Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Sons of Mogh"


Air date: 2/12/1996
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"For a long time I have tried to walk the line between the Empire and the Federation. I told myself I could live in either world—that it was my choice. But the truth is I can not go back to the Empire." — Worf

Nutshell: I believe we've seen Klingon honor about 100 times now, but this brotherly tale is surprisingly poignant.

Worf's brother Kurn (Tony Todd) comes to DS9 to ask his older brother to kill him according to the Klingon Mauk-to'Vor ritual—allowing him to end his destroyed and dishonored life and enter an honored and dignified afterlife.

"Sons of Mogh," contrary to the stale superficiality that the previews suggested we were in for, is a well-written human story about purpose and duty, highlighting how the problems between the Klingons and the Federation are affecting individual lives—specifically those of the sons of Mogh.

Because of Worf's siding against Gowron in "Way of the Warrior," Kurn's once-honorable life in Klingon civilization has since been taken away. The family's land was seized by the government, the name stripped of title, and Kurn lost his seat on the High Council. He has become a man with no purpose nor allies. So Worf obliges his brother and plunges the knife into Kurn's chest. But Dax realizes what's going on and intervenes; Kurn is beamed to the infirmary in timed to be saved.

Sisko is not happy with Worf's attempted killing (I don't think I've seen the captain chew out an officer as severely as he does here). Murder, as Starfleet would likely see it, is not condoned in any form—despite cultural rituals and family beliefs. This leaves Kurn with a problem: He can no longer die with honor (suicide would not be an honorable death), and he has no place to go in life. Worf, trying to do the least he can do for his brother, helps Kurn get a job on Odo's security team. Given his warrior disciplines, Kurn proves adept at security—too bad he hates it.

Kurn, with his death wish, allows himself to get shot on the job. As a result, Odo fires him. ("A man with a death wish is a danger, not only to himself, but to the rest of his team," Odo says.) Kurn wakes up from his injury, cheerless to find himself not dead. Defeated, he yields to Worf: "You're the older brother. You tell me what to do and I'll do it. My life is in your hands."

Tony Todd, who delivered a wonderful performance in "The Visitor" earlier this season, delivers again as the brooding, dead-spirited Klingon. He has a quiet, low-key way about him that is effective in displaying how alone his character feels. Worf is able to give Kurn one more mission, which links to the episode's B-story, involving some mysterious explosions along the Bajoran space borders. When a Klingon ship is severely damaged by one of these explosions, Kira, commanding the Defiant, tows it back to DS9 for repairs. Meanwhile, Worf figures out that the explosions are tests of a minefield the Klingons have been laying out. Minefields are illegal, and would be a problem if the Klingons were to declare war on the Federation. DS9 and Bajor would be cut off by the Klingons.

Sisko wants the damaged ship secretly searched for the data of the mine locations. This is where Worf and Kurn come in. Posing as members of the damaged vessel's crew, they beam in and gather the data. But not before a botched confrontation with an officer aboard the ship that results in Kurn killing him, and Worf questioning whether his Klingon instincts have become dulled over the years.

In this respect, the episode is also a good Worf show. He begins to finally realize that because of the path he was forced to choose, he may never have the chance to return to the Empire. It's a personal tragedy considering what he went through to restore his honor way back in TNG's fourth season, only to have it destroyed again because of Gowron's hostile intentions. For that matter, "Sons of Mogh" also explores why Worf chose to oppose Gowron in the first place—not just because of his duty to the Federation, but his duty to the Empire. A war between the Federation and the Empire would likely have the Klingons on the losing side. So by protecting the peace, Worf protects everybody, but at a personal cost. This is good stuff.

Using the stolen data, Kira auto-destructs the Klingons' minefield. True, this B-story is hardly climactic, but like "Return to Grace," it's just another example of the Klingon presence starting to brew in a plausible manner—bigger things are likely to happen down the road, so for now this is perfectly adequate set-up material.

But Kurn is still a dead soul. In his own eyes, by siding with Worf and killing the Klingon officer, he has only dishonored himself further. Still, it's reassuring to see that Kurn understands why Worf has chosen the path with the Federation. But Kurn has nothing. He no longer belongs anywhere. This leads to Worf's and Dax's solution: Erasing Kurn's memory and giving him a new family and identity. This solution, unfortunately, just doesn't sit quite right in terms of the show. Granted, it does have an emotional impact concerning Worf (when the erased Kurn asks Worf if he is part of his family, Worf's response, "I have no family" really hits home), yet it seems too easy a solution for Kurn under the circumstances. It would have been more dramatic if the writers had come up with something a little less "sci-fi" and a little more dependent on a choice by Kurn. Is there really honor in abandoning one's identity? How is this different from killing oneself?

Objections to the ending aside, this show does a wonderful job of reevaluating Worf's position on DS9. It shows the kinds of sacrifices and consequences that make him an unsung hero. It also shows how the breakdown of the Klingon/Federation treaty has repercussions, without the obviousness of violence and death.

Previous episode: Return to Grace
Next episode: Bar Association

◄ Season Index

59 comments on this review

Tue, May 20, 2008, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
"Is there really honor in abandoning one's identity? How is this different from killing oneself?"

What I found interesting upon rewatching this was that it seemed as if Kurn wasn't given the option to abandon his identity. He passes out, Dax suggests a third option, and the next thing we see him, he's unconscious on the operating table. Given the time it must have taken for Worf to contact his father's friend and for the friend to arrive, it seems unlikely that Kurn was unconscious for the entire time, as presented, one wonders.

The only other thing to stick out to me was the shot of Kurn toward the end, taking a swig from his bottle and then clumsily pointing a disruptor at his head. It didn't work; no doubt it was intended to be a poignant look at how far Kurn had fallen, but it felt almost comic, as if to say, "Whoops, here's Kurn about to botch another suicide." The way I envision the shot is a tighter close-up, starting with the bottle, slowly panning left to Kurn's face, then having the disruptor come shakily into frame.
Mon, Jul 28, 2008, 7:12am (UTC -5)
The ending completely ruined the show for me. What the hell were they thinking? In my book, intentionally erasing someone's personal identity IS murder - especially when the victim is not asked for his consent!!!
Wed, Sep 3, 2008, 4:00am (UTC -5)
My god. What a hideous, gigantic cop-out of an ending.

