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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Heart of Glory" Part One

Lieutenant Worf (above) was the Security Chief aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 D of the Federation of Planets in the long-running sci-fi television series Star Trek: The Next Generation (or the acronymTNG, as known in Trekkie lingo).

Worf was an unusual Klingon.

The Federation and the Klingon Empire had been in a Cold War of sorts in the days of the first Enterprise (naval construction contract 1701) under the command of Captain James T. Kirk a century or so before in the Star Trek timeline (a state of hostility which had been intentionally analagous to the real Cold War conflict that the nation had been in the thick of when the original series aired in 1966-1969), but had reached a truce of sorts by the time TNG rolled around (because rather than taking advantage of weakness and destroying them, the Federation's instead assisted the Klingons after a planet crucial to the empire's sustainment exploded).

Nevertheless, you wouldn't find a Klingon serving on a Federation starship--except on the Enterprise D.

The story goes that Worf's parents were killed by Romulans, and the little orphan was adopted and raised by a human couple, the Rozhenkos from Minsk, Belarus (that's on planet Earth, for all you geographically-challenged out there).

Perhaps raising the Klingon Worf in a former republic of the Soviet Union (i.e. Byelorussian SSR) was an inside tribute to the former Cold War dynamic between Klingons (i.e. communists) and the Federation (i.e. NATO) from the vintage series (known as "Classic Trek," or "TOS"--"the The Original Series"--in Trekkie lingo), but the elaborated development of the Klingon culture throughout TNG reflected the post-Cold War international realities, and the Enterprise-D resembled less a Cold War United States aircraft carrier and became more a space-faring United Nations ambassador (albeit carrying quite serious enforcement powers for violations of any treaties and resolutions), so the Klingon ethos became less of an aggressive, Marxist economic imperialism, and more a cultural, religious one.

The studio's development of the Klingon culture was intended to make it resemble that of the Japanese Samurai (or a least Western imaginations of them), i.e. a culture centred on honor and combat.

They followed the Way of the Warrior, the religious belief system developed by Kahless the Unforgettable, and value honor above all else.

Those who die with purpose and honor are said to join Kahless, who had been the first Klingon emperor, and a messianic figure in the Way of the Warrior.

So we have Worf, who is raised the human way and becomes an excellent, well-assimilated federation starship officer aboard an intercultural federation starship.

Yet he has profound, unresolved, inner conflicts.

His adoptive parents-the Rozhenkos-- were respectful of his heritage and new that, one day, he would feel compelled to seek out his full identity, and did not begrudge that, and, indeed, Worf did not go by "Worf Rozhenko," but by "Worf, son of Mogh."

Worf was self-conscious of his Klingon "otherness," and indeed often struggled to reconcile his Klingon heritage with his duty as a Federation officer.

It created paradoxes: Was he being dishonorable by serving aboard the Enterprise with humans (who were still sneered at contemptuously by generic Klingons)?

Was he betraying his heritage?

His religion?

His birthright?

His people?

But how could forsaking his loving, adoptive parents, and his oath to his uniform, be considered honorable?

That inner conflict made for some great story-lines, and the Klingon warrior yearning to howl free amidst suppressive, Federation discipline made for some classic one-liners:

"What are his rights in this century? Will there be a trial, or shall I execute him?" (from "A Fistful of Datas," TNG episode)

"If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand." (from the movie Star Trek: First Contact, to Captain Picard)

"Assimilate this!" (from Star Trek: First Contact, to Borg Drones)

"Definitely feeling aggressive tendencies, sir!" (from the movie Star Trek: Insurrection)

"Death to the opposition!" (said while playing baseball)

"Then perhaps today is a good day to die! ... Prepare for ramming speed!" (from Star Trek:First Contact)

However, although he remained true to--and indeed pursued and cultivated the best aspects of-- the Way of the Warrior, like honor, and valor, when push came to shove, Worf rejected the "War for War's Sake"zeitgeist of the Klingon Culture and reconciled himself to the superior ethos of the Federation, which operated not multiculturally, but interculturally, that is, they embraced a uniting theme: Life for Life's sake.

Live and let live.

[The Borg, of course, were what happens when even that philosophy is taken all the way unmodified, the lines become too blurred, and jars everything--yes indeed, Star Trek makes for excellent intellectual exercises]

For example, one of the emblems on Worf's sash is the crest of the House of Mogh.

He continued to wear that despite the fact that the Klingon Chancellor Gowron stripped the House of Mogh of its title and properties when Worf refused to join in the Klingon invasion of Cardassia, in the Deep Space Nine (DS9) fourth-season premiere "The Way of the Warrior."

