Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Soldiers of the Empire"


Air date: 4/28/1997
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"If you really want to thank me, don't walk in here dripping blood anymore. It takes days to get it out of the carpet!" — Bashir to General Martok

Nutshell: Reasonably performed, but a pedestrian hour overall.

When the Klingon Empire offers General Martok the opportunity to command his first mission since returning from the Dominion prison in "In Purgatory's Shadow," he recruits Worf as his first officer. Along with Dax as the science officer, they take command of the Bird of Prey Rotarran, a ship and crew with a tarnished past (no victories in battle), in a search for the missing Klingon cruiser B'Moth, believed downed near the Cardassian border.

I generally like Klingons and their milieu when used effectively, but I've just seen so much of them that I don't find it all that interesting anymore unless it's part of a bigger, more interesting story—which is clearly lacking here. However, if you really like Klingons and are game for a very standard Klingon outing, you might like "Soldiers of the Empire," a fairly pedestrian outing that specializes in lots of Klingon honor dialog and cliches, but not much storyline.

The biggest problem with this episode is that it's far too routine. There just isn't much substance here. But at the same time, what is here is fairly well done, and done in the Klingon style that is very consistent with what we've always seen on both DS9 and TNG. Still, just about every scene in this episode amounts to "been there, done that," and the episode doesn't supply enough plot for us to sink our teeth into.

There are shades here of "A Matter of Honor" from way back in TNG's second season. Like that outing, a decent amount of this episode focuses on the way a Klingon vessel operates, forcing us to juxtapose it with Starfleet workings—not terribly fascinating this time around. The semi-twist in "Soldiers of the Empire" is that this Klingon crew is a disgraceful group that's down on their luck. They haven't been victorious in a battle yet; they've become renowned for turning and running from Jem'Hadar fighters.

There's a lot of dialog in this episode, and most of it comments on the lack of victory this frustrated crew has faced in past months. They're depressed, enraged, and hungry for blood. One almost gets the sense that this crew is a set of "Klingon underdogs," and the question of the episode is when there will be a triumph of these underdogs.

I will admit that a "Klingon underdog" is a fairly pathetic-sounding label to carry, and I did get the sense that this crew felt truly disgraced in the eyes of their people, and why. Unfortunately, this isn't what I would call compelling material, especially considering that there are five acts devoted to it, no B-story (not to say I wanted one), and limited action only to end the episode. One problem becomes that Ron Moore has a premise that simply doesn't contain enough material to stretch across 45 minutes of screen time. But Moore is no dummy, and he's quite experienced with the Klingon milieu. (He wrote or had a hand in writing many of TNG's most pivotal Worf/Klingon episodes, like "Sins of the Father," "Reunion," and "Redemption" parts I and II.) Moore is able to use what little story there is effectively, and most of what happens on the Rotarran makes a good amount of logical sense.

Once Martok takes command, he seems to be endlessly avoiding a fight with the Jem'Hadar—hardly plausible behavior for a Klingon captain. Some of Martok's rationales for avoiding battle make sense, slightly so even in Klingon terms: The mission is to find the B'Moth, not sacrifice the Rotarran in a blaze of glory, he explains to Worf and the crew. But there are signs Martok is slipping, and through the course of the episode they become progressively more evident: At one point he completely avoids a confrontation with a Jem'Hadar fighter that would've been an easy victory. He has his reasons, but the crew, including Worf and Dax, are very skeptical of his lack of Klingon initiative.

Dax knows one thing for certain: The crew's frustrations are about to explode. If Martok continues avoiding confrontations, someone will challenge his judgment and the crew will break into dissent. This leaves it up to Worf, naturally, to make the Big Honorable Decision. Worf has great respect for Martok as a warrior, a friend, and someone who saved his life. He believes in him and doesn't want to question his judgment, much less challenge his authority and kill him according to Klingon bridge procedure (ultimately to be the only way of preserving chain of command on the Rotarran).

I can appreciate the fact that Moore put Worf in a tough position, but this is about the millionth time we've seen Klingon Honor in need of satisfaction and Worf in the position to make the Big Honorable Decision. It's been done in episodes with much more relevance and power than this one.