Sisko refused to condone ritual murder, therefore it's inconceivable that he would have condoned an involuntary brainwipe. Erasing an individual's personal identity is tantamount to psychological murder. If ritual murder doesn't fly as an expression of cultural diversity in Starfleet, then neither does this mind erasure. I don't care if Kurn was already having suicidal thoughts. To throw the man's personal agency out the window, "kill" him, and then rationalize it by saying he was considering suicide anyway... that's just messed up.

Even supposing that Kurn would have agreed to undergo this dishonorable "mind death", I don't understand the ethics of it. Assisted suicide by knife and assisted suicide by mindwipe are either both permissible or both immoral. If there is something unethical about the first case -- enough to send Sisko into a tizzy and Worf into brooding introspection -- then surely the second case is just as wrong.

Also, Bashir's willingness to perform the procedure is equally appalling. Here is a man who once fought tooth and nail for Vedic Bareil's right to quality of life in "Life Support". In that episode, Julian refused to kill Bareil's humanity and "spark of life" by replacing his brain with positronic implants. In "Hippocratic Oath", Julian also defended his personal principle of helping anyone in distress, even enemy Jem'Hadar. But here, we are supposed to believe that the doctor would aid and abet Worf's (or Dax's) plan to wipe Kurn out of existence? You've gotta be kidding me.

Blergh. This episode is *clearly* not a shining moment in Trek history.
Tue, Feb 24, 2009, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Others before me have already outlined why this episode is a gigantic loser - I'll pile on by adding how "Sons of Mogh" continues the wussification of Worf that began in season 7 of TNG. His lame "flirting" with Jadzia is inane, written by 'shippers for 'shippers ('relationshippers,' for those uninformed), for cheap laughs, and completely disregards the ferocious "Klingon" relationship he had with K'Ehlyr. I'm surprised the writers didn't give Worf acne and a bouquet of dead flowers?
Oh wait, someone stole my idea for STIX: Insurrection.
Tue, Feb 24, 2009, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
Also, the "legality" of the ritual itself was silly, since Worf could have easily arranged transport and killed Kurn on some non-UFP planet. The whole scenario was forced and existed only because the writer wanted to say, "Wah wah, suicide/fratricide is wrong because I say so." What happened to the tolerance for other cultures shown in TNG's "Ethics," where Picard is prepared to allow Worf's suicide after his debilitating injury, ON BOARD THE ENTERPRISE-D?
Sat, May 2, 2009, 10:34pm (UTC -5)
The ending is a huge cop-out, but my biggest problem is the whole premise of Sisko ordering Worf not to (and threatening him with a murder charge) is colossally off-base. Worf and Kurn's situation is, putting it simply, none of Sisko's fucking business.

Even now, assisted suicide is becoming increasingly an option; the idea that 400 years from now, in a Federation of innumerable cultures, Sisko can just blithely order Worf to obey his cultural traditions, without appeal to anyone, is utter garbage.

TNG's "Ethics" already did this plot, and Picard correctly stated that the question of assisted suicide was ultimately Worf's, and everyone else would have to accept his choice. We followed Riker as he wrestled with his personal opposition (and his attempts to have Picard do exactly what Sisko does here), before deciding that it is Worf's choice, though he refuses to help.

Even damn Janeway got this right in VOY's "Death Wish".

"Sons of Mogh" reads like Republican propaganda for the Schiavo case, with Sisko as the heroic Tom DeLay, courageously meddling in somebody's private affairs.
Sat, Oct 3, 2009, 10:14pm (UTC -5)
I dunno, I've gotta go with Rory on this one. Hell, if they'd just stuck it out a few years, Kurn would have gotten everything back anyway.
Fri, Oct 9, 2009, 9:26am (UTC -5)
I agree. Terrible ending. Moore has said that he put the suicide ritual at the beginning of the episode to undo the audience's expectations about how the episode would end, but I think Worf really should have killed Kurn at the end of the episode, and Sisko should have let him do it (as mentioned above it would be more consistent with "Ethics").
Sat, Dec 4, 2010, 1:14am (UTC -5)
This wasn't my favorite ending either. Julian's unblinking willingness to perform the procedure, and the implication that Kurn had no active role in the decision, both seemed very wrong.

However, I had no problem with Sisko's position. "The Emissary" was all we needed to see to know that Sisko was not going to be Picard. "The Way of the Warrior" established that Sisko was going to treat Worf as an officer first, and a Klingon second. Picard was an aloof cultural relativist. Sisko is, almost above all, a family man. Like it or not, what he did was in keeping with his character, and also made sense with the backdrop of the Khitomer Accords having been recently shredded.

While it becomes purely apocryphal speculation, it's also reasonable to assume that Worf finds Kurn after the war and plays some role in his life, maybe even revealing that he is his brother. In this case not only has Kurn's life been spared, justifying the ending, but a semblance of his honor would be restored as well.

In any case, Todd's performance here was almost as memorable as his turn in "The Visitor", which obviously is saying something. This episode needed less "action" in the closing acts, and a much tighter focus on the emotional and cultural gravity of the final decision. As poorly executed as the final act was in terms of plot, I have always been moved by Worf's final line. Acting didn't just save this episode, it made it something special, warts and all.
Tue, Feb 28, 2012, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
RT, that excuse for Sisko sticking his damn nose in something that's not his business is even less convincing that Mr. Burns disguised as Mr. Sinrub
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
This is a good episode that stands up as a standalone and as part of the overarching DS9 Dominion storyline. It also had a nice bit of foreshadowing, intentional or not, when Dukat says under no uncertain and quite chilling terms, "Everything I have lost, I will regain. I'ts just a matter of time."
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
Oops, disregard previous post. It was meant for "Return To Grace."

