Mark Watches ‘Deep Space Nine’: S04E15 – Sons of Mogh

In the fifteenth episode of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, Worf’s brother is the focus of one of the most deeply uncomfortable episodes of the show. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 

Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of suicide, depression, right to die, consent, gaslighting. 

Good lord, y’all, this episode hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s supposed to; right from the cold open, we know that “Sons of Mogh” will be about death. Granted, Ronald D. Moore’s script touches on a number of upsetting topics in a superficial manner, so it ends up feeling a bit all over the place. But it’s also a direct sequel to the events that opened this season. If Worf defied Gowron and was stripped of his name and honor, how did that affect others?

That’s why Kurn shows up, drunk and stumbling through the corridors of DS9, a knife in his hand. He wants Worf to complete the Mauk-to’Vor ritual and kill him, thereby restoring his honor in death. In that sense, I can also see how you could read this episode as more of a culture clash than anything else. This is a valid part of the Klingon culture; it’s a sacred ritual, and it was obvious that Worf took it as such. There’s very little hesitation on his part as he completes the ritual, and YOU BETTER BELIEVE I DID NOT THINK HE’D ACTUALLY COMPLETE IT. I figured that once Jadzia put the pieces together, she and Odo would burst in at the last second and stop Worf, and then everyone would have a Very Serious conversation about the ritual.

BUT NOPE. WORF STABS HIS OWN BROTHER IN THE CHEST AND HE WOULD HAVE DIED IF JADZIA HAD NOT INTERVENED. WELL, THIS EPISODE ESCALATED QUICKER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD. Because of this, though, the story becomes far more interesting. What do you do after this? Kurn survives, despite that he wanted to die. Does it count as murder if Kurn wanted it? Should Worf be disciplined? These are INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT QUESTIONS that the show tries to answer, and for the most part, I think this does a decent job of that. We get a scene where Sisko angrily excoriates Worf for what he’s done. It’s interesting that he frames it as a cultural issue, too. Sisko is flexible, but he pulls rank in this situation, reminding Worf that as an officer of Starfleet, it’s much more complex of a situation than just it being a necessary ritual.

As for Kurn, though, he wavers between serene acceptance and suicidal ideation. He resists Worf at first, then accepts a position on Odo’s security force, where he flourishes. Yet even then, he allows someone to shoot him because he wants to die. It’s not hard seeing depression all over this because SURPRISE, IT’S ME. But that’s what I meant by saying that this is superficial in covering these issues. I don’t know if Klingons can have depression, but Kurn sure as hell seemed to be depressed in this episode. But after that scene, the story moves on.

There’s a lot that Moore’s script covers in just forty-five minutes, sure. I suspect that is part of the reason this feels a little thin at times. But it’s also a deeply unnerving examination of the ramifications of Klingon thought and belief. In essence, without honor, Kurn has no reason to live. So what does he do? Can he survive working for Odo? Even if he does, is that the kind of life he wants to live? All of this is contrasted with the way Worf has assimilated into human/Starfleet culture. Not perfectly, obviously, and this episode is evidence that he’s still an Other to many of these people. But Worf’s mindset on a number of things has changed over the years, and he can’t deny. Kurn, on the other had, has not had the same experience, so these changes feel way more violent to him.

It is so unfortunate, then, that the solution to this conflict is to WIPE KURN’S MEMORY WHILE HE IS PASSED OUT DRUNK. That is possibly one of the most offensive resolutions to a Deep Space Nine episode EVER. Y’all, how the fuck does Bashir authorize this? As a medical doctor, wouldn’t he know that it is unethical to do this procedure while someone is unconscious and can’t consent? Boooooooo forever to this ending, I hate it, STOP IT. It’s literally gaslighting Kurn, in the most extreme manner I’ve ever seen! UGH.

The video for “Sons of Mogh” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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