Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Next Generation 4x7 "Reunion"

rating: ****

Memory Alpha summary

Not pictured: Gowron
(even though he's the best
Klingon ever!)
There's a lot to know about this episode:

1) It's the return, and death, of K'Ehleyr.
2) Alexander officially becomes a fixture of Next Generation.
3) Duras makes his second and final appearance, but with hugely lasting ramifications.
4) The debut of Gowron!

Besides that, it's the Klingons are their politically operatic best.  For a series that was reluctant to use the Klingons at all, some of Next Generation's best work involved them, not merely because of Worf's presence, but because the series discovered in the classic aliens a rich source of storytelling potential, using them less as villains and more as the springboard for high drama which might otherwise have forever eluded the franchise.  More than in the several film appearances, including the climactic Undiscovered Country, with which "Reunion" shares some blood, this episode was the moment everything came together.

Thus, very easily, a classic.  Both K'Ehleyr and Duras had made impactful appearances before, but seeing them converge, and not even necessarily over their mutual acquaintance Worf, was the catalyst the episode needed.  Alexander, Worf's son with K'Ehleyr, could be even more polarizing than Wesley Crusher before him in later appearances, but here he represents the great tragedy of what unfolds.

And it might indeed be called great tragedy.  When Klingon fan culture began linking them with Shakespeare, it wasn't just Undiscovered Country that brought the Bard to mind, but "Reunion" as well, perhaps more grandly.  Thrust into the mix is the would-be king Gowron, making the first of many welcome appearances in Next Generation and then Deep Space Nine.  I don't often talk about the actors in these reviews, but Robert O'Reilly is absolutely essential in how "Reunion" takes shape and makes history.  He may be the first great Klingon actor, and at times he achieves this distinction merely with his bulging eyes!  It takes considerable talent to produce something under that heavy prosthetic forehead.  O'Reilly was born for the task.

While Worf takes his rightful place in the course of events, it's Picard who truly rises to the occasion.  Long groomed as the true ambassador of Starfleet's peaceful potential, here he's given the unlikely role of mediating in the midst of Klingon egos, which he takes in stride.  With so many moving parts, the captain still finds his chance to shine and is the secret heart of the episode.  It's a defining moment for all involved, including the series and franchise as a whole.

Can you watch it and appreciate "Reunion" on its own?  Sure?  But remember, too, that without it the more serialized nature of Star Trek in the years ahead might never have happened.

four quarter analysis
franchise * series * character * essential

notable guest-stars:
Suzie Plakson
Robert O'Reilly

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