Fri
Feb 21 2014 4:00pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Sword of Kahless”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless“The Sword of Kahless”
Written by Richard Danus and Hans Beimler
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 4, Episode 8
Production episode 40514-481
Original air date: November 20, 1995
Stardate: 49263

Station log: Kor is captivating Quark’s Bar with the story of the Battle of Korma Pass where he, Kang, and Koloth defeated T’nag’s army and feasted on his heart together. (“Big heart,” Dax adds at the end.) Most of the bar is enthralled, even the skeptical Odo, Bashir, and Kira (O’Brien chides them, saying who cares if it’s realistic, he tells it well). Worf is sitting off to the side, equally enthralled, but keeping his distance because he feels his presence would dishonor Kor. Dax doesn’t have any of that and insists on introducing him.

At first Kor seems to justify Worf’s fear, calling Worf a traitor, a pariah, the lowest of the low—and then smiles and says it’s a pleasure to meet him. Any enemy of Gowron and the High Council is a friend of his. Worf fangoobers him a bit, and then Kor announces that he’s on a quest that will put his past glory to shame: he seeks the Sword of Kahless, the first bat’leth ever forged. It’s been lost for a thousand years, but Kor was given a shroud by a Vulcan archaeologist who found it on a survey in the Gamma Quadrant. (Kor was Klingon ambassador to Vulcan at the time.) It has Hur’q markings—the Hur’q invaded Qo’noS over a millennium ago, and one of the things they pillaged was the Sword of Kahless.

Kor needs Dax to authenticate the shroud (there have been hundreds of fake shrouds over the centuries), which she promises to do in the morning when she’s not tipsy from bloodwine. If it is real, then the three of them will go after it, as returning the artifact to the empire would, legendarily, bring a new age of prosperity and honor to the Klingon people.

After Dax goes to bed, Kor and Worf stay up drinking, first in Quark’s, then in Worf’s quarters after Quark kicks them out. Kor stumbles back to his quarters, only to be attacked by a Lethean. The next morning, Dax finds him unconscious on the deck. (“Couldn’t find the bed?”) Kor blames Quark’s replicated bloodwine, having forgotten the Lethean; Dax, for her part, has confirmed the shroud’s authenticity. Worf and Dax ask Sisko for a runabout to take to the Gamma Quadrant to the world where the Vulcans found the shroud. Sisko gives permission, figuring that two Starfleet officers bringing the Sword back will go a long way toward repairing the Federation and the empire’s relationship.

The trio hare off in the Rio Grande, with Kor giving a quick benediction, setting forth into “the eye of destiny” before they head through the wormhole.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

When they arrive at the planet, Kor provides a map based on the Vulcans’ survey. There’s a chamber surrounded by a force field, which is where the Sword, along with other artifacts the Hur’q plundered, should be. (Dax is mildly peevish that Kor neglected to mention the force field before.)

They beam down and break through the force field to a stale-aired chamber—but when they get inside, the place has been ransacked. However, Worf discovers another force field, disguised as a wall, that hasn’t been opened. He and Dax are able to make the force field permeable by faking Hur’q lifesign readings.

And there on the other side is the Sword of Kahless. Worf insists that Kor should be the first to hold it. After he holds it aloft, he hands it to Worf.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

They turn to leave, only to find several Klingons and the Lethean waiting for them. The Klingons are led by Toral, son of Duras, who heard Kor drunkenly tell a tavern about the shroud. So Toral sent the Lethean after Kor to telepathically get all the details, and then they followed the runabout and waited for them to get the Sword. Toral plans to use the Sword to rule the empire. But Worf, Dax, and Kor aren’t pushovers, and they fight their way past Toral and his people, though Worf is wounded. Worf knocks over the force field disruptor on their way out, trapping Toral and his people in the chamber.

Dax treats Worf’s wound. Toral’s jamming communications, so they can’t beam back to the runabout. When Worf tells Kor what happened at the end of “Redemption II,” he’s livid, as Worf sparing Toral’s life led to this mess. Worf angrily reminds Kor that if he hadn’t gotten drunk and babbled about the quest, there would be no mess.

They continue through the caves, working their way toward the surface so they can break through the jamming. When they stop for dinner (feasting on an animal they killed in the cave), Worf and Kor start arguing even more, with Kor dismissing Emperor Kahless (and Worf’s role in installing him) and Worf dismissing Kor as a useless old drunk. Kor also comes within a hairsbreadth of declaring his intention to use the Sword to rule the empire, just like Toral.

While Dax changes Worf’s bandages, Worf starts to think that finding the Sword is his destiny, that his entire life has led to this moment. He even thinks he felt the spirit of Kahless guiding his hand when he held it.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

At one point, as they’re traversing a treacherous ridge, Kor slips and falls. Worf grabs the Sword, but he only has one good arm and even with Dax supporting him, it’s hard to hold Kor’s weight. Worf insists there’s a ledge right below him, but Kor refuses to believe it’s there. They pull him up, and Kor then sees the ledge is tiny. They almost come to blows, but Dax stops them, and insists that she hold the Sword until they get to the surface.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

They pause to rest, but neither Worf nor Kor is willing to sleep, as they don’t trust the other. Dax, for her part, is exhausted, and sleeps—with her phaser out, making it clear that she’s fed up with both of them.

