Jan 10 2012 2:13pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Sins of the Father”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”“Sins of the Father”
Written by Drew Deighan and Ronald D. Moore & W. Reed Moran
Directed by Les Landau
Season 3, Episode 17
Production episode 40273-165
Original air date: March 19, 1990
Stardate: 43685.2

Captain’s Log: As part of the same officer exchange program that sent Riker to the Pagh a year earlier, Commander Kurn of the Klingon Defense Force transfers to temporarily take over as first officer, having requested the Enterprise specifically. He puts the crew through their paces — riding the crew pretty hard, from pulling a surprise inspection on engineering during a maintenance cycle to being generally patronizing toward Worf.

The final straw for the latter is during a dinner in the captain’s mess, where Kurn describes the food as too bland for the stomach of a Klingon, and when La Forge points out that it suits Worf just fine, he simply says, “Yes” with quite the sneer.

When Worf confronts Kurn in private, Kurn’s disdain is palpable, dismissive of Starfleet and the ship as being too geared toward comfort and being at ease, and Worf as being soft. Worf finally blows up at him (“I am Klingon! If you doubt it, a demonstration can be arranged!”), which is what Kurn has been waiting for.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Kurn, it turns out, is Worf’s younger brother. When Worf’s parents left for Khitomer, Kurn was less than a year old, so he stayed with a family friend named Lorgh. After they were killed, Lorgh raised Kurn as his own, not telling him the truth until he reached the Age of Ascension.

Worf assumes that Kurn asked to be assigned to the Enterprise to watch Worf, and satisfy his curiosity about how much of a Klingon he still was after being raised by humans and serving in Starfleet. But Kurn’s reasons are far more complicated: as the elder brother it is up to Worf to challenge the High Council’s ruling that their father, Mogh, was a traitor to the empire.

The allegations — brought about by Duras, the son of Mogh’s rival Ja’rod — are that Mogh gave the Romulans the codes necessary to bring the shields down and destroy the Khitomer outpost, killing 4000 Klingons (including both Mogh and Ja’rod). Worf asks Picard to grant him leave to travel to challenge the ruling, but Picard refuses — instead diverting the Enterprise to the Klingon homeworld so that Worf’s captain can stand by his side as he faces his father’s accusers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

The catch, though, is that if Worf fails in his challenge, he will be executed as a traitor. Kurn asks to be Worf’s cha’DIch — his second — in order to defend him, since he will be denied combat during the proceedings. Worf accepts, but tells Kurn that he must identify himself as the son of Lorgh, this way if Worf fails, he will survive. Kurn insists that he be allowed to admit to being the son of Mogh, but Worf says, “On this ship, you are my commander and I obey. But in Council Chambers, you are my cha’DIch. You do not insist. You obey.”

They arrive at the Great Hall in the First City. Worf officially challenges the lies told about his father. Duras sneers even more than Kurn did earlier, going so far as to rip Worf’s baldric off and backhand him.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

After the initial session, Chancellor K’mpec declares a recess before the meqba’, when the evidence will be presented. After the dismissal, K’mpec speaks to Worf alone, offering to let him leave before the meqba’, the challenge forgotten, with no consequences to him. Worf is aghast that K’mpec would ask him to dishonor himself so.

Meanwhile, Kurn is called to a rendezvous, which turns out to be with Duras — who knows that Kurn is also a son of Mogh. He offers Kurn a chance to back off, which Kurn naturally refuses. So Duras’s paid assassins stab him with a nasty blade.

Kurn is saved by Crusher back on the Enterprise, but Worf fears that Duras knowing his brother’s bloodlines will mean the end of his life anyhow.

Worf and Picard are both convinced that something bigger is going on here. Worf then asks Picard to be his new cha’DIch. At first, Picard is reluctant to accept, but Worf sucks up a bit, and the captain says yes.

