Michael Dorn Had To Set Star Trek's Writers Straight On Worf For Deep Space Nine

In the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" episode "The Way of the Warrior" (October 2, 1995), Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) finds his station being overrun by Klingons. The Klingons claim to be there to defend DS9 from any potential Dominion threats, but it takes the form of harassing civilians and detaining passing ships against their will. Requiring some insight into the matter, Sisko sends for the only Klingon currently serving in Starfleet: Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Worf was at a major crossroads in his life. He was, until recently, serving as the chief security officer on the Enterprise-D, but that ship crashed (during the 1994 film "Star Trek: Generations"), and he wasn't sure what his career might look like moving forward. The Klingons wanted Worf to leave Starfleet and join the Klingon Empire, but Worf didn't like the Empire's new war tactics. Ultimately, Worf decided to stay in Starfleet, but no longer as a security officer. He decided instead to become a command officer, switching from his gold uniform to a red one.

Worf would join the cast of "Deep Space Nine" from then on, appearing in 98 episodes and experiencing several dramatic story arcs. Outside of voice acting, Dorn has appeared in more "Star Trek" episodes than any other actor.

It's worth noting, though, that in 1995, "Star Trek" staff writing was split between "Deep Space Nine" and "Star Trek: Voyager," which had debuted the previous January. A lot of the "Deep Space Nine" writers hadn't written for Worf before and Dorn, who knew the character better than anybody, had to set the record straight on a few writerly matters. Dorn talked about this in a 2023 interview with TrekMovie.

Worf must be an outsider

Throughout "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Worf was always depicted as something of an outsider. He was beloved by his crew, but his stern, humorless demeanor often kept him at arm's length socially. He was a badass warrior who adhered to Klingon principles yet was often so hellbent on defending his honor that he came across as off-putting and isolated. Worf may have been ready to fight, but he was also a nerd, constantly preoccupied with the subtle mores of Klingon culture. This was coming from a man who was raised on Earth by human parents. He was constantly trying to understand his own diaspora.

Worf's humorless adherence to Klingon principles was, to Michael Dorn, the key ingredient to writing the character. Worf couldn't ever joke around or, indeed, understand the jokes of others and he rarely laughed. As Dorn put it:

"[T]hat's always been his charm. On 'Next Generation' they got it, and it was very understandable, and I didn't have to say too much about that. On 'Deep Space Nine,' I really had to corral them a lot, because if he's in on the joke, he becomes just another one of the characters. He doesn't stand out at all. And it was easy, because all they had to do was just write a line, and everybody else gets the joke, and [then] they make a joke, and they're funny. And Worf is just looking around going, 'Okay, I wasn't trying to be funny. I don't know why people are laughing.'"

Worf was previously described as "The big guy who never smiles" on "Next Generation." That might have been an apt character description for the "Deep Space Nine" writers.

Worf remained humorless, even on Picard

Worf would also appear in "Star Trek: Nemesis," which opened after the end of "Deep Space Nine" in 2002, and would also return for the third season of "Star Trek: Picard," which didn't premiere until 2023. On "Picard," Worf was revealed to have become a Starfleet Block Ops agent of some kind, investigating espionage and regularly infiltrating the futuristic criminal underworld. Sporting grey-white hair, he would reunite with the cast of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." As usual, he refused to joke with them. As Dorn observed:

"[T]hat has always been his charm. And in 'Picard,' not so much. I've always kept him straight. Always very much [...] if they give me a line, I say the line, as serious as I can." 

When the interviewer asked Dorn about Worf's crack that beheadings are only on Wednesdays, Dorn replied that Worf most certainly meant it.

Worf was also the only character, quite mercifully, to not be sentimental about seeing the return of the destroyed Enterprise-D. On "Picard," it's explained that Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) rebuilt the ship as a hobby, and the rest of the crew become very wistful when they see it again. Worf, when walking on the bridge, announces that he preferred the Enterprise-E for its more powerful weapons, smaller size, mechanical efficiency, and superior speed. He cares deeply about his friends, but he's not about to start getting teary-eyed over an old ship he served on once.

"Deep Space Nine" might be more important to him.