Tue
Nov 13 2012 4:05pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Birthright, Part II”

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright“Birthright, Part II”
Written by Rene Echevarria
Directed by Dan Curry
Season 6, Episode 17
Production episode 40276-243
Original air date: February 29, 1993
Stardate: 46579.2

Captain’s log: We get a summary of the Worf-focused events of Part 1, then pick up with the Romulan guards aiming their disruptors at Worf. Gi’ral and L’Kor tell him what happened to them after Khitomer: they were rendered unconscious during the Romulan attack, and awoke shackled and unarmed, and therefore unable to die—they couldn’t even starve themselves. They were interrogated for months, and the Klingon High Council refused to acknowledge they were even alive. Not willing to return home to disgrace their families, they chose to let the galaxy believe them dead. A Romulan officer named Tokath took pity on them and brought them to this camp on Carraya.

L’Kor wonders why Worf came—if he had found his father here, there would only be dishonor awaiting him. But Worf wouldn’t have room in his heart for shame if he found his father alive. L’Kor counters by saying that if his son found his way to Carraya, he’d hope that he’d be Klingon enough to kill him.

Worf wanders the camp, where he is now a prisoner. He meets Toq, and is appalled to see that he’s using a ghIntaq spear as a gardening tool. Toq makes reference to a war that their parents came here to get away from, and Worf’s explanation that there is no such war falls on deaf ears. Then he reencounters Ba’el—clothed this time—who flirts with him a bit before her mother, Gi’ral, summons her.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

Returning to the room he’s been provided, Worf is visited by Tokath, who runs the joint. Worf accuses Tokath of robbing the Klingons of their honor, but Tokath could not just slit their throats while they were unconscious. Worf says, “I do not expect you to understand—you are a Romulan.” Tokath says that Worf’s just like L’Kor was twenty years ago, and that Tokath had to sacrifice his military career in order to oversee this prison camp. Worf asks why he did it, and Tokath smiles. “I don’t expect you to understand—you’re a Klingon.”

Tokath will not allow Worf to destroy what he’s built. He also drops the bombshell that his wife is a Klingon—so he’s not just warning Worf as a jailer, but also as someone protecting his family.

Worf uses a device he pulled out of the wall as an explosive, distracting the Romulan guards long enough for him to jump the wall and escape into the jungle. Heading for Shrek’s ship, he gets very close before he’s jumped by Toq, who occupies Worf long enough for the two Romulans to catch up to him.

Tokath implants a tracker under Worf’s skin and then tells L’Kor that Worf is now his responsibility. L’Kor in turn assigns Toq to be Worf’s guard, to make sure he does not cause trouble.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

Frustrated, Worf finds himself in an open area, and decides to start practicing some mok’bara forms. This intrigues some of the other young Klingons, including Ba’el, and they start following along.

Later, Ba’el takes Worf to her home to show him a box filled with Gi’ral’s old Klingon things, including her uniform, a piece of jewelry, and a rusty d’k tahg. Gi’ral then arrives and throws Worf out, saying that those items are not needed here. (Makes you wonder why she kept them...)

That night, Worf is telling stories of Kahless around the campfire. Toq accuses Worf of making it up, but Worf says that these are “our stories,” that tell Klingons who they are. Ba’el asks if they’re true, and Worf says he has studied them all his life and found new truths in them every time. She starts flirting again, and Worf responds, grabbing her hair—and exposing her pointed ears.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

Somehow, Worf didn’t get the memo that the Klingon wife Tokath took was Gi’ral, and Ba’el is their daughter. Worf, still not entirely over the whole Romulans-killed-my-parents thing, calls it an obscenity, which probably won’t help him get laid. Worf also points out that Tokath participated in the Khitomer massacre that killed thousands (though he never mentions that two of those thousands were his parents).

The next day, Worf goes to Ba’el and gives the lamest apology ever (“I’m sorry if I upset you”). He explains that Romulans and Klingons are blood enemies. Ba’el wants to know if he can put the hatred aside and still be attracted to her, and Worf admits that he doesn’t know if he can.

Worf interferes in a game that involves the rolling of what looks like a hula hoop, by grabbing a spear and throwing it through the hoop as it rolls. He explains it as a method of learning how to hunt. Toq picks up on this variation of the game quickly, and Worf says that the boy is ready to go on the hunt. He petitions Tokath to let him go hunting, and Tokath dismisses the notion as absurd. Worf gives his word that he will not try to escape, and that Toq will be with him, which Tokath dismisses—but L’Kor is appalled. Worf gave his word, and to a Klingon that should be enough. Tokath is not convinced, but he admits that he did say Worf was L’Kor’s responsibility, so on his own head be it, as it were. L’Kor makes it clear that Toq should kill Worf if he makes any attempt to break his word.

Worf teaches Toq how to use his senses, and about the thrill of the hunt and what it means to be a warrior. Toq laments that he was never taught this.

That night, at dinner, Tokath snarks at L’Kor regarding Worf and Toq not having returned yet. Tokath’s disdain for L’Kor’s falling for Worf’s “I give you my word” trick is palpable. Ba’el then asks Tokath something Worf encouraged her to ask earlier: would she be allowed to go to Romulus or Qo’noS if she wanted to?

