Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Reunion"

***1/2

Air date: 11/5/1990
Teleplay by Thomas Perry & Jo Perry and Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga
Story by Drew Deighan and Thomas Perry & Jo Perry
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Klingon ambassador K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plakson; my, she's tall) comes aboard the Enterprise, and she brings along with her a surprise for Worf: a young Klingon boy, Alexander, Worf's until-now-unknown-to-him son. She's also here on official business. A power struggle is imminent in the Klingon Empire between two rivals, Duras (Patrick Massett) and Gowron (Robert O'Reilly, making an instantly memorable impression with those crazy eyes) vying to become the next chancellor of the Klingon High Council. Failure to resolve the dispute could result in a civil war that could eventually sprawl well outside Klingon borders. K'Mpec (Charles Cooper), the dying chancellor, puts Picard in charge of the mediation and reveals that he has been poisoned by either Duras or Gowron in a gutless assassination for the power grab.

Like "Legacy," this is another example of TNG's standby, "two warring factions with the Enterprise as mediators," except this time it's done well. Whenever you involve the Klingons, there's an elevated, juicier flavor to the political intrigue and the mediation proceedings. Some scenes play like grand melodrama. And, of course, the way this all ties in with Worf raises the personal stakes. Worf selflessly accepting discommendation to save the Empire in "Sins of the Father" plays into matters here, with not only the Klingons shunning him at every turn, but the very notion that he cannot acknowledge his own son because the dishonor would be extended to him.

Then there's K'Ehleyr, the non-traditionalist call-it-how-I-see-it when it comes to the Klingon Empire, which plays in stark contrast to Worf's traditional values. I love K'Ehleyr's impatience with Klingon politics. When asked, "War over what?" she responds dryly, "The usual excuses: tradition, duty, honor." After a bombing on board a Klingon ship, evidence reveals a link with the Romulans, which means someone is involved in a conspiracy (although I wasn't quite sure what the bombing's goal was). K'Ehleyr starts poking into files to find the truth, discovers Duras is the conspirator, and in a shocking turn of events, Duras kills her.

Equally adrenaline-worthy is Worf going into full Klingon mode and throwing aside his Starfleet badge to claim his right for vengeance and battle Duras to the death. The themes of culture clash are in full force here, whether it's the conflict between being a Starfleet officer and taking Klingon vengeance rights (Picard reprimands Worf in a good scene), or the gulf between K'Ehleyr's human sensibilities and Worf's Klingon ways, or how it all ties into how Worf interacts with a son he doesn't know.

Previous episode: Legacy
Next episode: Future Imperfect

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6 comments on this review

JP - Tue, Dec 18, 2012 - 7:51pm (USA Central)
Suzie Plakson would have made a great regular on one of the Trek series. She had quite a presence.
Paul C - Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
Yes only flaw with this excellent episode is a bomb going off for no reason at all!

Otherwise stunning & shocking. Always feel sad when Plakson dies, excellent character.
Nick P. - Wed, Sep 25, 2013 - 8:59am (USA Central)
2 comments for possibly one of the most important and well done episodes of worf, and star trek cannon from here on? Wow.

I think this episode is amazing! Every beat is perfect, the pace is perfect, this is the only watchable Alexander piece. When I was a kid and Work impaled Duras with Riker screaming in the background, I was stunned, I couldn't believe peace loving Star Trek did this! But I was happy to. And then the scene where alexander asks worf if he is his father and Worf hugs him....I still cry...
SamSimon - Sun, Sep 29, 2013 - 9:12am (USA Central)
Excellent episode, I expected 4 stars before opening the page!

By the way, the bomb was a way to kill Gowron: dispute solved, and Duras takes power. Eventually the opposite happened: Duras killed, and Gowron takes power!
SkepticalMI - Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
Alas, poor K'Ehleyr. It's a shame she hated her Klingon side so much, this episode kinda proves that she could use it effectively. It was very fun seeing her stand up against Gowron and Duras, even if the latter didn't exactly work out well for her. She was an interesting character in her two appearances, more than worthy of a more permanent role in the franchise. Killing her off is a bit of a loss.

