The Enterprise is scouting the Gamma Arigulon system for anomalies reported by another ship. As they are chasing the latest sensor readings, a Klingon warship decloaks without warning and hails the Enterprise. It's K'Ehleyr, the human-Klingon FederationKlingon Ambassador from "The Emissary," who brings urgent news about the political state of the Klingon Empire.
Picard asks Worf to greet their guest in the transporter room, though Worf is hesitant after the events of "Sins of the Father."
Picard: Lieutenant, you are a member of this crew, and you will not go into hiding whenever a Klingon vessel uncloaks.
Worf: I withdraw my request, sir.
It may also have to do with the fact that he and K'Ehleyr had a... complicated relationship at their last encounter. In case anyone forgot, she brings along a surprise reminder—a young Klingon boy named Alexander.
K'Ehleyr brings news of an impending political crisis in the Empire. Chancellor K'mpec, aboard her ship, is dying, and requests an audience with Picard. He tells Picard that he has been terminally poisoned, most likely by one of the two candidates looking to fill the power vacuum he is about to leave behind, which is why he has unilaterally named Picard as Arbiter of Succession. It will be Picard's responsibility to name the next Chancellor of the High Council. Preferably after he has disqualified one of them for murdering K'mpec. A Klingon Promotion is one thing, but only the lowest of the low would resort to poison. Picard isn't pleased by this, but doesn't have much choice.
If Worf expected his discommendation to repulse his erstwhile lover, he was mistaken. K'Ehleyr is actually quite pleased to see him again, though frustrated by his insistence on playing the martyr. She neither believes nor cares about his father's alleged treason. In contrast to their last encounter, this time K'Ehleyr is the one who wants them to be together, but Worf refuses—not just for her sake, but for his son's, since acknowledging his parentage would make Alexander a pariah from Klingon society as well.
Shortly after K'mpec's death, the new challengers arrive. One is Gowron, an obscure politician no one knows much about. The other is Duras. The same Duras whose political influence forced Worf's father to take the fall for the Khitomer Massacre in place of his own.
Duras: One hour!? What is the delay?
Picard: There is no delay. It is the time I have chosen.
The ceremony is going smoothly until a bomb explosion brings things to a sudden halt. The only casualties were redshirts (or whatever the Klingon equivalent is), which neither Gowron nor Duras seem too concerned about. The Enterprise takes things a bit more seriously, and through forensic investigation discovers two interesting facts: first, the bomb used Romulan technology, and second, it had been implanted inside the arm of one of the dead guards—Duras's guard. To buy them more time to investigate, Picard invokes the ja'chuq, an ancient ritual that calls for some lengthy chest-thumping by the claimants before judgment is rendered.
Meanwhile, K'Ehleyr has been growing more suspicious about the circumstances surrounding Worf's supposed dishonor. Neither he nor Picard are forthcoming about what happened that day. She starts poking around in some classified files for answers, which draws the attention of Duras. He sneaks out to confront her, but K'Ehleyr refuses to be intimidated, so Duras murders her right then and there.
Worf and Alexander find her nearly dead soon after. She has just enough breath to name her killer.
Worf rushes over to Duras's ship. Despite his low standing, his right to avenge the death of his mate takes precedence, and no one on the crew lifts a finger to stop him from challenging Duras to a Duel to the Death. Duras's attempts to talk his way out of it fall on deaf ears. The fight ends with Riker arriving just in time to see Duras Impaled with Extreme Prejudice.
Gowron ascends to the Chancellorship by default and no one on the High Council questions the legality of Worf's actions. Picard is considerably less pleased by his conduct as an officer, entering a reprimand into his permanent record for going AWOL. He also encourages Worf to break his silence over Khitomer now that Duras is dead, but Worf refuses, knowing the Council will still fight him to hide their complicity in the lie.
Finally, in the wake of K'Ehleyr's death, Worf decides to send Alexander to live with his foster parents back on Earth, but not before letting the boy know the truth he already suspected.
