(written from a Production point of view)
After Worf becomes first officer of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey commanded by General Martok, he is caught between loyalty to his commander and loyalty to the crew.
Doctor Bashir treats Klingon General Martok for an injury he claimed he suffered in the holosuite. Bashir chastises him for disabling the Holodeck safety protocol and for refusing to replace his maimed eye with an artificial one. Afterward, Martok visits Worf on the bridge of the USS Defiant. It is clear that the two men have come to have great respect for each other following their imprisonment in Internment Camp 371. Worf apologizes for inconveniencing Martok by causing his injury during a training session. Martok then informs Worf that the Klingon High Council has assigned him a mission, his first since their escape. He offers Worf to be his first officer aboard the IKS Rotarran, a Bird-of-Prey.
The son of Mogh gladly accepts, explaining to Captain Benjamin Sisko in his office that the general had saved his life while imprisoned at Internment Camp 371. He explains that he had been about to let the Jem'Hadar kill him, when he and Martok experienced a moment of tova'dok, which is a "moment of clarity between two warriors on a field of battle." This encouraged him to continue fighting. Worf doubts that a Human could understand this. However, Sisko relieves Worf of his Starfleet duties and places him on detached leave to the Klingon Defense Forces.
Their mission is to find the IKS B'Moth, a battle cruiser that has been missing for three days. Dax, jumping at the opportunity of being on a Klingon ship again, decides to come along, while Kira, Miles O'Brien, and Bashir are assigned Worf's regular duties. Worf chooses not to wear his baldric while aboard the Rotarran; as the House of Mogh no longer exists, he sees no point in displaying its crest. Despite the vessel's string of defeats by the Jem'Hadar in the last several months, Worf accepts the crew's battle records and pledges their lives to General Martok. Martok accepts the crew's lives and orders the helmsman to set a course around the nearby Tong Beak Nebula, claiming that he wishes to avoid a confrontation if there should be Jem'Hadar ships hiding in it. The helmsman objects, but obeys the order. Once they have warped away, Worf starts to sing The Warrior's Anthem. Some of the others join in, but it is a dour unenthused version of the song. Worf and Dax immediately realize that this mission is not off to a good start.
Dax arrives in the Rotarran's mess hall to find Ortikan sitting in her assigned seat. She throws him on the floor and threatens him before sitting down. She then tries to brighten the mood by informing the others that she has brought aboard three barrels of bloodwine from Deep Space 9, which the crew have not had for six months.
Meanwhile, Martok and Worf discuss the crew's unsatisfactory combat record and both realize that one defeat after another has taken away the crew's motivation and has even led them to expect it in battle. They both agree that a victory would do much to lift their spirits. They promise each other they will soon make the ship worthy of the Empire.
Back in the mess hall, the crew drinks Dax' bloodwine and discusses their previous failures in battle. Kornan claims that the ship is cursed and that they will never be victorious in battle. Just then, a klaxon goes off indicating that they have cloaked, and Worf calls alert status one – a Jem'Hadar patrol has crossed their path.
Despite the ship's and the crew's readiness for battle, Martok decides not to risk attacking the Jem'Hadar ship, claiming that their real mission is to rescue the B'Moth. Even though the crew strongly disagrees with this, Worf refuses to challenge Martok. Dax warns him that a dangerous situation is developing.
In the mess hall, the crewmembers get drunk and Leskit begins an analysis of the Jem'Hadar after he speaks admirably of the Cardassians he fought against. He says that the Jem'Hadar have no honor, they have been bred for battle, and that makes them more efficient than Klingons. He even interprets the recent decisions of Martok as a fear of the Jem'Hadar. Suddenly, Kornan goes berserk and attacks Leskit. In the fight, he nearly kills Ortikan who came to the rescue. Dax then ends the combat by shooting Kornan with a phaser.
Worf runs into Dax in the corridor and notices the blood stains on her uniform. She informs him what happened and once again warns him that it will only get worse.
A little after, the Rotarran crew picks up a distress call from the B'Moth. It is an automatic transmission indicating they were attacked by the Jem'Hadar, suffered heavy casualties and are in need of assistance. They set a course for the coordinates. Tavana thanks Dax for intervening in the fight and saving Ortakin, her Par'Mach'kai.
Worf and Martok discuss the distress call. Martok is convinced that it is a trap, that the Jem'Hadar purposely left survivors aboard the B'Moth in order for someone to come rescue them, or even that they may have faked the distress call. When the Rotarran arrives in visual range, they realize that the battle cruiser has drifted into Cardassian space. The crew is ready to cross the border in order to carry out the rescue, but Martok refuses to take them across, citing strict orders from the High Council and claiming that there must not be survivors anyway. He then leaves the bridge, and Worf decides while talking to Dax that it is time to challenge him for command of the ship.
