Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Emissary"


Air date: 6/29/1989
Teleplay by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Story by Thomas H. Calder
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Starfleet sends the Enterprise on an urgent mission to rendezvous with a special emissary with crucial information, and it turns out the emissary is the half-human, half-Klingon woman K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson, appropriately tall and formidable, but also personable), who was involved in some mysterious way with Worf six years earlier. Worf is not pleased to see her.

I gotta say: I wanted to like this episode — with its Worf character development, Klingon angst that turns to Klingon sex, and, of course, Suzie Plakson — but ultimately it just doesn't work. K'Ehleyr briefs the Enterprise staff on the situation: A Klingon ship whose crew has been in stasis for the past century (and thus still thinks the Klingons are at war with the Federation) is about to awaken, and the Enterprise may be the only ship close enough to stop them before they unleash a fury of terror on nearby Federation colonies. I find this plot just a little bit ludicrous. The Klingons of the old era are seen as not merely aggressive, but also apparently as mindless drones — and besides, where would the honor be in destroying colonies with minimal defenses?

More interesting is the backstory that surrounds Worf and K'Ehleyr; they had an unconsummated relationship six years ago, and they haven't spoken since the relationship ended. This episode establishes Worf's attitude on relationships, which is that they must be taken seriously — as seriously as, say, a heart attack. K'Ehleyr, unlike Worf, has an outward sense of humor, but pursuant to all Trekkian characters who are trapped between cultures, she struggles with her Klingon temper. Unfortunately, the Worf/K'Ehleyr bickering is not performed well enough to transcend cliche.

The high point of the episode comes when K'Ehleyr uses Worf's holodeck exercise program and Worf joins her in a battle that turns to (apparent) heated sex. I guess one of my problems with the episode is that the sex and its aftereffects are kept so far off the screen that it's something of a letdown. The episode tiptoes around the word "sex" so carefully that it doesn't seem like the characters actually had it. Worf's attitudes on sex are the same as everything else — he takes it as a deadly serious enterprise that must end in marriage (which K'Ehleyr doesn't want) and doesn't seem to know what fun is. You've got to admire his personal code.

Worf also gets his "first command" in a scene of trickery that persuades the Klingon ship to stand down. Unfortunately, like a lot of the episode, the concept is better than the execution, which feels forced.

Previous episode: Manhunt
Next episode: Peak Performance

◄ Season Index

20 comments on this review

Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 11:25am (UTC -5)
In The Emissary, How did that probe go Warp 9? Where is the engine, and how could a lifeform be that close to it and survive? Outrageous...
Paul C
Wed, Sep 21, 2011, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
In the Emissary the probe has been in space. Touching it with your bare hands is not advisable! Would have thought it was a bit cold?
Thu, Nov 22, 2012, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Why did Starfleet send the probe? Couldn't they just simply send all the vital information of the mission to Captain Picard via... email?
William B
Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
I agree that the Klingons' total unwillingness to listen to any kind of reason strains credulity. That said, I think it works within the context of the episode, which at its most fundamental is about Worf's "Iceman" (--Riker) persona and stubbornness. Worf has a personal code of honour which is so rigid that he will not bend or permit humour or bluff or any of those things, right now in his life. Worf's attitude toward sex as automatically entailing mating for life is one of those Klingon codes that we suspect actual Klingons don't actually take seriously -- the Klingon women on the Pagh were considering having casual sex with Riker, for instance, which may or may not have been a joke but at least was on the table as a joking matter; Worf is attached to Traditional notions of honour which are not only viewed as antiquated by humans and K'Ehleyr, but (though this episode doesn't state this) even by other Klingons. The 23rd century Klingons are meant to reflect this trait of Worf's to the extreme -- their dedication to old values at the expense of reason keeps them out of step with the "modern" world, in which Klingons are not only allied with the Federation but are closer to adopting Federation (human) values.

