Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Emissary   Rewatch 
September 7, 2020 7:02 AM - Season 2, Episode 20 - Subscribe

To prevent a diplomatic incident with the Klingons, Starfleet sends the Enterprise a special emissary, and Worf gives her a hand.

Whose behavior do you find more perplexing? MetaFilter, or Memory Alpha?:

• This episode was based on an unpublished story by Thomas H. Calder.

Suzie Plakson was cast as K'Ehleyr because the production staff were impressed with her performance as Doctor Selar in "The Schizoid Man". Tracy Tormé, who had written "The Schizoid Man", had wanted to develop a romance between Selar and Worf, but the idea was overruled when "The Emissary" was being planned. Tormé complained that the premise was "obvious. Had it been a Vulcan, it would have been a lot more interesting."

• Director Cliff Bole devised several of the Klingon customs seen here. He recalled, "I came up with that thing where [K'Ehleyr] digs into [Worf's] hand and there's all that blood. I did that on the set. I was wondering what these people do, and I had the image of bones breaking and felt that's what they do when they get it on."

• Worf welcomes K'Temoc after he awakens by saying "Welcome to the 24th century" which is also exactly what Picard told Clare Raymond after she too awoke from a similar cryogenic stasis in the first season episode "The Neutral Zone".

• Maurice Hurley remarked, "Great idea and one that worked. Hard for that one not to work, but it worked well all the way through. With the Klingons you're dealing with emotion and passion. You've got somebody who can see something. You need that balance in the show sometimes. The show gets so intellectually smug and self-serving, and you need something like that to break it off; someone willing to storm the barricades. The idea of the half-Klingon was fun."

• Cliff Bole commented, "I liked the show and thought Michael Dorn did a real good job in it. I think I let [Suzie Plakson] get overboard a little bit. She was a little too broad, but she's a talented lady. I think the Klingon shows are fun to do, because you can go a little broad with them."

"Whoever said getting there was half the fun never rode in a class 8 probe."
- K'Ehleyr

"Whenever Starfleet gets enigmatic, I know we're about to face a challenge. Engage!"
- Picard

"Worf, we're alone now. You don't have to act like a Klingon glacier, I don't bite. Well, that's wrong, I do bite."
- K'Ehleyr to Worf

"You're not even looking at me."
"I am familiar with your appearance."
- K'Ehleyr and Worf

"I've noted that some people use humor as a shield. They talk much, yet say little."
- Worf

Poster's Log:
This one's a highlight of season 2; I'd looked forward to it on rewatch and it doesn't disappoint. Plakson is one of the franchise's MVP guest stars as far as I'm concerned, and this might be the most screen time she gets. It's a goddamn crime that she never became a Garak- or Weyoun-esque recurring guest star, if not in TNG as K'Ehleyr, then in something Berman-era.

It's striking, this early in the establishment of the Worf character, how much more we care about his plot than the cryosleep-Klingons plot. That's a reflection, I suppose, of how everything clicked in this one: Dorn and Plakson's acting and chemistry, the writing, the direction. (Maybe a little bit of retroactive fondness for the Worf character in there again, too.)

It's also cool that K'Ehleyr and Troi get to bond over their shared biracial heritage. And relatedly: this episode passes the Bechdel test, doesn't it? Is it TNG's first to do so?

Tormé is right that a Worf-Selar romance would have been less predictable and certainly interesting in a different way, but OTOH, this show's overall personality is Vulcan enough that I think it benefits from the more vibrant Plakson performance we got here as opposed to more of Vulcan Plakson. (Not to mention that K'Ehleyr is instrumental in establishing one of TNG's few serial storylines, which I suppose this episode is a bit of a prequel of.)

This episode's also a fun indicator of how naturally the persona of autocratic martinet seems to come to Worf, who really resembles the Regent in his big climactic scene here.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"Greatest Gen" episode.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I wonder if I could take tomorrow off as a religious holiday....
posted by kathrynm at 8:13 AM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

(Not to mention that K'Ehleyr is instrumental in establishing one of TNG's few serial storylines, which I suppose this episode is a bit of a prequel of.)

You could call it a prelude.

K'Ehleyr is cool. Michael Dorn is nailing Worf. Holodeck creatures are being killed left and right by crazed Klingons in the heat of passion! Mmmmm!

I mentioned before that I really like the Klingon rituals of the early seasons of TNG before Ron came along. The marriage Oath I always thought was a cool idea. Klingons lust for battle and war. They don't have time for elaborate ceremonies and what all. Just swear the Oath with one's mate and boom, they're married, back to the battle!

