Let’s start this off with a bang, shall we? Worf is far and away my least favorite regular cast member from both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. He’s just downright awful. Michael Dorn is a great actor and a good guy, so let’s separate the art from the artist before we go any deeper here.
In order to really get into the meat of why I detest Worf as a character, we need to cover a few bases:
- I love Star Trek and have very specific ideas as to what Star Trek should be.
- Star Trek is a mess of conflicting canon and I hate it.
- Points 1 and 2 are somehow not mutually exclusive.
- Klingons are a mess of conflicting canon, even as they are being presented.
- Worf’s entire tenure involves him believing himself to be the most Klingon Klingon who ever Klingoned.
- He fails miserably at this in nearly every way possible, even considering conflicting canon.
So yeah, wow, that’s a pretty damning indictment. Let’s go through this.
Who The Hell Are Klingons, Anyway?
Before we can really get into why I consider Worf my least favorite character, we need to understand Klingons. Worf is introduced in the TNG pilot, and at that point, Trek canon is already muddled with very little actual content. In The Original Series, Klingons show up in just six episodes out of 79 and are presented as militaristic foils for the generally benevolent Federation. There are two more appearances in The Animated Series which just bring back Kor and Koloth. We know that the two sides had fought a war and did not like each other. Generally, they’re just your average bad guys. As Aurelio Voltaire famously opined, “they looked like Puerto Ricans and dressed in gold lamé.“
Continuing that line, “now they look like heavy metal rockers from the dead, with leather pants, and frizzy hair, and lobsters on their heads.” That’s how they appeared in The Motion Picture, completely baffling audiences in 1979. Very little to go on there other than their general vibe had changed, and that’s how they’d continue to be presented. In The Search for Spock, we get Christopher Lloyd and John Larroquette playing Klingons, and this wasn’t an intentional comedy, oddly enough. These Klingons are ruthless, bloodthirsty space vikings who are looking for weapons of mass destruction to rain hell on the Federation. They also really want to kill Kirk because…. he managed to best them in combat a few times without much bloodshed?
Worf, Son of Mogh, Son of Worf
That’s all the Klingon background we have by the time we get to Worf. His story is weird, as if Roddenberry was not entirely sure what to do with him. The shock value of TNG being set 70 years after TOS and there’s a KLINGON IN STARFLEET?! wears off pretty quickly when we discover that Worf is an orphan raised by Russian foster parents. Despite that, he’s growly and savage, similar to Kruge and crew, so I guess nature not nurture (or Sergey Rozhenko was an angry drunk). The Final Frontier gives us more unintentional comedy and Klingons who are generally surly and looking to kill Kirk.
As Worf’s backstory unfolds, we learn that he was orphaned in a Romulan attack on the world on which his father was stationed. His father was named traitor to the Empire for inviting the attack and dishonored in death. We also learn that Klingons are really big into honor and glory and valiant combat and generally being Space Viking Samurai.
That whole “HONOR! GLORY!” concept will take us through to the end of Deep Space Nine, but let me tell you it makes zero sense in the actual context that Klingons are presented in. Things that are not honorable: poisoning one’s foe. Being treacherous or duplicitous to gain an advantage. Fighting unfairly. Not being Worf’s friend. Things that are honorable: ambushing one’s foe with a cloaked ship and slaughtering them before they have a chance to react.
Who Even Are These People?
The Undiscovered Country comes next, which is both my favorite Trek film and the one where the Klingons go entirely off the rails. The Klingons in this movie are Romulans, no question. Romulans, for their part, are the most internally consistent villains in all of Star Trek, in every show they’ve been in. They are the Cold War Russians. Trek VI tried to make the Klingons the Cold War Russians, and while the movie is great, the depiction of Klingons checks all the boxes of what TNG and DS9 would label as “worthy of Worf’s enduring scorn.” Trek VI makes zero attempts to maintain any sort of internal consistency with established TNG Klingon lore. Instead, it makes them much closer to the TOS Klingons. Shady, underhanded, and willing to toss their mother out of an airlock to achieve their ends.