Another problem I had with the situation was the characterization of General Martok. I just don't quite understand why exactly he was so "cowardly," at the end of the episode. Near the finale when it's obvious he's making the wrong choice, it doesn't seem in-character that he makes this choice. It feels a bit forced upon his character, who, as far as I can tell, still has his Klingon instincts and the need for vengeance against the Jem'Hadar (especially considering he was their prisoner for two years). There's discussion that Martok's Dominion imprisonment affected his Klingon lust for blood, but there just isn't quite enough development of the idea to really make his characterizations feel accurate. Martok's about-face after the ultimate confrontation (a knife fight that Worf loses), where he charges into battle and rescues the B'Moth survivors, also didn't feel completely justified. It was a bit too easy a solution to an underdeveloped problem.

Also, I must add that the ending might've worked a bit better if the preview people hadn't given it away, for all practical purposes, in last week's trailer. Because of the preview, we knew from the start that Worf was going to confront Martok for his cowardice, so it somewhat lessened the payoff's effect concerning Worf's solution to the problem.

I was, however, quite happy that the creators didn't decide to kill Martok in this episode (or something ludicrous to that effect), and that the necessary confrontation on the Rotarran didn't damage Worf's and Martok's relationship. In fact, I much liked the episode's coda, which had the opposite effect. Martok making Worf an official member of his family's house because of his honorable actions struck me as very sensible, and was quite moving—easily the best part of the show. These characters could really turn out to mean a lot for one another, and I look forward to seeing more of them together.

But the ending, for all its charm, doesn't make the rest of the show wholly worthwhile. This isn't a bad episode—it has some good work by the actors and some good moments. But it's not an important show either, because it doesn't have an urgent or enlightening story. It's merely standard Klingon stuff; very middle-of-the-road.

Previous episode: Ferengi Love Songs
Next episode: Children of Time

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31 comments on this review

EP - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 8:13pm (USA Central)
This episode was sobering...I mean, so boring. The premise is so odd when you consider the iron Klingon discipline previously established in Trek canon - in this outing, the Klingons have lost a few battles and mope around like children.

Perhaps they lost those previous outings because they were so undisciplined? Because they wanted to engage in skirmishes with the Dominion when their assigned mission was to rescue the B'Moth refugees?

In fact, upon second look, sending Klingons on rescue missions seems contrary to the whole Klingon ethos of dying gloriously. No wonder the crew is annoyed.
Blue - Thu, Mar 19, 2009 - 10:26pm (USA Central)
Honor! Ka'plaugh! We must fight! Die with honor!

Klingons are 12 year old children playing at war. I wish they and the Ferengi would all just die. And this was one of the less boring Klingon episodes...

Sigh, yes I've started watching DS9 since September last year; at first I really liked it, but I hate hate hate these stupid stereotypical races and their stupid stereotypical storylines.
Jay - Sat, Feb 20, 2010 - 6:55pm (USA Central)
I guess Jadzia tagging along meant that Julian had to be both intelligence officer and fleet liaison in addition to being the chief medical officer...poor Julian!
Nic - Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - 9:47pm (USA Central)
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, perhaps because I had not seen the preview, and the knife fight was very engrossing because I didn't want EITHER side to win (or rather I didn't want either side to lose), and I was very pleasantly surprised that Martok ended up getting the upper hand (it annoys me when the main cast always wins - it strains credulity and makes for far more predictable television). Finally, it was nice to see Jadzia back to her old self again instead of being the whiny girlfriend which she has been all season. In fact, my only complaint about this episode is that the action-packed final Act depicting the rescue of the crew and the battle with the Jem'Hadar is missing.
Carbetarian - Fri, Aug 27, 2010 - 10:57pm (USA Central)
I like how Worf effectively pulled the Trek version of the race card in the beggining of this episode.

