Lieutenant Commander Worf was one of the most popular characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the Klingon had more than a few close scrapes with death during his years on the show. Star Trek: The Next Generation was the second television series in the Star Trek franchise and ran from 1987 to 1994. The show followed the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise-D under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Worf began his time on the Enterprise-D as a Lieutenant Junior Grade but was promoted to chief of security and lead tactical officer after the death of Lieutenant Tasha Yar near the end of the first season.
Worf was Klingon and the first member of his species to join Starfleet. As a child, Worf was taken in by a human couple, the Rozhenkos, after his parents were killed in the Khitomer Massacre. When he was a teenager Worf traveled to the Klingon homeworld and performed the Rite of Ascension to be able to take his place in Klingon society. After the Rite, he returned to Earth and joined Starfleet, going on to serve on both the Enterprise-D and the space station Deep Space 9.
Worf’s Starfleet career is documented in both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but much of the character’s backstory and many of his pivotal storylines are dealt with on TNG. TNG is also the series where Worf has all of his near-death experiences, some more serious than others. Worf died and was brought back to life a total of four times on Star Trek: The Next Generation, amounting to one instance of his death about every other season.
Worf’s first death and subsequent revival were in the 1st season episode “Hide and Q”. The episode marked the second appearance of Q, the trickster entity played by John de Lancie who enjoyed toying with the crew of the Enterprise-D for his own amusement. During the course of the episode, Q returns from the Q Continuum and once again puts the crew of the Enterprise-D to one of his “tests” this time imbuing Commander William Riker with Q powers to see how he will use them.
Q transports the entire senior staff down to an unnamed planetoid and forces them to fight with soldiers dressed as Napoleonic warriors, attempting to force Riker to demonstrate his newfound powers. During the battle, Worf takes on several soldiers himself against objections from his fellow officers. A soldier subdues Worf and stabs him through the stomach, killing him. When Wesley Crusher attempts to help Worf he is stabbed and killed as well. These deaths force Riker to take action and he uses his newfound powers to transport the whole crew back to the Enterprise-D, reviving both Worf and Wesley Crusher in the process. While Worf’s death is brief, it serves to highlight Riker’s newfound abilities and would likely have been shocking to the audience watching.
Worf’s next brush with death took place in the season 3 episode “Transfigurations”. The plot revolves around the Enterprise crew rescuing a man from the wreckage of an escape pod that was shot down over an unnamed planet. Doctor Crusher saves the man’s life, but once revived the man has no memory of who he is. The crew begins calling him John Doe, and during his recovery Doe begins developing a mutation that causes him to create energy pulses from his body. Eventually, it is revealed that Doe is a member of a race called the Zalkons who are undergoing an evolutionary transformation, and was shot down by members of his species who fear the transformation and are trying to prevent it from happening. By the end of the episode, Doe has undergone the transformation fully and leaves the Enterprise-D to try and help his people.
While Doe is still unaware of what is happening to him, however, he accidentally causes Worf’s death during an escape attempt. Doe is confronted by Worf in the shuttle bay while trying to leave the ship, and during their confrontation, Doe creates an energy pulse that causes Worf to break his neck in a fall. Doctor Crusher reports that Worf has no life signs, and calls for a resuscitation team, but before they can get there Doe joins them and puts his hands on Worf’s neck, imbuing him with some of his energy and healing Worf. Like in “Hide and Q”, Worf’s death in “Transfigurations” is a shocking turn of events even though it is rectified quickly.
Worf faces his most harrowing death by far in the season 5 episode “Ethics”. At the beginning of the episode, an accident in a cargo bay causes a large barrel to fall on Worf, crushing his spine and paralyzing him. Because of Klingon warrior culture, Worf views his paralysis as tantamount to death and asks Commander Riker to assist him in Klingon ritual suicide. Riker eventually talks him out of this course of action, and Worf agrees to undergo an experimental and ethically questionable treatment proposed by a visiting neurological specialist. The treatment requires Worf’s damaged spine to be removed, and a new one replicated from his DNA.
Doctor Crusher reluctantly agrees to help with the procedure, but during the surgery, Worf crashes and dies on the operating table. A heartbroken Doctor Crusher goes to inform Worf’s son, Alexander, who demands to see his father’s body. During a painful scene where Alexander breaks down upon seeing his father, Worf’s brain functions suddenly revive, bringing him back to life before Alexander’s eyes. Once the procedure is completed, Worf begins a long journey to recovery with Alexander’s help.
“Firstborn” marks Worf’s final near-death experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation, although unlike the other instances, his death is only referenced rather than seen. The episode is another exploration of the relationship between Worf and his son, Alexander. When Alexander rejects the idea of undergoing the Klingon Rite of Ascension, Worf attempts to get him interested in the ways of the warrior with the help of K’mtar, an advisor to the House of Mogh. However, due to a series of unfolding events involving the Duras Sisters, it is revealed that K’mtar is actually a future version of Alexander come back to try and convince his younger self to become a warrior.
The older Alexander reveals that he has returned to prevent Worf’s death after Alexander brought disgrace to their house by becoming a diplomat and pushing for peace. In a touching moment between father and son, Alexander laments the fact that he could not save Worf, who apparently died in his arms on the floor of the Klingon High Council. Worf, however, says that just by his presence Alexander has already changed the future, likely preventing Worf’s death from happening. He also says that he understands his son better thanks to the older Alexander’s interference. The two embrace each other before Alexander leaves, having succeeded in his mission even though he failed to change his younger self’s mind about becoming a warrior.
Despite all of his near-death experiences, Worf survived his time on Star Trek: The Next Generation and went on to have a main role on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where he fought in the Dominion War. He later also returned to help his old crew from the Enterprise-D during the events of Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, and was also referenced briefly in the first season of Star Trek: Picard. With a number of Star Trek: The Next Generation characters being rumored to make appearances on the second season of Picard, it is possible that fans might even get a chance to see Worf again, although hopefully, a role on Picard wouldn’t mean any more near-death experiences for Worf in the future.