Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Next Generation 5x10 "New Ground"

rating: **

the story: Worf begins full-time custody of his son Alexander.

similar to: "Collective" (Voyager)

my thoughts: Alexander can be viewed as the Wesley Crusher of the second half of the series.  He's the second youth to be featured regularly.  Apart from Jake Sisko in Deep Space Nine and his regular antics with Nog during that series' early seasons, there's no one quite like Alexander, otherwise, except the Borg kids in Voyager, who debut in "Collective," and are eventually boiled down to just Icheb.

Yet being the youngest of the bunch, Alexander stands the best chance of being considered as irritating as Wesley famously was by fans.  His regular recurring debut in "New Ground" explains it all nicely.  The son of the late K'Ehleyr, whose arc is otherwise irrelevant to him, aside from his similar struggles trying to find a place for himself between the Klingon and human cultures he straddles, Alexander is everything the young Kirk and Spock in Star Trek are not, continually trapped in the role of being a pain in his father's side.  This might be considered shedding light on Worf (having a son paves the way to the relationship with Troi that culminates in "All Good Things..."), but his obvious discomfort in the role of father makes him look weak.  Not imperfect, just weak, because it's a role he doesn't even want, never fully commits to, and routinely fails at.  Maybe it's a judgment on Worf's own discomfort with his duel Klingon/human heritages, but in isolation, when all he has are other humans (or, half-humans, in Troi's case), it presents a lopsided narrative that painfully crescendos in the seventh season episode "Firstborn."

Leaving "New Ground" very hard to justify itself.  If the fourth season was all about finding comfort in family, the fifth is about the discomfort of it, whether in "Ensign Ro" (a Starfleet officer who doesn't fit in) or "The First Duty" (cadets who fail miserably to live up to moral standards, including Wesley).  It's the first Klingon-centric episode since "Redemption," bringing high drama back to low, mundane affairs.  Adding characters like this is a common trope for long-running series.  The one real benefit is that, unlike Wesley before him, Alexander allows the viewer to see more of the family aspect of the ship, which has all along been touted to feature family in abundance.  Except aside from the random appearance here and there, kids are mostly absent. 

If Jake hadn't come along and filled the role better, I might not have as much a problem with Alexander, or "New Ground" specifically, but Jake did come along, and he was instantly a better character.  Alexander wasn't a total loss ("Cost of Living," "Fistful of Datas," the aforementioned "Firstborn"), but he's a huge letdown, at least initially.  That's kind of bad enough.

Maybe you aren't, or won't be, as annoyed by Alexander as I tend to be, just I won't dismiss "New Ground" entirely.  It does have some important things to say, and to show.  But it could easily have been better.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential

notable guest-stars:
Brian Bonsall (Alexander)

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