Fri
Mar 14 2014 2:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Sons of Mogh”

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh“Sons of Mogh”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 14
Production episode 40514-487
Original air date: February 12, 1996
Stardate: 49556.2

Station log: Worf and Dax are working out in a holosuite and flirting outrageously when they’re interrupted by Odo. Worf’s brother Kurn has arrived on the station, exceedingly drunk, and wants Worf to perform the Mauk-to’Vor ceremony on him. It’s a Klingonish form of seppuku, whereby a Klingon warrior regains his honor by being ritually killed by a family member. Worf’s being cast out of the empire by Gowron has resulted in all the House of Mogh’s lands being seized, Kurn’s seat on the High Council lost.

Kurn is, of course, livid, as he had to stand around and watch Gowron take the House of Mogh apart. He’s lost everything, and only Worf can give him his honor back. Worf agrees, acquires some adanji (a type of incense) from Quark, and uses a mevak dagger to stab Kurn.

Dax, who found out about the acquisition of the adanji, takes Odo to Worf’s quarters just as Kurn is impaled. Dax beams Kurn to the infirmary.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

O’Brien and Kira return on the Yukon from an inspection tour of the Bajoran colonies on the Cardassian border when they encounter an explosion just outside the Bajoran system. As they investigate, a Klingon ship decloaks and warns them off, saying it’s a military exercise.

Bashir saves Kurn and Sisko makes it clear that his willingness to tolerate diversity and cultural relativism ends at premeditated murder. Sisko also instructs Kira to investigate the Klingon activity outside the Bajoran system with the Defiant, but not to take Worf along under any circumstances. They find traces of cloaked ships just outside the Bajoran system—and then a Vor’cha-class cruiser decloaks with a huge-ass hole in its hull. Initially they decline assistance, but then agree to a tow back to Deep Space 9 for medical aid.

Kurn awakens in the infirmary, and realizes that Mauk-to’Vor isn’t an option. He realizes that he has no life and no death. Whatever happens to him now is up to Worf. So Worf, at Dax’s suggestion, approaches Odo about putting Kurn on his security team. Assuming Kurn can remember to use the stun setting on his disruptor, Odo agrees. He does quite well—at first. But when he is drawn on by a smuggler, Kurn just stands there and lets himself get shot. Odo refuses to keep someone with a death wish on his security detail.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

Bashir reports that the injuries he treated among the Klingons the Defiant brought back were all consistent with the damage to the ship. Based on the sensor readings they got—and didn’t get—Worf hypothesizes that the Klingons are placing cloaked mines around the Bajoran system in order to cut DS9, Bajor, and the wormhole off if all-out war breaks out. Worf suggests that he and Kurn beam onto the Klingon ship to hack their computer and find the location of the mines. Kurn is revolted at the further dishonor, and he’s less than impressed by Worf’s rationalization that the Klingons were dishonorable first by laying cloaked mines. But he agrees, and the pair of them are disguised by Bashir, complete with a DNA profile matching two of his patients, and then beamed onto the ship. Kurn bypasses a security block, and then they’re forced to kill a lieutenant who catches them.

Kurn killed the lieutenant because he saw that he was going to try to kill Worf—Worf himself didn’t see it. He realizes at last that he has no place in the empire. He can’t even think of Mauk-to’Vor as anything but murder.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

Kira takes the Defiant out and gives the Klingons a single warning that she’s going to detonate their minefield. Nobody moves, so Kira blows up one section of mines. Still nothing, so she detonates the majority of the mines. Then, suddenly, ships decloak and bugger back to Klingon space.

Worf finds Kurn drunk and pointing a disruptor at his own head. Worf takes the disruptor away and then Kurn passes out. Then he takes Kurn to Bashir, who wipes his memories, changes his DNA profile, and alters his face. An old family friend of Worf’s named Noggra has agreed to give Kurn a new name and a new family. He is now Rodek, and he goes off with Noggra.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Cloaked mines are apparently undetectable. Also Klingons have been using false computer directories to stymie spies. Luckily, Kurn, as an ex-member of the High Council, was in on that plan and is able to bypass it when he and Worf are committing espionage.

The Sisko is of Bajor: When Worf tries to kill his brother on the station, Sisko rips him a new asshole, and rips Dax one while he’s at it. (When O’Brien tries to defend his former shipmate, Sisko doesn’t even let him get started before threatening to rip him one, too.)

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira sleeps for the entire seven-hour trip from the Bajoran colonies she and O’Brien were inspecting. She’s stunned when O’Brien wakes her, saying she doesn’t sleep for seven hours on the station. (O’Brien jokes that it’s probably the company.)

The slug in your belly: Dax figures out what Worf is doing as soon as she learns that Worf got adanji from Quark and that his visitor is also his brother. She’s also the one who suggests putting Kurn in Odo’s security squad and also comes up with the idea of changing his identity. She and Worf have also been doing sword drills in the holosuite, with Worf singing the praises of the mek’leth over the bat’leth.

There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf is faced with the consequences of his actions, as he made the decision to not back Gowron’s invasion from the safety of the Federation. It is his younger brother who had to face the humiliation of having the House of Mogh ripped to pieces.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo does a favor for Worf by bringing Kurn onto his security detail. We never do find out what Worf does to return the favor...

Tough little ship: As soon as posturing needs to be done with the Klingons, Sisko is sure to send the Defiant.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Worf and Dax’s workouts on the holodeck aren’t foreplay. Probably. Never mind that Worf accuses Dax of wearing a cleavage-y outfit to distract him, while Dax accuses Worf of doing the same with all his manly grunting.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: So far, every time a Klingon does a sword drill on the holosuite—Koloth in “Blood Oath,” Worf and Dax in “The Way of the Warrior” and here—it’s always a cave. I liked the overgrown industrial complex Worf had on the Enterprise better...

Keep your ears open: “There. Very ugly. Uglier, that is. A joke.”

“I got it.”

Bashir trying to make a funny and going up against Worf’s glacier-like mien.

Welcome aboard: Tony Todd makes his fourth and final appearance as Kurn, having played the part on TNG thrice—“Sins of the Father” and the “Redemption two-parter—also his second appearance of the season, as the actor played the older Jake Sisko in “The Visitor.” Robert DoQui plays Noggra.

Trivial matters: This episode follows up on the consequences of Worf’s being kicked out of the Klingon Empire in “The Way of the Warrior.” Kurn was established as having a seat on the High Council in TNG’s “Rightful Heir.”

Although the producers discussed the possibility of bringing Tony Todd back as Rodek, son of Noggra, it never happened on screen. This is rather too bad, as Worf will eventually be accepted back into the good graces of the empire, leaving Kurn stuck in this new personality, suffering a disgrace that no longer matters. Rodek appeared in Vengeance by Dafydd ab Hugh and in the various novels by your humble rewatcher featuring the I.K.S. Gorkon, on which Rodek served as gunner and later second officer. An injury suffered in the novel Honor Bound leads to some of his memories starting to return, and in A Burning House (which takes place four years after this episode), he gets all his memories back. However, when given the choice between staying as Rodek or going back to being Kurn, he chooses Rodek and forsakes Worf.

According to John Eaves, the illustrator who designed the mevak dagger used for the Mauk-to’Vor ritual, the weapon has two blades: one to kill the body, the other to release the spirit to Sto-Vo-Kor.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Sons of Mogh

While the weapon was created by visual effects supervisor Dan Curry for Michael Dorn when he joined DS9 in “The Way of the Warrior,” this episode is the first time the mek’leth is named. Worf will continue to use it throughout DS9 and also in the movie First Contact.

Walk with the Prophets: “I have no family.” I always hated this episode because the ending just felt like a copout to me. And then I hated it even more later when Worf would get his mojo back and poor Kurn was stuck being Rodek, son of Noggra—but that’s not really this episode’s fault.

Because of that, I hadn’t actually watched the episode in some time. I’d watched the ending (which I hated) several times as prep for when I wrote Rodek in the assorted Klingon novels I’ve written, but I hadn’t watched the preceding episode very much.

