In the thirteenth episode of the seventh season ofÂ The Next Generation, EVERYTHING IN THIS EPISODE ESCALATES SO QUICKLY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For talk of consent, gaslighting, suicide.
Coming off ofÂ “The Pegasus,” it’s almost as if the show intended to run two episodes back-to-back that critically engaged with the very framework ofÂ 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.
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 byâ€¦ 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 absolutelyÂ noÂ life forms will survive that atmospheric destruction. When theÂ Enterprise arrives, they discover that Nikolai hasÂ 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 destroyedâ€¦ seriously, that was one of the darkest thingsÂ The Next GenerationÂ 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 notÂ wrong, but it was awful. They could have saved people, but the rules prevented it. Yes, they could sit on the comfort of theÂ EnterpriseÂ while an entire civilization perished, and I think that’s what that scene felt like for me. The contrast was glaring.
AND THIS HAPPENED IN THE FIRST TEN MINUTES.
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 sheerÂ scopeÂ of what he does here still blows me away. He sabotaged theÂ EnterpriseÂ 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 theÂ EnterpriseÂ 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 theirÂ newÂ 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 â€“ admirable!!! â€“ and then expects theÂ EnterpriseÂ 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.
WAS NO ONE MONITORING THE HOLODECK IN CASE IT MALFUNCTIONED AND SOMEONEÂ 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 isÂ 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 demonstratesÂ exactlyÂ 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 theÂ EnterpriseÂ crew, he’d never get to see his friends and family ever again.
So he kills himself.
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 justâ€¦ 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 downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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