Retro Review: Blood OathPosted by Michelle - 06/07/12 at 05:07 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 02 Episode: 19 (s02e19)
Original US airdate: 03/27/1994
Three Klingons with whom Curzon Dax took an oath of vengeance – the legendary captains Kor, Koloth, and Kang – arrive to plan an attack on their enemy’s stronghold.
Plot Summary: Dax learns from Odo that aging Klingon warrior Kor is on the station and has been left in detention by another older Klingon, the Dahar Master Koloth. The two are joined by Kang and all express regret that Curzon Dax is no longer alive, because they are on a mission of revenge: Kang has found the Albino who murdered their children in retaliation for humiliation in battle, after which the three Klingons and Curzon took a blood oath to kill the Albino. Kang tells Jadzia that he knows Trill culture does not require her to fulfill Curzon’s obligations, but Jadzia reminds him that Curzon was godfather to one of the slain sons and demonstrates her own fighting skills in combat with Koloth. She insists that Klingon honor requires them to let her fight alongside them, though privately she lets Kira know that she is troubled. Kira alerts Sisko, who reminds Dax that she also took a Starfleet oath, but Dax says she will not break her word to the Klingons no matter what disciplinary action Sisko threatens. Kang plans a straightforward, direct assault on the Albino’s fortress, which Dax comes to realize is a suicide plan: Kang wants himself and his old friends to die with honor in battle. She insists that it would be more honorable to defeat their enemy, and proposes a plan to use the Albino’s own security measures against him. The four warriors surprise the Albino and overwhelm his guards, though Kor is wounded and Koloth killed in the assault. As Kang falls, mortally wounded, Dax disarms and traps the Albino, who taunts that she doesn’t have the resolve to kill him. Kang stabs the Albino in the back and dies believing that Dax saved the death blow for him as a mark of honor. Kor sings of the glory of his friends and says farewell to Dax, who returns to the station, where Sisko allows her distress at her role in the carnage serve as punishment enough.
Analysis: As happy as I am to see Kor, Koloth, and Kang again, and as much as it delights me to see Jadzia kicking butt with a bat’leth, there’s much that I don’t like about “Blood Oath” – it simply doesn’t live up to the glory these Klingons deserve. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m annoyed at how hidebound Klingon culture has become in Star Trek’s next generation, so while I can’t complain that the storyline seems out of character for Klingons, it does seem out of character for the three great villains who challenged Kirk, particularly Kang’s making a deal with his old enemy for a scripted death in battle instead of fulfilling his duty as a warrior to fight for the honor of his fallen son. Kang never seemed like a traditionalist, and among these New Age Klingons who treat women as second-class citizens, trading in the muscles of Vixis for the cleavage of the Duras sisters, the husband-and-wife command team Kang formed with Mara seems all the more remarkable. If Worf’s behavior toward Duras in the wake of K’Ehleyr’s murder stands as a model of Klingon vengeance, Kang’s behavior toward the Albino seems pathetic, unworthy of a onetime great Klingon captain. Koloth was always a bit of a buffoon, and Kor might plausibly have become a drunk after the tactical cunning he developed against enemies like Kirk became irrelevant in the new Empire, but what on Qo’noS happened to Kang? He might as well have died in his bed as let his son’s murderer mow him down. I assume he lost his wife in some terrible way, because surely Mara would have come up with a better plan.
As hard as it is to believe that Kang would sell out his vengeance for a quick and painless death that might satisfy the superficial requirements of death in battle but hardly seems worthy of a place of honor in Sto-vo-kor – I know the story’s based on The Seven Samurai, so some character traits were adapted from that rather than from the original series, and there’s some Three Musketeers mixed in too, but still – it’s even harder to believe that, once the band of four decides on a full assault on the Albino’s heavily fortified stronghold, they succeed so completely. Yes, Kang and Koloth die, though they’re so eager for death in battle that they practically invite it, and they get through to their enemy’s inner sanctum with scarcely a scratch. If the Albino (who’s lucky enough to live in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Millard House) is this overconfident and foolish, I don’t understand why they couldn’t track him down and take him out years ago. Clearly they weren’t trying, now that Kor is more interested in getting drunk, Koloth is more interested in the dignity of his reputation, and Kang is more interested in an easy path to the afterlife. It’s sad to see these glorious villains reduced less by age than by the fact that their style of Klingon self-expression and even their original foreheads have become anachronistic. They didn’t need bumpy foreheads from the pre-augment virus days to be admired and feared!
In many ways this is a good episode for Dax, showing how complex she is and how many different sets of skills she can use in a crisis. Dax has both training as a diplomat and talent with weapons; she has a sophisticated understanding of Klingon culture yet reservations about its bloodthirstiness; she feels her commitments deeply yet isn’t paralyzed when forced to choose between them; she has a sense of humor and irony even in very dark moments; and her trust in and devotion to the people with whom she serves is heartwarming. Yet two seasons into Deep Space Nine, I still feel like I know more about Curzon than Jadzia. I understand that he and Tobin and Torias are a part of her, but sometimes I feel like the writers think Dax was more interesting as an engineer or a pilot or a diplomat rather than an attractive young woman who gets to show off playing Tongo more often than she gets to perform the sort of extraordinary scientific problem-solving we saw all the time from Spock and Data. When she swings a bat’leth, Curzon gets the credit. Kira doesn’t describe how killing Cardassians made her feel diminished to a Trill Starfleet officer; she describes it to her friend Jadzia, and later she takes her concerns about that friend to Sisko, because I don’t believe for a second that Kira ratted Dax’s plans as the station’s first officer (obviously Dax doesn’t believe it either). Can’t we see Dax do more things that only Jadzia could accomplish, with or without the symbiont, like rolling her eyes with Odo when Kor wants to kiss her and getting Kira to open up about the shadows of her own previous life?
Tags: Retro Review