The story of Klingons in most of TNG and DS9, with Worf as the most significant character (B'Elanna has a much different story on Voyager), is about whether it's possible to integrate Klingon values of honour-through-combat, chivalry, and deep passions and violence, into a "modern" world in which those values are not only no longer necessary but largely counterproductive. Violence no longer *should* be the solution to conflict resolution; notions of honour can sometimes lead to inflexibility. On the other hand, Worf in particular and Klingons in general have passion, courage, bravery and integrity that are useful traits which should not be discarded; and these traditions help them deal with their *powerful* emotions such as anger which otherwise become impossible to direct properly (leading to broken glass tables). I think that if anything, this is "about" how we, as 20th-21st century viewers, should integrate old traditions into our modern culture, in which we (mostly) value peace, diversity and liberalism but are somewhat alienated from our past and we lack clearer, universally accepted values. Worf and K'Ehleyr are two characters trapped between two worlds -- Worf hangs onto the tradition especially strongly because he is surrounded by those who do not hold it; K'Ehleyr largely tries to avoid her Klingon side but still has ties to her. I think the two are partly attracted to each other because the other offers something they lack -- for all Worf's seriousness he wants some of K'Ehleyr's levity, and vice versa.

As a result, for Worf to come up with a way to "trick" the Klingons into recognizing the Klingon/Federation alliance represents a form of creative thinking that helps get *Worf* out of his own rigidity, which is what allows for the reconciliation between him and K'Ehleyr at the episode's end.

I don't mind that the 1989 writing bounces around the sex word too much; it was clear enough to me. I think Worf and K'Ehleyr have great chemistry and the episode gets to the heart of who Worf is in lots of interesting ways. The implausibility of the Klingon ship is still a problem, but not a big one for me because it reads as thematically on point. On the low end of 3.5 stars for me.
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 11:31am (UTC -5)
Actually, I liked this one A LOT more than Jammer.

Maybe it's the context of the episode, and I don't mean the story within "The Emissary", but the episodes that preceded it. After 3 long hours of "We're far from home", crazy sex-driven Lwaxanas and lame irish stereotypes I was ready to embrace any resemblance of a good story. And this was the ok story I was looking for: Character development and a brand new interesting Klingon.

What's not to like? The execution was a bit cliched and bad, yes, but they were aiming for something that could change the way you looked at Worf forever. That's a lot more fun than the menopause issues of the Trois.

The only part I could do without is the "Klingon lost in time" story. As soon as they woke up, they should have contacted the Empire for feedback and that's it, problem solved.

@ William B: Just another thoughtful analysis of yours :) I'm starting to like reading your comments, I never gave so much thought to early episodes, so it's cool to read stuff that sometimes makes more sense than the actual episodes we're discussing, hah.

William B
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
@Rikko, thanks! I enjoy your take on this episode too. (I forget whether there was some reason established that the Klingons couldn't receive messages from the Klingon High Command -- but I think there may have been. They might also believe it to be a trick, thouse paranoid Klingons.)
Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
I too believe that this is a better episode than Jammer gives it credit for. I tend to be a sucker for Klingon episodes (I must be Ron Moore's favorite fan), but really, this isn't even much of a Klingon episode. It's a Worf episode through and through.

Very often, Worf is the token "bad guy". Not bad, per se, but he exists for the sole purpose of giving the barbaric hostile suggestions and being shot down by the enlightened Picard. There's a whole Youtube compilation of it if you don't believe me. So it's great to actually see his side of the story for once. He's not just the angry, susicious Klingon. He is someone with deeply held beliefs, proud of his deeply held beliefs, and surrounded by people who do not agree with (or, quite possibly, openly condescend about) his beliefs. No wonder he's so reserved, so repressed, and always uncomfortable with himself.

Or maybe this was the episode that gave him that characterization, I don't know. Either way, it worked in this episode. The, uh, pillow talk scene was a particular favorite of mine. I find Jammer's dismissal of Worf as being simply overly serious to be wrong. Is it just being too serious to believe that strongly in your culture and your honor? Is it really too serious to want to marry someone you love? Because frankly, that's what it comes down to. Worf wants to formalize and honor his relationship with K'Ehleyr and to pledge his commitment to her, while K'Ehleyr simply wants a good time with no thought or care to what Worf wants. While that may be a bit dismissive of K'Ehleyr's side of the story (and indeed, it's not exactly fair to declare marriage before discussing it with your girlfriend...), that is Worf's side. And when it's put that way, it's hard to dismiss his feelings as just him being overly serious.

