(written from a Production point of view)
Klingon Dahar Master Kor, Jadzia Dax, and Worf search for the fabled Sword of Kahless on a remote planet in the Gamma Quadrant.
Dahar master Kor is seated in Quark's, regaling a crowd with the story of the glorious battle between Kor, Kang, and Koloth and the forces of T'nag. Almost the entire bar is gathered around the old Klingon, except Worf, who huddles uncomfortably nearby at the bar, quietly listening. When Kor finishes, Jadzia Dax notices Worf sitting alone and invites him to meet her old friend. Worf declines, reminding her that he is considered an outcast by most Klingons, but she insists. Introduced by Dax anyway, Kor calls Worf a traitor and a pariah, "the lowest of the low," followed by a long uncomfortable pause – after which he smiles, extends his hand, assures a visibly upset Worf that anyone so disliked at the highest levels of the Klingon Empire is a friend of his.
Kor invites Worf on a mission to recover the Sword of Kahless, the mythical, millennia-old weapon of the Klingon Empire's legendary first leader – an artifact missing for centuries. A Vulcan geological survey team mining bakrinium discovered evidence of the sword's presence without realizing its significance and gifted the Shroud of the Sword to Kor when he was ambassador to Vulcan. Dax, feeling the effects of all the bloodwine she has consumed, decides to check that the shroud is genuine the following morning. She leaves to go to bed, while Kor and Worf continue drinking.
The next day, Dax finds Kor passed out following the attack and assumes he is merely hung over. He obviously doesn't remember his encounter with the Lethean, but does recount being thrown out of Quark's and spending some time in Worf's quarters drinking Yridian brandy Worf was saving for a special occasion. Turning to the cloth, Dax explains that she has verified the authenticity of the Shroud, particularly since it shows evidence of Hur'q DNA. Kor, becoming very excited, is ready to go, but she asks him where he got it, first.
Later, Captain Sisko is listening to the explanation in his quarters. Apparently a Vulcan geological survey found it accidentally in ancient ruins on an uncharted planet in the Gamma Quadrant, where it must have been left by the Hur'q. Hoping to restore Federation/Klingon relations, Sisko allows them the use of the USS Rio Grande.
On the way, Kor stops to make a speech, clearly excited about the journey and feeling fortunate to be accompanied by Dax and Worf. The trip takes several hours, so Kor rests and Worf does some mok'bara exercise, pausing to thank Dax for introducing him to Kor. Kor has a fantastical dream of returning the Sword in the Hall of Heroes to Gowron, where the statues of Kang and Koloth come alive, reuniting with him. Soon, though, the team reaches the planet. Since the Vulcans had mapped out the ruins well, Kor knows where to look – an area that once was the Hur'q Central Museum. However, there is a force field that Dax needs to spend time on to break through.
Beaming down, they set up force field destabilizers. They successfully create an interference pattern and the field is gone. Upon arrival in a subterranean vault, the three get into a deserted chamber, but find that all the artifacts hidden there have been removed.
The three are very disappointed, but Worf, unwilling to give up, discovers another chamber. Hidden by a holographic projection, it has a sensor which seemingly only admits Hur'q life signs. Using the Starfleet tricorder to fake them, they enter and finally find the Sword of Kahless. Worf, dumbstruck at seeing the actual sword in person, reaches out to hold it, but lets Kor hold it first.
When they exit the chamber, they are confronted by several Klingons led by Toral, son of Duras, who hired the Lethean to attack Kor and learn about their plans to recover the Sword. Worf initially thinks that Toral wants to be the one to bring back the Sword to restore their family's seat on the Klingon High Council which they lost a few years earlier, however, he says he can lead the Empire himself. Toral also challenges Worf, mentioning the fact that Worf spared his life. Though outnumbered, Kor, Worf, and Dax brawl their way past Toral's group and escape into the caves. Toral's ship was jamming their communications with the runabout, though. Worf suggests that they try going to the surface, so Dax has Kor make sure no one follows.
After a while, Kor asks Worf about his encounter with Toral. When he learns Worf declined the Right of Vengeance, he has second thoughts about him, even calling him not a real Klingon. He blames him for their current predicament, and Worf retorts that Kor earlier boasted about the mission in public, leading Toral to him. Worf goes onward, and Kor expresses regret bringing him along to Dax.
As they trek through the caves, Kor grows increasingly bombastic about plans for the Sword and the Empire when they return. Stopping to kill and cook a rat they find, Kor jokingly exaggerates their encounter with it. Worf is not amused, and further objects to Kor's use of the Sword to hold the meat. Kor ridicules him, and says Kahless used it to skin the Serpent of Xol. Painting Worf as an idealist, he scoffs at the idea of giving the Emperor the Sword instead of Gowron. He expresses that it would require a true warrior to unite the Klingon people, not someone like Gowron or even the reborn Emperor Kahless. Worf disapprovingly supposes Kor wants to take that role, and Kor says the Empire could do much worse. Dax tries to settle the conversation by moving the group along.