After a few hours, Worf and Kor lose it and come to blows—but before they can kill each other, Toral and his minions show up. Both Kor and Worf use the Sword at different points in the battle, but once they win, they’re back to fighting each other for the Sword. As they try to choke each other, Dax finally does what she probably should’ve done hours earlier and stuns both of them, then gets one of Toral’s minions to cut the jamming.

Apparently a phaser on stun was just what they needed. Worf believes they should beam the Sword into space, that the Klingon people aren’t ready for it yet. Kor reluctantly agrees, and they beam it away.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? When Dax and Worf break through the force field, Worf actually really and truly suggests reversing the polarity—and it works!

The slug in your belly: Dax is put in the unenviable role of peacemaker between her new colleague and her old friend when both of them start to act like crazy people. You get the impression that the notion of stunning both of them only didn’t get executed sooner because she didn’t want to leave them behind for Toral and they’re too heavy to carry.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

There is no honor in being pummeled. Most of the fourth-season scripts were green-lit before Michael Dorn’s joining the cast was finalized, so—aside from “The Way of the Warrior”—Worf’s role in the episodes to date were marginal or relegated to a B-plot. This was the first story that was commenced after Dorn’s arrival was settled, so it was decided to give him a spotlight.

Rules of Acquisition. Quark, having apparently forgotten about the events of “The House of Quark,” complains to Worf that what he likes best about Klingon stories is nothing. “Lots of people die and nobody makes any profit.”

Keep your ears open. “I am on a quest—a quest for the most revered icon in Klingon history.”

“Kor...”

“An icon that predates the Klingon Empire. An icon more sacred than the Torch of G’boj.”

“Kor...”

“More revered than Sabak’s armor, and more coveted than the emperor’s crown.”

“The Sword of Kahless?”

“You told me not to tell anybody.”

“He guessed!”

Kor telling Worf what he’s up to, with Dax trying in vain to remind him about discretion.

Welcome aboard. The big guest is, of course, John Colicos, back as Kor following “Blood Oath”; he’ll return in “Once More Unto the Breach” in season 7. In addition, Rick Pasqualone plays Toral—the character was previously played by J.D. Cullum in the “Redemptiontwo-parter on TNG—and assistant stunt coordinator Tom Morga plays the Lethean.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

Trivial matters: This episode picks up on themes from several previous episodes, notably “Blood Oath” (Dax and Kor’s friendship) and “The Way of the Warrior” (Worf’s exile from the Klingon Empire and the sundering of the Khitomer Accords), as well as the TNG episodes “Rightful Heir” (the installation of the clone of Kahless as emperor) and the “Redemptiontwo-parter (Worf’s previous encounter with Toral).

The story was partly inspired by The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and partly by the Indiana Jones movies. The original draft had Worf, Dax, and Kor dealing with booby traps and the like in the caves, right out of the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but those were cut as filming those sequences would have added a day to filming, a day they couldn’t really spare.

Letheans were first seen in “Distant Voices.”

Worf mentions wanting to hear about Kor’s battle with Kirk at Organia, a reference to Kor’s first appearance in the original series’ “Errand of Mercy.” Worf’s childhood vision of Kahless telling him he would do something no Klingon had ever done before was first mentioned in TNG’s “Rightful Heir.”

The Hur’q invasion will be mentioned again in Enterprise’s “Affliction,” and the versions of the Hur’q themselves are seen in the duology The Left Hand of Destiny by J.G. Hertzler & Jeffrey Lang and the videogame Invasion. It’s in the former duology that the Sword of Kahless is retrieved from where Worf, Kor, and Dax left it at the end of this episode, as Chancellor Martok uses it to help unite the empire after the Dominion War. He has continued to wield it in the post-war 24th-century fiction since. (The Sword is also retrieved by Worf under different circumstances in the videogame Armada.)

Walk with the Prophets. “A true warrior has no need to exaggerate his feats.” There were a lot of complaints when this episode aired by people who were expecting there to be some kind of technobabble explanation for why Kor and Worf were acting like crazy people: a virus on the Sword, something left behind on the Sword by the Hur’q, something in the air on the planet.

The people who made those complaints have, sadly, failed their saving roll versus folklore.

One of my favorite movies is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the John Huston movie in which three Americans (among them Fred C. Dobbs, played by Humphrey Bogart) travel into the mountains of Mexico to try to dig for gold. As soon as they strike gold, the camaraderie among the three of them turns ugly. In the end, one character (Dobbs) is killed, another is badly wounded, and the gold is lost forever. But what makes the movie so effective is how these three men, two of whom are destitute and reduced to begging on the street at the film’s opening, turn into paranoid crazed lunatics as soon as they strike it rich. The notion of becoming wealthy for the first time in their lives corrupts them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Sword of Kahless

For Klingons, though, it isn’t the pursuit of currency that matters (something Quark points out right at the beginning). What Klingons value is storytelling, legend, myth. We’ve seen this in previous Klingon episodes, from Worf using the power of Klingon myth to turn the imprisoned Klingons on Carraya IV to his side in “Birthright, Part II,” to the powerful impact the clone of Kahless had in “Rightful Heir,” to repeated mentions of songs that will be sung and tales that will be told in honor of this battle or that from “Heart of Glory” all the way to “Blood Oath.” And just in case we’ve forgotten, we open the episode with Kor telling the ridiculously exaggerated tale of Kang, Koloth, and himself at Korma Pass defeating T’nag’s army single-handed (triple-handed?). As Bashir, Odo, and Kira all point out, the story’s absurd, but as O’Brien reminds them, he tells it well. It’s the legend that matters, the legend that enthralls an entire bar full of people, even the skeptics.