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

Tokath is saved from having to answer that rather awkward question by Worf and Toq arriving with the fruits of their hunt: a very big, very yummy looking dead animal. Tokath is disgusted, but the Klingons all think it’s kinda neat. Toq has totally drunk Worf’s Kool-Aid, talking of how they’ve forgotten themselves. Today he learned to be a warrior, and learned that their stories are not told, their songs not sung. Toq leads them in song—a tune we heard earlier sung as a lullaby, but which is truly a warrior’s song. Tokath just looks around at all the Klingons joining in—including L’Kor and Ba’el—and then gives Worf a seriously pissed-off look. Worf looks smug right back at him.

Tokath meets with Worf, even pours him a drink, which Worf actually accepts (though we never do see him ever drink it). Tokath has done something no one else has ever accomplished in the long history of Klingon-Romulan relations. Worf points out that Toq and the other young people have tasted what they truly can be, and he can’t take that away from them. They talk around and around, and Tokath finally gives Worf a choice: live among them peacefully or be killed. Worf chooses the latter because the death will be honorable and the young people will see what it is to die as a Klingon.

Ba’el comes to Worf’s quarters to remove the tracker so he can escape, but Worf refuses. He won’t run away, won’t allow himself to be defeated. Ba’el pleads with him to stay, and Worf does admit to having fallen for her—loving a Romulan is something he never thought he could do. He wishes he could take her with him, but she knows full well that she’d never be accepted among Klingons. They kiss, and then she leaves, frustrated, wishing he’d never come because before he arrived they didn’t know what they were missing. (Worf never mentions the Federation as a possibility, which is short-sighted—Ba’el would be completely accepted there, and that’s where he actually lives, but I can also see how adding that bit of info on top of everything else would probably make her head explode.)

Worf goes before the firing squad. Tokath explains that he has agonized over this decision, but he feels that it is the right thing to do, as Worf would destroy what he has built. Tokath gives him one last chance to accept their way of life, but Worf says that he’s being put to death because he brought the truth to the young people of Carraya.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

Toq then shows up in Klingon military armor, and carrying the ghIntaq spear he was gardening with. He stands next to Worf, saying he wants to leave, and that Tokath will have to kill him to get him to stay. And then L’Kor moves to stand alongside him, as do several other of the younger Klingons—including Ba’el.

Gi’ral then gets Tokath to lower his weapon. “This is our prison,” she reminds him, “it should not be theirs.”

Worf then speaks to the young people, saying that their parents made a great sacrifice long ago, and today they do so again—for which they should be honored. The secret of Carraya must be kept. Toq explains that a supply ship will come soon—but Worf isn’t listening because he sees that Ba’el has gone back to be with her parents.

The Enterprise rendezvouses with the supply ship and beams Worf and the young people on board. Worf tells Picard that these were the survivors of a Klingon ship that crashed in the Carraya system four years earlier and that there is no prison camp and no one (else) survived Khitomer.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Apparently Ba’el finds strange Klingons ogling her while she bathes in the nude to be a total turn-on. And Worf thinks she’s right purty up until he notices the tapered ears, at which point he looks as disgusted as we’ve ever seen him. But he gets over it enough to smooch her later.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf once again shows how his future career as an ambassador is a pretty good idea, given his ability to manipulate events. Every action he takes is designed to get the young people interested in their Klingon heritage, from obvious ploys like telling stories to taking Toq on a hunt and doing mok’bara in front of everyone.

I believe I said that: “Get that off my table.”

“You do not kill an animal unless you intend to eat it!”

“Get rid of it!”

“I intend to, Tokath—but not until it’s cooked!”

Tokath criticizing Toq’s table manners and Toq explaining how to avoid salmonella.

Welcome aboard: Sterling Macer Jr. and Jennifer Gatti are perfectly adequate as Toq and Ba’el, but what makes this episode shine is the perfect casting of two great character actors, Richard Herd and Alan Scarfe, as L’Kor and Tokath. Scarfe previously appeared as another Romulan, Admiral Mendak, in “Data’s Day,” and will play an Alsurian in the Voyager episode “Resistance.” Herd and Gatti will both have recurring roles on Voyager, the former as Tom Paris’s father, Admiral Owen Paris, the latter as Harry Kim’s girlfriend Libby. James Cromwell returns from Part 1 as Jaglom Shrek very briefly and with no dialogue, due to Cromwell breaking his leg between the filming of Part 1 and Part 2.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

But this week’s Robert Knepper moment is Cristine Rose as Gi’ral. Probably best known in genre circles as the Petrelli matriarch on Heroes, I had totally forgotten that she played Gi’ral.

Trivial matters: While Part 1 had parallel plots with Data and Worf, Part 2 is almost entirely Worf, with the Data-learns-to-dream storyline completed (at least for now). This was jarring for some viewers who assumed that the second part of the storyline would follow up on both plots. In fact, this was originally just to be a single-episode Worf story, but it was expanded to give it more storytelling room and the Data dream plot added.

Toq will return in the tie-in fiction, appearing in your humble rewatcher’s Diplomatic Implausibility as the new second officer of the I.K.S. Gorkon. Over the course of my several novels that follow that ship’s adventures (The Brave and the Bold Book 2, A Good Day to Die, Honor Bound, Enemy Territory, A Burning House), Toq eventually rises to the position of first officer on the ship, and later, as seen in A Singular Destiny, becomes a ship captain in his own right, of the I.K.S. Kreltek, part of the fleet commanded by the Gorkon’s shipmaster General Klag (from “A Matter of Honor”). Toq is also established in those books as a champion hunter, following Worf’s tutelage in this episode.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Birthright

I follow up on Carraya IV, where an old debt of L’Kor’s comes back to haunt the entire colony, in the novel A Burning House, which ends with Ba’el working at the Federation embassy on Qo’noS.

