Mar 13 2012 4:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Reunion”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion“Reunion”
Written by Drew Deighan and Thomas Perry & Jo Perry and Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 4, Episode 7
Production episode 40274-181
Original air date: November 5, 1990
Stardate: 44246.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is hailed by a Klingon ship that is carrying the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, K’Ehleyr. She has a matter of some urgency to discuss with the crew. Picard sends Worf to greet her — Worf points out that K’Ehleyr may be offended by his discommendation, and Picard slaps him down, saying that he can’t go into hiding every time a Klingon ship decloaks.

Upon arriving in the transporter room, Worf’s discommendation proves to be the least of the awkwardness, as the ambassador beams aboard with a young son named Alexander, who has the same forehead crest as Worf. (Worf is also surprised that there are two to beam aboard at first, though that confusion doesn’t really make sense — ambassadors often have aides, after all. But whatever.)

K’Ehleyr leaves Alexander in the Enterprise’s day-care center and then meets with the senior staff. Two factions are vying for power within the Klingon Empire. Up until now, K’mpec has held them in check, but he’s dying. He’s on the cruiser K’Ehleyr came in, and has requested to speak to Picard alone.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

K’mpec looks much worse than he did the last time we saw him. Once he and Picard are alone, he says he needs the captain’s help. Picard offers the Enterprise’s medical facility, but it’s too late for that: he’s been slowly poisoned by Veridium 6, which has no cure. He wants Picard to serve as Arbiter of Succession between the two factions to determine who will lead the High Council after K’mpec’s death. He can’t trust anyone on the High Council, and he has his reasons for wanting an outsider.

Picard refuses, but K’mpec has already given the order — since if he’d asked, Picard would have said no. Picard is antsy about being put in the position to choose the next leader of a major power, but K’mpec explains that as Arbiter, he must determine who are the two strongest candidates and then they fight for the honor of being chancellor. Picard is now confused: there are only two factions, so what would be the point? But K’mpec’s real reason for wanting Picard is that he wants to find out which of the two petitioners is responsible for poisoning K’mpec. A Klingon who kills without showing his face has no honor and can’t be permitted to rule.

What really gets Picard’s attention, though, is the name of one of the two candidates: Duras. The same guy who tried to have Picard killed and conspired to strip Worf of his good name.

K’mpec dies shortly thereafter. The Enterprise must now wait for Duras and the other petitioner, Gowron, to arrive. Meanwhile, Alexander doesn’t fit in with the other kids on the ship, and Worf takes him out of daycare and back to K’Ehleyr’s quarters.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

Worf and K’Ehleyr argue for a while, covering an impressive range of topics: how K’Ehleyr is raising Alexander, why Worf can’t acknowledge him (as his son, his dishonor would also affect the boy), and why Worf accepted discommendation in the first place (the true reasons are known only to Picard, Worf, Kurn, and the High Council).

Gowron and Duras show up in their own ships. Duras begins the conversation in full-on snotty mode (“Let’s get this over with, Picard”), and says that Picard shouldn’t be involved in this. Picard announces that the Sonchi ceremony will begin in one hour. Duras gets pissed, asking what the delay is, and Picard calmly states that there is no delay, it’s the time he’s chosen. After a parting shot at Worf (“Keep that petaQ away from the ceremony, Picard! He has no place on a Klingon ship!”), Duras signs off.

Picard and Worf speak in the former’s ready room. Picard shares K’mpec’s dying wishes. Worf does not believe Duras should be allowed to lead the council because his father was a traitor, but Picard can’t hold Duras responsible for his father’s crime. He can hold Duras responsible for placing the blame for Ja’rod’s actions on Mogh, but Worf accepted the consequences of that lie when he agreed to discommendation.

On K’mpec’s ship, they perform the Sonchi (the word literally means, “he is dead”). Picard, Gowron, and Duras each walk up to K’mpec’s corpse and shove a painstik into his chest in order to confirm that he’s really dead. Duras lingers for several extra seconds with his painstik, and then urges Picard to get on with it, since it’s obvious who the two challengers are. Picard wants to reconvene aboard the Enterprise, but Duras wants to finish it now.

And then a bomb goes off.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

Two Klingons are killed, and several are injured. Afterward, Worf goes to K’Ehleyr’s cabin to get her report on the explosion, during which they admit that they still have strong feelings for each other — K’Ehleyr even goes so far to almost apologize for keeping Alexander from him. They come within a hairsbreadth of taking the oath, but Worf backs off. His discommendation means he can’t mate with her, nor acknowledge Alexander. K’Ehleyr is cranky about it, but accepts his wishes, asking only that, if Worf can’t be Alexander’s father, to at least be his friend.

K’Ehleyr then meets with Picard, who wants to delay the ceremony until they can finish examining the bomb debris and the bodies. While the modern rite of succession has a declaration of the two finalists, and then the fight, K’Ehleyr tells Picard about an old ceremony called the ja’chuq, during which the petitioners must recite the victories they’ve won, the honors they’ve claimed, to show their worthiness to lead the High Council.

Duras and Gowron snipe at each other, with Duras accusing Gowron of planting the bomb. They start to go at it until Picard yells “mev yap!” (“Enough!”) and tells them to sit down. Gowron deliberately turns his back, on Duras in order to return to his seat, a major insult (though his wide smile is an even bigger one). When Picard announces that the ja’chuq is next, they are incensed, as that ritual is “obsolete,” but Picard doesn’t give them a choice. (Duras looks pouty at this information, but Gowron looks thoughtful. His initial assessment of Picard is dismissive, but we start to see respect here.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

Alexander is in Worf’s quarters, looking at his bat’leth, which Worf says has been in his family for ten generations. Meanwhile, Gowron comes to speak to K’Ehleyr alone, offering her whatever she might want, up to and including a seat on the High Council (even though later episodes establish that women can’t serve on the Council), if she’ll just quicken the pace.

