“We Klingons often tout our prowess in battle, our desire for glory and honor above all else. But how hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it with? Honor gives little comfort to a man alone in his home. And in his heart.”
— General Martok
Wedding episodes are a sure sign that a show is getting a bit long in the tooth. To loyal viewers, though, they’re nearly always welcome. As you’ve been living with these characters for several years now and their romantic entanglements have become bizarrely important. There’s a reason shipping is one of the most recognizable and ubiquitous forms of modern fandom. For a Star Trek show, wedding episodes give the unique opportunity to explore the marriage customs of an alien culture. And though these are distressingly hetero-normative (something that becomes more glaringly obvious as progress marches along in the real world), they are still a lot of fun.
I mean, come on. Ferengi weddings sound like hideously sexist affairs, with their bridal auctions and latinum dances, but don’t they provide a little texture to our favorite hard-charging alien capitalists? Here’s the crazy thing, when this episode was broadcast in 1997, there had been three seasons of OG Trek, seven seasons of TNG, eight movies, and we were in the midst of the sixth season of DS9 and fourth season of Voyager. And through all that time, we had never seen a Klingon wedding.
Crazy, right? The Klingons are the defining race of Star Trek. More so even than the Vulcans, who (though a popular and important part of Trek’s fabric) faded in prominence after TOS. The galaxy, though, is lousy with Klingons. Even a devoted Niner like myself not only acknowledges the importance of Klingons, but really just likes those spine-headed nuts. They’re a good time.
Ron Moore, who is most famous these days for running the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, was also the Trek writer who had done more to define the Klingons than any other. And yes, I’m including the guys who invented the race back in the ‘60s — the modern conception of Klingons as honorable space vikings came largely from Moore and TNG. Moore used this week’s episode as a chance to correct some of the damage he felt he’d done previously, and to show this super important ritual. Klingons have rituals for everything, so it’s not shocking that a wedding would be a big one.
Moore felt he had turned the Klingons into another patriarchal bad guy when, in TNG, he established that only men could serve on the High Council. This would seem to go against what we see on Klingon ships, where women serve prominently and without any apparent stigma. Moore’s solution was to put women in charge of the Great Houses. The Klingon government is semi-feudal, and this gives each gender undisputed control of one of its pillars. Would it work? Who knows? I do like the fact that it acknowledges that Klingon women are expected to have at least some of the same virtues as the men: honor, ferocity, and skill in battle. The famous Klingon women we’ve seen, from the Duras sisters to Grilka, would seem to fit this mold pretty well.
It’s bad news for Dax, though. By marrying Worf, she has to be accepted into the House of Martok by its head, General Martok’s wife, Sirella. She’s basically the mother-in-law from hell, and a racist to boot. Aliens weaken the Klingon bloodline, she believes. Martok agrees somewhat, pointing out that Klingons don’t embrace other cultures. They conquer them. (Here’s where I point out what happened when they tried to do that to humanity, but I digress.)
Dax’s struggle is an interesting one, as is its resolution. Dax is insulted that she should have to humble herself. After all, she negotiated the Khitomer Accords and was the Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire. Sisko points out that she was not. Curzon was. To Sirella, Dax is just a young woman who wants to join her family. She’ll need to give the lady her due. This due-giving occurs off-screen — and perhaps a little conveniently for some tastes — but the point here was to separate the lives of Dax and allow the character to make that realization. Curzon is dead. Jadzia is alive, and she can’t trade of his successes.
Worf invites his closest male friends — his son Alexander, Martok, Sisko, Bashir, and O’Brien — to what amounts to a Klingon bachelor party. The men are initially psyched, imagining what kind of debauchery is promised in their futures. But they forgot: all of Worf’s favorite parts of Klingon culture are the monastic ones. This ritual is all about pushing themselves to the limits. The best parts involve Bashir and O’Brien, our everyman heroes, suffering alongside the others, while visions of revenge dance in their addled minds.
The biggest set piece in the episode, other than the wedding ceremony itself, is a party in Dax’s quarters. Normally, TV parties, especially Trek parties, look like somber affairs. People hanging around and talking quietly while dressed in future civvies. The director wisely had the music turned up and hired some fire dancers (one of which turns out to be a Lieutenant on the USS Sutherland — making that the most awesome ship in the fleet) to force the actors to yell if they wanted to have a conversation. He also told Aron Eisenberg, Nog’s actor, to dance as goofily as he wanted, leading him to improvise a bizarre Ferengi dance that pretty soon everyone is copying.
Through the episode, Odo had been studiously avoiding Kira over what had happened during the occupation. First Dax then Jake notice this during conversations with the Major. Picking these two characters was no accident. Dax has always been Kira’s closest female friend, who did what she could to help Kira loosen up a little. Jake is more of a surrogate son — he’s the child of both Space Jesus and Kira’s commanding officer — and during the occupation, was a member of Kira’s resistance cell. Their relationship is always in the background of the show, but it provides a nice bit of depth to both characters. And yes, it’s why Jake will inevitably marry a Bajoran woman.
Odo appears in the party as a response to the noise complaint, and Kira’s had enough of the awkwardness. She drags him away to have a conversation. One that lasts all night, only discovered by a hungover Dax the following morning. It’s a shame that this too is off-screen, but don’t worry. Their real issues will finally get worked out in one of my favorite episodes later this season, “His Way.” I only mention it, because the off-screen resolution was the cause of some disappointment when this episode aired.
Dax humbles herself before Sirella, we get the Klingon wedding we’ve always wanted, and it’s the most metal thing ever. First off, Worf and Dax are in red leather. Secondly, the ceremony is all about the Klingons killing the gods and burning the heavens to ash. That’s… that’s just so awesome. Really, if you want to get me into religion, scripture needs to sound more like a Megadeth album cover.
In the past, I’ve argued passionately against not just romance episodes, but Dax romance episodes. “Meridian,” what I regard as the series worst hour, is a Dax romance. None of those critiques apply here, because this time I know Worf. I know Worf’s family. I even know Dax’s prospective father-in-law. This gives the story the depth it needs to involve me in the plot. I care, because I want characters that I love to be happy.
And so they are. For a little while.
Next up: The Mirror Universe is back.