Worf: Yes. I am your father.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Almost Dead Guy: Duras mortally wounds K'Ehleyr but doesn't finish her off—she still has a few minutes left when Worf and Alexander drop in. It's long enough to tell him that it wasn't Gowron, leaving only Duras.
- Back for the Dead: K'Ehleyr, Duras, and K'mpec. All previously established characters, all dead by the end credits.
- Big "WHAT?!": Two from Gowron, complete with what will become his signature super-eyeball stare. First, when Picard announces the ja'chuq, and a bigger one when Worf later reveals the Sonchi bombing used Romulan technology.
- Bittersweet Ending: Worf gives Duras the death he deserves and spares the Empire his treachery, but it doesn't bring K'Ehleyr back or return his lost honor.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Why didn't Duras make sure K'Ehleyr was dead to lessen the likelihood someone would happen upon her and find out he did it?
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Played with after Worf kills Duras. The Klingons let him off the hook because he followed their law to the letter. (Later episodes mention some Klingons were happy he got rid of Duras.) Picard, however, reprimands Worf for defying Federation law and notes that in his file.
- And before that, there's the fact he got K'Ehleyr pregnant.
- Cool Starship: The Vor'cha-class cruiser is introduced, and goes on to be a prime ass-kicking machine throughout TNG and DS9.
- Corrupt Politician: This episode further establishes the endemic corruption of the Klingon government that continues to be a theme through DS9. Duras is his usual perfidious self. Gowron, while certainly the better pick for Chancellor, isn't above resorting to backroom deals to get ahead, and he only gets worse from here.
- Dead Man Walking: K'mpec. He knows damn well that he's been poisoned, and he wants Picard to find his murderer. Notable in that, while the Klingons find assassination a perfectly legal way to ascend to the chancellorship, they are supposed to do it openly by challenging the current chancellor and fighting him in a duel, not by using a cowardly method like poison. This is the only reason there is any controversy.
- Foreshadowing: Before dying, K'mpec states that whoever poisoned him has no honor and is capable of anything, including war with the Federation. While later in "Redemption", Duras's alliance with the Romulans threatens conflict with the Federation, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Apocalypse Rising", Chancellor Gowron establishes a war between the Klingons, the Cardassians, and the Federation (albeit, largely due to the influence of the Changeling imposter of General Martok). Hence, neither candidate is above a sneaky assassination.
- Dead-Hand Shot: The camera focuses on K'Ehleyr's hand joining Worf's and Alexander's. Then it goes limp.
- Establishing Character Moment: Gowron makes his presence felt — first with his wide, wild eyes, then with his purring death threats.
- Got Volunteered: K'mpec's reasoning for appointing Picard as Arbiter of Succession before even speaking to him is quite straightforward.K'mpec: If I'd asked, you would have said no.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Starfleet security officer calls to Duras's aide that he needs an escort when he storms out of his quarters, allowing Duras to sneak out to confront K'Ehleyr. Literally one extra guard would have foiled this brilliant plan. Duras subsequently murders K'Ehleyr.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Duras vs Gowron and his bug-eyes. Maybe that's what the ja'chuq is actually about.
- Harmful to Minors: Alexander witnessing his mother's death.Worf: You have never seen death? [Alexander shakes his head] Then look... and always remember.
- Heartbroken Badass: Worf lets out a devastating howl when K'Ehleyr dies. It's the Klingon Death Wail, but there's as much anguish as ritual.
- Holding the Floor: Inverted. Picard chooses the older, more traditional version of the Klingon Rite of Ascension in order for both Gowron and Duras to filibuster themselves, proving their leadership and buying more time for the Enterprise crew to determine which contender ordered the bombing.