I agree with the prevailing wisdom that this was a failure of an episode based on it's wholly contrived, implausible, and just-plain-wrong ending. Wiping Kurn's memory was tantamount to murdering him as a person. They could have come up with a third option for Kurn to find an honorable place in-between the Klingons and the Federation like becoming an agent trained to seek out and stop changeling infiltrators. Heck, then he might have had a place in the season 5 premier episode...
Fri, Apr 27, 2012, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
I liked the episode since I'm big fan of Worf and Klingons but I was expecting a sequel. I think Kurn losing his memory would make a great story for another episode later in the series. What if Worf crossed paths with Kurn again, it would be interesting to see how would they interact with Kurn not knownig Worf is his brother etc. With so many episodes spent in the final season in the holodeck they could spare an episode in the aftermath of this.
Wed, May 9, 2012, 7:43am (UTC -5)
@ Tom
Having a follow up for this episode would be brilliant, unfortunatelly that didn't happened. (It seems that Vic Fontain and Ezri - whiney - Dax were writers' pets and more important to the storyline *sarcasm* ).
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 9:28pm (UTC -5)
Why is ritual suicide not honorable to the Klingons? That seems like a forced excuse.
The Japanese Samurai were strong believers in honor and saving face and they practiced ritual suicide as a honorable death.
After all it seems that decision was made early on to change the Klingons from something like Neo-Nazis into Neo-Samurai in the Trek mythos...
Fri, Aug 17, 2012, 9:54pm (UTC -5)
Yeah I also have to agree that the resolution to this one is poor at best.

But damn it Tony Todd is just so fricken bitchin as Kurn that I enjoyed all the preceding acts immensely.

Note: I for one like how in season 4 Brooks starts playing Sisko as pretty much a villain. He's got teeth and I think it's incredibly unique for Trek to have the Captain shout out dialogue you would normally get from the archetypal bad guy.
Cail Corishev
Mon, Sep 17, 2012, 8:30pm (UTC -5)
The ending is a pretty big cop-out, and like others, I didn't see how a mind-wipe could be fine with everyone when an honorable death wasn't. Also, are the gates of Stovokor really that legalistic? Slicing up your own guts without anesthetic sends you to the bad place, but goading someone into blasting you gets you in with all the honorable heroes? Really?

On the other hand, if Sisko had given in Picard-style and let them do it, that would have turned the episode into a big pro-assisted-suicide commercial. So that wouldn't be any better. Maybe a better resolution would have had them get into a fight with the Klingons setting the mines, with Kurn dying honorably there. Still kind of a cop-out, but not as bad as what we got.
Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the poster above...wiping his memory essentially is essentially "killing" Kurn anyways...why not let him have the Klingon death?
Sat, Nov 24, 2012, 2:55pm (UTC -5)
Which brings up the point...assuming we grant the "reality" of Sto'vo'kor...will this individual that Kurn's body is turned into get to "be" Kurn when he dies? If Kurn has "earned" the right to go to Sto'vo'kor, which as presented it would seem he has, does this new entity still get to go there eventually, and will be get to spend eternity "as Kurn"?
Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 5:13am (UTC -5)
Maybe it's just Kurn I've never quite liked? I've wanted to whack him across the head with something since the first time he walked onto the Enterprise.

And it's not the actor, it's the character. Tony Todd makes a phenomenal adult Jake Sisko.

I've decided this Worf is a different guy than TNG, a clone of some kind. :)

That being said, I really wish Sisko would have got off his a** and let them do the ritual.
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 12:11am (UTC -5)
I'm wondering if a scene where Kurn gave the plan his approval would allay my concerns with the ending. And I doubt Kurn would have objected...from his perspective the outcome is essentially the same, he ceases to exist when he wakes up as someone else. I also wonder if Sisko knew about this? I assume his objections would have continued. Maybe they did it in their off-hours! But then they are still on a Starfleet facility, using Starfleet equipment.

On the other hand I'm not sure how this all affects his honour. If honour is some sort of "true state" regardless of people's awareness of it, then his new life continues to carry dishonour...but then if no one in the Empire knows who he really is, does it even matter?

Anyway, I could swallow it a lot better if there was a discussion about death and Worf said "there is another option", cut to the infirmary, Bashir asks "are you sure you want to do this?" It's a subtle tweak that would still leave problems but is much smoother.

Kurn was so set on killing himself, the writers may have felt consent was implied, but waiting until he passes out and bundling him into the infirmary for surgery, it's hard not to find that a bit creepy.
Mon, Dec 17, 2012, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
I don't know why people are so upset about Sisko's position on the Worf/Korn situation. The Captain himself told Worf that there is a limit to his support of his officers observances of cultural traditions, in other words, observing the "Day of Honor" (to give an example) is far different that the cultural practice of ritual killing. It also doesn't help that Worf did this behind the Captain's back. For all intents and purposes Sisko is the commanding officer and he must be given the choice to decide whether to let Worf proceed or not. If the Captain objects, then Worf can decide to resign from Starfleet if seeing this ritual through so important. The point is, as a Starfleet officer, Worf's loyalty is to the Federation and obviously his Captain first. Worf should only object to the Captain's orders when the order in question is relative to the Captain's actions not his own. Get it.
Nick P.
Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
YUK!!! what a giant puke of an episode!!!!

I agree with everyone here. This was a wonderful episode until the finale. It disregards everything we know about Kurn, Worf, Klingons, DS9, Star TREk, Tolerance, just, yuk everything. This is probably the worst ending to an otherwise good episode.

It is obvious thta the writers just sat in a room and said how can we get rid of Kurn without condoing suicide and came up with this abortion of a concept.
Shawn Davis
Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 2:23am (UTC -5)
I agree with Jammer and most of everyone's comment about the ending of the episode. I don't see any difference between killing Kurn and wiping his mind except that one option involves kiling and the other involves being alive but his memory being wiped. One way or the other the destination is the same regardless of what different route that one takes.

However, I agree with Sam's comments about everyone being too hard on Sisko about chewing Worf out for doing the ritual that involves killing his brother due to his nihilism.

