Star Trek: The Next Generation: Sins of the Father   Rewatch 
November 13, 2020 5:47 AM - Season 3, Episode 17 - Subscribe

The honor of Worf and his entire family is at stake when his deceased father is accused of moderate to heavy treason.

Do not forget what Memory Alpha does here today:

• Director Les Landau recalled, "Here was an opportunity to explore the Klingon world in depth from beginning to end. Meaning that Ron Moore came up with a wonderful story which Richard James, the art director, and Jim Mees, the set decorator, had to visualize in terms of set design and set decoration. Additionally, to which Marvin Rush, the cameraman, had to conceptually find a visual representation of what the Klingon world was all about. I think all three of those gentlemen accomplished that task totally. In fact, Richard and Jim went on to win Emmy Awards for that episode, which I'm very proud of. Marvin's work speaks for itself. It was visually one of the most dynamic episodes ever done. It looks like a feature film.

• This episode marks the first depiction of the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS.

• The episode refers to William Riker's service on the IKS Pagh and other events from "A Matter Of Honor". It also sets up several future themes, such as the House of Duras and the underpinnings to the Klingon Civil War.

Tony Todd makes his first appearance as Kurn in this episode. He reprises the role in "Redemption", "Redemption II" and the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sons of Mogh".

• The over-the-shoulder cloak with the medals that K'mpec wore as High Council leader was the same cloak General Korrd wore in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Both roles were played by Charles Cooper.

• The captain's dining room is seen for the first time.

• Moore remarked, "I thought Tony Todd did a wonderful job as Worf's brother. I was kind of worried, because there's always that hesitation when you're bringing in other family members no one else has even seen. Half the audience is ready to throw things at the screen, and you're thinking, 'This better work.' I was there when he stepped on the stage and made it his own."

• Moore saw this episode as a turning point towards more continuing story arcs on The Next Generation. He commented, "The biggest decision on this show was the ending…where Worf takes it on the chin and decides to accept his dishonor even though he knows its a lie but he does it for the greater glory of the Empire and he walks out the door and it ends with this sense of 'Oh my God. This has changed Worf forever, and what's going to happen to him next?' And what that did to the franchise overall was it suddenly said there's a continuing story here…As soon as Worf walks out the door with his dishonor it demands a follow-up. And that's why we eventually came back to "Reunion" and "Redemption" and on and on and on. All the Worf stories spring from that moment, and also opened up the whole franchise to the idea that maybe we can do continuing stories. It was really a pivotal moment looking back on how we structured Next Generation."

"How long has this bird been dead? It appears to have been lying in the sun for quite some time."
"Well it's not dead, it's been replicated. And you do understand that we cook most of our foods…"
"Ah yes, I was told to prepare for that. I shall try some of your burned replicated bird meat."
- Kurn and La Forge

"I am Worf, son of Mogh. I have come to challenge the lies that have been spoken of my father!"
- Worf, to the Klingon High Council

"You are a fool, and your challenge can only result in a fool's death."
"It is a good day to die, Duras, and the day is not yet over."
- Duras and Worf

Poster's Log:
First off, a general remark: For those of you watching this on CBS All Access, are you noticing that the laser/warp/SFX sounds are way too loud compared to the dialogue? I know this is the fashion for dramatic TV now, but this show is OLD! I don't know if this is the fault of the remaster or All Access itself, but I hereby object.

Anyway, what a huge episode this is, and not just for the Berman era; DISCO's first couple of seasons would've been totally different if not for the foundations laid here. And not just the story foundations! I remember quite clearly my family's unanimous response to the close of this episode when it first aired, which was (and I'm paraphrasing) "HOLY FUCK." It might not be too grandiose to say that that moment, Worf being discommen…dat…ificated and then the episode just ending, is a turning point not just for TNG (as Moore rightly notes above) but for the whole franchise w/r/t serialization, and therefore the modern era of TV Trek (for which, it seems, a term is needed a la Berman-Trek or JJ-Trek. All Access-Trek?). It might be too grandiose to say that it was a turning point w/r/t serialization for all of TV, since we're still a few years out from the likes of Sopranos and GoT. The closest TNG ever got to an actual season-spanning arc was the Cardassian stuff starting in season 5, but it'd be more accurate to call them a recurring adversary faction.

I also must point out that this is Trek's first real peek under the hood of the Klingons, which struck me at least as a pretty big deal when it happened.

Tony Todd's Kurn is always great, but never more fun than here IIRC.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
The Greatest Gen for this episode mentions The Fifty-Year Mission, the two-book series referenced by Halloween Jack and myself several times in Trek threads—perhaps most verbosely in my Generations post.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think this is a very good episode, but I remember even in 1990 that it looked very low budget. They're in the throne-room of the seat of the Klingon Empire, and it looks like it's a largish garage or maybe a defunct shipping facility.