People also have a tendency to dismiss TNG as too perfect, that nobody ever disagrees with one another, but clearly this is not the case here. It would be quite the cliche to have Worf and K'Ehleyr abandon their worldviews for true love. It's clear they both care deeply for each other. But at the same time, I applaud the writers (particularly on Worf's side, since he'd representing traditional values and is thus the easy punching bag for Hollywood) for letting the characters stay true to themselves. It really does make sense, and it represents Worf's full understanding of himself. He knew, particularly after his failed oath, that he and K'Ehleyr really could not be together. And he was fully prepared to let it go, even if it hurt him. That shows a true maturity of the character.

One interesting irony that I noticed. When it comes to the romantic subplot, Worf is shown as the inflexible one, unwilling to compromise. But when it came to the sleeper ship subplot, it was K'Ehleyr who was the irrational, illogical one who just wanted to fight. Again, not a cliche. It shows that Worf is not just being inflexible for inflexibility's sake, but that he had a reason to be the way he was with K'Ehleyr. He can be open-minded when need be.

So yes, I think this was a great character-driven episode. While the sleeper cell subplot may not have been completely airtight, it was done well enough. They sealed up some plot holes easily enough (Klingon ship would be a few days late, new Federation colonies in the area that could not defend themselves), which is good enough that the rest of them can be explained away. Maybe the crew was ordered to have radio silence, and thus would ignore any orders coming from Klingon High Command. Maybe Starfleet thought K'Ehleyr's presence would be an absolute necessity, hence why she was shot there in a probe (a cool scene, by the way). In any case, the problem was set up reasonably well enough, and it was solved in a clever matter. And dealing with the problem only highlighted and supported the character driven aspects of the show. All told, well done.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 3:43am (UTC -5)
The premise is beyond ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that a captain would wake up after 75 years and have it never occur to him that the political situation would have changed? Klingons are aggressive but not total idiots. The first thing he would have done is contact the empire.
Tue, May 19, 2015, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
As soon as I saw who was inside the probe, I knew this was going to be an exciting episode. I haven't got much to say (there's plenty of brilliant analysis here already), except that I, too, enjoyed this more than Jammer. But then I tend to enjoy character-driven episodes a wee bit more than plot-driven ones, and so I can ignore the weak excuses for having K'Ehleyr show up on the Enterprise, and just enjoy the fact that she's there. I must have missed this episode when it originally aired, because I remember being surprised when all of a sudden Worf had a son a few seasons later. I'd probably give this one at least three, if not three and a half stars.
Diamond Dave
Fri, Aug 28, 2015, 7:53am (UTC -5)
A climb back to respectability after a series of below par episodes. The chemistry between the dour, honourable Worf and the sardonic, wisecracking K'Ehleyr is memorable, and gives both a chance to shine. The conclusion is effective, giving Worf an opportunity for command ("comfortable chair") and showing he is more than simply rigid inflexibility. 2.5 stars.
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
It's hard to believe that Klingon-Human hybrids exists (K'Ehleyr and B'Elanna Torres, and its hard to believe they're the only two in the universe) without a Federation doctor having no clue about it. I'd presume that as rare as they are presented here, such case studies would be part of a medical school curriculum, especially a Starfleet medical school.
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 8:07pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode! One bit of fun business--after K'Ehleyr storms away from Worf and says "MEETING ADJOURNED!" and she stomps down the hallway, a passing crewman totally checks out her caboose. She's a goddess, and if I were gay, I would totally go for K'Ehleyr.
Mon, May 9, 2016, 2:22pm (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this one. But the more I watch next generation the more I feel sorry for those transporter chiefs. Every time they finally have something to do some smart ass bridge officer relieves them of duty.
Fri, May 20, 2016, 9:32am (UTC -5)
This episode is a classic, and I think it deserves a higher rating for showcasing how outstanding Dorn can be if given an episode to showcase. I always get a kick out of the "Klingons do not bluff!" line at the beginning, and it turns out to be true in this episode! Worf isn't playing around when he hooked up with K'Ehleyr, he really intends to start a relationship with her.

It also comes into play when Worf commands the Enterprise. Really, the only choices the Enterprise had were to talk down the Klingons or destroy them. When Worf told the captain that he if he didn't listen he would "die in ignorance" he probably intended to carry out that threat. It was after all, K'Ehleyr's first suggestion.