And to my surprise, it’s a damn good one. One of the issues I had with Worf’s agreeing to discommendation back in “Sins of the Father” was that it didn’t have much by way of real-world consequences for Worf. He was pretty much the same person before and after. Since then, though, Worf had his family name restored, he had a huge influence on Klingon politics, and twice we glimpsed possible futures in which he was an important personage in the Klingon Empire, where he did go home again—in “Firstborn,” where he got a seat on the High Council and “All Good Things...” where he was a planetary governor.

What this episode does is make things a bit more real for Worf. In “Sins of the Father,” Kurn was able to maintain the public fiction that he was the son of Lorgh, so he was spared Worf’s first disgrace, but now he’s at the heart of it. Tony Todd plays Kurn’s despair magnificently, gives us a warrior who’s done nothing wrong, but has been denied the honor he deserves. Every time he tries to regain his honor, he just goes further and further down the path to destruction, culminating in being forced to kill an honorable warrior to save his brother’s life and preserve his mission.

And watching this episode again has also revealed something that I never really noticed before. Every time Worf has been forced to swallow shit in order to preserve the empire, he’s the one who’s been the honorable Klingon while others have been less than honorable. Worf has always been the ideal Klingon because he’s never had to live with the day-to-day realities of the Klingon Empire. Safe in the Federation, he can afford to be ideal because he doesn’t have to deal with the compromises of real life.

In this episode, Ronald D. Moore magnificently turns that on its ear. Kurn is the one who is the pure Klingon here. He has served his people with distinction, been a captain, a member of the High Council, part of a noble House—and all it’s gotten him is stuck on a Bajoran space station with a bottle in one hand and a disruptor in the other. He castigates Worf for not fighting off Dax and Odo when they stop the Mauk-to’Vor ritual, for living in comfort (a rerun of their conversation about being at ease on the Enterprise in “Sins of the Father”), for letting his human judgment impair his Klingon honor. It’s Worf who is finally compromised, Worf who finds he can’t maintain the balance between Federation and empire and realizes that the Federation is all he has left. For the first time, those possible futures we saw of Worf serving in the empire seem less and less likely.

 

Warp factor rating: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Lunacon 2014 this weekend in Rye Brook, New York, alongside guests such as Ryk E. Spoor, Michael F. Flynn, Randy Gallegos, and more. His schedule is here.

79 comments
Christopher Bennett
1. ChristopherLBennett
I just can't sympathize with Kurn here, and the whole idea of Mauk-to’Vor seems paradoxical to me. Klingons are supposed to be fighters who define themselves by strength and honor. What's more anathema to that than just giving up and killing yourself? It seems to me more like an act of cowardice than honor. Okay, so things are bad? Deal with it! Find a solution! This episode turned the formerly impressive Kurn into a rather pathetic character, and I didn't care for it at all.
Raymond Seavey
2. RaySea
This really is a pretty good episode, right up until the ending. I hate, hate, HATE the ending. I don't honestly know what bothers me the most: that Dax suggested lobotomizing Kurn without his consent, that Worf went along with it, or that Bashir was willing to do it.
Pirmin Schanne
3. Torvald Nom
I think the general idea of committing a kind of seppuku does make sense for a Klingon - but the thing that confuses me here is why Kurn, as the representative of the House of Mogh, cannot simply disavow Worf (with the possible consequence that if they ever come face to face, Kurn would have to kill him). What Worf did might be considered dishonorable for a Klingon warrior, but that's still a personal failure, not one of his House (not to mention that it's not the House of Worf, so he's apparently not even the sole ruler).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
I agree that the ending is pretty horrific from a ethical standpoint. And the whole situation just highlighted my general complaints about Klingon honor based culture in general.

Still, it was frustrating to me because we've seen Worf/his house recover from disgrace before, so taking such a permanent solution (be it killing yourself, or the brain wipe) is just...ugh.

I mean, say what you will about Dukat, but at least he's DOING something ;)
Kyle A.
5. Kyle A.
#3. Sadly, I think with Klingons, if a member of a family does something that is considered dishonorable, it dishonors the whole House/family. That's what I got out of "Sins of the Father" and in that case, it wasn't because Mogh was the head of the House of Mogh, but a member of it. The same is true with Duras.
David Levinson
6. DemetriosX
Yeah, the ending here is just a complete failure, not to mention the utter lack of a follow-up once Worf's honor is restored. And that does drag down an otherwise good episode. It's almost as though the writers simply couldn't come with another ending that would allow Kurn to get on with his life.

I also think this sort of ritual suicide does make a certain amount of sense for Klingons. Because he and his whole house have been stripped of his honor, Kurn can't challenge anyone in an effort to regain it. He can't fight and/or die well in battle for the same reason. He doesn't even have the right to kill himself, the paterfamilias has to do it for him. In fact, I can see that as the origin of the Mauk-to’Vor. A dishonored family member is ritually killed to remove his stain from the family's honor and by voluntarily accepting it, he regains enough honor that his descendants are not tainted and he gets into Sto'vo'kor.

I think there's also enough precedent in Terran warrior societies. Certainly a dishonored samurai was expected to commit seppuku. And there was one Spartan survivor of Thermopylae (he was sick and blind at the time of the battle). He was downgraded to Trembler and his daughters were forbidden to marry. Then at Plataeae, he charged the Persian lines well in advance of his phalanx and was killed. The Spartans decided that was just barely enough to give him back his honor and let his daughters marry after all.
Kyle A.
7. Eduardo Jencarelli
@1

In defense of the Klingon's point of view, Worf asked the exact same thing of Riker, four years prior to this episode. Worf was able to overcome that obstacle. Not so much with Kurn.

Sometimes, characters are too problematic or knee deep in crisis to take the traditional third act approach of overcoming one's personal demons. The way I see it, this might be perceived as pathetic to some. I, however, see it as a gutsy way to end a character's arc, without resorting to something as overdone as death.
Andy Holman
8. AndyHolman
@1, I had the same thought about the practice's lack of honor, CLB, but I suppose one can probably find similar logical inconsistencies in real life religions and cultures. So I guess it's a fault in the honor system, but not necessarily a fault in the world-building?

But yeah, some of the logistics of the honor-stripping are a bit funky to me. The chancellor can unilaterally strip an entire house of its honor and property? The (admittedly ceremonial) emperor, Kahless himself, Worf's buddy, has no say? The High Council has no say? @3, you raise a good point, Torvald, about why don't the other members of Worf's house have any means of distancing themselves from his dishonor.

But yes, I think the most honorable thing would be for Kurn to stick with his dishonor but fight to change the rules of honor. But I guess Kurn was just too inside the system to imagine changing it.

I do appreciate that this episode has Worf admitting that he can't help but consider the ritual murder. Because otherwise, my question would be, why don't they go to some non-Federation world and take care of it there?

I agree with above commenters that the solution they went with seems very unethical from a medical standpoint (though maybe Bashir was rationalizing it as, "He wants to die, so this way I'm both letting him die and saving his life"?). Worf's line about having no family makes me ask the question of, what, are his adoptive parents and brother and Alexander chopped liver?

KRAD, I've owned your Gorkon/Klingon Empire books for a while but still haven't gotten around to reading them. I'm looking forward to seeing "Rodek's" development.

-Andy
Kyle A.
9. tbob
Ah, another visit to Doctor Bashir's Chamber of Horrors, last seen turning Vedek Bareil into Frankenstein's monster. When Bashir isn't confusing his patient list with his dating pool, he's performing unwanted lobotomies on Klingons. Medical ethics in the future are not for the faint of heart.
Kyle A.
10. DougL
@9 tbob

No kidding, I can't like this episode AT ALL. Don't like someone's attitude? Wipe their mind. Okay, on Bab 5 they did this to like murderers and the like, but here? If someone wants to die, let them. It took us a couple hundred years to overcome the puritanical attitude towards this in Canada, but comeone, personal freedom should be recognized at least to that extent in the future.
Kyle A.
11. Alright Then
Kurn wasn't suffering from a terminal illness. The guy needed therapy, not a knife in him. The real problem with this memory wipe solution is they never followed it up. Would've been nice to see Worf consider bringing him back into his house later, or at least checking on him.
Kyle A.
12. James2
Yeah, once Martok admitted Worf to his House, I was expected Kurn to reappear during the Dominion War.

