Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “Heart of Glory”

“Heart of Glory”
Teleplay by Maurice Hurley
Story by Maurice Hurley and Herbert Wright & D.C. Fontana
Directed by Rob Bowman

Season 1, Episode 20
Original air date: March 21, 1988
Star date: 41503.7

Mission summary

The Enterprise is called out to the Neutral Zone to investigate a recent battle involving a Talarian freighter. Some life signs are aboard, so Riker, Data, and Geordi beam over to the ship, with Geordi transmitting VISOR-cam back to the Enterprise. The away team pokes through the damaged vessel until eventually they stumble upon the survivors, but they’re not Talarian or Romulan: they’re Klingon.

They are beamed back to the Enterprise just before a spectacular explosion of stock footage and the survivors relate their suspiciously glorious story to Picard. The Klingons are Korris, Konmel, and Kunivas (in critical condition). Korris explains that a Ferengi ship attacked the freighter, but Worf says the weapons are clearly Klingon. Undeterred by the intrusion of fact, Korris relates their cunning in defeating the “Ferengis.” Unfortunately, this glory is short-lived, as Kunivas gives up the ghost. Korris, Konmel, and Worf perform the Klingon death ritual–looking into the dying man’s eyes and screaming.

Korris and Konmel initially distrust Worf, calling him “docile,” “tamed,” and “gentle” from living with humans his whole life. Worf admits that he has never lived among his own people, but argues that beneath his calm exterior is the force of a great typhoon. Raging fires may also be involved. Either way, Starfleet taught him to control, but not tame, that inner nature. Korris and Konmel are impressed by this personal history and decide to reveal the truth of their encounter aboard the freighter. They are outcasts from the Klingon empire, rejecting the peace treaty with the Federation as “like a living death for warriors like us.” They were in search of a place to be all manly and stuff, so they commandeered the freighter and used it to destroy the Klingon ship sent to recall them to the Empire. Worf is horrified that they would kill their own, but Korris says that the souls of those Klingons had been corrupted by peace anyway.

Picard, meanwhile, is contacted by K’Nera, a Klingon commander. He demands that Picard turn over the survivors, who are wanted criminals. Picard has no choice but to comply and sends Yar with a security team to take them into custody. They plead with Worf to intervene but he’s a Starfleet officer first. After a brief near-hostage situation with an adorable child, the Klingons are taken into custody. Alas, this is to be brief, as the Klingons assemble a disruptor from various bits and bobs of their costume, disable the forcefield holding them, and take out both security guards. Konmel dies in the attempt but Korris makes it to Engineering and holds the dilithium chamber hostage, demanding to speak to Worf.

Worf, who had begged K’Nera to let the men die honorably on a remote planet (no dice, rules are rules and traitors are traitors), agrees to speak to Korris. He tries to explain that Korris has gone a little cray-cray:

WORF: My brother, it is you who does not see. You look for battles in the wrong place. The test of the warrior is not without, it is within. Here, here we meet the challenge. It is the weaknesses in here a warrior must overcome.

Korris isn’t a fan of this answer and tries to shoot Worf, but Worf gets him first. Korris tumbles through many levels of engineering, mortally wounding himself. Worf races to the bottom and manages to perform the Klingon death ritual before Korris finally dies.

Back on the bridge, Worf explains to K’Nera that all three surviving Klingons no longer have an adjective. K’Nera is impressed, and invites Worf to serve his next tour of duty aboard the Klingon ship. Worf says he is honored by the invitation, but as soon as the call is over quickly explains to Picard that he was just being polite.


This is the first episode of the series that has reminded me why I loved this show. Deciding to focus on the characters and tell a story around them rather than trying to fit these characters around a story sets this episode apart from those that came before it. Worf gets to emerge from the shadows of the supporting cast and fill a Spock-like role, the man caught between worlds, who feels like a stranger in a strange land no matter where he happens to be. It’s a solid character arc that feels a little cliche by now, but it’s easy to forget how poorly this can be handled, and how well Star Trek winds up doing by Worf.

