Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Sword of Kahless"

***1/2

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

◄ Season Index

44 comments on this review

Nic
Sun, May 3, 2009, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
I actually fell asleep during thisbone for the first time in any Trek episode. Soooo boring!
John
Fri, Aug 17, 2012, 4:01am (UTC -6)
I liked this one. OTT Klingon shenanigans at their (almost) finest.

John Colicos is gold.
Cail Corishev
Mon, Sep 17, 2012, 4:47pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)

Another mediocre Dax/Klingon episode.

5/10
Matt
Wed, Feb 5, 2014, 4:50am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
3 and a half stars? Man, you have a lot of learning to do about reviewing shows.
Vylora
Sun, Feb 23, 2014, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Icarus32Soar
Sun, Mar 8, 2015, 10:12am (UTC -6)
An insult to the great Colicos. Klingons depicted as posturing buffoons not honourable warriors. They find the bat'leth, squabble over it and beam it into space? Gimme a break!
Robrow
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 7:56am (UTC -6)
It comes across as sub-Lord of the Rings dross. Sword = ring, whatever. And increasingly I find Klingon-centric episodes annoy me. Or rather Klingon beliefs need to be shown as relevant to the ongoing arc involving the Dominion. This was what made 'The Way of the Warrior' so compelling. Whereas all this stuff about ancient relics and a semi-mythical past just seemed like so much bombast. I'm starting to prefer the Ferengi.
Daxative
Sun, Jun 7, 2015, 7:30pm (UTC -6)
I always picture Toral Duras following the runabout and finding the sword a few minutes after they beamed it out. Ha. I also don't get why Dax phasered Kor after she phasered Worf. Worf was already knocked unconscious and Kor was just thanking her. Unless Dax is just mean there is no need for her to do that. It wasn't funny. Just more tearing down her character.
Ben Franklin
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 9:06am (UTC -6)
I'm not sure how anyone who has seen TNG and episodes of DS9 with Worf could ever believe that he could do something so dishonorable as to try to trick a Dahar master to falling to his death. I'm completely blown away that anyone would actually LIKE the idea that the sword lacked any kind of special power over the mind (like the One Ring as another poster mentioned).

Vylora mentioned that the Dahar master insulted Worf's honor and that (combined with some psychological effect of having the sword) would be enough for him to completely turn on over 7 years of character development. Absolutely RIDICULOUS. A dishonorable murder (tricking the Dahar master to fall off the cliff) is, in and of itself, a total betrayal of the Worf character no matter how much "dishonor" the Dahar master committed. If it was really that bad, Worf would have challenged him immediately upon being dishonored (as seen many times throughout his character's existence).

Furthermore, it is clear that Worf's reasoning is much more along the lines of a messiah complex than of being dishonored and over-revering the sword. The fact that both the Dahar master AND Worf both have the same exact Christ-complex upon obtaining the sword nearly proves the fact that the sword has some sort of direct "magical" effect on its Klingon possessors.

I'm sorry, but if you really think that 7 years of character development could be suddenly upended in half of an episode WITHOUT any real external influence is a little naive. Additionally, (SPOILER ALERT) let's visit further into the series where Worf has several opportunities to seize power in the Klingon empire and DOES NOT. This is because he doesn't really have any political ambitions and is primarily motivated by a personal code of honor. A code that this episode clearly violates in a very direct and obvious way.

I can usually excuse consistency violations of the Trek universe, but after growing with Worf's character for 7 years, this kind of infraction is near inexcusable. I'll give an extra 1/2 star for decent action sequences and the fact that I enjoy Klingon lore.

1.5 stars
Easter
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
This episode is really disappointing to me. It started out VERY strong for me. I was excited to see Kor and Dax back together, it seemed a good way to tell an interesting Worf story (something that's proven challenging for the writers in the past) and actually pulled continuity in properly with the emporer (something DS9 often fails to do despite that being something of their USP in the Trek series') All of it up to the point where they get the sword is wonderfully done and had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see where this great adventure would go next... and then they wandered around in a bad cave set doing a bad LOTR LARP for 2 acts and threw the sword into space.

