Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Sins of the Father"


Air date: 3/19/1990
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore & W. Reed Moran
Story by Drew Deighan
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

One notably important aspect of TNG's third season was the way it expanded the canvas of the Trek mythos. TOS and the first two seasons of TNG felt more like a western in space (uncharted frontiers, etc.), but with this season, the Trek universe began reinventing itself as a place containing sprawling civilizations and a political landscape that was tangible in a way that we had not perceived before.

"The Enemy" and "The Defector" demonstrated that via the Romulans, and now "Sins of the Father" demonstrates it by providing a look at Klingons not simply in isolated obscurity, but as a society with cultures and (corrupt) politics. Kurn (Tony Todd) boards the Enterprise in the exchange program as payback for Riker's visit to the Klingon ship in "A Matter of Honor." At first the episode looks like "A Matter of Honor" in reverse, but Kurn soon reveals that he is Worf's brother, separated from the family before their parents were killed by the Romulan attack on Khitomer over 20 years ago. The Klingon High Council is planning to scapegoat the Khitomer massacre on their father, Mogh, alleging he betrayed the Klingons by supplying the Romulans with intelligence. Only by standing before the council and proving his father innocent can Worf restore his family's honor (at risk of death to himself, if his father is deemed guilty).

The episode does not play out predictably, which is one of its pleasures. It defies brief synopsis. Suffice it to say that through a series of twists, turns, attempted killings, and political cover-ups, Worf finds that he must accept discommendation for the crimes falsely pinned on his father. It's the only solution that will protect both him and his brother from execution while keeping the High Council from collapsing into a civil war over the uncovering of the true traitor — the father of Duras (Patrick Massett), whose family has too much power to be openly accused. Picard's personal involvement in this affair works because it allows us to enter these proceedings through a relative outsider's perspective and gain a better understanding.

"Sins of the Father" offers a lot to sink your teeth into and reveals more complexity to the Trek universe. It begins a storytelling tradition of Worf's responses to Klingon political corruption that would rear its head frequently all the way up to DS9's "Tacking into the Wind." (The method of this episode also would influence the intrigue-based storytelling that fueled many early Bajoran-themed stories on DS9.) It reveals Worf as a Klingon whose selfless pledge to protect the Klingon Empire is admirable, particularly seeing as the Empire sees little reason to return the favor.

Previous episode: The Offspring
Next episode: Allegiance

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14 comments on this review

xaaos - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 12:35pm (USA Central)
Another one great episode of an outstanding 3rd season.
mike - Mon, Mar 4, 2013 - 5:34am (USA Central)
Sins of the Father tells us more about the Klingons than any episode up to this point. The incomparable Tony Todd plays the role of Commander Kurn with fantastic ease. Rather than bellowing and dying a lot, we finally see the Klingons as individuals with personalities and motives of their own. This also our first visit to the Klingon homeworld. There is genuine political intrigue here that is actually interesting and well developed. I found the scene where Kempec tries to convince Worf to quietly slink away and go back to his Starfleet life most fascinating. I'm thankful we played out the plot on Qonos. The dark sets and conspiratorial whispers set the perfect tone. If this whole conflict had worked itself out in a conference room on the Enterprise with Trio's cloying empathy and Geordi's pedantic techbabble it would have been a colossal bore. Fortunately the were spared those usual crutches and presented with a fully executed exploration of Klingon culture. Bravo.
Nissa - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 1:34pm (USA Central)
I like this episode, and I'm not really sure why not so many people comment on it. Perhaps it's not controversial enough. In any case, I love Kurn. I love how he's so abrupt and mean to Worf in the beginning, and yet respects him as an older brother later.

What they did with Kurn in DS9 is pretty unforgivable, though. Actually, DS9 threw Klingons in their entirety under the bus, reducing them to TOS-style comical bad guys. It worked in TOS because everyone else was equally comical, but in DS9 it just made the Klingons look like morons who kill with little provocation.
Grumpy - Thu, Jan 9, 2014 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
If it's more comments you want, Nissa... this episode stands out for me as a story that starts one way but turns into something else. Maybe I missed the "next week" teaser, but I was fooled into thinking the whole show would be about Kurn's visit. Like a classic Simpsons episode: one minute we're at Mount Splashmore, but by the end we're painting Mr. Burns nude. Trek didn't use this misdirection often, I think.

Except for Voyager's "Coda," but that was just a mess.
SkepticalMI - Thu, Jan 30, 2014 - 8:12pm (USA Central)
Great episode. I love the attention to detail given, which really helps to bring to life the Klingon Empire. You can feel the sense of tradition and ritual inherent in the episode, which fits what we know of the Klingons perfectly. Whoever designed the discommendation ritual was a genius; it really helped to nail in the severity of what Worf did, and how big of a personal sacrifice it was for him. All while creating a great visual effect. The city looked awesome too.