Riker, Data, La Forge, and Crusher dig through both the evidence against Worf and the records of the U.S.S. Intrepid (the Starfleet ship that responded to Khitomer’s distress call), and they discover two things: one, the evidence was tampered with, as it doesn’t quite line up with the Intrepid’s sensor logs; two, that there was another survivor: Worf’s nurse Kahlest.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Picard finds Kahlest living in the old quarter. At first, the old woman refuses to help Picard, but then two assassins try to kill him. Picard kills one, and Kahlest kills the other. Picard then asks if the Council will recognize her; she says that K’mpec knew her back in the day. In the hopes that it might shake loose the truth, Picard brings her to the Great Hall.

The minute she enters the Great Hall, K’mpec summons her, Picard, Worf, and Duras into his office. Duras tries to get Kahlest to talk, but Picard insists she only speak in open Council. Duras says that she’ll die before she gets to give any evidence there.

K’mpec snarls at Duras, asking if he’ll now kill an old woman to cover his dishonor — and the other shoe drops. It was Duras’s father who was the traitor. A Klingon cruiser captured a Romulan vessel with logs that showed a Klingon signalled the Romulans, but the warriors on the cruiser didn’t know whose code it was — only the Council did. But the House of Duras is powerful and condemning Ja’rod would shatter the Council and plunge the empire into civil war. Since Worf was in the Federation, and they didn’t know Mogh’s other son was alive and well, it seemed safest to blame Mogh and hope nobody would notice.

Both Picard and Worf are pretty disgusted that an empire that claims to, as Picard puts it, “hold honor so dear” would condemn Worf (and Kurn) to death for political expediency. Picard refuses to turn either his chief of security or Kurn (still in his sickbay) over to the Council — a ballsy move, since it would sunder the Klingon-Federation alliance.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Worf then announces that he’s willing to die for the empire. When Picard objects, Worf — for the first and last time in his entire career — snaps at Picard: “The cha’DIch would be silent!” He asks only that Kurn be allowed his life. “Only you need know his true bloodlines,” he says with a sneer worthy of that of Duras and Kurn both.

Duras, in a hilarious bit of unintended irony, says that it’s unacceptable because Kurn’s honor would demand justice (like he’d know about that). Worf then offers something as good as his life: he accepts discommendation. He will be banished from the empire and deemed a traitor, and will do so in open Council.

Before they go out into the Great Hall again, however, Worf needs to do one last thing: he backhands Duras and declares him a traitor. Then he turns to an approving K’mpec and says, “Now I am ready.”

The entire Council crosses their wrists in front of their faces and turns their back on Worf one by one — including, reluctantly, Kurn. Worf’s brother was willing to die, but Picard tells him not to forget what Worf has done today. “Do not let your children forget.”

Afterward, Worf walks out of the Great Hall for what he believes to be the last time.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: During the dinner in the captain’s mess, Kurn mentions that he had to restrain himself from killing Riker earlier, and Troi laughs, not realizing at first that he isn’t kidding.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

The Boy!?: Kurn lights into Wes from jump, and he later complains to Riker that he can’t seem to do a thing right in Kurn’s eyes.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: We learn Worf’s father’s name for the first time, and also discover that Worf has a brother, as well as a nurse. It was established in “Heart of Glory” that all Worf knew of being a Klingon was through study, not direct experience, and that conflict comes to a head here. Worf is, in many ways, an ideal Klingon, but ideals don’t always work in political reality. What the High Council no doubt all view as a day at the office is appalling to Worf, who cannot abide such behavior.

But in the end, he understands that he must act to preserve the empire, and so sacrifices his own honor and his standing among his people in order to do so.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: K’mpec had the hots for Kahlest back in the day, but she rejected him, deeming him to be too fat. When they meet again in the chancellor’s office, K’mpec declares that it’s good to see her again, and she just looks at him and says he’s still fat.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

I Believe I Said That: “It is a good day to die, Duras, and the day is not yet over.”