The Khitomer Massacre is dramatized in my novel The Art of the Impossible, which includes L’Kor and Gi’ral as part of the Klingon staff on Khitomer, as well as Centurion Tokath involved in the Romulan part of the attack.

Michael Piller cited the Spike Lee film Malcolm X as an influence on this episode.

This is the only episode directed by Dan Curry, who served as a visual effects supervisor on all four modern Trek shows. A tai chi master, he developed and choreographed mok’bara, and he also was the designer of the bat’leth.

Make it so: “The truth is a threat to you.” This is one of my all-time favorite episodes of Star Trek, and indeed of any science fiction show, because it’s such a great (and rare, at least on screen) example of anthropological SF. The warring cultures of Romulans and Klingons are put front and center here, nicely developing what we’ve seen of both peoples since “Balance of Terror” and “Errand of Mercy.”

Tokath mentions at one point that he and Worf could talk all night and never convince each other that the other one’s right, and that’s part of what makes the episode so great, in that both sides are correct—and both sides are wrong.

On the one hand, Worf is quite the manipulative bastard here, and a racist one at that, as his inability to view Romulans with anything but contempt colors his perceptions of Tokath—and of Ba’el, thus costing him a likely booty call. On the other hand, the young Klingons really haven’t been told anything of their heritage or of their culture. Tellingly, none of the young male Klingons in the camp have any kind of facial hair, a nice visual cue that shows that they’ve been pretty well assimilated (the older male Klingons, from L’Kor on down, are bearded). On top of that, Worf’s a security chief and a Starfleet officer, and he knows his first duty as a prisoner is to find a way to escape. The best way to escape is to exploit a weakness, and in the case of the camp, it’s that very ignorance of Klingon culture that fills a void in their lives.

From Tokath’s side, he absolutely has done something unprecedented, creating a peaceful, successful community between two peoples who historically can’t stand each other. It’s a lovely, pastoral, peaceful place to live. But it’s still a prison—there are armed guards all over the place—for all that it’s a gilded one. The children have all grown up with it, so they don’t see it as a prison because it’s never occurred to them that there’s an alternative. And Tokath is openly contemptuous of the Klingon way of life. Look at the way he sneers at the very notion of L’Kor accepting Worf’s word—that’s a pretty fundamental Klingon principle. He didn’t just take in some Klingons, he took in broken and defeated Klingons, and the peacefulness of the camp was based on anonymity, secrecy, and hiding from the entire rest of the galaxy. It’s easy to have a paradise when you’re small and isolated.

There are so many things to love here. For starters, humans are completely irrelevant to the storyline. This is about two cultures that have been part of Star Trek since the late 1960s, and the Earthers need not apply. The casting of Alan Scarfe is a masterstroke, as his resonant voice is a joy to listen to, adding gravitas to his arguments with Worf. And the concluding moment when Sir Patrick Stewart makes it clear that Picard knows damn well that Worf is lying through his teeth, but also trusting his officer enough to know that he’s lying for good reason is a very nice character touch. (And yeah, there’s the fact that I got a lot of mileage in my own Trek fiction out of Worf’s trip to Carraya...)

But probably what’s best about this episode is that writer Rene Echevarria understands that the foundation of any culture is storytelling. The tales, the legends, the songs—that’s the base of a civilization, and it’s Worf’s exposure of the younger Klingons to those stories, those songs, those traditions that drive the plot.

 

Warp factor rating: 10


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that he’s written lots of books and that you should buy each and every one of them. Ordering links for his most recent work—as well as links to his blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, various and sundry podcasts, and multiple other nifty things he’s involved with—can be found at his web site at DeCandido.net.

48 comments
DTilly
1. DTilly
I will totally agree that this is a good episode. You have to admit, though, this episode is guilty of plot-convenient conflict in giving Worf a love interest. It's contrived at best, that in such a short time he would fall in love and with the only on-screen Klingon (ish) woman remotely age-appropriate. Or was all that part of his manipulation as well? If so, he's a jerk... and my hero.
Bastiaan Stapel
2. Stapel
Keith, considering you gave a 9 to part I, and revealed part II was even better, a 10 is no surprise! I fully agree with you these two episodes a gems. Yet, a 10 (out of 10) suggests it is perfect or at least that it is the best we have as far as TNG goes. And with that I disagree.

IMHO, the 2nd part has a few flaws that annoy me:
-Shrek's info is wrong. Mogh is not among the prisoners. Where did he get the info? He knows up front he won't get paid..... Just silly, not?
-Why doesn't the Enterprise get to the rescue a tat bit faster? Shrek can tell them where Worf is.
-Worf's attempt to escape is hampered in a silly way. He also has a dozen other ways to escape, I'ld imagine, before going through his series of manipulation

Another thing I disliked is Worf being such a blatant racist. I get why he has some hesitations, but this goes too far, I guess. Good for him he misses out on a good night of fun!

Well, this sounds like I disliked it! Not true! A great two-parter! As mentioned by krad: no humans. That's cool!
Jeff Weston
3. JWezy
"Ba’el asks if they’re true, and Worf says he has studied them all his life and found new truths in them every time."

