away. He sabotaged the Enterprise so he could TRANSPORT ALL THE BORAALANS IN THEIR SLEEP INTO A HOLODECK, WHERE HE PROGRAMMED A VERSION OF THE CAVE THEY WERE IN. Is that horrifying enough for you? Well, then he plans on actively lying to all of them about where they are so that he can buy enough time for the Enterprise to find a new planet to live on. In the meantime? He’ll lead the Boraalans to a new homeland through the Holodeck while the computer gradually changes the landscape so that it looks like their new planet.

Sound like the worst plan of all time? IT PRETTY MUCH IS.

Honestly, I understand the complexities at work here, and there’s no easy way to talk about this. You can’t view this as a dichotomy most of the time because there are so many factors to take into account. But if there’s anything I felt absolutely certain about, it was Nikolai’s frustrating tendency to make impulsive decisions and then rely on others coming up with solutions for him. He denied that he did this to Worf’s face, but SERIOUSLY. That’s what he does!!! He makes the decision to save that Boraalan village – admirable!!! – and then expects the Enterprise to find him a planet to complete his long con.

There are a number of problems with this plan, and that’s the whole reason this is a disaster. THERE ARE SO MANY VARIABLES THAT NIKOLAI NEVER ONCE THINKS ABOUT. And, like he does throughout this episode, when they’re thrust into his face, he hopes someone else comes up with a solution. He relies on Worf’s improvisation to cover the malfunctioning Holodeck. He hopes that the crew can deal with Disaster #3, which I’ll get to. He hopes that Geordi can handle his technical needs. HE HOPES EVERYONE ELSE WILL SOLVE HIS PROBLEMS AND IT’S REALLY AWFUL.

Disaster #3

WAS NO ONE MONITORING THE HOLODECK IN CASE IT MALFUNCTIONED AND SOMEONE WALKED OUT? Apparently not because Vorin walks right out of the Holodeck and THE WORST DISASTER UNFOLDS. I feel that Vorin’s story is the absolute saddest thing that happens in this episode, and his ending is the worst. I think it was certainly easy to criticize the Prime Directive in the first half of the episode because its application was so brutal and distressing. Then, Vorin demonstrates exactly why it is needed. Stripped of his sense of reality, thrust into a new world where nothing is as he believed, he is left adrift on an existential journey of terror and sadness. For what it’s worth, Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Deanna Troi do their best to try and acclimate Vorin to this new reality, but it was never going to work, was it? If he went back “home,” he would know it was a fraud. If he stayed with the Enterprise crew, he’d never get to see his friends and family ever again.

So he kills himself.

Disaster #4

As if the world was not messed up enough, the final twist is left for the third act when Dobara reveals that NIKOLAI GOT HER PREGNANT. !!!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK. Granted, Nikolai is not in Starfleet and he has no compelling reason to follow the Prime Directive. And yet, I still find the whole arrangement to be utterly unnerving. He came to Boraal with knowledge of an entire universe and way of life that the Boraalans aren’t aware of, and as far as I can tell? He’ll never tell Dobara the truth about who he is, who Worf is, how they journeyed to their new land, or ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT HIS PAST. That imbalance makes me deeply uncomfortable, and I’m pretty sure it’s yet another example of why the Prime Directive is in place. It’s just… my god, y’all. Nikolai is the worst. Seriously.

I thought “Homeward” felt a little too cheery and saccharine at the end, given how disturbing the content was. But otherwise? What a wild ride, y’all. HOW THE HELL DID THAT ALL HAPPEN IN ONE EPISODE?

The video for “Homeward” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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