Sisko is looking at his request and asks why Worf wants to serve the Klingon Empire, when Worf tells this lame story about how Martok saved his life. Sisko is giving him some serious side eye, and probably thinking the same thing I was; which was "Really Worf? That's pretty weak. He gave you his warrior spirit with his eyes? Aren't you guys supposed to be tough or something? Talking with your eyes sounds like some Tyra Banks crap to me.". Well anyway, Sisko was thinking that minus the Tyra reference.

So, then Worf says something like "well, maybe it's something a human can't understand..." and trails off in such a way as to imply that he was mentally finishing the sentence with "because, you know, I'm a Klingon and I know the federation thinks we're a bunch of ignorant thugs.".

Sisko then immediately signs the release form, and you can almost feel him wanting to apologize and absolve himself of his "human guilt" by saying something like "hey, some of my best friends are Klingon!".

Haha, I enjoyed that sequence a lot. I liked this episode more than Jammer did. I thought the knife fight was pretty well done, and I liked seeing Jadzia be all kinds of bad ass in the mess hall. Also, I always enjoy Martok. He's another awesome secondary character on this show, along with my other favorites Nog, Garak and Weyoun.
Max - Mon, Dec 27, 2010 - 2:50am (USA Central)
I liked this one quite a bit, despite some of it's flaws. It's all good fun, and I especially love the bit where the Bird of Prey spins around while you can still hear the Klingons inside singing. And the writers didn't make the same mistake they made with Ferengi Love Songs -- they remembered their needs to be a human viewpoint character to ground the story (technically Dax isn't a human at all, but in the context of this story, she serves the eyes of the audiance.) We also get a good idea how the Klingons view the Jem'Hadar. The show is a hoot.

But yes, the flaws. The only problem with story for me is that it can't make up its mind what tone to take with the Klingons When the crew is introduced, we are told that these are some freaky-ass Klingons with Cardassian neck bone jewellery and we should be awfully worried about them. Then we find out that they are essentially just child-like characters prone to self pity in desperate need of a win. When the crew finally gets around to the mutiny, we are no longer scared of them because we've begun to think of them as the Mighty Ducks. And you can safely assume Worf isn't going to kill Martok. We already saw a Martok die this season.
Jakob M. Mokoru - Tue, Jul 12, 2011 - 6:43am (USA Central)
Well, I'd always prefer an episode like this over previous "Ferengi Love Songs".

I agree with you all in that the episode has its flaws, but it is entertaining - and compare this episodes treatment of Worf and Dax to the really awful "Let he who is without sin" earlier this season!
Jack - Sun, Oct 9, 2011 - 1:46pm (USA Central)
As Jay mentioned, it was ridiculous of Sisko to grant Dax permission to tag along when she had extra DS9 dutues due to Worf's absence.
Chris Freeman - Sat, Mar 10, 2012 - 2:29am (USA Central)
I thought this one was really good. We had never seen a scrappy Klingon crew before - they don't even wear their entire uniforms (or maybe sleeves are optional now?). Martok being paranoid was handled well - he wasn't obviously unfit or crazy, just being cautious. But in Klingon eyes, it's very suspicious for him to back down from a fight, so there's this tension - was he broken by the prison camp or not? And I really did not know whether Worf would kill him or not.
But they ruined the episode by not showing them defeat the Jem Hadar ship!! I know the episode was about Worf and Martok, but we just spent an entire hour with this mopey crew and we don't even get to see them redeem themselves. Patak tease.
Justin - Tue, Apr 3, 2012 - 12:06pm (USA Central)
@Carbetarian, you mean his eye. Martok gave Worf his warrior spirit with his eye. Sammy Davis style...

@Chris, that word "patak," I do not think it means what you think it means.
Justin - Wed, Apr 4, 2012 - 1:07am (USA Central)
I mostly agree with the review, but I think the episode deserves at least 3 stars. It's definitely better than "middle of the road," especially if you like Klingon stories, which I do. Love the ending as well. It marked a turning point for Worf and finally put his outcast-yet-again status to rest for good. Except now I feel really bad for Kurn. The changing of his identity now rings as completely meaningless.
Tom - Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - 7:41pm (USA Central)
Great episode, I always enjoy the Klingon episodes
Drachasor - Sun, Jun 3, 2012 - 5:31pm (USA Central)
I'd give this episode 3/4 stars. I liked it a fair bit. While it isn't new that Worf goes for an honorable yet unconventional solution to a Klingon problem, I liked how the knife fight played out. Worf risking his life and losing to Martok on purpose was pretty nice.