This may be one of my favorite NextGen lines - it cuts to the core of the idea that the stories don't have to be literally true in order to be true, and that the stories really do define what it is to be Klingon.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
I was personally torn with this episode - which is part of what makes it a good episode. But it's mostly because, while I did feel that their society of 'living together in peace' was largely based on turning the Klingons into something else...I don't feel that Klingon society had that much to offer (aside from seeing a lot of honor in keeping their word, which is one of the admirable traits of their culture). Was it really worth bringing them back the 'truth' of their heritage, especially if it had led to bloodshed, disruption, etc? I can see it both ways, really.

I totally get where Worf is coming from in seeing that their stories, history and songs have all been suppressed. Hunting (to me) is not an incredibly offensive thing so I was cool with that. But overall it seems like now they are just picking up all that warrior-centric stuff I am just not that into. I am totally about honor and sticking to an ethical code even in the face of death, I just don't agree with their conceptions of honor. The entire fact that they can't go home to families and loved ones because they were defeated in battle - that somehow makes them lesser people and would even make their families lesser people. I find that rather horrifying.

Worf is all horrified that they aren't 'warriors' anymore, but what are they warriors FOR? It's almost like they value just being a warrior for warrior's sake.

But as you say - it's not a human culture. It's totally different, and I can appreciate the way the story was created. It's just definitely not a culture I would want to be a part of.
Lee VanDyke
5. Cloric
I have to take a dissenting view, I guess. I was bored through much of this episode, but then I often am when Worf gets all chest-thumpy and "Me Klingon! (Almost) Everyone else weak and have no honor!" I was much happier when an Enterprise episode dared to challenge the idea that every Klingon HAD to be a warrior or ELSE!
DTilly
6. Lsana
It's been a while since I've seen this episode, and it's not one I care to watch more than once, so this may have been answered, but I have a question: The reason they didn't just let Worf go was because they were afraid that he would reveal the existance of the prison camp/colony, correct? But if a Klingon giving his word is enough to convince them that Worf wouldn't try to escape, wouldn't Worf giving his word that he wouldn't reveal the colony's existence be enough for them to just let him go? Or did they ask him to give his word to keep their secret, and he refused?
Renee Hall
7. RCarterHall
I've seen this episode several times now, and of all of it, I think that song remains my favorite part. :)
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
You make a good argument about neither side being entirely right or wrong, Keith, but I found myself more sympathetic to Tokath's point of view. I don't care for the racial essentialism of Worf's viewpoint, the idea that just because someone is genetically Klingon, they're somehow not living right unless they embrace the culture that Klingons of the current epoch normally practice. Exposing them to their heritage, giving them a choice, is one thing, but there shouldn't be anything wrong with them being individuals rather than racial stereotypes and deciding that they like a different culture better. But then, TNG always stereotyped the hell out of Worf, making him ultra-Klingon even though he spent nearly his entire life immersed in human culture.

The casting was pretty good here. Scarfe was great and Macer had a nice strong voice. Jennifer Gatti was quite the hottie, though the fact was much more evident when she played a human on Voyager.

Oh yeah, and about the song... I'm afraid I always found Klingon music in modern Trek shows to be disappointing. In the TNG novels Howard Weinstein wrote in the late '80s or so, he described Klingon music as having a very harsh, discordant and alien sound to human ears -- particularly focusing on the chuS'ugh ("heavy noise"), an instrument whose sound was an unearthly bass growl that set the human characters' teeth on edge. That was interesting to imagine, and it was a letdown when the Klingon music we eventually heard in TNG and DS9 sounded so much like conventional Western music. (Although in the background of the Klingon tavern scene in "Redemption Part II," IIRC, there is a sort of deep, gravelly musical sound faintly audible, and I've always liked to imagine it was a chuS'ugh.)
Joseph Newton
9. crzydroid
I've just thought of something: This episode is all about making them more "Klingon," so instead of kissing Ba'el, shouldn't Worf be trying to bite her or growl at her or something?

Also, Worf's escape attempt could've used more finess, ie, run to the other side of the compound during the distraction where there's no one to see him climbing over the wall.
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
Lsana: no, that wasn't brought up, but that's a question of degree. It's one thing to let Worf go out into the jungle, where he's at least still on the planet, quite another to let him go off into space where there's no chance of getting him back.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
11. krad
Christopher: So you're okay with imprisoning people against their will, as long as they don't actually know that it's a prison? Tokath and the older Klingons lied to their children about why they were on the planet and about the war they were allegedly avoiding, and did so while they were surrounded at all times by armed military guards. That's the side you fall on?

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
DTilly
12. Kirshy
KRAD, great review. I always liked this episode. Also, your line:

"Tokath criticizing Toq’s table manners and Toq explaining how to avoid salmonella."

Awesome. Made me laugh.
Jack Flynn
13. JackofMidworld
ChristopherLBennett - But then, TNG always stereotyped the hell out of Worf, making him ultra-Klingon even though he spent nearly his entire life immersed in human culture.

I have seen some humans that find out parts of their heritage and become totally gung ho about how great it is, essentially over-compensating for what they (think they?) missed growing up without it, so it actually makes sense, if you look at it that way.
Christopher Bennett
14. ChristopherLBennett
@11: I didn't say I was taking a side. Of course there's a negative side to both Worf's and Tokath's positions, as you point out. But I found Tokath's ideals, his goal of building a society where the stupid race war between Klingons and Romulans was a thing of the past and people got along with each other, to be more admirable than Worf's belief that everyone who's genetically Klingon has to conform to a single cultural norm and hate Romulans in order to have any self-respect. Tokath's faults are more in the execution of an idea that's worthy of respect in principle; Worf's faults are in his core beliefs about race and identity. It's the difference between a person who's trying to overcome racism but has some unexamined prejudices he's failed to overcome and a person who takes pride in his racial essentialism and sees coexistence and miscegenation as offensive. The latter seems uglier to me.

