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The Star Trek: The Next Generation Character You Likely Forgot Paul Sorvino Played

According to The Hollywood Reporter, actor Paul Sorvino, best known for his unforgettable parts in "Goodfellas" and "Law & Order," has died at the age of 83. A thespian with more than 170 credits to his name, Sorvino's roles were so wide-ranging that it would be impossible to cover every character of significance in his career. 

However, it would be an oversight not to remember his many iconic performances of the '90s. His terrifying and emotional portrayal of Juliet's father in 1996's "Romeo + Juliet" is one for the books, and it will be a long time before anyone forgets his powerful presence as formidable gangster Paul Cicero in 1990's "Goodfellas." He also portrayed Eddie Valentine in 1991's "The Rocketeer," Henry Kissinger in 1995's "Nixon," and Guy Cipriani in 1997's "Money Talks." 

In addition to a plethora of critically acclaimed films, Sorvino also appeared in the sci-fi treasure "Star Trek: The Next Generation," alongside beloved characters like Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Worf (Michael Dorn). Though Sorvino only appears in a single episode of the series, his character serves as an integral part of a memorable Season 7 episode.

He failed the Prime Directive as Dr. Nikolai Rozhenko

While many sci-fi franchises gravitate toward dark and foreboding content, the "Star Trek" universe is the outlier. Instead, ships like the U.S.S. Enterprise are only interested in exploration and helping the human race. This is where their most sacred law becomes paramount. In all of their many travels, Starfleet officers must always take great care to adhere to the Prime Directive. According to Memory Alpha, this means that no crew member should reveal their advanced technology or interfere in the development of a culture. 

A variety of characters test this rule many times over, but Paul Sorvino's character Dr. Nikolai Rozhenko is one of the most aggressive in challenging it. Introduced as Worf's foster brother in Season 7, Episode 13 ("Homeward"), Rozhenko is dedicated to protecting the primitive planet Boraal II, which is in danger of an environmental catastrophe. Starfleet instructs Rozhenko to not save the people of the planet, but he opts to disobey the order of the Prime Directive. Notably, Rozhenko's motives are not revealed until well into the episode when the Enterprise learns that he has become emotionally compromised by the situation. Rozhenko has impregnated one of the Boraalians and cannot bear for them to die. 

This episode's main emotional crux centers around the relationship between Worf and his foster brother. Ultimately, the Boraalians are put on a new homeworld, but Worf must contend with the loss of his brother as Rozhenko elects to stay with the Boraalians on their new home world.