While Jammer didn't think that made sense, to me it does make sense for Klingons (and perhaps even some humans). Worf's gambit was to get Martok's blood racing in a victorious fight so that the same thirst for battle would carry over to the mission and clear away Martok's irrational fears. That seems sensible from what we've seen of Klingon psychology before.

This is kind of an on-going theme for Worf, where he is a redeemer of the Klingon people. He kills the bad Klingons and enables the nobles ones (like the Kahless clone and general Martok).
Lt. Fitz - Fri, Jun 29, 2012 - 9:20am (USA Central)
I love the Klingon episodes too. Yeah, they are violent children, but it's fun to see what the writers come up with given the rules of writing for Klingons. A bunch of men singing together in US society is kind of considered effeminate, so it surprises my sensibilities while I am watching when such a thing happens, and I like those kind of social twists. It's fun to see these tough guys break out in song.

Also, I would hardly call this episode pedestrian. I can't remember another TV episode that showed Klingon crew procedure from undocking through to the conclusion that was reached. I like to see all the little details of crews on non-federation starships, and I felt like this episode provided a lot of new interesting details.

I'd give it a solid 3 stars. There were some parts that dragged. I'd rather they had reduced the amount of time spent on Worf trying to convince the General to fight, gotten the knife fight out of he way earlier and then showed the victory over the Jem Hadar. When I realized that they were not going to show the battle, I was disappointed.
Ian - Wed, Jul 11, 2012 - 1:50pm (USA Central)
I think many here are ascribing "Hewmon," motivations to the Klingons.
I thought this episode was one of the best because it gave us Klingons who were NOT stereotypical, but fully fleshed out individuals with their own motivations.
Jadzias little speech about the differences between Klingons sets up the premise very nicely regarding Martok's actions etc...
Cindi - Mon, Aug 13, 2012 - 4:06pm (USA Central)
Boring?! Wwrrrrhaaa, knife to your ribs! Another fantastic Klingon episode with a very original take on a crew with crushed morale. Yeah, Sisko made a pretty stupid decision to let Dax tag along but otherwise it was great. And the solution our Microbrain devised had a Solomon artfulness to it. Kaplah.
Jay - Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - 1:09pm (USA Central)
Presumably they could just set the transporter to reconstitute General Martok with both eyes....he wouldn't need an artifical one.

Transporter technology really does make a mockery of just about every medical issue Star Trek confronts, large and small.
Jelendra - Sat, Nov 17, 2012 - 3:16am (USA Central)
I LOVED this episode ! I have to disagree with Jammer on this review...I though getting to ride along with the Klingons was great, the story's finale with the knife fight was great...my only complaint ? We didnt see the final fight or the crew of the B'moth get rescued...
Jack - Sat, Feb 2, 2013 - 4:42pm (USA Central)
It's stated here that a Klingon can only challenge a direct superior in combat, but then at the end of the series Worf challenges Gowron.
Cail Corishev - Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - 8:24am (USA Central)
I like this one quite a bit; the bookends of Worf and Martok seeing into each other's souls and being there when the other is weakening as a man work well for me. It loses half a point for Jadzia tagging along and playing Tough Grrl (I realize she was needed to help Worf see past his hero worship, but her pushing Klingons around because she remembers once being a guy who used to hang with them a lot is silly; the honorary-Klingon-Dax thing was really overdone by this point), and maybe another half-point because it's annoying when the characters claim something must be "fight to the death" and then when no one dies everyone's fine with that. So a solid 3 at least for me.
Elnis - Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
To me, this was the best Klingon/Worf episode I've seen so far - including all the TNG episodes.