@13: I'm sure there are people like that, but Trek missed an opportunity -- many opportunities -- to show that race doesn't define who you are. They chose from the start to define Worf by his race, to make his primary character trait that he was Warrior Honor Guy, and then they retroactively rationalized that by explaining how his human parents had encouraged him to embrace his heritage. They actually did a decent job rationalizing it, and showing that Worf's ideal of Klingonness was naive compared to the reality, but it was still a missed opportunity. I always wanted to see a more plausible intermixing of species and culture -- a human raised on Vulcan who embraced Vulcan culture and logic, an Andorian raised on Earth as a Jew or Buddhist or something, a joint human-Bolian colony whose culture was a blend of both heritages, that sort of thing. Not the usual approach where every member of a given species had identical culture, language, naming patterns, religion, clothing, and haircuts.
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
^ Yeah, okay, fair enough. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
DTilly
16. StrongDreams
@14, so you love the Scottish pig-man, right?
DTilly
17. Cybersnark
What makes Worf's bigotry even more tragic; I've just been rereading "Vulcan's Heart" by Sherman & Shwartz, and it strikes me how, culturally, Romulans and Klingons have more in common than either of them would willingly acknowledge.

In their way, honour is as central to Romulan life as it is to Klingons (and, let's be honest, Klingons can be every bit as dishonourable as Romulans), Romulans have as much of a warrior ethic as Klingons do, and Romulans value family and lineage as strongly as any Klingon.

If the Klingons had had a string of worse Chancellors, or the Romulans a string of better Praetors, they could very well be the closest of allies. Of friends. Such is the way of all blood enemies, perhaps.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
18. Lisamarie
ChristopherLBennet, I just want to say that I loved your comment and it definitely got to the heart of how I felt about this particular episode regarding the 'right' way to be a Klingon, etc.
DTilly
19. TBonz
Actually, KRAD, they weren't imprisoned against their will. They were to be sent home but they asked to stay knowing if they went home, they would dishonor their families. Tokath is the one who gave up something - he had nothing to gain by staying with them (at that time, he probably shared the general Romulan view of Klingons) and everything to lose - in this case, he torpedoed his career.

Now for what I thought of the episode:

I really like Birthright Part II, but it has serious flaws. First of all, I couldn't buy that Romulus would just tell Tokath, "OK, they can stay there but you have to guard them." They'd have just said, "Send them back or get rid of them." Why waste resources and a trained Romulan military officer on a charitable undertaking that is no use to Romulus and helps people who are enemies?

Secondly - OK, the Klingons have this big bad warrior society which can't accept that their fierce fighters might be captured because all good warriors would rather die than be captured. So these guys get captured and since they're not allowed to suicide, they eventually become this Klingon-Romulan colony where they grow to like their jailers, even intermarrying. Until Worf shows up, everything is peachy.

I just can't buy this at all. IF it is so ingrained in the culture that dishonor is horrible AND they had already tried once before to die (trying to starve themselves) AND they were affecting their afterlife in a negative way by staying alive, why not wait until Tokath and the other Romulans believed they were playing ball, then kill the Romulans and then themselves THAT would have been honorable (killing their captors) and the Klingon way. The Klingons didn't act Klingon here any more than the Romulans acted Romulan in permitting the Klingons to stay alive.

The colony secrecy. Really? Shrek knew of it. Some Romulans had to know as well (as supply ships arrived periodically). How secret is it then? Why not just swear Worf to secrecy? He was Starfleet and had shown himself sympathetic towards the Klingons plight (He wouldn't have been ashamed had he found his father there, to L'Kor's disgust) so why not let him promise to keep quiet and let him go? Why hold a Starfleet officer against his will who would a) stir up long-settled issues on the colony and b) possibly draw the attention of Starfleet? Illogical. And that's not even counting his influence on the colony which ended up being a real problem. Bad decision by Tokath.

At the least, Worf could be taken away, had that memory mind-wiped and then dumped off at some Starbase near the Neutral Zone.

As for letting Worf influence the teens, as SOON as this became obvious, he should have been locked up and put on the next supply ship to wherever if Tokath didn't want to kill him. If he was that much of a threat - do NOT let him anywhere near the impressionable.

Those are my problems with the ep. Of course, I guess they needed those flaws to make the episode work but I just couldn't buy what was being sold, even if I liked some of the characters. Of course, I am no fan of the "warrior culture" and the seeming love of killing that Klingons seem to embrace.
DTilly
20. TBonz
P.S. I love your writing and read Burning House after watching this, but I was really disappointed in the treatment of Tokath, Ba'el and even Toq. Tokath was turned into something I just don't see him becoming based on his past actions, kind of a villain almost, and one sarcastic comment in Birthright Part II does not to me indicate a closet bigot. Had he been so, he'd have never tossed his career by staying on Carraya. He was not the typical Romulan if he did that and I think he and the Klingons on that planet really tried to work past the hatreds and I think the Klingons deliberately didn't instill the warrior mentality in their children because they KNEW they were stuck on Carraya and it would do them no good there.

Seems to me Tokath would have been sad but not mad, as the Klingons also would have been (especially those whose children opted to leave), but I think just as the parents went on with their lives after realizing they had to stay on Carraya to avoid dishonoring their families, the parents would have picked up the pieces after Worf and the kids left and went on with things. In fact, they well may have been sad, but they also would have been happy that their children would get what they could no longer have.