I'm all for the acceptance of different cultures, religions, traditions etc.; however, while it's okay it believe differently than everyone, to practice that believe sometimes may be a problem. There are some people around the world where they have religions, traditions, and cultural backgrounds that states that it's okay to sacrifices animals (even kidnapping your pet dog of cat from your front porch and killing them), hate other religions and kill others that are not in their religion (believe it of not some of this is in the christians bibles and muslims books like the quran and some christians and muslims have done this to follower that are not in their religion in the past), and hate and kill others that are not the same race as they are (the KKK for example). While it's their right to believe that, is it okay for them to practice it?

Otherwise the episode is great and I would give it 3 stars like Jammer also. Tony Todd performance as the Worf's brother Kurn is what made this episode worth watching.
Wed, May 1, 2013, 5:57am (UTC -5)
Let's face it, DS9 turned Worf into Harry Kim by coming up with crap episodes like this.
Wed, May 1, 2013, 9:34am (UTC -5)
Actually, DS9 was turning Worf into Job the moment he stepped onto the station. In fact, the most horrible crap happened to Worf and O'Brien out of all the main characters on the show. Is it a coincidence that they both happened to originate on TNG? Hmmmm.....
Wed, May 1, 2013, 11:46am (UTC -5)
@charlie: What are you talking about?

I can understand not liking the direction DS9 took Worf in, particularly season 4. But comparing him with Harry Kim? WTF?

Harry was the naive kid/punching bag on Voyager for SEVEN YEARS. He showed no development and was always the "Maybe this (insert anomaly) will finally get us home!" guy.

I thought Worf worked pretty well on DS9. He continued his role as the straight man and the Klingon storyline from season 4 on was usually pretty interesting. I thought the episode where the Klingons frame him was dumb, but otherwise ...
Wed, May 22, 2013, 7:56am (UTC -5)
"In fact, the most horrible crap happened to Worf and O'Brien out of all the main characters on the show. Is it a coincidence that they both happened to originate on TNG? Hmmmm....."

A very good point, Patrick. This could be seen as more of Ira's hatred for TNG; hatred which, as far as I'm concerned, ensured that DS9 would not be embraced as TOS & TNG were.
Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 7:27am (UTC -5)
If Klingons have no tear ducts (Star Trek VI), then how the heck is Kurn crying in his last scene before his memory is wiped?
Sun, Sep 1, 2013, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
I'm with Jack...this mindwipe pretty much cheats Kurn of an eternity at Sto-Vo-Kor when he dies, unless death somehow triggers a reset back to the pre-mindwiped Kurn.

Trek has conjured up some hot mess stories, and this one of the messiest. And those messes tend to be episodes where Trek tries to beat some kind of absurd ethic into the audience's skulls.

Another was when Molly fell into the time portal, and Julian spewed probably the most convoluted chunk of "ethical" nonsense I've ever heard when he said they couldn't send the older Molly back because then that older Molly wold never exist.

This Kurn cheat may be second only to that. Funny how Julian is always at the center of these crazy ethics.
Sun, Sep 1, 2013, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
ZurielSeven said:

"If Klingons have no tear ducts (Star Trek VI), then how the heck is Kurn crying in his last scene before his memory is wiped"

Klingons also had hot pink blood in ST:VI.
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:00pm (UTC -5)

Worf episodes don't seem to be that good.

Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
Another disappointing Klingon episode in this season. I was okay with everything until the ending. Why not send Worf's brother into battle and have him die an honorable death to save the Defiant? The mind-wiping thing is just insane. I can't believe Bashir would ever go along with it, or that Jadzia--someone who is supposed to respect Klingon tradition--would even suggest it. Tony Todd was awesome as Kurn; I just wish he'd had better material to work with.
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 5:07am (UTC -5)
Enjoyable episode. My rationale for the ending is:

1) Kurn had given up all consent to Worf, as he repeated many times. In a strange way the ending respects the Klingons' cultural traditions, by not only adhering to the family rules (honour is both personal conduct, but also loyalty - as shown by Worf's [many] discommendations with the Klingon Empire). Kurn's consent was more than implied. I like to think Kurn would have either just said 'I'll do whatever my brother says, he is the older brother', or would agree. Kurn didn't want to fight alongside Gowron in Redemption Pts 1-2, but he did it because Worf made him under his authority as 'the older brother'.

2) [the best rationale for me] If we remember Kurn's introduction in TNG, Worf had no idea Kurn was his brother. It was a complete surprise. This episode acts as a kind of role reversal. I would have liked a follow-up after Worf is restored his honour and family name. This seemed to be left open by Dr Bashir - who said his memories would be 'nearly impossible' to restore.

In some ways I preferred this ending for those reasons, to Kurn succeeding in killing himself. That final scene where he idly points the disruptor at himself plays so that we see that isn't an option.

Worf's left in the same position he was before he met Kurn - he has no Klingon family any more, and only has Starfleet.

Good scene where Worf admitted to himself (and Dax) that he doesn't think like a true Klingon, which is quite the realisation for a character who's ran around in circles over that issue all his life.

MINOR SPOILER: Don't forget as well that Worf eventually joins the House of Martok, and is 'adopted' in a similar way that Kurn is.
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 10:47pm (UTC -5)
When you have a bunch of self-righteous writers and a subject matter that doesn't agree with them (honourable suicide, like Japanese kind), they just refuse to allow for it, and instead, conjure up a compromise that's ridiculous.

Mind wiping a Klingon is actually the worst thing they could have done, because it is a death without any honour.
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 2:02pm (UTC -5)
There are so many great things in this episode. I especially was thankful the writers delved into the ramifications of Worfs decision in "Way of the Warrior" as it pertains to his brother. It made this better than the standard "honorable-Klingon" outing that was at risk of becoming stale.

As for the comparisons between ancient Japanese honor code and Klingon honor code not making sense is a non-issue. They're different species with their own ideas. Thus any comparisons, while interesting to ponder, are irrelevant when it comes down to it. The basic ideas are similar but it doesn't mean the specifics (i.e. ritual suicide) have to be.

What really nearly ruined this story for me, and I agree with the consensus, was the mind-wipe of Kurn. That in and of itself is not a bad idea - it further shows sacrifice on Worfs part to lose his brother but save him at the same time. What I DIDN'T like was that we're left with the assumption it was done without Kurns knowledge. If their had at least been something in here implying that he agreed with the procedure it would have gone a long way towards salvaging this. It's also not one of those things, in my mind, that could have "happened off-screen". Too important.

