Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Character Insight No. 172: General Martok

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile the Klingon General and then Chancellor Martok based on a recommendation from Chris on Twitter, the regular Ten Forward topic producer. 

(Martok, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Martok appears first in late Season 4 of Deep Space Nine, and he becomes a staple of the stories involving Klingons and the Dominion War. Indeed, he ends up in a close friendship with Worf, who also brings a lot of Klingon-type stories to these latter seasons of the show.

The only backstory we learn about Martok is from his own recollection, in the episode Once More Unto the Breach.  He grew up in the House of Martok when that was not a part of the high aristocracy, but he earns a battlefield commission as an officer after successfully defending a Klingon general during a surprise Romulan attack. He's a high riser who makes it to the rank of General by the time of the events on Deep Space Nine.

His first few appearances on the show are actually as a Dominion founder who shapeshifts into Martok while General Martok is in an internment camp for two years. This real Martok escapes in the episode By Inferno's Light, but not before we learn about the daily struggle for a captive Klingon used to train Jem'Hadar warriors in hand-to-hand combat, including losing an eye.

Worf serves as a close mentor to Martok during his imprisonment and then after he is made commander of the Klingon forces on Deep Space Nine. Although Martok could be a gruff angry character at times, he is an excellent judge of character and that comes in very handy when fighting the shapeshifters of the Dominion. He led Klingon forces in many significant Dominion War battles, including the battle to retake Deep Space Nine as well as the charge to end the war on the Cardassian homeworld.

From You are Cordially Invited:
Lt. Commander Worf: Anyone can see that we are hopelessly mismatched. She is a Trill, I'm a Klingon. She has had five marriages; this would be my first. When she is laughing, I am somber. When I am happy, she is crying. She plays tongo with the Ferengi bartender; I can barely stand him. She mocks everything, while I take everything seriously. She is nothing like the woman I thought I would marry. Martok: We are not accorded the luxury of choosing the women we fall in love with. Do you think Sirella is anything like the woman I thought that I'd marry? She is a prideful, arrogant, mercurial woman, who shares my bed far too infrequently for my taste. And yet... I love her, deeply. We Klingons often tout our prowess in battle, our desire for glory and honor above all else. But how hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it with. Honor gives little comfort to a man alone in his home... and in his heart.

In the meantime, he also becomes Chancellor when Gowron tries to dishonor Martok by taking over the fleet and assigning him to losing battles, leading to a showdown where Worf kills Gowron. Martok invites Worf and his family to join the House of Mogh, and he establishes Worf as Federation Ambassador to the Klingons after the Dominion War is won by his leadership and battle prowess.

Martok adds an interesting Klingon dynamic to the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine, helping advance the character of Worf as well by an external influence. He's always got some interesting views, such as marriage being a disguised and subtle form of combat. For that, he rises above the ranks of typical boring Klingons of the era into a character that is good to see in the complex and dark Dominion War stories.

Until next time, earn your honor.

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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