It was sad to see Toq in the book realizing that Tokath was a creep and to realize as a reader, that Toq was not only turning into a regular Klingon, but he would probably begin to hate Romulans. It was disappointing to see it and had Tokath stayed in character as seen on Birthright, it wouldn't have happened.

I did like the other characters and stories in the book - but the follow up to Tokath and his family and Toq, not so much.
Keith DeCandido
21. krad
Bonzie: the people who were imprisoned against their will were the children. That's who I was referring to in my comment to Christopher above.

As for Tokath's portrayal in A Burning House, I stand by it, particularly given that he'd spent the last eight years being embittered after the events of "Birthright," not to mention Ba'el not speaking to him and his wife committing suicide...

Great comments on the episode, by the by....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
DTilly
22. TBonz
They were only imprisoned against their will at the very end. Had Worf never arrived, it would have never been an issue. In fact, Ba'el nailed it when she lamented Worf's coming there; they had been happy prior to his coming; at least the kids had been and the parents were making the best of it and content with their families, if not overjoyed.

The situation reminded me in some ways of The Apple (original series), a perfectly good society forced to eventually conform to what someone else thought was best for them instead of what they thought was best for them.

You don't know that Tokath was embittered for those eight years, that's something you assumed/created for the book, ditto for Ba'el's reaction or Gi'ral's suicide.

I could equally argue that with his wife's influence - see how she gently lowered his arm and got him to see reason in Birthright 2, and at the end, she and Tokath stood with Ba'el, arms around her, that they would get through it.

While I think Gi'ral could handle Tokath's bitterness (if any), I suspect that Ba'el would not be a happy camper and that both parents would have their hands full for a while dealing with her pain. She would have to come to her own acceptance of her lot; accepted on the colony, but not by either of her people's homeworlds. Sad.

As for Gi'ral, it didn't seem to me that after all these years she would now commit suicide. I don't think that even if Tokath was upset for a while, that she couldn't reach him. Being Klingon, I think she would fight to get him back, not give him his space and drift off and kill herself out of sadness (and leave behind her daughter by doing so) and after 17 years, she probably knew just how to deal with him. Plus - if she had the courage to marry a Romulan in the first place (and probably her fellow Klingons weren't thrilled with that at first), no way would she not fight. Or instead of killing herself, she'd put the dagger through him in frustration *lol!*

Again, all assumption based on my read on the episode and what I thought would naturally follow. Obviously, your mileage varied. But hey, that's the fun of Star Trek - different people see and get different things out of it. It's part of the attraction.

Klingons still get on my nerves though....too much emphasis on the dubious system of honor they follow and no damned common sense whatsoever. And Worf? Nice job messing up a society that worked, pinhead. He wouldn't have even acted Klingon had his father been there and yet he's lecturing them all on being proper Klingons? Jeez.
DTilly
23. RichF
Apparently, Klingons that haven't been raised in a prison camp either don't know about, don't care about, or are immune to, salmonella. In Sins of the Father, Kurn expressed his disdain over the Enterprise crew serving for dinner a bird that was both replicated and cooked.
Jack Flynn
24. JackofMidworld
14. ChristopherLBennett - That is one of the things that seems rampant in two of the biggest sci-fi tv/movie franchises of all time, how planets are all made up of the same people (all Klingons are the same, all Vulcans are the same, or the Star Wars desert planets, city planets, ice planets, and forest planets). It would've been nice to see, oh, I dunno, artsy poet Klingons or Viking Wookies or something.

17. Cybersnark - Don't like the reflection, I suppose?

The one thing about the honor of Klingons (and a lot of other honor-bound cultures) is that it's only dishonorable if you get caught.
DTilly
25. Erik Dercf
A 10 ? That is rather kind. While this episode finishes the two parter its whirlwind romance is a strange detractor to me. I like to imagine this episode with everything except that romance. But I did find it interesting that Kahless finds his mate in much the same way Worf finds the girl after reading the book Kahless.
alastair chadwin
26. a-j
With respect, I think a lot of people have missed the point of this episode. The Romulans deny the Klingon children access to their own culture and this is portrayed as a bad thing. And I agree. Whether you approve of another culture is irrelevant, it is not for you to re-educate its children to a pattern you find more appealing.
This was tried in Australia where children of the aboriginal inhabitants were taken from their parents and placed with white European families in order to 'free' them from a culture the European settlers disapproved of. It was a disaster, by the way.
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Of course it's wrong to deny them the opportunity to learn their culture. But it's also wrong to assume, as Worf did, that they're living wrong if they don't conform to their ancestral culture. Either way, they should have the right to choose for themselves instead of having well-meaning outsiders mold them to fit their preconceptions.
Bastiaan Stapel
28. Stapel
OK, possibly the lamest comment ever, but at the top of the article I read: "Original air date: February 29, 1993".

That's not right, is it?

Anyway, fine comments all! Good to read it all!
Jeremy Clegg
29. Cleggster
I remember this episode mainly for one thing. The hunt. When I first saw this, I felt that I finialy understood Klingons. Instead of being bumpy headed Russians, they were real..biological aliens. They would experience a phisiological effect when presented with prey. Suddenly a warrior based culture made sense. The obsession with honor would be a natural extension of a race whose "blood boiled" when hunting. (Note, I am not assuming that their blood actualy boils.) This reflected my view of Klingons ever since. And of course I get disapointed when later writers obviously forget this fact.
DTilly
30. TBonz
26. a-j: "The Romulans deny the Klingon children access to their own culture..."