In a future DS9 episode, Worf will be written as being inexperienced around Klingon women. It's like whoever wrote that one totally forgot about K'Ehleyr.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:21 AM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's the sort of thing going on in this episode that justifies the exchange between Freeman and Ransom in Lower Decks:

"I've got her emptying [CENSORED] out of the holodeck's [CENSORED] filter!"
"… Ugh. People really use it for that?"
"Oh yeah. It's mostly that."
posted by Major Clanger at 8:52 AM on September 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

It probably shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that this was my favorite episode of S2, since "Heart of Glory" was my favorite S1 episode, and this is another significant part of Worf's character arc. In fact, I'd go further and say that Worf's arc helps define what a character arc is, or ideally should be, since any halfway decent character arc a) establishes what that character's primary beats are (although that by no means should limit the character to one or two dimensions), b) shows how the character reacts to particular situations in accordance with what's already been established by the arc, and c) develops that character in some significant way. Particularly with episodic television, c) sometimes gets short shrift, as other writers may not want to be limited by what's already been established, or the showrunners don't want the hassle of maintaining character continuity or just aren't up to it. Sometimes, I get that feeling with a lot of Data episodes, in that he was put in a situation and would react to it in a very Data-ish way, but it didn't change him noticeably. We don't get that impression with Worf; it's not directly stated, but it's heavily implied that he was a virgin before now. And his attempt to proclaim the insta-marriage is perfectly in sync with the guy who straight-up shot another Klingon who betrayed honor in the pursuit of glory: he thinks that what he's doing is OK because those are the rules! That's just what you're supposed to do, damnit! And finally gets around to admitting that it's not just about honor and tradition, but that he really likes her. (And, without coming out and saying it, that he's also still pretty lonely most of the time, even with making friends aboard the E-D. It's a character beat that he shares with Spock, the franchise's first breakout fan-favorite character.)

Agreed about K'Ehleyr and Suzie Plakson; like Jeffrey Combs, Plakson also showed up in ENT to good effect. (Also as a Q in VOY, which I guess that I liked well enough at the time, although it's not an ep that I make a point of rewatching.) I'll have more to say about K'Ehleyr in her next appearance, but here I'll note the parallels between her and B'Elanna Torres, which may be intentional. I liked how her sense of humor contrasted with Worf's general dourness, and also her interactions with Troi. One thing that stuck out to me was how quickly Troi appeared after K'Ehleyr destroyed the coffee table; I guess that someone who can sense emotions hundreds of thousands of miles away could tell when someone on the same ship is getting into it with the furniture. I also liked the sleeper ship plotline, and its resolution, although I wish that they'd thought to make the bridge's lights red and maybe put a smoke machine in the corner; having Klingon warriors in the command chairs on the E-D bridge's fern bar ambiance really clashes, although maybe that was the point. Oh, and also, K'Ehleyr's outfits were incredible; the red one reminded me of something that we might have seen in the early-seventies Legion of Super-Heroes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:32 AM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, and also, K'Ehleyr's outfits were incredible; the red one reminded me of something that we might have seen in the early-seventies Legion of Super-Heroes.
Kinda makes sense she got an action figure based on these outfits, huh!

Cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:

In the TNG-only era of the card game Klingons got a good boost from the T'Ong, which let you get several personnel into play at the far reaches of space, on a slow ship. Good trek sense, good game effect. One popular strategy was to send the crew that came with the ship somewhere else, self destruct your T'Ong, and play another one with more free crew-members.

As the game matured, there was a somewhat popular strategy involving sending your sleeper ship to the Gamma Quadrant to set up a Colony in relative safety. Bajoran players could do something similar with an altogether different Emissary.

The T'Ong's commander K'Temoc is yet another of the 40 broken links fixed in the final(ish) box set meant to close out the first edition of the game, and is otherwise fairly unremarkable. At least he has Geology to aid your Colony Preparation, and you can add him to your crew via Ready Room Door.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:47 AM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think the first fan-vid I ever saw was a Worf/K'Ehleyr vid using Sting's "Fields of Gold". It was super-angsty, and I loved it, and wish I could see it again. (It was sometime in/after 1990, as it was done with clips from this episode and 'Reunion', maybe at an NYC Creations con, as it was early enough on that those cons still had some grass-roots fannishness to them rather than being completely corporatized-Trek)
posted by oh yeah! at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2020

One of my favorites as well! Right from the start of Act 1, when it's revealed that the crazy stunt of firing the emissary at Warp 9 inside what is basically a modified torpedo would save the Enterprise something like 27 minutes - from that, we immediately know that the stakes of this mission are *very* high, and have also learned something important about the emissary before we even see them for the first time.

So many other great moments:
Riker showing off his Klingon while also possibly hitting on the woman they just plucked out of space (contra Memory Alpha, though, I think nuqneh literally translates as "What do you want?", which is a standard Klingon greeting.)