In one of the most jarring scenes in TNG history, Riker walks into engineering to meet with Data and La Forge. Up until now, every scene has been about the Klingons, and there’ve been a lot of dark rooms and tall cranky people with bony foreheads and wearing armor. To suddenly see these three in the brightly lit engine room is a bit of a “whoa, Nelly!” moment.

Anyhow, Data and La Forge report that the bomb was a triceron derivative — and the bomb used a molecular-decay detonator, which only Romulans use. A Romulan connection is problematic, since a new Klingon-Romulan alliance would seriously muck with the local balance of power.

K’Ehleyr tells everyone about Gowron’s visit to her, but Worf is convinced that Duras is the one working with Romulans — but neither he nor Picard are willing to provide details of their distrust. K’Ehleyr, therefore, goes back to her cabin and starts digging up information on the events of “Sins of the Father.” She hits a firewall, though, as the records of the council sessions regarding the Khitomer inquiries have been sealed — by Duras.

After Gowron finishes his part of the ja’chuq, Picard declares that there will be a recess while he reviews the claims. He also wishes to discuss the findings of the bomb investigation, and summons Worf, whose presence is disruptive (a deliberate ploy on Picard’s part to mess with Duras and Gowron’s heads). He tells them that they detected a molecular-decay detonator — something neither of the Klingons’ sensor readings turned up. Both Duras and Gowron are shocked at this.

When Duras returns to his quarters, he is told that K’Ehleyr has been looking into the Khitomer investigation, and goes to her cabin to confront her. Thanks to her access to the Enterprise logs — including La Forge and Data’s discovery that evidence was altered — she knows that something’s up and throws it in Duras’s face.

In sickbay Crusher reports to Riker that she’s figured out where the bomb was, based on the tissue damage to the two who died: it was in the forearm of one of the Klingons, specifically, one of Duras’s guys. It looks like the intent was to take out Gowron before they could fight, thus guaranteeing Duras’s ascension.

Worf brings Alexander to K’Ehleyr’s quarters, only to find her draped over an ottoman, covered in blood and lacerations. She manages to tell Worf that Duras was the one who attacked her, and puts Alexander’s hand on Worf’s hand before dying. Worf clutches K’Ehleyr’s body to him, then looks to the ceiling and screams.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

When Crusher arrives, Worf leaves Alexander with her, then goes to his quarters. He removes his baldric and combadge, grabs his bat’leth, and transports to Duras’s ship. Picard sends Riker, Data, and a security guard after him.

Worf claims the right of vengeance to Duras, who claims that as a traitor he has no rights — until Worf declares that K’Ehleyr was his mate. Apparently that outweighs discommendation, and Duras picks up a sword.

The two fight, with Duras at one point trying to convince Worf that killing him will result in Worf being a traitor forever. “Then that is how it shall be,” Worf says, and the fight continues.

Riker, Data, and the security guard come in right after Worf knocks Duras to the deck. Riker calls out Worf’s name, and every convention of television in general and Star Trek in particular leads the viewer to believe that at this point, Worf will stay his hand and possibly make a speech about how vengeance doesn’t solve anything or some other nonsense —

— but instead, Worf just guts the bastard, slamming his bat’leth into Duras’s chest.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

The Klingons consider the matter closed, as Worf acted properly by Klingon tradition and law. Picard doesn’t, and makes it clear that a reprimand will appear on his record for abandoning his post like that. He also expresses sympathy for his loss, and asks if now would be a good time for the truth about Khitomer to come out. Worf says it isn’t yet, as the Council participated in that coverup, too, and they won’t be quick to admit to the deception, but Worf vows that he and his brother will one day convince them to tell the truth. (Besides, they need a plot for the season finale...)

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: One of the minor issues with “Sins of the Father” was that the actions of that episode didn’t really have much by way of day-to-day consequences, as Worf still continued to serve at tactical every week and still be grumpy and scowly and stuff. This episode, however, puts the discommendation front and center, as it has effects throughout the episode: worrying that K’Ehleyr may not wish to speak to him, poking Duras and Gowron with a stick when he shows up to report on the explosion, giving Duras yet another excuse to be an ass, and not being able to acknowledge his son. In the end, he’s still an outcast, though he does, at least, tell Alexander that he’s his father at the close of the episode.

I Believe I Said That: “Not even a bite on the cheek for old time’s sake?”

K’Ehleyr trying to get Worf to come out of his shell.

Welcome Aboard: It’s the triumphant return of three great guest actors, none of whom survive the episode: Patrick Massett, smarmy as ever as Duras; Charles Cooper, bringing tremendous gravitas to his one scene with Picard as K’mpec; and the magnificent Suzie Plakson making her encore as K’Ehleyr.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

Meantime, Robert O’Reilly makes an instant impression as the wide-eyed Gowron, a role that continues throughout all of TNG and Deep Space Nine. Jon Steuer is the first of four actors to play Alexander.

Trivial Matters: A sequel to both “The Emissary” and “Sins of the Father,” this episode establishes that Klingon politics will continue to be a recurring element on the show, as indeed it continues through not just TNG, but DS9 as well.

Since “The Emissary,” K’Ehleyr got appointed Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. This is significant on several levels. On DS9, Worf will eventually marry Jadzia Dax, a joined Trill whose previous host, Curzon Dax, was also once Federation Ambassador to the Empire, and at the end of DS9, Worf is appointed to that position. Back in “The Most Toys,” Worf said that he honored both Yar after she was killed in “Skin of Evil” and Data, who was believed killed in that episode, by continuing to do their duties, and I always thought it was fitting that he was made ambassador at the close of “What You Leave Behind” as a similar tribute to both K’Ehleyr and Jadzia.

K’Ehleyr will be established as being buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City in your humble rewatcher’s novel Diplomatic Implausibility.