Are you so sure the Romulans did the denying? It might well be that the Klingon parents decided the kids would be better off not being warriors, given that their lives supposedly would be confined to the colony.

Or both the Klingons and Romulans may have come jointly to the decision to rachet down the warrior stuff.

Seems to me that the parents figured "Well, we didn't live up to what a Klingon should be, so why should we raise them up with all of these ideas that could be problematic when it comes to living here?"

At the very least, if they were raised as true Klingons, at some point they would view their parents in a rather negative light and perhaps turn on them.

P.S. The romance? Eh. Could have skipped it. I liked Ba'el, but the romance just didn't ring true.
Joseph Newton
31. crzydroid
@28: You're right, I think; it doesn't seem to me that there would be a February 29th in 1993. Memory Alpha has the airdate as March 1st, but interestingly, Wikipedia says March 14th, and IMDB says February 27th. Part of the discrepancy could be due to the syndicated nature of the show; ie, local stations showing it at different times...Can anyone with more knowledge shed some light on this?
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
Usually the dates listed in TNG and DS9 episode guides are "week of" dates -- if it says March 1, it would've been the episode airing in the week beginning March 1 (which was a Monday in 1993). Different markets would've aired it at various times between 3/1 and 3/7 -- in my city, it was the 4th -- but 3/1 would've been the first date on which it aired. At least, that's the way I've always thought it worked. The IMDb date confuses the issue somewhat. But the TNG Companion does say it aired the week of 3/1/93.
DTilly
34. Edgar Governo
Worf's fundamentalist approach to Klingon culture does complicate matters somewhat--over the course of the various spinoffs, we see that there are a lot of Klingons who take a more Christmas-and-Easter approach to their traditions.

One thing that really gets in the way of my enjoying this episode is its fakeness. The production values do nothing to convince me the colony is anything more than a blandly lit studio set, even though episodes like "The Inner Light" have shown TNG is capable of doing a more convincing job. (I didn't even know most of that episode was shot indoors when I first watched it.)
Nick Polt
35. jlpsquaredisback
I thought this episode was OK. I thought part 1 was one of my faves of season 6, but this one seemed like it was trying to hard, and at the same time didn't really know what it was trying to do. This is what I mean by this. In the very beginning, that old klingon told Worf he would hope if his own son found him, he would at least be klingon enough to kill him, to which Worf basically says he doesn't like that part of Klingon culture. yet, what everyone loves about this episode is how Worf then turns around and claims how much he LOVES Klingon culture, even though not 5 minutes ago, he basically spit in its face. Let's not forget, it isn't exactly Klingon like to
Christopher Bennett
36. ChristopherLBennett
@35: A culture isn't a single monolithic thing. You can admire parts of it while questioning or rejecting others. Within any single culture, you'll find a wide range of variations among individuals' interpretations of its values. For instance, within American culture, there are enormous differences of opinion about practices like gay marriage, abortion, the role of the federal government, and so forth. SFTV cultures tend to be fairly uniform, but even so, the Trek cultures that get developed the most do tend to acquire some diversity of thought and practice within them.
DTilly
37. Ginomo
This is one of my favorite episodes of Trek but I fully admit its because I love Klingons nearly as much as Krad does. But I don't know that it qualifies this as one of the best episodes of TNG especially when you consider the other warp factor 10 eps (is this really as good as The Inner Light?)

I too love how there are no humans here and that its all aliens and their values. Is worf racist? By human standards yes but he is not human. He is Klingon and they hate Romulans.

BTW, I love "a burning house." I stumbled onto this rewatch when I was trying to figure out if there was a continuation to it.
Joseph Newton
38. crzydroid
@37, Ginomo: Just because (nearly) all Klingons hate Romulans doesn't make them any less racist. One need not be human or feel like a race shouldn't be judged by human standards in order to be racist. You are or you aren't. Now, perhaps Worf's culpability for his racist actions and beliefs is greatly diminished because of this strong cultural view that is difficult to overcome, but he is still a racist. Is that the idea that you were getting at?
DTilly
39. Shakaama
I find it fascinating that no one here picked up on the complete allegory to Black Americans in this story. Here is a people that were kidnapped, sold, stolen, by whatever means, into slavery. Then, they were brainwashed off the coast of Africa. Then, they were shipped across the Atlantic. They were brainwashed and mind-wiped in the islands of the carribean. Then, in America, to justify them being there, the land where all men are created equal, they are constantly mind-wiped, deprived of all prior culture, and told they are less than human.

Fast forward 100 years later and you have an entire Black culture that have no idea who their fathers and mothers were in Africa; no idea what language they spoke; no idea what religion they practiced; no idea what tribe they belonged to; no idea what land they owned; no idea of knowledges they had. And so forth and so on.

You have two Black actors discussing a complete loss of culture in this story and no one here even picks up on it? I'm sure it wasn't an accident.
DTilly
40. Ashcom
@ 39 - I think the reference to the episode being influenced by Malcolm X in the original article suggests someone else picked up on it.

The other reference I was surprised nobody got was to the idea of a group from one proud society (the Klingons) being subjugated and subsumed and forced to live "peacefully" by another's way of life. And their spirit then being re-awoken by a passionate rendition of their warrior song. Maybe it's just me, but it immediately made me think of this classic scene:
http://youtu.be/HM-E2H1ChJM
DTilly
41. Heather Dunham
I agree with all the great things about this ep.