Formal dining with Captain Picard and Beverly Crusher in the same room sounds like a nightmare to be honest. I'd be afraid to move or say anything.
posted by skewed at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Well, you know that I'm a Worf fan by now I'm sure, and so I'm bound to love this ep, but it's worth looking at this from the perspective of not just having non-continuous character arcs, but of building up a picture of a non-human society, which they did somewhat for the Vulcans, but surprisingly little even for them up to this point ("Amok Time", the beginning of TMP, the end of STIII and the beginning of STIV, some things with Spock's parents, a little bit with STV). And the Klingons got even less, most of which was in service to their being the Federation's main adversary; STIII was probably best for that. And then, with this episode, wham, we know what sort of government they have, with the Great Houses on the High Council, and a bit about how their legal system works, and how their professed high ideals about honor mask a lot of corruption and realpolitik. Nearly a decade into the future, in DS9's "Tacking Into the Wind", Ezri will ask Worf, "Who was the last leader of the High Council that you respected? Has there even been one? And how many times have you had to cover up the crimes of Klingon leaders because you were told it was for the good of the Empire?" That's all set up here. (Which also shows just how committed they were to Worf's arc.) We've commented before about Roddenberry's Box and how Worf's character arc probably benefited from it, since he's not human and therefore doesn't have to hew to the standards of perfection that humanity has ostensibly attained; here, that gets extended to Klingons in general. (Can you imagine how boring Federation politics must be, if they're not in the process of being corrupted by the "Conspiracy" bugs or whatever? Polite discussions in the Federation Council about how the planet Flibbertigibbet should get 55% of the discretionary funds for this month from the planet development line item in the budget and the planet Razzmatazz should get 45%, or maybe the Razzmatazzoids need it more than the Flibbertigibbetians?) It's not just serialized storytelling that has this presaging GoT, but all those Great Houses jockeying for position and doing each other dirty to get ahead. We never know that much about Mogh, but he may as well be the Ned Stark of Qo'noS.

Great performances in here, too; Tony Todd, obviously, but it's also kind of neat how Charles Cooper got to do much more here than he did in STV (with the same costume, even). Complaints are minor; the fat jokes were unnecessary, and I also relate to skewed's comments about the, ah, modest size of the Council chambers. I mean, maybe they can be retconned as not actually being the Council chambers proper, just the equivalent of a Senate subcommittee hearing room or something, but it reminds me of my reaction to the Hall of Warriors in Ty'Gokor in DS9's "Apocalypse Rising": this important ceremony for the warriors of an interstellar empire takes place in a room that's about the size of a small-town junior high gym or VFW hall. Now, they'd probably just green-screen in something like this room from Star Trek Online.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

We never know that much about Mogh, but he may as well be the Ned Stark of Qo'noS.

Okay, now I know the premise of the Star Trek series I've always wanted but haven't been able to articulate. Thanks!
posted by skewed at 7:55 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's so interesting to trace the beginnings of the serialized continuity-heavy TV that is the norm now. Outside of prime-time soaps, continuity was a no-no. After 30-60 minutes, the entire world had to be reset to zero, all problems solved. You should be able to watch episodes in any order without missing a thing. (Of course there were always shows that didn't adhere to this policy entirely, but it was the norm.) X-Files was the first show I remember strongly and purposefully mixing plot-of-the-week episodes with seperate continuity-arc episodes through a season. By the end of the 90s continuity was the norm, not the outsider.
posted by rikschell at 9:34 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Worf's hair is distractingly awful in this episode. How long are we stuck with the dreadful bob?
posted by oh yeah! at 9:38 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I’d be afraid to move or say anything.

That’s actually more of a problem when dining with La Forge.

Or did I just miss that that was the joke?
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:16 AM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seeing red with cards from the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

Premiere('94): Espionage: Federation on Klingon; Espionage: Klingon on Federation; Klingon Outpost; Khitomer Research; K'mpec. Real basic cards.

Q-Continuum('96): Discommendation; Kahlest. Discommendation is so flavorful but so clunky, as Wesley discussed back in the day.

Introductory 2-Player Game('97): Ja'rod; Mogh. Via the magic of 90s 'photomorphing', a couple Klingon ancestors related to this episode. With 6 skills including Leadership, Honor, Archeology and Music, Mogh is self consciously styled as a 'Klingon Picard'.

Enhanced Premiere('00): Songs of Mogh. Six skills and a giant chunk of stats for one card play, what more could you want? Not to have to buy four lousey packs of Premiere to get it?

Second Edition('02): Khitomer Investigation; Duras, Son of a Traitor; Kahlest, GhojmoH of Worf.
Kahlest really didn't change much from 1E.