It’s unclear when, exactly, Alexander was conceived. Given how fast he grows up over the course of TNG and DS9, it’s possible that he was conceived on the holodeck in “The Emissary.” But it’s equally plausible (since his age is never stated here or in any subsequent appearance) that he was conceived when Worf and K’Ehleyr had their initial relationship. The latter is problematic, though, since Worf and K’Ehleyr’s post-coital conversation in “The Emissary” indicated that that was their first time.

This episode introduces the bat’leth, a rather nifty Klingon weapon that will be used heavily in Klingon episodes, not just on TNG, but all the subsequent spinoffs. The script originally had it as batlh’etlh, which translates to “glory blade,” but it was simplified to bat’leth in subsequent scripts, probably to make life a little easier on the poor actors. It was designed, and Worf’s moves with it choreographed, by Dan Curry, the show’s visual effects supervisor, and also a tai chi master.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

While this episode ends with Gowron as the last man standing, his ability to ascend to the chancellorship will be challenged in “Redemption” at the end of this season by Duras’s two sisters.

This is the first of two times we’ll see a change in power atop the Klingon Empire. A standing chancellor can also be challenged and killed while serving — this is seen in both “Redemption” and on DS9’s “Tacking Into the Wind,” when Gowron is challenged both times. The ceremonies seen in this episode are obviously reserved for chancellors who die in a manner other than by challenge combat.

K’mpec’s rise to power from ship captain to councillor to chancellor is chronicled in your humble rewatcher’s novel The Art of the Impossible.

Riker makes specific reference to a “new” Klingon-Romulan alliance; the two empires were established as having some kind of alliance in “The Enterprise Incident” on the original series, and Worf mentioned in “The Neutral Zone” that the Khitomer Massacre that claimed his parents’ lives occurred when the Romulans and Klingons were allies (though La Forge also says here that the Klingons and Romulans had been “blood enemies” for 75 years, a time frame that includes Khitomer, but whatever...).

This is the second time seeing the Klingon death scream after its introduction in “Heart of Glory.” It will be seen twice more, both times involving Worf, on DS9, in “Tears of the Prophets” and “Tacking Into the Wind.”

Co-writer Thomas Perry is also the author of the Edgar Award-winning mystery novel The Butcher’s Boy, and also wrote the Jane Whitfield series of mysteries, and a variety of other novels (including Metzger’s Dog, which your humble rewatcher read in high school and really really liked).

Make it So:Qab jIH ngil” I freely admit to bias on this episode, as Worf is one of my two favorite characters in all Trekdom (the other being Kira Nerys on DS9), and I’ve always been a huge fan of Klingons going all the way back to being wowed by Kang on the original series’ “Day of the Dove” as an impressionable youth. I’ve also gotten a lot of mileage out of the various Klingon episodes in my Trek fiction.

But even with all that, I can unreservedly say that this is one of Star Trek’s finest hours. It’s a gripping story, both on a personal level — the return of K’Ehleyr and the revelation that she has a son by Worf — and on the grand scale, as one of the three most venerable alien races on Star Trek (along with Vulcans and Romulans) gets a change in power structure that is filled with intrigue. In only his second directorial endeavor, Jonathan Frakes establishes himself as one of the show’s best directors (indeed, he has established himself as one of the best TV directors working — he’s one of the regular helmers of Leverage these days — and this episode is a textbook example of how good he is).

And holy crap, is it all intense. It helps that you’ve got some great acting here. The whole episode would be worth it for the scene between Picard and K’mpec, as the crafty old politician manipulates Picard into fulfilling his dying wish. Suzie Plakson and Michael Dorn pick up where they left off in “The Emissary,” only this time it’s Worf who refuses to mate due to his own change in circumstances. Patrick Massett’s even snottier and whinier as Duras than he was in “Sins of the Father,” and it plays beautifully off of Robert O’Reilly sneering contempt as Gowron. (I particularly like how Duras is the one most eager to remind everyone that Worf is discommendated, especially since it’s his family’s dishonor that is being covered up by it. Just a little something to make us enjoy it more when Worf kills the twerp.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Reunion

Losing K’Ehleyr is a nasty blow — this isn’t the type of guest character who dies in her second appearance, so it’s more than a little shocking to find out that she came out on the losing end of her dispute with Duras. Indeed, she is one of the finest guest stars in TNG’s history, and it’s perhaps no greater testament to the strength of this episode that it remains great despite losing her.

It all ends with a truly epic swordfight, beautifully choreographed, and with minimal use of unconvincing stunt doubles (there are a lot of close-ups here; kudos to Dorn and Massett for selling it). And just as in “The Enemy,” the writers wisely choose not to try to superimpose human morality on an alien character. Vengeance is a right in Klingon culture, and Worf can do little else after learning that Duras killed the woman he said he would never be complete without. Plus, seriously, when he slams that bat’leth into Duras, it’s so cathartic...

Unlike “Sins of the Father,” which grafted an officer-exchange subplot to give the rest of the crew something to do, there isn’t even a pretense here. Beyond Picard and Worf, the main cast is all but absent, and you don’t really miss them. This grand political epic works just fine with the rest of the gang in a supporting-to-nonexistent role.


Warp factor rating: 10

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a whole buncha Klingon fiction: the novels Diplomatic Implausibility, The Art of the Impossible, A Good Day to Die, Honor Bound, Enemy Territory, A Burning House, The Brave and the Bold Book 2, A Singular Destiny, and A Time for War, a Time for Peace; the novellas The Unhappy Ones (in Seven Deadly Sins)andEnterprises of Great Pitch and Moment (part of the Slings and Arrows eBook miniseries); the short stories “loDnI’pu’ vavpu’ je” (Tales from the Captain’s Table) and “Family Matters” (Mirror Universe: Shards and Shadows); and the comic book Alien Spotlight: Klingons. Go to Keith’s web site, which is a gateway to his blog, his Facebook, his Twitter, and the various podcasts he’s involved with: Dead Kitchen Radio, The Chronic Rift, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

1. Rootboy
This one is awesome. Not sure it's a 10, and I do wish they hadn't killed K’Ehleyr so early, but I still love it.