I also agree with all the negative comments about this ep. Personally, I think the good and bad weighed together would make this more of a 7 or 8... while intriguing and thought-provoking, I never have found it particularly compelling to watch. If it comes on I'm more likely to say "meh" and change the channel. That's not a 10 ep for my tastes.

What I was really wondering, though, was... why do they have all these Klingon weapons at the camp? The spear being used for gardening, the hoops and javelins for training for the hunt... The Romulans captured a few dozen unconscious Klingons at Khittomer... and brought along a bunch of cultural treasures?

They tortured them for months, then ultimately came to this camp living arrangement. When they said "okay, you can have all of your weapons back now."

I can totally buy that the parents did not want their children to even know about their cultural heritage -- so they would not know what they were missing, what they had lost. So why even use their cultural tools at all, even for the wrong purpose? Would they not instead be locked away? Or tell the Romulans "we don't want them, get rid of them" and use ROMULAN gardening tools instead? This is even once you get past the question of why the Romulans had brought along the HOOPS AND JAVELINS in the first place.

I know that when I capture a bunch of enemies for the intent of torturing and extracting information, I always make sure that I collect a bunch of their cultural artifacts before heading home... especially ones that are intended as training tools for their children.
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
@41: It could be that the Klingon captives made those implements at some early point in their captivity, before they'd given up on escaping. The Romulans might not have known enough about Klingon culture to recognize their purpose.
DTilly
43. SnookyTLC
Get outta my vegetable garden!

Seriously. These young people are tending the garden, then play games in it? The poor winter kale! Someone give these kids a playground, 'kay? It's just luck the cabbage survived all these javelin/hoop hijinks.

And someone get that young man a proper hoe! (Or pound your swords into ploughshares...)

No one could mistake that spear for a weapon. It's got a very wicked end.

On a personal note, this rewatch has taught me how much I've learned about botany since seeing these episodes years ago. I now notice the plant varietals used in the various scenes (Japanese iris used as a table decoration, the pink-flowered bromeliads in the headboards on the Enterprise, etc.).
DTilly
44. JohnC
This episode is in my top 5 of TNGs because it addresses uncomfortable topics without flinching (well, at least not too blatantly). Yes, Worf is a racist. That flaw makes him a much more interesting and well-rounded character, and I thought it was fascinating how the writers were able to figure a way to resolve this plot without turning Worf into a "we are the world" milquetoast by the end of it, which would have been the easy way out. The Searchers is my favorite John Wayne flick partially because of Wayne's portrayal of a troubled and mentally-wounded racist, but at the end he lifts Natalie Wood up on his horse with him and they go riding off into the sunset. The ending just doesn't fit there, and I'm glad Birthright did not end in a similar way. Yes, he is somewhat englightened and less ofa prick about things, but in essence he is still fiercely Klingon, and I'm guessing he would still be loathe to trust one of them....
DTilly
45. The Real Scott M
I agree that this is probably as great an episode as it could have been. Still, I have a couple of significant issues with it. First is that they really didn't have a reason to keep Worf there. When he first arrived, there wasn't a great likelihood that he would have brought anyone back with him -- especially if they explained the situation. You could say maybe, but it just seems like a major stretch entirely in support of the plot.

Second is the problem that this episode is utterly predictable. It is completely by the numbers, with nary a surprise to be found. But as I said, I don't think TNG (and television at the time) was really set up for anything different.

They did make the best of it, though. The conflict is interesting, the dialogue is good, the acting is great, and the theme is compelling. I don't think these issues detract from the show too much. It is still one of the best episodes of the series. I just would have preferred it not to feel so obvious.
Joseph Newton
46. crzydroid
@45: I think they felt they needed to keep Worf there because they couldn't trust him not to tell anyone about them, or he should feel honor bound to tell someone, etc...and then their families would be shamed, because Klingon society is messed up like that.
DTilly
47. emmychan
I hate this episode with a passion - I'm surprised you enjoyed it, considering your comments on 'Suddenly Human'. Here we have Worf insisting that these young kids have to embrace the culture he thinks they ought to have simply because of their genetics, and the show backs that up like it's a good thing.

Obviously keeping the kids prisoner and not telling them the truth about either themselves or the larger world is bad. But grabbing, say, a bunch of modern African-Americans and telling them that they must return to the hunts of their ancestors in order to have self-respect would be appalling.

Worf doing these things makes sense for Worf, he is pretty obsessed with the Klingon Way. However, it deeply bothers me that the issues of genetic destiny are never addressed by anyone else.
Christopher Bennett
48. ChristopherLBennett
@47: I don't think he's necessarily saying they have to behave a certain way because of their genetics; he's saying they haven't been given the choice by the Romulans, that they've been denied knowledge of their cultural heritage and forcibly assimilated into someone else's culture, and they're entitled to know where they came from. Ultimately he's trying to give them the information to make a choice for themselves about how to live. The ending bears that out, because some of them choose to leave while others choose to stay. Worf doesn't force the decision on them, he just gives them the option.

By the way, most of the Africans who were taken in the slave trade were from agricultural societies; after all, they wouldn't be as much use as plantation slaves if they didn't have farming experience. They were mostly prisoners taken in wars among African nations, victims of kidnapping, criminal convicts, or descendants of slaves (for slavery had already been a longstanding practice in many African empires and states).

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