Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Sword of Kahless"


Air date: 11/20/1995
Teleplay by Hans Beimler
Story by Richard Danus
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"A true warrior has no need to exaggerate his feats."
"You'd better hope I exaggerate, or else when they start singing songs about this quest and come to your verse, it will be 'And then Worf came along.'"

— Worf and Kor

Nutshell: Deep Space Nine goes the "Indiana Jones" route, and the results make for a very refreshing hour.

"The Sword of Kahless" is an enjoyable fable for a simpler time. It's the kind of story where people go on a hunt for ancient, larger-than-life treasures that have been lost and forgotten for centuries. Here's an episode that totally forgets about the ongoing arcs of Starfleet politics and Dominion threats and just puts three people on a quest with only the most rudimentary objectives.

The three people are Worf, Dax, and over-the-hill warrior Kor (a lively John Colicos, again reprising his TOS character as a follow-up to DS9's second season episode, "Blood Oath"). The object they seek is the long-lost Sword of Kahless: the mythical bat'leth wielded by the legendary Klingon warrior over 1,000 years ago. Kor reveals to Worf that he has found a new lead to this illustrious object.

Within the opening two acts, the three adventurers take leave from their duties, head off in a Runabout, and find the Sword of Kahless. Locating the sword proves to be the easy part. (Perhaps too easy. If you find it hard to believe that Kor happens to be the first Klingon who manages to put all the clues together to track down the planet where the sword has been locked away for centuries, you are probably not alone, but never mind that now.)

LeVar Burton, who directed the episode, makes the discovery of Kahless' bat'leth feel like a find of Indiana Jones scope. Set in an obscure underground cave on some remote planet, this scene is filled with a genuine sense of awe and wonder, as if the sword is the embodiment of greatness. The seekers are honored to have found it. David Bell's score is effective and resonating (and I hesitate to think how the scene would've played if Jay Chattaway had scored it). The sword could mean a lot to the Klingons. Worf hopes that it might be the symbol that may help the Klingons reunite.

But once the adventurers have found the sword, keeping it proves more difficult. A group of renegade Klingons led by Toral Duras (Rick Pasqualone)—a name from Worf's past who now believes that if he holds the sword he will be able to take over the empire—is hot on their trail. The chase begins through the caverns; Worf, Kor, and Dax get a respectable head start.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the problem. A rift begins to form between Kor and Worf over what to do with the sword once they escape the planet. Before long, these two are practically on opposing sides. Worf initially wants to hand the sword over to the Klingon emperor who may be able to use the sword to unite all Klingons. Kor, who has strong doubts about the emperor, thinks that would be a big mistake. As their journey continues, both begin having delusions of grandeur. Kor begins thinking his feats as a warrior along with the sword would make him a reasonable leader for the entire Empire. And, in a rather unexpected scene, Worf quietly tells Dax that he felt finding the sword was his destiny, and that he has a greater purpose in his existence—to lead the Klingon Empire.

Kor and Worf suddenly find themselves pointing out each other's shortcomings with some subtle-as-a-sledgehammer remarks. Worf flat out tells Kor that he drinks too much and that exaggerating his feats makes him seem foolish. Kor questions Worf's loyalty to the Empire, bringing up that old issue again of Worf being a Starfleet officer. Watching these two Klingons' verbal sparring and bickering is very entertaining and often humorous. A lot of the points they make about each other are relevant.

The conflict escalates to the point where the two begin contemplating "getting rid" of one another. There's one scene where Worf nearly lets Kor drop off a cliff rather than risk losing the bat'leth. Another where the two are just about ready to go blade-to-blade before they are interrupted. Where's Dax through all of this? Well, she's there the whole time...and has the unfortunate task of mediating these two as they rapidly turn into maniacs. It's a job I wouldn't want. Ultimately, Dax has to stun the two Klingons to get them to stop fighting. The show's funniest moment comes when she tells Kor "Be quiet!" right before she phasers him.

