Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sons of Mogh   Rewatch 
February 21, 2016 7:09 PM - Season 4, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Worf's brother Kurn arrives on the station, and asks Worf to kill him. Meanwhile, Klingon ships are detected outside Bajoran space.

From Memory Alpha, and the episode's captioning:

- In Ronald D. Moore's original draft of the teleplay for this episode, when Kurn arrives on the station, Worf refuses to perform the Mauk-to'Vor ritual, and the episode concerns Worf trying to find Kurn a job, all the while Kurn continually pleading with Worf to kill him. According to Moore, the problem with this draft was that all of the tension was built upon the fact that the audience didn't know if eventually Worf might give in and actually acquiesce to Kurn. However, "you knew Worf wasn't going to kill his brother and the rest was all very by-the-numbers stuff." It was while trying to instill more tension in the episode that Moore hit on the notion to have Worf actually perform the ritual, and not at the end of the episode, but right up front at the start. According to Moore, he was hoping that this unexpected move on Worf's part would make the audience "sit up and go 'Whoaa!'."

- This episode contains the first hint of a possible attraction between Worf and Jadzia Dax. The writers put Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell together in this episode mainly to see if they had any on-screen chemistry. When it was discovered they had, the writers decided to make them a couple. While hinting at the possibility of a future romance between these two characters, Ronald D. Moore also wanted to insert a line that made it clear Worf was no longer involved with Deanna Troi from the USS Enterprise-D, however he was unable to find an appropriate place in the script without it sounding like mindless exposition, and in the end, he decided to remove the reference altogether.

- Commenting on Worf's line, "I have no family.", Ronald D. Moore said: "On one level, Worf was speaking of the fact that he cut his ties to the family of Mogh when he let Kurn go. On another level, I think that it was a Freudian slip, and that Worf has psychologically distanced himself from Alexander."

- Ronald D. Moore commented on the episode that "People seem to have liked it. I think the one criticism I've heard several times is that people have objected to Worf wiping his brother's memory at the end, that it was immoral or that he had gone too far in doing it. I understand that point of view, but it felt as if, in Klingon terms and in Worf's mind, he was giving his brother the only way out. Worf, I think, is caught in the crux of a dilemma where he doesn't want to kill his brother because he is more Human than he thought he was, but at the same time he's very strongly Klingon and understands that his brother cannot go on with his honor being torn from him like this. So he really had to find a third way out, and giving his brother a new life and a new chance to be somebody else seemed like the best to Worf. So I justified the decision in my mind in that sense. The one thing that is a more legitimate criticism is that we never showed the scene where Worf went to Dr. Bashir and talked to him about it and got him to agree. I take it as read that off-camera that scene did occur, that he did have that discussion, and that Bashir ultimately came around to the point of view of understanding that it's a Klingon thing and that he could see the logic behind that Worf was doing and agree to do it. But the way the show plays out ultimately, there is a little bit of a feeling that you go to Bashir's laboratory to to get your memory wiped, and that he is the mad scientist".

"Mr. Worf, I want you to tell me why I shouldn't put you on the next transport out of here."
"You are well within your right to do so."
"I'm not talking about my rights. Answer my question."
"Captain, I do not have an answer. Sir, I realize my actions were in violation of Starfleet regulations--"
"Regulations? We're not talking about some obscure technicality, Mr. Worf. You tried to commit premeditated murder."
"Benjamin, it wasn't murder. Worf and Kurn were performing a Mauk-to'Vor ritual. It's part of Klingon belief that when--"
"At the moment, I don't give a damn about Klingon beliefs, rituals, or custom! Now, I have give you both a lot of leeway when it comes to following Klingon traditions but in case you haven't noticed, this is not a Klingon station and those are not Klingon uniforms you're wearing. There is a limit to how far I'll go to accommodate cultural diversity among my officers and you've just reached it! When your brother is released from the infirmary you'd better find another way to settle your family problems. Is that clear?!"
"Captain, it may not be possible--"
"Uh, it's clear. There are definitely other possibilities for Kurn. This will never happen again."
"You're damned right it won't! Now, both of you--get out!"

--Sisko, Worf, and Dax
posted by Halloween Jack (6 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It is very interesting to compare Tony Todd's performance as Old Jake in The Visitor versus his performance here (and in other episodes) as Worf's brother Kurn. Both performances are great, but I actually give a slight nod to his performance as Kurn. It's easier to balance on the knife-edge of overdoing it as a Klingon, I guess, which makes the performance more fun.