Then we get the greatest legend of all. We’ve known since way back in “The Savage Curtain” on the original series that Kahless is an important figure in Klingon history, and “Birthright, Part II” and “Rightful Heir” made his mythic status clear. The latter episode also told us that Kahless forged the first bat’leth, and here we get that artifact as the quest object. Lost for a thousand years, the legend that has grown up around the Sword of Kahless is great, no doubt in part because it was lost in the earliest days of the empire. Kor sells it at the greatest legend of them all.

So, of course, when they find it, both Kor and Worf see the possibilities, and they’re as devastating as the gold was to Fred C. Dobbs. Power corrupts, after all, and the Sword of Kahless represents power.

Toral’s presence helps enhance that, as he’s the first to introduce the notion of using the Sword for personal domain over the empire. We know Toral’s a bad guy because he’s the bastard son of Duras, a House that has been full of bad guys through several episodes of TNG, an episode of DS9, and a movie already (and will continue to be antagonistic in Enterprise). Of course, he’s evil; of course, he wants to use the Sword only for his own purpose.

But his ambitions aid in the corruption of Worf and Kor. They both start to see how they would be better stewards of the Sword. Nobody’s particularly happy with Gowron as chancellor, and Gowron’s actions have shown just how ceremonial the clone of Kahless’s position as emperor is, so the notion of taking power for oneself becomes more and more attractive.

Both of them know that this will change everything. Kor’s deeds are legendary, but he also spent 80 years of his life tracking down a single foe, and his best friends are dead. Bringing the Sword to the empire would bring back the glory of the past, give him one final triumph before he joins Kang and Koloth in Sto-Vo-Kor.

As for Worf, he’s been an outsider all his life, as he eloquently describes to Dax. Too Klingon to be human, too human to be Klingon, bringing the Sword to the empire may enable him to serve a purpose, instead of the aimlessness he has felt far too often, what with the destruction of the Enterprise and his second exile from his own people.

And that’s why power corrupts. None of the three people after the Sword are in it for the good of the empire, they’re in it for the glory, for the legend, to be the person who finds the Sword. That’s Klingon currency, and they each want it.

Only after Dax—who gets to play the role of the prospector, the closest thing Sierra Madre had to a voice of reason—phasers both of them do they come to their senses and leave the Sword behind.

The performances of the three leads in this are stupendous. Michael Dorn has come such a long way from the stiff he was in the first season of TNG, having learned to express himself very subtly—starting at the very beginning when he turns around hoping to see Kor only to be greatly disappointed and then disgusted to see that it’s Quark. His rants about Kor and what he is destined to do aren’t quite as crazed as they might be—John Colicos sells Kor’s lunacy better, in part because the character’s already over the top—but his telling Dax of his childhood difficulties is heartbreakingly understated.

Not that the episode’s perfect by any means. There’s a little too much wandering around in caves where more really needed to happen. Where J.D. Cullum’s Toral was a whiny little pretender, Rick Pasqualone’s version isn’t as pathetic as his predecessor, but that just makes him spectacularly uninteresting. Also some explanation of how he was able to mount his little expedition given his disgrace would’ve been nice. And Dax stays quiet far too often during Kor and Worf’s fights, which is out of character, and mainly serves to stretch those arguments out. Part of it may be Dax trying to balance loyalty between the two, but Dax is a busybody—seen at the very beginning where she practically throws Worf at Kor against the former’s better judgment—she should be intervening from jump, not after the argument has happened a few times. (Having said that, the moment where she shoots both of them is definitely a crowning moment of awesome, and also a huge relief.)

Still, this is a strong story that understands the power of, well, strong stories, of myth, of legend, and also of the power that they imbue objects with, and how that power can corrupt. Goodness knows there are plenty of examples of it in our own history...

 

Warp factor rating: 8


Keith R.A. DeCandido (who is at Mysticon 2014 this weekend with John “Q” deLancie, check his schedule here) is running a Kickstarter for a new story in the Dragon Precinct universe, featuring the characters of Gan Brightblade and his friends from that novel. He hopes you’ll support it, especially since there’s less than a week left—just two bucks will get you a copy of the story itself! If we reach $2500 there’ll be cookies! Details can be found here.

43 comments
Eduardo Jencarelli
1. Eduardo Jencarelli
Wow! I don't think I've ever read into the power corrupts analogy. I used to think Sword of Kahless was a harmless, uninteresting episode. I need to rewatch this one ASAP.

It also makes me think what was Indiana Jones's own motivation for hunting artifacts. Last Crusade, and to a lesser extent Crystal Skull, were the only films I recall providing one (and it wasn't power or glory, in those cases).
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
I think the reason that people were expecting some technobabble for the effects of the sword is two-fold. First of all, the script doesn't do a very good job of making us understand the effects of the glory of the find to a Klingon. Treasure of the Sierra Madre doesn't have that problem, because we understand the corrupting effects of great wealth deep down. We have a harder time with glory.

The second reason is that both Kor's and Worf's reactions are a bit too strong, especially Worf's. Worf has already been extremely close to the legendary beginnings of Klingon culture and his reactions to Kahless were far less strong. It's just a little too much, and the lack of subtlety implies an outside force (one which might also have affected the original Kahless).