My wife and I both totally ship Worf and K’Ehleyr, and celebrated Valentine's Day this year with a bottle of wine and a double feature of "The Emmissary" and "Reunion".
2. Brian Eberhardt
One of the best episodes in all of trek. When it originally aired, I didn't understand the impact Klingon politics was going to play in TNG or DS-9.
Worf punishment or lack there of, doesn't make any sense.
3. Scavenger
Of course it's a 10...half of KRAD's career is based on this episode :D

(Now imagine a world where he instead fell in love and declared "Samaritan Snare" as the best of Trek!)
4. Kvon
I always looked for Dan Curry's name in the credits. His brother was one of our teachers in medical school, and had a few pieces of star trek swag.

This was an amazing episode. I like that they felt free to change around the political structures of the aliens.
5. Tehanu
You might have also mentioned that one of the writers of this terrific episode was Thomas Perry, author of the "Jane Whitefield" mystery/suspense books about a Native American woman who helps people escape from bad situations (not to mention a bunch of other mystery novels, all good).
Keith DeCandido
6. krad
Tehanu: I have a very good reason for not mentioning that -- until your post, I didn't know that. :)

Luckily, we have an edit function...

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
7. dav
A favorite of mine, especially of all of the Klingon stories, but not a 10 for me. Maybe an 8. Solid all around and I love Gowron every time he's on screen... probably my favorite guest character ever... those eyes just want to pop out of his head. Essenial viewing, but just outside my top 10.
Keith DeCandido
8. krad
HOLY CRAP! Thomas Perry wrote Metzger's Dog! I loved that book!

Tehanu, thank you for making me look him up and realize that. Cool!

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
9. Kallie
"...every convention of television in general and Star Trek in particular leads the viewer to believe that at this point, Worf will stay his hand and possibly make a speech about how vengeance doesn’t solve anything or some other nonsense..."

I love this - very true. Almost always, when a protagonist is caught at the moment of killing the bad guy, he'll think better of it and walk away, but that would hardly have been appropriate here.

I didn't always like the later Klingon politics episodes of DS9, but will definitely go back and watch this one now. Gowron made a good impression from the start.
Katy Maziarz
10. ArtfulMagpie
Showing my youth, here...but when I was first watching ST:TNG, I was a child! My favorite characters were Geordi, because LeVar was also on Reading Rainbow, and Data, because it was so funny to watch him not quite get humanity. (I also had a childish crush on Wesley Crusher, but that's a whole different story....!)

But as an adult, re-watching them, my favorite character is definitely Worf...because of episodes like this one. We see such amazing and nuanced character growth over the course of the series and into DS9 as Worf tries to come to a happy balance between his human/Federation upbringing and his Klingon origins. I still to this day get choked up when Worf screams over K’Ehleyr's body--and I definitely give a triumphant yell when he actually kills that petaQ Duras! Very satisfying, indeed.
11. StrongDreams
Regarding Worf's "punishment..."

In the real military, a letter of reprimand is a career-ender. You never get promoted again, and end up killing time in grade until you quit or retire. Of course, there is very little evidence that the Trek (TV) writers know anything about the real military.

Juding from all observable evidence, Picard was pleased with the outcome of events. The right prince took the throne, the Romulan threat was mitigated, and Worf took a measure of long-deserved justice for his discommendation, not to mention K’Ehleyr's death. (Plus, Gowron owe's Picard a favor, which he makes use of later.) Picard just couldn't admit officially that he was pleased. So he calls Worf in for a dressing down, and says, I'm afriad I have to......put a note in your permanent record.

I always figured that both he and Worf knew it was bogus.
12. Christopher L. Bennett
An effective episode, but I feel it has some problems. It's very contrived in the way it makes a Starfleet captain the Klingons' arbiter of succession. I often found it implausible in Trek when the crew of the show's featured starship or station kept ending up at the center of the most important events in galactic politics -- classic small-universe-syndrome stuff. I mean, Picard has been Q's favorite human, the Borg's chosen spokesperson, the Klingons' arbiter of succession, and the progenitor of the clone who overthrew the Romulan Senate? After a while it gets to be a bit much. I'm grateful to Keith for introducing President Bacco and her staff in the novels, so that the Trek universe has characters that it makes sense to involve in high-level political stories.

I also think it was a waste to kill off K'ehleyr in only her second appearance. She was a terrific, strong character and she got the classic women-in-refrigerators treatment, brutally murdered off-camera as a plot device to drive a male character to vengeance (and this was four years before the archetypal "refrigerator" scene from the comics that the trope is named for). It always bothered me that we didn't even get to see her final fight. I think she was unfairly marginalized.

Also, this storyline gave us Alexander, which is problematical on several levels. Not only is he the poster child for Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, Alien Variant, but... well, he's Alexander. He was never very interesting, except when James Sloyan played him. Given the choice, I would've much preferred it if they'd kept K'ehleyr around and never introduced the kid.

And frankly I have trouble with the conceit of Worf as this ultra-Klingon guy whose right to live (and kill) according to Klingon codes must be respected. I mean,whatever species he belongs to, he was raised by a human couple and spent most of his formative years on Gault and Earth. However much he tried to embrace Klingon culture at second hand, his everyday experience was that of an Earth citizen, and I think his worldview and instincts should be a lot closer to human/Federation norms. Not to mention that Worf is a Federation citizen and should thus be subject to Federation law. It's stupid to say that Klingon laws apply to him because he's Klingon by genetics. That's like saying that if an American couple adopts and raises a Chinese child who grows up to be a US citizen and an officer in the US Navy, that officer is subject to Chinese law. It doesn't make any sense. Worf's actions should've been judged according to the laws of the nation he actually belongs to, not the nation his birth parents belonged to.