Martok returns to the bridge and Worf challenges him. It is clear that the crew can't stand another defeat and Worf wants his friend to see that. In the following struggle, Martok again feels what it is to be a Klingon and when Worf realizes he has made his point, he lets Martok defeat him by stabbing him with a d'k tahg knife. When a Jem'Hadar ship is detected nearby by Tavana, a re-invigorated Martok promises to make the Jem'Hadar regret crossing them. This time, the crew are fully behind him and sing The Warrior's Anthem much more enthusiastically. Dax carries an injured but much-at-ease Worf to be treated.
Later, the ship returns to DS9 on a triumphant note. They had destroyed the Jem'Hadar ship and rescued 35 crewmembers from the B'Moth. The scope of their success allowed the High Council to easily forgive their crossing into Cardassian space; indeed, they commended the crew's bravery. The crew is completely changed by the recent victory, and Martok requests fifteen barrels of bloodwine to celebrate this. He later comes to Worf to thank him for making him remember he is a soldier and a warrior, and Worf admits that when he let Martok defeat him, he wasn't sure he wouldn't kill him. Martok is impressed by the sacrifice Worf was willing to make, and makes his friend an offer. He mentions that Worf still wears the crest for the House of Mogh, and Worf admits that Jadzia considers it a sentimental gesture. Martok offers Worf a new beginning as a member of the House of Martok, telling him he is proud to welcome Worf into his family as a warrior... and as a brother. Worf accepts, and replaces the House of Mogh crest with the one for the House of Martok. The two warriors and brothers clasp hands in victory, signaling a new beginning for Worf.
"I-I do not wish to have a lengthy goodbye."
"I wasn't planning on having one."
- - Worf and Dax at the airlock
"I am Worf, son of Mogh. I now take my place as first officer. I serve the captain, but I stand for the crew."
- - Worf
"Two years I spent on the Cardassian border. Two years fighting Guls and Legates and Glinns. They were cunning enemies. Always had us chasing holo-projections and sensor ghosts. Everything was a game with them. Always had a plan within a plan within a plan leading into a trap. It was an honor to kill them."
"Ah, but you can respect a Cardassian because he fights for his people and he follows a code just like we do. But not the soldiers of the Dominion. Not the Jem'Hadar. No; they don't fight for anything. They fight because they're designed that way, because they're programmed to fight."
"They have no honor."
"You're right. That's why they're better than us."
- - Leskit and Ortakin, explaining the difference between the Cardassians and the Jem'Hadar
"It is clear to me that none of you are worthy of my blood or my life, but I will stand for you."
- - Worf
"They are 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! I must not allow them to destroy us, Worf. I must..."
- - Martok
"Today would be a bad day to die, son of Mogh. Take your Trill and go!"
- - Leskit, to Worf
Hear! Sons of Kahless. Hear! Daughters too.
The blood of battle washes clean
The warrior brave and true.
We fight, we love, and then we kill.
Our lives burn short and bright.
Then we die with honor and
Join our fathers in the black fleet,
Where we battle, forever battling, on
Through the eternal fight.
- - Klingon crew – war song translation
Story and script
- The origins of this episode are to be found in a request Ira Steven Behr made to Ronald D. Moore: "Give me Star Trek: Klingon – a story that we could do as a Star Trek episode, but with all Klingon characters". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Ronald D. Moore's original idea for this episode was for Worf and the crew of the Rotarran to answer a distress call from a Klingon colony. When they arrive, they find all of the inhabitants missing. Nearby is a lake surrounded in a mysterious fog, and when they approach it, a boatman appears and takes them to the entrance to Gre'thor. Once inside, they meet a friend of Martok's, who wants them to take him with them. And then they meet Worf's father, Mogh. There were a number of reasons that this particular story never made it into production. Firstly, Ira Steven Behr felt that the episode was trying to accomplish too much – showing both the realistic day-to-day operations of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and a mythic journey to the afterlife. Behr also felt it was too late in the season to do such a philosophical show dealing with life, death and hell. As well as this, the concept proved to be too complex and expensive. However, it is worth noting that Moore's idea formed the basic plot of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Barge of the Dead", which he also wrote. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Of the writing of this show, Ronald D. Moore explains, "It became a show about Martok and Worf on the Bird-of-Prey, going out on a mission. I knew that Dax had to come along because I needed another voice. But what was important to me was giving that ship an inner life, in the sense that you walk in and each of the people there would have his own specific character and backstory and relationships. We'd find out how a Bird-of-Prey works, what the things are that make it run." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Of special importance to Ronald D. Moore in this episode was giving each Klingon an individualized personality and look. Of the characterization of the crew of the Rotarran, Moore says, "One of them thinks they're cursed, and one of them is a female engineer who doesn't want to give up. And then there's the troublemaker who just enjoys making the situation worse and worse in a perverse desire to destroy them all." However, individualized physicality was also of vital importance; "On some of the shows where we've had a lot of Klingons on camera, even I get them confused. So we wanted more visual distinction here, and as a result, one was given short-cropped hair and one had no sleeves. Tavana's hair is red, and there was even a blond Klingon." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The episode began shooting on the 24th February 1997. (AOL chat, 1997)
