SPOILER WARNING: Discussion for Star Trek: Lower Decks — Season 3, Episode 2 "The Least Dangerous Game" to follow!
On the latest episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Ensign Boimler is looking to expand his horizons and take on new duties and challenges in the hopes of improving his promotion chances. To that end, he volunteers to help K’ranch, an alien whose species thrives on hunting. Things go about as well as you might expect when Boimler agrees to something in the excitement of the moment.
Meanwhile, Commander Ransom leads an away team to carry out some emergency repairs on the planet Dulaine, which also provides an opportunity to make some diplomatic overtures. He assigns Lt. Commander Billups along with Ensigns Mariner and Rutherford to his away team, but Mariner’s surprised when the two engineers are given the diplomatic mission while she’s stuck with Ransom doing the repair work.
[Seinfeld] What’s the deal with that? [/Seinfeld]
Before (and after!) all of that, we drop in on the Lower Deckers enjoying some down time with an enthralling game of Bat’leths & BIHnuchs, a Klingon tabletop roleplaying game. If you’re familiar with such games, then you know you need a gamemaster to run the show, and leading Mariner, Boimler, Tendi, and Rutherford through their gaming quest is none other than Martok, brave warrior and Chancellor of the High Council for the Klingon Empire!
Yeah, you read that right.
Martok should be no stranger to any longtime Star Trek fans. Portrayed by the wonderful actor J.G. Hertzler, Martok was introduced in the fifth-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “In Purgatory’s Shadow.” He would continue to appear in more than 20 episodes throughout the end of the series, working with Captain Benjamin Sisko and his crew as the Federation and the Klingons come together to fight as allies during the Dominion War.
Unlike many Klingons who ascend to leadership positions within the Empire, Martok was not born to a powerful family. At first, rejected for military service and assigned as a civilian worker aboard a Klingon warship, he ultimately showed his bravery and worthiness when that vessel was attacked and boarded by Romulans. Earning a commission as an officer in the Klingon Defense Force, Martok continued to prove himself and advance, ultimately ascending to the rank of general. Abducted by the Dominion, he was replaced by a Changeling, who while posing as Martok, attempted to trigger a war between the Federation and the Empire.
After his rescue from a Dominion prison, Martok commanded a Klingon warship and eventually an entire fleet of Klingon and Starfleet vessels as the Dominion War escalated. When it was revealed that Chancellor Gowron was directing the Empire’s contributions to the war effort for his own political gain rather than the best interests of the Klingon people, he was forcibly removed from power by Lt. Commander Worf.
Translation? “Killed completely to death during ritual combat.” Brutal? Yeah, but you have to admit it’s pretty effective.
Rather than assume the role of Chancellor himself, Worf instead transferred that responsibility to Martok, who at first resisted the notion but accepted the title after Worf assured him he was the best choice for the Empire. Quoting Emperor Kahless, Worf told Martok, “Great men do not seek power; they have power thrust upon them.”
(I checked. Hallmark doesn’t have a greeting card showcasing this bit of wisdom and sentiment. Yet.)
As for Martok the Gamemaster? It turns out that was just a configuration in the interactive computer program used to play Bat’leths & BIHnuchs, created by Ferengi game developers who probably didn’t even bother to secure Martok’s likeness rights. They’re sneaky that way.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking Bat’leths & BIHnuchs needs to be a real thing. Someone should probably get on that.
Dayton Ward (he/him) is a New York Times bestselling author or co-author of numerous novels and short stories including a whole bunch of stuff set in the Star Trek universe, and often collaborating with friend and co-writer Kevin Dilmore. As he’s still a big ol' geek at heart, Dayton is known to wax nostalgic about all manner of Star Trek topics over on his own blog, The Fog of Ward.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams exclusively in the United States and Latin America on Paramount+, on Amazon Prime Video in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Japan, India and more, and in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.