Other than that, it's an enjoyable episode. Although now that I think about it, the solution of just setting the sword adrift in space is rather odd. I'm not sure what else they could have done, but it feels like a bit of a cop out on the part of the writers.
Eduardo Jencarelli
3. Crusader75
The problem with this episode is that I never bought into the idea that mere possession of the sword could result in the kind of political power Kor and Worf say it would. While the Klingons are a more mystically inclined culture than the Federation, their politics has been presented as rather ruthlessly pragmatic. The only way the sword would be worthwhile is if the possessor had a power base to leverage it against, and it does not seem Worf or Kor really have that.
Eduardo Jencarelli
4. DrPedantStrikes!
using the Sword for personal domain over the empire
I think you mean "personal dominion" over the empire, Krad...
Eduardo Jencarelli
5. Ranorian
I like this episode, but I always wondered what happened to the sword. I half expected to see it sticking out of the hull of the Defiant after it came back from a Gamma Quadrant run...it would admittedly make a pretty sweet hood ornament.
Eduardo Jencarelli
6. tkfourtwo1
@2 Dax should have confiscated the sword at phaser-point and had it sent to some dusty Starfleet warehouse where are the mysterious items of the week are archived, as an homage to Raiders

A nice episode, and always enjoyable to see John Colicos chew scenery...
Brian Haughwout
7. bhaughwout
A great reading of a great episode.

I really like how there specifically WASN'T a technobabble reason for the Klingons to respond to the Sword as they did, for the simple reasons that you list. To their culture, that sort of strong fetish object brings forth a reaction that 24th-century humans don't get. One almost gets the sense, looking at the relationship of humans & Klingons by this point, that we're revisiting the Vulcan/human dichotomy of TOS, but with humanity as the logical ones coming to terms with a more vibrantly emotive and storied people. That that puts Worf into a Spock role as he moves into a leadership position seems fitting.

The tail end of TNG had a lot of good Worf moments, with the ongoing subplots of Klingon governance and such, but DS9 really made it such that Worf became far and away my favorite Trek character ever -- and that's saying a lot in a show with folks like Sisko and Gowron! Bit by bit, our friendly neighborhood Klingon became the most realized character in the Trek canon, having all the tension of a Spock (like I said above) but having the sort of emotional and mythic tension that 20th/21st-century human sci-fi (and fantasy, given the mythic traditions of his birth people) fans can dig into the way you can't with a Vulcan.

(not to mention that I once, a few years back realized that Wolf is the prime example of a Paladin in sci-fi that I can think of -- made me rethink his motivations, tensions, and actions a lot when looking at him in that light ;) )
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
8. Lisamarie
I was also thinking that the bat'leth would end up having some kind of mind control device thing-y on it (either that or it's the One Ring!) but I agree that it is not necessary for the plot to work either.

Although my inner nerd couldn't help but think "That belongs in a museum!" when they just jettisoned it out to space. But I told Joe that surely you'd know what happened to it in some book or other ;)

We also lol'd when Worf actually said to reverse the polarity. Hah!

Although, when you think about it, the idea that a sword is going to truly and honestly have the power to unite an Empire is kind of naive...but then again, given the collective cultural importance they place on such things, I suppose it's not a huge stretch either.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
9. Lisamarie
Oh, also, I kind of like (in a storytelling way that is true to the culture/characters, not that I think it is a great character trait) that Worf was totally going to let Kor die on that cliff.
Eduardo Jencarelli
10. Eduardo Jencarelli
@7

Not just Worf, but Klingon culture and society in general.

You would think both the original series and TNG had more than enough Klingon characters and stories for the fans to last a lifetime. When DS9 premiered, I thought Klingons wouldn't even be touched, let alone become as pivotal as they became.

DS9 truly surprised me by painting Klingons in an even more three-dimensional outlook, enriching the Trek universe as a whole.
Eduardo Jencarelli
11. James2
@10, This is ultimately a core part of why I'm glad Worf was brought over to Ds9.

The more nuanced and complex nature of the station did wonders for his character. I prefer DS9 Worf over TNG Worf.

That complexity was reflected in an even greater exploration of the Klingon culture (aided by Ron 'The Klingon Guy' Moore's transfer to DS9 after TNG wrapped).
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
Yup, John Colicos was awesome. This is probably his best episode. His character in "Errand of Mercy" wasn't as richly drawn; he had to share the spotlight in "Blood Oath"; and Kor didn't come off so well in "Once More Unto the Breach." There are aspects of the story I'm not too crazy about, like all the time spent mucking about in caves. And I'm generally not crazy about quest stories that end with the object of the quest remaining lost or turning out worthless or whatever; they feel like copouts. But Colicos makes it great fun.

Credit is also due to composer David Bell for giving the Sword a suitably grand and mythic leitmotif -- and to the producers for actually allowing him to use a leitmotif, which was hardly standard practice at the time.
Eduardo Jencarelli
13. James2
@13, This is part of why Ron Jones getting fired late in TNG Seson 4 remains one of the stupidest decisions in the franchise's history.

Music in film and television is greatly important to me; it's a consequence of growing up the in the post-John Williams world. It is just as important as setting the tone of the story as the actors and the sets.

