So the last time I watched an episode of Star Trek TNG season 7, it was very bad. Let’s look at this one, where Worf visits parallel universes. It’s called Parallels, and it’s one of TNG’s rare Worf-centered episodes. I remember it being pretty good as a kid.
The episode begins with Worf returning from a holiday at a Klingon battle tournament. Like most Klingon sports, it involves stabbing each other. Even their trophy looks like something you’d use as a lethal weapon.
But what do you know, it’s also Worf’s birthday, and the rest of the crew are throwing him a surprise party! Or, as Klingons think of it, a dishonourable sneaking tactic to force ‘fun’ on him. His expression here is priceless.
Data gives Worf one of his paintings as a birthday present. It… looks like a painting that Data would have painted. Or his cat.
We are reminded that Worf has a son, Alexander. He sends his dad a plaster cast of his forehead ridges. Wolf says “they are the ridges of a warrior”, because of course he does. Is… is this a penis thing? Because it sounds like a penis thing…
Worf gets dizzy for a moment, perhaps as a result of looking at Data’s painting. Then he notices his birthday cake and says “wasn’t this chocolate a few seconds ago?” Troi says “Chocolate? Don’t I wish!” because it’s season 7 and her only personality is she loves chocolate.
Meanwhile on the bridge, Picard and Riker discuss a space telescope. The signal from it has been redirected by someone, basically turning it into a big ol’ space spy camera. This is the episode’s ‘B’-plot. Don’t worry, it goes away soon.
This makes Worf think to ask Troi if she will take care of his son if he ever dies in battle – she would be Alexander’s ‘sok-cheem’, which Troi points out would make Lwaxana Worf’s stepmother. Worf promptly regrets his choice.
Meanwhile in the b-plot, it turns out that the Cardassians have been using the space telescope to spy on Starfleet’s shipbuilding facilities. Oh, those wacky Cardassians, whatever will they get up to next?
Suddenly Worf feels dizzy, and all of a sudden Geordi has swapped places with where Data was standing and Picard, who was in the scene a second ago, is gone. Clearly Worf has run afoul of the episode’s editor.
Wolf goes to see Crusher, who tells him that he is suffering memory loss, probably because Worf’s excuse for a holiday involved being punched in the head a lot. Wolf looks at the trophy he won at the tournament and, to his shock, its spiky bits are missing.
Worf checks his logs. According to his diary, he lost the contest because his opponent used a ‘dishonourable tactic’, which I get the impression is what every Klingon who doesn’t win first place always says.
Honestly, that is the impression I get. “You have bested me? Only because you acted without honour! We will avenge this upon you and your children and their children’s children! Fucking ‘second place’ my arse, you dishonourable swine!”
Meanwhile the Enterprise catches up with a Cardassian ship and asks them “did you sabotage our space telescope so that you can spy on us?”
“Yes” says the Cardassian. Nah, I’m just kidding, he says “No… wait, you have a telescope? I hope you’re not using it to spy on US!”
Picard tells the Cardassian that it’s fine because they have no proof that he did anything.
Worf says “Hang on, didn’t the footage we got from the telescope two scenes ago prove it was them wot did the thing?”
Picard says “What footage?” It’s a mystery! Dun-dun-duuh!
Wof invites Troi over to rant about everything that seems to be changing. He’s certain that Crusher is wrong about him having a concussion induced memory loss. Then he notices Data’s painting, and it’s changed too! Dun-dun-duuh again!
Then Worf becomes dizzy again, and suddenly he’s no longer in his quarters looking at the painting, but on the bridge while they’re under attack by the Cardassians!
Worf is so confused at the bridge’s new metallic panelling that he almost forgets to raise the shields. He apologises and says he must have had another memory loss, but Picard doesn’t remember him telling them anything about it. Oh no! Has all of reality changed?
He checks his logs, and this time they say that he couldn’t go to the tournament at all! Wolf says his brother went in his stead, although he is ‘not as proficient with the blade’, probably on account of his brother not coming from the 12th century where people spoke like that.