Ignoring the Klingon aspect for a moment, I've said before that I like it when episodes make the characters look like professionals, rather than just the spotlight character solving everything while everyone else stands around looking foolish. I just noticed that this is one of those episodes. It's not much, as most of the action rightfully focuses on Picard and Worf, but Riker competently ran the investigation on the ship, and Geordi, Data, and Beverly all contributed. A minor issue, yes, but it bugs me if the writers/directors don't show the characters as professionals. So seeing multiple people doing their jobs here just helps to make the episode a little more immersive.

And despite putting so much plot into one tiny episode, nothing felt rushed. It's a whirlwind of a trip, but well worth it in the end.

But back to the Klingons. It seems as if Worf is showing himself to be a product of two worlds here. If I may speculate on Klingon morality, it seems as if one's personal and family honor comes before duty to the Empire. After all, if the sins of the father are passed down to the son regardless of the son's position, it strongly suggests that the family is more important. Likewise, the fact that Worf can tell Kurn what to do suggests the importance of the family. Likewise, personal duels are allowed under Klingon law, and it seems any random person can challenge the Chancellor (as Worf did on occasion). If duty to the State were more important, why would such challenges be allowed or encouraged?

So given that (and given Kurn's bewilderment at Worf's decision), I imagine a normal Klingon would rather die with his own honor intact than to disgrace his family for the good of the Empire. However, Worf seems to have (perhaps unconsciously) absorbed some human morality in with his Klingon honor. Obviously this is a common theme in Worf episodes, but it's done pretty subtly here. In particular, Worf shows the Christian ideal of the sacrifical lamb; someone who is punished for someone else's sins in order to save that person. This represents a great deal of personal integrity in Worf, that he is able to suffer an intense humiliation to save those who don't deserve it (Duras and K'mpec) in the hopes that it would also protect the innocent (the rest of the Klingon Empire in general and Kurn in particular). It is an extremely honorable act by human standards, but perhaps not by Klingon standards (I realize I may be off on this analysis given that K'mpec approves of Worf's decision and says his heart is Klingon because of it, but whatever. K'mpec has already shown himself to be a dishonorable slimy politician by going along with this conspiracy despite the fact that he was merely delaying the inevitable, so he's certainly not trustworthy in terms of Klingon morality). This seems to be a common theme with Worf. He is still the ideal Klingon in that he is very concerned with his personal honor, but his way of judging that personal honor is far more human than any other Klingon.
Peremensoe - Fri, Jan 31, 2014 - 6:40pm (USA Central)
Great comments, SkepticalMI. Thanks.
Adara - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 11:48pm (USA Central)
I was really impressed by Kurn's klingon makeup. His forehead looked almost exactly like Worf's, with a few subtle differences. My first thought was that the makeup people were lazy or behind schedule or something and used a mold of Word's forehead, but it turned out that they were brothers! Excellent attention to detail.
Rikko - Thu, Mar 6, 2014 - 10:56pm (USA Central)
Excellent episode!

I loved everything in it. The way it evolved the Klingon "mythos" was incredible. They really nailed every aspect of their culture, even considering all the chances they had to drop the ball here.

They could have had a lame ritual, or they looked too simplistic as a society or something, but no. Can't say a bad thing about the plot, or the dialogue or the guest actors.

Boy. I've come to the realization the casting team does a much better job when they cast important family members of the crew (so far) than when they cast one-off guest actors.

This Kurn guy was just right as Worf's brother. Even Lwaxana Troi becomes tolerable as time goes on, in spite of the plots that always come with her.

@ Great analysis SkepticalMI!

Small complaint: I wonder why Jammer gave it "only" 3 and a half stars. His review doesn't seem to mention any negatives, in fact, it elevates the episode when he's looking at the bigger picture of the whole season.

Tom - Wed, Apr 9, 2014 - 9:59pm (USA Central)
Great episode. This one doesn't look dated at all and it lays the ground for a lot of what we see in DS9 about the Klingons. It also creates something that won't just be thrown away at the end of the episode. It's really amazing to see how far Worf has come since season 1. He's not some kind of savage beast anymore. On the contrary, he's one of the most interesting characters on the ship. And I agree with Rikko that the quality of the acting was high and it made a big difference. Like the little wink that his brother makes at the end. This is a 4 star episode for me.
DLPB - Thu, Apr 17, 2014 - 1:31pm (USA Central)
Decent episode. Not great. The main issue is that the council were willing to cover up the truth, which is contrary TO Klingon honour.
The council leader even suggests that he served alongside Mogh and "I do not want to remember him this way"

What way? You'd rather he was remembered as a traitor? That's bad writing.
Andrew - Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - 7:01am (USA Central)
Good, especially Worf, but Picard came off a little too Kirk-like, Duras's role was obvious and Kahlest felt too much like a deus ex machina.
Adam - Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - 12:43am (USA Central)

I agree with your assessment, but I wanted to add that near the end of the episode, when Picard speaks to Kurn and tells him not to forget what he sees here and not let his children forget, there is an implication that someday, Kurn will be able to clear the family name. Certainly, Worf was motivated by that possibility in his decision to be discommendated.