I've never liked the Klingons. I like the CONCEPT of a species that lives for honor and battle - but the way Klingons have been presented has been filled with obvious contradictions. An example: we learn again and again that honor is everything, and Klingons would die in glorious battle before retreating, running away or let themselves be captured and imprisoned. Yet, over and over, we meet or hear about Klingons who are still alive after retreating, running away or being imprisoned. And that's only one eaxample. The logic of the whole Klingon philosophy is full of wholes so huge that you could drive an ice cream van through them.

However, I've always liked the notion that Worf is a more strict follower of Klingon philosophy than any other Klingon we meet - he has not been disillusioned or watered down by the harsh realities of the decay of the proud Klingon Empire, such as his fellow Klingons - who live in that decay - have.
As a consequence, Worf IS proud, just, honorable and spiritual - where just about any other Klingon we meet is NOT. And here's where I get off of the bus. Worf is "the perfect" Klingon, that's all good and fine ... but why does every other Klingon have to be reduced to a cardboard figure, either fitting into the "drooling, brainless brute" box or the "deceptive liar" box?
Sure, they TALK about honor, but their actions are contrary to their statements ... over and over and over again. Surely, SOME Klingons MUST have SOME sense of the honor and spirituality Worf represents?

So, I got fed up with the nonsensical Klingons very early on. With the introduction of General Martok, however, I was intrigued. Here, finally, was another Klingon, that had more complexity to him, and who actually seemed to act according to his Klingon beliefs. At last we get another Klingon who's a good guy, someone we can root for.

In this epsiode, everything aboard the Klingon Bird of Pray made sense - it's the first time a whole Klingon episode actually made sense to me. Except for the fact that this crew was still alive after fleeing battle about a half dosen times ... really? How very Klingon of them to run away! And besides ... when was the last time we saw a defeated starship that didn't blow up?

Anyway, besides that, I felt that the whole "crew is low on morale, needs a victory" was pulled off very nicely - I could almost feel he tension in the air. All the little conversations, about duty, honor, defeat and shame walked a tightrope (between making sense and ... not) and didn't fall.

This episode gets three stars from me - 2 stars for the story, lacking in characterization as it was ... and an extra star for rekindling my interest in Worf and Klingons after 20 years of facepalming.
Kotas - Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - 10:18am (USA Central)

A solid Worf/Dax and Klingons ep. Martok is a good character.

Alessandro17 - Thu, Jan 16, 2014 - 10:18am (USA Central)
I like this episode. Recreating an alien culture and environment is not the easiest thing to do in sci-fi, and attempts quite often turn into a farce (even in DS9, see the Ferengi episodes).
DS9 is my favourite Star Trek series. All the others are shallow by comparison. DS9 has well rounded characters, complex plots, it definitely isn't a kind of "they lived happily ever after" show, doesn't shy away from awkward situations and feelings, like violence, evil, betrayal, even homosexuality (even if the word is never mentioned).
eastwest101 - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 4:48pm (USA Central)
The knife fight and the outcome wasn't spoiled for me so the outcome was genuinely a surprise to me seeing it a few days ago. Was a little predictable up to that point in places. I though the idea of a dishonourable/unsuccesful Klingon crew and ship was an interesting concept to explore myself.

A solid Klingon outing and much more watchable than Ferengi Love Songs.
Vylora - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 9:30pm (USA Central)
Ah yes. Klingons. Interestingly varied bunch. Well-worn ideologically and culturally yet just enough possible intraspecies contradiction to make one think the writers purposefully undermine the races' stability in the eyes of the viewer.

Take for instance the code of honor. Within that code the Klingons are viewed by some as totally anathema to the prospect of rescuing other honorable Klingons to allow reconnection with the Empire and live to fight (and share glory) another day. The possibility of Klingons escaping a battle is further sacrilege from what we think we know.

("There is no honor to be had on this day!") or ("Losing the Empire to win a battle is no victory. Retreating from battle to save the Empire is no defeat.") are just examples of lines that seem to confer a sense of self-preservation common in many species. One could replace the word "empire" above with "starship" or "outpost" in a sense despite where the in-story quote stems from.

