Look, as long as we’re being perfectly honest with one another, let’s get this out of the way: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION’s best two-part cliffhanger was, by far, “The Best of Both Worlds.” After that, you’re free to think what you want, but I thought they went downhill pretty fast. Now, don’t get me wrong: many of their episodes were still by far some of the best television of its time. Looking back on them with the distance of time and reason, REDEMPTION has moments that don’t feel as authentic as they probably did during the program’s heyday. It’s still one of the better ones; it just ain’t all that I remembered it for.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The Klingon Empire has begun to fracture with the naming of a new leader, drawing Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise-D into all of the ruckus. At the center of this story is Worf (Michael Dorn), the first Klingon to serve in Starfleet who accepted discommendation from his homeworld due to some political shenanigans compliments of the Duras’ sisters (in an earlier episode). Worf sees the chance for a new tomorrow as being a chance to finally clear his family name, but, in order to ‘make it so,’ he’ll have to (first) convince his brother Kurn to do something he doesn’t want to do and (second) resign his Starfleet commission, joining the Klingon Civil War as a combatant under Gowron’s command.
REDEMPTION did an awful lot for the career of Ronald D. Moore, the man who penned the episode and the writer often given credit for really propelling the Klingons to the forefront of all things Trek. Granted, he did some wonderful work here, imbuing the race of surly fighters with a depth they hadn’t enjoyed in any outing previously … but he also made their civilization seems more than a bit one-sided when it came to looking down the road at any possible future other than, say, beating the stuffing out of one another. One might wonder whether or not the Klingons were ultimately best served by Moore’s machinations; rather, I give greater credit to the acting folks like Dorn, Tony Todd, and Robert O’Reilly for ignoring the obvious shortcomings inherent to any species so singularly dedicated to war and death and instead delivering performances of conviction, notice, and (dare I say?) merit.
After all, where do you begin fleshing out a role for a species that’s never existed?
Sure, you can give Moore all of the credit you want for setting up the notes. I’ll continue to give the actors credit for hitting the marks AND THEN SOME. It’s those performances – that exploration of a craft – that truly ignites the Klingon race as one destined (hopefully) for further study on either the big or small screen.
Back back to REDEMPTION …
Moore’s script operates around a hidden contrivance – the kinda/sorta return of Tasha Yar – to the Trek timeline by way of a plot device introduced in YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE (still one of the finest hours of Trek ever). It isn’t enough to give this two-parter the weight it needed, and it certainly doesn’t posit the kind of “end of all things imaginable” in the same way THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS did. Instead, it comes off here as WORLDS’ half-baked brother (erm … sister?): a good idea that probably merited more exploration but inevitably never got any (or never got enough to make it more than a plot device of its own).
Still, this version of REDEMPTION – this release is cut into a seamless 90-minute movie – plays better than it does with the season break, that’s for sure. The stakes that are raised here are far more personal than they are ‘galactic’: Picard has to confront the fact that an alternate version of himself brought this new terror unto his timeline, while Worf has to come to terms with the fact that this whole ‘giving up Starfleet and being a full-time Klingon’ wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It ends up being a solid adventure, but all of the political posturing and maneuvering smacks more of ‘invention’ than it ever does ‘inspiration.’
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: REDEMPTION is produced by Paramount Television. DVD distribution is being handled through Paramount Pictures. As for the technical specifications? Wow! The episode looks mostly spiffy in this Blu-ray edition – a seamless merger of the TV episodes “Redemption” and “Redemption, Part 2” from the program’s TV run – though the uniforms end up looking neon ‘red’ in several shots. And you wanna talk about special features? There’s a terrific 30 minute documentary revisiting the making of REDEMPTION that’s worth the price of admission alone; plus there’s a wonderful commentary from Moore and Mike & Denise Okuda that fans will enjoy.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Gone is the luster and desperation of THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, but, in its place, there’s a wonderful little actor’s performance piece called REDEMPTION. The Klingons are given the bulk of the screen time; and there’s a handful of secondary plots involving the Romulans, Picard, and Data thrown in for good measure. What more could a Trekkie, Trekker, or Trek enthusiast want? How about L-I-V-I-N-G in the 24th century? Until that’s possible, this Blu-ray release will have to do.
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