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The Trek Nation - Sins of the Father

Sins of the Father

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 8, 2008 - 11:33 PM GMT

See Also: 'Sins of the Father' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: As part of the same exchange program that sent Riker aboard the Pagh, a Klingon commander named Kurn comes aboard the Enterprise to serve as first officer, where he quickly earns a reputation as a tough disciplinarian. Privately, however, he reveals to Worf an entirely different motive for being on the ship: he wishes to inform Worf that he is Kurn's older brother, and to ask that Worf help defend their father, Mogh, against accusations that Mogh aided the Romulans in the attack on the Khitomer Outpost that killed their parents. Worf requests and receives Picard's permission to appear before the Klingon High Council to challenge the accusations, brought by a council member named Duras. K'mpec, the head of the council, asks Worf to end his challenge for the good of Klingon society. Meanwhile, Kurn, who has hidden his secret identity as a son of Mogh, is attacked and nearly killed by assassins hired by Duras. With Kurn in sickbay, Worf asks Picard to stand with him at the challenge, and Picard agrees, asking his crew to investigate the Khotomer massacre. Crusher and Riker discover that another survivor, Kahlest, is still alive, and Picard brings her to the council to testify. K'mpec calls them into private chambers, where Picard and Worf discover that the real traitor at Khitomer was Duras' father, but they are told by K'mpec that an attack on the Duras family could trigger a civil war. K'mpec did not know that Worf had a brother, nor did he expect a Starfleet officer to demand a Klingon challenge. To protect Kurn from execution as the son of a traitor, Worf agrees to accept discommendation and dismissal from Klingon society, but K'mpec, Duras, Kurn and Picard all know the truth, and Picard advises Worf that there will be another time to clear his father's name.


Analysis: "Sins of the Father" kicks off a Klingon arc that doesn't truly end until Worf becomes the Federation ambassador to Qo'nos after his time aboard Deep Space Nine. During the first season, Worf was portrayed as so ignorant of traditions that he was eager to learn from Klingon renegades; perhaps the writers felt that this made him too much like Data, who was also a man without a country, as it were, because they increasingly began to write Worf as devoted to his Klingon heritage. By the time of the events of "The Emissary," Worf is clearly more familiar with Klingon mating rituals than he was with Klingon funerary rites in "Heart of Glory." And though the details of Klingon personal and family pride had evidently not been worked out in "A Matter of Honor," when Riker served aboard the Pagh, we've already had some hints about how seriously it is taken.

Now suddenly we discover that Worf has a secret brother, and that his father was not a minor Klingon who lost his family (which would better explain why Worf was raised by humans) but a man of some importance who knew the security codes for his entire outpost. Moreover, Worf is so familiar with the workings of the High Council that he does not require much assistance from Kurn to make the challenge to defend their father's honor; he knows that he will need a cha'Dlch, a second to stand with him, and that he must be prepared to defend the charges with his life. It's curious that Worf feels not only such a passionate attachment to the father he barely knew, but also such certainty that his father could not have been involved in the circumstances that allowed the Romulans to attack Khitomer. Worf recalls so little about his family that he does not remember having a younger brother, nor do we ever receive a full explanation of why that family was so isolated that their putative heir was sent to be raised by humans. He simply knows that no Klingon would allow such an insult to his family to go unchallenged.

K'mpec, who fears civil war more than personal dishonor, is very willing to let Mogh serve as scapegoat, operating on the assumption that it won't affect Worf's life in the Federation and there's no one else who can be hurt by the lie. And it's not clear yet how we are meant to feel about Duras: is he a coward for hiding the truth and refusing to die as the son of a traitor, or is he a hero within his family, protecting his siblings and offspring from ruin? Hiring assassins certainly seems to be the coward's path, yet no one seems at all surprised when first Worf and then Picard are attacked. This too is part of the Klingon way and taken quite stoically by Worf, whom one might reasonably expect to demand that heads roll for his cha'Dlch even if he cannot acknowledge the man as his brother. Indeed, we get the full measure of Worf here: a loyal Starfleet officer who is also Klingon to the core, whose respect for Picard goes far deeper than that demanded by Picard's title and position, who is so grateful to have found a brother that he is willing to accept discommendation rather than put that brother's life at risk (and indeed who will later allow that brother to forget him because Worf believes it is the only way to save him). So Klingon is Worf that he puts the Empire above his own interests and those of his family.

"Sins of the Father" is an extremely well-plotted episode, impossible to predict even if we can expect certain sorts of behavior from the characters we know best. At first it looks like it might be a twist on "A Matter of Honor," with a strict Klingon disciplinarian driving Wesley and Geordi crazy with his inspections, plus a comic scene where Kurn politely tells Riker that if they were on a Klingon ship he'd kill Riker for offering suggestions, then another comic scene where Kurn remarks on the unpalatability of each human food he's offered. It's a great twist when Kurn tells Worf who he is and what he's really doing there, then another great twist when Duras tries to have him assassinated. It's genuinely impossible to guess how it will end, too; we don't have enough evidence to have any idea whether Worf's father might have been a traitor, and though Duras behaves suspiciously throughout, it's a bit shocking to see him humiliated by Picard when the human guesses the Duras family secret. Worf can't make that leap because he simply can't believe that both K'mpec and Duras could behave so dishonorably.

Picard tells Kurn early in his visit to the Enterprise that the aim of the starship exchange program is to learn tolerance, and that seems to be the theme of the episode, though not tolerance in the sense of acceptance; Picard and Worf both must keep silent about what they have learned, to tolerate the deception of the council, because it's the only way to preserve Starfleet interests, save Kurn's life and leave open the possibility of fighting to clear Mogh's name another day. Worf may not be a merry man when LaForge points out how well he's adapted to human food and human society, but he's in a unique position to move between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and ultimately, during the Klingon war, that will help save both.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.