KRAD, I was always glad to you followed up with it in the Gorkon books.
Kyle A.
13. Shalom
...Honestly, and I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but I think the ending was something Kurn deserved. And the real shame is that we never get to see Kurn shine for his new house, because you're right; he IS a good Klingon, honorable and brave, and the shit that happened to him happened because of Worf, not ever anything HE did.

What Kurn gets out of this is a new life. He can be honorable and strong and true for his new house, and make their star rise in the Empire, and if you ever get around to writing more Klingon novels, you should tell that tale because Kurn proves here that he does deserve that honor.

Worf is an ideal Klingon because he doesn't have to compromise. What Kurn shows here is that Worf should have at least thought of his brother, and didn't. Worf does not, frankly, deserve a House, and proves here (and later, again, with his son) that he sucks at it when pushed to. His honor is everything to him and he will sacrifice even his own family to it. It's better for Kurn never to again be of the House of Mogh. Kurn's capable of thinking of others, of operating within a House in a way Worf just isn't.
Kyle A.
14. tryptych
Earlier in the rewatch the Prophets/wormhole aliens were castigated as "mental rapists" for interfering with the Grand Nagus. I found that a little odd at the time - applying the moral values of linear entities to non-linear beings and judging them by our standards. Surely our would-be heros are performing exactly the kind of psychic violation that would be akin to rape?
Kyle A.
15. critter42
@14: I could kind of see them justifying because Kurn wanted death - and Kurn was effectively dead by the end of the episode, so call it a hi-tech Mauk-to'Vor
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
Helping someone commit suicide is hardly an ethical act. It's more of an exploitation, taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state of mind. Kurn wasn't terminally ill, he was just unhappy with his situation in life. He needed a good therapist, not a brain wipe or a knife to the gut.
Kyle A.
17. Warren B.
"I always hated this episode because the ending just felt like a copout to me. And then I hated it even more later when Worf would get his mojo back and poor Kurn was stuck being Rodek, son of Noggra..."

I still hate it for those reasons, even though I agree with what you wrote after those lines. I don't think I can remember a worse Trek example of being put on the proverbial bus.
Matt Hamilton
18. MattHamilton
Nothing can save this episode for me. It is good for the reasons that you described, KRAD, however, the ending completely negates anything that happened prior to it. How is that honorable at all? It would have been a far better episode had Kurn and Worf gone to stop the Klingons from mining the territory and Kurn had been killed fighting them, thus regaining his honor. The next few episodes and indeed far into the future of the character of Worf would have been him coming to terms with that, realizing his brother reached Sto'Vo'kor (I think), but realizing the impact that his condemnation of the Klingon invasion of Cardassian space had severe consequences and ultimately cost his brother his life. It would have been bitter sweet later when he ragained his honor and realized he wished Kurn was there to see it. I just don't see how doing what they did was a better choice than almost anything else and it ruins the entire episode for me (except for Sisko ripping everybody a new one).
Kyle A.
19. ad
16
he was just unhappy with his situation in life. He needed a good therapist
Kurn was in a situation in which the only escape was death. If the only way to achieve your goal is to die then choosing to die is perfectly rational. So what is the therapist supposed to do - talk him into insanity?
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@19: That's bull. He had plenty of options that he just wasn't willing to consider. The belief that you've run out of options besides death is just the kind of lie that depression tricks people into believing, driving them to suicide attempts. But the proof that it's a lie is that most people who survive or are prevented from suicide attempts do not try it again. They realize that their sense of having no choices left was wrong, that there are indeed other options.

Besides, we're not just talking about Kurn's choice here -- we're talking about Bashir's and Dax's. They believed that suicide wasn't an option for Kurn -- and so did Worf. So they should've been the ones endorsing the same kind of basic therapy that works for suicidal people in real life. Heck, even antidepressants would've been worth a try before resorting to something as drastic as wiping the patient's memory -- let alone doing so without his consent, which is obscenely unethical. The problem with this script is that it overlooked a number of basic options in favor of an extreme response. And that's not just an ethics problem, it's a credibility problem.
Kyle A.
21. James2
As noted earlier, this is why it would have been better if Kurn had been offed here.

It would make Worf's later reversals of fortune all the more bittersweet because his brother hadn't lived to be included in that redemption.
Kyle A.
22. Matt Doyle
@20 Is there a quotable statistic on that? Because I have known literally dozens of suicidal people, and not ONE of them has ever stopped at a single attempt.

I disapprove of this and much of Klingon culture, but I have to admit that I'm flabbergasted by all the people saying it doesn't make sense. Socieities obsessed with war, honor, and death having some form of redemptive suicide is hardly rare, and it seems to fit the package of Klingon values quite well.
Kyle A.
23. Eduardo Jencarelli
Is there a quotable statistic on that? Because I have known literally dozens of suicidal people, and not ONE of them has ever stopped at a single attempt.

@22

David Rappaport, the original actor cast as Kivas Fajo on TNG's The Most Toys, tried committing suicide several times, before finally succeeding. He died a week before the episode aired, starring a replacement actor, Saul Rubinek.
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@22 & 23: Of course there is no single pattern that applies universally to everyone, but it's been shown that when convenient methods of suicide are removed, the suicide rate -- not just by that method, but in general -- goes down.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/magazine/06suicide-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

True, there are some cases of chronic suicidal depression, but in many cases it's an act of passion, a temporary impulse that goes away if an opportunity to act on it is not available. When coal gas stoves were replaced with less toxic natural gas in Britain, the suicide rate dropped by a third. When bridges popular with jumpers have barriers put up, a similar drop is noted. Many of the potential suicides don't go to find another way to kill themselves; they just don't kill themselves at all.

See, that's the problem with death as a solution to anything: it's irreversible. You don't get the chance to change your mind afterward. Which is why it should never be anything but an absolute last resort.
Kyle A.
25. Ward3
@24 Thanks for posting your evidence - in my own experience, it has been the opposite, so it's good to know that our situation here is not usual. My son attempted suicide numerous times. Fortunately, after treatment, and after the psychotic symptoms were dealt with, this has stopped, though he will still occasionally self-harm under periods of stress. I have had 4 other suicides in my life with people close to me, so I am always happy to hear that any steps taken to be preventative are helpful, at least with some people.

I always liked Kurn, and I was sad to see him go, whether it be by suicide, by ritual murder or by homicide of his memories. It's too bad, since things turned out quite well for Worf, who was supposed to be the consumate Klingon. Worf gets to go Targ hunting with Martok, and Kurn, assuming he survived the wars, gets to be a member of a minor house. Considering he had done nothing wrong, it seems rather unjust that he ends up bearing the entirety of the family "dishonour" over the longer term.
Joseph Newton
26. crzydroid
What I was flabbergasted by is that after ripping everyone on the station new ones for considering killing Kurn, Sisko and the rest don't even bat an eye at the suggestion of completely wiping his memory.

And it's as if the characters were now applying the famous Star Trek Reset Button to their own lives--rather than deal with the consequences of something bad happening, POOF! magic technobabble solution and then everybody gets to go on living this new life.
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@26: Yeah, I suspect that the writers weren't really looking at it from the characters' point of view with regard to Kurn as much as from their own point of view with regard to Tony Todd: "How do we resolve this story and still have the option to bring Tony back again later?" And they didn't really think about the ethical and personal ramifications in-story. The problem with episodic TV writing is that the writers are very rushed and don't always have time to think everything through.
Andrew Barton
28. MadLogician
@24: your quoted evidence does not support your original statement. The non-repeaters described are drawn from a selected group of attempted suicides who used impulsive, highly-lethal methods at their first attempt.

