Plot Synopsis: Worf’s loyalties to Starfleet are tested when three fugitive Klingons come on board the Enterprise.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here works well: there’s been a battle in the Neutral Zone and the Enterprise is asked to investigate. They find a small freighter with marks possibly indicating a Romulan attack, which means they could still be in the area. There is some definite tension as Riker leads an away team over to the freighter. Plot A here involves the fugitive Klingons, there is no plot B. What follows is just about the only time we get to see how Geordi sees things with his visor, though this goes on just a little long. They investigate and find the unexpected: three Klingons. The team manages to get them off the freighter right before she blows; there is a nice moment here when they try to transport off and fail, so they have to try again. The Klingons tell the story of what happened but there are some gaps that concern Picard. It doesn’t take long for one of them to die of his injuries, and we see for the first time the Klingon death ritual. From here on the plot becomes complex and very character-driven, putting a lot of personal pressure on Worf throughout. We learn the Klingons are actually fugitives from their empire, but as they talk to Worf, what they say stirs his soul. A Klingon cruiser comes by to pick them up in order to execute them and of course the fugitives aren’t going to take that lying down. The tension continues to build, until at the end Worf has to decide where his loyalties ultimately lie.
Favorite Scenes: The scene where the two Klingons start talking to Worf and working on him, then telling him what really happened on board the freighter around the 20-minute mark is very nice. Later when Tasha and the security forces come to take the Klingons into custody, Worf is literally in the middle:
Commander Korris: “They’ve come for us.”
Tasha, to Worf: “Step aside.”
Worf: “What is the problem?”
Tasha: “Captain wants those two taken into custody.”
Korris: “Do not let them take us, Worf. Help us!”
Lt. Konmel: “Listen to the voice of your blood. You are not of these people.”
Korris: “Yes, join us!”
Maybe the final scene is the best though, where Worf has to ultimately decide whether he will kill one of his own kind or not. This was an episode that didn’t pull any punches.
Use of Cast/Characters: Marina Sirtis and Wil Wheaton had this episode off. Tons of character development here–and of the best kind–for Worf. We learn of his background and put him under personal duress for virtually the entire hour, building to a climax at the end. Michael Dorn gives us some good acting too, this is one of the reasons Worf goes from a part-time player to regular cast member. Picard has some lines, as do Tasha and Geordi, but Riker, Data and Dr. Crusher don’t really have much to do at all. Something needs to be said about Vaughn Armstrong, who plays commander Korris–he goes on to play 13 different roles in the various Star Trek series, and it’s no wonder. Much of the credit for the excellence of this episode can be laid at his feet. Charles Hyman who plays lieutenant Konmel does a good job also, but Korris brings the Klingons to life for TNG, in a way that I tend to look for from this point on. Korris is someone to be reckoned with: his eyes just burn with passion, and his performance lends credence to what makes the Klingons popular and why Worf could be tempted to join them. There’s a kind of fierce poetry to the Klingons’ language as well.
Blu Ray Version: Some of the effects were redone, such as the explosion of the Batris, but they were so faithful it’s hard to tell the difference. Pause playback at around 36:23. Take a look at the far left side of the shot and you’ll see some kind of red piece of equipment that’s part of the set, we shouldn’t be seeing it. This exact piece of equipment was digitally erased from an identical shot earlier in the episode, but I guess they missed this one!
Nitpicks: If you leave Tasha on board the ship because there could be Romulans, why wouldn’t you bring Worf on the away team instead? You also get those black cards toward the end of the 6th minute, the 33rd minute in a pretty blatant fashion. Do they have to keep mentioning the Ferengi in this episode? They are mentioned several times in the first 20 minutes, and really nobody considers them a threat anymore. Finally, why is there a Federation symbol alongside the Klingon symbol behind the Commander of the Klingon ship? Shouldn’t be there, and never appears again.
Overall Impression: This episode is excellent. It’s one of the two episodes from this season that can still stand up to any of the subsequent seasons of TNG, and that’s saying something. The episode sweeps you up after a slightly slow start and then doesn’t let go. It’s very well-paced and just a lot of fun to watch. Virtually every scene with Worf and Korris is riveting and there are no real traces of the original series either. The head pieces that would define what Klingons would now look like may have begun in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but one of the main reasons the writers would feel free to develop Worf and the Klingons as a major part of the Star Trek universe again would be because of the success of this episode. This is also an essential episode because remember up until now Klingons had always been portrayed as the enemy. In hindsight it’s a foregone conclusion that Worf would choose loyalty to Starfleet, but back then it had yet to be established what Worf really thought and what made him tick. I rate this episode 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is Vaughn Armstrong’s only appearance on TNG, but he would go on to appear in several episodes of DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. There are only two other times we get to see through Geordi’s visor: in The Enemy and later in The Mind’s Eye, a ways off from now. This is the first time we see what Klingon armor would look like in TNG, which would have a direct bearing on all subsequent appearances in this series and those that would follow. This is the very first appearance of a food replicator on Star Trek. The Klingon battle cruiser you see is stock footage from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They reuse footage like that a lot this season. This episode notes that the freighter is Talarian–we will meet the Talarians in the episode Suddenly Human. Korris mentions Kling as the Klingon homeworld. Kling–really? This is never used again, as the homeworld is called Qo’Nos from Star Trek VI on.
Missable/Unmissable? Unmissable. This episode definitely set up the Klingons for TNG and every subsequent series, by showing for the first time since the original series that they can be done well. If you’re going to watch any of the episodes from the first season at all, make this one of them. The next one isn’t as good, but still probably better than the average season one episode.