Soldiers of the Empire
Production no.: 519
Written by: Ronald D. Moore
Directed by: LeVar Burton
Stardate: not given
First satellite airdate: April 26, 1997
David Graf ...........
Rick Worthy .........
Sandra Nelson ......
Aron Eisenberg .....
J.G. Hertzler .........
Scott Leva ............
Bashir is treating Martok for an injury he received while training in a holosuite with the safeties off, when the General receives a priority message from the Klingon High Council. Later, he enters the Defiant's bridge as Worf and Nog are working on something there. He tells Worf that he has received new orders for an important mission. A Klingon battle cruiser, the B'Moth, has been reported missing while on patrol near the Cardassian border, possibly destroyed by the Dominion. Martok has been given command of a bird-of-prey, the Rotarran. The search mission will be the first time he has led troops in the field since he escaped from the Dominion prison. Martok asks Worf to join him, as first officer.
Worf tells Sisko that back in the Dominion prison, he and Martok had a moment of "clarity" that encouraged Worf to go on fighting even when he was considering giving up. Because of that, he owes Martok his life. Sisko agrees to letting Worf go on the mission, relieving him of Starfleet obligations and placing him on detached service to the Klingon Defense Forces.
The other officers divide up Worf's duties as Strategic Operations Officer, and discuss what life is like on a Klingon ship. Dax tells them that a subordinate can only challenge a direct superior, and only under certain conditions, such as dereliction of duty, dishonorable conduct, and cowardice.
Worf makes ready to board the Rotarran, wearing a Klingon uniform, but without his sash. Dax reveals that she's coming with him, as science officer. On the ship, Dax is befriended by a female engineering officer named Tavana, whose mother met Curzon once. As Worf is looking over the ship's record, the helm officer, Leskit, tells him, "If you're looking for victories, you won't find any. Not for the last seven months." Martok finally enters the bridge, and they get underway.
When Worf orders a direct course to the last known position of the B'Moth, Martok countermands it; the Tong Beak nebula is in their way, and there are reports of Dominion ships operating there. He wants to go around it, to avoid a fight with the Jem'Hadar. This brings surprised looks from everyone on the bridge. Martok points out that their mission is to find the B'Moth. Finally, Leskit lays in the course, and they set off. Worf has to practically force the crew to join in the warrior's anthem that is traditionally sung at the start of a Klingon mission. But in the dingy mess hall, Dax scores points by pushing a crewman named Ortakin around in true Klingon fashion, and revealing that she's brought three barrels of blood wine aboard.
Martok finds the personnel reports on the crew disheartening; morale has steadily deteriorated with loss after loss to the Jem'Hadar. "This crew has been defeated so many times, they expect defeat," Martok observes. "And that is dangerous." "They need a victory," Worf notes. "One decisive battle against the Jem'Hadar would do much to lift their spirits." Martok agrees, but he doesn't want to take them into combat before they're ready. He and Worf vow to make the Rotarran an honorable ship once more. When Worf leaves, however, Martok is clearly troubled by something.
As Dax converses further with the crew, their demoralization becomes even more clear. Kornan's opinion is that the ship is cursed. "Death and dishonor walk these corridors like members of the crew." The ship cloaks as it goes to alert status; Worf announces that a Jem'Hadar patrol ship is ahead. They go up to the bridge. The Jem'Hadar ship's scans don't penetrate the cloak; the Rotarran has a clear shot. But Martok hesitates, and when the enemy moves on, he gives orders to resume the original course. His reason is that their priority is to find the B'Moth. Worf protests, but to no avail. After Martok leaves, Dax warns her par'machkai that a dangerous situation is developing on the ship.
Worf confronts Martok privately about his refusal to fire on the Jem'Hadar; Martok maintains that the enemy could have called for reinforcements. "You question my judgment in this matter?" Worf has no choice but to back down and try to put his doubts aside. In the mess hall, Leskit rambles drunkenly to the rest of the crew, that the Jem'Hadar are better than they are, because of their lack of honor. What's more, he says they broke Martok, and that the reason Martok didn't attack was that he fears them. Kornan explodes in fury, randomly striking Ortakin down before Dax stuns him.
When Dax meets Worf in the corridor after taking Ortakin to surgery, she tries again to warn him of the problems on board. Not only has the crew endured far too many defeats, "they're serving under a man who seems to have left more behind than just an eye in that prison camp...This crew needs a leader -- someone who'll remind them of their duty as soldiers of the Empire. And they need that leader right now. Or I promise you, they will explode." Worf doesn't want to believe it could come to that. "I know Martok. He is a great man. He will not fail us, but we must give him time." Dax says that may be the one thing they don't have.
