In 1990, Star Trek: The Next Generation broke from its pattern of non-serialized stories with a four-episode arc centering on the Enterprise’s Klingon security officer Lt. Worf ( Michael Dorn). The saga followed Worf’s effort to clear his family name of misplaced dishonor, kicking off with season three’s “Sins of the Father,” and continuing on into season four’s “Reunion” and two-part finale “Redemption.” Looking back at the arc, many of its themes and specific beats now seem weirdly prescient of another popular genre show that would come decades later: Game of Thrones.
George R.R. Martin famously grew up a Trek fan, and even applied to be a staff writer for The Next Generation when it began in 1987, but was ultimately rejected for the job. On top of that, the first A Song of Ice and Fire novel came out just five years after TNG first broadcast this storyline. Granted, this doesn’t prove that his stories were directly influenced by this notable Worf arc—real life history is more of Martin’s muse, by all accounts—but there are a few interesting similarities we think are worth looking at.
Noble Houses at War
If one were to explain Game of Thrones in a nutshell, one would probably say: It’s about rival noble houses vying to take over a fictional Empire. The Klingon civil war arc of Star Trek: The Next Generation is very much that as well, with the honorable House of Mogh, home to Worf and his brother Kurn, seeking to block the dishonorable and power-hungry House of Duras from ruling the Empire. Like the Lannisters in George R.R. Martin’s world, the Duras are well-known to be scheming and conniving, and willing to lie and murder to achieve their end goal of sitting on the throne, with the House of Mogh very similar to the eternally honor-bound House Stark.
Worf = Tyrion Lannister?
In the episode “Sins of the Father,” which kicks off this storyline, Worf is informed by his long lost brother Kurn (Tony Todd), that their long dead father Mogh has been accused of betraying his people to the Romulans decades prior, when they destroyed the Klingon outpost where his family was living (a young Worf was the only known survivor). As Klingon tradition decrees that a child bears the dishonor of their parents, Worf goes home to the Klingon homeworld to clear his family name.
He discovers that a rival house, the House of Duras, was actually behind the betrayal, and has conspired to cover it up and let Worf and his family take the fall. Worf is then forced to essentially stand trial, with Picard at his side; it is ultimately revealed that the Klingon High Chancellor knew that Worf’s father was innocent, and allowed the phony “trial” to proceed anyway, as a way of preserving their fragile empire.
All of this reminds us of when Tyrion Lannister was accused of killing King Joffrey in season four of Game of Thrones, and was tried and convicted for it by his father Tywin, who knew full well he didn’t do it, but allowed the sham to continue in order to preserve their family’s power. Maybe Tyrion isn’t a secret Targaryen as some theories suggest, but a secret Klingon?
Scheming Mother Figures
After Duras himself is killed by Worf in the episode “Reunion,” his two sisters, Lursa and B’Etor, scheme to seize the High Council of the Empire for themselves. Although women are not allowed to serve in the Klingon High Council in the time of The Next Generation (something that was not always so, as Star Trek VI showed us), the Duras sisters discover that their deceased brother had a son, a young petulant boy named Toral, who was born illegitimately, and with a dubious claim to power.
Their hope is to place Toral on the throne, so he can be their puppet dictator, and they can rule vicariously through him. This sounds almost exactly like Cersei and her son Joffrey, an illegitimate ruler, who is merely a puppet for her and his grandfather Tywin. Granted, Duras’ son is more of an arrogant twerp, whereas Joffrey was truly malevolent, but the similarities are definitely there.
Blood Enemies Forever (or Until It’s Convenient)
In Star Trek lore, the Klingons and the Romulans were once allies, to the point where they once traded ship designs in the original series. But something went sour between the two powers, leading them to becoming blood enemies for 75 years. During The Next Generation’s Klingon-centric storyline, we find out that the Romulans have been secretly supporting the Duras family in their bid to lead the High Council, despite their hatred of one another. This isn’t too different from how the Boltons and the Freys stabbed the Starks in the back and allied themselves with Lannisters, whom they have no love for, just for politically expedient reasons.
Of course, both series drew upon real Medieval history when crafting these storylines, so maybe nothing inspires great fiction more than simply cracking open a history book.
Images: CBS / HBO