Retro Review: Once More Unto the Breach


Worf helps Kor get a posting to Martok’s ship so that the aging Klingon can die a warrior’s death.

Plot Summary: Worf receives a visit from Kor, who is devastated that he has been unable to secure a commission to fight in the Dominion War. Worf promises to intercede so that Kor can die as a warrior, but when he asks Martok, he discovers that the general despises Kor because when Martok was a young and ambitious but very poor young man, Kor refused to allow a Klingon peasant to become an officer, and Martok only achieved his position through extremely hard work and brave acts. Forced to accept Kor as third officer of the Ch’Tang on a mission to destroy a Cardassian base, Martok seethes when he finds that his crew admires the Dahar Master – as does Ezri Dax, who shares Jadzia and Curzon’s memories of fighting at Kor’s side and misses performing heroic Klingon deeds. While Quark overhears Dax’s longing to travel with Worf and mistakenly assumes she is still in love with Worf, Kor regales Martok’s crew with tales of his battles against the Federation. But during the fight with the Cardassians, Martok and Worf are both wounded, and a confused Kor takes command, issuing orders relevant not to their present situation but to a mission he undertook with Kang several decades earlier. Worf knocks Kor out to save the ship and Martok ridicules him in front of a jeering crew. When their squadron is pursued by the Jem’Hadar, Worf hatches a plan to save the others by sacrificing himself aboard a ship that has lost its captain. Learning of the plan, Kor knocks Worf out with a sedative, promises to greet Jadzia for him at Sto’vo’kor, and carries out the suicide mission himself. Martok acknowledges the bravery of his onetime adversary, and his crew drinks and sings in Kor’s honor.

Analysis: I could not possibly be more tired of overblown Klingon dramas, from titular Shakespearean allusions to songs of tribute in honor of dead comrades. In the midst of an intergalactic war that’s killing millions, we’re supposed to fret about the hurt feelings of one Klingon who can’t swallow his own pride and accept that living out his days quietly, instead of getting an entire crew blown up with him, isn’t also a noble sacrifice. Sorry, but I’m not moved by Kor’s plight in “Once More Unto the Breach”, and my feelings toward Worf aren’t all that warm either, since he allows himself to be greeted as Mogh’s son rather than Martok’s brother and makes promises to Kor before checking with the Klingon to whom he owes his own Klingon honor. Unsurprisingly, it’s two outsiders whose stories prove to be more compelling: Martok, who reveals insecurities that have nothing to do with his mistreatment by the Dominion, and Dax, now even further from glory in the Empire as Ezri than as Jadzia. Of course I’m a bit sorry to see the last of the Classic Klingons leave the franchise, especially in this era before his forehead change could be explained, but I’m no happier about seeing a diminished, decrepit Kor than is Worf, who demonstrates exactly why the Empire is moribund and decrepit itself when he tells Bashir and O’Brien that the facts of Davy Crockett’s life and death are less important than the legend. When a Klingon who’s been an outsider for nearly all his life argues for the traditions and sense of nostalgia that excluded him instead of stressing the importance of learning from the past, the whole Empire looks to be in sad shape.

It is nice, at least, to get a more complete sense of Martok’s story and to see J.G. Hertzler chew scenery with a relish that makes it apparent Martok and not Gowron is the proper leader for a culture that values pomp and posturing over logic or intellect. Martok has never judged Worf in relation to either his father’s dishonor or Gowron’s animosity, which has always seemed curious for a Klingon of Martok’s rank. Now we know that Martok places no value in famous Klingon bloodlines because he was himself excluded by the aristocratic Kor from a position he had earned on his own merits. No wonder Kor wants to think of Worf as the son of a noble House rather than as the adopted family member of a general whose origins Kor can’t even remember. Where Martok has a problem is not in dismissing Kor for his traditional-bound bigotry, but in trying to overlook the feats of valor that made Kor a Dahar master and a legend among living Klingons. That he settles merely for mocking Kor and not disciplining Kor for putting the entire mission at risk suggests that Martok doesn’t love the Klingon tendency to ostracize outsiders who are considered too old like Kor, too soft like Alexander, or too unconventional like Worf, either. Martok’s sense of honor lies not in defending a family or a set of rules not because That Is What Klingon Warriors Do, but in the passionate belief that hard work and personal integrity in Klingons and non-Klingons alike are crucial qualities for building a strong society. I find it impossible not to admire that even when Martok is bullying poor old Kor.

I realize that Worf is still in mourning for Jadzia, but he blows opportunity after opportunity to ask WWJD (What Would Jadzia Do), excluding Ezri from his plans with her old friend and choosing to sacrifice himself rather than offering Kor the one thing he truly wants, which Kor then must take from Worf by stealth and force. In the portrait of different standards for Klingon warriors presented by Kor, who was born with all the advantages, and Martok, who had to fight every step of the way, it’s not yet clear which Worf will ultimately support, and at this point – with his birth family gone, and Martok his true friend and adoptive family – it’s mystifying that Worf would even consider risking close ties with the only Klingon willing to stand up for him at a time when Curzon’s old friends were nowhere to be found. If Dax had been around, I bet she’d have reminded Kor that Curzon, too, was an outsider and told him to offer the great warrior and leader Martok his humblest apology. She would also have injected some of her infectious joie de vivre into the proceedings, something Worf and Martok used to have when going into battle as well. That’s one thing Jadzia and Ezri have in common, and if Ezri’s youthful perkiness can get to be a bit much – I burst into giggles when she chirps, “Hi!” to Worf when he enters Quark’s bar – she’s perfectly characterized, with Jadzia’s interests and desires superimposed on a young woman in no way prepared to be joined with a symbiont. I love Kira’s big-sister relationship with Ezri, a nice reversal on Jadzia’s big-sister relationship with Kira, and I’m glad she isn’t ready to jump into a relationship with Bashir or Quark or Worf. She should be busy finding herself before their needs start superimposing themselves on her, too.

What do you think? Chat with other fans in the Star Trek: Deep Space nine forum at The Trek BBS.

Michelle Erica Green


Michelle Erica Green

Writer, mother, reader, traveler, teacher, partner, photographer, activist, friend, fangirl, student, critic, citizen, environmentalist, feminist, vegetarian, enthusiast. TrekToday staffer for many years, former news reporter, current retro reviewer.

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