Redemption is better than it has any right being. And don’t worry, I’m not saying it’s good. But for a two-part episode in which Worf gets his groove back in a Klingon civil war and they absolutely botch the cliffhanger by fucking with Tasha Yar’s timeline yet again another time already and for no reason, it’s nothing short of a minor miracle that I stayed awake the whole time. You wouldn’t expect it from the description, but this Ron Moore-co-penned tale of Klingon political intrigue has a couple of redeeming points. Scout’s honor.
Alright, so blah blah blahbiddy blah blah Picard has to go to Qo’noS to fulfill his role as the Arbiter of Klingon Succession. Once again, we the audience imagine with all our might that a monarchy based on blood feuds and murder could ever be a suitable form of government for an interstellar organization, and as usual we come up pretty damn short. Naturally, rather than flying there by himself, Picard takes the entire Federation flagship with him. On the way there, the Enterprise is waylaid by none other than Gowron, who is None Other Than the Very Person Picard is Supposed to Confirm as Dictator! He’s come to warn Picard that Duras, the challenger that Worf murdered the last time this issue came up (and everyone’s OK with that! Hey, diff’rent strokes, amirite?), is dishonored – not to mention deceased – and so shouldn’t be a threat to the throne in any way, is a threat to the throne. Because a lot of people liked him, or something. I mean, were bought off by him. So, they want the graft to continue, and Gowron thinks they have a trick up their (collective) sleeve(s). Not that he has any confirmation of this, nor any details on what the stunt might be that would help Picard prevent it. He just thought he’d cruise on over to Federation space and relay that message personally, because it’s not like there’s anything improper about hangin’ out with the Arbiter just before Succession. Everyone is absolutely cool with that.
Having relayed his content-free message, Gowron goes home, but not before Worf gets a chance to tell him the truth about his supposed dishonor. Gowron believes him but can’t help him, making this a completely pointless scene – one of many to come.
Worf goes to the phaser range in the hopes that kicking some ass will make him feel better. This seems strangely incongruous with Worf’s typical holodeck fantasy, but the writers have their reasons: Guinan shows up to show him up (she’s a shockingly good shot), which is apparently supposed to make him feel better. Or something. Fortunately, however, this scene isn’t completely pointless – Guinan is able to get Worf to admit (by pointing out that Klingons do so too laugh after he’d claimed they didn’t) that maybe he doesn’t feel entirely Klingon, contra his oft-repeated claims. Yes, this will turn out to be important.
Um, some stuff happens involving the Council Chamber. Not that anyone cares, but Duras has two evil sisters and also a bastard son who can assert a claim to the throne. He asserts this claim. So, Picard will have to decide whether it’s valid by High Noon tomorrow, which means he has a lot of reading to do on Klingon Law. Good thing he’s a quick study.
Duras’ evil’ sisters invite Picard over for tea to try to convince him to rule in favor of Duras’ son. It doesn’t work. But Picard does let slip that he knows that they’re collaborting with Romulans. Because as has been well-established by this point in the series, he knows everything. And indeed, there was just a scene with them talking to Romulans, one of whom was conspicuously standing in the shadows saying chilling things like "We’ll deal with the Federation … and Captain Picard" causing us to be chilled to our bones. I wonder who she is … ???
Unsurprisingly, the next day, Picard rules for Gowron. Toral IS Duras’ son, but it doesn’t matter because under Klingon law he inherits Duras’ sins and so is dishonored, like his father, for collaborating with Romulans and can’t assume the throne. As expected, the Evil Sisters make hay out of this by alleging Federation involvement in Klingon internal affairs, and Klingons resolve the ensuing constitutional crisis in the only way they know how: they fight about it.
At some point in all this there’s a scene with Worf, who has asked for a leave of absense, googling data on the Kitamur Massacre on the Enterprise‘s computers. Picard rightly points out that there’s a bit of a conflict of interest there – Worf can’t use Federation data for personal settlings of scores. But he agrees to make the information generally public on the "everyone can have it or no one can" principle, begging the question of why this hasn’t already been done. I point out this scene just because K’Ehleyr was googling the same shit last time this issue came up and got killed for finding it out, making it kind of a pity that Picard could’ve saved her life, and everyone a lot of trouble, by snapping these particular fingers in this particular way a couple of years ago!