Worf quoting Crazy Horse, and setting the tone for pretty much all future Klingon dialogue.

Welcome Aboard: Tony Todd makes the first of several magnificent appearances at Worf’s brother Kurn. He takes over the screen from the moment he beams on board, and for all that it’s Worf’s episode (and it totally is), Todd’s presence helps sell it.

The excellent Charles Cooper and Patrick Massett make the first of two appearances as K’mpec and Duras, with both coming back in “Reunion” in the fourth season. Cooper previously appeared as another gravelly voiced Klingon, General Koord (wearing a very similar cassock), in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Thelma Lee is effective as Kahlest, initially haunted and hiding in her hovel, coming out of her shell in response to Picard’s bravery against the assassins.

Trivial Matters: This episode starts the first real major story arc in Star Trek TV history, as the Klingon politics introduced in this episode continue to recur throughout both TNG and Deep Space Nine, finally coming to a head in the DS9 episode “Tacking Into the Wind,” also written by Moore.

We get our first view of the Klingon homeworld in this episode, the design of which won an Art Direction Emmy for production designer Richard James. The world would be dubbed Qo’noS in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It’s also the first formal establishment of the Klingon governmental structure: a High Council administrates, led by a chancellor (though that title would also not be established until Star Trek VI).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Kahlest says that Mogh was “loyal to the emperor,” even though no emperor is seen in this story, and “Rightful Heir” would later establish that there has been no Klingon emperor for centuries.

This episode also provides more details of the Khitomer massacre that claimed Worf’s parents: Romulan ships got the access codes to the outpost so they could lower the shields and destroy the place. A Klingon gave the Romulans those codes, revealed in this episode to be Ja’rod, Duras’s father. The family’s proclivity for working with the Romulans will be seen again in “Reunion” and “Redemption.” It’s also established that the Intrepid was the ship that rescued Worf, and is implied to be the ship on which Worf’s human foster father served — that will be more formally established in “Family” when we meet retired Chief Petty Officer Sergey Rozhenko.

Using details established in this and other episodes, your humble rewatcher dramatized the Khitomer massacre in full in his Lost Era novel The Art of the Impossible, including the build-up, how the Council didn’t know that Kurn didn’t take the trip, why Worf didn’t remember that he had a brother nor that his nurse survived, why Kahlest kept her survival a secret, and how Chief Rozhenko came to take him into his home. Lorgh is also established in that novel as an agent of Klingon Imperial Intelligence, and he appears in several novels after that (among them Warpath and A Time to Kill by David Mack, my own A Burning House, and possibly in an upcoming novel by David R. George III).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”The House of Duras will continue to be antagonists through this and two more series: Duras will return in “Reunion”; his sisters Lursa and B’Etor become recurring villains in “Redemption,” “Firstborn,” DS9’s “Past Prologue,” and Star Trek Generations; and an ancestor also named Duras shows up to cause trouble for Jonathan Archer in Enterprise’s “Judgment,” “Bounty,” and “The Expanse.”

It’s easy to forget, given that it’s pretty much abandoned after Act 1, but we also get to see the officer exchange program from “A Matter of Honor” make a triumphant return. It becomes very quickly apparent that Riker handles Klingon food a lot better than Kurn handles human food (which is kind of funny, now that I think about it...). The program will be seen again in “The Drumhead.”

Make it So: “Execute!” All by itself, this is a truly fine episode, a grand political epic filled with intrigue, secrets, double crosses, action, and noble sacrifices. Even though the Klingons have been a major part of Star Trek since their introduction in “Errand of Mercy” (half a dozen episodes of the original series, a couple of episodes of TNG, plus four of the five movies that had been released to this point), this was the first time we saw their homeworld and their government up close.

Looking back twenty years later, it’s even more amazing. The groundwork for so many episodes of both TNG and DS9 was laid in this episode.

