“Jesus! Jesus is here!”: Rightful Heir
|I don’t know how you screw up a concept like “Klingon Ice Monastery”, but they do.|
You know, I think I’m just done listening to stories about Worf and Klingon heritage. Especially as told by Ron Moore.
Here’s another episode I vaguely remember liking that completely turned me off on the rewatch. It’s not one I have really fond memories of from back in the day-This was an episode I only caught once TNN started rerunning Star Trek: The Next Generation in the early 2000s. Consequently I’m not super broken up about having “Rightful Heir” fall flat for me as I don’t have any particularly potent nostalgia affixed to it and this season has been strong enough it can afford to give us a few duds at this point in the year….Even if we do seem to have, since “Suspicions” (and looking ahead to next week), crossed over into the Enterprise variant of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s month and a half long water-treading session.
None of you need to hear my reasons for being alienated by this episode. I most certainly do not need to go into my litany of disagreements with Ron Moore’s philosophy, writing style and approach to characterization again. My issues with “Rightful Heir” are the same ones I had with “Redemption”, only magnified to an even greater extent because I no longer have the time or patience to humour them. Worf is by now cripplingly overexposed as a character and has had way, way too many showcase episodes, even just this season alone. And the only reason he is so overexposed is because he’s the only character (on either show, frankly) that Moore actually enjoys writing for because he’s also the only character Moore knows how to write for. That’s a big problem for a showrunner, and an ever-present one.
(Moore isn’t the sole showrunner of The Next Generation by a longshot, but given Rick Berman and Michael Piller’s promotion to franchise overseers, the complex web of the producer/writer relationship and Jeri Taylor’s position, he definitely is one of them. He’s certainly the most senior staff writer by this point. This does not, however, make him the best.)
I mean should I even make an attempt to derive some erudition about the Klingons from their depiction in this episode? What more is there to say? It’s Moore-type Klingons. Ridiculous cartoon Viking/Dwarf stereotypes who like to eat, drink and stab in no particular order. Even the monks. Especially the monks. There’s a ghost of an interesting idea where the Kahless clone calls out the Klingons at the monastery for forgetting the reason why they fight and it almost seems like the story is going down a kind of jihad route by framing this in terms of a righteous struggle. And then it doesn’t, because of fucking course it doesn’t. I should have given up my hopes to see non-warrior caste and non-cartoon Klingons after the first season ended. Then there’s that business of Worf’s eagerness to believe the clone is the real Kahless contrasted with Gowron’s more grounded political and tactical savvy. Worf, as an outsider fundamentalist convert, would naturally be far more willing to accept such things than a “normal” Klingon. It’s still not my preferred reading of Worf, but what in the hell is apart from “Heart of Glory”?
And “Rightful Heir has problems apart from being yet another story about Klingon realpolitiking and yet another episode of The Chronicles of Worf’s Manpain too. “Rightful Heir” is supposedly a story about mysticism, spirituality and faith, but it’s a fundamentally banal story about mysticism, spirituality and faith because Ron Moore, at least at this stage of his career, is a fundamentally banal writer. It is proudly, self-indulgently, almost triumphantly Pop Christian, and like all such gloriously blinkered Pop Christian works it blithely assumes everyone’s experiences with spirituality map neatly onto the template gleaned from a particularly poor reading of Dante Aligheiri and Thomas Aquinas. Moore and the other staff writers admit they had trouble breaking this because they, as secular humanists, had the impression Star Trek as envisioned by Gene Roddenberry was fundamentally a secular humanist work and stories about spirituality were tough for them to crack. But then one wonders why they even bothered.
(Interestingly enough the writer we’d most expect to be staunchly in the secular humanism camp, self-proclaimed New Atheist arch rationalist Brannon Braga, has been responsible for the hands-down *most* mystical and baroque stories in the entire series.)
All it takes is a glance back at the immediately preceding episode to see how spectacularly out of touch the TNG writers are. While “Battle Lines” wasn’t anything uniquely special mysticism-wise when it comes to primetime US dramatic television, there was still a very explicit undercurrent there that touched on something a tad bit more universal than the “scrap Pop Christian cultural norms and assumptions incidentally picked up just by virtue of living in a Christian country” we got here. Kai Opaka’s (and Commander Sisko’s!) message of love, forgiveness and acceptance, and of tuning into your larger role in the universe, is a line of spiritual thought that can be applied to a myriad of different belief systems around the world. And that was completely intentional on Michael Piller’s part, who had admitted at the time he expressly wanted to see more mysticism in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, although he took it carefully and one step at a time. And Michael Piller actually does know what he’s talking about-He’d never admit it, and though it didn’t map onto any system of thought we’d recognise as such, but he was a deeply spiritual person in his own way. Remember, this was the guy who wrote “Emissary”.
Meanwhile, Deep Space Nine‘s sister show is proudly giving us Space Opera Viking Jesus.
