Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 4, Episode 26
Production episode 40274-200
Original air date: June 17, 1991
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is en route to the Klingon homeworld, where Picard is to participate in the installation ceremony of Gowron as chancellor of the High Council. Picard goes to Worf’s quarters, where he’s practicing with his bat’leth, and urges him to clear his family’s name. His discommendation was a lie to protect others less honorable than he, and it’s past time it ended.
A Klingon ship, the Bortas, arrives, claiming to be the Enterprise’s escort, though Worf says that no escort was scheduled. Gowron himself is aboard the ship, and he says he needs Picard’s help to avoid a civil war. Duras’s family is massing support, led by Duras’s sisters Lursa and B’Etor. Women can’t serve on the council, so Gowron isn’t sure what they’re planning. Gowron wants Picard — who was named Arbiter of Succession by K’mpec precisely because no Klingon could be trusted — to ensure that Gowron’s installation goes as planned. Picard, however, is unwilling to go beyond the purview of Arbiter. If anyone challenges Gowron’s rightful ascension to the chancellor’s seat, he will deal with it according to the dictates of Klingon law. Gowron fears that won’t be enough.
Picard returns to the bridge and orders Data to monitor Romulan activity along the Klingon border. Given the history between the Duras family and the that empire (his father having collaborated with the Romulans to destroy the Khitomer outpost, one of Duras’s operatives using a Romulan explosive), Picard wants to be ready.
Worf escorts Gowron to the transporter room and dismisses the operator so he can speak to Gowron in private. He explains the truth as to why he accepted discommendation, and Duras’s role in it. What particularly gets Gowron’s goat is that the High Council was in on the deception. Worf’s explanation that allowing Duras to accept the dishonor would have split the empire has the ring of truth to it, since the House of Duras is currently doing its best to, well, split the empire.
Worf asks to have his family name restored, but Gowron can’t — he needs the support of the council to survive, and he won’t get it if he exposes their treachery.
Grumpy and frustrated, Worf goes to the phaser range (last seen in “A Matter of Honor”) and is joined by Guinan, who asks about his son. Worf replies that he’s having trouble adjusting to life on Earth, and Guinan tells him that some day he’s going to want to know what it’s like to be Klingon — just as Worf’s learning it now.
Worf requests a leave of absence, and tracks down his brother Kurn, now the captain of the Hegh’ta. Kurn is disgusted by Gowron’s inability to stand up to the House of Duras, and pledges to kill Gowron himself if Lursa and B’Etor don’t manage it. He feels the High Council must be swept away and replaced with new leadership. Kurn already has plenty of support. But Worf cannot allow this. Gowron did complete the Rite of Succession and is the new chancellor. They cannot restore their honor by behaving dishonorably. So, as older brother, he instructs Kurn to back Gowron — but not yet. When Gowron feels his enemy’s hands at his throat, then Kurn and his allies will offer support, in exchange for restoring the House of Mogh. Kurn is reluctant to accept, but does so.
The Enterprise arrives at Qo’noS, and the Rite of Succession is performed by Councillor K’Tal. At the end, he ritually asks if there are no more challenges — and to everyone’s surprise, there is one. A boy with the crest of Duras named Toral arrives with Lursa and B’Etor. They claim that Toral is Duras’s son, even though Duras had neither mate nor son. (“Where did you find him, Lursa — in a harlot’s bedchamber?” Gowron sneers.) B’Etor insists that a DNA test will confirm his bloodlines, and K’Tal announces that the Arbiter will consider his validity to challenge Gowron.
Lursa, B’Etor, and Toral meet with two Romulans, one of whom is the same shadowy figure from “The Mind’s Eye,” thus proving that the House of Duras does have Romulan support.
Kurn contacts Worf — he’s gotten the support of three of the four squadron leaders among his allies. The House of Duras’s allies control seven sectors, but most of the Defense Force hasn’t chosen a side yet. Worf — who is technically still on leave — then asks Data for sensor information on the Khitomer massacre. Picard, however, views this as a conflict of interest. Worf insists that Picard not tie his hands now — and Picard wearily admits that he’s walking a similar tightrope, trying to balance his role as Arbiter with his duties as a Starfleet captain.
Picard finally tells Worf that he’ll make the Khitomer records available to anyone — not just Worf, but the High Council, the House of Duras, or whomever — and that that’s as far as he’ll go. The captain then gets a personal communiqué from Lursa and B’Etor, requesting a meeting.