And what an episode it is for Worf. The introduction of the long-lost younger brother could be the worst of all clichés, but it’s totally sold on the skills of both Tony Todd as that brother and Michael Dorn in one of his best performances to date. The character goes through so much here and — just as in “The Emissary” — he comes through in the end with a last-minute brainstorm that solves the problem, though this time it’s one that comes at a deep personal price.

Sir Patrick Stewart also gets to shine, as Worf asks the little bald human to be his cha’DIch, and damn if he doesn’t live up to the role and more so, without ever once losing his authority or gravitas, even as he kicks assassin ass outside Kahlest’s home.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

What holds the episode back a bit are a bunch of minor nits. The script feels sloppy in spots — “the Klingon Imperial Empire” from the Department of Multiple Redundancies Department; Worf calling the assassin’s weapon used on Kurn “ceremonial,” which is an adjective to describe weapons that aren’t actually used; going straight from Wes and La Forge telling Riker that Worf is the only one Kurn isn’t harassing to a scene of Worf being harassed by Kurn. We waste an entire act with the Enterprise crew being bullied by Kurn, which are scenes that actually work well on their own, but in retrospect feel like they wandered in from a different episode. It might have been fun to do “A Matter of Honor” in reverse and really seen how Kurn adjusted to Starfleet, but it was abandoned once the A-plot kicked in.

And director Landau, normally one of the more reliable of TNG’s stable, makes a lot of odd choices. He darkens the transporter room so Kurn can be in shadow, and does other silly lighting tricks, like the bright light on Worf when he’s in Council chambers. There are some odd camera angles, looking up at people (in an episode already filled with ridiculously tall folks like Dorn, Todd, Massett, and Cooper), with the worst offender being Worf’s opening statement, where the camera’s angled right up Michael Dorn’s nose.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: “Sins of the Father”

Also, the consequences to Worf’s sacrifice are pretty big on paper, but they come without significantly affecting the status quo. I mean, yes, he’s accepted permanent exile from his homeland, but it’s a place he’s spent almost no time in anyhow.

Finally, there’s just too damned much shouting. I mean, really, I know Klingons are bombastic, but it just gets ridiculous after a while.

Still, a great episode that just sets up more greatness.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is particularly proud of The Art of the Impossible and thinks you should all go out and buy it right now this minute. Go to his web site for links to his blog, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, not to mention ways in which you can buy some other of his books that he’s proud of, like the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct.

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1. sps49
Kurn is Candyman! (well, Tony Todd played both.)

I knew he looked familiar, but I only just now recognized him.
Jenny Thrash
2. Sihaya
Nobody else sounds like Tony Todd.

I remember this episode because of the sets and paintings. The family TV had just died and been replaced by a new one - twenty seven whole inches! The episode was so darned visual, it was really great fun to watch.
3. Tesh
Tony Todd later did a great job as an older Jake Sisko, too.

...I'm still waiting for a good Klingon series. I think there's potential there, and I'd have readily taken a good one over ENT.
4. critter42
Tony is one of my favorite Trek guest stars. While I love Kurn, my favorite role of his was as the adult Jake Sisco in the DS9 Episode The Visitor
(which is my 3rd favorite Trek episode overall after The Inner Light and Chains of Command pt II)
Michael Burstein
5. mabfan
Keith, you say in this re-watch both that a few tiny things hold the episode back from being great and that it is great. Well, which is it? :-)

Personally, I've always thought it was brilliant. I had forgotten Tony Todd played Kurn; he has been excellent in everything I've seen him in.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Nate Shouse
6. MnemonicNate
I'm curious about Worf accepting the discommendation...at the end of the episode, it makes it seem as though he's accepted the rejection of his homeworld and his people, and is content to be an outsider within Starfleet and on the Enterprise, but then the rest of the series Worf is struggling with that choice and ultimately ends up being 'forgiven' and having his father's name (and house) restored. It's almost as if Moore gave us a brief pocket into the Klingon world and tied up some loose ends, and everyone in the writing room said "Great episode!", but sometime during the next season someone else said, "Well, but wait...would Worf be cool with this?" This is me just nitpicking, of course.