Goldsmith is the King of cinematic Trek music, but Jones is the King of the television branch. I just LOVE his Borg and Romulan leitmotifs. They're so great that not even Goldsmith could beat them in VIII and X.
Eduardo Jencarelli
14. Eduardo Jencarelli
I was looking up the issue of underwhelming music on DS9, and came across this article, written in October of 1999, just after DS9 ended:

http://www.salon.com/1999/10/29/trek/

I'm surprised at how much vitriol one original series fan could muster against Rick Berman, who was simply doing his job keeping these shows under production for Paramount.
Eduardo Jencarelli
15. James2
We know now that there's plenty of blame to go around for the decline of the franchise during the 2000's.

But at the time, Berman was the franchise's public face; it makes sense he'd get the brunt of the vitrol. I don't hold him solely responsible anymore. Those days are long over.

That having been said, his reasoning for firing Jones was frankly stupid -- even if it was his perogative given Jones was ignorning his demands.
Christopher Bennett
16. ChristopherLBennett
It wasn't just Berman -- TV and film music in general in the '90s got less thematic and more atmospheric. It was the fashion in the industry. (Consider The X-Files and Law and Order, for example -- their scores were mostly just long sustained tones. Trek music was lush by comparison.) Melody in live-action TV scoring was almost a lost art; the best music you'd find in the era was generally in animated shows like Batman: TAS. It's only in recent years that melodic music has become common again thanks to composers like Michael Giacchino and Bear McCreary.
Alicia Dodson
17. LynMars
I'm actually surprised people didn't understand the effect of the Sword's myth on the characters. I watched this as a teen and understood perfectly (especially after many rewatchings of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the same thing happens over the Grail).

The image of the Sword spinning in space has always stayed with me, and I used to wonder about its future in Star Trek, or if it would remain lost to legend.
Joseph Newton
18. crzydroid
I like how the Sword had little lines and grooves on it to make it look like locks of hair.
Eduardo Jencarelli
19. Jarvisimo
#8, 17 - I think it's good to think of the sword in terms of relic culture. Think of the power that certain relics had or have in religious culture - for example the relics of the Passion bought by Louis IX in the thirteenth century from the Byzantine Emperor. Those relics helped to augment Louis's and the French crown's claim as the most christian king, and were augmented by projects like the Sainte-Chapelle - an architectural reliquary for the most important relics in Christendom. The possession of the relics were part of a complex religio-political system that saw the conferring of yet more authority on France by the papacy, and the inferiority of comparable relics in the posessions of Louis's competitors. Of course matching relics were used for power displays too, such as when Henry III, Louis's cousin, obtained a relic of the blood of Christ. Similar states and individuals would steal relics because of the importance they would give the owner (for example the relics of Mark stolen by Venetians to augment their city), and others would take and preserve relics for the same purpose. Relics had tremendous importance as symbolic and political items, from these royal objects, to the smaller relics which were of local importance - and which still are to similar and differing ends - in this example - in Catholic and Orthodox culture.
Pirmin Schanne
20. Torvald Nom
@19: Your comparison illuminates the problem quite well: Such reliquaries only work for people that are already in a position of power and influence - but as far as we are generally aware of, Worf and Kor are neither - unlike Duras, who might well reestablish his house as the empire's foremost power (and how much resources does the house still possess while it's disgraced, one might wonder). If Worf had been portrayed more as a lost princeling of the empire instead of just its last true warrior, his reactions would seem more appropriate - but the position of the house of Mogh always remained very unclear, having a seat on the High Council on the one hand, but being easily disgraced by Gowron over a political disagreement without any repercussions on the other.
alastair chadwin
21. a-j
Let's see. The sword was plundered by an enemy after a catastrophic and humiliating defeat that remains a profound sore point in the Klingon psyche. So huge credit and and potential political power would go to whoever recovered it. This would be magnified if the warrior who returned it was one who represents the old ways (Kor) or pure Klingon honour (Worf) especially when a somewhat distrusted chancellor had humiliated both. The pragmatic Gowron would not cut a fine figure against such a person and in the constantly febrile state of Klingon politics, possession and guardianship of the sword could become a major issue. I can see it happening.
Eduardo Jencarelli
22. GarrettC
For me, there are a lot of good things in this episode. This was, in part, when I really started to appreciate the complexity of Dax's character. I always recognized that her sympbiotic history was interesting, but I always felt that Jadzia had something of absolute dominion over the other personalities, except when it suited one of her episodes.

But here I really started to realize how much of Kerzon at least persisted in her everyday personality. Going forward I noticed how nicely Farrel usually plays this. I hadn't noticed it prior because Jadzia is so comfortable with it that when Kerzon manifests, it just seems like Jadzia. It's a nice balance.

Dorn also continues to do a really nice job on DS9.

But the episode is consistently marred in my memory because of the ending. Realistically, they're making a decision to lose the sword forever. They're literally leaving it drift in space. Space is big. The sword is small. This is the most important relic in Klingon history and they're tossing it carelessly out the window into the vast, empty expanse of outer space! It's like dropping a pin out of an airplane into the Pacific Ocean, and thinking, "Yeah, I'll just find that later!" Except the ratio is all wrong. The pin is smaller and the ocean is bigger.

Augh. It's so frustrating.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@22: The personalities aren't that separate. A Trill joining is a complete blending, a melting pot -- the person that results is a fusion of all the prior personalities, not a bunch of separate personalities vying for control. Jadzia Dax does not have the same personality that Jadzia Idaris (as the books have named her) had. Her personality is a mix of those of all her prior hosts, and the Dax symbiont, all at once. They're inseparable, except when drawn out by the zhian'tara ritual or when the host and symbiont are physically separated.

