“This time, we will reach the Albino. And when we do, I will cut his heart out and eat it while he watches me with his dying breath.”
Thus speaks Kang (Michael Ansara), one of three Original Series Klingons who returned for DS9's second season episode “Blood Oath,” arguably the most “Oh my God I can't believe this is happening” episodes in all of Star Trek.
While “Trials and Tribble-ations” may appear on the surface to be the bigger, wetter kiss to longtime Trek fans, “Blood Oath’s” pure play to true enthusiasts of continuity was a game changer. Three characters who were never remotely household names all came back, giving firm and strangely specific ties between the “old” Trek and the new.
It was 19 years ago this week that the episode first aired. It begins with Quark and Odo pulling a drunken Klingon out of a holosuite. In short order we learn that it is Kor (John Colicos) – yes, Kor, the Klingon who played Cold War games with Kirk on Organia in “Errand of Mercy.” If that isn't enough to make our heads spin, he is soon visited in the Brig by Koloth (William Campbell), yes, Koloth, the sneaky Klingon who crossed Kirk, quadrotriticale and the Tribbles on Deep Space Station K-7 in “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Later, it is discovered that they were assembled by Kang, the Klingon who had to put aside his hate (temporarily) with Kirk in “Day of the Dove.”
When I say “they were assembled” I also include a Federation member. The three Klingons collected at Deep Space Nine because the fourth part of the puzzle – the fourth individual to take a blood oath of revenge against the infanticidal creep known as The Albino – was Curzon Dax.
Of course, Curzon Dax has undergone a change. His memories live on through the Dax symbiote within Jadzia, but Jadzia Dax is an individual, and this “new look” is more than skin deep. Trills are not beholden to the actions of former hosts, but can Jadzia turn her back on Kang, Koloth, Kor AND Curzon? And, in a way, herself?
Dax isn't the only one who has changed. The three Klingons, played by the same actors as from the late 1960s, all appear with ridged foreheads. Star Trek continuity had yet to explain the augmentation virus, but their attitudes have changed as well as their faces. The once fearsome warrior Kor is more of a bumbling old uncle and Koloth, while more put together, comes off as merely a grump. (To be fair, these folks are all over a century old.) Only Kang still has true fire in his belly, thinking longingly of “a time [when] the mere mention of the Klingon Empire made worlds tremble. Now, our warriors are opening restaurants and serving racht to the grandchildren of men I slaughtered in battle.”
The peace between the Klingons and the Federation was brokered, in part, between Kang and Curzon Dax. This friendship led Curzon to be Godfather to Kang's son, whose murder led to the titular blood oath of this episode. Now, Kang has been able to track down their quarry (The Albino) and the time to kill has come.
For a show that frequently has people dying at the other end of a phaser, “Blood Oath” treats killing seriously. Combat is always a last resort for the Federation, so can Jadzia Dax just go and “take out a hit?” She engages Kira, to check in on her bloodstained conscience post-Bajoran independence, and the result (in typical DS9 fashion) is not exactly black and white.
Eventually Jadzia joins the fight, and while we don't actually see her kill anyone, she certainly uses her Bat'leth in a dangerous manner. (You wouldn't go running through the house like that, let's put it that way.) It's a marvelous episode from stem to stern, and not just for giving longtime fans (not one, not two, but) three different guests appearances to flip out about. It foreshadows some of the moral gray area that later DS9 seasons would study in more depth and establishes Dax's familiarity with and proclivity for Klingons. (Oh, if only Kang and Koloth lived long enough to attend her wedding with Worf! We're guessing Kor's invite simply got lost in the mail.)
For Klingon-lovers, this is one of the best episodes ever. It is wall-to-wall with Klingon vocabulary (“N'yengoren strategy” might be my favorite), but also has Dax puffing out her chest and confronting Kang about something that has been on our minds for quite some time: namely, the fascination Klingons have with courting death. “You treat death like a lover. I think living is a lot more attractive,” she throws in Kang's face, to which he has no real response.
Were you watching 19 years ago? Did you lose your mind when you saw the Three Klingon Musketeers and Dax as D'artagnan? Did Dax violate her Federation beliefs by traveling with them or was she right to honor Curzon's blood oath? I want to hear your answers to all these questions in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Film.com, ScreenCrush and Badass Digest. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels.