The Miracle of Wolfe’s Character Arc

Welcome to read carefully! In this series, Leah Schnellbach and her guests delve into the tiny, weird moments in pop culture — from books to theme songs to viral internet hits — that have found their way into our minds, found rent-stabilized apartments, started community gardens, and refused to be pressured by corporate interests. This time around, Gilles Gough digs into how Captain Wolfe introduces himself and how that affects the character’s development.

The ending of Star Trek: Picard is almost universally considered great. It’s wonderful to revisit a beloved character after a two-decade absence, and while everyone has a favorite, Wolfe’s character development cannot be ignored. I’ve loved Wolfe since I first saw him in Farpoint Encounter in 1990 (yes, it took them that long to find time to air it in the UK). Wolfe is the greatest, strongest, and, in my opinion, the coolest character in the cast. The bravery of being Starfleet’s first Klingon never escaped my attention, and I love him for many reasons, some of which we’ll discuss later. With the most appearances in the Star Trek universe, Wolfe is perhaps the character we spend the longest time with. Later in Next Generation, we see him as a single dad doing the opposite of tender parenting, while in Deep Space Nine, he spends more time as a geopolitical power player and starship commander. His early appearance in “Picard” seems to point to his easy transition from comedy to screaming badass. To anyone who yells “Daddy’s Home” when he’s introduced on TV, you know, you’re mine. But there’s something more interesting at play here.

Did you notice how he introduced himself to Rafi?

“I am Wolf, son of Mog, family of Matok, son of Sergey, family of Rozhenko, bane of the Duras family, killer of Goron. I made some chamomile tea. Do you eat sugar?” Now, leaving aside the brilliance of this introductory format (names + family ties + all the people I’ve killed + serving hot drinks), there’s something fascinating going on here. In Klingon culture (which is still largely feudal), who your parents are is a big deal. Wolf introduced himself as “Wolf, Son of Mogg” in 11 seasons of the TV series and 4 movies. He was actually adopted by General Mattok (best Klingon dad ever, I won’t answer the question now) who went on to become Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, so showing off the connection seemed obvious. But why mention “Sergei’s son, Rozhenko’s family”?

Let’s take a moment for some background. Wolff had a rough upbringing. As a child, he was a survivor of the Hitomel massacre, for which his father, Mogg, was falsely accused. Wolfe was raised by a Starfleet soldier named Sergey, the sergeant major of the USS Intrepid (sorry, I can’t find it) and his wife Helena (her profession). The current sergeant major is the so-called rank of non-commissioned officer. Essentially, this means it’s the highest rank a conscript can achieve. Many militaries consider their “non-commissioners” the backbone of their armed forces, and as we know from Chief O’Brien, they are absolutely vital to keeping everything running. But it’s not a role that comes with a lot of glory and prestige. So why would Wolfe tell a complete stranger about it?

In addition to being traumatized by surviving the Holocaust, Wolfe was also much tougher than the other kids who grew up around him. In a soccer accident, he headed a ball at the same time as another kid, killing that kid. This underscores Wolf’s isolation from those around him. He couldn’t act like other kids because if he did, someone would get hurt. So he leans into his Klingon heritage and is obsessed with it because if you can’t even be a little bit human, you might as well be fully immersed in Klingon, right? This is the Worf we’ve known for most of Star Trek. The more his enemies insult his “Klingonness,” the more Klingon he gets. His lack of basic love and acceptance outside of his parents has caused him to become very toxic in his relationships with his wife and son. In nearly every interaction Wolfe had with the children’s mother, son, and later wife, his views on the Klingons were deeply rigid. He acts like someone who learned how to be a Klingon from a book.

So, what has changed? Well, at the end of Deep Space Nine, Martok appointed Wolfe as the Federation’s ambassador to the Klingon Empire, which was perfect for a man who’d spent his entire life torn between worlds. Presumably, Wolfe has been able to hang out with other Klingons for the next two decades. He went from the most Klingon officer in Starfleet to the most Klingon Starfleet officer in the Empire. Once heretired from Starfleet and started a family, he was able to explore his Klingon heritage in a more personal way and reconcile it with his human upbringing.

When he introduces himself to Rafi in “Picard,” he’s not just listing his family ties and accomplishments. He’s also showcasing his identity as a bridge between two cultures. By mentioning his human parents, he’s acknowledging the part of himself that doesn’t fit neatly into Klingon society. And by offering her chamomile tea and asking if she likes sugar, he’s demonstrating his ability to connect with people on a personal level, something that’s been a struggle for him in the past.

Overall, I think Wolfe’s introduction in “Picard” is a great example of how a small moment can reveal a lot about a character’s development. It shows how far he’s come since his early days on “Next Generation” and how he’s learned to embrace all parts of himself. And it’s just a really cool scene.

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