With more appearances in Star Trek than any other actor (across his time as a lead on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, the TNG movies, and Picard season 3) Michael Dorn is a certified legend alongside the likes of Shatner, Nimoy, Stewart, and Frakes. Over the course of decades, he took Worf and developed him into one of the most tragic and complex characters in the franchise: something unimaginable from his introduction in TNG season 1.
But Dorn’s two favorite episodes of Star Trek TNG don’t even focus on Worf, really, despite his status as one of the best Star Trek characters ever, and they’re both also total classics: ‘The Offspring’ and ‘The Drumhead’. Found in season 3 and season 4 respectively, when the Star Trek series had just hit its prime (after the two bumpy seasons preceding it) the episodes are both directed by his co-star Jonathan Frakes, marking the Riker actor’s first and third directorial attempts.
‘The Drumhead’ is staged as a courtroom drama in which the crew of the USS Enterprise-D is subject to the paranoid suspicions of Admiral Satie, serving as a parable about the dangers of McCarthyism and witch hunts.
Meanwhile, ‘The Offspring’ explores Data’s successful attempts to create a child, his journey as a new parent, and the prejudices he encounters. Both are quintessential TNG, exploring real issues through a sci-fi lens.
Speaking about his love for the two episodes to StarTrek.com, the actor said, “I love courtroom dramas and ‘The Drumhead’ was a courtroom drama. Really wonderful. Great performances.” He concluded, “Patrick Stewart was excellent, and I really love that one.” Moving onto his next choice, Dorn continued, “And ‘The Offspring’ where Data builds a child. I thought there were some wonderful performances in that.”
Dorn’s choices are likely to come as a surprise for two reasons: first, while both are exceptional episodes, they aren’t often regarded as being in the upper echelon of Star Trek TNG. That status is reserved for the likes of ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, ‘The Inner Light’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Chain of Command’, ‘The Measure of a Man’, ‘I, Borg’, and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’.
While ‘The Offspring’ and ‘The Drumhead’ are undeniably brilliant (firmly in the tier just below the all-time greats), because they’re not in that category they can often go overlooked, and underappreciated. Because there are so many great episodes of TNG, many get forgotten and don’t have the respect they deserve. Thankfully, they have Dorn’s appreciation (and ours) at least.
The second reason that the actor’s choices aren’t what you might have expected is that they don’t really focus on Worf at all. In ‘The Drumhead’ he plays a supporting role, drawn into all the paranoia of Admiral Satie, acting as her lieutenant in her mission to track down any potential conspirators. But it’s an episode that focuses on Picard primarily, and his battle with Satie.
In ‘The Offspring’, Worf plays no important role at all. Data, Lal, Troi, Geordi, Wesley, Doctor Crusher, and Picard are all present and significant players in the story, but there’s no space for Worf. That Dorn loves it so much despite that is a real indicator of its quality and a ringing endorsement of Frakes’ astonishing directorial debut.
Of course, even after his story continued in Picard season 3, there’s always the chance that Dorn could still return to Star Trek as Worf. Marina Sirtis has an idea for a show that could focus on Worf and Klingon culture, and Colm Meaney has said he’d be more than willing to take part in such a project, if it were to ever materialize. But, for now, we’re happy to simply reflect on and enjoy Dorn’s role in the best TV series of all time: TNG.
For more on Star Trek, see our definitive guide on the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order, and our picks for the best Star Trek captains. Or, see what’s next for Strange New Worlds season 3, and what else is new on Paramount Plus before swapping franchises to learn about the status of Avatar 3.