It is rather unfortunate, too, as this ep was well on its way to being another high quality addition to season 4. As it is, it becomes the first official stumble in my opinion. The good parts here save it from being a total loss.

2.5 stars.
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 11:23am (UTC -5)
Another "Klingon episode" and not a very good one at that.

#1. If Worf intends to kill his brother (which is Klingon-fine), why on earth would he do it ON THE STATION? He can't see his Star Fleet ties would get in the way? Take a couple days leave man... eeesh...

#2. Why does anyone think that assigning Kurn to security is going to help anything?

#3. The mind-wipe is a total cop-out, especially for a Klingon. How "honorable" would this be if Kurn had agreed to it? Wow, Worf HAS gone soft in Star Fleet. Done without Kurn's consent? Wow... How "un-Worf"...

It's funny how these mind-wipes wipe everything but the ability to speak.

Just a poor episode. 1.5 stars for me.
Fri, Dec 12, 2014, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
In BLOOD OATH Sisko knows Jadzia left the station to commit murder based on klingon beliefs. She says she's gonna do it regardless and he does nothing to her when he gets back. But Worf is threatened with murder chargers. this doesn't make any sense. Worf should have just taken Kurn off the station and done it.

The beat part of the episode is when Worf says to Jadzia "you are not klingon". FINALLY!! Someone finally tells her she's not a klingon. It's almost like she wants to be a klingon. I just always found it annoying how she would act like she knew all things klingon and would condescendingly tell people about klingon beliefs. She did that to Bashir once.
Thu, Feb 12, 2015, 6:54am (UTC -5)
Phillip, I agree with you totally on this subject of Jadzia.

I really felt sorry for Kurn, he was such a magnificent warrior and he has been reduced to being nothing in the Empire. I did not like the solution, I am sure they could have come up with something else, like going somewhere and killed Kurn.
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
I admit that somehow I missed this episode when it was originally on. I enjoyed it for the most part but the big kefuffle caused by Kurn's wipe Interests me. I understand that the Klingon's value their family honor above all but Kurn repeatedly told Worf that his life was in his hands. He could decide what to do with/for him. Despite Worf's comment to Dax that she is not Klingon in many ways he is not either. He understands that Kurn is not done living despite the removal of their family name, land, and honor. That indeed, depending on the shifting tide of politics that still this may all be returned to them in the future. He chooses life for his brother although in a way that enables Kurn to leave his depression behind him. This is a display of love that should be completely understandable to anyone.
Sat, Aug 1, 2015, 6:23am (UTC -5)
Noggra's face when he says "Your name is Rodek... So don't worry!!!" he just seems so freaking happy about it tot he point where I almost want a whole episode just about what the heck Noggra's life is like that he's THAT happy to have another kid.
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 10:39pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode, and wasn't bothered by the ending.

I always assumed Kurn agreed to the mindwipe, accepting it as an honorable "death". As the operation begins, it would have been good to see Worf repeating the same rituals he performed when he tried to kill Kurn earlier to reinforce the idea that the brothers were treating it as an honorable death.

At the same time, I believe Sisko accepted the fact that he had no right to order Kurn to keep his memories (it's Kurn's body). Today, researchers are exploring erasing select memories to deal with PTSD. If you accept that a patient can consent to erase some of his memories to ease trauma, it's only a matter of degree to accept that a patient can consent to erase all of his memories to deal with a big enough trauma.

Is a life taken? Most of you think the answer is clearly yes (and I think Kurn decides to believe it is), but it's a gray area that I can see Sisko reluctantly accepting the answer as no. Worf probably decides to believe the answer is no for himself, even if he probably doesn't tell his brother that.

It's a scifi solution, but one that makes sense.

This was a pretty quick-moving show by DS9 standards (some episodes this season seem to drag on a bit too long), so I can accept that scenes going over this never got made. I also see why the lack of those scenes leads some of you to assume that Kurn never consented to it.

Patrick said: "In fact, the most horrible crap happened to Worf and O'Brien out of all the main characters on the show. Is it a coincidence that they both happened to originate on TNG? Hmmmm....."

I'm not sure if you're really serious. Some lousy things happened to Odo, who was parallel to Worf in that they were both outcasts (DS9 was a show of outcasts, with Ziyal, Garak, Dukat, and to an extent Quark all outcasts at some point or another). O'Brien had lousy things happen to him because the actor was so great at evoking feeling as the "everyman."
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
methane: "This was a pretty quick-moving show by DS9 standards..."

Covers a lot of ground, yup. Reminds me of an experiment I'd still like to see: intercut "Sons of Mogh" with "Bar Association" and "Accession" with the plots of all three woven through sequential episodes. The stories would each have benefited from stretxhing across three weeks.
William B
Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 8:22am (UTC -5)
For the most part, this episode pays off the promise of "The Way of the Warrior" in that it not only shows the consequences to Worf's split from the Klingon Empire, but also has something to say about how Worf has reacted to that split so far. Kurn, well-played by the always-great Tony Todd, comes onto the station and not only points out that Worf's actions have damaged others as well as himself, but through his own inability to deal with the dishonour that has fallen on the House of Mogh highlights that things for Worf have been comparatively easy. My favourite aspect of the episode is the way it actually makes Worf's shaky but still basically consistent ability to adjust to life as a pariah again a bad thing. That Worf is able to make do with "only" a cushy command position and an ongoing flirtation with Dax is not necessarily a sign of Worf's heroism and integrity, but may in fact be because he has lost some essential Klingon-ness, which means that he cannot feel the weight of his dishonour.

