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(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 216)
  • story by Sara & Stuart Charno
  • teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
  • directed by Chip Chalmers
  • music by Dennis McCarthy


I've got to throw out an opinion on this episode, as it was the first of a type of show that screenwriter Ronald D. Moore seemed to want to champion. The idea was to slow down the pace, and do longer, slower, deeper scenes with the main characters. No doubt the budget-saving aspects of this would have appealed to the producers. I wasn't too keen on it at the time when they made these shows, since the pace of their faster action-based episodes felt about right, but in light of today's frenetic TV, the deeper pace and character scenes seem to be something that TV should aim for more often now.

The bigger problem with episodes like this is that there really isn't enough meat to make the scenes as deep as the writer intended. It's a little too obvious to the audience early on in this one, for example, that there is an ideal match between the guest star's risky surgical technique and Worf's glory-or-die cultural philosophy. The story really isn't going anywhere during the lengthy scenes that serve to delay their mutual involvement in the surgery. Some of it is necessary set-up, of course. I just don't see the value of all those arguments in favour of less-than-ideal solutions, whether it is Picard saying that Worf can't make the journey to learn to live as a paraplegic, or Worf arguing for suicide, or Crusher arguing that a glorious solution is too risky a road (she should let Worf make that decision for himself, and simply decide for herself whether or not she is going to participate in it as a surgeon). There's also a problem of generalizing, most notably that because Crusher witnesses Dr. Russell making a poor choice to side with risk in an early case, she decides that all of Russell's choices to side with risk must be equally wrong - and pretends that Russell isn't smart enough or human enough to learn from her own error.

Though I'm squeamish enough about operations that I wouldn't recommend as much graphic footage of the actual operation in the finished program, the conclusion of this episode must get a few points for making me believe, on first viewing, that Worf had been killed off on the show. Some of the credit there must go to the fact that this cast did shake itself up every year-and-a-half or so, beginning with its loss of Tasha Yar (which some of this episode echoes), and continuing with the loss of Wesley Crusher, and the temporary replacement of Beverly Crusher. The show seemed to be right on schedule for another main cast shake-up at this point in season five. Also, the director and the principle actors pulled off an incredible job here. But in hindsight, it's a bit of a wasted effort. As we otherwise suspected from the beginning, the characters all return to their starting positions again, and if you missed this episode in the season five run, you'd never have known it.

If there's any long term growth here, it simply seems to be that Brian Bonsall makes his first return to the show to play Alexander, proving that he's now a recurring presence that can mix it up with the other regulars and deliver on their level. Good stuff.

As an episode, this one seemed to take an unnecessarily slow, overly emotional, and overly complicated route to get to the obvious, and is not one of Star Trek's greatest. What really convinced me that this was not the way to do Star Trek was the next episode attempted in this mold: "The First Duty", where the Moore pattern of wallowing in the emotional crap of "loss" became too pronounced to be of good taste, having too few elements of other flavours to balance the story. Better character-based long-scene-filled episodes of sci-fi TV have been done before and since.

This Next Generation Season Five story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Five (1991-1992):

Features 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each, including both parts of "Unification".
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview: Year Five
  • Production & Visual Effects
  • Memorable Missions: Year Five
  • A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry
  • "Intergalactic Guest Stars" clip
  • "Alien Speak" alien writings and speech
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Nov. 18, 2013.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 4 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Cause and Effect" by writer Brannon Braga and moderator Seth MacFarlane.
    • "The First Duty" by writers Ronald D. Moore and
      Naren Shankar.
    • "I, Borg" by writer René Echevarria and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "The Inner Light" by co-writer Morgan Gendel and the Okudas.
  • Two-part documentary "Requiem: A Remembrance of ST:TNG" (HD, 59 min. total) with 1981 interview clips of the late Gene Roddenberry, plus Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), writers Moore, Braga, and Shankar, and executive producer Rick Berman.
  • In Conversation: The Music of ST:TNG (HD, 65 min.) with composers Ron Jones, Dennis McCarthy, and Jay Chattaway, and host Jeff Bond.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read our next Star Trek review: The Outcast

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