In which we meet Worf’s brother from his other mother, Picard rehashes old arguments, and all praise be unto LaForge.
The Enterprise is over Baral II in response to a communication from Nikolai Rhozenko, Worf’s foster brother, that the planet is in the process of having its atmosphere boil off or something. Data slowly details the demise of the planet, and Worf looks increasingly uncomfortable as they calmly discuss how his brother very nearly died a horrible and grisly death.
The atmosphere exploding off the planet isn’t going to hurt the ship, but it might cause system malfunctions, which is important because we’ve more or less established at this point that there is no physical phenomenon in the Alpha and Beta quadrants that is a match for the Enterprise when all her systems are working. It flew into the corona of a star. A little atmospheric plasma is like kid stuff.
Worf has detected a deflector shield, which is far beyond the planet’s tech level. He requests permission to go down to the planet to check it out, and Picard agrees, after making sure Worf gets plastic surgery. Now, here’s a question. Presumably, this procedure is basically risk-free with 24th century medicine, but what are they going to do with his ridges? Does Bevery keep them in a jar in a stasis field until Worf is done on the planet? Does she replicate new ones for him? Is Theseus’ Ship a concern here?
Worf talks about his disputes with his older brother Nikolai. Nik wasn’t cut out for Starfleet Academy and dropped out because he couldn’t follow rules. After this chat, Worf beams down, and it looks like my concerns about Worf’s ridges were premature because the surgery Crusher gave him was a hoodie. What, did you just not feel like doctoring today, Bev?
Worf immediately meets up with Nikolai, allaying most of the suspicions of the locals, but just as immediately putting him in a very tricky position vis-a-vis the Prime Directive. The villages are very eager to not die, and every word Nikolai says to them traps Worf into providing more assistance.
Picard is pissed that Nikolai has given them false hope. Nikolia has a plan to set up an atmospheric shield with camouflauged equipment, but Picard is having none of it. This is the part of the Prime Directive that never makes any sense. On the one hand, it seems moral, for a given value of moral, to leave functioning societies to make it on their own or get wiped out by the nuclear filter before getting access to even more dangerous fundamental physical forces and a galactic community to use them on. On the other hand, if a feudal society is going to be wiped out because the atmosphere on the planet is boiling off, or the planet is cracking apart because of dilithium deposits, or any other natural disaster that isn’t their fault, letting the culture perish rather than be contaminated seems… well… evil.
As always, Bevery agrees with the ‘Prime Directive sucks” argument, but she and Nikolai are overruled. Picard doesn’t even let Nik get his heist on to pull whatever scheme he was planning. All Nikolai gets is a commlink, and to watch as the planet goes into its final throes. Just as Nikolai is starting the final transfer, the sensors start to glitch out. Picard gives a speech honoring keeping to the prime directive as millions of lives wink out below them. Moments later, a power short occurs and Worf goes to Deck 10 to check it out. Hey, isn’t that where the holodecks are?
Why yes it is. Nikolai has created a holodeck program of the caverns in which he has saved a small tribe of the Baralans. Transported up while they were sleeping, they are none the wiser. Seems like a grand idea to me, but Worf has the same Duty/morality talk with his brother that Pressman had with Riker last time. That conversation goes about as well. Nikolai does have a pretty good plan, though. Find another M-class planet and use the holodeck to simulate a gradient between the two types of landscape.
Sadly, there are some hurdles to, um, hurdle. The same energy that burned off the atmosphere is interfering with the holodeck. Too bad they’re not all in a space ship and can’t warp away to… outside the heliopause should be far enough. That’s like… 20 light-hours. Or about eight seconds at Warp 9. Even if they need to go at impulse and the journey out that far takes days, they should still get going immediately. Or is cultural contamination no longer a worry?
Geordi is going to have to purge the system to fix the holodeck fully, and in the meantime they’re all just going to have to hope nothing gets worse. Sadly, this means Worf having to play nice with the brother he just tried to disown. But they work together fairly well and have the villagers mostly going along, until the simulation starts breaking down when trying to render water effects. Worf decides to attribute the breakdown to an omen of the god LaForge’s blessing.
Data and Crusher figure out the planet they’re going to dump the Baralans on – slightly less hospitable, but not close enough to Cardassian space to get the villagers occupied and killed. Worf gets to watch Nikolai cozy up to one of the villagers, and watches some kid lamenting the loss of a lot of their Chronicle, and writing new pages. He realizes he’s lost a piece, goes back to grab it, and finds a piece of the Arch embedded in the rock wall using the set-building techniques they practiced for”The Pegasus.” And since no episode on this formula would be complete without this happening, the kid walks through the door and finds himself in the actual, factual corridors where none of the crew go “uh oh someone better let Picard know.” It’s just luck that Riker and Troi were having dinner.
Sadly, unlike the Mintakans, the Baralans have unfamiliar neurophysiology and Crusher can’t just wipe the memory out. Presumably they also can’t pump him full of LSD and let him loose in the caves so that anything he says about his experience will be dismissed. So with this one breach, Picard decides to tell the whole story.
In the holodeck, the journey proceeds, and nobody seems terribly concerned that they’ve lost the kid. Also, a thought occurs. When on their new planet they develop theories of Evolution they won’t fit any of those theories. Their DNA will be significantly different from that of the rest of their planet, even after accounting for the Progenetor origin. If they have a religion with a Divine Creation of Man myth, it’s going to be a difficult one to shake. Still better than letting them all suffocate, though. Probably.
Oh, plus, Nikolai knocked up one of the locals. This is going to do nothing for Worf’s respect for his brother.
The Enterprise has arrived at the new planet, and now they have to figure out how to get the Baralans down to the planet without causing too much damage. Picard also goes to the kid to ask him what he’s going to do. The kid, fortunately, agrees with Picard that the Prime Directive is an important thing to uphold for the future of his people. This powerful scene transitions into Worf and his brother yelling at each other as the holodeck falls apart around them. They improvise a storm and a story that Worf the Seer has the power to banish the storms forever, herd everyone into the tents, and beam them down. And either everyone was too panicked to notice the transporter beam or they just thought it was part of the storm.
Sadly, the kid, left with no good options, committed ritual suicide. In their talking over his body, one can’t help but notice that Picard is taking credit for the plan he opposed at literally every step. Kind of a dick move, Picard. Happily, Worf and Nikolai can reconcile in the end, and Nikolai stays with the Baralans, infusing them with human genetic material and causing who knows what havoc down the line. Still better than them all suffocating.