Oct 20 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Emissary”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Emissary”

“The Emissary”
Written by Thomas H. Calder and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 2, Episode 20
Production episode 40272-146
Original air date: June 29, 1989
Stardate: 42901.3

Captain’s Log: Riker’s poker game is interrupted by a Class-11 emergency signal, which is parsimonious with specifics, only that the ship is to divert to a set of coordinates, with further instructions forthcoming. With a due sense of anticipation and dread, Picard orders the ship to those coordinates, which is outside the Boradis system, which was colonized within the past three decades. Admiral Gromek tells Picard that they must meet up with a special emissary who is traveling at warp speed inside a probe. Not exactly a comfortable way to travel.

The emissary is a half-human, half-Klingon woman named K’Ehleyr, and it turns out that she and Worf have a history, and it didn’t end well.

Starbase 336 received an automated transmission from a Klingon ship, the T’Ong, which was sent out seventy-five years ago. They are about to awaken from a cryogenic sleep, and they think the Federation and the Klingon Empire are still at war. The concern, and the reason for rushing, is that there are a mess of minimally defended human colonies that are ripe targets for the T’Ong. There is a Klingon ship, the Prang, en route, but they’re two days behind, and that may be too late for the Boradis colonies.

K’Ehleyr’s recommendation is that they will have to destroy the ship, as they won’t be able to reason with them. Picard refuses to accept this, and orders K’Ehleyr to come up with options, assigning Worf to assist. Worf objects to this assignment; Picard asks if there are personal reasons for this, and he answers in the affirmative. Picard then asks, “Any professional reasons?” and Worf has to admit that that answer is no. Picard just looks at him with that Picard look of his, and Worf withdraws his objection.

Unfortunately, K’Ehleyr and Worf’s unresolved feelings for each other, which are obviously very strong, get in the way of their carrying out the assignment, especially since K’Ehleyr thinks it’s a waste of time.

She goes to take out her frustrations on the holodeck, running Worf’s calisthenics program. Worf goes to the bridge and is obviously out of sorts, with Picard ordering him to relax. His snappish response of “I am relaxed!” makes it all the more clear that Picard is right, and Worf goes to the holodeck — only to find that K’Ehleyr’s already there. They join forces against the nasties, which quickly leads to more intimate activities.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Emissary”

K’Ehleyr thinks they should have had sex six years ago, but Worf feels they were too young and not ready. Worf, following ancient Klingon traditions, as is his wont, believes that they should solemnize their union by taking the oath of marriage. K’Ehleyr refuses to go through with it. Worf insists only that it’s a point of honor, and K’Ehleyr insists that it was wonderful, but it didn’t mean anything long-term.

The next day, they go back to their assignment, Worf bringing Data along as a chaperone, but the only palatable option they have is to hope that they arrive before the T’Ong crew awakens. In that case, they can override the cryogenic controls easily.

However, that doesn’t work out, as the T’Ong crew has awakened and fires on the Enterprise before cloaking. Since the cloak is seventy-five years old, La Forge is able to fine-tune the sensors so they can be picked up.

Worf then comes up with another option: they confront the T’Ong, but when they open hailing frequencies, what the Klingons see is Worf — along with K’Ehleyr, in full Klingon armor, and Worf wearing a floor-length cassock of command — who upbraids the T’Ong captain, telling him that the war’s over now. The captain reluctantly believes Worf, and lowers shields. Worf gives Picard command back after they end the communication. (When asked how he liked command by Riker, Worf’s response is, “Comfortable chair.”)

As K’Ehleyr is about to beam off, the two of them finally admit that they actually have feelings for each other: Worf admits that taking the oath was more a point of honor for him, and K’Ehleyr admits that she almost took the oath and it did mean something. As she beams off, she says that next time she won’t be as easy to get rid of, and Worf says he won’t be complete without her. It’s all very sweet.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi and K’Ehleyr get along well from jump, bonding initially over their mutual halfbreed status. This is especially amusing given that both of them wind up dating Worf at different points.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf gets plenty of moments in the sun, starting with kicking ass at poker, continuing with a reunion with a lost love, including knocking boots on the holodeck, and ending with a successful first command. He does a great job as a Klingon commander, intimidating the T’Ong crew into submission.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Emissary”

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data announces that the wisest course of action for him in the poker game is “to bend.”