He beams down, and the sisters provide him with Earl Grey tea, and assure him that they do not wish Picard to be their enemy, nor do they want him to judge the pair of them on the basis of their brother’s dishonorable actions. However, Picard sees right through them. If he supports Toral’s challenge, it will solidify the House of Duras’s hold on the council, and Gowron will be assassinated before too long. If he rejects Toral, the House will go to war against Gowron, and B’Etor assures him that they will win. Lursa also assures Picard that ruling against Toral will result in the collapse of the Federation-Klingon alliance.
Picard takes his leave by telling them that they have manipulated the circumstances with the skill of a Romulan — tipping his hand that he knows, or at least suspects, who their true allies are — and says he’ll announce his decision at high sun the following day.
In council chambers, Picard accepts that Toral is Duras’s son — but also that Toral has fought no battles, shed no blood for the empire. Perhaps some day he will be worthy, but not today. Duras’s claim to the chancellorship died with him, and Gowron is the leader of the High Council.
Toral asks if the Federation dictates Klingon destiny, and urges people to follow him to honor. Gowron replies that following Toral rejects all Klingon law. Several councillors move to Toral’s side. Gowron instructs them to leave — “your blood will pave the way to the future.”
The Bortas is in orbit of Qo’noS, and Worf meets with Gowron there, offering him Kurn’s alliance. Gowron refuses, as it’s not enough. He needs Federation support, but Worf can’t offer that.
Their argument is interrupted by two ships firing on the Bortas. Picard orders the Enterprise out of the combat area. Worf takes over Gowron’s tactical station and gets disruptors online, destroying one of the enemy ships. The other one is driven away by the sudden appearance of the Hegh’ta.
The installation of Gowron is completed, and his first action upon assuming the chancellorship is to restore the House of Mogh’s honor with both Worf and Kurn present. Gowron’s second act is to formally request Federation assistance in fighting Lursa and B’Etor’s forces. Picard can’t accept — but Worf argues that, if the rebels win, they will surely form a new Klingon-Romulan alliance that will shift the balance of power in the quadrant. However, Picard still refuses.
Picard also recalls Worf to duty, as the Enterprise is leaving the sector. Worf requests an extended leave, but Picard points out that serving aboard a Klingon ship in a time of civil war is incompatible with his duties as a Starfleet officer.
So Worf resigns.
Picard wishes him well in his new post on the Bortas as weapons officer, telling him that what made him unique — and made Picard proud to have him on board — was the way he combined the best elements of his Klingon heritage and of humanity. He then escorts Worf past a full honor guard that sees him off the ship.
Lursa, B’Etor, and Toral meet again with their Romulan allies, announcing that the Enterprise has left orbit with Picard refusing to assist Gowron. Toral declares Picard to be a coward, but the shadowy Romulan tells him not to discount Picard, as he is human, and humans tend to show up when you least expect it. As if to prove the point, she steps out of the shadows and is revealed to be blond and played by Denise Crosby (which those of us who identified her voice two episodes ago already figured out).
To be continued...
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: On board the Bortas, Worf immediately takes charge of tactical. When the disruptors are back online, Gowron orders him to lock weapons and fire, but Worf refuses, pointing out that their sensors will detect the weapons lock. Better that the enemy ships think them helpless, and when they lower shields to transport over and board the ship, Worf can fire manually. The trick works, and destroys one of the ships.
More generally, Worf manipulates events with as much skill as Lursa and B’Etor, forcing Gowron’s hand and restoring his family name. Way back in “Heart of Glory,” the Klingons they rescued asked if he ever heard the call of the warrior, and Gowron asks him the same question in this episode. In the end, he decides to finally live among his own people and answer that call.
Syntheholics Anonymous: Guinan kicks Worf’s ass in more ways than one — she whips his butt at the phaser range, and also gets him to realize that he’s not like all other Klingons, and that just being a textbook honorable Klingon isn’t enough.
She also has a bet with Picard that she’ll make him laugh before he makes lieutenant commander. Presumably this bet was made after “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” when she did make him laugh, which she references when talking to him.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: This episode introduces the infamous “Klingon kleavage” outfits worn by Lursa and B’Etor. Reportedly, neither Gwynyth Walsh nor Barbara March required chest padding. (Wah-HEY!)
