Warrior’s Way #4: What is the KDF Story Anyway? Part II
The Devidian Missions and the Fekh’Iri Return
The next month or so is all about story in Warrior’s Way. As stated in Warrior’s Way #3, I will be taking my new KDF engineer, Sargon III, through all the KDF missions very slowly and very carefully; and while going through them, I ask the question, “What is the KDF story anyway?” My chief priority is to interact with the KDF story as both a reader and a player. What kind of story emerges? Is there a story at all? The answers to these questions remain to be seen.
In the first week, I covered the KDF tutorial and several of the missions assembled under the episode, “The Federation War.” This week, I finish up “The Federation War,” looking in particular at the Devidian missions (“Skirmish,” “Spin the Wheel,” “What Lies Beneath,” “Everything Old is New” and “Night of the Comet”). I then enter into the lore- (not to mention bug-)rich episode, “The Fek’Ihri Return” (“Blood of the Empire,” “Destiny,” “Afterlife,” “The Gates of Gre’thor”)
The Devidian missions—given by the intelligence operative, K’men—are entertaining, well-paced, and visually stimulating. What begins as a relatively normal combat mission (defeat the Federation and True Way ships), quickly turns into a multidisciplinary, multidimensional hunt, in which the player uses scientific, engineering, combat, and even bartending skills as s/he investigates a number of strange deaths and ultimately fends off a Devidian incursion. In these missions, the player encounters a diverse set of environments: the interior of a True Way starship, the bowels of Drozana station, a cargo area, Drozana station past and present, and a Dabo table to name just a few. Although I love all of these environments, now that I am on the other side of the mission, I have to admit that I am glad to be done with, “What Lies Beneath.” I never have liked the dark or spiders, and I should have grabbed that flashlight!
The Devidian missions are an interesting mixture of genres. The authors cleverly inject large doses of (cult) horror into an otherwise science fiction story: the eerie and ghostly voice that cries out, “Bonnie-kin, Bonnie-kin!”, the floating specter-like figure of the Devidians, and the Ghost-Busters-like Synchronic Proton Distortion Prototype Assault Rifle, among other things. Like the creative and shifting environments, this sort of genre blending makes for an enjoyable reading experience.
Nostalgic references from both the Original Series and Next Generation also fill the Devidian missions. Of course, the Devidians themselves are part of TNG lore (see “Time’s Arrow,” Parts I-II). It’s just too bad Data’s head couldn’t get worked into the mission somehow. “Bones” (a.k.a. Dr. McCoy) and Scotty even make an appearance—a real kick start to anyone’s day. With a fine mixture of riddles, nostalgia, time-travel, and horror the Devidian missions, when considered as a self-contained corpus of missions, are absolutely delightful.
The second set of missions I played are from “The Fek’Ihri Return” (“Blood of the Empire,” “Destiny,” “Afterlife,” “The Gates of Gre’thor”). For anyone who loves Klingon lore, or who is simply interested in learning more about it, these missions are, to use a distinctly Klingon term, “glorious.” The brief lesson from the lore singers: beautiful; the conversation with Worf: fantastic; the trip to Gre’thor and the Barge of the Dead: stunning; the opportunity to fight the hordes of “hell”: priceless; the centrality of the very Arthurian sword of Kahless: brilliant. These episodes are full of legendary and mythic Klingon themes, making the player and reader feel like she is participating in something great and significant. I can only say that these missions embody the best of Klingon storytelling.
“The Fek’Ihri Return” begins in a rather prosaic manner: There is a report of battle in the Norgh System, and J’mpok wants you to investigate why there is an enemy so close to the heart of the Empire. The player soon discovers, however, that this is no ordinary enemy. You encounter beings that claim to be the Fekh’Iri, who have returned from Gre’thor to punish the Klingons for Kahless’ sins. Although J’mpok questions whether these new enemies really are the same mythic hordes Kahless fought over a thousand years ago (he even wonders if they are some kind of Federation trick), he nonetheless directs you to obtain the most famous weapon in Klingon history, the sword of Kahless, to stave off this threat. This is an honorable quest, one that was once taken by Worf, Jadzia Dax, and the renowned Dahar Master Kor (“The Sword of Kahless”). In their quest, however, the sword’s power almost destroyed them. In fact, the player is asked to speak with Worf about his quest for the sword. The lore singer issues a warning, however, that Worf does not speak about this matter readily. Thankfully, my newly established relationship with the House of Martok (“Bringing down the House,” “The House Always Wins,”), makes Worf a bit more willing to share that information. This rare inner-arc cross reference is nicely placed but its rarity bespeaks a real problem in the KDF storyline: a lack of connection between the various episodes. More attention to how such bridges can be built would go a long way toward achieving a more cohesive KDF story—assuming one exists at all.
Ultimately, my quest for the sword leads me to help Emperor Kahless (the clone that is), travel to the sacred monastery at Boreth, and march straight into the heart of Grethor itself, where I face three daunting foes: Cowardice, Treachery, and Dishonor. This quest, once completed, pushes back the hordes of Molor and prevents them from entering into our reality. The galaxy is made safe once again. Whether all of this was some grand Federation rouse seems unlikely. And yet, many questions about the nature of your experience remain unanswered. The experience, in fact, is not unlike B’Elanna Torres’ own trip to the Barge of the Dead—a Charles Dickens type adventure whose precise nature remains somewhat cryptic (no pun intended, of course).