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Worf and K’Ehleyr had a relationship six years earlier that ended badly. Based on the contentious nature of their interactions, it was pretty tempestuous, and they pick right up where they left off.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Worf and K’Ehleyr use the holodeck the way you know that most of the crew probably really does use it: as a sex aid. The calisthenics program gets to be foreplay.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Pulaski snarks Riker at the poker game (“What’s the matter, your feet are getting cold?” to which Riker replies, “My cards are getting cold”), only to lose badly to Worf.

Welcome Aboard: Suzie Plakson, having wowed the producers as Selar in “The Schizoid Man,” returns as K’Ehleyr, the first of two appearances in the role. Lance LeGault has sufficient bluster as the Klingon captain, while Georgann Johnson is perfectly ordinary as Admiral Gromek.

Best of all, though, we get two Robert Knepper moments for the price of one! Anne Ramsay returns as Clancy, this time as a conn officer rather than assistant chief engineer as she was in “Elementary, Dear Data,” and we also get comedian Deitrich Bader (best known as Oswald on The Drew Carey Show) as a tactical officer.

I Believe I Said That: “You’re upset.”

“Your finely honed Betazoid sense tell you that?”

“Well, that, and the table.”

Troi and K’Ehleyr, following K’Ehleyr smashing a table in frustration.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Emissary”

Trivial Matters: The poker game makes a triumphant return, firmly establishing itself as a regular thing.

Worf’s calisthenics program returns for a second time, after previously being seen in the teaser of “Where Silence Has Lease,” but this time it actually relates to the plot of the rest of the episode.

K’Ehleyr will return in “Reunion” in the fourth season. Her first meeting with Worf was chronicled in the young-adult novels Line of Fire and Survival by Peter David.

The T’Ong was a reuse of one of the Klingon battle cruisers from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Make it So: “The iceman wins again!” An episode like this lives or dies entirely upon the actors. If the wrong person is cast as the guest love interest, or if that person doesn’t have any kind of chemistry with the person in the main guest they’re paired up with, it all falls apart.

Luckily, that’s not remotely an issue here. Suzie Plakson is superb as K’Ehleyr, creating one of the best guest stars in TNG’s entire run. Plakson imbues her with tremendous verve and personality, as she charms pretty much everyone on board — except, of course, for Worf. And Michael Dorn plays beautifully off her, his impersonation of a “Klingon glacier” contrasting beautifully with her freewheeling nature.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “The Emissary”

The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but it’s mostly there as an excuse for Worf and K’Ehleyr to snark at each other, and for Worf to get his first shot at command — after a fashion. His solution is clever and effective. It’s easily Worf’s best showcase to date, and Dorn makes tremendous use of it, showing the character’s range of emotion without sacrificing the character’s trademark stoicism. It’s a remarkably subtle performance, made all the more effective by its contrast with Plakson’s near over-the-top turn.

An excellent piece by one of TNG’s most reliable writing teams in Manning and Beimler.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a lot of Star Trek fiction that focused heavily on Worf, including the novels Diplomatic Implausibility, The Brave and the Bold, Q & A, and A Time for War, a Time for Peace, the short stories “Revelations” in New Frontier: No Limits and “Family Matters” in Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows, the eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment, and the comic book Perchance to Dream. His most recent novels are Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his podcasts, Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
The second we started snarking about the holodeck scenes, this episode was always the one that came to mind. Calistenics indeed. XD
2. Cat
Deitrich Bader though a comedian got to do one of the most dead pan roles in existence as he was the voice of Batman on The Batman series which featured a Bruce Wayne new to being Batman. He's also done a lot of other voice work as well.
3. Scavenger
@Cat. Actually, while Deitrich Bader, was on The Batman, he didn't play Batman. He does play Batman on the current Brave & The Bold series, which is a far more irreverant version of the character.
5. Teka Lynn
K’Ehleyr! I absolutely adore this character, and Suzi Plakson plays her with such verve and depth.
6. Christopher L. Bennett
@2&3: Rino Romano played the lead in The Batman, making him the only actor who's ever played both Batman and Spider-Man. As for Bader, I didn't remember he'd ever done a TNG episode. That means both the actors playing Batman in current animated shows -- Bader in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Bruce Greenwood in Young Justice -- have played Starfleet officers as well.