- Honor Before Reason: Worf would rather kill the man, Duras, who killed K'Ehleyr, than have his innocence proven. Ironically, in doing so he's putting one kind of honour (his duty to avenge his mate) ahead of another (the good name of his family). (Then again, at this point, Worf rightfully thinks Duras will simply break any promises he gives.)Duras: I'm the only one, Worf—the only one who can prove your innocence. Kill me and you're a traitor forever.
Worf: Then that is how it shall be!
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Worf drives his bat'leth blade into Duras's chest.
- Insignia Ripoff Ritual: Worf takes off his baldric as he prepares to avenge K'Ehleyr. Then he pauses, takes off his Starfleet badge, and drops it carelessly onto a table—that he doesn't even pause when it falls to the ground shows just how intense his emotions are.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: (or de-Klingonizing) A variant. Duras refers to Worf as that, as in, "what is that doing here?"
- It's Personal: When Worf mentions that K'Ehleyr was his mate, the other Klingons on Duras's ship immediately back off and let the fight happen.
- Karmic Death:
- K'mpec is (possibly) assassinated by the man he sacrificed the honor of the Klingon Empire to protect.
- Worf brings a hefty helping of karma right onto the bridge of Duras's ship.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Duras duels Worf with a Yan, a Klingon equivalent of a katana.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: While it is established immediately that Worf is Alexander's father, Worf refuses to publicly acknowledge his relationship due to his discommendation, fearing that Alexander would share his disgrace. It's only in the end that Worf admits to Alexander that he is his father.note
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": Once Worf says "K'Ehleyr was my mate", the rest of Duras's security drop him like a hot potato rather than get it in Worf's way.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Duras brushes off Worf's invoking the Rite of Vengeance because of the discommendation. His smugness evaporates when Worf says in front of everyone, "K'Ehleyr... was my mate."
- Another one from Duras just after Worf's Shut Up, Hannibal! comeback (see Honor Before Reason above) as Duras realizes he can't talk his way out of the fight.
- Perfect Poison: Averted for dramatic effect. K'mpec knows he's been poisoned, he even knows the poison! It's been done over a couple of months; by the time symptoms appear, it's too late. It's enough time for him to appoint Captain Picard to be his arbiter of succession.
- Reality Ensues: Sure, Worf got his revenge. But he wasn't going to get that revenge without repercussions from the Federation. Riker calling to Worf before the fatal blow hammers that point home.
- Riddle for the Ages: Ultimately, we never learn for sure who assassinated K'mpec. Evidence in this show (as well as Word of God) suggests Duras, but events in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine suggest it could have been Gowron.
- She Knows Too Much: K'Ehleyr is killed by Duras when she starts looking into the sealed records of what happened at Khitomer and realizes that Duras's father was the traitor.
- Say My Name: Riker arrives on the Klingon ship's bridge to stop Worf and screams out his name just as Duras is disarmed. Worf ignores him and kills Duras anyway.
- Stuffed in the Fridge: K'Ehleyr, and quite deliberately on the writers' part. According to the Official Episode Guide: "We wanted to get Worf to the point where he was going to take Duras apart, and that would only happen if she died."
- Unstoppable Rage: Worf, natch.
- Villainous Valor: To give Duras his credit, as soon as Worf establishes his Right of Vengeance he calls for his sword and fights him head-on without flinching, although he does try to convince Worf to back down once he realises how strong the Son of Mogh really is.
- Wham Shot: Worf seeing his son for the first time.
- Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: While it is established who was working for the Romulans, who planted the bomb, and who killed K'Ehleyr, it is never determined who poisoned K'mpec. Word of God is that it was Duras, but this is never explicitly stated in the series proper.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Picard disciplines Worf for violating Federation law in pursuit of vengeance.Picard: Mr. Worf, your service aboard the Enterprise has been exemplary... until now.
- Worth It: Worf's attitude at the end makes it pretty clear that killing Duras was totally worth Picard's reprimand.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: K'Ehleyr finally agrees to "the oath," but Worf stops it midway to spare her and Alexander his dishonor.