Kargan tells his officers to speak in Riker's language when he arrives on the ship. Doesn't Riker's universal translator let him understand and speak in Klingon?
A Klingon reveals that his father has lost his honour due to being captured in battle. He says that his father is on their planet, waiting to die of old age or disease, and that he will not speak to him. Riker is aghast at this, incredulous that the Klingon will not talk to his own father. He lectures the man about how he should get in touch with him, etc. This is a nice little scene, very touching and all... and loses all credibility when we learn in "The Icarus Factor" that Riker in fact has not talked to his own father for literally decades, and that he harbours such animosity towards him that he's practically ready to punch the man in the face when they meet.
This is the episode in which we learn that Colm Meaney's character is named O'Brien.
Geordi La Forge and Deanna Troi do not appear in this episode.
The makeup in this episode earned an Emmy nomination.
Riker goes to get some phaser practice in with Captain Picard; the Captain points out that a position aboard a Klingon ship has opened up on the Officer Exchange Program, and Riker quickly offers his services since "nobody’s done it before". Afterwards Worf gives Riker some advice on serving aboard a Klingon ship, including the fact that as First Officer it will be his duty to kill the Captain if he feels him weak or unfit for command. Riker heads off to Ten Forward and orders a feast of Klingon dishes to celebrate his transfer.
The Klingon ship, the Pagh, arrives and Worf takes Riker down to the transporter room. He gives him an emergency transponder before he leaves, just in case of danger. As Captain Kargan welcomes Riker aboard, Ensign Mendon notices something in a scan of the Klingon vessel's hull. He does not report it, instead following the Benzite custom of beginning a detailed analysis himself first.
The Pagh departs as Riker reports to Captain Kargan. Kargan questions who his loyalty is to, and Riker pledges that he will serve the Klingon ship to the death if need be. When one of the ship's officers, Klag, declares that he doesn't believe Riker, Kargan sits back to see how the Starfleet officer will react to the situation. Riker reacts by beating Klag senseless and informing him that he will obey orders, or else.
Back aboard the Enterprise, Worf detects an unknown substance on the hull. It is a subatomic bacteria that appears to be eating the hull away. Mendon mentions that he noticed it on the Klingon ship, prompting a rebuke from Picard for his failure to report it at the time. Worf also chastises the young officer, though Wesley tries to comfort him afterwards as the crew work to neutralise the threat.
Meanwhile on the Pagh, Riker is eating his first meal in the mess. He comments on how well trained the crew is and talks about cultural differences whilst swapping a few jokes with his new shipmates. Riker comments that he never expected Klingons to laugh, whilst Klag says the same about Humans. Riker and Klag talk about their families; Klag's father is a dishonoured man who failed to die with honour when he was captured by Romulans. Klag, deeply ashamed of this, does not speak to his father any more - claiming he wouldn't know how. Riker points out that his presence on the Pagh proves that people can always learn, and to prove the point he eats some live Gagh.
On the Enterprise, Data has discovered that the subatomic bacteria eat only certain compounds in the hull, and points out that the Pagh has more of those particular compounds. Picard orders an intercept course with the Klingon ship so that they can lend assistance.
On the Pagh, Kargan calls Riker to the bridge and shows him a large hole in the hull. Fortunately the hole opened up into an unoccupied cargo bay, but the damage is spreading rapidly and Kargan is convinced that his ship is doomed. Sensor logs also show the intensive scan of that area of the hull which Ensign Mendon conducted, leading Kargan to think that the Enterprise-D is responsible for the damage. Despite Riker's protests Kargan determines to attack the Enterprise-D, and demands that Riker shares the ship's secrets with him. Riker refuses point blank, stating that while his oath to the Pagh means that he will indeed fight and die with them, he will nevertheless not violate his earlier oath to Starfleet. Kargan is impressed, and informs Riker that he would have killed him as a traitor is he had broken his oath by revealing the Enterprise's weaknesses.
On the Enterprise, Ensign Mendon has discovered a way to destroy the subatomic bacteria using a tunneling neutrino beam. Picard orders this information be added to the hail that the ship is sending. With no debris in the area they conclude that the Pagh is intact but cloaked, and raise their own shields as a precaution. Kargan refuses to believe the hail from the Enterprise and moves to attack the ship. Riker pulls out his emergency transponder and activates it. Kargan takes the device from him, curious as to what it is. The signal prompts the Enterprise to beam the device aboard, and Kargan with it. Riker declares that he has removed the Captain from command and that he is in charge now. He contacts Picard and orders him to stand down, which he does. On the Enterprise-D bridge an infuriated Kargan pulls his disruptor, but Worf is too quick for him and shoots him down.
The Enterprise-D repairs the damage to the Pagh whilst Kargan is returned. He has a brief face-off with Riker on his own bridge... which he ends by knocking Riker to the floor. Klag comments that Riker truly has come to understand Klingon ways and the First Officer returns to the Enterprise.
Riker's adaption to the Klingon way of life is well shown; his beating of Klag is a nice moment, and seeing the Klingons relaxing is great - we see them laughing and bantering, ribbing Riker and taking his own ribbing in return.
Where things do fall down a little for me is in the "threat" the episode presents. A "subatomic bacteria"? Come on, that's just silly. And even if such a thing were possible, why not just cut that section of the hull off and throw it away? Surely these ships must be able to replace sections of hull quite easily. Kargan's paranoia about it also seems to come out of nowhere. His people have been Federation allies for years, even decades now. Yet he leaps to the conclusion of a sneak attack based on virtually no evidence, and sticks to it even when presented with evidence to the contrary. I know Klingons are a warrior culture, prone to hotheadedness, but how has this guy lasted in a command with this combination of bad judgment and pigheadedness?
That said, Riker's solution to the problem is a clever one and well executed. It's also nicely done that Kargan comes back to his ship accepting that he was wrong... but still pigheaded as ever. I'm convinced that Riker faced off with him on his bridge at the end precisely because he knew Kargan would give him a smackdown - because he knew that by removing him from command he had made him look weak in the crew's eyes, and this would give him the chance to re-establish his position. That's what Klag meant when he said Riker had learned their ways well, I think.
Overall then a pretty good episode, with just a little silliness.
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