Exactly what Kurn's dishonour means is something of an open question; Kurn agrees with Worf's evaluation of Gowron's decision, and even the Emperor condemned the invasion of Cardassia. Kurn spent most of his life living in secret as *not* a son of Mogh before he came forward to Worf in "Sins of the Father" anyway, and at the time the Empire's official stance that Mogh was a traitor and thus so were his sons did not make Kurn suicidal. Klingon honour is a more and more confusing concept by the episode, but this episode really takes the cake: one can certainly understand why Kurn feels pained that he killed a Klingon officer doing his duty while Kurn and Worf were doing espionage for the Federation and the Bajorans, but it is kind of a particular low for a Klingon ship to put secret cloaked mines outside the Bajoran system, then when they damage one of their own ships due to their incompetence, accept free help from the people they had just been mining. It is easy to see why Worf is mostly able to dismiss the Empire's hardline stance that Worf has lost his honour.

Still, while I would have liked a little discussion of why this time is different from the last time the House of Mogh was on the outs with the Empire, I think I do get why it is for Kurn: when Mogh was falsely labeled a traitor, it was only a matter of time (perhaps even generations, but it would happen) before his name was cleared, and any dishonour that fell on Worf and Kurn in the interim was based on a lie and so was not "real." Whether Kurn agrees with Worf or not, siding against the Chancellor the way Worf did is (apparently) not done, especially when Worf is not going to declare personal war on Gowron and bring the Empire into another civil war, or take him down in hand-to-hand combat. Kurn accepts that Worf is "right," to some extent, that the dishonour that befell the house is not entirely just, but Kurn in his heart believes in the Klingon social system, wherein honour is a tangible thing that can be taken away -- which means, on some level, that if Worf were Klingon enough, he would too. Kurn's inability to live outside Klingon society and his desire to seek a way to restore his honour according to Klingon laws and traditions is well-conveyed, and his ambivalence to Worf -- love, respect, anger, devotion -- and Worf's attempts to find a place for him play well, both for what they say about Kurn and what they say about Worf. Following his conscience led Worf to ruin his brother. If his brother could give up the Klingon values which Worf does not really believe in, and are in some ways alien to viewers of the episode, he would be able to deal, but then he would no longer be Klingon enough.

I do mostly agree with the consensus here that the ending doesn't work. I can't tell if we are supposed to believe that Kurn agreed to the memory wipe or if it was just Worf's decision. To put it bluntly, I don't believe that Kurn would agree to this, unless *maybe* he were ordered by Worf to do so as older-brother and agreed reluctantly. The memory wipe in some senses has the worst of both worlds; Kurn still "dies" in the sense that his memories and identity is now gone, but it is impossible for me to believe that the Klingon spiritual belief would hold that a person truly dies and goes to Sto-vo-kor when their memory is erased, or that dishonour would leave a person just because they don't recall that dishonour. If it were simply that Kurn came to decide that the dishonour was not "real" but could no longer bear to live outside Klingon society, he could have just gone with Noggra and taken on a fake identity without losing his memory. Obviously the reason that is not an option is that Kurn *does* believe that he has lost his honour, which means that it would take ridiculous levels of cognitive dissonance to accept forgetting about it as a real option. The point made above about PTSD victims being treated with memory erasure makes sense to some degree -- the question of whether O'Brien could have the false memories erased in "Hard Time" is brought up, for example -- but Kurn's issue is not his sensitivity to painful memories, but is entirely dependent on his acceptance of a set of values which, as far as I can understand it, would not accept forgetting as a viable alternative.

Since Worf and Dax come up with the memory erasure idea while Kurn is unconscious, it does seem likely that Kurn simply does not know about it. This raises its own questions -- in particular, for Bashir to agree to the memory erasure at all seems implausible, but it's ridiculous that he would agree to erasing someone's memory without their consent. But still, this works a bit better for the principals in the episode. I do think Worf would recognize that Kurn would disagree with the memory erasure, and would see it as worse than death, and so the action is basically a betrayal of his brother; this would basically require Worf to believe that Kurn's belief system is bunk AND that Kurn does not have the right to self-determination, which makes Worf look pretty bad. But it actually intensifies the tragedy in some respects if we do view this as a call Worf makes because he is out of options. He makes the point in the episode that he does not believe that he can go through with killing Kurn again, and that he has lost some essential Klingon-ness that would allow him to go through with killing him. This extreme humanization of Worf is consistent with the episode's themes, and so Worf deciding that he wants his brother to be happy, and that Worf himself has already done away with many Klingon values, is consistent with that presentation. I am not so sure I believe it overall; I kind of feel as if Worf would be able to kill his brother for his brother's honour. More to the point, his inability to kill Kurn, and his deciding on changing Kurn's memories as a way of clearing up his dishonour, largely imply that Worf no longer believes in Sto-vo-kor, to me...which is a huge character change which the show does not really maintain. Still, within the context of this episode, it largely works -- Worf, by realizing that he can live with his dishonour, realizes that he does not truly believe the Klingon honour system, such as it is, and as such cannot kill his brother because he cannot believe anymore that this death can be a good thing. Realizing that Kurn cannot live with it, Worf accepts the Older Brother role enough to decide on a way Kurn can be happy within Klingon society, even if Worf is forever excluded for it. He additionally takes on not only the pain of losing his brother forever but the guilt of defying his brother's values. It is probably future episodes, which largely depict Worf still (ha) clinging to Klingon religious values without reevaluating his actions here, that are more at fault; for now this represents a major change in the character which the episode largely justifies.

Because the episode does not make clear that Kurn does *not* consent to the procedure, I cannot fully recommend the episode because of that ending; moreover, I think that this is in some senses an awful compromise, almost the worst possible outcome but the only one Worf can find himself capable of, should have been discussed more openly in order for the ending to have its real impact and to show that the real consequences of what this means for Worf were understood by the characters and the writers. Still, in its depiction of Worf coming to realize that he no longer believes in Klingon culture but that he loves it enough to wish his brother could have a place in it, I find the episode pretty effective and touching. 2.5 stars, say.
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
I completely empathize with Kurn. Look at it from his point of view. He has lost everything that means something to him. His property, his title, his name,and his honor. and it all started because he went looking for his long lost older brother.

Tony Todd plays a better Klingon than any other guest actor who ever played a Klingon in the Trek universe. Well him and the Duras Sisters.

