Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “The Emissary”

“The Emissary”
Teleplay by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Story by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler and Thomas H. Calder
Directed by Cliff Bole

Season 2, Episode 20
Original air date: June 29, 1989
Star date: 42901.3

Mission summary

Worf “Iceman” son of Mogh keeps winning at the weekly poker games, which is a sophisticated way of letting you know the episode’s going to be about him. Before he can clean out the bridge crew completely, however, someone pages Riker about some kind of Starfleet emergency. (Yeah, sure. I bet Riker has a panic button under that table.) Picard can’t get any answers out of Starfleet Command, but they do know that a “special emissary” stuffed in a class 8 probe will be arriving shortly to debrief them.

On schedule, a coffin-sized capsule beams aboard containing one lovely looking Klingon named K’Ehleyr. Riker greets her in Klingon but her English is impeccable. Pulaski is confused by her weird bio-readings (and her sense of humor!) and K’Ehleyr explains that she’s only half-Klingon; her mother was human. She makes her introductions pleasantly until she comes to Worf. They seem to know each other…

She explains that a Klingon ship, the T’Ong, is about to awaken from its cryosleep after 75 years. The Klingons aboard went to sleep when the Empire and the Federation were still at war, and they’re going to wake up near some Federation colonies (and easy targets). A Klingon ship is on its way to rendezvous but it’s two days behind the Enterprise, so it’s up to our heroes to try to negotiate or destroy the ship before the Klingoncicles can cause massive civilian casualties. Picard assigns Worf as her special liaison despite his protests, another sign that some things, like management, will always be the same.

K’Ehleyr is no hurry, though, and bonds a little with the ship’s other halfsie–Deanna Troi. They talk about being trapped between worlds and the complications of having mixed parentage.

K’EHLEYR: Sometimes I feel there’s a monster inside of me, fighting to get out.
TROI: And it frightens you.
K’EHLEYR: Of course it does. My Klingon side can be terrifying, even to me.
TROI: It gives you strength. It’s a part of you.
K’EHLEYR: That doesn’t mean I have to like it.

She changes into a red catsuit, to better work in, and joins Worf in the laboratory. This doesn’t go so well:

K’EHLEYR: You’re not even looking at me.
WORF: I am familiar with your appearance.

They seem to have broken up six years ago, but can’t even talk about work without getting into a shouting match. Eventually she storms out and smashes some stuff in her room to release the anger, to Prove She’s Klingon. Troi suggests taking it out on the holodeck, so K’Ehleyr heads over there and pulls up Worf’s “calisthenics” regimen and starts beating up Skeletors. Worf is in a tizzy after their fight as well and can’t seem to cope with simple bridge orders. He heads to the holodeck, too, and seeing his sexy ex-girlfriend saving He-Man seems to do something to him. They fight some more, then sniff each other, then do a little masochism tango and it all fades to black for classic make-up sex.

Post-workout they confess to wishing they had done that earlier, but Worf is mulling something else over in his mind. He begins the Oath.

K’EHLEYR: I’m not going to become your wife!
WORF: You already are.
K’EHLEYR: Don’t give me that Klingon nonsense.
WORF: You would dishonor our sacred traditions?
K’EHLEYR: They’re not sacred. They’re absurd! Marrying you is out of the question for a million reasons.
WORF: None of which stopped you earlier.
K’EHLEYR: Worf, it was what it was. Glorious and wonderful and all that, but it doesn’t mean anything.
WORF: That is a human attitude.
K’EHLEYR: I am human!
WORF: You are also Klingon!
K’EHLEYR: So that means we should bond for life?
WORF: It is our way!
K’EHLEYR: Yours, not mine!
WORF: tlhIngan jIH!
K’EHLEYR: I will not take the oath!

Who knew there were Klingon third-wave feminists?

But there’s a bigger problem–the Enterprise didn’t find those Klingons before they woke up and if they try to merely disable the ship the Klingons will blow themselves up out of a sense of honor. Everyone heads to the bridge and the Klingons begin to fire on the Enterprise, then cloak. La Forge can chase them around despite their obsolete cloaking technology, but that doesn’t give a hint of how they can resolve this without anyone dying. That is, until Worf has an idea.

He and K’Ehleyr dress up like Klingons and take the captain’s and first officer’s chairs. They hail the Klingons and harangue them for firing on their ship. The T’Ong is a little skeptical but ultimately relents to “Captain Worf,” who greets them to the 24th century. Another job well done.

K’Ehleyr goes to beam aboard the T’Ong and bring them up to speed, but Worf intercepts in the transporter room. He tells O’Brien to go for a coffee break so he can say goodbye.