K'Ehleyr: "What's to understand? They're Klingons. They'll attack" - and we get to see Worf being the voice of peace.
posted by Mogur at 1:28 PM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

On my first go-through of TNG as a kid, I gave up after season 1, so until I watched this I had no idea that holodeck sex was canon. Also, last episode we had L. Troi walking in on Picard's holodeck session, and this time Worf walks in on K'Ehleyr. So holodeck privacy is apparently not a thing, but getting it on in the holodeck is? Are we to assume that everyone on the Enterprise is just sort of casually banging all the time?

Speaking of which, I loved Pulaski's reaction to the revelation that Klingon/Human hybrids were possible, and it only reinforces my belief that she and Worf got busy in "Up The Long Ladder". Seriously, if her character had been introduced as less "lady Bones who's mean to Data" and more "lady Bones who likes to bone" she would have been wildly popular.

who else immediately googled "FASHION IT SO EMISSARY" after watching this
posted by phooky at 1:31 PM on September 7, 2020 [10 favorites]

would save the Enterprise something like 27 minutes my memory is not great - it's actually 6.1 hours were saved. Still not very much time, so my original point stands. :)
posted by Mogur at 1:37 PM on September 7, 2020

K'Ehleyr really breaks the mold of Klingon fashion. I wonder if Klingons do have more varied fashion, or if her dual-heritage gives her more sartorial freedom?
posted by porpoise at 2:12 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I didn’t get the impression that the Klingons on the Pagh in A Matter Of Honor we’re the marrying immediately after getting it on kind, but it fits that Worf is a staunch traditionalist out of step with modern Klingon mores. Or even historical Klingon mores, probably no Klingon has ever been as Klingon as Worf because he got his Klingon learning from books.

I went down a Memory Alpha rabbit hole to confirm that canonically, the Klingon Empire and Federation were not at war 75 years prior to this episode, but I’m not terribly bothered by it. Drama always trumps pedantry (I did still look it up though).
posted by rodlymight at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

One person that I didn't note above: Diedrich Bader as the other guy at tactical--he's not doing what he's usually great at doing, which is being hysterical; think of Lawrence in Office Space or Rex of Rex Kwon Do in Napoleon Dynamite.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's the sort of thing going on in this episode that justifies the exchange between Freeman and Ransom in Lower Decks:

"I've got her emptying [CENSORED] out of the holodeck's [CENSORED] filter!"
"… Ugh. People really use it for that?"
"Oh yeah. It's mostly that."

I saw a meme with someone hesitating between two buttons on the holodeck: one labelled along the lines of HOURS OF ANY KIND OF WILD SEX WITH LITERALLY ANYONE YOU CAN IMAGINE band the other labelled REENACTING 19TH CENTURY LITERATURE.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:09 AM on September 8, 2020 [9 favorites]

Klingon episodes were never much my favorites, but I enjoyed this one because Suzie Plakson! I just loved her so much, and I never understood why she wasn't a bigger star or a regular character at least on Trek. (I gave up on Voyager early, and didn't know she'd been on it, so I'll have to look that one up and give it a whirl.) I really really liked that conversation with Troi, and I do think it was the first time they'd had a Bechdel-test-passing scene on the show. I could definitely have lived without the Jane Fonda aerobic workout tape outfits though. ::shudder::

Speaking of era-specific guest stars, that's Anne Ramsay sitting next to Data at the helm, Jamie's sister from Mad About You.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 7:35 PM on September 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Agreed - Suzie Plakson is absolutely delightful on the small screen.

No idea why she wasn't more prolific, unless she had other life priorities over small screen acting? She has the chops and the looks.
posted by porpoise at 8:05 PM on September 8, 2020

I'm going to be completely honest here: I bet holodeck sex gets old petty quick. Sometimes the worst thing you can have is access to absolutely anything. (See: the deep unhappiness of very rich people)
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:13 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Speaking of era-specific guest stars, that's Anne Ramsay sitting next to Data at the helm, Jamie's sister from Mad About You.

And, of course, Suzie Plakson had a recurring role on Mad About You as Paul's sister's life partner.
posted by hanov3r at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2020

"How did you like command, worf?"
"comfy chair."
posted by autopilot at 4:52 PM on October 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

This one was new to me, and oh gosh I love K'Ehleyr. In general I love female characters who are allowed to be angry and violent in a complex, relatable way - Kira and B'Elanna were favorites when I was a kid for that reason - but also, geez she's gorgeous! I completely bought that Worf wanted to wife her up. I kinda did too.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:03 AM on December 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

K'Ehleyr is cool. Michael Dorn is nailing Worf.

Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought this episode was about K'Ehleyr nailing Worf.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:24 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

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