The Next Generation
Disc No :
First Aired :
5 Nov 1990
When Riker asks the computer where Worf is, it replies that he has beamed over to the Klingon ship. Yet Worf removed his combadge before leaving, and we've seen many times (eg "Power Play") that the computer tracks people purely by where their badge is. The computer should have said that Worf was in his quarters.
Great Moment :
Worf killing Duras. I never thought the writers would let him go through with it!
Body Count :
Duras, K'Ehleyr and K'mpec, plus two unnamed Klingons killed by the bomb.
This was the first episode to feature the Klingon Vor'cha class attack cruiser.
It was also the first episode ever to feature the Klingon bat'leth sword.
And another first... it's also the first episode ever written by Brannon Braga, and the first in which Braga collaborated with Ronald D. Moore.
And another... it was the first episode to feature Gowron, who would ultimately be in eleven episodes of both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
And another... it was the first episode to feature Worf's son, Alexander.
Killing K'Ehleyr was Michael Pillar's idea, something he thought would make a great way to motivate Worf to kill Duras.
According to this episode, there are representatives of thirteen different planets in the Enterprise-D crew.
The Enterprise is engaged on a scientific mission when a Klingon Vor'cha class battlecruiser decloaks and hails them. Ambassador K'Ehleyr is aboard, and requests a meeting with Picard to discuss an urgent matter. When she beams aboard she is accompanied by a youngn Klingon child, much to Worf's obvious discomfort given his past romantic liasion with K'Ehleyr.
K'Ehleyr meets with the senior officers and informs them of a power struggle going on within the Klingon Empire. Chancellor K'mpec, one of the greatest leaders of Klingon history, is aboard the Klingon cruiser and wishes to meet with Picard to discuss the situation. Picard goes to the Klingon ship for the meeting, where K'mpec informs him that he has been poisoned and will soon die - assassinated by covert means, a highly dishonourable tactic. K'mpec believes that one of the two obvious candidates to succeed him is behind the assassination, and that whichever it was must not be allowed to gain the Chancellorship, since it would be a disaster to put the Empire in such hands.
To this end, K'mpec asks that Picard become the Arbiter of Succession, a role which will allow him to choose which of the two contenders would gain the Chancellorship. Picard will thus be in a position to investigate both men, hopefully allowing him to find the assassin. Picard reluctantly agrees to this.
Meanwhile, Worf and K'Ehleyr talk about her child. Worf is highly reluctant to ask whether the boy is his son, retreating behind Klingon stoicism, but K'Ehleyr refuses to answer the question unless he asks her directly. Worf begins to get to know the boy, Alexander, and is disgusted to find that K'Ehleyr has taught him nothing of Klingons culture and traditions. She reveals that she never told him about Alexander because Worf would have insisted that they marry, whilst Worf worries that acknowledging the boy as his son would mean that the shame of his discommendation would fall upon him. K'Ehleyr is intensely curious about why Word accepted the discommendation in the first place, a subject he refuses to be drawn on.
The two successors, Duras and Gowron, arrive for the succession. Duras expresses disgust at being around Worf, and Picard later acknowledges to Worf that having other Klingons around will be difficult for him. Worf opines that Duras must not be allowed to lead the Empire since it was his father who betrayed the Klingons at Khittomer; Picard points out that Duras has a legal claim and that whilst the Empire may hold a man responsible for his father's crimes, Picard will not.
The ceremonies procede, first with a rirual designed to confirm that K'mpec is really dead. Unfortunately a bomb explodes during the ritual, killing two Klingons and injuring several others. Picard spins out the succession rituals by using an obsolete but lengthy form of it, giving his crew time to work the problem. Gowron attempts to curry favour with K'Ehleyr, offering her positions of power in the Empire should he gain the Chancellorship.
Analysis shows that a molecular decay detonator was used in the bomb - a Romulan device, indicating their involvement with one of the candidates. If their man becomes Chancellor it could herald a Romulan-Klingon alliance, a serious threat to the Federation. K'Ehleyr is suspicious of Gowron, given his attempt to bribe her. Picard indicates that Duras may be untrustworthy, but refuses to explain why.
Intrigued, K'Ehleyr looks into the records of the last visit the Enterprise made to the Klingon home world. She also checks into the Klingon records of that time, finding them under a security lock imposed by Duras. He recieves a notification that she has made the inquiry, and goes to her quarters to confront her. K'Ehleyr accuses him of covering up the fact that it was his father who was responsible for the Khittomer massacre, and Duras murders her to keep the secret.
Furthere analysis of the explosion reveals that the bomb was concealed within the body of one of the Klingons. Such a suicide is considered honourable, if it allows the Klingon to kill an enemy. Crusher identifies one of Duras' men as the bomber, implicating him.