As for "The Emissary," it was cool to see the K'tinga-class Klingon battlecruiser again, even if it was just recycled footage from TMP. Subsequent Klingon ship designs have just gotten uglier and uglier, so it's a shame we didn't see more of this one.
7. Anony
I always wondered about those dominating wall-of-face viewscreen conversations. Is it set up that way to keep the Starfleet captains from feeling too full of themselves?
Jenny Thrash
8. Sihaya
"I Believe I Said That: “You’re upset.”
“Your finely honed Betazoid sense tell you that?”
“Well, that, and the table.”
Troi and K’Ehleyr, following K’Ehleyr smashing a table in frustration."

That's one of those sort of small lines that actually matter in the long run. Troi is pretty annoying through the first season and much of the first half of the second for being just what you call her - Counselor Obvious. She reaches deep into her psyche and relies on her finely honed empathic abilities to figure out what most people could with two seconds of simple observation. She appears, at fiurst, to be all heart and no brain. Over time little exchanges like this helped to fine tune her, and by season three she's less a charicature and more of a character. By the time the series ends she actually is indespenseable.
9. Ginomo
An 8 for "The Emissary!" I think I love you, Krad! (Scratch that, I've read all your Klingon novels and I know I do.)

I watched the first few seaons of TNG after they originally aired so I'd forgotten that this is really only the second "Worf episode" of the series. I think you're spot on, an episode like this is all about the characters. I wish there had been more K'Ehleyr throughout TNG, she was a great character that Plakson played perfectly.

I also wish there had been a little more back story. Why was Worf so pissed when he first saw her? I wonder if there had been plans to flesh this out that never came to fruition.
Valentin M
10. ValMar
Great episod. K'Ehleyr is magnificent!
Andrew Love
11. AndyLove
I was taken aback when I realized that the woman who plays Marshall's Minnesotan mother on "How I Met Your Mother" was Suzie Plakson
12. Chessara
What a fun, delightful character K’Ehleyr is! I loved this episode when I first saw it and this time around I enjoyed it even more, if that's possible. :)

I also wish we had seen far more of her throughout the rest of the show, what a shame!

Worf's "I AM relaxed" line is priceless!

Btw, I propose a "Commander Obvious" Subcategory to Troi's :p .... really, the best thing that Riker can say when the Klingon ship cloaks itself is: "They've cloaked themselves"???

13. DianeB
Oh, K'Ehleyr, how much I adored you! This episode was one of my absolute favorites. Nice re-watch, Krad.
14. Pendard
Definitely one of the few gems of the second season. And since other commenters have already said how wonderful Suzie Plakson is, I'm just going to observe that Michael Dorn really rocks it in this episode!
Justin Devlin
15. EnsignJayburd
I think Troi's original line about the table was, "Uh-oh! Looks like somebody has a case of The Mondays."
16. CNash
Is this the first example of a glass-topped table coming to a shattered end at the hands of a Klingon? Worf's broken a number of them in his time; one wonders why he keeps replacing them.
17. Etherbeard
Worf looked totally BA in that Klingon command garb.
18. ScottM
"An episode like this lives or dies entirely upon the actors. If the wrong person is cast as the guest love interest, or if that person doesn’t have any kind of chemistry with the person in the main guest they’re paired up with, it all falls apart....Luckily, that’s not remotely an issue here. Suzie Plakson is superb as K’Ehleyr, creating one of the best guest stars in TNG’s entire run."

Interesting. I thought she was absolutely dreadful. I was happy to see her killed off in "Reunion". I suppose it's difficult being a Klingon female, raised in a warrior society but seen as a drastically weaker sex in almost every way. Still, other actors have given far more believable interpretations of that than Plakson did. I thought her performance was more appropriate for a human raised by Vulcans than for a Klingon. Her performance ruined virtually every scene she was in (at least, for me). The rest, though, was superb.
19. Bluejay Young
They made a huge mistake getting rid of K’Ehleyr. She was easily one of the most likeable characters in the entire series. Suzie Plakson was clearly enjoying the hell out of it.

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