Finally, I love the Sci-Fi at the beginning of this episode. I think what happens to DS9 and Voyager is that they forget that first and foremost they are shows about science and should be showcasing technology to some degree. K'Ehleyr being sent riding a warp speed probe is an amusing science notion; imagine riding in this small tube and outside is the vacuum of space. This sounds like not only an efficient usage of existing probes, but a smart way to hide something of value in a vessel that's usually ignored. What's more, the idea is similar to the Hyperloop trains being considered in the U.S. which are ultra-fast but sealed in a vacuum underground, not unlike the vacuum K'Ehleyr's probe travels.

4 stars. Outstanding, especially for a season 2 episode.
Sun, Jan 1, 2017, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this one again after four or five years. I remember liking it, and I still do like it. It is a lot of fun, and a good Klingon and Worf episode. ("Comfortable chair". Ha-ha. Love that line.) Two and a half stars are not enough...come on, Jammer, let's give it a three.
Sat, Jan 7, 2017, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
I gotta agree with lizzzi......I rewatch every episode with K'Ehleyr...she has a certain "presence" and her sarcastic wit makes for a good watch!!!
Fri, Jan 20, 2017, 6:43pm (UTC -5)
Four stars from me. I don't give a damn how ludicrous the frozen-Klingon plot is. Kheylar and Worf battling over love, sex, honor, and their mixed cultures, make it great.

I'm trying to remember if there's any romance on the show that I liked better. PIcard and wife on "The Inner Light" is all that comes to mind as a possible rival.
Thu, Mar 16, 2017, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
One of the poster's before asked: "In the Emissary the probe has been in space. Touching it with your bare hands is not advisable! Would have thought it was a bit cold?"

Actually, no. Space is technically "cold" in that it doesn't have molecules to pass on heat, although there is still radiation that keeps empty space around 3 degrees Kelvin. However, objects in space, in fact present the opposite problem. Since space is a near-perfect vacuum, it cannot conduct heat, therefore space is a perfect INSULATOR, meaning it's almost impossible to let off heat. Only through radiation is it possible (aside from gathering the heat into special repositories through conduction/convection and jettisoning them into space) to release heat energy.

So, the probe would be more likely to be scalding than cold, because it would be quickly radiating and conducting all of its remaining excess heat now that it is in an atmosphere and able to do so (it would be assumed that the probe was continuously radiating heat during its journey, or its occupant would have been boiled inside).
Peter G.
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 1:09am (UTC -5)
@ K9T,

"Since space is a near-perfect vacuum, it cannot conduct heat, therefore space is a perfect INSULATOR, meaning it's almost impossible to let off heat. Only through radiation is it possible (aside from gathering the heat into special repositories through conduction/convection and jettisoning them into space) to release heat energy. "

Sorry to nitpick, but this is incorrect. Your comment that a vacuum cannot *conduct* heat is technically accurate, but your conclusion that a vacuum is therefore a perfect insulator is inaccurate because conduction is not the only means of heat transfer. Electromagnetic radiation can transfer through a vacuum just fine, and 'heat energy' (aka infrared radiation) as well as various types of high-energy EM radiation can certainly move through vacuum easily. In fact the lack of a need for a conductor through which these move was a problem for physicists in the early 20th century and they felt the need at the time to posit the existence of an "ether" which was the universal conductor through which they felt the EM waves had to pass. So yes, a 'hot' object in space would certainly emit radiation and would become 'cooler' over time. Not only particles fly around through space; there is also all kinds of EM radiation including X-rays and gamma rays, which are quite dangerous to life, thus requiring either an atmosphere or technology to protect us from them.
Tue, May 23, 2017, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
This is a hit-and-miss episode and I think Jammer's review reflects how I feel about it and where it falls short. The premise is kind of ridiculous that a Klingon warship will "thaw" and just start kicking ass on Federation colonies - but that is the B-plot. Worf getting the Klingon battlecruiser to lower its shields if threatened with phasers also is hardly believable.
What is good about the episode is getting to see Worf's traditional beliefs - but that he is not just rigid. K'Ehleyr is a good character - quite an impressive woman - a good balance that pushes Worf.
One thing that cracks me up is in Worf's calisthenics routine, one of the bad guys he battles is Skeletor!
Anyhow, lots of dancing around Klingon sex - but ultimately (and of course it would) things are left off in a reasonable way between Worf and K'Ehleyr. I rate this 2.5/4 stars - can't say it's a strong episode but the character of K'Ehleyr adds a lot of spice in a much better way than, say, Laxwana.

Submit a comment

Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2017 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.