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Son of Urthog: a psychological profile

by Dewald de Coning

General Martok's life story is a typical “rags to riches” tale. In this sense, out of all the legendary Klingon characters in the Star Trek universe, he's probably the one who exhibits the most human psychological traits to his personality, and the one Klingon character we can identify with best. Despite being by all accounts a “traditional” Klingon, he is enigmatic in the sense that at times he also displays remarkably “human” characteristics, such as recurring bouts of self-doubt and insecurity. Students of military strategy and leadership can learn a lot from studying this warrior's psyche.

Early life
Martok was born in the lowlands of Ketha province on Qo'nos to a common family. The Ketha lowlands was a generally impoverished region of Qo'nos. His family had a long history of loyalty to the empire. Fifteen generations in his family before him had been warriors. His father, Urthog, had never achieved officer status himself, and had therefore harbored the hope that his son could one day become an officer. It took a great deal of effort, but Urthog found an old friend willing to sponsor Martok for enlistment. He passed the entrance exam, but when he went before the Oversight Council, to his everlasting shame and his father's embarrassment, the legendary warrior, Kor, rejected his application, specifically because he was not of noble heritage. In all probability, Martok never forgave Kor for that. It was a blight he would carry with him the rest of his life.
General Martok
General Martok

As a direct result of Kor's rejection, Martok was forced to serve as a mere civilian laborer on a Klingon ship from 2345 to 2350. It was during a battle with the Romulans that he had acquitted himself so well in the fighting that he was given a battlefield commission. Sadly, his father died only shortly before he received this commission. This most probably might always have been Martok's biggest single regret.

Military career
From there, Martok worked his way up the ranks, until he became a general. He began his steady rise to hero status when he commanded the Klingon forces loyal to chancellor Gowron at the battle of Mempa during the Klingon Civil War in 2368. Although Gowron's forces were sent into a full retreat, Martok's bold leadership kept the battle from turning into a complete rout. In a way, Martok can be described as the “Stonewall Jackson” of the Klingon empire. In late 2371 Martok was abducted from Qo'nos by the Dominion as part of an intricate wartime ploy, and imprisoned in an internment camp in the Gamma quadrant, where he lost his left eye during a fight with the Jem'Hadar camp commander, leaving him half-blind. After his escape from this internment camp, he returned to Deep Space 9, where chancellor Gowron appointed him commander of the Klingon detachment.
Worf and Martok
Worf and Martok during their custody in the Dominion internment camp.

Later that same year Martok was given command of the IKS Rotarran. But his time in the Dominion internment camp had left a serious scar on Martok's psyche and self-esteem. Cognizant of his uneasiness with a command position following his confinement, he invited Worf to serve as his first officer. This in itself shows his reasonableness as an officer and his willingness to delegate and trust and to place the interests of the empire above his own.
IKS Rotarran
IKS Rotarran, Martok's first starship command following his captivity.

Martok was initially too cautious in his command of the Klingon warship, despite the crew's already low morale, as a result of a serious of defeats. He exacerbated the situation by deliberately avoiding several opportunities to engage the Jem'Hadar in combat during the opening shots of the Dominion War. To preempt a mutiny, Worf staged a challenge between Martok and himself, allowing Martok to win. This rekindled Martok's selfconfidence, as well as the crew's trust in him. His brilliant leadership and near-heroic exploits during the rest of the Dominion War from 2373 to 2375, made him very popular among his peers, as well as civilians. He was instrumental in convincing Gowron to support Starfleet's offensive to recapture Deep Space 9 from the Dominion. He was promoted to the position of Supreme Commander of the combined Starfleet/Klingon Ninth Fleet in early 2374, but he resented the position because of all the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in commanding an entire fleet. From this we can clearly see that Martok was not a politician or bureaucrat, but more of a “hands-on” type of commander, active amongst his troops, not happy to be trapped in an office, nevertheless prone to self-doubt.

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Martok and Sirella

Personal relationships
Martok resented his elderly assistant, Darok. He often belittled him for being elderly, in stead of having died with honor. Darok, in turn, had befriended Kor, because he reminded him of a “Qo'nos that once was”. Perhaps this was another motive for Martok's resentment of Darok, because he still resented Kor for having declined his first application to the Klingon defense force at the outset of his career. Martok showed fierce loyalty, heroism, and incorruptibility, even in the face of treachery and adversity. When chancellor Gowron embarked on a program to discredit Martok as a military leader, he refused to betray his loyalty to Gowron, despite the latter's treachery. When Worf later killed Gowron in battle and became chancellor, he abdicated in favor of Martok. Initially, Martok refused the position, expressing his belief that the High Council would not accept him as chancellor, for being a common man from the lowlands. Clearly he was not aware of the impact the reverence his troops had for him would have in terms of compelling the council to accept his appointment as chancellor. Despite all of his “human” traits, Martok was still by all rights a traditional Klingon. He viewed marriage in a rather cynical fashion, describing it as “just another form of combat”, and although he had clearly become disillusioned with his marriage and the woman he was married to, he loved Lady Sirella deeply. Sirella, together with two of his daughters, Shen and Lazhna, were all killed in January 2376 during a coup d'etat, led by Gothmara and Morjod, Martok's illegitimate son.
Lady Sirella
Lady Sirella

Fiercely traditional and proud, somewhat stubborn, Martok preferred to keep his injured eye as is. When an ocular implant was suggested to him, he was adamant that he did not want “an artificial eye”. Incredibly disciplined and stern towards his troops, he once disciplined Kretok, a member of Deep Space 9's Klingon detachment, by throwing him off a crossway on the promenade. Like most Klingons, Martok showed a disdain for Ferengi. However, when the Ferengi cadet, Nog, stood up to him and directly challenged him, Martok developed a grudging respect for him.
The Ferengi cadet Nog, who courageously stood up to General Martok

Martok was a complex man. He could even be considered a contradiction in himself. He could be surprisingly compassionate at times, yet brutally cruel at other times. In one incident he appointed Worf as first officer on a dangerous mission to Monac IV in early 2375, so that Worf could earn entry into Stovokor for his Jadzia, who had recently passed away. In yet another incident he had Kaybok of the IKS M'Char executed in 2372 for merely disobeying orders. But he was also an excellent judge of character, caring deeply about those under his command.