B’Etor also caresses Picard’s smooth, bald head after she and her sister serve him tea. Picard’s lack of response shows tremendous restraint...
In the Driver’s Seat: Although we never see his face, Ensign Rio is at conn, and Picard orders him to take them away from the fighting in orbit of Qo’noS.
I Believe I Said That: “Klingons do not laugh.”
“Oh yes they do. Absolutely they do. You don’t. But I’ve heard Klingon belly laughs that’ll curl your hair.”
Worf being stoic and Guinan calling him on it.
Welcome Aboard: Robert O’Reilly and Tony Todd make triumphant returns as Gowron (last seen in “Reunion”) and Kurn (last seen in “Sins of the Father”), respectively. Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh make impressive debuts as Lursa and B’Etor, respectively, roles that will recur throughout TNG, on an episode of Deep Space Nine, and finally in Star Trek Generations (where they’re killed). Plus we get J.D. Cullum as Toral, Nicholas Kepros as Movar (the other Romulan), and Ben Slack as K’Tal.
But the big guest star is the uncredited one: Denise Crosby as the shadowy Romulan whose identity will be revealed in the following season as Commander Sela, the daughter of an alternate timeline’s Tasha Yar.
All of the above will return in “Redemption II,” which we had to wait three months for two decades ago. You guys only have to wait until next week.
Trivial Matters: In addition to being the fourth season finale, this was the 100th episode of TNG (well, at least if you can’t count — see “Legacy” for my rant on that subject). In honor of the occasion, the set was visited by former President Ronald Reagan. Gene Roddenberry was also on the set. Anecdotally, Roddenberry dropped his cane, and President Reagan picked it up. When shown actors in full Klingon garb, President Reagan said, “I like them. They remind me of Congress.”
This continues the Klingon political arc begun in “Sins of the Father” and continued in “Reunion,” “The Drumhead,” and “The Mind’s Eye.” It will obviously continue in Part 2, and throughout both TNG and DS9.
Worf and Guinan also discuss his son by K’Ehleyr, Alexander, who was established at the end of “Reunion” as going off to live with the Rozhenkos. Worf says he’s still there, adjusting — he’ll be back in “New Ground” in the upcoming season.
Gowron’s statement that women cannot serve on the High Council is surprising, given that Gowron himself offered K’Ehleyr a seat on the council in “Reunion.” For that matter, this episode aired half a year prior to the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which has Azetbur becoming chancellor. Your humble rewatcher addressed the latter inconsistency in The Art of the Impossible by having the law that women can’t serve on the council being enacted by Azetbur’s successor, a reactionary who did it so that another woman would never be able to do what Azetbur did.
Make it So: “I belong with my people.” A decent finish to the season, but one that doesn’t entirely work as a season-bridging cliffhanger. They would have been far better off doing this as a season-ending two-parter, as the cliffhanger itself really isn’t much of one, and not one that keeps you on the edge of your seat for three months. (It’s even less of a big deal if you figured out that that was Denise Crobsy’s voice in “The Mind’s Eye” two episodes ago.)
Still, this continues the Klingon political arc nicely. Gowron was described in “Reunion” as an outsider who had often challenged the council, so his inability to build a consensus in this episode is not surprising — and frustrating.
At the end of DS9, Worf was made Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, and his qualifications for the job are on full display in this episode, as he plays politics, using his family’s dishonor as a bargaining chip to aid Gowron, and using his position as the elder brother to get Kurn (and his forces) on his side.
It’s interesting, I can’t point to anything that’s particularly wrong with this episode — quite the opposite. It’s a lot like “Reunion,” honestly: a good vehicle for Sir Patrick Stewart and especially Michael Dorn, some excellent political theater, and some superb guest performances (plus a limited-to-nonexistent role for the rest of the crew). But it’s has surprisingly little of the tension of “Reunion” or the intrigue of “Sins of the Father” — or, looking ahead, the intensity of “Tacking Into the Wind.” It moves the story forward, and does everything right, but it’s surprisingly unmemorable for all that.
Part of that, I must admit, has to do with my response to the cliffhanger, which sours the entire episode that came before it. A Romulan that looks like Tasha Yar is mostly a cause for groaning and rolling of eyes than a truly suspenseful cliffhanger that’s supposed to carry you over for three months. (This will be exacerbated by the amount of screen time wasted on Sela in part 2, but we’ll address that next week.)
Warp factor rating: 6
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