There are other people who have mental conditions that dispose them to suicide, consider and plan their attempts over a period of time, and may make many attempts using 'less lethal' methods. The quoted article does not examine such cases.
Kyle A.
29. Immortal
@16: "Helping someone commit suicide is hardly an ethical act. It's more like taking advantage of somone in a vulnerable state of mind."

I've never considered taking my own life, but if I did - after considering the impact on those it might affect; family, friends, etc - I feel that the choice should be mine; not a doctor's, not a legal system's.

I suppose it might not exactly be ethical to help someone to commit suicide, but I wouldn't call it unethical either.

And I'm not sure wanting to commit suicide necessarily means you are in a vulnerable state of mind.

There are many religions and faiths that say that there is some form of afterlife (Sto'Vo'Kor in this case) and even without religion many believe there may be something else after death (another life, or another state of being). Simply believing you have done all you can in this life and being ready for the next doesn't necessarily mean you are in a vulnerable state of mind.

Neither does wishing to commit suicide for another reason, terminal illness for example (and, yes, I know that is not the case here) can leave a person with little choice after exploring all medical options except between a quick, relatively painless death and a long, slow agonising death.

I'm not saying I advocate suicide, but I do think that it should be a choice of the individual. If someone chooses to die - as an absolute last resort - they shouldn't be prevented by the law, and if physically incapable of doing it themselves, they shouldn't be forced to live. It shouldn't be unethical or illegal to help someone carry out such a choice; as long as they aren't 'helped' to make the choice and as long as it actually is considered only as a last resort.
Christopher Bennett
30. ChristopherLBennett
@29: The problem with that "it should be an individual's choice" idea is that it presupposes that the individual is making a clear and level-headed choice. That's misunderstanding suicide on a profound level. Usually suicidal feelings are the result of clinical depression. Depression is a psychological condition that alters one's perceptions and judgment, impairing one's ability to make an informed and rational choice. That's why so many people who are prevented from committing suicide never try it again: because they recognize that they were wrong to think they should kill themselves, that they were in a dangerously altered state of mind.

Depression is a disease. It's a chemical alteration in the operation of the brain, as much a physical sickness as any infection or cancer. Saying that people should be allowed to "choose" to succumb to suicidal depression is like saying they should be allowed to "choose" to have a fatal, curable illness go untreated. Even worse, since that illness directly impairs their ability to choose, to believe that their lives are still worth fighting for.

Yes, people deserve to make free choices, but that's exactly why they should be discouraged from suicide -- because the vast majority of the time, the depression that creates those thoughts is not giving them a free choice. It's altering their neurology so that they're blinded to the choices they have and lose the will to make any choice other than surrender. Helping people resist suicidal urges is giving them more choices, not taking choice away from them.

And no, we're not talking about terminal illness here, so I don't know why you even brought it up. It's anything but a valid analogy for a situation like Kurn's. I don't believe in assisted suicide, but I respected my father's living-will request for no heroic measures when his time came. So I have some understanding of the philosophy of dying with dignity if death is inevitable. But it is downright corrupt to try to use that as a basis for saying that people like Kurn, who are healthy and have plenty of options for living that they just aren't able to appreciate, have some kind of "right" to kill themselves. The thing that's taking away their rights is the depression that's blinding them to their options.
Kyle A.
31. Eoin8472
....but since the Klingons apparently have a specific ritual for this case,
the Mauk-to'Vor, is it a only case of depression in this example? Or is it different in Kurn's case here? I'm thinking of Seppuku, though of course we don't know how "voluntary" all those klingon cases of Mauk-to'Vor may have been.

The Nitpickers Guide all those years ago, had two great nitspicks on this.
1: When Odo arrests Worf, he says that Worf had better not hope that Kurn dies, otherwise he would be charged with murder. So there is no charge for attempted murder? How convenient.

2: how many mines are needed to blockade an entire system. Not a planet, not a sun, but an entire system. The number was huge.
Christopher Bennett
32. ChristopherLBennett
@31: Cultural relativism is one thing, but sometimes cultures embrace ideas that are harmful or pathological, like the gross misogyny of the Taliban or the insane personality cult of the North Korean regime. Or like slavery in past centuries. A respect for cultural diversity does not require feeling good about other cultures' blatantly immoral or unhealthy practices. To me, the Klingons' obsession with death is nothing short of pathological. It's one thing to accept the inevitability of death and not fear it when it comes, but it's something entirely different to actively seek to inflict it on others and encourage people to inflict it on themselves.
Kyle A.
33. Eoin8472
Yes, agreed, but the Klingons are alien to all the other cultures on the station, rather then other human s ocieties, so its a bit different. Who are Bashier/Sisko and the others to claim that Worfs original solution to Kurn's problem is "wrong"? Bashier and Sisko didn't just not feel good about the Mauk-to'Vor, they banned it.
For me its the whole principle of the IDIC/Prime Directive thing of Star Trek. Its easy to believe in non-interference of an alien culture when you agree with what the culture is doing to itself. The harder case is when one culture is appalled at the other cultures internal actions.
(Though I admit that it is a Bajorian station, not a Federation one, so the Prime Directive may be suspended here. That and that Worf and that guy who impersonates Kurn's dad, were willing to go along with the charade so there is a case that the alien culture is not of one mind on it )

Actually have we ever met a Klingon who wasn't death-obsessed? Only ones I could think of were maybe Alexander and his mum.
Kyle A.
34. Alright Then
IDIC be damned. When people try to cover their own stupidity with "culture," they should have it pointed out to them. Riker did just that with Worf when his back was broken, and good for him for doing it.
Kyle A.
35. Eduardo Jencarelli
IDIC be damned. When people try to cover their own stupidity with "culture," they should have it pointed out to them.

@34

That's a rather ethnocentric view. In other words, you're judging another culture solely based on the standards and values of your own culture.

And that's a big part of why so many nations despise America. Because so many americans can't see past their own nose, but are ready to judge any culture that's slightly different from their own.
Kyle A.
36. Alright Then
#35

You're painting with quite a broad brush there. I've nothing against the cultural differences of a person's appearance, their religion, art, politics, what they do in the privacy of their own homes, etc. But when it comes to individual cases of needless death (including rituals involving suicide or honor killings) or the oppression of others, I mostly definitely draw a line.

And if that makes me an ethnocentric troglodyte, then so be it. I'm not ready to surrender social progress in the warped name of cultural sensitivity. People need to be shown examples of better ways, just as Kirk often did.
Kyle A.
37. Alright Then
Please excuse the typo.
That should be: "...MOST definitely..."
Kyle A.
38. Eduardo Jencarelli
People need to be shown examples of better ways, just as Kirk often did.

Kirk (especially 60's era Kirk) was a troglodyte who imposed his views on other cultures, which made creating a character like Picard very much necessary.

The Klingons don't view death as a wrong course of action. Maybe they'll evolve to another viewpoint, some day. Or maybe they won't. Who are we to judge? Shouldn't we respect each culture's own evolutionary process?

That's why they call it the 'prime directive'.
Kyle A.
39. Alright Then
Jim Kirk did it his way, baby, the Sinatra of outer space, and I agree with most of what he did. Picard was better at diplomacy, no doubt, but that strict adherence to the prime directive did lead to some stupidity on his part, namely in the episode involving Worf's other brother, in "Homeward."

Oh, I think the Klingons should be allowed to evolve at their own pace. I'm not saying I agree with what happened to Kurn. Not at all in fact. But the Kirks and Rikers of the world should have the freedom to point out... you know... your way is kinda... stupid... you might wanna rethink it.
Kyle A.
40. Idran
@38: It isn't a violation of moral relativity to judge the actions of another culture by your own morals, because a core principle of moral relativity is that not only are other people entitled to their morality, but you are entitled to your own morality. You have just as much right to make a decision about how ethical a given action is, and to express that opinion, as anyone. And if you think that the actions of another culture are immoral, then of course you have the right to try and talk them out of it or express your views on the matter. If it is a part of your own morality to make every attempt to stop death, and it is part of the morality of another person to accept and even engage in death, then by refusing to act according to your own moral judgement, you aren't putting their moral judgement on equal footing to your own, you're putting it on greater footing. You are taking an action that you believe to be unethical because of the moral outlook of another person. That is completely contrary to the concept of moral relativity, regardless of what culture you are from.