K’EHLEYR: I hid the truth from you. Last night did have meaning. I was tempted to take the oath with you, but it scared me. I’ve never had such strong feelings toward anyone.
WORF: Nor have I.
K’EHLEYR: Then it was more than just a point of honour. Maybe someday, when our paths cross again, I won’t be as easy to get rid of.
WORF: K’Ehleyr. I will not be complete without you.

Next week, on Days of Our Space Lives


First thing’s first: this episode has, hands-down, the absolute worst music of any episode so far in this series. These cues weren’t worthy of an ironic YouTube video. I just had to get that out of the way, because damn.

Now on to the good stuff. It’s amazing what this show can do with women if it’s a) preparing to fridge them; and b) willing to throw its men under the bus. Suzie Plakson’s K’Ehleyr is a revelation–sexy, confident, funny! She has a personality and, in stark contrast to last week’s Lwaxana Troi, her choices aren’t defined by other people’s perceptions. She also passes the Bechdel test by talking about the difficulties of mixed parentage with Deanna Troi. Was that… actual counseling? Anyway, it’s interesting and refreshing to see a Klingon who doesn’t dogmatically revere Klingon values. She obviously knows and respects the culture, but doesn’t have a lot of patience with the grunty hegemony and is willing to carve an unpopular path. This winds up being Worf in a few years, and I enjoyed that irony. Tragically, she’s doomed and anything you may have liked about her becomes fodder for crappy show reorganization next season. I have to confess that I hold grudges and I just can’t get over my resentment towards her because she’s responsible for Alexander, who I absolutely loathe. (I did create the tag “horrible horrible children,” so your mileage may vary.) For now, though, she’s vibrant and surprising and overall a lot more fun than anyone else on this ship, which is why they’re going to get rid of her as soon as possible.

K’Ehleyr’s only here in the first place because they wanted to tell a story about how stodgy and out-of-time Worf is (and boy is he!). We’ve had some peeks at Worf in the series so far, like his coming of age and his creepy fantasies, but this is our first full-fledged Worfathon, and it’s not a very flattering portrayal. I used to think K’Ehleyr was this wacky, on-the-fringe free-love Klingon, but on re-watch it’s clearly Worf that’s out of bounds with authentic Klingon culture. When Riker hangs out with the Klingons, the women aboard are more than happy to knock boots without an oath. Maybe it’s just narrative inconsistency? But it seems like Worf’s understanding of Klingon rites and honors is absurdly outdated and off-base. Everything he thinks he knows he’s basically learned from the internet. He’s got this cryptoconservative thing going on, clinging desperately to values that seem entirely irrelevant to modern culture. I feel sorry for him until he acts like an immature twit (the silent treatment? Really, Worf?) and then tries to slut-shame K’Ehleyr into a a marriage neither of them really want. Your hero, ladies and gentlemen! I have to remind myself that this is just the beginning. That Worf being a twerp is temporary, and as he becomes more familiar with his own history and his own culture he does mellow out a lot and learn to embrace the idiosyncrasies and not just the ideals. But as of now, he’s a much less charming Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.

As far as the A-plot with the Klingoncicles, it seems improbable that the Klingons wouldn’t have gone through their catalog of known cryoships to pick these guys up years ago. Presumably the T’Ong had no idea it would be out for that long. Are they really going to adjust or just commit ritual suicide? And the resolution didn’t work for me at all. Worf’s plan looked stupid and desperate, not clever. The bridge is full of Starfleet uniforms–wouldn’t you just assume that the two Klingons (well, one and a half Klingons) were prisoners put up to this? And what are the bunch of T’Ongies going to do when they find out K’Ehleyr is half-human? Picard sends her ALONE to a potential lynching? I don’t think anyone thought about these implications.

Speaking of, I can’t believe they had sex on the holodeck. Imagine if you were the guy who booked it after them, or just had to clean it up

Overall, solid. Fantastic Suzie Plakson, crappy Worf (but Michael Dorn turns in as good a performance as you’re going to get with this stuff), mediocre A-plot. We’re almost there!

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

Thread Alert: The red catsuit with awesome boots, shoulderpads, and metal armwarmers? The other red catsuit she has holosex in? The shapeless Romulan footie pajamas with crotch arrow?! Don’t make me choose!

Best Line: WORF: We are mated.
K’EHLEYR: Yes, I know! I was there!

Trivia/Other Notes: Robin Curtis was originally offered the role of K’Ehleyr but had other commitments. Ultimately Suzie Plakson was cast based on the strength of her appearance as Dr. Selar in “The Schizoid Man.” Tracy Tormé intended for Selar to be Worf’s love interest and thought making her a Klingon was too ordinary–yet another reason he left the show.

Cliff Bole came up with the kinky nail-gouging on set. He swears it just came to him, why are you all looking at him like that?!

Previous episode: Season 2, Episode 19 – “Manhunt.”

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 21 – “Peak Performance.”

About Torie Atkinson

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