Friday, August 19, 2022

Star Trek: Birthright, Part I

Episode: "Birthright, Part I"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6, Episode 16
Original Air Date: February 22, 1993

Worf learns that his father may still be alive and goes to investigate.  Meanwhile, Data is knocked out of commission in an engineering accident and experiences what can only be described as a dream.  DS9's Dr. Bashir has a meaningful cameo in the episode.

Normally, given a Worf story or a Data story to choose from, I'd pick Worf every time.  But in "Birthright, Part I," the Data-has-a-dream scenario is irresistible.  (To be fair, the Worf tale is just getting started in this first of two parts.)  For starters, the encounter with Bashir is unusual.  Julian, refreshingly, is more fascinated by the things that Dr. Soong did to make Data seem human than he is in our favorite android's more extraordinary abilities.  Then the dream comes as a complete surprise.  No one, Data included, knew he was capable of that.  He does his usual research: poring over psychological and spiritual texts, then sounding out his friends.  Picard encourages him to explore where the images lead him through creative pursuits.  So Data paints.  He paints a lot.  Thank goodness it's not poetry this time.  A second induction of the dreamlike state brings Data into contact with Soong.

The question left unanswered: was the entire experience implanted by Soong in Data's programming or was Data programmed with the capacity to contrive such images from his own experiences?  The first would be disappointing.  The second would be deeply cool.

There's a Picard line that intrigues me.  He describes Data as a "culture of one."  Is a culture species-specific?  Wouldn't the culture of the colonists on Omicron Theta have been his "culture," even if he couldn't experience it the same way an organic humanoid would?

Acting Notes

Richard Herd played the role of L'Kor, a Klingon elder Worf encounters at a Romulan prison camp at the end of the episode.  Herd was born September 26, 1932 in Boston.  He joined the army during the Korean War but was honorably discharged when he injured his knee in basic training.  Afterwards he, along with spy novel author Robert Ludlum, made army training videos for the Army Signal Corps.

While the bulk of Herd's work was in television, he had a few notable film credits: All the President's Men, The China Syndrome and Planes, Trains and Automobiles among others.  On TV, he was probably best known for his role in the V franchise.  He was also a regular for a time (36 total episodes) on TJ Hooker, starring William Shatner.  He made appearances on both Seinfeld, M*A*S*H and Quantum Leap among others.  In Star Trek: Voyager, he played Admiral Owen Paris, father of Tom, in four episodes.

Herd was married three times, the last time for 40 years until his death.  He had two children.  Herd passed away in 2020 from colon cancer.

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