Do you think that when Worf asked Riker to participate in the suicide ritual in TNG after he broke his back, that Riker ought to have acceeded because it was part of Klingon culture, even if it violated his own personal ethics?
Kyle A.
41. Idran
Oh also people don't hate America for passing judgements on other nations, because literally every single country in the world passes judgements on the acctions of every other country. They hate us for invading and interfering in other countries in order to advance our own interests on sketchy and usually falsified moral ground. If we were really invading places for ethical reasons, we wouldn't let so many genocides go by untouched. The only military action I can think of that the US has taken in the last six decades that legitimately had some ethical reasoning as a primary part of the impetus on the part of the government was the limited campaign in Libya a couple years back, and we were actually asked by the Libyan revolutionaries to help there. And even then I'm not sure if the ethical reasoning was legitimately a primary impetus or if it was just to advance our interests in the area; the only reason I suspect it might be is because of how protracted our direct involvement was as compared to other military actions as of late.
Kyle A.
42. Eduardo Jencarelli
Do you think that when Worf asked Riker to participate in the suicide ritual in TNG after he broke his back, that Riker ought to have acceeded because it was part of Klingon culture, even if it violated his own personal ethics?

Pretty much. And that's exactly what would have happened, had Riker not read the Klingon Code more thoroughly.

But then, he discovered that only a Klingon's blood relative could perform the ritual, therefore putting the responsibility on Alexander's shoulders.
Christopher Bennett
43. ChristopherLBennett
As I mentioned above, I don't think this really is about culture, though. Kurn and Worf both subscribe to the same basic cultural belief system, and they shared the same dishonor; but Worf didn't have a death wish as a result. Then there are Duras's family members, Lursa, B'Etor, and Toral. Their family head was dishonored, but they didn't commit suicide; instead, they undertook efforts (however devious and murderous) to regain their standing.

So it is completely untrue to say that Kurn "had no choice" but to kill himself within his cultural imperatives. Clearly Klingons in that situation have various different ways of responding to it. They all nominally ascribed to the same cultural values, but cultural values are never an absolute limit on behavior, because there are always multiple different ways of interpreting them. Kurn saw those values in a specific, individual way that he believed left him with no options but death. But clearly there were other options he just wasn't letting himself consider.
Kyle A.
44. Alright Then
#42

And this is where it gets even more complicated. Alexander is part human and was first instilled with a decidedly non-Klingon attitude by his half-human mother. What should he have done had his father asked for his help in killing him?
Kyle A.
45. Eduardo Jencarelli
And I also think Western Society, in general, has a long way to go before learning to deal with the inevitability of death, let alone integrate it into life. To many people, death is the end, when it could very well be merely a path towards something else. It really bogs down to the concept of learning to let go. It's one of the biggest problems in modern society.

Also, in a youth-oriented culture, people look down on not only death, but also the idea of aging.
Kyle A.
46. Eduardo Jencarelli
@44

It would probably be a brutal choice for him. But then again, life-changing choices aren't supposed to be easy. We'll never know, since Worf backed out of this issue on Ethics.
Kyle A.
47. Eduardo Jencarelli
Then there are Duras's family members, Lursa, B'Etor, and Toral. Their family head was dishonored, but they didn't commit suicide; instead, they undertook efforts (however devious and murderous) to regain their standing.

But Duras' family, much like Gowron, were as un-Klingon as one could be, cheating honor and death at every turn. Worf's biggest crime was that he believed too much in Klingon law and culture.
Kyle A.
48. Eduardo Jencarelli
EDIT:

That last comment was a response to 43. ChristopherLBennett's above paragraph.
Kyle A.
49. Alright Then
#45

I totally agree with you there. Well put.

Anyway, I think it should be pointed out that Worf and Kurn, for a couple of tough as nails warriors, they sure give up awfully easy in some cases. What was it (and maybe I'm misremembering it) the day after he broke his back Worf asked Riker to help kill him? Geez, man, you might want to give it a little bit longer to think over, eh?
Kyle A.
50. Eduardo Jencarelli
Geez, man, you might want to give it a little bit longer to think over, eh?

Sorry, I tend to go 100 mph whenever I write.
Christopher Bennett
51. ChristopherLBennett
@45: As I said, there's a huge, huge difference between death that's actually inevitable, like from old age or a terminal condition or a looming, unavoidable accident, and death that is chosen due to suicidal feelings, reckless behavior, or a societal contempt for life. It is disingenuous to pretend they are at all the same thing.

@47: I knew somebody was going to say "But they were bad Klingons!" That's the same kind of mistake Kurn made, the assumption that there's only one way to interpret a culture's beliefs and values. That's total BS. There are hundreds, even within a single culture or religion. Some people think that being a good Christian means treating everyone with love and understanding, while others think that being a good Christian means persecuting or lynching everyone who doesn't fit their narrow standards. Some people think being a good American means paying your taxes and supporting social welfare and promoting peaceful relations with our neighbors, while others believe that being a good American means fighting against taxation, promoting self-reliance, and going to war against our rivals. So how can there be only one view of what it means to be a good Klingon, with the only dissenters being "bad guys?" Isn't that far too simplistic an assumption?

@49: That's a good point. Worf's willingness to die in "Ethics" wasn't some kind of honorable thing, it was downright cowardly. He was faced with a challenge -- learning to function without the convenience of walking -- and he preferred to give up rather than summon his courage and face that challenge. What kind of a "good Klingon" did that make him? I feel the same way about Kurn here. He wasn't doomed, he was just challenged. But instead of waging a battle with his circumstances and winning a new life, instead of triumphing over the obstacles arrayed against him, he just laid down arms and let them crush him. There is no strength or courage in that.
Kyle A.
52. Eoin8472
1: Its hard to just dismiss Kurn's stated intentions as an isolated story in his culture, becasue there seems to an official ritual in Klingon culture for just the sort of situation Kurn found himself in. Not that he has to perform the ritual, but the fact that it is there nonetheless signifies an importanat point.

2: Riker in Ethics, unlike Odo,Dax, Bashier and the rest did not seek to PREVENT Worf from trying to kill himself. He just didn't help him to do it. Sure its no different in the practical sense, as Worf needed his help to do it, but its a major difference in the sense of the Prime Directive. If its a Bajoran ruled station, fine, Bajorian law. But if it was a Starfleet station, it most certainly does not stand well with other past epsiodes where the Prime Directive was invoked.

3: Speaking of past epsiodes, remember "Half a life" from TNG? Where Deanna's mum fell in love with an alien scientis, who was forced to comitt ritual suicide by his culture after reaching a certain age, ala Logan's Run. Its striking how similar the situation is. Let me repeat what Krad had to say about the Prime Directive in that epsiode:

Amusingly, even though the Prime Directive itself is only mentioned once by Picard, this is one of the best PD episodes. Picard can’t interfere, and what’s more, he shouldn’t. Cultures don’t evolve overnight and they don’t do so capriciously — more to the point, they can’t change overnight, either. Lwaxana gives an example at one point of a tradition on Betazed that women would wear wigs with small animals in them, until one woman decided that it was ridiculous and stopped. But even that change didn’t happen right away. The Enterprise interfering would damage the culture, and even their offering asylum to Timicin causes major problems on the world.

Now, the Klingons are not an isolated race, they are an intersteller empire so its not quite as apt. But its the same idea. The only difference was that Timicin had request Asylum, which Picard had to answer. Kurn did not want aslyum, and its not like Word was exactly eager to follow through on the ritual.