"Does the Federation ever make a mistake? Even in its furniture?" Oh, I love the way he delivered that line!
Diamond Dave
Fri, Jan 1, 2016, 10:38am (UTC -5)
Contrast Kurn's attitude to his disgrace compared with Dukat's in the last episode. Obviously you can argue about the cultural underpinnings of the two situations, but would it have been too outlandish to see Dukat with a bottle and a disruptor? I guess my point here is that a conscious decision was made to have Kurn go out with a whimper. And not least having no way back to honour, unlike Worf.

At the end of the day the Klingon honour code in Star Trek leads to some strange and morally ambiguous positions, not least of which in this episode. Putting that to one side, it also doesn't really work as a character piece because Worf is fundamentally comfortable with his actions.

Perhaps the best scene is Sisko's - cultural diversity only goes so far indeed. 2.5 stars.
Sat, Feb 20, 2016, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
The DS9 writers weren't good enough at writing Klingons to do anything else with this episode, really. Something like having worf inspire kurn with some of his unique perspective to go back and attempt to help the empire from the inside despite his dishonor would have been too much to ask from ds9s mediocre writers.

Worfs statement that even though the empire turned it's back on them, that they wouldn't turn their back on the empire, should have been the driving power behind this episode. But it was lost.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
I didn't like this one; Sisko and Dax came off as really big jerks, Kurn likewise and it felt like Moore had Kurn saying "honor" every fourth or fifth word. It is disturbing that it seems Worf and Bashir memory-wipe Kurn without getting his consent and that resolution seemed like trying to be controversial while not being too risky.

I have to agree that in at least too many episodes Worf came off (at least as much if not more than in TNG) as being treated like a punching bag.
Wed, Mar 30, 2016, 9:57am (UTC -5)
If Sisko would charge Worf with murder if his brother died, why not attempted murder when his brother happened to live?

Alternate ending 1: Kurn wakes up in the infirmary. Worf says, "You told me you're putting your life in my hands and you'll do whatever I say." Hands him a bottle of pills. "I say take your Prozac."

Alternative ending 2: Kurn wakes up in the infirmary. He doesn't remember who he is. His "father" tells him his new identity. They walk out of the infirmary and bump into Klingons who had come on board with radiation burns when their ship was damaged. "Look, it's honorless Kurn, son of Mog! How are you?" New dad says, "No, no, you have him mixed up, he's my son." Klingon: "Um, I'm from your town, I dated your daughter, you don't have a son. Anyway, Kurn, son of Mog, how are things?"
Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 8:57am (UTC -5)
I'm a confessed Ron Moore fanboy, but this episode simply doesn't live up to his usual good work. "Sons of Mogh" is a rather lackluster, average episode which is really pulled down by its rather questionable ending. As such, another wonderful run of above-average episodes (fourteen this time, almost a record but not quite) sadly comes to an end.

Ron Moore got the nickname The Klingon Guy for a good reason - the man knows how to write Klingon characters and culture well. But, this time, he stumbles. So, the Empire has decided to secretly mine the outskirts of the Bajoran star system (wouldn't that take one hell of a lot of mines?!) but when one of their ships accidentally blows itself up real good - a hole the size of a house according to Kira - they then decide to seek help from the very people they were attempting to harm? Huh? Then there's the way Worf is depicted. He's always been rather an idealist when it comes to Klingon culture and practices - being an outsider his whole life, that's understandable - but he really seems to either not know or care about how Klingon society actually works here. Worf's decision not to back Gowron and the invasion of Cardassia in "The Way of the Warrior" wasn't just going to have repercussions for him alone. Kurn, and the rest of his family, also had to face the consequences. Worf, therefore, either didn't know or just didn't care about what would happen and was only thinking of himself in "The Way of Warrior"? And now he honestly thinks that Kurn would be comfortable in a new life as a Bajoran security officer?! Huh? I'm sorry, but Worf has never struck me as that oblivious when it comes to Klingon culture. And while we're on the subject of Worf acting out of character, why does he perform the Mauk-to'Vor ritual on DS9? Did he really think Sisko wouldn't be royally pissed off about that? If you really want to perform a ritual the Federation (and most likely Bajor) will greatly frown upon, take some damn leave and do it on some isolated planet where nobody will bother you. And, I should add, I have no problem with Kurn wanting to end his life. He is of sound mind and body and Klingon society offers him an honorable way to end his life, so the decision should be his. It's certainly something I would never choose to do myself, but I'm a fairly live and let live kind of guy - if it's what Kurn wants, he should be allowed to have it done. It's his decision - and that's what makes the ending of the episode so horrible in my opinion.

So, let's talk about that ending where Worf decides to wipe Kurn's memory and give him a new identity. Let's not fool ourselves here - Kurn had absolutely no say in this decision. Worf and Dax come up with the idea while Kurn is basically so drunk that he's unconscious. Bashir then wipes his memory without his consent. Let's just leave aside the damage that does to Bashir's character, shall we. How the hell did Moore think this would be acceptable? Maybe if it had been Kurn's decision it could have worked. And I can see Kurn making such a decision - he is shown as being flexible by having him admit to voting against the invasion of Cardassia while he was on the High Council. I can even see such a decision working in terms of Kurn's understanding and interpretation of Klingon morals. If suicide isn't an honorable death, death of personality (to borrow a phrase from "Babylon Five") could be. But who the hell is Worf to make this decision for Kurn on his own authority and without any input from Kurn himself?! It honestly would have been better if they had performed the Mauk-to'Vor ritual again and simply let Kurn die. At least then Kurn's wishes would have been respected.


Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 11:37am (UTC -5)
But Luke, if Kurn died then how could they bring him back as a main character on the new 2017 ST series?


Hey, I can hope can I?
Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
Tony Todd, sure? Kurn... please no.

Captain Todd sounds good to me though.
William B
Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
@Luke: You know, what I like about "Sons of Mogh" is that it shows a Worf who realizes that he's drifted from Klingon Empire values, and this is the main tragedy -- it's actually painful for him that he realizes he can live with this shame, while his brother can't. That idea almost carries the episode for me. In that sense, Worf having Kurn's memory erased because he can't bear to let him die and Kurn can't bear to live is epic tragedy -- both Klingon *and* Federation values condemn Worf taking his brother's choice away from him, but it is the only way out Worf can handle. Worf fails. Unlike in other episodes where characters make choices that are ethically dubious and seem to run counter to their own values, here I can understand Worf's actions, the bind he is in, and the idea that he actually can't bring himself to kill Kurn or watch him suffer and will do anything for an out.