But only somewhat, because between the first instant we see her lying there dying to the last instance we see Worf standing over Duras' body is one of the most intense sequences in all of Trek. Every single moment of that time is perfect, from Worf howling to the Klingon underworld to Alexander running away to Worf's comment to Alexander to the fight on the Klingon ship to Riker arriving in time but Worf ignoring him in the heat of battle. You cannot tear your eyes away from the TV.

And then there was the scene with Picard and Worf. This is completely uncharted waters for us. A member of the senior staff just committed murder! What was Picard going to say? And then, he simply... let Worf go with a slap on the wrist? Yeah, it's a black mark on his record, but no demotion, no prison, no nothing?

And yet, it kinda makes sense. Picard's in completely uncharted waters here too...

For one, look at the geopolitics (er, astropolitics?) involved. Duras just murdered a Federation diplomat. That is a horrific response for a member of the Klingon High Council, and would undoubtedly have put a serious strain on Klingon/UFP relations. A few episodes later, Picard would be willing to have the Enterprise destroyed and to start a war with the Romulans when he believed they had kidnapped a Federation ambassador; why should it be any different here? Even worse, the murderer had a 50/50 chance of being the next chancellor. How could the Federation work with the Klingons after that? Would there be war? And keep in mind, at that point Picard knew that Duras was working with Romulans, or at least had strong evidence of it. Having Duras as Chancellor would be intolerable to the Federation, yet their hands were tied legally. Worf's actions untied them in a manner that was perfectly legal in the Klingon justice system.

It's hard to punish a guy too much when he just saved the Federation. Even a pair of humpback whales know that much.

Secondly, this is the inevitable endgame of the Federation's obsessive "tolerance" culture. By claiming that all cultures have a right to exist, the Federation essentially endorses Worf's commitment to the Klingon culture. And if Worf is to be allowed to act in a Klingon culture, what happens when that culture clashes with Federation culture? Presumably, duels are highly frowned upon in the Federation, yet perfectly rational for Klingons. If your culture places "tolerance" above its own morals (including "duels are bad"), then how can you punish someone for that?

Picard's speech to Worf provides the answer. You can respect other cultures, but only insofar that they respect Federation culture. In other words, duty to the Federation morality comes first. This isn't as obvious as it might seem; given the obsession with tolerance today there are plenty of examples where the law and public opinion is murky on where the majority must sacrifice their culture to the minority and vice versa. With Worf being the only Klingon in Starfleet, it may be possible that this possibility was not clearly spelled out, and Picard may have felt some responsibility for that. After all, he explicitly endorsed Klingon civil code last year by not only allowing Worf to stand trial, but by accepting the role of Worf's fighter during the trial. Picard's actions led to the death of at least one Klingon during Sins of the Father, why is this much different? So he had to be lenient this time while laying down the law that it could not happen again (presumably Sisko didn't get the memo when Worf killed Gowron...).

And finally, it just seems like a slap on the wrist to us. To Worf, Picard's note that it would go in his record was, essentially, an attack on Worf's personal honor. And we know how much that means to him. Notice how much he stiffens when Picard says that to him. To Worf, the knowledge of severe disapproval from his superior officer was punishment enough. And Picard undoubtedly realized it. Especially since he softened up immediately afterwards, asking Worf about how long he would allow the discommendation to last.

One last comment as a random aside: just how ridiculously stupid is the Federation? K'Ehleyr is the Federation ambassador to the Klingons and not vice versa, correct? If so, why the heck would they send someone who HATES Klingon culture to be an ambassador there??? That's some rather insulting diplomacy there. At least they had Curzon... Of course, if she was the Klingon ambassador to the Federation, then that makes more sense...
dgalvan - Thu, Sep 25, 2014 - 5:12pm (USA Central)
Fantastic episode.

Really is a shame that K'Ehleyr wasn't kept around, but I do think it was crucial to Worf's character development that she died. She was a rare kindred spirit for Worf: a Klingon working in the federation.
I had forgotten that she was half-human before she appeared in that first episode a few seasons prior. So she pre-dates Belanna Torres as a female half-klingon half-human.

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