Troi turns up, and is evidently very impressed with Worf’s proficiency with the blade because she starts giving him a massage! He asks her what’s going on, and she tells them that they’ve been married for years! Dun-dun-duu oh come on you’ve figured this out by now.
Data explains that several years prior, after recovering from his spinal injury, Worf formally sought permission from Riker to court Troi. Riker, confused why Worf was asking this, explained that women aren’t property and he doesn’t need to ask their male owners for permission.
This… all of this just makes Worf seem as though he’s not an alien species but a time-traveller from the 12th century. “Good day M’Lady Troi. Might I impress thee with my prestige with the blade and, mayhap, thy father will grant me permission to court thee?”
“And then we mated” says Worf.
“I am not privy as to where, when and how your first coupling took place” replies Data… and the audience are just begging for reality to change again. Like, right at this second. Please?
Wolf is convinced that, because Geordi was standing around near him each time he’s leapt to another reality, Geordi must be involved somehow. Which is as likely as anything else, given that his visor runs on magic. They go to the medical bay to ask questions, but Geordi’s DEAD.
Eager to test the magic visor theory, Data wires it up to a techno-doodad, and….
Suddenly Worf is wearing a different shirt! And a new badge! And in this universe the writers are much more keen to get LeVar Burton as naked as prime-time television will allow!
In this universe, Riker is captain of the Enterprise, ever since Picard died at the hands of the Borg. Yeah Riker, we only have your word for that….
Everybody goes to the meeting room so that Data can explain, with illustrations, what alternative realities are. Thanks Data. Couldn’t do it without you.
In this reality, Worf and Troi have two children. If we send Worf back to his own reality, they’ll be losing a dad. It’s a bit tragic really.
Can the Enterprise tech-tech Worf back to his home reality? Well, this reality just happens to have Wesley Crusher still onboard! If anybody can figure it out, he can!
Wesley starts scanning the space thingy to find Worf’s home reality, and.. oh god Wesley what did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO WESLEY?
The Enterprise immediately starts getting calls from 285,000 other Enterprises asking what is going on. By Data’s calculations, the entire solar system will be full of Enterprises within 3 days. It’s even pulling in Enterprises from universes where the Enterprise doesn’t exist!
Eventually they find the Enterprise from Worf’s original universe and tell them that they’re sending their own Worf back. The Worf that’s standing on the bridge of Worf’s original Enterprise looks nonplussed at this. Who the hell are you, other Worf? Anyone?
Worf’s original Enterprise sends over a shuttle, and Worf says a tearful goodbye to his weird duplicate alternative reality wife. “Tell the children that I went out for milk.”
Worf’s shuttle leaves and is about to hop back to his home dimension, when it’s suddenly fired upon by one of the other Enterprises. We get a message from another Riker “You don’t know what it’s like back there – the Federation is gone, the Borg are everywhere!” Chilling.
No, really, this is a deeply chilling moment. This dystonia version of Riker is from a universe where everything has just gone to hell. He pleads with the other Riker not to send them back. It’s like, how bad are things in their universe? Just… just imagine.
The dystonia universe Enterprise fires on Worf’s shuttle, desperate to prevent him from resetting the universes and sending them back. The main universe Enterprise fires on them and… their engines blow up. The ship was barely holding together. Things really were that bad.
With no more hurdles, Worf flies his shuttle into the universe hole, where he meets his Crisis on Infinite Earths counterparts.
Worf arrives back in his real universe. And how does he know it’s the real one? Because he won first prize in the tournament! You see, kids, if you don’t come first, you’ve simply slipped into the wrong reality. Find an alternative reality where you win – that’s the real one!
But in this reality, Worf doesn’t have a surprise birthday party… oh, he just figures “Ah screw it, it’s close enough” and asks if Troi wants to go on a date. So begins the uncomfortable Worf/Troi romance subplot that you’re stuck with for the rest of the season. Enjoy!
So here’s the thing – stories about jumping between alternative realities are hard, they tend to have a lot of ‘surprise twist’ moments and if you have too many they can really overdo it. This episode overdoes it. But it’s still totally enjoyable and pretty fun. I liked it.