For the most part, if you want to discuss Worf and Klingons in general, you have to essentially cast aside all of their appearances in Kirk-era Trek, because it doesn’t match. This won’t cause any issues as we go on, I guarantee.
Now That We’ve Got Worf What Are We Going To Do With Him
We’ve settled on TNG and DS9 Klingon lore as our baseline. As TNG unfolds, we learn more and more about Worf, but it doesn’t really make sense. He was orphaned and taken in by the Rozhenkos when he was only six years old. After that, he didn’t really get to interact with Klingons much for almost a decade, when he took a trip the Klingon homeworld, where he was hoping to become a warrior. Sounds like a kid who spent a more than half his life trying to connect with a distant culture which he’d only experienced through the media available to him from a culture that had spent most of the past century or so viewing them as an enemy. Worf’s journey to Qo’noS was basically his emo phase. He never grew out of it.
The Klingons, for their part, took one look at this scrawny excuse for a Klingon, the orphaned son of a traitor to the Empire, and told him to jump into a plasma stream. Worf goes back to the Rozhenkos and joins Starfleet, which is the equivalent of your teenager screaming “the circus didn’t want me so FINE I guess I’ll just go to college!” and slamming their door. He spends the next few decades never growing out of this phase. While at Starfleet Academy, Worf meets K’Ehleyr, a half-human, half-Klingon woman. She code-switches very well, prefers her human heritage, and is way more Klingon than Worf. I’m assuming that being out-Klingoned by a woman who was trying to pass as human lead to Worf being a shitty boyfriend and K’Ehleyr dumping his ass
Protection Is Dishonorable!
We first meet K’Ehleyr as a special envoy, and, you know, we all make mistakes. Like hooking up with our ex that we dumped for a very good reason. Unfortunately, birth control in the 24th century is apparently something we still haven’t figured out. Can regrow a kidney with a pill, but can’t stop Worf’s swimmers from doing laps. Anyway, the next time we meet K’Ehleyr, she’s got Worf’s love child in tow. Klingons apparently mature rapidly, so Alexander is closer to a human four-year-old at just over one year old.
K’Ehleyr, having hidden Alexander from Worf, now decides that Worf needs to be a father and accept Alexander. Worf is, unsurprisingly, unwilling to do so, and uses a number of bullshit reasons like “I’m dishonored and my kid will be as well if I acknowledge that he’s mine” and “this is going to seriously affect my dating life” (probably). Anyway, K’Ehleyr gets herself killed in a plot by the same guy who framed Worf’s father, and Worf decides to be a daddy…
…For like thirty seconds, before sending Alexander off to Earth to live with his parents. A few things to note here: Firstly, the Enterprise is a community ship with a large number of families and civilians. Second, he just expects his aging parents to care for yet another Klingon child, one that’s even younger than the last. Thirdly, the Federation is a post-scarcity society. Worf isn’t trying to make a living here, he isn’t doing this so his kid can have a better life. He is putting his career ahead of his child for no other reason than personal glory. He could raise his child and have the same (or better!) standard of living, but he pointedly choses to not do that.
So much for Sergey and Helena‘s retirement plans, Worf has shit to do. Fast forward another year, and Helena tells Worf “the boy needs a father.” I’m assuming that Sergey has been drinking again. Alexander comes to stay on the Enterprise, and Worf spends the next few years demonstrating that he is probably not the best choice to be a father. He will spend the better part of the next decade doing everything he can to get rid of Alexander and be the glorious warrior (fuckboy) that he envisions himself to be. Eventually, in a bid to win his deadbeat dad’s love and respect, Alexander joins the Klingon military and fails miserably at being a warrior.
Honor! Glory! What A Dork!