Worf arrives with Alexander at K'Ehleyr's quarters, finding her severely injured on the floor. She dies in his arms, identifying Duras as the killer as she does. Worf howls in anguish, and then forces Alexander to look upon her body, telling him to 'always remember'. He removes his combadge and sash, takes a bat'leth from the wall, and heads over to Duras' ship to challenge Duras. Duras tries to refuse, since a discommendated Worf would normally have no right to combat with him. However, Worf can challenge him as K'Ehleyr's mate. The two begin to fight. Worf is clearly the superior warrior, but Duras taunts him that if he is killed, there will never be any way for him to regain his honour. Determined to kill him, Worf simply replies 'Then that is how it shall be.'
On the Enterprise the crew piece together what has happened, and realise where the missing Worf must be. Data and Riker beam over, determined to stop him. They rush into the battle scene just as Worf gets the upper hand, Riker yelling for Worf to stop - but the enraged Worf plunges his bat'leth into Duras' chest, killing him.
With Duras dead, Gowron successfully claims the Chancellorship. In the aftermath Picard notes that since Worf's actions fell entirely within Klingon law there will be no diplomatic incident over his actions... however, Worf has failed as a Starfleet officer and Picard will be putting a formal reprimand on his record. Worf accepts this, and goes to Alexander to tell him that he will be living with Worf's parents, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko.
Another good solid episode. The Klingon politics are quite fascinating here. Many times an alien species is simply humanity with some trait emphasised or de-emphasised - Vulcans are humans with emphasised intellect and de-emphasised emotion, for example. At first glance, Klingons are humans with emphasis on honour and violence. However, the truth is that they aren't really that at all. Some Klingons genuinely value honour - Worf certainly does. But just as many couldn't care less about honour.
This is one of the fascinating things about Worf, and it makes perfect sense for him. He grew up amongst humans, desperately wanting to feel some connection to his own people. So he spent his life studying Klingon rituals and traditions. They were his only model for what it is to be a Klingon. Klingons back home certainly learned those things as well, but they also had the functioning society around them to learn from, warts and all. So Worf is the 'perfect' Klingon in many ways, and he often finds himself at odds with his own people for this very reason. And for that matter even Worf himself accepted the lie that his father was a traitor, because the truth was too costly even for him.
As for the rest, what we find when we look at actual Klingon society is not a people who are obsessed with honour so much as a people who are obsessed with the appearance
of honour. In reality Klingons are just as willing to engage in dishonourable behaviour as anybody - more so than the Federation, certainly. And we see it at work here, with the surface appearance of honour in the succession... whilst just under that surface is nothing but lies, murder, and political maneuovering. It's important to not that whilst Duras may be the designated 'bad guy' of the episode, Gowron doesn't exactly come off as an innocent - he attempts to bribe K'Ehleyr to influence Picard, hardly an honourable thing to do. And yet, he wins in the end.
The plot with Alexander is also a good one. Worf retreating behind Klingon stoicism is right in character, as is K'Ehleyr's angry refusal to take the pressure off unless he does bend a little. And Pillar was dead right - her death is the perfect way to set Worf off on rampage of revenge. K'Ehleyr is such a great character that you hate to see her die, but that's exactly what makes her death push the plot so well. Killing off a character the audience has no connection with is meaningless, but killing off one they care about generates drama.
I must say, I'm glad they got rid of Alexander at the end of the episode. He works well here because of the effect he has on Worf but once that's over there's really no function for him, so sending him away is a good conclusion. Sadly, we would see him return to TNG later on - and once there it was pretty rare for interesting things to happen with the character.
Another thing to comment on here is Worf killing Duras. There is a terrible tendancy in films and TV to do anything possible to avoid having a hero simply kill a bad guy out of revenge, hate, or, well, anything except direct self defence, really. How many times have you seen a situation where the hero is bent on revenge, he beats the bad guy down, and then just as he's about to kill the guy he stops. Because the hero has to be a white hat guy, and white hat guys don't kill out of revenge! But... that won't do, the audience needs to see the bad guy die! So after the hero hesitates, the bad guy attacks him again so the hero can kill him in self defence. Or the bad guy actually dies in an improbable accident.
A couple of examples : Peter Parker really wants to kill the guy who offed his uncle Ben. But at the last moment he hesitates... so the guy attacks him and falls out a window. Jack Ryan really wants to kill Sean Miller, but he doesn't - and Sean falls onto an anchor, impaling himself.
This kind of thing happens over and over, and it's nothing but cowardice on the part of the writer. If you're gonna have give a character revenge motivation to kill, then let him kill! Or if he's going to decide to be merciful and spare the bad guy, then actually spare the bad guy! But don't give him that motivation, then avoid it, and then kill the bad guy anyway! If you do that you're sending the message that it's right for bad guys to die, but wrong for heroes to kill them. It's nonsensical.
I know I'm harping on about this, but it's something that really bugs me about movies and TV shows - once you're on the lookout for it, it drives you nuts. So I love, love, love that the writers here gave Worf a motivation to kill, and then had him actually go through with it and kill. Truly a great moment.