Honestly if it was a Starfleet only station scenario, to have a Star Fleet officer burst into a room to stop a private ritual between two Klingons would scream Prime Directive violation to me. Especially when Kurn did not request their help. Though of course we don't know if Chris's assertion of mental illness is covered as an exception to the Prime Directive. My guess is its probably not.
Christopher Bennett
53. ChristopherLBennett
@52: Yes, the fact that there's an official suicide ritual proves that the dominant Klingon culture is cowardly and hypocritical. It's not truly about strength and honor and courage, it's just about macho pride and egotism. If they can't act all tough and manly and aggressive, they decide they'd rather be dead. Like I said, they aren't genuinely brave enough to face the challenge of living with a disability. And that reduces all their talk about courage and strength to mere bluster and hypocrisy. It's contemptible.

And that's not even considering the civil-rights ramifications. We're talking about a culture that believes people with disabilities have no right to exist. That's a horrific thing if you consider it. What do they do to disabled citizens who don't voluntarily commit suicide? Remember, the Nazis exterminated people with disabilities, people who didn't fit their standards of perfection. Should we say that was okay because of cultural relativism?

And let's really look at Kurn's situation here. Okay, he'd been stripped of his house and his title and his lands. What does that really mean? It means that he was a nobleman reduced to the status of a commoner. It means he was a one-percenter who now had to face life as part of the 99 percent. Do you seriously expect me to believe that's a reason to kill yourself? Come on!! He was a spoiled, entitled elitist who couldn't stand the prospect of not being rich and powerful anymore. Comparing that to an incurable terminal ailment is offensive on many levels.

This is something we tend to forget: Most of the Klingons we see in the modern Trek shows are members of the warrior nobility, and thus they do not represent the majority of the Klingon population, any more than the Starfleet heroes of the shows represent the civilian majority of the Federation. They bluster about what it means to be a true Klingon, but what they're really talking about is what it means to be a member of the nobility, the privileged ruling caste. They may feel that being kicked out of that elite is a fate worse than death, but that doesn't mean they're right or that we should have any sympathy for that belief.
Kyle A.
54. Eoin8472
Not a single word you wrote refutes my assertion that by the standards that Starfleet officers set themselves in the Star Trek Universe, what Dax and Basher and Sisko did was a gross violation of the Prime Directive.

I do happen to agree with much of what you wrote, especially about Klingon culture being hypocritical. But the thing is, those arguments are not relevant in any way. Its a private ritual between two Klingons, so the Prime Directive very much applies. The station crew drastically over-stepped their boundaries. Unless of course, it is Bajorian law, not Star Fleet/Federation law on the station. Than that gets grayer.
Kyle A.
55. Eoin8472
I'd also like to add an additional point. The Prime Directive IS all about Moral Relativism. Thats what the Directive stands for. There are umpteen cases throughout Star Trek, some I many disagree with on a moral level. (Rikers flirtation with that species whose third gender was treated as second class citizens also springs to mind). But it doesn't matter, the Prime Directive enshrines moral relativism of a species internal culture. I fail to see how anyone can misunderstand that aspect of Star Trek, especially the later shows.
Christopher Bennett
56. ChristopherLBennett
@54: "Its a private ritual between two Klingons, so the Prime Directive very much applies."

The Prime Directive is more about not interfering in the laws, politics, and culture of an alien world. But Worf and Kurn weren't on Qo'noS -- they were on DS9, a territory of Bajor. So didn't that give them an obligation to respect the laws and culture of that world?

@55: "The Prime Directive IS all about Moral Relativism. Thats what the Directive stands for."

Not really. It's not about saying "morality is an illusion and all practices are equally valid." It's about countering cultural imperialism, saying we don't have the right to force change on other cultures. That doesn't mean that nothing other cultures do is ever wrong; it just means that the only way they'll change for the better is if the impetus to change comes from within, if they make the change for their own reasons rather than because they were pressured into it by outsiders.

But that doesn't mean those outsiders can't at least express an opinion, that the Federation can't try to engage with them diplomatically and offer alternatives without imposing them by force. The Prime Directive forbids us from forcing our will on others, but it is not an excuse to avoid forming ethical opinions altogether.

Indeed, practically every time the Prime Directive comes up in a story, it's made clear that it's an imperfect policy that sometimes creates more problems than it solves. No single rule applies perfectly in every situation, and that's why we need to be able to balance the rules against other considerations using our own moral judgment. The purpose of the Prime Directive, especially from a storytelling standpoint, is to encourage us to ask hard ethical questions, not to give us an excuse to avoid thinking about them altogether.
Kyle A.
57. Rancho Unicorno
@54 - I generally agree with you. A private Klingon ceremony is no business of Starfleet. Starfleet could talk and promote ending of MtV, but they have no business interfering so directly in a ceremony.

The problem here, and the reason I can't agree with you, is that it wasn't a purely private Klingon ceremony. It was a Starfleet officer and a Klingon. Whatever values Worf brought with him must be subsumed by Federation law. As a result, Kurn must find someone else to perform the ceremony (which he wouldn't be able to - much like Warf couldn't find someone else for his request).

As far as the memory wipe, I'm torn. It complies with Kurns request to end his time on earth, but it raises some philosophical concerns that I can't get past. I don't think think the Klingon soul is bound to memory, so it feels like Worf has left Kurn in some sort of limbo - not dead but not living. And that, to me, is the most unacceptable of outcomes. Better to have a brother who hates you or a brother you killed than this half life.

As for CLB's assertion that Kurn's attitude was one of depression, I'll leave it to a practitioner to diagnose, but my perspective is one of agreement. Initially, Kurn made a detached observation - he had been stripped of his honor, with no hope for redemption (although they regained the honor their father lost by supporting Gowron, so I'm not sure what makes this different). Klingon tradition allows for the MtV as a ritualistic regaining of honor, which he sought out. To that point, I'd say that he was of sound mind. However, his refusal to fight back later suggests that he had a death wish, regardless of how accomplished. And a Klinging choosing not to fight back is not only (from my seat) dishonorable, but suggests the depression that CLB asserts. Had he simply sought out the most dangerous duties, but still done his best, while working on Worf to convince completion of the ritual, I would have called him sane.
Kyle A.
58. Eoin8472
@55: Chris"

The Prime Directive is more about not interfering in the laws, politics, and culture of an alien world. But Worf and Kurn weren't on Qo'noS -- they were on DS9, a territory of Bajor. So didn't that give them an obligation to respect the laws and culture of that world?

Thats why I specifically mentioned that the Bajoran ownership of the station complicated matters. But if Kurn and Worf had beamed to a klingon ship or some other place, the essential argument holds. And anyway, I strongly suspect that Federation law might have some relvance here. Remember Captive Pursuit:

SISKO: I've agreed to release him.
O'BRIEN: But sir, Tosk is an intelligent, living being.
SISKO: It's their custom, Chief. Under the prime directive, we have no right to interfere.
KIRA: What if Tosk were to request asylum?
SISKO: If he asks for it.

Ds9 was no Hunter/ Tosk planet either. Yet the Prime Directive was brought up there.

Not really. It's not about saying "morality is an illusion and all practices are equally valid." It's about countering cultural imperialism, saying we don't have the right to force change on other cultures. That doesn't mean that nothing other cultures do is ever wrong; it just means that the only way they'll change for the better is if the impetus to change comes from within, if they make the change for their own reasons rather than because they were pressured into it by outsiders.

But that doesn't mean those outsiders can't at least express an opinion, that the Federation can't try to engage with them diplomatically and offer alternatives without imposing them by force. The Prime Directive forbids us from forcing our will on others, but it is not an excuse to avoid forming ethical opinions altogether.

I believe the average viewer is smart enough to udderstand that Dax,Bashier and Sisko did far more then express an opinion on Worfs actions whne they got Odo to stop it. The carried out their opinion so it became an action. Forcefully. Its almost exactly like the Half A Life scenario. Except from a Star Fleet perspective, they broke their own rule.

Rancho @57

The problem here, and the reason I can't agree with you, is that it wasn't a purely private Klingon ceremony. It was a Starfleet officer and a Klingon. Whatever values Worf brought with him must be subsumed by Federation law. As a result, Kurn must find someone else to perform the ceremony (which he wouldn't be able to - much like Warf couldn't find someone else for his request).

