A simple episode, and a highly predictable one, played only on notes that we have heard before and in the same combination, but not, for all that, a bad episode. But then I am, and always have been, a sucker for sacrifice, moved intensely by those who give up their lives to save others.
‘Once More unto The Breach’ brought back John Colicos as the Dahar master, Kor, a role he had first played 31 years earlier in the Original Series, and which he had re-created for DS9 in seasons 2 and 4. It was the actor’s last performance, and he was reliable to the end.
This was also an episode that centred upon Worf who has had little presence since Jardzia’s death. Kor approaches him, willing to beg, for a role in the War: he has lost all his influence, he is the last of his House, there seems to be no way for him to die as he wishes, as a Warrior. Straightway, we know what will follow: that Worf will bring him in to the raid proposed by General Martok, even as a lowly Third Officer, that Kor will be shamed by his age and frailty, and that at the last he will redeem himself, taking the place of Worf on a suicide mission that confounds the enemy and secures the escape of his battlemates, and a death that will take him to Sto-Vo-Kor.
If it’s predictable, then it was well performed, especially by J.G.Hertzler, nursing a thirty year grudge against Kor for blackballing him out of the Klingon military on class grounds. He is barely able to tolerate the old Klingon, even before his crew look at the hero with awe, and when Kor, in battle reveals his mental frailty and begins re-fighting an old action against the Federation, Martok is merciless in his scorn, but answered by Kor’s pained, yet quiet dignity, against which Martok cannot take the pleasure he has longed for in decades.
Though the scene where Kor, pretending to congratulate Worf on a glorious death to come, knocks him out with a hypnospray is just another example of old wine in a new bottle, it is carried out in a touching manner. Kor promises his unconscious friend that the first thing he will do upon arriving at Sto-Vo-Kor will be to seek out Jardzia and remind her that her husband is a noble warrior… and that he still loves no-one but her. His last words before he teleports to his stolen command are ‘Long Live The Empire’.
And then he’s gone. How he does it is unknown, passed into legend, like that of Davey Crockett, debated by Miles and Julian in the open, as a foreshadowing of this moment. Bloodwine is drunk by all, in toast to the Warrior, and the ritual song sung, save by Martok, who cannot let go of his anger so easily.
Back at the station, there’s a hint of a B story that really doesn’t deserve that name, when Quark overhears Ezri talking about Kor and wanting to spend another day with him, and thinking she means Worf. I’ve seen a spoiler that I’d really rather have not, not because I didn’t want the surprise blown, but because I really do not want to sit through three-quarters of a season of Quark mooning over Ezri, even if I’m reassured he doesn’t get off with her (whilst hinting that pretty near everybody else does, which bodes not well).
At least it leads to a decent opportunity for Nicole de Boer to cement her growing confidence by confirming she’s not interested in Worf (nor Quark, phew) and that she recognises just how generous a speech the Ferengi has just made, not to mention how embarrassing for him.
Like I said, though the story was older than Kor himself, its subject is one that has to be handled pretty badly for me not to feel it, so this week got a pass from me. And a fond smile.