Worf didn't care that the Klingon purists "officially" stripped him of his noble birthright.

He defined himself, and his Klingon honor was no less compromised, but indeed exalted as it rose above exclusive ideology and tribalism, and honored--and indeed improved--the integrity of the United Federation of Planets.

But that DS9 episode was not the reconciling epiphany, but more a confirmation of a conviction that Worf embraced way back in the first season of TNG, in the excellent episode "Heart of Glory":

The Enterprise beam aboard three injured Klingons from a damaged freighter.

They explain that the ship was attacked by the Ferengi (pirates), and are given hospitality.

They are actually outcasts who despise the Klingon-Federation alliance and are now fugitives.

One of the injured Klingons die and the ritual howl over the deceased stirs something primal within Worf.

At this point, early in the series, Worf still has yet to learn much about his heritage, but his search--and inner conflicts-- leaves him very open to suggestion, and this is the first time he comes into any intimate contact with purists of "The Way of the Warrior."

They passionately tell him of the Klingon's true path, and the glory of fighting--and dying--in combat while pursuing the destiny of Klingon conquest and galactic supremacy.

They lament the "weakness" and "cowardice" of the Klingon government and their betrayal of Klingon principles in accepting the unholy alliance with the federation.

The words sing to Worf's warrior spirit, and his conscience is torn.

We then learn that the two Klingon fugitives plan on hijacking the Enterprise--a galaxy-class starship-- and blaze a trail of glory across the quadrant, for the sake of Klingon "honor."

As the hijacking commences, mayhem breaks loose and one of the terrorists is killed. The remaining one gains control of engineering and threatens to blow up the dilithium crystal warp-drive chambers.

Worf asks permission from Captain Picard to allow him to go talk to the terrorist one-on-one.

Picard agrees in his firm, "Make it so" way.

As Worf enters engineering and begins climbing the ladders up to the terrorist, the terrorist is overjoyed, thinking that Worf has come around and wants to join him.

Afte realizing that Worf is there as an officer of the Federation, the Klingon passionately pleads with him to be true to his heritage and join him.

Worf, just as passionately, explains that the sign of the true warrior is not without, not fought against another, but waged within, in the heart.

Therein lies the true battle.

Therein lies the glory.

Therein lies the honor.

The Klingon, stunned speechless, lunges at Worf, but Worf is always prepared for any action, and kills the fugitive with a phaser blast.

Captain Picard walks in, and witnesses Work howling over the body of warrior he slew--in honor of the warrior.

Meanwhile, a Klingon battle-cruiser on the trail of the fugitives had arrived on the scene (which triggered the hijacking) and had been waiting on the transport of the fugitives for execution-- which is a disgraceful death for any Klingon.

They are informed of the deaths of all three terrorists.

The Klingon captain asks Worf how they died.

"They died well," he assures him (i.e. fighting).

Impressed by Worf's skills, the Klingon captain offers Worf a position on his ship.

He politely replies that he'll think about it, and the Klingons warp out.

Worf then turns to assure Picard that he plans to remain with the Enterprise.

Picard is glad to hear that.


Blogger John said...

I would think that the analagous reference is obvious.

Would Republicus, as president of the Federation, have advocated the eradication of the belligerent, de-stabilizing Klingon religion of "Kahless, the Unforgetable?"

The genocide of Klingons?

The death of Worf?

Unhinged lefties like Houstonmod and Jeff have attacked Republicus as if he said he would have.

He never did.

Republicus simply stated the FACT that Islam is hard-wired for jihad against the un-believer.

You have Islamic nations who are not on "terrorist lists" (Libya was just removed, actually), and you have "renegade" Islamists-- like the three fugitive Klingons who despise their own "moderate" government-- who consider them "weak" and betrayors of Islam.

Like the Jihadists today, in the sci-fi episode the renegades are indeed fringe extremists NOT of some "new," radical interpretation, but indeed of the "old" Way.

HOWEVER, in subsequent episodes in *TNG* and in the franchizes (e.g. *DS9*), plots involving Klingon "purists" did not revolve around a few, fringe radicals, but entire political factions with enough muscle to restore the "Old Way" across the empire.

It wasn't too hard, because the deep roots of an old tree were already there.

It was the "new" Klingons of the alliance--those that were chasing the fugiitives--who were the saplings.

Aristotle said that the best fiction "imitates life," or reflects reality.

Though Twain said that "Truth is more of a stranger than fiction."

11:33 AM  

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