#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 15, “Sons of Mogh”

April 7, 2014 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Kurn from Deep Space Nine: "Sons of Mogh"

Family problems. Kurn from DS9, Season Four, Ep 15: “Sons of Mogh”

By the very nature of all the writing that I do, and how busy I stay, I usually only get the chance to post one of these episode reviews weeks after I’ve seen the subject. That’s usually a good thing, because I have time for any initial emotional reaction to settle and can be more objective about what I did or did not like about the latest installment.

This time, when I came back to write another review, I realized that I’d forgotten I’d watched “Sons of Mogh”. If you think that means I wasn’t engaged with this entry in the series; that I might have seen significant problems with it–well, you’re right.

The ending of “Sons of Mogh” left a bad taste in my mouth, but in hindsight I realized the plot’s resolution wasn’t the sole issue. Watching this episode was like eating a bad meal cooked by a good friend. I kept telling myself that if I just kept chewing, the flavor would grow on me. I mean, this is Worf and Kurn (Tony Todd), brothers that went through so much together over the course of The Next Generation. The entire House of Mogh arc was one of the highlights of that series. The show’s writers couldn’t possibly flub this one. It just had to be good…right?

At certain moments, to be fair, it is. Worf enduring a younger brother that is adrift and out of place strikes many of us that have dealt with challenging siblings.

Since Worf sided with the Federation against Gowron and the Empire, the House of Mogh has been stripped of titles and lands, and Kurn–who Worf had left to run things–has found himself dejected and destitute. He shows up on Deep Space Nine and places the blame for everything squarely on his brother’s shoulders.

Almost from the beginning, we’re treated with moments that are inconsistent with what we know about these two characters. Take Worf’s initial solution to the problem. When Kurn says he has nothing to live for and that his only chance of honor is a ritualistic suicide (with Worf’s assistance)…Worf agrees.

No, you read that right. This is the same Worf who once fought tooth and nail to clear his father’s name, to save the Empire from civil war, even to ensure the installation of Kahless as Klingon Emperor. And he’s going to give in to a solution that sees his brother’s death.

That doesn’t make any sense! Worf is a fighter, someone that’s tough and resilient even by Klingon standards, someone who takes the fatalistic mores of Klingon culture and spins them on their head as often as he attempts to live by them. He would in this instance, too, but the writers settle for letting all this inner strength slip and having the station’s other officers bail him out instead.

All this is rocky, odd stuff. This just isn’t the Worf that you or I know. For Kurn, it’s a little more appropriate, at least–Kurn has always been firmly rooted in Klingon traditions and culture, serving as sort of an angel on Worf’s shoulder, warning Worf never to go native during his Federation service. It makes a little more sense for him to assume the worst-case scenario and to take his fall from grace so seriously.

And to be fair, we are shown some believable moments as Worf tries his best to acclimate Kurn to service aboard the station as a member of Odo’s security detail. This goes as well as might be expected, which is to say Kurn’s service lasts exactly one shift.

During all this, as a side note, Kira and O’Brien are dealing with a Klingon plot to mine a local space lane. Try as I may, I just can’t get heavily invested in this cold war between the Feds and the Klingons. I think part of that problem is reflective of the same issues I see affecting Worf and Kurn.

Klingons go down fighting, and they aren’t subversive and indirect, either. Mining a sector is a Romulan scene. It’s not a Klingon joint. And Worf and Kurn aren’t crybabies that drown their sorrows in acts of surrender to their circumstances.

So this episode is like the middle part of this season, in general: it turns a funhouse mirror on everything we know about this people and the characters we sample from it.

Its mischief concludes with a slap in the face for anyone invested in the sons of Mogh. What happens is in many ways worse than a ritual suicide. And it never draws a single comment from Sisko. It should go against every ethical standard Doctor Bashir so often and so vehemently defends, and here we get not a peep from him. It is an act that should bother Worf even more than driving a knife into his brother’s chest. It’s something we’d say wasn’t performed on Kurn, but perpetrated against him, something any civilized culture, particularly the Federation, would describe using the word “victimized”. And yet it happens, and the viewer is left stunned.

It’s a moment that I still can’t fathom, and–like the result it creates for Kurn–it’s probably best if we simply wipe it from our memory.

At this point in season four, I’ve come to the realization that this show needs to figure out what to do with Worf, preferably in a way that doesn’t involve calving off what makes him such a great character. They can do better than this garbage.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

See the rest of the review series here.

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