The idea that Kor would get power hungry and want to rule the empire? Sure. He's a former military commander who somewhat pines for the old days of the empire and knows his time has come and gone (as we saw in Blood Oath) It's an interesting heel turn that makes for an interesting story for Dax (His old friend whos loyalty is torn and now has to face killing the last of her old Klingon friends who she fought beside in Blood Oath) and Worf (the outsider who holds Klingon culture so close to his heart and looks up to Kor with such reverence, believing himself unworthy of his presence) now having to work together to stop him and get the sword back leading to a chase to a new fantastic location and... waitwhat? that DIDN'T happen? Worf became power hungry and evil instead and Jadzia just had to act like a chiding mother to both of the silly klingons? We learn nothing about Dax in this, we either have to believe the sword had magic powers like the one ring or accept that Worf would trick someone into falling to their death (let alone someone he holds in such high esteem) which completely shatters his character we've seen so far... and then they just like... throw the sword away?

The episode would have been much better if they toned done the Worf being evil, toned up the Kor being evil, spent money on a third set and made it a proper Indiana Jones style chase across the galaxy like The Chase. Possibly ending with Worf standing over Kor once again with the chance to murder him or spare him as he did Duras and Kor egging him to do it and be a proper Klingon and Dax telling him not to be and be a proper Starfleet Officer making the whole story a metaphor for his internal discord between these halfs of himself.

1 star.
Nissa
Thu, Oct 8, 2015, 11:05pm (UTC -6)
I'll join the haters. Worf was at his worst here. Plus, it was all dreary. If you'll notice, DS9 tends to do better with races that aren't the traditional pillars of Trek. Their Klingons are especially weak and cliche-ridden. This is just more of the same silliness, and I couldn't get through the episode.
William B
Sun, Nov 1, 2015, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
I can't help but feel down on any episode for which "but it's a magic sword!" is the scenario in which the episode is better-written.

There are some good things here. From time to time, when Kor and Worf lament what they have lost, it is genuinely touching: Kor feels out of place in a world that he has somewhat outlasted, and Kang and Koloth are dead; Worf's feelings of personal security have been wiped out by his full-on exile from the Klingon Empire and the destruction of the Enterprise. Kor's constant self-mythologizing gradually turning Worf from starry-eyed to jaundiced is enjoyable, arises from the characters and ties in with the episode's broader themes. There are some nice actiony set pieces, though overall I think this aspect of this episode is dated.

Still, the episode hinges entirely on the idea that this bat'leth is so significant that a bunch of people believe that it's plausible that simply bringing the sword in will automatically confer total rulership of the Empire too them, and ends with the conclusion that this icon is too potent to be allowed near Klingons. This makes the Klingons as a whole look pretty dumb -- I get that it is a religious symbol, yes, but it's also a sword. If we accept this dubious premise, we come to the much worse sin of the episode's, which is to have Worf go so power-mad that he immediately starts tricking an old man into falling off a cliff, lies about it, and when called on it, starts ranting like a lunatic bout how this would have been Kor's own fault.

I think that Beimler has confirmed that the sword is not meant to have magical powers, that we are instead seeing the corrupting influence of power, yeah, yeah. Look, I'm not saying that Worf cannot be corrupted by power; it's pretty clear much of the time that Worf has to keep his instincts and prejudice very much in check, and it's easy to see how losing touch with this could easily develop. But there's becoming corrupted by power by spending years on the Council, and there's being corrupted by power by spending hours with an inanimate object. The paranoid raving that comes late in the episode owes something to, among other things, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," but it's important to remember that Humphrey Bogart's Fred C. Dobbs was a greedy son-of-a to begin with, whereas the episode takes a character whose primary traits are his dedication to duty and personal integrity as established over seven years and pushes him to power-mad fantasies with the thinnest of build-up.