I agree somewhat. I would have expected Worf to be kicked out of Star Fleet for his actions. Or at least severly censured. Just because its the Klingon culture, doesn't mean its Starfleets culture. But thats a far cry from stopping the action from happening if its been done on Worfs private time. Its like when Worf killed Duras, the Klingon politicians didn't bat an eye, whereas Picard gave him a black mark.
Christopher Bennett
59. ChristopherLBennett
@57: Exactly. Kurn had a duty to enforce station security, he was faced with an opponent, and instead of fighting he just stood there and let himself be shot. Ignoring your responsibilities, embracing self-destructive passivity -- sure looks like depression to me.

@58: I think your last two points are contradictory. As Rancho Unicorno said, one of the participants in the action was a Starfleet officer under Sisko's command and it took place in the facility for which Sisko is responsible. So he absolutely did have the right to intervene.

Analogy: In Hirogen culture, hunting intelligent prey is a normative and honorable practice. But when the Hirogen took over Voyager in "The Killing Game" and turned its crew into prey, does that mean Janeway violated the Prime Directive by fighting back? Hell, no! The Prime Directive doesn't take away your right to declare what can and can't be done on your own turf.

Anyway, the opinion I'm talking about here isn't Sisko's or Dax's, it's mine. I'm entitled to say I think the culture of the Klingon warrior class is contemptible, thuggish, and hypocritical, and that Kurn's behavior here totally destroyed any respect I had for him as a character.
Kyle A.
60. Alright Then
#59

This has turned into an interesting discussion. That's for sure.

Have there been any novels that have brought up the topic of reform/progressive ideals within Klingon culture? Maybe something like... SPOILER ALERT... what happens with Ferengi culture through the course of this series?
Kyle A.
61. Eoin8472
@58: I think your last two points are contradictory. As Rancho Unicorno said, one of the participants in the action was a Starfleet officer under Sisko's command and it took place in the facility for which Sisko is responsible. So he absolutely did have the right to intervene.

My point is that I can understand Sisko and Co not approving of Worfs actions at all. Thats a far cry from interferring with his actions however. Their disapproval could be manifested by refusing to promote him or giving him a pernament black mark on his career progress or even firing him whatever.

Analogy: In Hirogen culture, hunting intelligent prey is a normative and honorable practice. But when the Hirogen took over Voyager in "The Killing Game" and turned its crew into prey, does that mean Janeway violated the Prime Directive by fighting back? Hell, no! The Prime Directive doesn't take away your right to declare what can and can't be done on your own turf.

Thats a flawed extreme anology. There are two points to that:

1: The Kurn/Worf situation was a private matter, with seemingly neither being coercied into doing it. When it came to safeguarding their own lives however, Starfleet always seemed willing to break it. Though in "Justice" it wasn't a sure thing. But if the ship/station came under attack, of course Starfleet would hardly fail to fire back under the guise of the Prime Directive. Thats never been mentioned as a possible application of it.

2: As I explained above, in Captive Pursuit, Sisko applied the Prime Directive to a similiar case that happened locally on the station. It may be that Bajor suspended the Prime Directive from being enforced after that, we have no way of knowing. But until we know more, that previous case layed a precedent to me that the Prime Directive would be followed on the station.

Anyway, the opinion I'm talking about here isn't Sisko's or Dax's, it's mine. I'm entitled to say I think the culture of the Klingon warrior class is contemptible, thuggish, and hypocritical, and that Kurn's behavior here totally destroyed any respect I had for him as a character.

Sure, no argument on that regard as regards your personal opinion. Out-of-universe, everything you said about the Klingons perception of phsyical disablities and one-percenters and their macho culture really rings true.
Valentin M
62. ValMar
krad must be loving CLB's musings on Klingons warrior culture ;)
Christopher Bennett
63. ChristopherLBennett
@61: It's not about "disapproval," it's about enforcing the regulations that apply in your own command post. If this had happened on Qo'noS or on a Klingon ship, then Sisko or Odo couldn't have done anything more than express an opinion. But it happened on DS9 itself. Worf's cultural heritage doesn't give him the right to ignore the discipline of his service or the orders of his superior officers when he's actually stationed on a Starfleet post. While he's there, he has to obey the rules that apply there.

And your analogy to "Captive Pursuit" doesn't work, because that was about what would happen to Tosk after he left the station, not about actions actually performed on the station itself. Sisko accepting the Hunters' right to "extradite" Tosk into their custody and take him away was not equivalent to Sisko allowing an officer under his own command to violate regulations on his own station. Indeed, he wasn't nearly as tolerant of O'Brien skirting orders and regulations to help Tosk.
Kyle A.
64. Ginomo
Excellent discussion!

I have been waiting for you to get to this episode because like so many of you, I enjoyed the first 37 minutes and detested the last 5.

@61 CLB: You have made some excellent points. It always bothered me that Worf tried to complete the ritual on DS9. Back in "Reunion" when Worf killed Duras, he essentially executed him without trial or investigation. That would go against all kinds of Starfleet/Federation rules, but because he did it on a Klingon ship, the most Picard could to was reprimand him. DS9 is a Federation/Bajoran station, so any act there would be subject to its laws. As a former Starfleet security officer (and as someone who very recently was giving Odo grief about not prosecuting lawbreakers) there is no way Worf could have thought he'd get away with killing Kurn on the station. No way.

My other big issue with this was Dax and Bashir's role in the ending, but many of you have addressed that so I won't rehash that.

Many of you have said that after joining Martok's house, Worf should have "rescued" Kurn/Rodek in some way. But, I wonder what Martok would have thought had he known what Worf did to his brother. I have the distinct feeling this is something Worf would have wanted to keep from Martok, I can't see him approving at all. Martok became the quintessential Klingon in every aspect, so I can't help but wonder WWMD about this whole situation. Methinks Martok would have told Kurn to suck it up and pull himself up by the bootstraps the way he did years ago.

I have a direct question for Krad that I have been wanting to ask since reading A Burning House years ago... How big do you think Klingon Houses are? I don't believe there is an in-canon answer. Was the House of Mogh just Worf, Alexander and Kurn? Is the House of Martok just Martok, Sirella and their children (plus Worf & Company later on)? If so, it seems kind of inconsequential and not at all the big deal they make them seem. Plus, there would have to be millions (billions?) of Houses if they are just immediate family yet Worf always acts like he knows everyone's House.
Christopher Bennett
65. ChristopherLBennett
@64: There wouldn't be millions or billions of Houses, because Houses are only found within the landed nobility, who would certainly represent a small minority of the Klingon population. Basically I figure a House would consist of the nobleman who holds the title and his family and legitimate heirs, anyone with a right to inherit the lands and property of the nobleman. (As we've seen, it's rare for a Klingon female to lead a House.) How big a House was would depend on how many living relatives the founder or title-holder had.

Probably the best analogy for the Klingon warrior class is the samurai class of pre-Reformation Japan -- a military nobility/ruling class with a theoretically strict code of warrior's honor. Indeed, the season 4 premiere's title "The Way of the Warrior" is basically a translation of the Japanese word Bushido, the code of the samurai.
Kyle A.
66. Ginomo
@65

So that would mean that most Klingons are "House-less?" Would common, non-noble Klingons then align themselves with whomever they work for/live under or do they have no affiliation at all? Do they refer to themselves as "Bill, son of Tom" like we are used to hearing or are they just "Bill?"

I'm trying to fathom the impact of the Sons of Mogh losing everything as Kurn so dramatically puts it. Were there others affected, possibly those who worked the land or manned the ships that Kurn talks about losing? Kurn implies that there are others, like when he says "It was even said that if Gowron died, the leadership of the Council might have passed to someone from the House of Mogh." Who is is he talking about? Himself? Worf (there's no way anyone is nominating Worf for Chancellor unless he kills Gowron himself)? Alexander?

