Plot Synopsis: Captain Picard is selected to arbitrate the selection of a new Chancellor for the Klingon Empire and, in doing so, find out who dishonorably murdered the old Chancellor. Also involved is Ambassador K’Ehleyr, who has a surprise for Worf: their son.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is relatively quick and to the point: A Klingon starship uncloaks and we see Ambassador K’Ehleyr, who asks permission to come aboard. She brings a little Klingon kid with her–guess who the father is? Plot A is about the succession of the Klingon Empire no less, and plot B is about Worf, K’Ehleyr and their son. Plot A doesn’t waste any time: K’mpec, the leader of the Klingon Empire, calls Picard to his ship and tells him he’s been poisoned for months and will soon die. He tells Picard he wants him to be the Arbiter of Succession, whose job it is to select the two strongest challengers to the chancellorship. There are only two challengers, but Picard’s real job is to discover which one of them has been poisoning K’mpec, because no Klingon who kills by poison should lead the Empire. The wrinkle is that one of the challengers is Duras, a villain we know from a previous episode. Meanwhile, Worf has to come to terms with a son he never knew he had. Intrigue is the name of the game here, and it’s seldom done better than in Reunion. Plot A is unpredictable and deep, moving from an ostensible Klingon succession to a conspiracy involving Romulans. It is the better of the two plots, but plot B has nice personal bits, as well as furnishing the most powerful moments. Overall this is a great, robust episode from start to finish.
Favorite Scenes: This whole episode is very strong and jam-packed, but for emotional power, I go with two: Worf and son discovering K’Ehlyr’s body and mourning it, and Worf’s revenge on Duras. Who wouldn’t think those scenes are great?
Use of Cast/Characters: Picard has quite a bit to do in this episode, namely figuring out how to adjudicate the rite of succession while discovering who poisoned K’mpec. I like that he takes time out to let Worf know how difficult a spot he’s in, interacting with Klingons with his discommendation. Touches like that are what I think make great leaders. It’s also important to have that scene at the end where Picard calls Worf onto the carpet for killing Duras. Riker, Data, Geordi, Troi and Wes don’t have much to do this episode. Beverly at least figures out who had the bomb, which is good. This is Worf’s episode more than anyone else’s. We get to see him struggle with his discommendation in Klingon company, wrestle with being a father, witness his conflict about his love for K’Ehleyr with his dishonor among Klingons and what that could mean. Finally we witness his devastation for her death and his revenge. I’ll say it again, Michael Dorn always delivers. It’s a pleasure to see Suzie Plakson playing K’Ehleyr, first encountered in The Emissary–she’s great here. This is the third (remember she played a Vulcan) and the last time we’ll see her on TNG. Charles Cooper as K’mpec is also nice; he comes across as a crafty, doomed old lion who still has a trick up his sleeve. Robert O’Reilly as Gowron and Patrick Massett as Duras both do good jobs, but I’d give the edge to Patrick as giving the better performance. I love his line, stating the obvious to Worf: “It was a bomb.” Finally, Jon Steuer played Worf’s son Alexander, but he is portrayed by Brian Bonsall after this episode. According to Frakes, Steuer was “too shy, not a warrior. Probably the reason why he was recast.”
Blu Ray Version: There is an audio commentary with the two writers of the episode, as well as the Okudas. For some reason the shot of Gowron at 18:11 is really blurry, guess the remastering folks couldn’t find the original shot?
Nitpicks: The only thing that’s missing is we don’t discover who poisoned K’mpec, which was Picard’s whole task? My two cents is that it was Duras. His father worked with Romulans, and when we get to Redemption we’ll discover they are still working with them–not to mention Duras’s aide had the bomb. I have no problem believing he used poison as well, and the fact is he died. Whoever died I’m going to say is the right guy, though there is an argument about Gorwon being the guy. I’m also not exactly sure what the purpose of the bomb was–to kill Gowron? Duras was closer to the bomb than Gowron was! Maybe rearranging the actors a bit would have helped.
Overall Impression: This is the second episode Jonathan Frakes directed and he knocks it out of the park again, in yet another story involving family. Everything about this episode is great, and its description sounds similar to The Princess Bride: it has fencing, fighting, murder, revenge, explosions, and true love. It’s also good for those who love Game of Thrones: it’s full of intrigue, poisonings, collaboration with the enemy, vying for the throne and all of the under-handedness that goes with it. This episode needed every second it had to tell its tale; it’s full to the brim with drama, but has plenty of time for action. It also adds to the continuing story of Worf’s discommendation and expands the Klingon mythos. You can’t really ask much more of 45 minutes than all this. It’s also nice to have an episode title that actually makes sense, and it’s a two-fold reunion: one with K’Ehleyr, and another with Duras. I happily rate this episode 5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: There is a ton of stuff here, I’ll try to keep this section from getting too long. This is the second of eight episodes Jonathan Frakes directed. This was Brannon Braga’s first writing assignment as an intern–he and Ron Moore sat together and hammered it out successfully. He’d go on to write great episodes for several Star Trek franchises as well as co-write Generations and First Contact. Here are a couple of quotes I’ve combined from Michael Piller (head writer) about this episode:
Stories that are about the family go to the heart of what your franchise is all about. You have regular cast on a television show and you can’t kill them. You know, the audience knows they’re not gonna die. But you can wound them. That’s how they grow, that’s how they learn. And that’s how audiences connect with them when they share the pain that Worf feels when his wife is killed…I killed K’Ehleyr. The original idea was about Worf’s kid and bringing K’Ehleyr back, who was having a relationship with Duras. But when we started talking about how to make the story work, I’m the one who said she should die… You wanted to get to a place where Worf was going to take Duras apart, and there’s no real good reason for him to do it unless she dies… he [Duras] had it coming.
This was the debut of the Vor’cha Klingon cruiser. Senior illustrator Rick Sternbach designed it, said it represented a sharing of technologies between Starfleet and the Klingon empire, perhaps during a period of detente–you can see the Starfleet contribution around the nacelles I think. This is also the first appearance of the bat’leth, the most iconic Klingon weapon of all. I love the bat’leth, I think it’s awesome. Ron Moore said he got hate mail for killing off K’Ehleyr, including from Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, wife of The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison! One last thing is that in this episode Gowron practically offers K’Ehleyr a seat on the council, but as we learn later this season, women cannot hold seats on the council. [Update] On a sad note, Jon Steuer committed suicide on January 1, 2018.
Finally, a note about Alexander. We learn in New Ground he was born on 43205, which is about three months after she was on board for The Emissary. Hmm. Also, he he does look a bit older than one and a half years! He’ll have grown even more amazingly the next time we see him (season 5), when he would only be three years of age chronologically.