The nods to continuity -- Toral, the talk of the Kahless-clone -- are fine and suggest for a moment that Worf's past is coming back to him and that Worf will be forced to confront his old choices...or, you know, nah. I guess those Vulcans who found the planet but couldn't get past the force field didn't think of reversing the polarity. That's why Dax is the science whiz. 1.5 stars, I guess.
William B
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
I am going to elaborate a bit --

Worf has played kingmaker before for both state (Gowron, to some extent, in "Redemption") and church ("Rightful Heir"). And spoilers, he will again. In some senses Worf is eminently corruptible by power, because he seldom really doubts his right to shape the future of the Empire, to some degree. Worf can be stubborn and closed-minded with the best of them. While I think "Starship Down" overplayed its hand a tad, Worf barking orders without thinking much about his men does seem a somewhat plausible result. Worf's greatest flaw might be a lack of self-awareness, which ties in with his seriousness and lack of imagination. "The Drumhead" showed an example of how Worf entirely convinced of the righteousness of his position could be able to steamroll over others' rights in his pursuit of the truth. "Where Silence Has Lease" suggests that Worf's bloodlust is so close to the surface that it takes a direct order to remind him he's not supposed to fight his best friend. And what's more, Worf right now feels totally alone -- he's lost the support system of his TNG crew, does not feel at ease on DS9, once again feels that he's a terrible father who should best stay out of his life, has given up a tremendous amount for an Empire that has turned its back on him.

So I can, don't get me wrong, sort of get where they were going here. The SoK offers the possibility for Worf -- and Kor, whom time has past by, and all of whose friends are either dead or (in Dax's case) in a not-particularly-familiar body -- to gain a karmic victory on the Empire, for all that they have lost and all the sacrifices they have made. Toral's return maybe even underscores how far Worf's integrity has gotten him -- Worf chose not to kill the brat because he was a child, and now here he is banging down his door.

But the episode just gets too cartoonish. The ledge thing might have almost worked if they had played it for ambiguity -- that Kor may have survived the fall but Kor and Jadzia weren't sure what Worf intended -- but for him to essentially admit he was going to trick Kor to his death seals the episode's fate. Worf getting into a fight with Kor is eye-rolling, but could maybe have worked, but it would fly in the face of Worf's whole...everything to use such base trickery. Even Worf telling Kor that he's old and worthless and he might as well let go and die would have been more believable. And when he cops to it, Dorn can't help but deliver the lines they've written for him like a half-wit supervillain.

The episode is a half-hearted adventure at the beginning, and then the paranoia gets ramped up to 10 with very little in between. And it's very disappointing as the first real Worf vehicle on this show.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
Starts off looking like a fun Indiana Jones-style romp but quickly gets dull and boring with too much running around caves and having the same argument.

That said there is one magnificent scene - as Worf seems like he is emoting on his childhood feelings of being an outsider to Dax, only for it to develop by his recounting of his vision of Kahless to a full blown rant about how he is the chosen one. Wonderfully written and played, and totally against expectation. It has to be said though it also seems a bit too out of character for Worf to even get to that point... 2 stars.
JC
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 7:21pm (UTC -6)
Don't confuse unmentioned hypothetical curses on objects with poorly written character interactions.
Quarkissnyder
Thu, Feb 25, 2016, 11:42am (UTC -6)
One sword to rule them all . . .
BZ
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Let's translate this into human terms. Let's say I find the Ark of the Covenant. We have three religions that want to claim it as theirs. We have any number of nation states that would want to have it to gain influence in international politics. People would be willing to kill over it, perhaps. One thing I doubt would happen is people from the *same* country/religion fighting over it with some sort of messiah complex. Especially people not having a messiah complex before. Or the premise that giving it to someone (the pope maybe?) would unite the world. I mean if you already believe him you'll do what he says regardless. If not, no ancient artifact would change your mind.
Luke
Fri, Apr 1, 2016, 12:02am (UTC -6)
"The Sword of Kahless" is probably the best example of Star Trek doing an Indiana Jones style story. It's easily much better than any of the attempts to do so made by TNG. Unfortunately, the episode isn't allowed to fully indulge in that mythic element and instead is mired in standard Trek secular rationalism. In one way that's to the episode's benefit (more on that later) but in another way it really harms the story.

How does it harm it? Well, for an Indiana Jones type story, there such aren't a lot of adventure elements present. Where are the things like rolling boulders, darts coming out of the walls, pits filled with snakes and all the various other traditional booby traps these stories are well known for? Instead, the only thing standing in the way of reaching the Sword are a force-field and a holographic wall, both of which are easily overcome with techno-babble. Now, again, I really do not mind techno-babble but it was woefully out of place here. Let's have some adventure! Have the trio swinging across precipices, dodging poisoned-tipped arrows, etc. Don't have them just routinely staring at tri-corders and setting up interference fields - we've seen all of that countless times before. For an episode that (as Jammer rightly puts it) is really trying to break away from Trek's usual dry, mythology-scarce routine and tell a story about the quest for the Klingon Holy Grail, it sure sticks to the status-quo rather rigidly.