It's interesting to look back and see Gowron presented as kind of the good guy, or at least the lesser of evils, considering where he ended up. I remember being surprised when I saw his name in print for the first time, because I initially figured from the sound that it was "Gauron." Probably a bit of Tolkien influence on my thinking there.

And on the subject of spelling, where the bat'leth is concerned, I recall that for the first few years after it was introduced, all the written references actually called it a bat'telh, even though it was pronounced "bat-leth." I figured there must've been a typo somewhere along the line, or that the spelling and pronunciation were two separate misreadings of batlh'etlh (a spelling that could be deduced by a quick consult of The Klingon Dictionary). But eventually the spelling got corrected to match the pronunciation.
13. Teka Lynn
One of my favorite episodes ever, from any show.

I remember the night it aired vividly, because Twin Peaks also had a gutwrenching episode with the death of a beloved character. My husband and I watched the shows back to back, and were absolutely reeling by the end of them. What a night on TV.
14. Ginomo
@ #12 Christopher Bennet

My thought about why Worf was able to get off rather easily was because he chose to kill Duras on the Klingon ship, putting him outside of Starfleet's jurisdiction. To use your Chinese kid analogy, if that kid flew back to China, killed his archnemesis and then came back to the US, if the Chinese government was okay with it then there wouldn't be anything the US could do, right? Had Worf killed Duras on the Enterprise, things would have been different.

(Slighly related side note, when Worf tries to mercy-kill Kurn in "Sons of Mogh," I always thought it was stupid that he attempted it on DS9. He had to have known that wasn't going to go over well with Odo and company.)

I do agree with you that Worf shouldn't be so uber-Klingon having never lived among them. Then again, as Dax points out in an episode of DS9, he's not really like other Klingons. He does all the right things but he lacks the passion; he's essentially a textbook Klingon. Worf overdoes things as a way to compensate for what he lacks, "See, I'm just as Klingon as you guys are, now pass the prune juice."
Clark Myers
15. ClarkEMyers
Of course, there is very little evidence that the Trek (TV) writers know anything about the real military.
Beats me what connection the real military of our time has with a (fictional) exploration (maybe an auxiliary cruiser?) star ship of the future. Be that as it may of the authors given for this episode at least Ronald D. Moore had U.S. Navy exposure. For Star Trek (TOS) of course any number of writers had service; FREX from STOS we have Errand of Mercy by Gene L. Coon.

Agreed with the small universe comments. Perhaps a conscious decision not to expand the universe with complications? The death of K'ehleyr reminds me of the fate of Little Joe's girlfriends on Bonanza - no room in the TV writing for stories beyond the bounds; just as so many of the Paramount paperbacks might have taken place in a closed loop time warp - the crew enters, goes around and comes out unchanged.
16. Rob B.
When rewatching this episode myself recently, I found one line from K'mpec a little ironic.

He says that a man who kills without showing his face would be capable of anything...even war with the Federation.

So with it seeming very likely that Duras was the poisoner (it's never proven to a certainty, but given his track record it's not something I think anybody would put past him) and with him dead, you'd think that the Klingon Empire and the Federation would remain allies for a good long time, right?

Wrong. As we know from DS9, Gowron was capable of war with the Federation too.
17. Codefox
This is always one of the shows the stuck with me from when I was little kid (though I've noticed that most of Season 4 brings back vivid memories now...I guess I was finally old enough to really appreciate what I was watching)

This may be the first time I've seen this one since its original airing which is a shame because it really is one of the best episodes of TNG, I do agree. I've come to love this sort of political story and being able to see it in my favorite show is twice as good! And while its a shame so many good characters died, its actually nice to see Trek break out of its normal mold. Its usually so sanitary and everyone comes out ok in the end. Not this time because Klingons are not to be messed with!
18. a-j
Beats me what connection the real military of our time has with a (fictional) exploration (maybe an auxiliary cruiser?) star ship of the future.
Agreed. Furthermore, as is well recorded, Starfleet is loosely based on the British Royal Navy as described in CS Forester's Hornblower stories. In that world, an officer avenging the murder of a loved one by fighting a duel on a non-naval ship would not only be acceptable, it would be admirable.
19. FellKnight
@11 StrongDreams, It never ceases to amuse me how people with some US military experience think that because a thing is a certain way in the US military, that it is the be-all and end-all for all military applications both present and future.

Where I am, a reprimand is indeed a strong black mark, but it is not a career ender, nor (IMHO) should it be. If an offense is sufficient to merit discharge (whether honorable or not), then let it be done. There is also the notion of a "severe reprimand" in many (specifically British Commonwealth) military traditions, which is even more serious.

In our case, either would necessitate your personnel file to be reviewed at branch headquarters and a committee would decide whether or not to retain your services.

In the Trek universe, one could argue that Worf has indeed been harshly punished for this reprimand. He had been a Lieutenant since season 1, and on such a high-class position, once could expect (given current military bias), to be promoted to LCdr in about 4 years. As it is, it takes him until ST:Generations (about 7 years after his last promotion, and 4 years after reprimand) to be promoted.
Justin Devlin
20. EnsignJayburd
@ 13. Teka Lynn:

Hey, I used to watch TNG and Twin Peaks back-to-back too! Back in the day we would watch them both on Sunday night. Which beloved character are you referring to, though, that bit the dust the same week as K'ehleyr? Was it Laura's cousin, Maddy Ferguson? Or maybe Josie Packard?

I'm a bit surprised I can't remember, because I've watched that series several times, own all the DVDs, and I used to have the cast committed to memory...
21. StrongDreams
All good points about military service, black marks, etc.

I guess it all boils down to this:
Should something bad have happened to Worf?
Maybe. He did desert his post, but the killing was committed on Klingon "soil" and so was under their jurisdiction.

