the story: Worf helps bring Martok back up to speed.
what it's all about: "Soldiers" is essentially a formality of an episode, confirming the stuff previously suggested by "In Purgatory's Shadow" and "By Inferno's Light" concerning the budding importance of Worf's relationship with Martok, the Klingon he discovers in a Jem'Hadar prison camp, who'd been replaced by a Founder in their previous encounters. Otherwise, it's Next Generation's "A Matter of Honor" reheated, and a precursor to Deep Space Nine's much better "Once More Unto the Breach" in the final season.
So it's another episode set aboard a Klingon ship. Worf, who has his soon-to-be blushing bride Dax along to encourage him, is serving aboard it at Martok's request. But Martok is a broken man, and he has pretty much forgotten how to be a Klingon. Long and slightly unnecessary story short, Martok is rehabilitated.
The problem with the episode, as with "Ferengi Love Songs" before it, is that it seems like something that should be essential viewing, but lacking the proper context. With the Dominion War about to break out, all this would've worked much better had Martok found redemption in the war. It's another instance of the season screwing up context like that. Imagine if Odo had been featured prominently in "Love Songs," a callback to his and Quark's experiences in "The Ascent" earlier in the season, one of the moments that was absolutely nailed, everything in the right place. Here it's not so much the growth that's missing, but a reason for why it's happening now as opposed to when it could feel less...random, less a space filler.
The fifth season, at its best (eight strong episodes in a row that all challenged basic Star Trek preconceptions) was among the best material the franchise ever saw. But there was also other material that betrayed the fact that the producers were still gravely uncertain about what to do with a series the studio had tried to meddle with and as such had been knocked off its track. Well, in all these fits and starts, something very big was on the horizon, and it was pretty easy to see at this point. But it hadn't happened yet, and that was equally clear...
franchise- The rare Klingon episode that doesn't feel like compulsory viewing.
- series - Still, as part of an overall arc it makes sense in its Deep Space Nine context, at least to a certain degree.
- character - It completes, after all, the foundation of a powerful friendship between Worf and Martok.
essential- But you don't necessarily need to see how it happens to understand why.
J.G. Hertzler (Martok)
Aron Eisenberg (Nog)