Truth be told, I’ve been waiting for this episode for a while now. When I first heard about it, it got my attention, and I was really interested to see how it turned out, mostly due to the casting, and the use of Dax as a character who is, in certain respects, far older than she looks.
See, there are these three old Klingons…
OK, old Klingons is one thing, but someone had the ingenious idea to bring back three Klingons from the original series, all played by the same actors. Yes, this time they have head ridges and none of these characters appeared together before (or will again), but after going through the original series in its entirety, knowing that three of Captain Kirk’s one-off adversaries return in more of a protagonist’s role, well, it got my attention.
So, we get John Colicos’s Kor, William Campbell’s Koloth, and Michael Ansara’s Kang on the station, all of them past their prime, and I was sitting there wondering how long Klingons even live. Odo at one point guesses Kor is a hundred years old and Koloth 150, and he isn’t the type of character to make wild assumptions or jokes along those lines.
Regardless, because Star Trek thrives online, I did find someone put together an image showing these actors in their respective roles both in the original show and on Deep Space Nine.
No, no one explains why they have forehead ridges this time. Quite frankly, I don’t much care.
Now, one thing about the newer Treks is they never relied heavily on appearance from cast members of older series. True, there were always some, especially around anniversaries and the like, but they never went out of their way to, say, fill in what happened to Sulu and Chekov after the last time we saw them. There were a few episodes to spotlight original series characters suddenly in the future, but for the most part, those were the exceptions and not the rule.
So, while the plot of this one was fine enough–Kang summons the others to the station to fulfill a blood oath against an albino Klingon who had murdered all of their sons, with Kang’s son also being Curzon Dax’s godson, and after Dax convinced the three to let her come along, Koloth and Kang would die in the attempt and she returns saddened and quiet to her duty station–I was more interested in the Klingons themselves.
Koloth, arguably, gets the least amount of attention, but he’s here less the cocky jackass who seemed to delight in running into Kirk in a manner to ruin Kirk’s day and more a master of the bat’leth, one of the finest alive. Dax convinces him to let her come along by challenging him to a duel, and even though she loses, she still gets to accompany the trio as far as he is concerned.
Kor has become a fat old drunk living in the past. He’s more of a comedic character, apparently inspired by Shakespeare’s Falstaff. This is the guy who seemed like the fiery warrior commander that Kirk matched wits with, the first Klingon to ever appear anywhere. I can see how he might have ended up this way over the past 80 years. It feels like a guy whose glory days are behind him, but he’s still living in the past. Dax gets through to him rather easily by appealing to his pride.
But then there’s Kang, arguably the least changed of the trio. I noted in my write up for his episode that Ansara, also the voice of Mr. Freeze on Batman the Animated Series, has a real gravitas to his voice and manner. Of the three, he gets the most attention. He’s an old man, bemoaning the loss of traditional ways, and while he is the one who needs the least convincing that Dax is still Dax, he also needs the most convincing to bring her along. As Kira and Sisko both know (and both are against Dax’s going), Trills do not carry over obligations from one incarnation to another. Furthermore, his reason for going is something he’s hiding from both Koloth and Kor: he is basically going out to die a warrior’s death. He notes with dismay how horrible it was for a fighter like Curzon, someone he negotiated with to bring about peace between the Klingon Empire and the Federation, to die in a hospital bed. It’s not a death he wants, and it’s not a death he gets.
Beyond that, there’s also the question of whether or not Dax will kill anyone on this mission. That, for Starfleet, is a capital crime, one Dax can never come back from. We never quite see if Dax would kill anyone. Anyone she crosses paths with arguably is knocked unconscious rather than dies, and though she is the last one standing as Koloth dies, Kang is dying, and Kor is seeing to Koloth, it is still Kang who strikes the killing blow. It…somewhat fits for dramatic purposes. Dax was not sure how much she could bring herself to use lethal force, Kang “deserved” the honor of the kill more on multiple dramatic levels, and that way Dax can keep her hands relatively clean.
But at the same time, it does have that equivocating aspect of some many Dax-based episodes. What did I learn about Jadzia Dax? Maybe not much. But that is a pattern for Dax episodes, and I was here for the Klingons. To that end, I was pleased.