Worf boards Gowron’s ship and offers his support in exchange for restored honor. Gowron doesn’t want it until Worf tells him that Kurn is actually his brother and can offer several squadrons. Gowron notes that Kurn has never supported him in the past, but Worf says he will now because he’s the younger brother and must obey his elder brother. Add this to the long list of things that are Stupid about Klingon culture and are sufficiently irrational to keep them from making it to the stars.
There’s a firefight, Worf gets to take over Tactical for no reason at all, he tricks one of the attacking ships into thinking they’re disabled long enough to lower their shields to board and then blasts them to smithereens. He doesn’t get the other one, but his brother does! Decloaking just in the nick of time, Kurn’s ship disables the other one. This is actually one of the redeeming sequences I was talking about. At first glance, you would think that this is an example of Kurn travelling at the speed of plot. After all, the expectation would be that Kurn would either show up with Worf to make his offer more believable, or he would wait for Worf to call him, since there’s no point in taking Gowron’s side if there’s nothing in it for their family honor. But here’s a more charitable interpretation: Kurn has been here all along and the intention was to intervene as soon as Gowron is inevitably attacked so that Gowron feels a sense of obligation to the Son of Mogh clan. Buttering him up to restore their honor, as it were, sir. Worf the shrewd political manipulator will be a recurring theme, actually.
The Enterprise, for its part, declines to take part in this fight, not wishing to involve the Federation in a Klingon civil war – which seems sensible, because who honestly cares who’s president of this frat? Worf really, really wants to play, though, so he resigns his commission to join a foreign army. Picard, naturally, gives him a full honors sending off. He’s so much better than we are.
Meanwhile, back on some Romulan ship, the Evil Sisters are talking about stuff, and shadowy Romulan steps out of the shadows to reveals to us that she’s … TASHA YAR! OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!
As part II opens, Picard is having a change of heart about intervening. Apparently the Duras clan is implausibly winning every battle, meaning Romulans are involved. So, it IS SO TOO the Federation’s concern, he tells Admiral Shakhti. Admiral Shakhti agrees, so it looks like Worf resigned for nothing. Picard suggests they build a blockade along the Klingon-Romulan border – a kind of massive Tholian Web of ships emitting tachyons, and if any supply ships cross, they’ll be able to detect them.
Now, a lot of people have complained that this is implausible – the Romulans can simply go around the web. After all, space is vast … unlimited. To which I answer: right, but that doens’t mean the distances involved are feasible to travel in the requisite amount of time. Eventually someone’s going to need supplies right now, and they won’t have the time to just go around. So, I think this is more plausible than the internet gives it credit for being. What’s implausible about it is that the Klingons don’t already have a functioning tachyon detector web set up along this border. I mean, the Romulans are their sworn enemies and shit.
Next, we see Worf trying, and failing, to fit in at a giant drinking orgy going on in the capitol. Apparently, the capitol is neutral territory, and the opposing sides come here every night to drink and trade merry insults. Worf is horrified – should they not be attending to duty instead of drinking with their enemies? This, it turns out, is the theme of the two-parter. Hinted at in his exchange with Guinan, it turns out that Worf theory about what it means to be a Klingon is no match for the reality of actually being one. Worf is the Klingon ideal, but as we all know, reality always falls short of ideals. Not that this helps us believe in the Klingon Empire any – since drinking when you should be working is only marginally better, in the cosmic sense, than killing when you should be working.
Worf decides to try to fit in, but it doesn’t work, so the Evil Sisters bonk him on the head and take him to some Romulan compound to be tortured. Here he meets Sela – the shadowy Romulan who looks just like Tasha Yar – and doesn’t even blink. Truly this is an episode unencumbered by any restrictions on point of view in its storytelling: all characters know what the audience knows.
At some point Picard sees Sela and is taken aback, but doesn’t let it throw him off his game until Guinan helpfully(?) tells him it should. So he arranges a metting with Sela who just blithely beams over all by herself and dumps some expository dialogue on him.