Strange New Worlds('05): Jean-Luc Picard, Worf's cha'Dich. Speaking of Klingon Picards.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:35 AM on November 13, 2020

It's so interesting to trace the beginnings of the serialized continuity-heavy TV that is the norm now.

While they're beginning to find that trend in this episode, I personally locate the origin with Twin Peaks. From there, you get X-Files, DS9, Babylon 5, Sopranos, etc.

This episode aired three weeks before Twin Peaks debuted.

But regardless of where serialized, continuity-driven TV came from, this episode is very much the starting point of what I always think of as "Ron Moore's Klingon Opera". Kurn's goading of Worf is so delicious (I know there are a lot of "The Visitor" DS9 fans here, but for me, Tony Todd will *always* be Kurn - disdainful of Worf but bound by Klingon tradition to obey him).

"Yesterday's Enterprise" is a concept that, once imagined, becomes a pretty straightforward premise to fill in with details. But this episode - the politics! The drama! The honor! The corruption! The loathsome House of Duras! It's like Athena, springing fully formed from the brain of one of the most committed Trek nerds.

Picard as Cha'DIch is the icing on the cake, and that total gut-punch of an ending - all Klingons turning their back on Worf - is the cherry on top.

This, folks, this is pure, uncut Star Trek.
posted by rocketman at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Hill Street Blues (which premiered in 1981) is the show that really introduced serial story-telling and multiple narrative arcs per episode to network TV (although there were absolutely earlier shows that paid some attention to continuity across episodes), and most of the hour-long dramas that came out of MTM subsequently (St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, etc.) followed suit. So, by the time TNG starts bending this way, it is an established trend, not an innovation. What this ep, and the rest of the Worf Saga, does is add the epic element to Trek. Roddenberry's initial pitch of "Wagon Train in space" conceived of Trek as anthology with recurring central characters, since anthologies were big in the early '60s, but Trek is prime for epic storytelling, and they should have seen that once Star Wars showed up with it's mythologial/epical approach.
posted by briank at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

I normally just hate Klingon stuff, but I decided to give this a go just for continuity's sake and Tony Todd, and I actually didn't get annoyed this time around! I agree that it felt kind of low-rent, which doesn't help me suspend my disbelief about an alien culture that's supposed to be so important. Klingon costumes, especially, never feel like anything real and look so cheap-plastic Hasbro kids costumes to me. But Tony Todd just makes this episode for me--he's irritated and insulting but when he gets called on that, he immediately backs off and grumbles his way through the experience. Also love that Picard and Riker stand up for Worf, at great personal risk.

I used to write a lot about TV in my critic days and it's interesting to see the serialized arc comments--there seems to be a great deal of credit going to '90s TV, but it's leaving out important, groundbreaking shows like Wiseguy, which was completely built around story arcs rather than simply sprinkling them in among regular episodic programming, and parts of Miami Vice, etc. There's also this tendency, since anything directed to a female audience is considered infested with cooties, to ignore soap operas, the OG of story arc television: say whatever you want about them, but the late '70s/'80s took the enormous explosion of soap fandom into prime time TV and ran with it. Shows like Dallas and Dynasty, which were ratings powerhouses, plus the smaller critics' darlings like Wiseguy (and as briank mentions, precursors like Hill Street Blues and the MTM shows that were both), no doubt influenced other shows at the end of the '80s and into the '90s.

It's great that a program like TNG embraced it, though, because I think it brought that to a new audience. I think they saw the trend, probably had people working on the show who'd worked on some of the arc-based shows, and really created an advantage in their storytelling.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:30 PM on November 13, 2020 [6 favorites]

Oh, sure. I mean, didn't Little House on the Prairie have plenty of serial elements? (And any show with children, where they inevitably grow up, will have to tackle the passage of time.) Yes, Twin Peaks was a big reference point in creating Event Television. And "Who Shot J.R.?" was the kind of national watercooler talk no show could even dream of these days. Not saying it was invented in the 90s by any means. Just that it was uncommon and mostly restricted to a certain style of 1-hour drama in 1990 but became almost universal by 2000. Tracing how it starts slowly seeping across genres and picking up speed is interesting.
posted by rikschell at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2020

If we're going to do this, we might as well go all the way back: The Fugitive. It had an overall story arc and was the first show to have a series finale.
posted by Fukiyama at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Tony Todd, Tony Todd, Tony Todd!

Maybe we got the low-rent council chamber because they blew the episode budget on that Qo’noS matte painting (or on Yesterday’s Enterprise). It’s a good piece of work.