Did something bad happen to Worf?
Not visibly, in the episode or any following. I don't recall it was ever mentioned. (Re: FellKnight's analysis above, Worf was a Lt j.g. in seasons 1 and 2, so only 5 years between promotion to Lt and Lt. Cmdr.)

Are we meant to think that something bad would happen?
I don't really know. I always took the "reprimand" discussion with a grain of salt -- I thought on first watching that Picard wasn't really serious about disciplining Worf.

Why didn't something bad happen to Worf's career?
Because he was a main character.
Justin Devlin
22. EnsignJayburd
KRAD said:
the writers wisely choose not to try to superimpose human morality on an alien character.
I absolutely agree that this was not only a wise decision on the writers' part, but also really the only acceptable resolution for Worf. Based on how Klingon culture had been established up to this point in the Trek universe and how Worf's character was portayed not only as a loyal Starfleet officer, but also as a man whose heart belonged to his home world and its culture - Killing Duras was his only option.

That action firmly established Worf as a one of Star Trek's best and most nuanced alien characters. Unfortunately, "Reunion" was more or less the peak of that development. After "Redemption" began the slow descent of Worf from a gritty character that bucked not only Trek tradition, but also TV convention to a by-the-numbers situational dramatic character . In a sci-fi show. Ugh.

Major spoilers ahead:

Starting in season 5, he had a "difficult" and extremely boring, boring, boring father-son relationship with Alexander.

In the ridiculous season 6 episode, "Rascals" he got pwned on the bridge and turned into a slave laborer by a bunch of marauding Ferengi idiots, just so the recently-turned-into-children characters could save the ship.

Starting in season 7 the writers began cultivating a completely implausible relationship between Worf and Troi. Yuck. How un-Klingon can you get? Luckily for Troi the relationship was never consummated. At least I don't think it was. I never saw her with any bite marks or bruises - except for that time Worf turned into a vicious animal thing and Troi turned into a freaking newt (thank you, Brannon Braga).

And the pussification of Worf didn't end with TNG's television run, either. In the first TNG movie, the villains were the Duras sisters - the sworn enemies of the House of Mogh. And what did Worf get to do - besides get promoted and go for a swim, that is? He basically let them destroy the Enterprise-D because he couldn't change the shield frequency quick enough. Oh, and before that he didn't even get to interact with Lursa and B'Etor. At all.

Then he went to DS9. Now, you'd think that on a show as complicated and deeply nuanced as DS9 that Worf would have a chance to be a lot more Klingon. And he would, but not until after he was disgraced and outcast - yet again - from the Klingon Empire by Gowron, who also had an unfortunate downgrade to his character.

So what is this lengthy rant of mine leading up to? Well, as it turns out, I'm also engrossed in my own personal re-watch of DS9 and I just got through watching "Sons of Mogh" last night. That episode, I believe, marks the all time low of Worf's character, not to mention a total waste of the character of Kurn, Worf's brother, who was brilliantly portrayed by Tony Todd. In that episode, (which was riveting except for the highly contrived, implausible, and unfortunate ending) Kurn turns up on DS9 because he wants Worf to give him an honorable death. Their family is outcast and Kurn has nothing left - not even his honor. After Worf's decision to grant his brother's request and perform the death ritual by plunging a knife into his chest, Dax foils the plan and she and Odo and Bashir save Kurn's life at the last moment. But that doesn't stop Kurn from wanting to die like a Klingon. Their solution? Kill Kurn without killing him. That's right, Bashir wipes his memory and they give Kurn a new look and identity and he falls off the face of Trek forever - with a permanent case of amnesia. Robbing Kurn of his memory without his consent was murder in all but name. Let's call it technobabble-cide, shall we?

Like I said, a total waste. There's so much a show like DS9 could have done with Kurn. Just like his older brother he was stoic, highly skilled, brilliant, and fiercely loyal. I always thought he should have worked for Starfleet intelligence as a spy conditioned to seek out changeling infiltrators or something. Heck, if they had done that he could have helped the DS9 gang discover that Martok had been replaced by a changeling and gained back his good name that way.

So, coming full circle, the writers of "Reunion" chose not to superimpose human morality on Worf, but the writers of "Sons of Mogh" did. To the point where Worf even says "I've come to think of the Mauk-to'Vor ritual as humans do. As murder."

Oh, brother (no pun intended).

Incidentally, Captain Sisko gives Worf a much more believable dressing down than Picard did regarding his conflict of interest when it comes to his duty as a Starfleet officer and his mandatory adherence to Federation laws vs. his cultural beliefs as a Klingon. "We're not talking about some obscure technicality, Mr. Worf. You tried to commit pre-meditated murder." And he doesn't put a "reprimand" in his record. He just throws him out of his office. Too bad the solution turned out to be just as bad. Not to mention hokey.

Fortunately, things got better for Worf as a character and DS9 as a show once the Klingons became allies once again and the real Martok became a regular character. So, all is forgiven. But not forgotten.

Question: has anyone written a book (KRAD for instance?) where Kurn gets his memory back? If no one has done so yet, someone should...

23. Tesh

Oh, thanks, you reminded me of that stupid "Sons of Mogh" episode. I've been trying to forget that one. That was a very poor treatment of Kurn.
24. StrongDreams
One thing pointed out above is that Worf is a "book Klingon." He has the genes and the desire, but not any real experience. In fact, there are several times that he comes into contact with real other Klingons that he expresses dismay that they are not ruled by pure honor as he tries to live and as he idolizes them (especially in the Duras arc and the Kahless returns episode).

It might be that the "humanization" of Worf was intentional all along.