Worf spends most of the first season as half-angry black man and half-comic relief, and it isn’t until now when they flesh out Klingon culture a bit that he gets some depth to him. As the series went on he wound up being among my favorite characters, and I see a lot of the beginnings of that with “Heart of Glory.” We finally hear Worf’s tragic past and begin to understand his position. Being the only Klingon in Starfleet is more than a curiosity. For the first time we see a character who may be ashamed of, rather than proud of, serving in the fleet. This was a great choice. I really like the idea that serving in Starfleet isn’t the ideal of success to everyone in the known universe, and other cultures have other values. It also makes Worf’s decision to serve a real choice, rather than obvious trajectory, as it is for so many others we meet.

Moreover, we’re introduced to what will be a central theme of Worf’s character: the dilemma of what makes a “true” Klingon, and what the difference is between that and a race traitor. Korris and Konmel certainly believe that they are the former and Worf is the latter, which creates a tension that, unfortunately, I think the show was just not quite at this stage prepared to deal with in a nuanced fashion. It’s too obvious too early on that Worf’s vision of the empire is the “right” one, when the show would have really benefited from making this murkier. That Worf must constantly prove his “Klingonness,” however, is a thread we’ll see again and again, both among his own people and among aliens. My problem, in the end, is that “Heart of Glory” feels more like it should be the end of Worf’s character arc, and not the beginning of it. He’s too sure of himself and the show validates his view too quickly to allow for a more interesting conversation. But we do get a taste of the difficulty that Worf faces both among other Klingons and among aliens.

One detail I really appreciated was that at no point does Picard ever question Worf’s loyalty. There’s no discussions, discreetly or publicly, about whether Worf will side with the renegades. Picard has absolute faith in his officer. It’s a minor thing, but it’s an important one. Something I really didn’t like: the whole VISOR sequence. If this VISOR works by translating external stimuli into electromagnetic signals easily interpretable by the brain, there’s absolutely no reason why the ship should be unable to wifi into it at any given moment and translate these signals into classic ROYGBIV visual spectrum. If a tricorder can do a visual spectrum analysis, why can’t the VISOR? Now, there’s no reason why Geordi would see only the visual spectrum–it would be only one of many layers of information he receives–but there is no reason that the ship couldn’t filter out the extra information in a way that his brain cannot. I know it’s supposed to be all cool and futuristic, but it doesn’t work for me, and the worst part is when Picard says, “Now I’m beginning to understand him” in the most condescending way possible. No, you’re not understanding him. You’re merely seeing what he sees. When you and Riker both examine the captain’s chair, are you beginning to understand Riker? No, so stop it.

As an intro to the soon-to-be important Klingon civil war thread that will occupy much of the later seasons, this does work. We see the stirrings of resentment against the alliance, and while Korris and Konmel are villains, we do sympathize with their feelings of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nostalgia for a glorious past is universal to any place or time, but again I felt that Worf’s “correct” position rejects Korris’ vision of an alternate Klingon empire too quickly and too surely to make the most of the idea. There’s still too much Roddenberry here–the characters are just too perfect. As the Klingon civil war evolves, however, we will see Worf be more mixed in his loyalties, and as a result some more complex stories. Most interesting is that the Empire eventually develops an identity crisis that parallels Worf’s, and every Klingon becomes torn between longing for a “purer” past and evolving to suit a changing future.

I’m looking forward to it.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 4 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: Perhaps to the episode’s credit, there are no particularly egregious costume fouls in this episode. I suppose I’ll have to mention the Klingon warrior uniforms, which I actually quite like. They feel militaristic but utilitarian–you get the sense a warrior would actually wear this because it’s flexible and allows mobility. And they made me realize that we have yet to get an explanation for Worf’s baldric.

Best Line: PICARD: Look over at Data. There’s an aura around Data.
LAFORGE: Well, of course. He’s an android.
PICARD: You say that as if you think that’s what we all see.
LAFORGE: Don’t you?
RIKER (as the ship starts to fall apart): Sir, I hate to break this up, but…

Trivia/Other Notes: This episode marks the first reference to the Talarians, who won’t appear onscreen until Season 4’s “Suddenly Human.”

Vaughn Armstrong, who plays Korris, has the distinction of having played thirteen different characters in Star Trek across four different series. I remember him as Danar on DS9 but you can see all of his roles here.

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 19 – “Coming of Age.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 21 – “The Arsenal of Freedom.”

About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.