If a House really is just immediate family (as opposed to having many others who align with them) then that makes Kurn's "I can't go on living" rant nothing more than a powerful man being upset that he's now a poor nobody. To which case, the honorable thing to do would be to work hard to regain one's honor from those who took it, not to have your brother kill you.
Christopher Bennett
67. ChristopherLBennett
@66: Yes, most Klingons would be House-less, just as most people in feudal Europe did not have lands or titles, and just as most people in pre-Meiji Japan were not samurai. A noble class isn't exactly a populist institution.
Kyle A.
68. Eduardo Jencarelli
While I feel Worf had every right to follow his brother's wishes, it was definitely criminal to do it on DS9's territory, which adheres to Starfleet and Bajoran law.

On the other hand, I feel that if an episode can provoke this much discussion and debate, it definitely did something right. I feel there's a difference between reviewing an episode based on its artistic merits, and judging the actions of its characters. I would never take points off of Sons of Mogh because they chose to mindwipe Kurn. To me, that only shows Bashir is too obsessed with solving every single problem. And wisely enough, the producers realized it too, as they would challenge Bashir's drive later in The Quickening.

One of my top rules of screenwriting: allow a character room to make mistakes. That helps to raise the stakes.
Christopher Bennett
69. ChristopherLBennett
@68: Except the mindwipe was Dax's idea, not Bashir's. She's the one who first suggested, "What if there was a way for you to kill your brother without killing him?"

Indeed, that's one of the biggest problems with the ending: It completely fails to explore Bashir's thoughts or feelings about this procedure or the ethics behind it. He's only there to provide exposition.
Kyle A.
70. Eduardo Jencarelli
Except the mindwipe was Dax's idea, not Bashir's. She's the one who first suggested, "What if there was a way for you to kill your brother without killing him?"

But in this case, Dax also has a reason to voice the mindwipe option. She's dealt with the guilt of Klingon bloodshed and revenge ever since Blood Oath. She might want to consider a less fatal option while finding an optimum solution.

But I'll admit the ramifications could have been addressed down the line. The problem is Paramount was still hesitant to follow through on a more serialized Star Trek. DS9 was still very much episodic.

For instance, the O'Brien episode Hard Time would face the same challenge later in the season, as we never saw O'Brien dealing with the implanted memories after the aforementioned episode.
Christopher Bennett
71. ChristopherLBennett
@70: I'm not sure "hesitant to follow through on a more serialized Star Trek" is the right way of putting it. It's not as if that was already a standard practice in SFTV and DS9 was holding back. Episodic storytelling was still very much the norm -- with continuity and recurring arcs in many cases, but still with the expectation that each episode would be basically a complete and self-contained story. Even Babylon 5, the show that pioneered the use of season-long story arcs, still constructed those arcs out of episodic segments. DS9, like B5, was ahead of the curve as far as storytelling at the time went. It's only in comparison to what we've grown used to today that it seems backward.
Kyle A.
72. Eduardo Jencarelli
@71

Maybe hesitant is the wrong word, but it's worth remembering that at that point, none of the DS9 writers had any prior experience writing on a serialized level. This was new ground to them, and they were still getting used to it.

With so many threads on the air, it was easy for them to forget to follow up on something that deserved more closure.

Case in point, the multi-episode arcs they wound up doing in the later seasons were brutal exercises.
Kyle A.
73. Immortal
CLB @ 59:
I'm entitled to say I think the culture of the Klingon warrior class is contempible, thuggish, and hippocritical, and that Kurn's behavior here totally destroyed any respect I had for the character.
I thought we had decided that most of Kurn's behavior here resulted from extreme depression?
Christopher Bennett
74. ChristopherLBennett
@73: Yes, but his cultural context reinforced that depression. Nothing is monocausal. Depression leaves people vulnerable, and you can either exploit or ignore a vulnerability and leave it to get worse, or you can recognize and try to heal it. A culture that glorifies death and doesn't care much about fighting for life is a culture that will enable and exacerbate suicidal depression.

Hell, look how little sensitivity or understanding our culture has for mental-health issues, even though we have a well-developed medical system for preserving physical health. The Klingons don't even have a decent system of physical health care, so many Klingons with easily curable physical conditions are doomed. So getting treatment for easily curable mental health problems is even more out of the question.

But that's what's aggravating here. It shouldn't be out of the question on DS9. Starfleet has counselors. It has a well-established and respected mental health care system. Heck, this episode's writer Ron Moore was one of the first TNG writers to show Deanna Troi actually doing her job as a therapist in a competent and plausibly written manner, in "The Bonding." So why didn't Dax and Bashir get Kurn some basic counseling or just prescribe a damn antidepressant before going to the drastic measure of wiping his whole personality? It's unrealistic where Starfleet culture is concerned, never mind Klingon culture.
Dante Hopkins
75. DanteHopkins
CLB, your argument here is interesting. It reminds me of way back on TNG in "Ethics", when Beverly wants Worf to accept his parlysis like a human or other species would, and Picard reminds Beverly that Worf isn't human, and that Worf, because of his Klingon beliefs, couldn't make the journey Beverly wanted Worf to make. The same argument applies to Kurn. Kurn couldn't make the journey you're asking him to make. To go from being raised and trained his whole life to be a Klingon warrior, to achieving all Kurn did in the Empire, to lose it all, be disgraced, cast out of the Empire, and then to try to accept his disgrace is simply too far a journey for a Klingon warrior to make.

I liked MattHamilton's ending much better than what we got. I would rather Kurn died a warrior's death and pass honorably to Sto'Vo'Kor, than his memory being wiped and Kurn simply forgotten. I had actively avoided this episode because of the ending, but to my delight its a damn good episode, dragged down by the ending.
Christopher Bennett
76. ChristopherLBennett
@75: And I reject that kind of racial essentialism, that there's a single "human" way of thinking and a single "Klingon" way of thinking. I mean, good grief, how many different beliefs and philosophies exist within humanity, even within one nation or religion? We're not slaves to our species or our nationality or whatever. We decide what to believe and how to act -- even how to interpret what we believe to be the values of our group.

Granted, Trek is infamous for monoculture aliens, but we've seen enough Klingons over the years to make it clear that they do have a variety of different ways of thinking and interpreting their honor. Kang vs. Mara, Gorkon vs. Chang, Mogh vs. Duras, Kahless vs. Gowron, Martok vs. Kor... we've seen lots of differences of belief and interpretation of "Klingon values" even among characters who've lived their whole lives within the Empire.

So this isn't about some some kind of simplified caricature of an entire civilization. This is about an individual making an individual choice based on his individual interpretation of his culture's values.
Percy Sowner
77. percysowner
" So why didn't Dax and Bashir get Kurn some basic counseling or just
prescribe a damn antidepressant before going to the drastic measure of
wiping his whole personality?

To be fair, Prozac, the first really effective antidepressant came out in 1988. When this episode was being made, there was already the start of a backlash against using drugs to treat depression. Even today articles are being written about how people just need to exercise, eat well and pull themselves out of depressions. And Star Trek, even Deep Space Nine was still somewhat committed to the idea that the Federation had solved all sorts of problems. I doubt the writers would ever have considered giving Kurn or any other character a medicine to help with mental health issues.

That said, I agree that wiping his memory and killing Kurn was a really sketchy thing to do. As would allowing Worf to kill him would be. Having Kurn killed in battle would have been a preferable end to this conundrum.
Kyle A.
78. Greenygal
Actually, Bashir prescribes anti-depressants for O'Brien in "Hard Time", only a few episodes after this one. Whether Kurn would have agreed to take them, well, that's something else again, but the concept was there.
Kyle A.
79. McKay B
CLB, I'm a little disturbed at the idea of losing all respect for a person (who has in the past earned respect) because they're currently losing some battles against the depression they're struggling with.

This episode makes me pity Kurn, and respect him *less* than before. But not lose all respect for him. He's not able to use his usual decision-making abilities here.

I totally agree with you that Bashir should have prescribed him a pill and sent him to a therapist right away ... assuming he could find a therapist talented enough in multicultural psychotherapy to work with a proud Klingon patient. I hardly think Kurn would have opened up, for example, to Troi, enough to actually get helped by her counseling.

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