Still, it's a wonder she didn't phaser both of them earlier in the episode. My only real quibble with this episode is how long Dax lets these two bicker before finally putting her foot down. It almost stretches on a bit too long.

The most intriguing aspect about this episode, however, is why it is these two honorable warriors turn against each other. Although the story doesn't come out and say it in so many words, there is a strong insinuation that the sword itself has some sort of spell or curse on it that causes these two Klingons to feel a very strong, if not dangerous, feeling of self-power. This is a very offbeat notion for the series—a mythical element I find very appealing. It's the perfect touch to this legendary adventure. It even would've been fine with me if the story had come right out and said it.

After waking up from being stunned, the two warriors come to their senses and realize that the Klingon Empire is not ready for the Sword of Kahless to be returned. They reluctantly decide to beam it into space from the Runabout. Kor comments that it may be lost for another thousand years. Worf's last line is a very appropriate and poignant closing for this adventure: "When it is destined to be found, it will be." The final shot of the sword floating away in space is also a particularly nice touch.

Hans Beimler's teleplay is an illustration of fine storytelling and memorable flourishes. This kind of vehicle is perfect for Worf. It deals with the honor and adventure qualities that best distinguished his character on TNG. In addition, there are also some genuine character-building scenes for him here. It's the first episode since the season opener that really gives him a worthy story, and Michael Dorn turns in a strong performance.

One last thought: It seems only Klingons in the Star Trek universe get the chance to experience adventurous legends and myths. Has the Federation become so dry?

Previous episode: Starship Down
Next episode: Our Man Bashir

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25 comments on this review

Nic - Sun, May 3, 2009 - 8:30pm (USA Central)
I hated this episode! It started out very promising... I have seen all four Indiana Jones movies and the connection did not even occur to me. It started out very promising, with ideas of changing the Empire for the better and improving relations between Federation and Cardassia, but after three neverending acts of wandering through caves squabbling about Klingon values, they decide to abandon the sowrd in SPACE. And Why? Because it wasn't their "destiny" to find it. In other words, this episode will have no consequences on the rest of the series, which is something DS9 usually takes pride in.
Destructor - Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - 7:36pm (USA Central)
Yeah, wasn't impressed, didn't get much out of it. Amazed the J-dawg gave it 3.5 stars, that implies a near-classic episode, instead of a big snore-fest.
PM - Tue, Jul 21, 2009 - 2:18pm (USA Central)
Funny you mention the mystical powers of the sword. The writers intended for the sword to have no powers, and it was just Worf and Kor's nature to turn against one another over it. But apparently that doesn't come across. Anyway, I give the episode 3 stars for adventure, even if it winds up meaning next to nothing.
Patrick4President - Wed, Dec 9, 2009 - 12:12am (USA Central)
Erm.... no. Didn't like this one too much. I don't think that the sword is supposed to have some sort of mystical curse to it. It just represents great power to the Klingon characters in the episode. I don't like the characterization of Worf here one bit. We know him as a noble man. Here he comes across as having a messiah complex.

Also, the plot has way too many holes to be taken seriously. I mean, it isn't extremely bad, but not excactly good either. I did like Colicos' performance somewhat, but it wasn't a masterpiece either. Other than that, the episode feels way too standard to impress in any way. I would give it 2 stars.
Latex Zebra - Wed, May 19, 2010 - 8:59am (USA Central)
I loved this episode. The quote Jammer used is one of many humorous moments in this episode but that one made me proper lol!
conroy - Sat, Jul 3, 2010 - 3:19am (USA Central)
Just watched the episode again, and enjoyed it.

Yes, the Federation has become that dry. It is a reflection of their audience. It seems to me that Star Trek fans generally aren't people of great literature, culture, or even sociology.

