Plot Synopsis: Worf discovers he has a brother, and is plunged into the politics of the Klingon Empire when his deceased father is accused of treason.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is brief. Whereas in A Matter of Honor Riker went on board a Klingon ship as part of an officer exchange program, here the tables are turned and we get a Klingon, Kurn, serving as first officer on the Enterprise. Plot A is about Worf’s family events in the Klingon Empire, there is no plot B. Kurn doesn’t take long rubbing everyone the wrong way, then everything turns on its head when we learn that Kurn is Worf’s younger brother! Political complexity ensues, which may sound boring but if you’ve ever seen Game of Thrones you know it isn’t. Intrigue, action, tight pacing, great Klingon flavor, high stakes and an expected conclusion all combine in a virtually flawless episode.
Favorite Scenes: An early good scene is about nine minutes in, when Kurn dines with the senior officers. He attempts to blend in but his comments are funny as he voices his distaste for the food as well as Riker’s previous attempt to talk to him. The best scene in the episode is the final one. I usually offer quotes on it, but in this case I won’t in the interest of the few who haven’t seen it, and because quoting the entire scene would be too lengthy. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this classic line from this episode, the first part of which is quotable from here on out in Star Trek:
Worf: Today is a good day to die, Duras…and the day is not yet over.
Use of Cast/Characters: It’s Worf that this episode is about, and his performance ties everything together. Michael Dorn shines in virtually every scene and lends so much weight to his character that we are happily sucked into his world and can perfectly empathize with him. He comes across as strong, more intelligent than his brother, and in fact for the second time single-handedly comes up with the solution to the dilemma in an episode. Stories like this are why people love Worf. Patrick does his usual good job here, and Picard is shown as very supportive of and later fiercely loyal to Worf as his officer. Watch Picard’s response 2 minutes in during Kurn’s ‘welcome to Hell’ speech on the bridge when he replies “Oh, by all means commander.” Moments like that, when he is able to infuse subtle irony into a line that probably didn’t contain it on the page, is what sets him apart as an actor. Riker has some to do here, but he makes a misstep with Kurn that leaves us with the impression his understanding of Klingon culture isn’t as deep as he may have thought. Data, Geordi and Wes have a couple of brief scenes, and Doctor Crusher has even less. It’s Marina Sirtis that gets the shaft in this episode. She literally has one line, then laughs. She’s even kicked off the bridge, which I discuss in Nitpicks. Tony Todd is great as Kurn, plain and simple. Charles Cooper as K’mpec is perfect as the chancellor, bringing pride and fortitude to his role. Patrick Massett as Duras is good too, though he doesn’t have as much to do this episode as he will in future ones.
Blu Ray Version: Exceptional clarity and definition here, and as one of the best episodes of season 3, no wonder it was chosen as part of the ST: TNG – The Next Level sampler disc that went on sale before season 3 came out. The Bird of Prey in the opening shot was replaced with a CGI version that looks much better than the original.
Nitpicks: Not sure I buy that Wes would choose the middle of Kurn’s introduction speech as a chance to start whispering with Data. What exactly is Riker doing on the bridge anyway? We didn’t see the equivalent of that back when he served on the Klingon vessel, and there’s nothing for him to do. Even if he is on the bridge Troi should be in her seat, there’s no reason for that. I’m a Picard fan, and for story reasons Picard needed to be Worf’s second cha’DIch, but Worf should have chosen someone like Riker. He’s younger, knows how to fight, and has more recent experience with Klingons. A line that’s always made me wince is Picard’s response to Duras saying Starfleet doesn’t teach people how to fight: “You may test that assumption at your convenience.” Really? Could be any more British? Finally, Kahlest tells Picard that Mogh “was loyal to the emperor.” However, Rightful Heir will later establish that the Klingons haven’t had an emperor in 300 years.
Overall Impression: It’s hard to overstate the influence of Sins of the Father. More than just an episode with Klingons, here we are truly immersed in the Klingon world more than ever before. Worf-centric episodes in TNG are usually good at the very least, and this is certainly a high-water mark. The greatest take-away for me was Worf’s selflessness and nobility; he is willing to accept a punishment he doesn’t deserve for the good of an Empire who doesn’t care about him, because it’s the right thing to do. This will come to define his character for the rest of TNG, and his entire tenure on DS9. This episode is quite simply outstanding from start to finish. Writing like this is what sets TNG apart from most science fiction out there. I rate this episode 5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This was a pivotal episode for Star Trek. Because of Sins of the Father TNG was able to explore more continuing story arcs, something that really hadn’t been done in Star Trek history. In the words of Ronald Moore:
“The biggest decision on this show was the ending…where Worf takes it on the chin and decides to accept his dishonor even though he knows its a lie but he does it for the greater glory of the Empire and he walks out the door and it ends with this sense of ‘Oh my God. This has changed Worf forever, and what’s going to happen to him next?’ And what that did to the franchise overall was it suddenly said there’s a continuing story here…As soon as Worf walks out the door with his dishonor it demands a follow-up. And that’s why we eventually came back to “Reunion” and “Redemption” and on and on and on. All the Worf stories spring from that moment, and also opened up the whole franchise to the idea that maybe we can do continuing stories. It was really a pivotal moment looking back on how we structured Next Generation.“
This was the first Star Trek episode ever to go to the Klingon home world. Pause the episode at 24:26 and look at the captain of the Intrepid’s name. The name is Drew Deighan, who wrote the spec script that this episode is based on. The great sets created for this episode earned an Emmy for Best Art Direction. Entertainment Weekly named this #7 on their list of the top 10 TNG episodes. Star Trek 101 lists it as one of the Ten Essential Episodes for TNG. For those interested in what exactly “discommendation” means, click on it for an explanation. I generally think of it as being declared without honor. Duras is played by Patrick Massett, and he has a nice little story about how he was told to play a Klingon: “When I was auditioning they told me to think of a Shakespearean savage, a kind of civilized wild animal. There was the controversy in the character. He was both poetic and barbaric. I think he was committed to clearing his family name at all costs, even at the cost of his personal honor.” I rate this episode 5 out of 5 stars.
Missable/Unmissable? Absolutely unmissable. It’s not just a great episode in its own right, but later episodes will reference this one, and in general the tone and look of the Klingon empire will echo what was first established here. The next episode is a definite step down, but still worth watching.