Saturday, November 9, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: Sons of Mogh
Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"Sons of Mogh"
Airdate: February 12, 1996
85 of 173 produced
85 of 173 aired


Worf is forced to choose between Klingon values and Federation ones when his downtrodden brother comes to him, asking for a violent personal favor.

In this week's episode, we learn that the Runabout chairs recline into sleepers. Which is good, because we sure as hell didn't learn much about the characters.


Matthew: I feel like I am supposed to like this episode. It's by Ron Moore, it's about the Klingons, it has Kurn. On a nerd level, I should appreciate how the story goes and fleshes out the consequences of Worf's decisions with regard to the Klingon invasion of Cardassia. And it does. All those things are good, and I'll praise them in due course. But man, the ending just makes me hate this episode. Let me try to address what I think might be the most rational defenses of it. It is culturally chauvinistic, you say, to apply human values to Klingon behavior. Kurn craves an honorable suicide, and that's something that is acceptable in his culture. But I'm not advocating for anything else, you see. When Worf plunged the knife into Kurn's chest, I was fine with it. An entire episode of dealing with the repercussions of this act in a human-dominated milieu would have been great. But no. Instead, Worf wusses out, tries to get Kurn a job... (let that sink in for a second), and then conspires with the Doctor to erase his memories without his informed consent and convince him he's someone else. Umm, how is this any different than just killing him? How could Worf, who had apparently so respected Klingon culture and honor that he jammed a knife in his brother's chest, then deprive him of his honorable death by trickery? How could the Doctor who tried to hard to save the person who was Kurn turn around and eliminate him? How could the Captain, who was completely opposed to the assisted suicide, then turn a blind eye to what was tantamount to the same thing? Why would Dax, who supposedly has a deep understanding of Klingon culture, have intervened to save Kurn's life in the first place? No, no, you say, the point was to show that Worf was in fact fundamentally and permanently removed from his cultural heritage. Then whey did he agree to the ritual in the first place? If he had been so contaminated by Federation values, the contamination should have been apparent in both the first ten minutes and the last thirty of the episode. The simple fact is, his behavior in the first few minutes is totally consistent with past characterization (I call your attention to TNG's "Ethics"), while his behavior at the end of this episode just has no reasonable explanation.  This whole conceit is just a mess. Peoples' reactions to it are nonsensical on their face, and then shift diametrically for no reason as the plot progresses.

Kevin: As much as it pains me to say it, I have to agree with your analysis. Pretty much up until the very last scene, I was really loving this episode. It had all the hallmarks of great Trek and great DS9. The cultural relativism angle was an interesting one in Ethics, it was the muddy practical application that dragged it down. The idea that because Worf and Kurn are fine with honor suicide means we should at least acquiesce to it would seem to be one Picard may have signed off on. That being said, he was not fine with revenge killing in "Reunion," so maybe his cultural relativism has limits. I bring these up to emphasize that watching the Federation's espoused cultural acceptance clash with their own core values is inherently interesting. Like in "Ethics," it might have been fun to get everyone's take. I think Quark might actually have something to add to this conversation, especially regarding Federation values. The worst part of the episode is that Worf's solution has all of the downsides of Kurn's original plan but none of Kurn's needs are actually met. This doesn't provide him the clean exit that he wanted, but seems to fly in the face of all the Federation ethics that Klingon seppuku seems to violate. It's just straight up bad writing, at least in terms of the resolution. I think the better solution would be a more ambiguous one. What if Kurn were killed in the mission on the cruiser, but Worf could have saved him. If he held back from saving Kurn's life, that would be the nice gray area that Star Trek allegories thrive on, and would have spared us the drivel of forced amnesia.

Matthew: All negatives aside, I appreciate that the larger consequences of Worf's actions are followed up on. I just wonder if it might be a better story to make Kurn become a pirate, or a homeless person, or basically anything but the victim of the confused mess of a story we got. On the other hand... just what is the "House of Mogh?" Kurn talks about land and property and seats on the council, and all that. What does that mean? Are there hundreds of people involved? Are they all relatives, or are they like feudal serfs? What were they doing for all that time inbetween Mogh's taking the blame for Khitomer and his family's honor being reinstated? None of these questions are even lightly touched on in this plot, and it bugs me.