There is no room for mythology, character development in stories that do not further the big picture of the series. There is no adventure. If it does not fit in their limited scope of enlightened humanism, it is shunned and despised. As Edington once described, the Federation is just like the Borg, pnly more more deceitful and deceptive.

In the other timeline from "Yesterday's Enterprise" it took nearly 20 years for the Klingons to bring the Federation to its knees.

Damn... they must not have been serious about detroying the Federation. Long live the Empire!

Jacobian Tee Teetertotter the Third :) - Wed, Feb 1, 2012 - 1:29am (USA Central)
I cannot believe worf would kill that old kingon, how fucking selfish is that? Man I lost alot of respect for him there because i would have let go assuming there was a ledge there. Man i hate Worf now.
Tom - Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - 8:24pm (USA Central)
I love that episode. Worf , Dax and Kor in a raiders of the lost ark in space type of adventure was so fun to watch.
Laroquod - Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 7:44am (USA Central)
I agree with the Jacobian. This episode seems intent on destroying all of the goodwill previously built up toward Worf. According to Memory Alpha, the fans wanted to believe that the sword had some magical evil influence so they wouldn't have to believe that Worf could be such a coward as to try to trick Kor into falling to his death, and the writer and producer of this episode felt they had failed in their mission to get the fans to accept that Worf really is that much of a politically ambitious craven schemer in his heart. This is 180 degrees reversed from what the character has always been. The fact that they were surprised and disappointed that the fans couldn't accept this turn shows that they completely failed to understand this character they had borrowed. I feel that this treatment Worf sealed the show's fate, ratings-wise, but that is just a theory based on my personal feelings (but I believe they are widely shared among Star Trek fans of that era -- Worf does not underhandedly try to assassinate anyone for personal gain: PERIOD).
Londonboy73 - Wed, Aug 8, 2012 - 6:16pm (USA Central)
I actually fell asleep during thisbone for the first time in any Trek episode. Soooo boring!
John - Fri, Aug 17, 2012 - 4:01am (USA Central)
I liked this one. OTT Klingon shenanigans at their (almost) finest.

John Colicos is gold.
Cail Corishev - Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
Worf's whole persona is that he's humble and loyal to a fault, even when it costs him and his family everything. That's been drilled home through 7 seasons of TNG and every other episode of DS9 that he appeared in. So for him to suddenly decide to anoint himself emperor is light-years out of character. I know what the writers say, but I'm going to continue to assume the sword was putting a whammy on them. That way, it's an enjoyable adventure, instead of a huge insult to a major character, not to mention the audience's intelligence.
William - Mon, Oct 15, 2012 - 6:28pm (USA Central)
I neither like this episode as much as Jammer and the other enthusiasts nor do I hold it in the disdain of others. It's a fairly good Klingon outing -- no more, no less to me.
Jack - Thu, Feb 7, 2013 - 12:30pm (USA Central)
Not sure why beaming the sword into space makes it "lost" for another 1000 years...from what we've seen any starship's sensors can pick up something that size.

As for exploring the Federation's myths, I think Star Trek V was quite enough of that idea.
Aaron - Sat, Mar 23, 2013 - 1:12am (USA Central)
I had trouble making it through this one, but I suppose that's true whenever Dax teams up with her Klingon pals. I had no problem with adventure aspect of it; I just don't find Klingon rhetoric to be at all interesting. Worf was completely annoying. 1 star.
Kotas - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 12:51pm (USA Central)

Another mediocre Dax/Klingon episode.

Matt - Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 4:50am (USA Central)
So, Kor's description of his dream didn't sound so intense as Worf made Klingon dreams out to be a few epsiodes ago.

