Season Seven, Episode 13
Teleplay by Naren Shankar
Story by Spike Steingasser
Directed by Alexander Singer
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Paul Sorvino as Nikolai Rozhenko
Penny Johnson as Dobara
Brian Markinson as Vorin
Edward Penn as Kateras
Susan Christy as Tarrana

"It is…the sign of LaForge!"
-- Worf, on the malfunctioning holodeck

The Enterprise arrives at dying planet Boraal II, where Worf's adoptive brother, Nikolai Rozhenko is a cultural observer. Worf is shocked to discover his brother, disguising himself as a Boraalan himself, has made contact with the primitive people, taking them to shelter in caves from the planet's dissipating atmosphere. This act is a clear violation of the Prime Directive and Nikolai is beamed aboard the Enterprise and refused any more contact with the world. Nikolai is enraged that the Prime Directive prohibits them from saving the Boraalans -- all they can do is watch as their planet dies, and them along with it. Picard is resolute that the Prime Directive serves a "greater good", but having created a duplication of the Boraalan caves in the holodeck, Nikolai secretly beams the entire colony aboard. He plans to keep them in the holodeck until a new world can be found to relocate them.

Picard is furious but has no option but to go along with it. Worf learns that Nikolai has fallen in love with a Boraalan woman and plans to stay with them. As Geordi struggles to keep the holodeck operating following some damage by Boraal's plasmonic storms, the ship warps to a planet that has been deemed a suitable place for relocating the Boraalans. However, one of the Boraalans, Vorin, accidentally discovers the holodeck exit and wanders onto the ship. He is absolutely astounded to find himself in a starship and learns of the truth behind what has happened to him. Deciding that he can't live with the truth, he commits suicide. The Enterprise later arrives at the Boraalans' new home and they are beamed down along with Nikolai, who will remain as one of them.


Hmm. Whilst an engaging, enjoyable hour, Homeward suffers a number of problems which basically shoot it in the foot, preventing it from being satisfying either emotionally or philosophically. For a start, I didn't feel Paul Sorvino was particularly effective in his role as Nikolai. Whilst I've seen him do great work elsewhere, I found his performance somewhat bland and lacking the passion the character so desperately needed. I'm afraid the character just didn't come to life for me and as a result both his relationship with Worf and his clash with Picard suffered. The Worf/Nikolai interaction did nothing for me; it was transparent and neither Sorvino nor Dorn really rose to the occasion. (Incidentally, look out for Penny Johnson as Dobara, Nikolai's girlfriend. Johnson would later go on to play Kasidy Yates in DS9).

The main problem I have with this episode actually runs deeper than lacklustre characterisation or acting. The Prime Directive has always stirred controversy but nowhere moreso than here. In theory, the Prime Directive sounds like a good idea. But, how can you justify sitting back and watching as an entire race are wiped out?! How can you turn a blind eye to the destruction of an entire people? Picard's rigid adherence to the Prime Directive painted him in a harsh, cold and fascist light -- and I didn't like it one bit. Why was he unwilling to concede that in this case, violating the Directive would be the right thing to do? Both Kirk and Sisko have said "to hell with the Prime Directive" on numerous occasions -- and often quite rightly so. This just struck me as flying in the face of everything that Star Trek professes to be about. His lamentable speech about having to remember the "greater good" of the Prime Directive while these people were dying was exceptionally uncomfortable to watch. Ugh. We really needed to see Picard do some serious soul-searching instead of behaving like Heinrich Himmler. In this case, there is simply no justifiable rationale for Picard's callous, heartless actions.

Nikolai's plan only goes to show how easy it would actually be to save the Boraalans -- why did no one else consider this> Additionally, how in the name of the Prophets, did Nikolai manage to transport an entire colony aboard the holodeck with NO ONE NOTICING?!! Go figure. As for the Boraalans themselves, they must be one of the smallest races in the galaxy. It's funny how there only ever appeared to be a handful of them! I know, I know, the budget would obviously not support hundreds of extras, but couldn't they have made it slightly less obvious? The holodeck malfunctioning seemed like a rather cheap contrivance to inject some drama and evidently no one thought of sedating the Boraalans for the length of the journey.

Something I felt did work very well was the sub-plot where Vorin strays from the holodeck and must face the stark reality of what is going on. Vorin's reactions are beautifully-conveyed and his tragic fate underline one of the reasons in favour of the Prime Directive. I do wonder why no one proposed wiping Vorin's memory of the Enterprise and sending him back to his people? But then I'm begining to think the entire Enterprise crew were brain-dead this week. Picard expresses his disappointment that Vorin would not be able to "bridge our two cultures". Huh? Jean-Luc, buddy, you're on cloud cuckoo land this week.

In short, Homeward is a watchable but ultimately unsatisfying piece. I'll be damned is I actually know what it's trying to say -- I doubt even the writers knew. For my money's worth, there isn't anything here that wasn't better dealt with in the third season's Who Watches the Watchers?. Go watch that instead.

Rating: 5.5

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