As the episode begins, the Enterprise is unexpectedly approached by a Klingon Vor'cha class battlecruiser. The Enterprise is hailed by the Klingon vessel and Picard is surprised when Ambassador K'Ehleyr appears on screen. She requests permission to come aboard the Enterprise to discuss an âurgent matterâ.
KâEhleyr and Worf have had an ongoing relationship (as detailed in the earlier Next Generation episode "The Emissary"), so when Worf meets KâEhleyr in the Transporter room he is shocked to see her accompanied by a small child. Putting two and two together it doesnât take him long to realize that the boy is probably his son.
KâEhleyr informs the senior staff that a power struggle over control of the Klingon Empire is about to ensue, which could lead to a civil war perhaps even involving the Federation. She tells Picard that his old âfriendâ Chancellor K'mpec is aboard the battlecruiser and wishes to speak with him.
When Picard beams aboard the Klingon ship, K'mpec tells him that he has been poisoned and is dying. He adds that he doesnât trust any of his fellow Klingons and requests that as an outside neutral party Picard act as his Arbiter of Succession, in effect deciding who is the best suited to be the next Chancellor. In addition he asks Picard to attempt to discover who his assassin is, as he is relatively sure it is one of the two aspirants for the throne and does not wish someone who acted with such dishonor to rule the Empire.
With much misgiving Picard agrees, and shortly thereafter is informed of K'mpec's death.
The two challengers arrive shortly, Gowron, a warrior Worf knows little about, and Duras. As depicted in "Sins of the Father", a third season episode of The Next Generation series, Duras' infamy is well known to Picard and Worf as he had attempted to frame Worf's father, Mogh, for the treasonous acts of his own father, as well as trying to have Worf executed.
Picard meets with the two aboard the battlecruiser and Duras tries to rush the proceedings along so he can quickly claim the throne, but Picard resists, saying that the Rite will take place according to Klingon tradition and law. Suddenly a blast wracks the assembly as a hidden bomb explodes.
Fortunately Picard and KâEhleyr suffer only minor injuries, Picard decides to drag out the proceedings as long as possible while Enterprise officers perform forensic analysis in an attempt to establish responsibility for the attack. KâEhleyr suggests Picard use the older form of the Succession ritual which requires a lengthy oral listing of each claimant's accomplishments and battles, perhaps taking hours or even days.
KâEhleyr admits to Worf that he is the father of Alexander, the young boy she brought aboard, adding that she knew if Worf had been aware they had a son he would have insisted on a deeper relationship with her, one she wasnât sure she wanted. She asks Worf to get closer to his son, but he refuses saying that to openly claim Alexander would result in the boy having to share Worf's dishonor.
Duras and Gowron are outraged at having to use the older format of the Rite, but grudgingly cooperate. Using the time thus bought to complete his investigation, ship's Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge discovers that the bomb used a molecular trigger, a device used only by the Romulans, an alien race who are blood enemies of the Klingons and hostile to the Federation as well. Chief Medical officer Beverly Crusher reports that the explosive device was implanted in the forearm of one of Durasâ bodyguards.
Meanwhile, KâEhleyr's curiosity has been aroused and she attempts to find out more about Worf's discommendation. KâEhleyr's access of the Klingon Information net is discovered by Duras. Going to her quarters he finds that she has discovered his father's complicity in the Khitomer massacre and silences her by killing her.
When Worf discovers the body he goes to Durasâ ship and claims the Klingon Right of Vengeance. Duras is surprised to find out that KâEhleyr was Worf's mate, but agrees to fight and is killed just as Data and Riker arrive.
With the succession now settled by Worf's intervention, the new Chancellor Gowron takes his leave.
In Picard's ready room, Worf offers the defense that what he did was legal according to Klingon law, but Picard cuts him off by saying that the Federation's laws took precedence once Worf joined Starfleet. Picard tells his officer that he is disappointed with him and his heretofore exemplary record will now be marred by a formal reprimand concerning the incident.
As the episode ends, Worf, as Alexander's closest relative, assumes responsibility for the boy. He admits to Alexander that he is his father and adds he is sending Alexander off to Earth to live with Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, Worf's adoptive parents.