…Worf’s bluffs? It starts with him winning at poker and saying he doesn’t bluff, and it ends with him dressing up like he’s a part of the Klingon Empire. Which means the Klingon’s don’t bluff part at the beginning was a bluff.
…Admiral Gromek? She’s curt, and she refuses to explain herself to Picard. She even hangs up on him. Yep. Admirals are dicks.
…Klingon names? K’Ehleyr and K’Temoc–Are we ever going to meet a Klingon beside Worf whose name doesn’t begin with K?
…Klingon sex? I kept waiting for Worf to screech at K’Ehleyr because back in The Dauphine he said that’s how a Klingon attracts a mate. In this one, he crushes her hand until her fingernails draw blood on her palm. There was no poetry at all.
…Data as chaperone? Did Picard tell the entire command staff how well it went when he used Data to evade Lwaxana’s advances? Worf brings him to work with K’Ehleyr to avoid awkward discussion about his postcoital marriage proposal and her refusal.
…recurring themes? We see the poker game from the Measure of a Man, and Worf’s workout regime from Where Silence Has Lease.
…sending an emissary who doesn’t think it’s worth her effort? How did she get this gig when she doesn’t like Klingons and from the beginning thinks the best option will be to destroy the ship. Shouldn’t an emissary be more amenable to diplomacy?
Between Worlds 1: Half human half Klingon raised among humans
In K’Ehleyr, we see a person who is the product of two cultures and grew up to hate the culture that made her different.
She is half-human and half-Klingon, and she tells Deanna she got the worst of both cultures. She has her mother’s sense of humor and her father’s Klingon temper, which she tries hard to contain. A temper–this is all she sees in her Klingon side, and she’s spent a lifetime trying to extinguish it.
Of course, she’s failed as we see when she out and out clobbers that poor glass table with the giant bull’s eye on it.
Trying to kill her Klingon half is self-hatred, and it’s making her hate the sleeping Klingons (which are just like the sleeping Klingon in her). That’s why she’s so determined to kill them, and it’s why she won’t even consider alternatives.
(By the way, she’s exhibiting Klingon fatalism when she says there’s nothing they can do.)
When she does finally consider something other than killing the Klingons, her idea is to make them sleep longer if they’re still asleep and kill them if they’re not.
She never thinks of integrating them into society just as she would never think of integrating her Klingon half into who she perceives herself to be.
Between Worlds 2: Klingon raised among humans
In Worf we see a person who is the product of two cultures and grew up to love the culture that made him different.
Growing up he didn’t have a part of himself to blame and deny to blend in, which is what K’Ehleyr did. So he learned all about the culture that made him different, which became the foundation of his identity.
We’ve seen in the past that he cares about and has idealized the good parts of the Klingon culture, especially as they pertain to honor. And it’s the kind of love a recent convert has for something new.
That’s why he acted stereotypically Klingon. You know with all that fatalism and stuff.
But one has to suspect that he sometimes wished he wasn’t different.
When he joined the crew of the Enterprise, he learned that he doesn’t have to be the same, and he learned things don’t have to be the way he always expected. He is less fatalistic because he learned on the Enterprise there are always choices. He learned not to get stuck in a moment. He learned to always try to be better.
I mean, why else would they play poker?
What Attracts Them about Each Other?
I’ll attribute her attraction to him to a subconscious desire to end her self-hatred, accept all of what she is, and incorporate it into who she is.
I’ll attribute his attraction to her to a subconscious desire be more human. To love not only his racial heritage, but also the culture that he grew up in.
Sex at Last (or what happens when the two finally move towards each other?)
Once they have sex, she is forced to ask herself how Klingon she wants to be, and he is forced to ask himself how human he wants to be. Klingon culture requires they get married (which makes me wonder about the Klingon women flirting with Riker in A Matter of Honor).
Worf is all in, but K’Ehleyr hesitates. She gets all human. What about our lives and our careers? she asks. It was meaningless sex. That hurts Worf and he refuses to believe it. She says you don’t care about me as an individual you only care about your honor. He’s like, What?
But when Worf’s bluff shows her people can change, she comes to see that just as Klingons from the past can transition into the present without being killed, her identity from the past, the one that denied her Klingon-ness, could transition. She could learn to accept that part of herself. She ends the show by going to join the Klingons.
Worf, for his part, acts more human. He tells her how he feels and admits that he loves her. He says he is incomplete without her, but in the end, he stays on the human ship, their needs leading them to different destinations.
Morals, Messages, and Meanings
- Accept yourself for who you are.
- Don’t let opinions about yourself cloud your judgement of others.
- Always keep improving.
- There’s always an alternative.
- People can change.
- Don’t break tables.
- There’s room in the future for everyone.
Does it hold up?
This is an awesome episode, and it deals so well with complex ideas by being both explicit and implicit. K’Ehleyr’s story is explicit–she’s struggling against her Klingon half. Worf’s is implicit–he’s come to terms with his place in the federation and that has changed who he is.
More than that I love how the actress playing K’Ehleyr portrayed her character. She reminds me of Lauren Bacall. She seems to belong to the same school of acting, and she even has the same cadence in speech. It matches so perfectly with Michael Dorn’s performance, which is far more subtle. The rippling in his jaws is all the emotion he shows. Fantastic performance by both.
There are those little problems like the weird false tension of hurrying out to meet a probe carrying a passenger, or the the ridiculous admiral, or the obviousness of the table she’s going to break, and such. But ultimately it doesn’t matter because the rest of the storytelling delivers well.
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