Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 3: Sins of the Father

The Next Generation, Season 3
"Sins of the Father"
64 of 176 produced
64 of 176 aired
Aired: March 19, 1990


A Klingon officer, Kurn, joins the crew of the Enterprise as part of an exchange program. This new officer soon reveals to Worf that he is the brother Worf never knew he had.  Kurn has come to Worf because the Klingon High Council has decreed that it was their father, Mogh, that betrayed the Klingons at Khitomer to the Romulans and precipitated the attack that orphaned Worf. Worf must now defend the honor of his father and his family, but he faces deadly consequences if he fails.

We'll definitely take the Emmy for art direction. But that doesn't exonerate you for the seven year-long acting snub, you jerks.


Kevin: This episode is a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons. The Ron D. Moore warrior-Klingons are one of my favorite Trek civilizations, and this episode is really where they first manifest in a big way. Previous outings, like Heart of Glory or Matter of Honor nibble at the edges but don't go nearly as far in establishing and embelleshing a real, vital civilization. This episode mines those episodes well, to be sure, but it also does an amazing job setting up future plot lines.

Matthew: One really cool thing this show does is set up the Klingon culture, in relatively short, broad strokes. Doing this in sci-fi is a real balancing act, one between too much laborious baloney (e.g. the Star Wars prequels), and absolutely no sensible arrangement whatsoever (e.g. anything by J.J. Abrams). We learn about the high council, a feudal-style caste system, an honor code, and just get a whole lot of info about the Klingons while still getting an entertaining and briskly told tale.

Kevin: I really enjoyed how the episode sets up a different story than the one we end up getting. We start with a more lighthearted culture clash story that packs in some great comedy. The dinner scene in particular still kills me. When he wipes the caviar on the turkey leg, I die every time. The dramatic reveal is a touch soap-opera-y, but the franchise goes there so infrequently, I think it works. I have a few nagging questions about why Lorgh just didn't adopt Worf and Kurn and reveal the truth right away, and it could have been fixed by a few lines of dialogue.

Matthew: Yeah, I felt like Worf accepted Kurn's identity a little too readily. Not even a blood test? Ishara Yar got a lot more scrutiny. Worf also seems to assume his father's innocence very quickly - I guess this makes sense for his character, but it might have suited he drama of the episode a bit more to have more doubt cast on things. Duras seems almost immediately like a Snidely Wiplash sort of villain, which makes things too easy to accept as a viewer.

Kevin: The political thriller is pretty well done. Partly because they start it later in the episode, they move at a pretty decent clip, and it keeps the tension high. There are a few holes though. Duras is pretty much the obvious bad guy from the moment he opens his mouth, and it knocks the tension down a little. Still, overall, it the story was well done, and it gave Worf and Picard a lot of great moments.

Matthew: Yeah, in the end, this is quite an entertaining story. But I can't help but feel as though a science fictional element could have been worked in. In much the same way that future technology gave a new twist to the courtroom drama of "A Matter of Perspective," (and indeed for the Klingons in the later "Rightful Heir"), I wish some sort of science fiction could have had an impact here. It could have killed two birds with one stone - settling some of the unanswered questions of the plot. Also, it was a tad anticlimactic how Duras just sort of admitted his guilt. We could have had an exciting scene infiltrating his house or something, locating hidden evidence. This would have been better than the kind of random "assassination" scene with Kurn. Why were they trying to kill him again?


Kevin: The acting was really strong all around. The main cast has some nice moments, from the dinner scene and the scene in Ten Forward griping about Kurn. Patrick Stewart has some pretty badass moments. The only time he comes close to over the line is when he derides the "empire that holds honor so dear." It was like he was turning up the volume on his acting to match the larger than life performances of the Klingons.

Matthew: The dinner scene echoes the one in "Haven," and though it is more restrained, is nearly as funny. It was interesting how they tried to give Gates McFadden something to do - and here is a place that the neglected sci-fi angle I mentioned above could have come into play. It was nice to see the crew rally to Worf's support, and these scenes could have been expanded a bit. Perhaps Kurn could have "directed" the investigation, causing more tension?

Kevin: The guest cast really sings too. Tony Todd is an awesome actor. I still can't say Candyman five times in front of a mirror. What I liked about his performance was that it felt of a piece with Worf's portrayal of Klingons, but more brash and confident. It felt like Kurn was the man Worf would have been had he been raised around Klingons. I also loved the scenes of him antagonizing Worf. Even tiny body language choices like lounging in the chair while Worf is standing up really played well. Tony Todd breathed life into the dialogue and he felt like a genuine person. Charles Cooper, who played Koord in STV, and it's easy to see why they brought him back. He played gruff, ancient Klingon dude to the hilt.

Matthew: Tony Todd and Chris Cooper both kicked ass. What was great too about all the Klingons in this show is that they all sounded different. It really makes them feel like a real people when the line readings have so much variety. Of course there would be some pompous Klingons like Patrick Massett's Duras, and servile but slightly defiant ones like Thelma Lee as Kahlest.

Kevin: This is really a star turn forMichael Dorn. His suppressed rage was really well done, and the internal conflict about his loyalty to his family, his people, and his ship really shined. I particularly liked how the minute he finds out he is an older brother, the dynamic shifts between Worf and Kurn. Both actors played it really well.

Matthew: He had great chemistry with Tony Todd. I would have really enjoyed seeing some of the alternate takes and or cut scenes from their interaction.

Production Values

Kevin: This episode picked up some awards hardware for set design and, boy, did they earn it. The matte painting of the First City and Great Hall is exquisite. The cutouts showing the moving trains and occupied buildings were really well done, and it matches the interior of the Great Hall to a tee. The interior was great, too. Overly bright spotlights next to lurking shadows really gave the room size and gravity. It's impossible to not be dramatic there.

Matthew: Apparently it was a redress of the research station from "A Matter of Perspective." I would never have guessed in a million years. We also get a re-use of the circular "Jefferies" corridor from Star Trek V. The matte painting is one of the best of the series, with tons of layers and movement cutouts showing people walking inside the great hall. They also did some great costume work on all the different Klingons in the high council. The set decorations were really neat, too, with Klingon language plaques under "historic" artifacts.


Kevin: Despite a few nagging plot holes that Matt and I detail, this still hits the 5 for me. The acting is nigh on flawless, and the production values are simply stunning. The plot for me excels in how it avails itself of the previous Klingon episodes, and for how well it sets up future ones. The episode instantly creates a fully realized society I want to see more of. It clearly wasn't simply contractual obligations to Michael Dorn that kept them coming back to this well. The plot issues may keep it out of the top ten, but not the top ten percent for me.

Matthew: I'm going with a 4, because of the lack of sci-fi. Previous episodes have demonstrated the ability to tell an exciting story with lots of dimension, but still have at least a minor sci-fi theme worked in. This could just as well have been a story about a royal struggle in Denmark. But that doesn't knock too many points off, since the story itself was still quite exciting, and the acting and production values were of such a high caliber. But to me, a 5 has to hit on all cylinders, including the main thematic cylinder of science fiction. So this is a 4, bringing our total rating to a 9.


  1. I like this episode too. it is very entertaining and doubly so with the whole officer exchange program. Having a Klingon command people on the enterprise is like inviting a caveman to the moscow ballet. It is just out of place it is hilarious. On a practical matter is doesnt make sense. Klingon style of command, battle and pretty much everything so different that asking them to come and command a starfleet ship seems irresponsible almost.

  2. This episode is great. But it makes me cringe when Picard says to set course for "the first city of the Klingon imperial empire."