Star Trek The Next Generation: Parallels

"Captain, we're receiving 285,000 hails."

When you think of a Worf centric episode, what comes to mind is melodrama and deep cultural conflict, or at least some form of primal scream. This episode is something completely different. It's a delightful trip through unrealized realities with Worf as our almost hapless hero.

The conceit of this episode requires a very cursory explanation of quantum mechanics, which Data helpfully summarizes halfway through. Worf passed through an unstable region of space (yet again) and has inadvertently started to slide across quantum realities whenever he comes across Geordi and his cursed visor.

At first, the differences are small, yellow cake instead of chocolate, and Picard was able to come to his birthday party instead of being needed on the bridge. Worf notices little differences, like his placement in the bat'leth tournament has changed, and even the placement of a painting Data created for his birthday. This character out of place is very reminiscent of "Cause and Effect," and is nearly as playful as that episode.

Things start to go off the rails when Geordi is killed due to one of these shifts in reality when Worf, needing to respond to an attack from the Cardassians, cannot find the right button to raise shields because the tactical terminal he is at is totally different from the one he is used to. That’s a pretty harsh consequence, and kind of puts into focus that this is not all fun and games.

In this reality he trudges back to his quarters, defeated and hurting from the loss of a friend and colleague, when Troi barges in and makes herself at home in his quarters. The lighthearted tone of the episode reasserts itself and Worf has several very awkward scenes where Troi treats him very differently. Until it comes out that they are married. This confirms that Worf is not where he belongs, and from there, things go pretty nuts.

While Worf is mostly a passive participant in this episode, he has some absolutely lovely reactions to the changes, and his befuddlement makes him an surprisingly correct choice for this adventure. Any other character would probably figure things out too quickly; even Riker would have reacted very differently to these circumstances. The producers also admit that they had been trying to put Worf and Troi together for a long time and never found the right opportunity. In fact, the background for the reality where Worf and Troi are married starts with season five's "Ethics," the episode where Worf broke his back.

Personally, I loved the small changes, but it was the big stuff that really made me smile. Especially seeing Riker as captain of the Enterprise after losing Picard during the Borg invasion. His small tired goodbye to Picard was lovely, and I cannot imagine how unnerving it would be for Picard to have Riker say that to him. Being confronted with the truth that this is one of only a trillion different outcomes, and this one was just an echo of millions of other realities with only very slight alterations.

My only gripe is with the end of the story, with the magical Star Trek reset button wiping away everything that happened except in Worf’s memory. Ah well.

Bits:

There are more than a few neat details in this episode, including Doctor Ogawa, a Cardassian pilot and of course Data with blue eyes.

While the final quantum reality has most obvious differences, one small detail always stood out to me. The rank insignia on the communicators is a lovely little design, but for some reason they still had rank on their lapels as well.

There are a ton of small details that I won't go into here, but one detail I thought was fun was the inclusion of Wesley Crusher was made because they felt using Tasha Yar would hew too closely to "Yesterday's Enterprise."

Quotes:

Worf: "That was not a Klingon song!"
Deanna: "It wasn't easy to translate. There doesn't seem to be a Klingon word for jolly."

Data: "At this rate, the sector will be completely filled with Enterprises within three days."

Deanna: "I know Klingons like to be alone on their birthdays. You probably want to meditate, or hit yourself with a painstick, or something."

While not quite at the level of "Best of the Both Worlds," "Measure of a Man," "Cause and Effect" and "The Inner Light," "Parallels" is still a lovely and memorable episode.

4 out of 4 Parallel Universes with Chocolate Cake
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J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I love this one. The little details are simply terrific. I especially love how ugly Worf's bat'leth trophy is. :)

percysowner said...

I love this one as well. I admit to possibly being the only Worf/Troi shipper in the world, but I did like them as a couple.

Victoria Grossack said...

This must have been so much fun to write. The creators could explore snippets of all the paths they did not take.

CoramDeo said...

I very much love crazy hobo Riker at the end. I regularly quote 'No! We won't go back!' in normal conversation.

Anonymous said...

One of my favourites as well. S7 had great episodes. Pity that Wes didn't go the way this episode showed and ended up with the traveller (yeah, I know the movies "fixed" it).

Loved desperate Riker at the end also!.