Though now I find Klingons somewhat ridiculous, I used to think they were the greatest and this episode is still good. Loved it then because it gave more of that Klingon shit, and now because it knows their rigid honour society is ridiculous and unworkable, and gives them some nuance. And of course, great character stuff.
posted by rodlymight at 2:37 PM on November 13, 2020

Even older comedies have had stories with ongoing arcs. In the 1970s Barney Miller introduced characters in a single episode that developed lives of their own and came back repeatedly, as their stories grew. As an example, first came Marty the thief, then came his "friend" Mr. Driscoll, and with each appearance we find out more about these characters and their backstories. The gay theme continued on as there were a few episodes where IA was attempting to root out gay cops, eventually leading to Officer Zatelli revealing his orientation. Even simpler story lines progressed in arcs. There was one character who turned in a bag of found money. He put in a number of appearances checking in to see if anybody claimed it. Eventually, (IIRC), the money was turned over to him.

As for drama, in the 1980s Magnum P.I. had Thomas and his friends continually revisiting their wartime experiences and dealing with situations that arose from that time period (including a long-lost love who made more than one appearance).

I could go back further, but I think that as long as there have been standout guest stars playing compelling characters, there has the been the impetus to bring them back and to add to their stories. Some of those instances have lead to stronger arcs that others but they have been there.

Also, I just wanted to say that even though I'm not actively rewatching ST:TNG, I've been reading and enjoying the discussions and seeing how good my memory is of the episodes, just based on the title or the brief description. So far, there has only been one that drove me to Memory Alpha, and as soon as I saw a photo of the guest star, I knew exactly which episode it was.
posted by sardonyx at 2:50 PM on November 13, 2020

Yeah, and you can't underestimate the impact Star Wars and Raiders had on that, either--all of a sudden, once Lucas and Spielberg were talking about their formative influences being the movie and early TV serials of their childhood, everyone running studios was like "serialized stories, they're the in shade." Everything's cyclical.

(I will always resent Dallas like hell because they popularized the goddamn season-ending cliffhanger, which any person whose beloved show got cancelled before the cliffhanger could be resolved will tell you is pure evil. Not that I'm bitter about...I don't know, something like a twenty shows. I was not super happy with the famous one coming up here soonish! I guess it was the pre-Internet version of clickbait.)

Sardonyx, I'm curious to know which one was the episode that drove you to MA. I was doing pretty well not actively rewatching episodes and just commenting from memory, until we got to the ones I enjoyed and looked forward to seeing again. But it was astonishing how some of them had literally vanished from my memory despite seeing them many times.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:46 PM on November 13, 2020

Star Trek: The Next Conversation (I prefer this podcast over greatest gen just for the lack of the Picard pedophilia stuff, which I found triggering)

The ending with the Klingons turning their back on Worf was awesome in a heart breaking way. I thought I was very effective.
posted by kathrynm at 4:10 PM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It was "The Hunted" but as soon as I saw a photo of the main guest, my memory was triggered.
posted by sardonyx at 4:16 PM on November 13, 2020

The ending with the Klingons turning their back on Worf was awesome in a heart breaking way.

It's wonderful how that turning shun shows up again in DS9 "The House of Quark" where it's played for laughs when the villain gets his comeuppance.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:48 PM on November 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Picard pedophilia stuff

Huh? Can you elaborate on that, please?
posted by Frayed Knot at 11:06 AM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The 'Greatest Generation Podcast' podcasters have as a running joke that Wesley is being molested by Picard. I guess they thought it was funny in the vein of their regular 'we are the dick & fart jokes TNG podcast' ethos, but, it is kind of grotesque the longer the bit goes on.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

This episode was everything Worf Fangirl me could have wanted. I remember being shocked, sad, happy, and anxious about how long it would take to resolve.

I both had a crush on and massively identified with Worf, as an awkward, rules-following teen. I loved any episode that showed he was right, dammit. But this one took it a step further into tragic nobility. A useful lesson in how being idealistic and honorable doesn't guarantee you'll win.
posted by emjaybee at 1:56 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ugh, kinda sorry I asked. Thanks, oh yeah!
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:42 PM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

This episode eeeeee

It's funny how this episode pivots so breathlessly from the "guest captain" setup to the main plot like this was a classic Simpsons episode or something.

Best line is definitely "YOU are the son of a traitor! *backhand*"
posted by J.K. Seazer at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I both had a crush on and massively identified with Worf, as an awkward, rules-following teen. I loved any episode that showed he was right, dammit.

emjaybee are you me
posted by J.K. Seazer at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think I really appreciated this the first time through the middle / Paramount ST era (TNG/DS9/VOY) - before we got to the rest of the Worf / Duras arc and the whole Klingon war in DS9. But now, knowing what it's setting up? So perfect. Just fuck 'em up, Worf. Fuck 'em right up.

And so many memorable Klingon guest stars!
posted by Kyol at 7:41 PM on January 18, 2021

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