I have slowed down in my DS9 watching recently, because my wife significantly prefers "ST: Enterprise" over any other Trek series, so we have been watching that. One coincidental point of comparison between Enterprise and this episode is the constant winking at the audience about the formation of the Prime Directive as the Enterprise crew consistently stumbles into thorny situations as they explore. I've always felt that the Prime Directive doesn't make much sense, as writers necessarily ignore it every time they want the crew of any Trek series to save the day. This episode of DS9, and in particular, the exchange quoted above between Sisko, Dax and Worf, shows the limits the writers felt they could go to adhere to the Prime Directive. Sure, as a modern viewer, I get why the writers felt that Sisko had to interfere, but as someone who really appreciates truly speculative sci-fi, it seems that the Prime Directive might have already produced a test case whereby Federation officers have to be hands-off when it comes to Klingon rituals... I dunno. It seems like it would have been more internally consistent with the larger Trek ethos for Sisko et al to allow Kurn to die. Worf also wasn't allowed much explanation to the viewers. Where do we sit now, in terms of Worf's ethics?
posted by Slothrop at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Where do we sit now, in terms of Worf's ethics?

Well, I'm pretty sure that Worf on some level really believes that Kurn could have gone to Sto-Vo-Kor if he'd been allowed to complete the ritual; this is a guy who earnestly told Dax that he'd had a vision of Kahless as a teenager, and also argued with Riker about being able to commit suicide when it looked like he'd be paralyzed for life. (He only backed down and consented to experimental surgery when Riker turned it around on him and said that Alexander would have to be the one to assist.) He clearly thinks that the Mauk-to'Vor is the right thing to do, just as he thought that killing Duras was the right thing to do, even though it triggered the Klingon Civil War, and just as he'll make a decision that will effectively end his promotion through the ranks. He won't disobey Sisko's direct order not to do it, but of all the conflicting emotions he goes through in this episode, regret at "having" to kill his brother (as opposed to sorrow at feeling compelled to do so) doesn't seem to be one of them.

In terms of Starfleet/Federation ethics, the Prime Directive, etc., some of that may be up to the commanding officer's discretion; it may seem odd that there could be wiggle room in the Prime Directive, but AFAIK there has never been a definitive statement of what exactly the Prime Directive is, in terms of its actual wording. Regardless, though, I think that Sisko's focus was on the behavior of Worf as a Starfleet officer; even though Worf is in fact wearing part of a Klingon uniform, and it is in fact a Cardassian-built Bajoran station that the Federation is co-managing, he's still expecting Worf to play by Federation rules, which apparently prohibiting killing your brother even if it's part of your homeworld's code and you've got a special knife for it and everything. (Which makes me wonder if Spock might not have been courtmartialed for killing Kirk as part of the koon-ut-kal-if-fee if Kirk had, in fact, been dead. But anyway.)

I also wish that they'd done that scene with Bashir, preferably with him discussing it directly with Kurn. Bashir had, after all, previously saved Kurn's life twice when Kurn wanted to die, and Bashir had to know Kurn's wishes after the second time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Once again Tony Todd is awesome, so watchable, and one of the best portrayals of a Klingon in the whole of Trek. And, I have to admit, Worf is better in DS9 than he ever was on TNG. But yet again it is full of the Klingon baloney in the form of a death/murder ritual to get into the hero's afterlife. Seriously, how did these people ever develop Warp drive and teleporters and cloaking? The B-plot with the mines seems a bit tacked on to fill the time out as well, nothing much happens there (I can't remember if there are any longer term consequences of these actions, but my memory seems to think not.)

Not a great episode, but not the worst of Trek either.
posted by marienbad at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2016

That scene where Kurn says that he and Worf should have been raised together, whether in the Federation or in the Empire, was pretty powerful.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:10 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

I’d certainly agree that the episode as it aired has some pretty yikes-y medical ethics.

Assisted suicide is a bright red line that the Federation will not cross, but everybody’s totally cool with non-consentually erasing another person’s memories and giving them a false identity?

This didn’t even need an extra scene – if Bashir simply asked Kurn “Are you sure?” the conclusion would have been 50x less disturbing.
posted by schmod at 10:32 AM on March 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

Impressed that Bashir could find the instructions for the memory wipe procedure in his textbooks! I think maybe he agreed to the procedure b/c he was getting sick of bringing Kurn back to life.
posted by polecat at 3:52 PM on February 16

« Older Movie: From Dusk Till Dawn...   |  Adventure Time: Summer Showers... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments