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Klingon Civil War

The Klingon civil war owed its origins to the rise within the Empire of two distinct political factions during the mid to late 2360s. At the time the Chancellor was K'mpec, one of the strongest and longest serving leaders in Klingon history. As K’mpec aged his influence began to wane and potential successors started vying for position. The first was led by the House of Duras. Duras advocated a more aggressive and independent role for the Empire, seeking more freedom from Federation influence. The majority of the council supported Duras in these aims. The second and weaker faction was led by Gowron, a man considered by many to be a political opportunist.1

In 2367 K’mpec rendezvoused with the USS Enterprise-D and confided to Captain Picard that he had been poisoned by Veridium Six and was slowly dying. Whilst Klingon culture did allow advancement through assassination of a superior, such killings were to be made through open challenge – the apparent idea was that a leader weak enough to fall to such a challenge had proved himself deserving of his fate. By using poison K’mpec’s assassin had shown himself to be without honour. Unsure of who to trust, K'mpec asked that Captain Picard act as his Arbiter of Succession. Fearing that a Klingon civil war might erupt if K’mpec’s wishes were not respected in the matter, Picard accepted the request.1

K’mpec died shortly afterwards. The Sonchi ceremony which was held to confirm his death was disrupted by a bomb blast which killed one person from each of Gowron and Duras’s delegations.1

Picard proceeded with the succession process whilst investigating the bombing. Forensic examination revealed that a Romulan molecular decay detonator was used in the bomb. Given that Duras’s father had been a traitor for the Romulans this implicated him somewhat in the bombing.1

Duras’s father’s actions were uncovered by Worf’s mate K'Ehleyr. She challenged Duras and was killed by him. Worf beamed aboard Duras’s ship and challenged him to a duel, killing him in open combat. This cleared the way for Gowron to assume K’mpec’s place as leader of the Council.1

Despite his discrace, the house of Duras continued to have many powerful supporters under the leadership of his sisters Lursa and B'Etor. When Picard travelled to the Klingon home world to install Gowron as Chancellor, the sisters made a surprise appearance at the ceremony along with Toral, the illegitimate son and heir of their brother. They claimed that Toral had the true claim to the leadership of the Council. Captain Picard rejected the challenge since the young Toral had fought no battles and won no honour for himself. This decision split the council, initiating the Klingon Civil War. When Lieutenant Worf urged Captain Picard to take sides in the war he declined and forbade Worf from doing so, prompting the Lieutenant to resign his commission and join Gowron’s forces.2

The first combat action of the war was an attack on the IKS Bortas, Gowron’s flagship. The attack was foiled by a combination of Worf’s skill and aid from the IKS Hegh’ta, commanded by Worf’s brother Kurn. Although no fan of Gowron, Kurn had agreed to follow his brother’s instructions to support Gowron and had convinced three squadron leaders to side with him. Gowron proceeded with the installation ceremony and formally became Chancellor of the Klingon Empire.2

As Chancellor he requested Federation aid in the conflict, but Captain Picard refused to interfere in internal Klingon matters now that his role as Arbiter was concluded. With relatively little support within the Empire, Gowron’s forces were hard pressed over the next few weeks of fighting – he suffered three major defeats, including at the Battle of Mempa. It was at Mempa that General Martok first became prominent, managing to avoid a complete rout.2

Captain Picard, meanwhile, argued that the many successes of the Duras family may be an indicator that they were receiving help from the Romulans. He proposed taking a fleet to the Klingon/Romulan border and using a tachyon network to detect the movement of any cloaked vessels across into Klingon space. The plan was approved, and although Picard had to struggle to assemble sufficient ships to implement it he did manage to scrape up some 23 ships and take them to the border. The action drew a protest from Commander Sela, who claimed to consider the fleet a threat to Romulan space. She gave Picard a deadline to withdraw from the area or face attack.2

Hoping to provoke the Romulans into breaking their own deadline, Picard asked that gowron launch an assault on the forces of Duras in the hopes that they would call for additional help from their allies. The tactic worked, but unknown to Picard the romulans had developed a method of disrupting the tachyon network. They targeted the USS Sutherland, which was under the command of Lieutenant Commander Data because of a shortage of experienced officers, with an energy burst which knocked the grid offline. Picard ordered the fleet to retreat and re-group, but Data ignored the order and instead used the ship’s sensors to detect residual energy signatures which the burst had left on several Romulan Warbirds. Data hit several of these with low yield torpedoes, proving to the Romulans that he had located them without inflicting significant damage. Commander Selar reluctantly abandoned the Duras family and returned to Romulus rather than risk open conflict with the Federation and Klingon Empire.2

In the aftermath of this face-off, support fell away from the House of Duras and Gowron was able to achieve rapid and complete victory. Lursa and B'Etor fled the Klingon home world, abandoning Toral. Although Gowron was tempted to execute the youngster, Worf spared his life.2

After the victory Gowron consolidated his power over the Empire. He attempted to re-write history, claiming that he had won the war through his own efforts. As a result he was reluctant to grant Picard the use of a cloaked ship in 2368, though Picard’s veiled threat to seek help from those opposed to Gowron if he declined and his implication that those opponents would then enjoy his friendship convinced Gowron to comply.3

Gowron's position as leader of the Empire would not be seriously challenged again until the apparent return of Kahless the Unforgettable in 2369. He quickly proved that Kahless was actually a clone of the original rather then a supernatural entity, though he did accept the clone as a symbolic Emperor. 4 Gowron remained the leader of the Empire until he was killed in personal combat with Worf in 2375. General Martok subsequently became Chancellor.5

Lursa and B'Etor remained at large for several years, attempting to gather support for another attempt at the Empire. They raised funding to hire mercenaries6, but this apparently met with little success. In 2371 they became involved with Soran’s attempts to return to the Nexus; Soran promised to give the sisters his trilithium torpedo technology in return for their support in reaching the Nexus. The sisters engaged the Enterprise-D in battle during the plot and were killed when their ship was destroyed.7

The following year, Toral attempted to steal the Sword of Kahless when it was recovered by Kor, Worf and Jadzia Dax. The attempt failed and Toral was badly injured, possibly killed.8


Yellow text = Canon source Green text = Backstage source Cyan text = Novel White text = DITL speculation

References
# Series Season Source Comment
1 TNG 3 Sins of the Father
2 TNG 4 Redemption, Part 1
3 TNG 5 Unification, Part 1
4 TNG 6 Rightful Heir
5 DS9 7 Tacking into the Wind
6 DS9 1 Past Prologue
7 Star Trek : Generations
8 DS9 4 The Sword of Kahless
Series: TNG Season 3 (Disc 4)
Source: Sins of the Father
Series: TNG Season 4 (Disc 6)
Source: Redemption, Part 1
Series: TNG Season 5 (Disc 2)
Source: Unification, Part 1
Series: TNG Season 6 (Disc 5)
Source: Rightful Heir
Series: DS9 Season 7 (Disc 6)
Source: Tacking into the Wind
Series: DS9 Season 1 (Disc 1)
Source: Past Prologue
Source: Star Trek : Generations
Series: DS9 Season 4 (Disc 3)
Source: The Sword of Kahless


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 6,612 Last updated : 17 Feb 2005