All that said, Kurn also did put his life in Worf's hands and said as much, so while I disagree with his choice and think that Klingon values would disagree with Worf's decision, I think that Klingons as a whole would support his right to make it as the older brother, particularly given Kurn having already stated that he looks to Worf to guidance. It's a bit like Worf's refusing right of vengeance on Toral -- the Klingon way would certainly argue that Worf is wrong not to kill the boy, but Gowron reluctantly agrees that since Worf had been given his life it is Worf's choice. While I don't agree with that overall philosophy, I think that Klingons' huge emphasis on family (and on the head of the House, even a disgraced house) might allow Worf to have a lot of leeway to make decisions for his brother. This is, I suppose, also the legal basis on which Worf is allowed to order an invasive brain operation on his brother -- the presumption that his brother's life is in danger gives him some leeway as next-of-kin to consent to treatment, which I can see being permissible under Bajoran law (we don't know too much about it). (I agree that it does not make sense for Bashir to agree to this.)

What I don't like about it is that, well, Worf is made a little too clueless as you point out, and it is not really a development that lasts. Worf fits back in with Klingons once the Martok material comes up. And it does suck that this isn't mentioned again. Once the former House of Mogh more or less gets absorbed into the House of Martok (first Worf then Alexander then Jadzia then Ezri), who eventually becomes the freaking Chancellor, it looks a lot like Kurn had his memory erased for nothing. And if he'd died and gone to Sto-Vo-Kor honourably this wouldn't be so bad, but he didn't do that. So despite its problems, I think it's a pretty affecting episode, IF it had really been as permanent as it seemed.... While I rated it more highly (ish, remember that I'm basing 2.5 as an average score so my rating would probably be a 5 or 6 on your scale), I agree with most of what you say about the episode. The Klingons do seem very stupid and Worf seems too clueless, and the one major plus which allows me to overlook some of this turns out to be a bit of a dead end.
William B
Wed, Apr 6, 2016, 5:21pm (UTC -5)
My second paragraph was in particular a response to --

"But who the hell is Worf to make this decision for Kurn on his own authority and without any input from Kurn himself?!"

Answer: He is Kurn's older brother. That is who -- as Kurn says:

"Worf. I don't want to talk anymore. It's not Klingon. You're the elder brother. You tell me what to do, and I'll do it. My life is in your hands."

So I suspect most Klingons would frown on Worf's choice, and view it as cheating to give Kurn the memory of not having dishonour rather than forcing him to live with it or doing his duty and allowing him to die and restore honour, but accept that it is Worf's choice to make and they should not interfere (and in the case of that family friend, defer to Worf's judgment). The Federation would frown on Worf making that kind of choice for his unconscious brother, as do I, but Sisko at least seems to prefer this to killing him or waiting around for him for his death wish to get him or someone else killed, and perhaps they are willing to view this as not a Federation matter. Bajorans would maybe just want to stay out altogether. Worf finds some fairly bad compromise which is "legal" but probably unethical in both value systems, and which leaves his brother alive.
Thu, Apr 7, 2016, 8:06am (UTC -5)

"Tony Todd plays a better Klingon than any other guest actor who ever played a Klingon in the Trek universe. Well him and the Duras Sisters."

I'd have to inject two gals here... Mary Kay Adams as Grilka and Suzie Plakson as K'Ehleyr. Both act rings around Todd. Todd is hard to understand most of the time.

I'm also assuming J.G. Hertzler (Martok) and Robert O'Rielly (Gowron) are not considered a "guest actors".


I don't want Todd in the new series. He's too old and I'd prefer actors that I can easily understand.
Thu, Apr 7, 2016, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
I'm going to agree with Luke here. Kurn was an excellent character in TNG, and this episode doesn't do him any favors. It's troubling on many levels: Worf and his wishy-washy assisted suicide, Kurn wanting to die so badly he can't be a competent security officer, and Bashir agreeing to take away Kurn's memory.

I'm sympathetic to the argument that Kurn had put his life into Worf's hands at this point, but erasing someone's identity sounds almost as bad as assisted suicide. And I do like the idea of Worf having Starfleet to fall back on while Kurn does not. But Kurn shouldn't be so spineless here. I would've liked to have seen some conflict between Worf and Kurn over the Klingon-Federation War. Kurn should've tried to talk Worf into joining Gowron, or try and challenge Gowron for leadership.

The weak, dispossessed Kurn were given never gets out of his funk. Basically we lose a great character so DS9 can have "A Very Special Episode" about suicide. And of course, the fridge horror comes later in the series when we realize that Kurn would've turned out okay if he just went on vacation for a few years.

1.5 Stars
Sun, Sep 4, 2016, 5:04pm (UTC -5)
I always found it interesting how Picard and Sisko reacted so differently to the idea of Klingon assisted suicide. Picard seemed like he was in support of Riker killing Worf in that TNG episode. I would also think the Federation would be ok with assisted suicide. Besides, did Worf get in trouble for murdering Duras?
Sat, Sep 17, 2016, 12:17am (UTC -5)

As Sisko once said "I'm not Picard" :)

I do love how he was so different from Picard. Picard would have tried to talk through it ,discuss it, work it out. Sisko was just right out pissed and ripped them new assholes. I love the difference in the Captains.
Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 12:15am (UTC -5)
@JC you got it exactly, this episode's resolution sucked on many levels, perhaps most of which was that it fell completely to Worf to do something to help his brother, to find him new purpose at a time when new purposes abound (the empire is obviously being messed with from within in this episode, and in the coming years that's obviously going to be put right, along with the honor of the sons of Mogh), and with all his creativity and experience he came up with precisely nothing. You could feel the contrivance driving towards this stupid ending. Sad ending for a great ST character, but the writers of these later Berman shows were burning all kinds of bridges as they seemingly quite knowingly headed towards the exit. Very much a second rate string of writers and producers.

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