Fantastic episode. I love the soundtrack, and despite some of the odd lighting, I loved the lighting and artwork and costumes...everything about this episode is great. It makes me look forward to the barroom scene that opens Season 5.
Margot Virzana
7. LuvURphleb
Maybe kurn called ahead for a more dramatic entrance when they beamed him aboard?
I too thought some of the camera angles were odd but overall i love this episode. Cant wait for Reunion!
8. Christopher L. Bennett
"The world would be dubbed Qo’noS in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country."

Well, technically it was dubbed Kronos in TUC, and then Marc Okrand retconned the name to Qo'noS in his supplement to The Klingon Dictionary, and the latter was the one that caught on subsequently.

On the subject of this episode's glitches, the one that stands out for me is that the first time the term "discommendation" (a rare but legitimate word) is used in Trek canon, Michael Dorn mispronounces it as "discommodation." And that incorrect form of the word showed up in several subsequent Trek novels and comics as a result of Dorn's error. Dorn's gone on to become such an accomplished voice actor in the years since that it's easy to forget his diction was poorer in early TNG.
9. Scavenger
@MnemonicNate: It's one thing to decide to make a heroic sacrifice and plan to be stoic about it. It's another to actually follow through on that plan.
10. Jeff R.
We'll get there in a few weeks, but, @Scavenger and @MnemonicNate, I'm pretty sure that discovering that he has a son who also would be rendered an exile by that decision is what changes the equation for Worf...
11. Scavenger
Jeff..Good point. I'd forgotten about Alexander....but who here can't claim to try for that as well?
12. JMH
To be fair about the "ceremonial" thing... it really depends on the culture and the ceremony. As my specific sort of pagan, I have a ceremonial knife and it is quite definitely used, I just don't cut my steak with it. It's special.
And then, when you get into translation problems AND Worf only really having a (probably English/Federation) book understanding of Klingeon culture... I'm just saying, it's an easily explanable word choice.
Jenny Thrash
13. Sihaya
At the time I figured that the Klingons would be likely to have ceremonial knives which were used only for ritualistic omerta assassinations. When jobs were done, the blades were probably always sent back to the head of the assassin's family on a cloth that had been marked in runes of blood. If the assassination had been a failure, then the intended victim would send the knife back with a different set of runes, and the knife would be destroyed. Being the modern Klingon empire, the practice would have been outlawed a century or so ago, but it wouldn't mean the knives weren't kept hidden in old trunks. Made plenty of sense to me.
14. Pendard
This is a great episode once it gets going, but what KRAD said about the first act being a bit of a waste is certainly true. It's too bad, because there's certainly no need to kill time with this kind of material.

Ron Moore's Klingon stories were a great addition to TNG. Worf was so different from the rest of the TNG crew, so it is sort of fitting that his episodes are so different as well -- darker, more violent, not to mention serialized to a certain extent. You can feel that a different morality is in play in a Klingon episode. Later this season, it's kind of a pleasant surprise when Picard punches a Ferengi instead of trying to talk to him (in "Captain's Holiday"), but here Picard is stabbing a Klingon assassin to death and we don't blink an eye. It goes well with Star Trek's cultural relativism -- right and wrong are cultural norms, not absolute.
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
Pendard: He's stabbing a Klingon assassin to death in order to keep the Klingon assassin from stabbing him to death. It's unassailably self-defense. :)

As for the first act, I actually rather like it, but it so totally doesn't fit with the rest of the episode....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Nate Shouse
16. MnemonicNate
@Scavenger: Good point! Riker complains about his apparent lack of 'ambition' in 'Best of Both Worlds I,' but how many times has he shied away from his own captain's chair? If he was as career-minded as he says he is, he would've been gone in Season 1.