But how does cleaving to Trek rationalism help? It's the fact that Worf and Kor aren't under any kind of mystical (or techno-babble) influence from the Sword when they go all paranoid and maniac on each other. The Sword isn't cursed and it isn't generating some kind of radiation field that affects them. It's just their own personalities and thoughts about this legendary object that send them over the edge. As SFDebris said in his review - "One of the criticisms of this episode is that the Sword was not directly affecting them. That they're behavior seems so out of the ordinary that it was stupid for it not to have been some kind of influence. Well, character consistency is generally in the eye of the beholder so I won't disagree with that. But, I think the case can be made that the continued reverence shown towards the Sword and, more importantly, the continued belief that its very presence can move that many of the Klingon people is an indication of just how important it is to them. That a symbol can have that much power, to sway an Empire, yet can be held in one's own hands, is what the corruption is. It's not the Sword that's corrupting them. It's the idea of the Sword. It's unimaginably powerful - that's what's doing it to them. Imagine for a moment that you came across an alien robot somehow. It's completely indestructible. It's utterly unstoppable. But its got a small unjammable transmitter that you talk into and the robot will obey, without question or hesitation, anything you tell it. You have just suddenly become the most powerful human being on Earth. You could order the robot that if anyone killed you, it must annihilate the world. And no one would dare try to stop you or what you choose to do for fear of retribution. All of that is sitting in your hand! All of that kind of power - to do anything you want. You could make anybody do what you say because they fear what you're capable of doing. The only thing that can be done to strip you of that power is to take away that little transmitter. And, after all, if somebody did do that, not only would they be depriving you of that power but it would also be putting it into someone else's hands. Someone who might not use it for good, like you believe you're doing. So, by keeping it, you're actually benefiting the world. You're going to ensure that everything is done right and not wrong. I hope this analogy might make things a little more clear about what's going on inside Worf and Kor's heads. The Sword essentially has this kind of power over the Klingon people. So it's not unreasonable to think that the two men might start considering keeping it for themselves and start mistrusting each other to the degree that they do." In other words, the episode is a story about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. And, in that, it's wonderfully in keeping with a lot of Trek themes, going back to the beginning of TOS.

But what really made "The Sword of Kahless" so enjoyable for me were two things. First, the fact that they FINALLY gave Worf something to do. Ever since "The Way of the Warrior" he really hasn't had much to offer "Deep Space Nine". Oh, sure, he's been in all the episodes since then and even had a relatively important B-plot in one of them. But, all told, he's had less than two dozen lines - combined - since the season opener! Here we're actually getting his, and the whole Klingons-as-villains, story actually focused on again. Second, this episode is almost pure continuity porn. And I love continuity porn! It's what made the fourth season of ENT so amazing. The episode has references and call-backs and serves as an outright sequel to no less than six previous episodes ("Errand of Mercy", "Blood Oath", "The Way of the Warrior", "Redemption, Part II", "Rightful Heir" and even "Distant Voices" of all outings!). And, I'm probably missing a few more. My God, that was glorious! If only more Trek episodes were this interconnected with the rest of the franchise.

7/10
Luka
Fri, May 13, 2016, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
The episode starts out well enough. I was fully expecting this episode to be the start of a Klingon arc and tie into "The Way of the Warrior" in some way. Unfortunately, the last third of the episode is padded out with unnecessary bickering between: Worf, Kor, and Dax and a completely unsatisfying ending where they beam the sword in space. This one deserves a 2.5.
Zarcon
Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 12:34pm (UTC -6)
I've seen this episode many times and love the richness of Colicos acting. Dorn keeps up with him beautifully which is no small feat. Klingon natures would naturally become very inflamed on acquiring the Sword. Kor and Worf are very heavy hitters even for Klingons. Dax was equal to the task of moderator and deserves her place as a heroine.