Kevin: I remember a throw away line in TNG about Alexander's "cousins" and wondered if that meant the House of Mogh had other living relatives that could have adopted Worf. My annoyance is the same here. This is one of those times that literally any explanation would have satisfied me as any internal logical problems could have been foisted on the vagueries of Klingon politics. I liked the idea that Worf's family had otherwise been in ascendance since "Redemption." That's interesting and makes sense, and Kurn, given his ability to secure the loyalty of "three squadron commanders" must have some political savvy. I was about to suggest that exploring more of Klingon politics may have helped the episode, but that's not true. The Klingon/Federation politics we got were fine, and their impact on the big picture was interesting. The ending just bleeds over everything else, doesn't it?

Matthew: The Worf/Dax thing is developed in the opening fight scene. It is undercut of course by Dax's inexplicable interference with a ritual she purports to understand and respect, but whatever. They have chemistry, the characters make sense together given the Dax symbiont's past history, and, well, ANYTHING would make more sense than Troi/Worf.

Kevin: Speaking of chemistry, I actually really liked all of the Kira/O'Brien stuff. In both the runabout and Defiant scenes, they had a nice rapport of people who may not necessarily be friends outside of work, but definitely get along and work well together. The banter in the teaser was particularly well done. I also like that they again return to the consequences of an increasing belligerent Klingon Empire. It makes the season finale feel well developed rather than out of nowhere.


Matthew: Michael Dorn is given interesting things to do for the most part, but the script never really gives him the scene I wanted, where he is actually tortured by the choice presented to him. Nonetheless, he does a fine job overall with what he has. He shows good chemistry with Terry Farrell, who held up her end pretty well, too.

Kevin: Yeah, there is really no fault in anything but the script. I liked the way Dorn acted, particularly after the cruiser spy mission, realizing he was too far removed from Klingon society to ever truly go back, I just wish the script had supported it more.

Matthew: This is not Tony Todd's best performance. It's not bad, but it's clear that he had mixed feelings (for good reasons) about the part, and it seemed like he wasn't completely into it. He did a good job of appearing defeated and downtrodden, but not a whole lot else.

Kevin: The worst part was that the story never gave him a resolution. Here was a man who engineered getting posted to a Federation ship to track down his brother. As schmaltzy as it might have been, I would have liked to see Kurn remember that man and find a way to fight to regain his honor rather than surrender to accepting his disgrace.

Production Values

Matthew: The ceremonial knife was cool. The way they played out the scene with the stabbing was effectively shot. Some of the medical doodads, especially the hood thing placed over Kurn, looked a bit silly.

Kevin: I liked the Bajoran uniform on Kurn. Clearly they had to make one for him as no one close to his size has appeared as a Bajoran before, and it looked both like a real uniform and ridiculous on him, which it was supposed to.

Matthew: The bat'leth breaking in half looked pretty cheesy, I must say. The fight scene was choreographed well. I'm a bit mystified as to why we don't get a Worf/Kurn fight scene.

Kevin: The space work was great, no two ways about it. I liked the lighting effects on the mines, and I still go slack-jawed staring at the damaged Vor'cha cruiser. The way that top piece is knocked to one side just looks fantastic.


Matthew: This is a 2 for me. The main point of the tale (which I take to me Worf's straddling of two cultures) is a mess. Characterization is a mess. The ending is incredible and morally atrocious. Some decent acting and fine production values keep this from being a 1.

Kevin: Like Worf, I am torn. I like a lot of this episode. If they hadn't gone the route they did to resolve the story, this could be an awesome and gut wrenching coda to the story of Worf's family. I don't want to give this a 2. I think I can even make a case that warts and all, this is still better than other episodes to which we gave a combined four rating. That being said, I don't think I can justify giving this a 3. This is not an "average" episode. It's a below average one. The fact that it is the last five minutes pulling the whole show down doesn't make a difference. I will say, a 1 was never really on the table. There's enough here to make (again, but for the last five minutes) enjoy watching this episode. Still, it's a total of 4 from us.

1 comment:

  1. I actually find the ending more sad than infuriating. As Matt said, they erased his memory without his knowledge or consent. That was pretty cruel. I was also sad for Worf - this is the only brother he has and he can never ever have a relationship with him.

    I really wonder why they brought Worf back if they were going to eliminate everyone from his life. They are already doing a lousy job with Alexander (or they will) - he just sort of disappears sometime Season 6 all throughout the war and is never heard from again and when he was there, whatever they did explore was lame and he was lame.

    If you are going to Worf back, then bring him back. Explore his relationships. Bring back his son and brother, flesh out his character. Instead all we got from him is tough talking or whining to Jadzia that she isnt Klingon or committed enough.