(Yes, I know, Worf was probably joking)
Dusty - Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - 9:44pm (USA Central)
This one really disappointed me. Kor and Worf were at each others throats so much that it's just not believable, leaving us to assume that the Sword has some kind of ill effects on its possessor (similar to the One Ring in LOTR). Unfortunately, the writers never came out and said that, instead asking us to accept that Kor really didn't respect Worf, and Worf was willing to put Kor's life in jeopardy to hold on to the artifact. The plot was no great shakes either. I'm just going to try to forget this ever happened.
DLPB - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 3:41pm (USA Central)
3 and a half stars? Man, you have a lot of learning to do about reviewing shows.
Vylora - Sun, Feb 23, 2014 - 6:43pm (USA Central)
I don't believe for one second that the sword had any sort of magical effect on the Klingons. I DO believe, however, that the pure significance of having an object that is so highly revered above anything else in the empire can have deep personal effect on said characters. It's purely a psychological matter and has nothing to do with an unseen force and I'm glad the latter was never implied.

As for the Worf issue, there was several times that Kor insulted his honor. That's a big deal to Klingons that is very well known and it effects the best of them, including Worf. Couple that with the above-mentioned psychological effects at play and you have a recipe for a not-so-happy time. I didn't see anything in here that led me to believe that Worf as we knew him was ruined. Now the physical fight between the two of them made a lot more sense than the scene with them on the ledge. I agree that scene didn't work at all but it was the only major flaw in an otherwise good episode.

As always, Colicos as Kor is always a treat.

I liked this one but not as much as Jammer. 3 stars.

Rivus - Tue, Apr 29, 2014 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Really liked the scene with Dax getting fed up, one of the few times I can say that Farrell provided some truly solid and memorable acting... As soon as she got pissed, in my head I was thinking "IT'S CURZON TIME". However, the episode did do three things I didn't like. First off, yeah... The ledge was completely out of left field, and I don't think that Worf, even in his darkest times, would resort to such underhanded deception. No amount of greed could account for that being okay in any manner with his character. Other Klingons? Sure. Then there's, as Jammer said, the bit about the sword seeming to have magical properties, which lends to my previous gripe. Still, though, that seems almost like it's pulling a "Dramatis Personae"... But I digress. Plus, the cave trek seemed to just trudge on and on like a tortoise through molasses.

Still, I'm quite okay with Colicos's acting, top-notch as ever.

I'd give it 2 and a half.
Yanks - Tue, Aug 5, 2014 - 6:55pm (USA Central)
Just another screwed up Klingon episode.

Worf is TOTALLY out of character.

As much as I love John Colicos as Kor...

I thought the sword itself looked fantastic.

The sword should have been taken back to the Klingon High Council.

Worf's family honor should have been restored.

One star for me.

Pluto-Nash - Wed, Oct 15, 2014 - 7:09pm (USA Central)
They couldn't have returned the blade because they realized doing so would've defeated their original purpose. The blade didn't need to be cursed- the clout it promised alone was curse enough, and someone who doesn't believe that kind of power can sour good intentions real quick is either very innocent or very naive(spelling?).

All that aside a good show, I especially liked Quark's amuzing perspective on 'Klingon' stories.
Del_Duio - Tue, Nov 4, 2014 - 10:54am (USA Central)
I really liked this episode and regardless of how Worf was portrayed prior I could totally see how a relic of that power could potentially corrupt even the most noble of people. Imagine finding the Holy Grail or Excalibur? Now toss in the idea that the sword might have held some sort of magical aura or somesuch over it and there you go.

I mean it's not completely out of left field for DS9- a show that prominently features Prophets & Pah-Wraiths & other mysticisms, is it?

By the way, GREAT site you have here! DS9 is my favorite Trek show by far and your reviews have been very entertaining.
Halane - Mon, Jan 26, 2015 - 11:38am (USA Central)
I enjoy Dax's storylines because I like how Farrell protrays her. She is not the stronger actor on the show, but her mannerisms as Dax are truly fascinating. There is always something slightly manly in her body language.
Other than that, I felt that the episode went too far with Worf too. If it had been another Klingon, I'd be ok, but Worf would never kill someone like that. I don't even object to his political ambition, I object to his coward attempt against Kor.

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