And no, they're not losing the sword. Yes, space is big, but it's also empty. It's not anything like an ocean, because it's a vacuum. There are no currents or winds or friction or turbulence to worry about. An object set in motion on a particular trajectory will stay quite predictably on that trajectory for centuries or millennia to come. That's how we're able to launch space probes and just let them coast for years on end, and still ensure that they'll reach their target destinations precisely where and when they're supposed to. And that's here in the Solar System where there's planetary gravity to deal with. Out in interstellar space, there wouldn't even be that. There'd be virtually nothing there that would impart any change on the sword's trajectory. So as long as they noted its position and velocity when they beamed it into space, and took note of any nearby stars or rogue planets whose gravity might affect its course, they should have no trouble calculating exactly where to find it even decades or centuries later. (Although in the novels it only took four years.) It's the perfect way to hide something, because the people who have that initial trajectory and position information can find it easily but nobody else has a chance of stumbling across it.
Eduardo Jencarelli
24. GarrettC
I don't think we're really on different pages about Jadzia. This was around the episode where I started to realize the personalities were blended rather than tiered. I do, however, think some of the personalities are more dominant. Kerzon's influence is pretty clearly more manifest in Jadzia's everyday life than any of the others, and we've seen unequivocally that personalities can be suppressed. It's not a perfect melting pot, and I think Farrel does a nice job of playing that.

As for leaving the sword in space, what you say is obviously true. I still think it's still a monumental risk. Only three people have the data you say they need. Kor is close to death, and Worf and Jadzia are both on the front line, in considerable danger. If they leave a note, who does that go to, and when, and how do they make those assurances? It just seems like a very thoughtless and risky solution to me. But I won't fight the point, since I would need to shift the goal-posts quite a bit from my original complain to maintain my incredulity. They certainly could have done this without being stupid about it.
Eduardo Jencarelli
25. tortillarat
I'm surprised no-one mentioned the Vulcans weren't able to get through the force field and yet Worf just blurts out to reverse the polarity, which works. Think about that one. A Vulcan science team couldn't get through something Worf could (as did whoever ransacked the place before them).

Then Worf just happens to notice a gap in the dust along the holographic door. Jadzia and Kor didn't notice it. The people who ransacked the place didn't notice it, and they presumably would've scanned the place since they wanted to loot it. If they could get through the force field, surely they could've gone through a holographic door too.

When they leave the chamber they re-establish the force field, blocking some Klingons from getting out...but those Klingons do get out later, meaning even your average Klingon could get through a force field that a Vulcan science team couldn't. I suppose in their case they could've beamed down a crew member to set up those pattern enhancer thingamajigs again, but still, this is making the Vulcans look really stupid.

It seems like these kinds of things would've been nitpicked to death in previous seasons but Worf comes along and voila! The episode is instantly good? Ehhh...no...

It does amuse me though that this is the latest in a string of episodes that I feel differently about than pretty much everyone else.
Eduardo Jencarelli
26. Hestia
Worf's suggestion to reverse the polarity made me chuckle. Thanks to this column.

I love the idea behind this episode, but the execution falls a little flat. Maybe they wrote it in a hurry when they signed Dorn and just didn't have time to get the beats of the episode quite right.
Eduardo Jencarelli
27. Erik Dercf
A wonderful episode I agree. A line that I really liked is when Kor cuts down a Klingon with the sword he says something like "He was honored to be the first Klingon killed by the sword in 1000 years." This post also reminds me of the the book "Kahless" by Michael Jan Friedman which wonderfully tells the Kahless' actual rise to power and points out where legend is created along with a plot that shifts back and forth from the past to TNG's present. Again I want more Star Trek on TV please not just wonderful reruns but I will still take the time to read more Star Trek fiction when I have the time. Fun post. Thanks again everyone and everyone at Tor.com.

Sincerely,

Erik Dercf
Kit Case
28. wiredog
One Batleth to rule them all,One Batleth to find them,
One Batleth to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
Matt Hamilton
29. MattHamilton
Though I really love your reading into the episode, KRAD, and I think you're mostly right about it, I just don't like this episode. I love Kor, I love Worf, and I like Klingon culture outside of the warrior/honor parts. But there is just something about this episode that makes me not care at all. The idea that this one sword, no matter how mythical or legendary it is, means absolutely nothing to the Empire as a whole. How many times has something been found in the dirt that, to historians and like-minded people, blew their mi nds and changed their worlds; but it never impacts society as a whole. Something of near religious status would certainly be more affective to the Klingon people than what I just described, but I still have a hard time accepting that finding the Sword of Khaless would impact the Empire all that much.

Also, on a side note, is there a timeline of warp drive that I could find anywhere. I know that some species are far older than others (the Iconians, for example) but if the Hur'Q invaded Qo'nos a thousand years ago, were the Klingons warp capable then? There is also the times when they disucss the sundering between the Vulcans and the Romulans as happening millenia ago. How long have the Romulans and the Vulcans been farting around the galaxy? And why is the Federation so close in technology to two species who are obviously thousands of years more advanced than them? I'm probably just missing something but I was wondering if there was a thing somewhere that explained when a species in the Trek Universe began exploring the cosmos. There are many episodes dealing with when humans began interstellar flight, and Enterprise fully explored some of our first flights light years beyond, but what about the other species?
Christopher Bennett
30. ChristopherLBennett
@29: Does it matter whether the sword really would have had so much impact on Klingon culture? After all, we were never shown it actually having such an effect. All we saw was several characters believing that it would. As long as it's plausible that Kor, Worf, and Toral believed that the sword would give them power, it doesn't matter whether that belief was true or not. Think less in terms of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and more in terms of The Maltese Falcon.