Tasha, it seems, got sent back in time by Picard at some point and wound up being captured in a battle with the Romulans and forced to become the concubine of one of the victors. So much for that heroic death I guess. Sela is the product of that union, and Yar tried to escape with her when she was young, but Sela, feeling more Romulan than human, apparently, ratted her out, so she was executed. Like I said, so much for that heroic death. We the audience are supposed to notice that she’s the opposite of Worf, I think. Worf is a full blood Klingon who doesn’t realize how human he is after being raised by humans. Sela is a half-blood Romulan who feels completely Romulan after being raised by Romulans. So this is Star Trek, again choosing nurture over nature when the the decision is forced, but not before.
Unfortuantely, that’s the extent of Sela’s importance to the plot. The cliffhanger really was a cheat – the fact that Tasha Yar’s offspring is alive and Romulan has no actual bearing on any events in the story.
Well, there’s some stuff, and some things, and eventually the blockade works, exposes Romulan involvement, and completely discredits Duras’ theoretically already-discredited clan. The Klingon Empire can go about rooting out corruption and getting its house back in order now. Whew! When you think about it, the Romulans kind of did them a favor, since without their intervention the civil war would’ve presumably been bloodier and had a less totalizing ending; the corruption and disregard for honor would’ve continued to fester.
Worf realizes he doesn’t feel fully Klingon and so asks for his old job back, an offer Picard accepts without ceremony or hesitation. Because honestly, if you’re gonna let the guy murder important foreign dignitaries with impunity, what’s the harm if he joins a foreign army for a little while and may well do so again in the near future?
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot – it was Data who caught the stray Romulan supply ship coming into Klingon space in a completely pointless and unconvincing subplot where he’s captaining a ship with a cartoonishly (anti-android) bigoted first officer.
So, as you can see, there’s much silliness in this one.
But, as you can also see, the silliness is tempered, for once, by a little bit of circumspection as well.
The Sela subplot, of course, is a complete and total abortion. What the hell were they thinking? All this does is set up a pointless cliffhanger with absolutely no payoff, at the expense of retconning Tasha Yar’s timeline for the SECOND time in a way that complete defeats the purpose of retconning it the FIRST time, when the FIRST time was already sufficiently stupid that they shouldn’t have bothered. Look, it was, is, remains, will always be better if Tasha just dies like a normal redshirt. There’s no point in trying to slather significance all over her death. It’s actually better if it’s the routine way that redshirts always die on this show, for reasons I think I’ve adequately explained in previous reviews. People don’t have to go down in blazes of glory. But if you’re going to alter the timeline just to make sure someone you kinda sorta like does, don’t then turn around and screw it up by deciding she got raped for years instead just because you need a neato cliffhanger!
The Worf, subplot, however, is not a total loss. It’s true that Worf doesn’t do a whole lot of asskicking in this one, which seems a little incongruous. He mostly sits at ops stations and gets beat up. If you’re going to have a story about Worf reclaiming his family honor, you’d like to see a little blood on his hands. I harp a lot on the Federation just turning a blind eye to Worf murdering Duras, but not because that wasn’t a bitchin’ cool thing for that character to do, because it was. What sucked about that was how the vaunted reset button pretended it never happened – one of the depressingly large number examples of the double standard whereby Next Generation gets away with things like that while fans hold the superior Voyager‘s feet to the fire for it. This episode could have used a moment or two like that. This is, after all, what Worf’s life has been bulding up to. That said, I do appreciate that they finally called Worf on his bullshit a little about just how Klingon his supposedly is – and that they did it in a dignified way. It’s not that Worf isn’t committed to being a Klingon, it’s just that he’s failed to recognize the many ways in which hiding behind his heritage has been a defensive shield for him. It’s identity … I was going to say "on the cheap," but it’s hardly cheap, as there’s no denying that Worf gives it his all. But there was always an element of self-deception about it, let’s say. Worf was living in a bit of a fantasy world, and it’s mucho cool of the writers to recognize that and confront him with it a little bit. And, as I say, they did it with dignity. Aside from some minor needling from Guinan, Worf comes to this realization on his own and deals with it appropriately.
So, as much as it pains me to give a Klingon episode something in the B range, this one earned it. It’d be a B+ but for the stupid Sela crap. As it stands:
Overall Rating B-