This is an outstanding episode and a highlight in an excellent season. However, watching it again, I couldn't help but wonder why Riker is at Picard's side when they first arrive in front of thr Klingon high council. His presence is not addressed, nor does he speak while there. When they later return to the chambers, after Kurn's assassination attempt, Riker does not attend. This is trivial of course, but it stood out to me, and made me wonder why he came in the first place. Perhaps I missed something, or perhaps something may have been cut which would have offered an explanation.
grumpy_otter - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 8:53pm (USA Central)
I love this episode, and not only because Kurn is so wonderful. I loved him the moment he walked on the ship and behaved as I thought a true Klingon should.

I loved the exploration of the Klingon power structure too.

Where I think this episode faltered was in the slightly-forced bromance between Worf and Picard. There was really no reason to involve Picard so closely with Worf's challenge except to give him a chance to say lines like "There is no man I'd rather have by my side." I wish they had kept the focus on the Worf-Kurn relationship, and saved the other for later.
CPUFP - Tue, Jan 6, 2015 - 2:57pm (USA Central)
This is the first time that I am commenting here, and I'd first like to say what a great source of information and place of discussion this site is. I've recently started rewatching TNG while sick in bed, after having watched mostly random episodes of the German dub as a child in the early 1990s.

From what I have yet seen of season 3, its big strength is that it exchanges the previous seasons' extensive exploration of the Star Trek universe for an intensive exploration. Instead of a short glimpse into a new society every week, we get to go deeper into two of the morst important civilizations on ST: the Romulans and the Klingons. "Sins Of The Father" is a great example of this.

However, the episode for me also averts one of the main problems about TNG: One of the objectives of the Enterprise is to foster intercultural understanding between different planets. But the ship’s crew usually only has contact with the ruling class of different planets – state leaders, diplomats, high ranking military personal, top scientists. We also get to see the occasional regular soldier or policeman/woman, but they usually do not have speaking roles. Working class or petty bourgeois characters are rare, and when they appear as more than extras, it is usually with pre-modern cultures like the Mintakans in “Who Watches The Watchers”.

Now, this should not have to be a problem given the premise of the series: After all, the Enterprise’s missions usually are of diplomat nature as representative of the Federation’s government, so it makes sense that they will try to establish contacts with other planet’s governments. But what bugs me is that along the series, the perception of these whole cultures is based on what can be seen of the ruling class. The Klingons are a good example of this: It is well established that their society is based around concepts of honor, glory and warrior’s virtues. We see how they interact with one another in great episodes such as this one, “Heart Of Glory” or “A Matter Of Honor”. But can these few glimpses really show us THE Klingon way of life? In all these instances, we see Klingons who are working on starships or on the High Council. It might be fitting that they live along the values mentioned above, though we also see in this episode that when politics is concerned, stability can outweigh honor. However, considering that the Klingons have a planet-wide government, are WARP capable and one of the major political forces in the quadrant, we have to assume that their society is vastly differentiated and developed in the sectors of science, education, technology and government. We also have to assume that they get their food, uniforms, ships etc. from somewhere, so there has to be farming and industry on their planet. We already know from the movies that they have a mining sector which is fueled by forced labor, but I assume that there has to be a number of people on Q’onos who work on farms, in factories or in low-level desk jobs. Are their core values ideals of honor, glory and warrior’s virtues? It seems unlikely. Moreover, from what we can see in this episode, it seems that they do not even benefit significantly from Q’onos’ high technological standards. When we meet Kahlest, an elderly woman who was once the nanny of a high family, she lives in a dirty, windowless cave, which, apart from its automatic door, does not show any of the high technology the Klingon civilization possesses. The people outside her home, who are the only Klingon civilians we have seen thus far, are dressed in bleak cowls, and the street is lit by a burning trashcan.

We have been told multiple times that the Klingons favor scarcity over comfort, but what we are shown in this episode hints more towards an extreme poverty of Q’onos’ population, while the planet’s politics are made by a small circle of aristocratic families who like to talk about honor etc., but who, as this episode shows, are actually corrupted. This shines a different light on what is to be considered Klingon culture: Just as we would not say that the ideals of a knight would be THE culture of medieval Europe, we cannot say that Klingon culture can be understood by just looking at the culture of Klingon aristocratic warriors.

Well, that was long. Anyway, the essence of what I wanted to say is: It is nice that this episode gives a few hints that there is more to the Klingons than what we have seen thus far, that they might actually be a differentiated society with a class structure and not just a bunch of walking parables as a lot of alien species on ST are. So a definite 4/4 stars from me.

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