And my assumption is that the Klingons developed warp technology by reverse-engineering what the Hurq left behind.

As for the Vulcans, ENT established that they lost their spacefaring technology in their nuclear war, and didn't return to space until the 18th or 19th century. Although the tie-in books have generally assumed the proto-Romulans made their exodus using sublight ships.

Anyway, there's no standard pace at which technology evolves. It's more a pattern of punctuated equilibrium, long periods of stability and slow growth with occasional bursts of rapid advancement when the specific conditions of a given culture and era call for it. China was advanced enough that they could've had an industrial revolution 700 years before Europe did, but they didn't have the same economic and cultural factors prompting them to industrialize. Indeed, Europe's industrial revolution was driven primarily by pursuit of the wealth of China -- the need for faster transportation technology to facilitate trade with the Far East and improved factory technology to manufacture competitive goods at home. China was already wealthy so it didn't need new technologies to get wealthy, while Europe was comparatively poor and backward and thus had a strong incentive to advance.

I see a strong parallel there with 22nd-century Vulcan and Earth. Vulcan is the established power resting on its laurels, and Earth is the hungry newcomer driven to innovate in order to compete; therefore Earth advances faster.

As for the Klingons, they're not a culture in which scientists and engineers have very high social status, so their innovation would be held back by cultural prejudices. Not unlike the Ancient Greeks, who were on the cusp of a scientific revolution, but failed to achieve it because their intellectual elites favored abstract philosophy and disdained hands-on experimentation because their slave-based culture made them perceive physical labor as demeaning.
Dante Hopkins
31. DanteHopkins
I never knew there were people waiting for a technobabble (ah, that word) reason for Kor and Worf's behavior. I watched this as a fifteen-year-old snot kid, and I understood it perfectly. To not understand is to not understand Klingons. You can't draw parallels between us and the Klingons, as they value personal glory above all else, literally all else. I really liked KRAD's breakdown, as it explains perfectly why there was no need for some outside explanation. I thought it was obvious, but I guess not.

Anyhow, always glad to see Kor. The late, great John Colicos got the rare oppurtunity to flesh out his legendary Klingon character, and I'm glad the writers and staff of DS9 got to put two generations of Klingon legends together. Michael Dorn and John Colicos, Worf and Kor in the same episode? All kinds of awesome. Speaking of awesome, loved how Terry Farrel made it clear Dax wasn't taking crap from either of them. The moment when Dax stuns them both is just icing.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
32. Lisamarie
Jarvisimo@19, I was actually thinking something similar in my head to explain to myself why a sword would be so powerful. I don't always quite grasp the whole military importance of things (the sword of a powerful leader, woopty do, is what my had says) but I can at least extrapolate and understand the power religious artifacts would have, even if my interpretation of my religion isn't really about such things granting earthly power (I always get a bit of a chuckle at the Nazis and their treatment of the Ark/Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movies, although apparently there is some grain of truth to this portrayal. But, come on, really, you think the Hebrew God is going to let you use His Ark to get power so that, among other things, you can exterminate His chosen people???? This actually reminds me of how it turns out, in Wheel of Time, everybody was flat out wrong in their assumption that if the Shadow blew the Horn of Valere, the heroes would fight for them!), but others have obviously seen it differently, and Klingon culture/religion is quite different from mine, anyway. So for them, it is in fact more internally consistent.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
33. Lisamarie
Oh, and for some reason (the theme tangentially relates and I'm not the only one who made a LotR reference on this thread), the fact that there were complaints about Kor and Worf being truly 'corrupted' kind of reminds me of all the angry letters Tolkien got when Frodo didn't actually destroy the Ring on his own and was tempted. There were people who thought he should have been punished and not treated as the hero of the story. Tolkien feels they entirely missed the point.
Joseph Newton
34. crzydroid
@29, 30: I also get the impression that there was some effort in Star Trek to set up humanity as special in terms of their willingness to pursue technological advancement/explore the universe/themselves. The Q having an interest in humanity but not in other humanoids which are pretty much the same, for instance. And there's also all the planet of hats stuff. Even a few episodes ago, Nog was talking about how humans advanced much further technologically in half the time. So I get the sense that Star Trek tries to paint almost every other culture as kind of resting on their laurels, whereas humans have this need to advance and explore just get restless if they're not pushing their boundaries to the limit.
Eduardo Jencarelli
35. McKay B
I was another viewer who wasn't at all surprised by the lack of technobabble curse on the Sword. I totally understood that the Klingons were just being affected by "power corrupts."

But in spite of that, I think this is my least-favorite Klingon-centric episode in TNG/DS9 (with the possible exception of some of the early pre-Gowron TNG stuff). I just don't find the Sword's effects convincing. Its "One Ring" powers seem over-the-top, and Kor and Worf just don't seem like themselves, even corrupt versions of themselves. I guess their pettiness just isn't convincing to me.

Yes, it's a great relief when Dax finally goes ahead and shoots them both, but that can't redeem an episode that, for me, is a bunch of boring non-action with an anticlimactic ending (and, as KRAD stated, a supremely boring antagonist).

By contrast with @29 MattHamilton, my problem was never really (consciously) a disbelief that the Sword could lead to true power in the Empire ... although that's quite possibly a good point.