I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the technical side of these missions as I am about the story itself. There was one notable issue that gave me trouble in “The Gates of Gre’thor”. I had difficulty summoning the spirit of “Treachery” and eventually had to walk out of the Gates of Gre’thor and back in to get the sequence to trigger properly. Luckily, this was a minor hindrance compared to issues other players have had. That these problems persist is extremely disappointing, and if I were the author of the mission, I would be very upset by the way in which technical problems are reflecting negatively on my story. Because of these bugs, “The Fek’Ihri Return”, and especially “The Gates of Gre’thor,” gets a “10” on story and a “2” on playability.
Technical aspects aside for the moment, when one takes a step back to consider their place in the larger story arc, the Devidian missions and “The Return of the Fek’Ihri,” both connect to varying degrees with the larger KDF-Federation war. As an example, the opening battle in “Skirmish” (the first mission in the Devidian set) requires that you fight Federation ships. One of the crew logs that one gains access to at the end of “Skirmish” even mentions the Federation “tyranny” that the True Way is trying to free itself from. “The Return of the Fek’Ihri” also connects with the KDF/Federation war, though not quite as successfully. J’mpok wonders if the Fek’Ihri are some kind of Federation plot, but this is really the only link to the Federation War and it is a rather weak one. Continuity with the larger STO narrative, in other words, is not “The Fek’Ihri Return’s” strongest point. Rather, it is most successful when it comes to providing a lore-rich Klingon story—one filled with glorious battles, legends about Kahless, and a formidable (though not quite so honorable) foe.
The Devidian Missions, The Fek’Ihri Return, and Star Trek’s Ambivalent Relationship to Mythology and Religion
Let me step outside the bounds of my governing question (“What is the story?”) to make a few observations about how these missions overlap and relate to the larger “Spirit of Trek”—a concept being explored with competency by our own Soriedem (For his latest blog, see this link). As a product of “modernity”—a complex philosophical disposition that expresses immense confidence in the rational mind and its ability to “deliver” humanity from its myths and superstitions—Star Trek often explores the relationship between science and non-empirical, otherworldly realities and beliefs. There are many examples such as B’Elanna’s trip to the Barge of the Dead, Sisko’s relationship to Bajoran spirituality, the episode, “Thine Own Self” in which Data confronts a less technologically advanced and in some cases superstitious culture with empirical facts about modern science, Star Trek III (The Return of Spock), and the list could go on.
Because Star Trek is not the product of only one writer, the franchise as a whole doesn’t give a single answer to the question of how modernity should relate to mythic, religious, and otherwise preternatural realities, and this ambivalence is also reflected in the Devidian missions and the Fek’Ihri episodes. One way Star Trek has addressed some of these issues is to use the “debunking” strategy in the resolution of the story, in which technology and human reason demonstrate the futility of non-empirical belief. Star Trek V, The Final Frontier, may be the clearest example of this strategy. In this movie, the fanatical Sybok’s god is shown to be nothing more than a lonely, temperamental energy being trying to release itself from prison. Sybok’s “god” in this example is nothing more than a crazy man’s fantasy, fully explicable by means of science. The Devidian missions employ a similar strategy to the storyline: Remember the big-eyed spy you chat with after playing Dabo? Do you remember what she thinks about the Devidians? She thinks they are real ghosts. But in the end, all of the ghostly aspects of this mission are explicable as a broken hologram and as creatures from another dimension. Belief in these supernatural specters is unmasked for what it is: broken technology and other-dimensional creatures, mixed in with a bit of paranoia. “The Return of the Fek’Ihri” is much more ambivalent and sophisticated in its response to myth. Throughout the episode, one hears the different reactions of Klingons to this incursion from the netherworld. Pluralism marks the Klingon response to this latest foe. J’mpok is on the skeptical side as he is not entirely convinced the Fek’Ihri are the mythical foes of Kahless, even though many on the High Council are convinced of just such a thing. Your first officer gives a slightly skeptical response to the Fek’Ihri saying, “I thought they were just a story that grandmothers tell to children.” Ultimately, the Fek’Ihri episodes do not give a final verdict on the precise nature of these hordes from the underworld, or whatever they are; leaving a shroud of mystery that veils their exact origins. Needless to say, in addition to being well-crafted stories (minus a few bugs), the Devidian missions and “The Return of the Fek’Ihri” are interesting examples of how Star Trek embodies the values of modern society, especially with respect to its ambivalent relationship to mythology and belief.
In the next edition of “Warrior’s Ways,” I enter the Vault, thereby stepping into the complex world of Romulan-Reman-KDF relations. Given the centrality of Romulan content in Season 7 and beyond, the Romulan storyline is particularly interesting, and one worth examining in great detail. For this reason, I will devote the entire next article to just this episode, searching out loose narrative threads, unanswered questions, and other literary anomalies.
Sargon is a Rear Admiral in the 110th Federation/KDF fleet (http://110thfleet.shivtr.com/). Unlike most other KDF Generals, he was born to Romulan parents. Inspired as a young man by Worf’s visit to a prison camp in the year 2369, he eventually left the camp, against the will of his parents, and joined the KDF. Although an outsider among Klingons, the increasing diversity in the Empire gave him room to advance in the military, until he eventually earned the confidence and trust of the High Council, which granted him command of the I.K.S. Rage of Kahless, a Bortasqu’ Command Cruiser.
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