DS9: S5E21: “Soldiers of the Empire”

In which Martok gets his groove back. 

"Plus now the whole room smells like idiocy and bravado."

“Plus now the whole room smells like idiocy and bravado.”

Martok has received a near-mortal wound, and is very annoyed that Bashir is treating this like some sort of problem. This was in the course of playing on the holosuite, trying to get back up to fighting fit after being held in a Dominion prison camp. He also vehemently refuses an ocular implant. By the end of the conversation, though, Bashir has remembered how to talk to Martok despite him also sharing that very same prison camp.

Worf is putting Nog through his paces fixing up and maintaining the weapons on the Defiant, and Nog has to work hard not to yell at a superior officer twice his size and three times his mass. Martok storms in, accidentally traps him in the room, and once he leaves, Martok and Worf discuss how Worf accidentally caused that injury, and Martok’s upcoming mission to find the battlecruiser B’Moth, presumed destroyed by the Cardassian/Dominion forces. Martok invites Worf along as first officer.

Sisko’s inclined to accede, although he does make Worf explain the appeal of going on the mission. If you guessed ‘honor’ you win the prize. Worf wants to repay Martok for saving him from the desire to surrender to the Dominion and let them kill him in the prison combats. Klingons have ‘moments of clarity between warriors where they reach a level of understanding deeper than words’ so often the language has a word for it, so Worf gets his official Detached Service. Although I do get the sense that Sisko’s Klingon pronounciation is embarassing and painful for Worf to hear, and he’s humoring the captain.

Also, the fact that Martok’s bird-of-prey decloaks only once it’s a few hundred meters away from docking is horrifying traffic control practice for an allied force. Fortunately for Martok, Kira’s not in Ops to yell at them because she’s handing out the revised duty roster now that Worf’s duties aren’t being covered. Dax puts some of Miles’ misconceptions about the wordiness of a Klingon ship to rest, based on Curzon’s insider knowledge. Most of the conversation in Quark’s is put on hold when a couple of Klingon roughs stroll in for leave. One of them was wearing a necklace made of Cardassian neckbones.

For what may be the first time, we explicitly find out what Worf’s sash is. It holds his house emblem, which he won’t be wearing since there is no offical House of Mogh in the Empire. Worf tries to cut his goodbyes to Worf short, but she treasures the look on his face when he realizes she’s going with him as science officer.

"And someone get me some more prune juice!"

“And someone get me some more prune juice!”

On the bridge, Jadzia startles some of the male officers and makes an instant friend of the engineering officer Tavana, whose mother knew the Great Curzon Dax, and they bond over having slutty forebears. When Worf arrives on the bridge, he is not at all impressed with the crew’s current deportment. Whereas when Martok arrives on the bridge, he greets it like an old friend, and they get underway. Martok’s first order is to go around a nebula to avoid a fight. His crew is horrified by the very idea of avoiding a fight, where Martok is focused on the primary mission objective. Morale problems are incoming. Worf starts up a shanty to try to get spirits up, and pretty much everyone treats it like an embarassing camp sing-along.

Later in the mess hall, Jadzia throws someone out of her seat in order to make an impression, and also casually mentions that she brought three barrels of bloodwine on board. While Dax works on the morale problem, Martok and Worf discuss the numerous and self-fulfilling defeats of the Rotaran. Worf suggests that they need a victory to cure the crew of the yips, such as one that could be had in the nebula.

Jadzia doesn’t deny boinking Worf when it comes up in the mess hall, but the crew is still pretty fatalistic. They basically believe their ship is cursed. We do find out that there’s a visible and audible signal throughout the ship when it cloaks, although I’m not sure whether that was designed-in or a function of the power draw. They’re readying for battle operations. The Dominion hasn’t found them and Martok order No Pursuit, and nobody’s happy about it, even Martok. Jadzia, steeped within the morale of the crew, is going hard on Klingon protocol, and warning of impending mutiny.

It becomes increasingly clear that Martok is looking for excuses not to battle. His decisions wouldn’t be out of place for a human captain in Starfleet, but (especially in context of Worf’s earlier statement that Martok ‘gave Worf his warrior’s spirit’) Martok is not behaving like a decorated Klingon General might be expected to behave. Maybe he was a general because he was always a little more prudent than your average Klingon, but one doesn’t become a general by ignoring morale, either.

"Yeah, I hate those guys. Also, do I have something stuck in my teeth?"

“Yeah, I hate those guys. Also, do I have something stuck in my teeth?”

Some of the crew are deep in their cups and commiserating about their latest enemy. The Cardassians apparently use even more tricks than the Federation, when it comes to warfare. Holo-projections of ships, sensor ghosts, subterfuge upon subterfuge. The Jem’Hadar, they agree, have no honor (although we know that this is the only thing they fight for). However, this quickly turns from a ‘man I hate those guys’ session to a depressed fatalistic rant against Martok’s broken spirit. And then a fight, because that’s how these things always end up. Worf is going to have to step up as crew advocate.

Soon after, Dax picks up a n automated distress call from the B’Moth, indicating it’s failing status. They change course to go intercept. They’re getting exceptionally close to mutiny, and basically the only thing preventing it is how broken the crew’s spirits are. Which segues perfectly into Martok finding an excuse not to carry out his mission after all. He suspects a trap, like the sniper scene in Full Metal Jacket. Worf manages to pull him out of tailspin, but something’s going to have to break soon.

When they reach the B’Moth, it’s just barely within the Cardassian border, so Martok refuses to go against orders from the High Council and cross the border. The next shouting match ends with Martok threatening treason charges for disobedience and leaving before he has to deal with the fallout. Worf is left with challenging Martok as the only option. And those aren’t duels to First Blood.

The crew get together to demand Worf challenge Martok, get ready to challenge him if he doesn’t, then get their day when Worf countermands Martok’s order to get him to the bridge and challenges him on the grounds of cowardice. Such a challenge commands the attention of the whole bridge crew, which is really inconvenient for a ship hovering near the border and on alert from Dominion attack. Evidently, such things, though codified in law, are still uncommon enough to be a spectacle. Worf draws first  blood and is about to stab Martok very precisely in the place where we saw at the beginning of the episode was two inches away from being mortal, then Martok’s desperation overpowers him and Martok stabs Worf right in the guts, to the general cheers of the crew.

A Jem’Hadar warship hoving into view caps everything off, and the crew unites in song and bloodlust behind a leader who’s got his confidence back now that he bested the guy who stabbed him earlier, while Jadzia runs Worf down to the medical ward. At this point, there’s not even a need to show the battle, so we’ll cut back to Bashir failing to be entertained by Worf’s duties as Intelligence officer and his inability to share.

Worf and Martok have their final face-to-face, where Martok recognizes Worf’s actions, both in challenging Martok and in dropping his guard for the General, as acts of personal loyalty, and in turn Worf admits he didn’t know Martok wouldn’t kill him. It was just moments of clarity between warriors where they reach a level of understanding deeper than words. In that moment, Martok gives Worf his own crest, to replace the officially-meaningless crest of Mogh, and regain some status within the empire.


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