Later, on the bridge with Worf in command, Dax reports that she's picking up a distress call from the B'Moth. The ship was attacked by the Jem'Hadar; there are at least thirty survivors, but main power is out and emergency power is failing. Worf orders Leskit to alter course to the B'Moth's coordinates. After Worf goes to inform Martok, Tavana privately thanks Dax for saving Ortakin, who is her par'machkai. She also tells Dax that when the fighting breaks out aboard the ship, she will protect her.
Martok speculates as to why the Jem'Hadar would have left survivors on the B'Moth. He believes it's a trap. "Do not take this personally, my friend. I spent two years with the Jem'Hadar. I do not expect you to have the same insight into them that I do. They're soulless creatures, Worf, fighting for no goal, no purpose except to serve the Founders. They take no pleasure in what they do. Nothing is glorified, nothing affirmed. To the Jem'Hadar, we are nothing more than targets to be destroyed." Worf points out that they don't know yet what the B'Moth's situation is, and they shouldn't make any premature judgments.
The Rotarran reaches the Cardassian border and begins searching. Dax picks up the thermal signature of a ship which comes into visual range; it's the B'Moth. Worf starts issuing orders to prepare to beam the survivors aboard, but Martok stops him. The B'Moth has drifted into the Cardassian side of the border; the General thinks there are probably five Jem'Hadar ships out there, waiting for them to cross. "General," says Worf, "if they are nearby, they do not care what side of the border we are on. They will simply attack." Martok counters that he has explicit orders not to enter Cardassian territory; Worf, though, is certain the High Council will not object. But Martok has made his decision. They will not cross the border to rescue the B'Moth survivors, and anyone who questions his order will be charged with treasonable disobedience.
Martok leaves Worf in command of the bridge. "We can't just leave those men out there to die," Dax says softly to Worf, who agrees. She asks what he's going to do. "The only thing I can do," says Worf. "Challenge Martok for command of the ship." If Martok won't step aside, he will have to kill him.
The situation on the bridge grows more tense. Dax surreptitiously taps a few quick commands into her console. Kornan and Leskit begin a confrontation with Worf, saying Martok must die, but Ortakin appears, having been summoned by Dax, and that seems to calm things down momentarily. Worf announces that they are going to rescue the B'Moth survivors.
Everyone gets to work. But Martok returns to the bridge, demanding to know what's going on. Worf faces him. "As first officer, I say that you are unfit to serve as captain...You are a coward, and I challenge you for command of this ship." Martok stares at him in disbelief at what he believes is betrayal. "I never would have expected this from you, Worf." The fight begins. In the middle of it, they look into each other's eyes. Martok begins fighting more and more fiercely until Worf drops his guard. It ends with Worf lying on the deck, gravely wounded. The crew is stirred up, the first time they have shown enthusiasm for anything. They start chanting Martok's name.
Tavana breaks into the celebration with a tactical alert: there is a Jem'Hadar warship coming into weapons range. "The Jem'Hadar will soon learn to regret this day," Martok says. "Who is with me?" The crew howls their approval and rushes to their stations. Dax supports Worf. "Sometimes I think I know why I love you." They stay long enough to hear the others begin to sing the warrior's anthem again, this time with fervor; then Dax gets Worf to the medical ward.
Later, the Rotarran returns to DS9. A triumphant Martok tells Kira they have rescued 35 survivors from the B'Moth, and requests permission to beam them to the infirmary. He also calls for bloodwine to be waiting for the Rotarran's crew at the airlock, to celebrate their first victory over the Jem'Hadar.
Martok approaches Worf in Quark's to tell him that the High Council has issued a commendation to the crew of the Rotarran. "Your actions on the Rotarran -- at the time, I thought they were disloyal. But I have come to realize that your intention was to remind me of my duty as a soldier of the Empire, and as a warrior. For that I am grateful." "You did the same for me once," Worf says. Martok notes that Worf is still wearing the crest of the House of Mogh, which Worf admits Jadzia calls a "sentimental gesture". "Perhaps you would consider replacing sentiment with the symbol of a new beginning," Martok says, offering Worf his own family crest. "The House of Martok would be honored to welcome the son of Mogh into our family as a warrior, and as a brother." Realizing what this means, Worf takes off the symbol of his dishonored house and replaces it with Martok's. They are now part of the same family.
The song sung by Worf, Dax, and the Rotarran crew is the Warrior's Anthem from the Star Trek: Klingon CD-ROM (words by Hilary J. Bader, music by Keith Halper). The translation is as follows: "Hear sons of Kahless/Hear daughters too/The blood of battle washed us clean/The warrior brave and true." In the opening scene, when Bashir is treating Martok, he mentions that he could give the general a new eye, but Martok rejects the idea. The choice had actually been made by J.G. Hertzler, who felt that a Klingon would want to keep the scar as a badge of honor.