Kor at one point stares at Worf for 3 hours (and Worf does not exaggerate!) Kor as old as he was and after walking and fighting all day could still concentrate and stare at Worf for 3 hours. (Try concentrating for 5 minutes after a long work day.) Kor has incredible Will. Remember at the end of TOS ' Errand of Mercy' Kor took delight in a possible challenge of Wills with Kirk and the Federation. Kor values strong will even for a Klingon.

Lastly Kor and Worf ended as understanding friends. I believe that Kor learned to respect Worf for his single mindedness. These things are the most important for Kor. All in all Kor admires strength, courage and will. Worf has all of these.
Truth Be Told
Sun, Oct 9, 2016, 8:33pm (UTC -6)
Astounding to see, after all these years, all the comments that failed utterly to understand the character-driven nature of this episode (and ultimately of Star Trek). This is a solid episode all around, and like any discussion among fans of "The Tholian Web" will break down into an oil-and-water separation between those who believe that Spock and McCoy's dispute was caused by the phenomenon-of-the-week's sci-fi effects on their minds, and those who grasp that the very point of the episode was that the conflict, and its resolution, came from within them as characters, so this episode (with no doubt some exceptions!) serves as a good litmus test for those who understand Star Trek's messages and those who like the pretty colors it serves up much better.

There is something in a certain common sort of Star Trek fan, as one of the few insightful comments above notes, that has a severe problem with nuance, and tends to obsess over ephemera instead of grasping the enduring strength of the franchise which has given it such lasting appeal. That kind of fan, with few exceptions, will despise this episode.

This sort of Star Trek fan watches "Sword of Kahless" gripping the edge of their seat with both hands, waiting for the Sword of Kahless to be revealed as a reverse tetryon theta wave emitter that's warping the minds of the characters through telepathic hypnosis, and screams in frustration as the near-perfect narrative end of the show - establishing the Sword, like all good Star Trek concepts, as a Rorschach blot - robs them of the umpteenth two-parter about Klingon politics they feel they deserve.

There is ample justification, both within and surrounding this episode, for the actions of each character within it - it just requires an understanding of nuance and an acceptance that there are no easy answers offered here. As Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan once pointed out after Worf's annoyed insistence to her that "Klingons do not laugh", they very much do - Worf is the Klingon who doesn't, the Klingon who feels his life demands he be more Klingon than any Klingon, as illustrated in his story about his vision in this episode. Kor, an updated and expanded version of Colicos's character from the old series, is the Klingon who laughs, at others and at the glory of his own victories, and too much for Worf's taste, feeding into Worf's paranoia that Kor will shatter their society completely if he returns with the Sword. Jadzia views herself, just as the viewer is prone to do, as the sensible bridge between Klingon overreaction and the "real world" - but her own even-handedness flares much too easily into frustrated condescension that stokes the fires of conflict rather than cooling them... and after Worf and Kor have their last squabble, Jadzia needlessly and dismissively shows both her companions the wrong end of a phaser, suggesting that while she was never tempted to seize the Sword as a means to power, the quest for it had become, for her, a way of asserting her own sort of superiority over the genuine, galaxy-altering power of the symbolic to the society in which she, just as Curzon did, stood with one foot in and one foot out, refusing to accept all its implications while daring anyone to tell her she didn't belong (a conflict that first arose in the previous "Blood Oath", which reintroduced Kor and paved the way for this episode, and would only be resolved in the later episode "You Are Cordially Invited", where Worf and Jadzia are wed - two episodes which form a triptych with this episode much as the two other "Kor episodes" form their own).

If you want a microcosm of how enjoying the episode pivots on nuance, put aside the question of the mind-bending powers of the Sword that some viewers felt it necessary to invent for themselves (and that the show's creators disowned as a disappointing fan-created fantasy) and look at the "debate" above about the moment where Worf insists that Kor release the sword and drop to a ledge below. What really happens in the show, pace the claims above? Worf insists that there is a ledge beneath Kor, and if he would just release the Sword, both he and it would be safe. Kor insists that Worf intends to kill him, and refuses to let go. When Jadzia and Worf rescue Kor, he turns, and sees the ledge - Kor admits its existence, but says it would have been no safe refuge; Worf disagrees, too hastily for Kor; Kor angrily accuses Worf of plotting his demise; Worf, enraged at the dishonorable implication, retorts that Kor would rather drag the Sword and its promise for their society to its demise rather than pass it to another.