Consider: A lot of the stomping about, chest-thumping, overtly-posturing barking and growling about glorious deaths and no fear of battles is that of a vicious roar meant to distract, instill fear, and convey a sense of impenetrable protection of ones own unwavering devotion to self-patriotism and the Empire. In that sense, it would seem logical to assume that, despite the implied non-fear of death, that the Klingon species has an inherent need to live that may or may not come to the forefront of decision-making. The posturing DOES mean something. They do have a bite behind that bark. But sometimes living to fight another day, to reclaim glory, is just as honorable.

Perhaps I'm just reading too much into it. I do enjoy a good story as I do enjoy writing.

This particular episode was a decent Klingon outing that had a few neat ideas. But overall nothing about it stood out above the crowd. Just a step above average and worth watching.

A guarded 3 stars.
Rivus - Sat, May 10, 2014 - 8:04pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this outing, because as others have pointed out, we don't often get to see the 'different' sorts of Klingons as Jadzia points out early in the episode. It is a shame that we didn't get to see any real fighting, but really it wasn't the point of the episode, it seems... That being the tension building up to Martok and Worf's eventual duel. If there's one place I can find fault, it's that much of the plot is extremely formulaic, though I was surprised at Martok's victory. I'm probably still just too used to the abundance of Klingon deaths from back in TNG. Nice touch with Worf being taken in to Martok's house at the end, but it feels very bittersweet at this point, so soon after that awful ending of "Sons of Mogh" (I say soon, because at this point it's only been about a year for Kurn to adjust to his new life)...

Also, minor confusion... It takes... DAYS to get blood out of the carpet? Really Bashir? Come on now, this is the 24th century, I'm sure we've evolved past Oxy Clean by now.

3 stars.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
Boy, Worf sure does know a lot of Klingon history/traditions for being raise by humans...

I ALWAYS love episodes where Martok has a primary part. He's the best Klingon of the lot.

At this point in the series we did NOT know whether Martok was going to be a reoccurring character anymore or not, so I did NOT know that Worf was going to just injure him. Very powerful fight scene with an outstanding result. Well done Worf, well done.

I'm not always huge on Klingon episodes, especially back on TNG, but I really enjoyed this one.

I loved the ending too.

“MARTOK: Worf. On the bridge during the fight, when you dropped your guard. How did you know I would not kill you?
WORF: I did not know.”

Very appropriate and moving that Martok invited and welcomed Worf into his house.

3.5 stars for me.
Peremensoe - Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - 9:04am (USA Central)
Rivus, you missed the point of the "carpet" line. Notice how Bashir raises his voice, as if he's angry; then Martok, who was actually getting angry a moment ago, only grumbles and walks away; Bashir smiles after him. He is saying, if you want to 'thank' me, don't get yourself hurt like that again.
$G - Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - 2:09pm (USA Central)
This episode is just kind of *there* for me. I forgot everything about it before seeing it again today, so it's not even that I knew what was going to happen.

I liked the downtrodden Klingon crew scenes, especially the older guys becoming a bit of a cancer to the junior officers. I also liked the plot of Worf standing up for a captain he knows is neglecting his crew and that that captain would be Martok, beat up and rusty from his time in the internment camp.

On the other hand, the knife fight climax wasn't all that satisfying. Worf loses and suddenly the crew are chanting Martok's name like a bunch of idiot sports fans. Great. So he won. He's the coward you wanted dead in the first place, remember? Except that he isn't anymore, changing his tune about fighting the Jem'Hadar pretty dang quick just because he won a fight.

I'd have softened a bit if we got to see the Rotarran in the fight they supposedly won, too, but it all happened off screen.

This one has some nice moments but I can't necessarily recommend it. 2-1/2 stars is all it deserves, but even that might be generous.
Robert - Tue, Sep 23, 2014 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
I'll add to what Peremensoe said about the carpet line as well. Bashir and Martok were locked up together for over a month in the Dominion camp.

I'd imagine after going through something like that together that they are closer than the scripts explicitly say, and little things like Bashir's concern for him is a subtle nod to an unseen history between them.
Yanks - Wed, Sep 24, 2014 - 9:28am (USA Central)
I agree Robert.

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