Worf spends almost all of his interactions with other Klingons lecturing them on how to be a Klingon. Unsurprisingly, few of them appreciate this. He berates multiple High Chancellors, calling them out for perceived failures of honor. Worf becomes a bat’leth master. He fancies himself a legendary warrior of both space combat and hand-to-hand fighting. Worf masters his body and mind into the mold of Khaless, the near-mythical forefather of the Klingon Empire. Meanwhile, every other Klingon he encounters either consider him houseless trash, or tolerates him because he comes with Starfleet connections that can be used to further some plot or ambition. Even Martok, the most “Klingon” Klingon in the Book of Worf, can barely stand him and keeps him around because despite being an insufferably prick, he’s actually good at what he does.
Worf’s defining characteristic are scolding everyone around him for their lack of honor, and putting his own personal honor ahead of literally everyone else. Worf has to be reeled in from starting fights that would get the Enterprise destroyed. He shows a callous disregard for his own child’s wellbeing in favor of his own honor, even to the point of trying to get Alexander to murder him when he’s disabled. Worf starts a death match with Gowron over a point of honor, and then wins that death match with a sneaky, underhanded shot when Gowron had him beat. He even threatens Picard‘s life when he feels his honor is being challenged.
Par’makh and Rockets
At some point, Worf decides he wants to toss Deanna Troi around his quarters. In violation of all professional ethics, she decides to go along with this in what can only be a ploy to make Riker jealous. This predictably doesn’t last, but there seems to be no acrimony there. He even behaves himself at Troi and Riker’s (very non-traditional and fully-clothed) wedding.
After the Enterprise is destroyed by two dishonorable Klingons doing dishonorable things (using a sneaky advantage to defeat a superior foe which is TOTALLY different from a cloaking device), Worf transfers to DS9 and tries his hand at command. There, he meets Jadzia Dax. Now, Dax (the symbiote), has a long and friendly history with Klingons. This makes Jadzia horny enough to climb Mount Worf. It turns out that Curzon, Dax’s previous host, was good friends with TOS villains and noted Kirk-haters Kang, Koloth, and Kor (See? No problems with TOS continuity at all!). This obviously gives Worf a raging honor-on. Interestingly, his love for Jadzia shows us the one and only time that Worf ever puts someone else’s well-being over his own personal honor, when he blows off a mission to save Jadzia’s life.
You Haven’t Seen The Last Of Me!
We will see Worf again in the final season of Picard, a show that I absolutely loathe (and will hate-watch). As I said at the beginning, Star Trek is a mess of conflicting canon, and I hate it. Picard, however, doesn’t just conflict with established canon, it seems to have contempt for it. I’m interested to see what they do with Worf. He states in the latest trailer that he prefers pacifism to combat, yet he’s got a weapon strapped to his back. Will there be any mention of Alexander, his forgotten bastard love child? In a TNG episode, future Alexander comes back in time to try to get his younger self to be a warrior (which he eventually tries… poorly) to save Worf from an assassination attempt. We’ve seen many possible TNG futures, and none of them have even remotely come to pass.
I completely understand that Michael Dorn is literally twice the age now as he was when he first played Worf, but Klingons age differently and he looks prematurely ancient. We know they’re past the toddler stage by 1 year old, but Kang, Koloth, and Kor were all well over 100 years old when last we saw them and looked about as grey as Worf does now. That’s not really a knock on Worf, I just thought it was odd that they wouldn’t try to make him look even a little younger than the rest of the crew. But again, Picard is a mess that makes the rest of the mess look clean.
Will we get some sort of redemption for Worf? Will he still be an intolerable scold ranting about honor? It would be great to see him have a sense of humor. Maybe have him talk about finally becoming a good father while still mourning Jadzia. Any mention of DS9 besides a missable name-drop would be good. Some info on what the Klingon Empire is up to these days would be great as well. Aside from being my least-favorite crew member, Worf was also the most boring Klingon. I’d rather know what Martok is up to.
So that’s it. A wildly long screed about why I detest one single character. Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to writing an entire novel about why I love Deep Space Nine so much.