- The Warrior's Anthem first heard in the CD-ROM adventure Star Trek: Klingon (which also featured J.G. Hertzler, though not as Martok) enters Star Trek canon in this episode. Of the scene when the Rotarran crew break into song, assistant director B.C. Cameron said, "Everybody sang. All the background players, the extras, the crew. We had big cards with these Klingonese words written on them for the actors to read. For days, that's all you'd hear on stage: people singing this battle song." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- There is a short scene of Dax pushing some buttons on a control panel. Ronald D. Moore commented: "Dax was actually sending a message to Ortakin (Tavana's lover) warning him of the impending mutiny. Ortakin shows up on the bridge a few seconds later with two other armed Klingons. The cutaway to Dax didn't read as well on camera as we had hoped and now Ortakin's arrival is a bit mysterious." (AOL chat, 1997)
- This episode is a favorite of actor J.G. Hertzler, who sees it as solidifying the character of Martok after his return/debut in "In Purgatory's Shadow". Of Ron Moore, who wrote "Soldiers of the Empire", Hertzler comments "I'm forever in his debt." He also says of the episode, "It had a lot of heart." (Hidden File 09, DS9 Season 5 DVD, Special Features)
- Although the cast and crew loved this episode and felt it was extremely successful, Ira Steven Behr was unsatisfied with it; "This is an episode that almost made it. LeVar is one of the strongest directors we have when it comes to working with actors. But the casting process was difficult, and I don't think the makeup always helped the actors. None of it went far enough." Behr was especially displeased with how the "toughness" of Martok's crew was handled; "The scene at Quark's really was depressing. They were supposed to be the baddest guys. One of them has teeth around his neck. And people in the bar talk about them like they're bad guys, but they're not badass at all! Throughout the entire show, without a doubt, the toughest man on the ship is Martok. And that totally screwed up the show in my mind." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In 2016, the Hollywood Reporter ranked the episode tenth in their best episodes of the series list. 
- Worf becomes a member of the House of Martok in this episode, something which has great implications for the future.
- The IKS Rotarran makes its first appearance in this episode. The Rotarran reappeared as Martok's command ship in "Sons and Daughters" before being replaced by the IKS Ch'Tang in "Once More Unto the Breach". The Rotarran reappears In "Tacking Into the Wind".
- No stardate is given in this episode, but Worf makes a combat log on the fifty third day of the year of Kahless 999. (Note that Klingon years do not match standard Terran years.)
- Armin Shimerman (Quark) and Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) do not appear in this episode.
- Remastered scenes from the episode are featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.11, 1 September 1997
- As part of the DS9 Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lt. Commander Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- David Graf as Leskit
- Rick Worthy as Kornan
- Sandra Nelson as Tavana
- Aron Eisenberg as Nog
- J.G. Hertzler as Martok
999; active polaron scan; alert status one; Alpha Quadrant; asteroid field; autocrat; autosuture; Bajoran interceptor (Bajoran interceptors); barrel; battle cruiser, Klingon; battle simulation; battle stations; bearing; Black Fleet; blood; bloodwine; B'Moth, IKS; boarding party; bok-rat; bow thruster; brachial artery; Cardassian; Cardassian border; carpet; centimeter; commendation; computer core; crew roster; d'k tahg; Dax, Curzon; Defiant, USS; dereliction of duty; detached service; disability; distress call; docking clamp; duty roster; emergency power; emitter stage; engineering officer; engineering team; Ferengi; field of battle; first officer; fleet liaison officer; garbage scow; Glinn; Great House; Gul; heart; holo-projection; holosuite; House of Martok; House of Mogh; Human; Internment Camp 371; Imperial Klingon Defense Forces; intelligence officer; Jem'Hadar; Jem'Hadar patrol ship; K't'inga-class; Kahless the Unforgettable; kellicam; kilometer; Klingon Bird-of-Prey; Klingon Empire; Klingon High Council; Klingon warrior's anthem; leave; Legate; medical ward; mind; mission report; Mogh; mooring; neckbone; ocular implant; operating system; par'Mach'kai; personnel report; phaser relay; phaser rifle; pirate; polaron scan; prefire chamber; priority message; prison record; Qo'noS; Quark's; reconnaissance mission; record of battle/battle record; Rotarran, IKS; science officer; security clearance; sensor ghost; severed; Shovak; small arms recalibration; spitting; stewed bok-rat liver; Tavana's mother; Tong Beak Nebula; tova'dok; training exercise; warrior; weapons officer; weep; word; Year of Kahless
- "Soldiers of the Empire" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Soldiers of the Empire" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Soldiers of the Empire" at Wikipedia
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