@Jeff: That's a good point, and something that I think might show more of the depth of Worf's character, as I wonder how eager other Klingons would be to: 1) Accept discommendation, and 2) Change their mind on the basis of their child and fight against the backlash. Klingons don't seem to change their minds very easily.

I can't remember how many scripts Ron Moore had this far into Season 3...probably no more than 5? Interesting that he writes for both Romulans and Klingons so early on.
Keith DeCandido
17. krad
Nate: This was the fourth script to bear Moore's name on the credits -- the others being "The Bonding," "The Defector," and "Yesterday's Enterprise." (In the case of "YE," he was one of six credited writers.....)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
19. Seryddwr
A brilliant episode, even if the first ten minutes could be excised without losing much.

Re: the name of the Klingon homeworld, I seem to recall a line in the season 1 episode 'Heart Of Glory' in which one of the rescued Klingons talks of 'the traitors of Kling'. I for one am very happy that this got retconned to a district on the Klingon homeworld in the Star Trek Encyclopedia, because as a name for the planet, it is, as they say down our way, rwtsh.

One more thing: Tony Todd rules!
20. Mike Kelm
I think it's a pretty interesting that Worf, who is a very by the book (in an almost literal sense) is okay with knowing that he is right and that the truth is revealed if only to be covered up again for the benefit of his people. It's a very self-sacrificing notion and sort of in line with the Vulcan creed of the good of the many outweighing the good of the one. It's as if his personal sense of honor is satisfied with having said what he needs to say (and backhanding someone) and that is enough.
21. Gettysburg7
I always like the begining and felt it belonged for a few reasons.

1) It gets Kurn on the Enterprise easily, with a continuity nod to A Matter of Honor

2) It gives us some nice, and well done, Trek humor in an episode which would have been very dark instead of mostly dark without it, and;

3) When Kurn (and my God, Tony Todd is so great in all his Trek roles!) reveals to Worf who he really it, seeing his interaction with the crew, it has a little more, to me, punch.

I always took the begining to be Kurn sizing Worf up, and also allowing us to see things about the crew (man, this episode and Chains of Command show what whiny bitches the Enterprise crew can be if they are pushed out of their comfort zone even a little) from the outside.

I mean, withouot that begining we wouldn't have the line that always makes me laugh out loud, "None taken. I never kill anyone at the supper table, Mr. La Forge."

That is filled with awesome sauce!
22. JohnC
I agree with Gettysburg - the beginning has a different tone from what follows, but it sets up the episode and I too thought it was important to show Kurn's thought process in needing to test his brother for his own satistfaction, to be sure he was worthy of representing the family at the challenge. This marks 3 strong episodes in a row, highlighting different main characters. The common thread in all of them is that Picard is the man. He's principled, thoughtful, honorable, and the softer he speaks when he's challenged, the more menacing he sounds. To me, the best-delivered line isn't Worf's "good day to die", it's Picard glowering at the Klingon who questions his courage, to which he says "you may test that theory. At your convenience.". Pure bald bad-assery.
23. Brett Alan
Good review, but I don't get the nitpick about how Kern is treating Worf. Geordie and Wes say that the only person Kern isn't cracking the whip on is Worf...and we cut to see that Kern, while cracking the whip on everyone else, is praising Worf and treating him with kid gloves. So, yes, he's harassing him, but that was kind of G&W's point--Kern's being a jerk to everyone, by being tough on everyone except the one guy who wants him to.

Tony Todd rules.
24. Jenny87
Great episode! On a separate note, I met Tony Todd at a convention and he is an amazingly nice guy. His height was a little intimidating, but he was pretty much a big teddy bear. :P
Not what I was expecting to say the least.
MaGnUs von Tesla
25. lordmagnusen
The "Klingon Imperial Empire" was so ridiculous! But this is a grteat episode, and the groundwork it sets for future things is essential.

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