(But probably not)

Since I've never read any of the Star Trek novels, it would be interesting to hear how the varous authors dealt with this as opposed to the TV writers (who, to be fair, have to live within an entirely different set of constraints).
Keith DeCandido
25. krad
Ensign Jayburd: Funny you should ask. :)

The new identity Kurn got at the end of "Sons of Mogh" -- Rodek, son of Noggra -- is revealed in my novel Diplomatic Implausibility to be an officer on the I.K.S. Gorkon. He appears in The Brave and the Bold Book 2 and in the three I.K.S. Gorkon novels (A Good Day to Die, Honor Bound, and Enemy Territory). Finally, in the novel Klingon Empire: A Burning House, he does inded get his memory back -- but it winds up being a lot more complicated than that. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Justin Devlin
26. EnsignJayburd
@23 Tesh, the truly unfortunate thing about "Sons of Mogh" was that it was a really good story all the way up until its totally unacceptable ending. It is even responsible for establishing the first blush of romance between Worf and Jadzia, which was a FAR more believable pairing off than Worf and Troi was. And Jadzia's eventual death added yet another tragic layer to poor Worf's Shakespearean tragedy of an existence. But unlike Kurn's eventual un-existence it was plausible, well executed, and deeply, deeply sad.
Justin Devlin
27. EnsignJayburd
@ KRAD, thanks!! I knew if anyone could resurrect Kurn you could! I actually did read Diplomatic Implausibility several years back, but I guess I forgot that Kurn/Rodek was a character. I guess I'll have to read the sequels now, especially Klingon Empire: A Burning House. I'm fine with complicated. It's er...implausibility I don't like. I'm curious how you manage to turn the implausible into acceptable.
28. Ginomo
Pretty much every review of this episode includes a comment about how it sucks that K'Ehleyr (man, that's an annoying work to type!) died and that it would have been great had she been able to come back again. Though I agree with that, what could they have really done with her? She and Alexander go back to wherever they'd been and all is forgotten? Alexander comes to visit Worf every other weekend and two weeks in the summer?
29. Teka Lynn
@20: I was referring to Maddy, yes.
30. Christopher L. Bennett
@28: "Though I agree with that, what could they have really done with her? She and Alexander go back to wherever they'd been and all is forgotten? Alexander comes to visit Worf every other weekend and two weeks in the summer?"

Why are you thinking only in terms of K'ehleyr's familial role? She wasn't just some random woman Worf knocked up, she was the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. That's a role that could -- and should -- have been central to the ongoing Klingon political saga in TNG and DS9.
Keith DeCandido
31. krad
What Christopher said -- given how heavily Klingon politics played on both TNG and DS9, a recurring Federation ambassador character would have had plenty to do..............

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
32. JasonD
I see three possible reasons why K'ehleyr was killed.

1.) I think, if they had known that DS9 would be what it would become, they would not have killed K'ehleyr off in that fashion.

2.) They needed to give Worf a bloody good reason to go after Duras with murderous intent, as obviously the consipracy and discommendation weren't enough. There were only two viable ways to do that: kill K'ehleyr, or kill Alexander, and guidelines clearly state that you do not kill children on film. Without the climactic swordfight, would the episode have had anywhere near as much impact? I doubt it.

3.) Having Suzie Plakson come back as a recurring character any more often may not have been financially possible for the producers.

Also, two further observations:

Alexander's rapid againg always did seem just a little odd to me, but I chalked it up to being a Klingon-Human hybrid. Do Klingon children mature physically at a different rate than Human children?

And while this was the episode that introduced the bat'leth in the first place, wasn't it odd to see Duras wielding a traditional straight-blade sword?
33. Mike S.
Two beefs with this episode, both minor:

1. K'mpec's choice of Picard as Arbitor is flawed, IMO. I understand why he wants an outsider to do this, but Picard is not exactly neutral, as it were. He hated Duras with a passion, after all. He even mentions to K'Ehleyr that "we have had previous dealings with Duras that have shown him to be untrustworthy." Nope, doesn't sound like a total outsider to me, rather as someone with an agenda.

2. I can't believe that Duras would take K'Ehleyr in a fair fight. Now, it's possible that the fight was totally unfair (he was armed, after all), but still, for him to kill her that easily, not plausible, IMO. After all, this is the man who had his "people" try and kill Kurn in "Sins of the Father," rather then do it himself, and he likley did the same to K'mpec. I believe K'Ehleyr could hold her own with Worf in a fight, and considering how easily Worf takes out Duras, his easy killing of her seems a bit, just a bit, implausable.

Other then that, a wonderful episode. 9/10 for me, for all that's worth.
34. Rob B.
@Mike S: Since K'Ehleyr was established as a damn good fighter in her previous appearance, the idea that Duras could kill her so easily seemed strange to me as well.

A possible explantion: Duras somehow tricked her into letting her guard down and then, when she wasn't expecting it, attacked her. Perhaps from behind.
35. BlackBart
Overall this is one of my favorite episodes, but I have always had a problem with one major plot point, being the bomb.

It served no real purpose other than providing evidence against Duras, and had little chance of ever serving any real purpose.
Darth Skeptical
36. DarthSkeptical
This is probably my favorite episode of TNG.

No, it's not for beginners. You probably can't watch it on its own and fully appreciate it. But it's the precise moment when Worf gets real and Klingons prove they're more interesting as allies than enemies. I think of it as the moment when modern Trek was finally born after an uneven, and sometimes tedious, 3.5 year gestation period.

Why this and not, say, "Best of Both Worlds"? Simple. Klingons matter more. Klingons are, next to humans, the indispensable Trek race. No matter what iteration of Trek you're talkin', you must eventually have a narrative position on Klingons. They're in every season of Star Trek, save Enterprise S3 — and even then, they start the Xindi arc in the final episode of S2. And "Reunion" is the one episode that's the lynchpin to almost everything we know about Klingons.

The way I reckon it, the death of K'Ehleyr is the moment when Worf admits to himself — and, via his confab with Picard, Starfleet — the Klingon society as a whole has lost its way. It's not just about Worf and his personal relationship to the High Council anymore. The discommendation is laid bare as just a lie — not a noble lie to protect the Empire.

