The Good: Character development, Decent acting
The Bad: Somewhat melodramatic, Light on plot
The Basics: As the Dominion War heats up, Kor finds himself obsolete and Martok is troubled by Worf’s affiliation with him.
One of the nice things about having such a rich palate of characters to play with as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did is that it really increases the storytelling potential. Even so, with so many characters, it is hard to get wild about all of them and Kor, the aged Klingon, was never one of my favorites. So, my initial reaction to “Once More Unto The Breach” is to consider it one of the less compelling episodes of the series. However, the reason “Once More Unto The Breach” actually works extraordinarily well is that it is a very subtle payoff to an idea planted a very long ago.
In “Reunion” (reviewed here!), back in the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gowron was introduced as a challenger for the position of Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. At that time, Worf knew little about him, save that he was an outsider and a reformer. Outside the initial civil war that was precipitated when Gowron ascended to lead the council, he has been a pretty straightforward, mundane, Klingon leader. In fact, the most audacious thing we have seen him do (on screen) was promote women’s rights in “The House Of Quark” (reviewed here!). But in “Once More Unto The Breach,” Gowron’s position as an outsider from the mainstream political system of the Klingon Empire is reinforced by implied association. Martok, first introduced as Gowron’s chief advisor in “The Way Of The Warrior,” is revealed in “Once More Unto The Breach” to be of a lower social strata in the Klingon Empire. That Martok could ascend to be the Chancellor’s most valued aide when he is considered undesirable actually illustrates that Gowron IS the reformer or outsider he was initially characterized as!
When Kor arrives on Deep Space Nine, it is to ask Worf for a favor. He has been unable to get any significant position and earn any glory since the Dominion War began. Knowing that Worf is now in the House of Martok, he hopes Worf can get him a ship. Martok, however, is adamantly against the idea. Kor, as it turns out, blocked Martok’s early attempt to get on the officer track based on being born in the Kethel lowlands. Martok wants nothing to do with Kor and is irked when Worf takes him on as the third officer aboard the Rotarrn.
Martok’s disgust only grows as the crew fawns all over Kor, listening to his stories about the good old days of fighting StarFleet and the like. But when the Rotarrn’s mission to destroy some Dominion facilities takes a bad turn, Kor proves that he is not fit for command, giving orders that make it clear he believes he is on a past mission. With the Rotarrn and the other ships in the Klingon squadron in retreat, Jem’Hadar ships near to put an end to them all!
“Once More Unto The Breach” initially comes across as the tale of Kor as a doddering old fool, an aged warrior who has long outlived his usefulness. He has the desire to die with honor and part of the purpose of “Once More Unto The Breach” is to give the chance for Kor to explicitly be written out of the franchise as a hero. And in that regard, it works.
What “Once More Unto The Breach” actually is, though, is a Martok story and one that sets up the character’s final arc exceptionally well. As Star Trek: Deep Space Nine winds down, it has a lot of characters to leave and Martok rapidly became one of the most vital characters in the series. By adding the element that he is lowborn, “Once More Unto The Breach” makes his final arc – especially Gowron’s impending issues with his popularity – that much more understandable. “Once More Unto The Breach” allows Martok to appear as a warrior who is anything but evolved. Having hung onto his anger at Kor for decades, there is no simple solution for him and “Once More Unto The Breach” is smart enough to never simply wipe away the anger Martok has an clean the slate that way.
“Once More Unto The Breach” allows J.G. Hertzler to shine once again. Not at all a supporting player in “Once More Unto The Breach,” the episode gives him the chance to play the character of Martok with a little more depth than normal. Martok is complicated and Hertzler infuses the performances with subtleties, eye movements and hunched body language that sells the character’s sense of conviction and his disdain for Kor. Hertzler plays off both Dorn and Colicos with wonderful deliveries and a strong range of emotions, making for an excellent performance.
The b-plot in “Once More Unto The Breach” finds Quark convinced that Ezri is looking for a new relationship with Worf. It’s a very minor b-plot with a quick resolution. Far more interesting is the episode’s set-up, which has O’Brien and Bashir debating their Alamo program with Worf making commentary on it.
Ultimately, “Once More Unto The Breach” is a decent character exploration of one of the most significant supporting characters of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that does a decent job of foreshadowing the end of the series.
[Knowing that the season is a much better investment, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which provides the full story for the conclusion to the series. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!
For the other episodes that feature John Colicos as Kor, be sure to check out:
“Errand Of Mercy”
“The Sword Of Kahless”
For other Star Trek episode reviews, please be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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