@33: Yeah, I LOVED the ending to LotR (and I first finished reading it in 10th grade, before any of the movies were out). Frodo's behavior didn't bother me there. Maybe the difference is that the Ring had built up its mystique and anticipation for 3 books, while the Sword of Kahless only had 45 minutes to convince us that it was capable of mind-twisting as honorable a figure as Worf. :P

I am glad to hear that Martok ends up claiming the Sword in the novels. Partly because it makes the ending here feel less disappointing, and partly because Martok is AWESOME.
Mike Kelmachter
36. MikeKelm
It doesn't surprise me that a lot of people expected a technobabble issue- it's something of a staple of science fiction writing. Think about the Monkeys Paw, the One True Ring, Aladdins Magic Lamp, the sorcerers stone from Harry potter, the Ark of the Covenant from Indiana Jobes, Excalibur, and a few thousand others. Find a powerful item and find out it carries a curse that only a hero can break/withstand. It's a basic plot device which I'm glad the writers didn't choose to use.

As far as the sword causing strife, I completely get that with Klingons. The Klingon culture is based around the quest for personal glory first and foremost- the Sword of Kahless would be a symbol which would be heavily fought over as legions of warriors clash against each other to try and position themselves as the hero to Kahless.

It's part of what makes the Martok character so heroic in the novels- the idea that he is the only one capable of holding but not misusing the symbolic power of the sword
Eduardo Jencarelli
37. Eoin8472
@16
I don't know, thats one of the things that Babylon 5 had going for it, great music by Christopher Franke. Though the less said about Crusade's music the better!
Christopher Bennett
38. ChristopherLBennett
@37: No accounting for tastes. I hated Franke's B5 music. It was just the kind of bland atmospherics I never liked, and it seemed like ninety percent of it was just the same two notes -- "Ping, ping... ping, ping..." over and over. I got so damn sick of those pings.

When I first saw the original version of "The Gathering" with music by Stewart Copeland, I didn't care for it, because that kind of score seemed inappropriate for SF and I wanted something more grand and orchestral. But in retrospect, I like Copeland's music for the pilot much better than Franke's for the series, since Copeland's score had much more energy and vitality than Franke's bland atmospherics. It disappointed me when the revised edition of the pilot replaced Copeland's score with a new one by Franke.

But I agree, Crusade's music was... well, even less to my tastes, let's say. I've never even been able to rewatch the pilot movie A Call to Arms, because its music is just so dissonant and discordant that it's almost painful for me to listen to.
Eduardo Jencarelli
39. Ginomo
I generally love all things Klingon, but I was never crazy about this episode. After reading your review, I need to give it another watch. You point out some nuances that I didn't pay attention to.
Eduardo Jencarelli
40. JeanTheSquare
The problem with using "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" as an excuse for Worf's and Kor's behavior is that was an isolated story. Greed and mistrust destroyed the characters in the film, turned them to horrible people, and then we never had to deal with them again.

In the context of Trek however, we've known Worf for years before this episode, and are going to continue to watch and root for him for years following it. He's a good guy. His reaction to the Sword is so extreme that it is out of character.

That's why enough people were expecting a technobabble explanation that you felt the need to mention it in the article--a fact that, it seems to me, proves there was a pretty big misstep in the writing, whether you buy this reasoning or not.

Saying "ah, but you have to understand the Klingons put as much importance on stories and legends as 20th century humans put on gold and power" doesn't change any of that. After witnessing the disintigration of Bogart's character in TTotSM, I'm going to have a pretty hard time tuning in to his adventures next week, when he appears to be fine and no longer a wasted husk of man hollowed out by madness and greed. But that's more or less what this episode asks us to do with Worf if there is no outside tech or magic affecting his actions. Even further, it asks us to believe Dax spends even longer than we do experiencing evil!Worf firsthand, and then later falls in love and marries him.
Joseph Newton
41. crzydroid
@40: Worf was willing to let a Romulan die rather than give him a transfusion. You can argue that his character evolved since then, but the craziness of the Sword maybe reversed him to that point.
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
@41: I've said before, I think Worf gets a bum rap for that. He was willing to consider the transfusion, but when the Romulan refused to accept it, Worf went along with that refusal. And I'm not sure he could've done otherwise, since I don't think Crusher could've ethically forced treatment on an unwilling patient. So ultimately the decision was out of Worf's hands. It was the patient's choice to refuse care.
Phil Parsons
43. Yakko
@42: Hear, hear! "I would rather die than pollute my body with Klingon filth..." Worf's face in that moment seems to say "Jeez and I thought I was a hardcore bigot!" Between that episode and "Ethics" it always felt to me like Beverly Crusher was written to be the least tolerant person on the Enterprise when it came to Worf and his cultural beliefs. In fact she can be self righteous and pushy in general. As I get older I find myself agreeing more with Q's statement in "True Q" - "Crusher grows more shrill with each passing year..." Though now I wonder if McFadden and Dorn purposely tried to infuse a little subtext in there to get around Roddenberry's "No Conflict Among the Crew" edict.

@25: I still remember watching this one over 18 years ago and wondering why those Vulcans weren't more thorough. I wonder if at this point in the franchise we (the fans) were inclined to think all Vulcans were as brilliant and resourceful as Spock. DS9, particularly in later seasons, seems to take a view that they can be intelligent but also arrogant and woefully unimaginitive.

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