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July 13 2024


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Heart of Glory

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at August 17, 2007 - 8:09 PM GMT

See Also: 'Heart of Glory' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Ordered to investigate an incursion into the Neutral Zone, the Enterprise finds a damaged Talarian freighter with three Klingons aboard, claiming they were passengers when the vessel was attacked by Ferengi. One of the Klingons is badly injured, and when Dr. Crusher is unable to save him, Worf learns from the other two the howling ritual by which Klingons warn the dead that a warrior is about to arrive. Picard is uneasy by Worf's apparent loyalty to these Klingons, but Worf and then Picard learn that the pair are in fact fugitives who stole the Talarian vessel and attacked the Klingon ship sent to capture them, they prepare to return them to Klingon custody, though Worf is troubled that the Klingons will certainly be executed. During an escape attempt, one Klingon is killed and the survivor, Korris, invades the engineering room, threatening to destroy the warp core with his phaser. Unable to convince Korris that he can be a Klingon without making war every moment, Worf kills the criminal. The Klingon captain sent to bring Korris to justice invites Worf to consider serving under him, but Worf tells Picard that he prefers to remain in Starfleet.

Analysis: "Heart of Glory" is one of my favorite first-season episodes of The Next Generation, even though it starts agonizingly slowly and presents itself initially as a LaForge story rather than a Worf story. There's a dragged-out sequence on the damaged Talarian ship where the whole crew gets to see through Geordi's eyes - or, rather, his VISOR - and the setup seems to be leading to some crisis that only his unusual vision can stop. But the episode turns sharply with the introduction of the Klingons, finally filling in some of the blanks about Worf, which are much more compelling than hearing about how LaForge can detect structural flaws in infrared. Few viewers can relate to multi-spectrum vision, but a lot can relate to being a stranger in a strange land, which has long been one of the themes of Star Trek.

Now we learn Worf's backstory, which makes him more like Spock than any previous Klingon we've seen - rescued and raised by humans after a Romulan attack, educated in Starfleet, and just as prone as the Klingons suspect to the call of the hunt in his blood. Here we see the framework for post-Khitomer Klingon society, with more explicit discussion of the warrior code than we ever got on the original series or in the movies, and which will lead to any number of terrific episodes exploring Klingon culture. The idea that Klingons consider one another brothers in blood even though they may kill one another in battle or execute each other, the notion that being a warrior is tied less to training or loyalty than an internal code of honor...these ideas carry through all the second-generation Star Trek series and provide terrific material on both Deep Space Nine, where Worf finds himself when he leaves the Enterprise, and Voyager, where B'Elanna Torres struggles with dual Klingon-human heritage as well.

There are a few attempts to generate drama that seem artificial, to test Worf's loyalties when we already know which side he will choose; an abortive hostage crisis, for instance, ends with Worf's declaration that a Klingon would never dishonor himself by taking a child prisoner (and how can he know that, when these Klingons have already killed others of their own blood?). Picard expresses concern about this side to Worf that he has never seen before, yet he lets Worf take the other Klingons on a tour of the entire ship, apparently including engineering and the Picard himself testing Worf, or is he just overconfident? The result is a dead Starfleet crewmember, at which point it's entirely obvious that Worf is going to take out Korris to balance things out, and a death will be necessary to prove his commitment. It's like the writers were looking for an excuse to have him kill and demonstrate his Klingon instincts while at the same time justifying the brutality as necessary for the good of Starfleet.

At the core, for all their talk about Klingon values, the Klingons in this episode are renegades, and Worf is too smart to accept their definitions of honor and glory whether he thinks of himself as a Klingon or a Starfleet officer. His decisions are validated by both Picard and the Klingon captain, who tells Worf that he would appreciate having him on his own crew, and the episode ends with Picard's bemusement, followed by Worf's reassurance to the captain that he was only being polite by saying he would consider it. The very fact that the humans seem so mystified by Worf's behavior makes sense of his temptation by the renegade Klingons - don't Yar, Riker and the others know him well enough by now to realize that he isn't going to sell out his crewmates for a couple of guys whose foreheads resemble his own? Prejudice against Klingons seems to be very deep-seated, given the initial nervousness about the breach of the Neutral Zone and Picard's obvious fear that he may not be able to take Worf's loyalty for granted.

Unfortunately, while the series goes on to explore the Klingon warrior code and political structure in great detail, it never really returns to the question of these terrorist Klingons itching to start a war because peace is not in their nature, and that's a shame. The Klingon leadership obviously frowns on their actions and is quick to demand their punishment, but we don't really see how widespread the problem is, nor how the Federation might have behaved if too many of these renegade Klingons started operating outside the bounds of their society. Korris insists that it's instinctive in Klingons to need an enemy to fight, and Worf seems to accept that as a truism even while he's suggesting that internal conflicts may be sufficient. Are we supposed to take it as axiomatic that Klingons are bred for violence and some of the conflicts with humans really may be intractable?

In any case, "Heart of Glory" lays a lot of terrific groundwork, once one gets past the treacly pace and simpering New Age music of the VISOR scenes. The pace and the music both improve considerably once there are Klingons involved, and when they start to lock and load, there's no denying that some of the original series' politically incorrect fun comes gallivanting back.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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