Then there’s the teaser and opening act, which is just bald-facedly conflict-for-conflict’s sake bullshit thrown into barky and hackneyed military drama because ROTC man Ron Moore, following Gene Roddenberry, thinks any of that is actually interesting. Of course without that painful setup, the episode would likely have been about a half-hour shorter and even more boring. Literally anything else could have gone there instead of Worf morosely neglecting his duties. He could have talked to Deanna, you know, the person whose fucking job this is to sort out and the person Worf has a pre-existing relationship with. I mean I don’t actually think she even appears in the episode as is! Or why not use Guinan here instead of in “Suspicions”? Hell, Worf could have even gone straight to Riker or Picard with his problem. But of course, then Moore wouldn’t get to have his main man be a martyr for the Almighty Conflict at the hands of these horrid human squares in the Enterprise crew.
I don’t think I need to waste any more of my time with this. I’m done with “Rightful Heir”, I’m done with Ron Moore, I’m done with Klingons, and I’m done with Worf.
December 13, 2015 @ 8:51 am
Pop Christian is not only on the nose and overbearing here, it's also wildly inappropriate. I mean realpoliticking Klingon government versus Klingon belief structures in and of itself is some of that heavy fantasy race-building stuff, but seeing as how the Klingons are already a viking/dwarf pastiche, and layering all of that allegory on top of it, giving them a singular Christ figure is kind of missing the point.
Why explore an alien take on Northern European pre-Christian culture and NOT take the opportunity to portray them as polytheists? In my mind the Klingons almost have to have a pantheon of gods. Not the most writerly of cultures, and constantly harping about their primal hunter instincts, their stories would have been oratory, full of bold men and fierce women slaying monsters and shagging each other. Sto-vo-kor is Valhalla, after all (the word Kor itself inherently amplifies the importance of one previous Klingon governor's bloodlines). Kang of course once famously said that Klingons have no devil. No "One Great Enemy" pulling the strings, which indicates a more balanced approach – their gods are klingon paragons, but are also subject to klingon weaknesses and character flaws, like the Pagan gods of Earth.
But no, we get a singular messianic figure operating under the auspices of no gods, or a hands off god, in particular. No Klingon Odin the Wise, no Thor the Bold, no Loki the Trickster, no Freya the Mighty. Hell, no mention whatsoever of Fek'lhr, the Klingon Hades, torturing the dishonored dead.
But hey, so it goes. I've already written more than I wanted to in response to this episode. I'm still bitter about the switcheroo that took place after TOS, where the Klingons became honor-bound cultural rivals to the Federation and the Romulans became duplicitous "Others".
December 22, 2015 @ 12:40 am
"You know, I think I'm just done listening to stories about Worf and Klingon heritage. Especially as told by Ron Moore."
Yup. I don't really have any time for these "manpain" stories, and I don't think that Worf has generally been served well as a character by Moore and others. I would actually love to have seen him turn his back on Klingon society and embrace his true liminal self and forge his own identity.
And I find Klingons as presented here so dull – I too would have dearly loved to have seen non-warrior Klingons, ah that would be so refreshing!
December 24, 2015 @ 6:22 am
There are little hints (Mostly, of all places, in Enterprise), but they've never really gone all-in with the non-warrior Klingons. What I want to see is them applying that "warrior culture" ethos to non-military roles. They push so heavily on the idea that Klingons are all fightin' all the time, but, like, Klingons still wear clothes and eat prepared meals and use manufactured goods. I want to see a Proud Klingon Warrior Tailor engaging in noble combat against hem lines; a Proud Klingon Warrior Barber, fighting to liberate his customers from the tyrrany of split ends; maybe even a proud Klingon Warrior Wal-Mart Greeter, helping customers achieve victory in their hunt for the elusive $5 socks.
(But more seriously. One suspects that if Ron Moore were writing a story with a Klingon doctor in it, his job would be primarily to mock the patient for being so weak as to get sick, when you could actually achieve something very good by just having him approach the patient as the battleground in his noble battle against the disease)
January 10, 2016 @ 1:50 am
Yeah sorry took ages for me to reply, but totally with you! I was going to also comment on wanting to see Klingon barbers, dentists, doctors, bakers, suit makers, etc. I don't really see how the could have a fully functioning society with such a warrior based society.
January 10, 2016 @ 1:51 am
I mean warrior based society as they already have in the show, not disagreeing with you.
January 10, 2016 @ 8:02 am
I think there's an episode of Enterprise which at least acknowledges this as a problem. Klingon Lawyer complaining about how it used to be that you could do any kind of job in a honorable warrior sort of way, but kids these days are only interested in the punchy-stabby sort of honor.
January 10, 2016 @ 9:04 am
Brilliant! I haven't seen any Enterprise yet, but that sounds good.
June 14, 2016 @ 2:32 pm
Hilarious post…and a truly brilliant send-up of self-prepossessed, presumptuous, self-important twits who have to criticize everything they never could have done to make themselves feel better. I especially liked the inclusion of the idiotic “tad bit” phrase—an obvious but nonetheless right-on slam at the morons who don’t realize that “tad” means “bit”…you know, like the idiots who say “PIN number” (personal identification number number) and “AC current” (alternating current current). A nice touch.
Oh, wait…you were serious…
That’s even funnier.