In the twentieth episode of the first season of The Next Generation, the Enterprise discovers a ship adrift in space and then, WORF. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
THIS WAS SUCH A GREAT EPISODE. (And I requested an episode about one of the side characters, and it was granted to me. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.) This is precisely the kind of storytelling that I want from The Next Generation, and “Heart of Glory” GIVES ME EVERYTHING I WANT.
While he’s not the focus of this episode, I appreciated that lovely scene at the open of “Heart of Glory” that allowed the rest of the crew to understand Geordie better. Even in a thematic sense, the scene fits perfectly within this story because it’s about identity and feeling like the Other. Here, Geordie discovers that the way he sees through his VISOR is not like how everyone else experiences vision. Now, this is portrayed here with a sense of wonder; we learn just how complicated the world looks to Geordie and how easily he’s able to filter the information he receives. But he’s still different than those around him, not matter how helpful and accepted he is. I wouldn’t say that this is a wholly negative experience for Geordie. It’s clear that his ability is highly valued. However, how far does that value extend? Is Geordie still going to be interpreted through a specific lens because of his visible difference?
The greater tale of being the Other here is with Worf, who, more than ever before in this series, is the sole Klingon in Starfleet. Did that matter before? Not necessarily, and without a glimpse at Worf’s past, I’d be uncomfortable stating otherwise. I don’t know if he had a hard time in the Academy! But part of me wonders if treatment of him was worse than what we saw here. Even though it’s subtle here in “Heart of Glory,” Worf’s struggle still earned him suspicion. And I get why these people began to suspect that there was a tiny chance Worf might become involved in Korris and Konmel’s plot, but what does that conclusion say about them?
Of course, this is a complicated conflict. This is the first time in years that Worf is around his own kind. As someone who was adopted and then immediately moved to a place where there were literally no other visibly Latino kids in the ENTIRE school, I know how frustrating and surreal this experience can feel. He rushes to accompany Picard in greeting the Klingons rescued, and for the remainder of the episodes, he spends very little time away from them. Who could blame him? At the same time, Korris and Konmel make it very clear that they don’t view Worf as a pure Klingon. He’s too “docile” and “soft.” He’s too obsessed with human notions of “peace.” Where’s that Klingon warrior spirit?
What’s fascinating to me is how Worf’s upbringing has played a part in his identity. It was fantastic to find out more about how he came to be a part of Starfleet because it helped me understand him better. That’s why I never questioned his curiosity in Korris’s plan to become a true Klingon. Even though he was mostly raised by humans, he’s always had a connection to his culture, though it was one that was entirely internalized. He controlled his desire for another life.
So where do Worf’s loyalties lay? As much as I understood how complicated this struggle was for him, I don’t think I ever doubted that he was loyal to the Federation. When he stood in that hallway, listening to Korris appeal to him and Tasha telling him to step aside, he definitely had a brief moment where he considered something. Leaving the Federation? Joining his brethren to fulfill some sort of cultural destiny? I don’t know about that. But in the end, he chose the system that raised him and helped to teach him to be who he was in the present.
That’s what that final confrontation meant to me. Worf says something very specific: that the true “test” of a warrior is an internal battle. It’s exactly the kind of life that Worf has learned to lead, you know? Worf has been fighting a battle to change his nature for years. In another context, that might be just as bad as it sounds, but I’ve never felt like Worf wasn’t a Klingon. His sense of aggression and purpose has always been a part of his character on this show. But he learned honor and loyalty to something bigger than himself through Starfleet. That’s important to him. It’s kept him alive all these years. The truth is that Worf is and always has been a Klingon, and being a part of the crew on The Enterprise doesn’t change that. At the same time, he’s different. He’s perfectly fine with that.
Honestly, this was just so satisfying to watch. It was like a long validation of Worf’s place on this starship, and I appreciated that. Now, give me an episode about Geordie and Tasha like this one!
The video for “Heart of Glory” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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