Was the ledge really too small to support Kor? Did Worf really intend to send Kor to his death so Worf could seize the Sword himself, or do the same to try to keep it from the hands of a man who would misuse it at their people's great expense in a time of need? Or did Worf see the Sword as so important that he simply showed little care for Kor's survival? Or, did Kor turn to find the safe haven Worf promised, and lash out only to defend his own actions a few seconds previous, something perfectly in character for him? What was the truth of the ledge?

It seems unlikely from what we know of Worf (again, from inside OR outside this episode's story) that he would kill any man in such a way, no matter his feelings for him. In the same sense, it seems at least a little likely from what we know of Kor that Kor would exaggerate the threat to himself just to push Worf into a fight or defend his own claim in extremis - or both.

But we DON'T know for sure - and we don't know because the show, quite ON PURPOSE, refuses to SHOW us the ledge. It could very easily have answered this question, soothed the fears of the antsy Worf super-fan or shown us a new, truly nasty angle from which to view Worf... but it does neither, because the very ambiguity of the question is the strength of the episode, and the nature of the Sword as a symbol, not to the Klingons, but in the much more important sense: to us, as the viewer, as a symbol of power and how it bends people - to self-serving fantasies of personal glory, to no less self-serving visions of "selfless" heroism, or to perhaps the most insidious of selfish delusions, that we're better than the rest, the ones above it all even as we stand in the thick of the fight.

So we don't know how big that ledge was, or how wide, or how much weight it would have supported, or whether Worf perceived it accurately, or Kor did, or Jadzia, even. We never will, and that's very much the point.

And since all three of the characters are meant to be our heroes despite their faults, in the end, they all realize the nuance that many of the viewers who comment above couldn't be trusted to grasp: the Sword's keen edge has nearly severed the ties of friendship, trust, and honor that allowed any of them to hold it for the brief moments that each of them did. And so they send the unfeeling artifact (in a brilliant reversal of the original series' episode-ending "beam up" moments of resolution) on its own short journey to the dark night outside, to wherever fate leads it, realizing that while its power may have been too much for them, they have their victory, because they were too much for it as well. It's not the franchise's best episode, nor the series'; it has its weak points, its slow parts, its dusty alien politics and its hokey technobabble - but it's still a good episode, and it does what Star Trek should.
David Pirtle
Fri, Oct 28, 2016, 6:33pm (UTC -6)
I felt the show pretty much came right out and said that it wasn't the sword at all, but rather the Klingons, who were the problem. The sword wasn't cursed. The Klingons just weren't ready to have it yet. If anything I think that makes the episode feel even more mythical, like the sword is testing them, and they both realized they failed.
Rob
Sun, Dec 4, 2016, 6:08am (UTC -6)
This was utterly tedious. Easily in the top five worst episodes of DS9 I've seen so far.
Trek fan
Sat, Dec 10, 2016, 1:07am (UTC -6)
Totally agree with Jammer on this one. Colicos, even stronger here than in "Blood Oath," gets a number of terrific scene-stealing lines as Kor in a story that features him more centrally. And Dorn, in his first substantial DS9 "Worf episode," gives a strong performance in a story that hearkens back to the essence of his character while developing it a bit. I loved the sense of continuity in the frequent references back to TNG's classic "Worf episodes" (I had honestly forgotten there was a "Klingon emperor") and the reappearance of Toral Duras. Kudos to DS9 for delivering a classic TNG-style adventure story in the midst of several heavy arc-dependent stories. I like how the Dax/Kor relationship merged with Worf's storyline here. This is the rare DS9 episode that hearkens back to TOS, to TNG, and to its own character continuity (Dax) all at once in a story that hangs together organically rather than feeling like a staged "event episode" recalling past glories. Very nicely done and fun to watch; at this point in Season 4 of DS9, it's great to see Worf's character display a bit more edginess on this series than he did on the more utopian TNG, perhaps a sign of the big difference between the two shows.

Submit a comment





Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2016 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.