K'Ehleyr's dead body is therefore metaphorical for the state of honor within Klingon society in the 24th century. And her murder — we can't even call it a sacrifice — gets Worf to understand that the goal is not simply the restoration of his family name, but of the society as a whole. Before this, I think you could have said, "Well it's just that K'Empec is a weak leader; things'll get better for Worf once the old, fat guy is outta office." K'Ehlyr's death proves that the supposedly honor-based society is No Such Damned Thing Anymore. It also usefully points out the difference between Worf and both Duras and Gowron — a difference that echoes through to the last episode of DS9.

The reason that this is the best episode of TNG is that it takes the narrative teases about the Klingon Empire and forges it all into a useful narrative structure on which to hang future stories. It's where the writers lay down a path for Worf. Now I don't think the late TNG staff, notably Taylor and Braga, remained committed to that goal. And had Worf's time ended on TNG then I think we'd look back on this episode less kindly.

But thanks to Behr and Moore's rescue of the plot threads of this episode — not to mention Dorn's willingness to return to the makeup chair — "Reunion" became a Big Damn Deal after all.

It didn't take much more than "I, Borg", or the canonically confusing appearance in Enterprise, to undo the dramatic good of the Borg we saw in "The Best of Both Worlds". Yar's return in "Yesterday's Enterprise" was marred by the annoying Sela. The poignancy of "Inner Light" was largely limited to just the one episode, despite a few fan-service-y moments elsewhere.

What makes "Reunion" a marvel is not just that it's good in itself, but that — accidentally or not — it's a vital part of the Klingon jigsaw. You can't remove it unless you want to lessen the impact of even far flung episodes like DS9's "What You Leave Behind" or Enterprise's "Judgment". It is foundational to Star Trek myth in general, not just to the progress of a single season or even a single series. And aside from maybe "Mirror, Mirror", there aren't too many episodes that have had quite that kind of cross-series impact.
37. jlpsquared
@12 and 15, regarding the "small universe" problem. I completely disagree with you guys.

Lets not forget that Captain Picard is captain of the flagship of the federation, the largest organization in the known galaxy at this point. I would find it unusual if they are NOT more involved in universal politics.

That would be analogous to saying that it is unlikely President Obama would have anything to do with politics or the world on the other side of the planet, or people around the world woul take an interest in him and his life. which is non-sense.

@18. I agree, I am not really sure what "crime" worf comitted that everyone is so upset about. Duras was not a federation citizen, plus was a more or less known enemy to the federation. That idea that worf would get in trouble for killing him (after he killed his wife) is absurd.

In reality if I went to malasia and murdered somebody, unless they extradited me, which is unlikely, I would probably have nothing happen to me. Now, if I went to malaysia and killed one of Bin Ladens hench-men, yeah, I think I wouldn't be to worried about much.

@36. Wow, seriously. Good post. I think you make a solid case for this being the single most important episode in star trek history. Not best (not even close), but the lynch pin for eveything that comes next in every series and movie. And the first time this show became serious. (along with BOBW). I think you could also state that if K'ehlar had not died, and/or Worf had not killed Duras, this series and the ones to follow may have never "took off" in the dramatic sense they all did.

I must admit, I love this episode, but it is not in my top 10. There are no flaws, and it is very watchable, but as I repeat all the time, I like the stright sci-fi episodes. this one is great, don't get me wrong, but it is just politics and vengence, no different than every WW2 movie ever made.
38. RMS

I guess I've always read Worf's character differently than you. I've always read Worf as a character who is on a path that is similar to Data's in many respects, in that he falls in some sort of inter-racial limbo in the minds of most of the other characters because of his background.

Just as Data's character gradually became more and more "human" the more time he spent around humans, Worf's character did the same (although neither one truly made it 100%).

I liked Worf's character more and more as the series progressed because I think he realized that he was breaking stereotypes and showing the Klingons that you don't have to act like they do all of the time to truly be one of them.

Worf's storyline is an analogy to breaking racial stereotypes.
39. Etherbeard
Absolutely gripping.
Dante Hopkins
40. DanteHopkins
Interestingly, I disagree with Christopher L. Bennett this time and not Keith. First off, Klingons are intense individuals, and Worf was born full Klingon. If he had some human blood in him, it might have made sense that he would be a Klingon-lite having been raised by humans. But that is not the case with Worf. Worf's Klingon DNA would assert in any environment, and the most human he gets is with his crewmates, and in particular with his family, his parents. Around his fellow Klingons, all bets are off.

Since the Klingon Empire never joined the Federation, despite living on Earth, Worf is Klingon, and not a Federation citizen. He is subject to Federation law as a member of Starfleet, but not among his fellow Klingons. A sort of dual citizenship, one that would give him certain immunities in both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The analogy of the Chinese baby has a giant flaw: that Chinese baby is still human, and would have human values. Worf is not human.

I agree the death of K'Ehlyr was a great loss to the Trek universe as a whole. So much lost oppurtunity, and a choice of the writers I'll never understand. So much awesome in this episode otherwise: we meet Gowron, who I always liked even from the start, plenty of action, a gripping political story, and the extremely satisfying death of Duras at the hands of Worf. As Keith pointed out, the writers were very smart to not have Worf have some human-style "epiphany," and start some pointless moralizing, and instead give Duras the brutal death he so richly deserved. I agree completely with Keith's review, and DarthSkeptical's comment above is absolutely brilliant and spot-on for why this episode is one of the most important, if not the most important, episode in all of Star Trek. I would give the episode a 7 or 8.
41. The Real Scott M
I simply do not understand the love for Suzie Plakson. She sucks the life out of every scene she's in. It's a credit to Michael Dorn that he is able to play so well opposite her. At least she gets killed off (and unlike Denise Crosby never returns).

Other than that, yes, great episode. Although it took quite a while before the writers figured out a way to actually work Alexander into Worf's life. There was still a pretty firm Reset Button on each episode at the time.

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