Later, Worf decides that it is his destiny, not Kor's, to possess the Sword and lead his people. While Kor gets more food, Worf explains his newfound meaning of his vision of Kahless when he was younger to Dax. Dax is caught in the middle, but it also appears that Kor has been listening from around the corner.
The long journey takes the three of them to an abyss, though there is a ledge they can use to continue. Kor slips and loses his footing, but still gripping the Sword. Worf saves Kor by grabbing the other end. Straining, he tries to convince Kor to let go and land on a ledge below, but Kor refuses, believing Worf is deceiving him. Dax helps pull up Kor and they both look down, seeing the ledge, which is dangerously small. Kor then confronts Worf, saying he tried to kill him. He demands the Sword, but Worf instead raises it against him, and they almost start fighting. Dax holds on to the sword herself as the other two squabble over it.
Later, they stop to take a break. Kor and Worf continue to bicker while Dax observes and tries to stop it. She holds the Sword and a phaser even as she sleeps.
Dax is awakened by the sound of Worf and Kor, ready to fight to the death. They are interrupted when Toral's party catches up to the trio and begins another battle. Kor enthusiastically takes the Sword and engages them. Worf is confident in him, as he has the Sword, and joins him. They soon subdue the whole group, however, Worf and Kor turn on each other, and Worf is on the verge of killing Kor when Dax stuns each of them with her phaser. She turns to Toral and forces him to deactivate the jamming signal, then transports the three of them back to the runabout.
Later, on board, Worf and Kor realize that the Sword turned the two of them against each other, and will probably divide the Klingon people as well. Worf ponders if they really were meant to find it; Kor firmly asserts that it was so… but sadly notes that they just were not meant to keep it. They make the decision to beam the sword into space, leaving it to destiny to decide when it should be revealed to the Klingon people.
"You know what I like about Klingon stories, commander? Nothing. Lots of people die, and nobody makes any profit."
- - Quark, to Worf
"Which of us had slain him? No one could say for certain, so we cut out his heart and all three of us feasted on it together!"
- - Kor and Jadzia Dax, poking holes in his story about his, Kang, and Koloth's battle against T'nag
"Kor! I have someone I'd like you to meet."
"I'd like you to meet our strategic operations officer, Commander Worf."
"Ah, Worf the traitor, the pariah, the lowest of the low. (big pause then a grin) It's a pleasure to meet you. Any enemy of Gowron and the High Council is a friend of mine."
"This is a great honor."
"Worf is a great admirer of yours."
"Yes. Please. (they sit) I have heard stories about you since I was a child. Your confrontation with Kirk on Organia, your attack on Romulus, your defense of the Korama Pass…"
"Everything I have done pales in comparison to what I am about to achieve. I am on a quest. A quest for the most revered icon in Klingon history…"
- - Jadzia Dax, Kor, and Worf
"Damn that Ferengi and his replicated bloodwine!"
- - Kor
"A true warrior has no need to exaggerate his feats."
"You'd better hope that I exaggerate, or else when they start singing songs about this quest and come to your verse, it will be "and Worf came along.""
- - Worf and Kor
"This is the Sword of Kahless! It is not something to shovel food into your mouth!"
- - Worf, to Kor
"The sword will unite us if it's held in the hands of a true Klingon, not a politician like Gowron, or some toothless figurehead like the Emperor. The sword must rest in the hands of someone who has been hardened by battle, pure of heart, who understands loyalty and honor. A warrior like Kang and Koloth."
"Someone like you?"
"The Empire could do far worse."
- - Kor and Worf
"Did you see the look on the face of that Klingon that I killed? It was as if he understood the honor bestowed upon him. The first man in a thousand years to be killed by the Sword of Kahless."
"I'm sure he was very proud."
- - Kor and Dax
Story and script
- This episode was written in an effort to more fully integrate the character of Worf into the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine world. All of the fourth season episodes to that date, with the exception of "The Way of the Warrior", had been green-lit prior to the confirmation of Michael Dorn's arrival, and as such, Worf tended to be confined to the B-stories of these episodes, if he even figured in them at all. "The Sword of Kahless" was the first show put together after Worf joined the cast, and as such, the producers felt it should focus on him. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In Hans Beimler's original draft of the teleplay, the scenes in the caves as Worf, Dax and Kor escape were much more elaborate, and involved a running battle with Toral's forces as well as booby traps exploding, floors falling out and arrows shooting from the walls. These scenes were no doubt inspired by the opening sequence of the 1981 Steven Spielberg film Raiders of the Lost Ark, but early in the pre-production process, Steve Oster made the decision to cut them, not for budgetary reasons, but for time considerations. To set up and execute all of Beimler's gags, Oster estimated, would have added an entire day onto the shooting schedule, and that was something that they simply could not allow to happen at the time. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- In an early draft of the script Kor referred to the warship IKS K'Tanco, a vessel commanded by Kang. It is possible that this ship is the K't'inga-class battle cruiser Kang commanded in VOY: "Flashback". For more information of that ship, see Kang's battle cruiser. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- This episode may be the closest to the Indiana Jones series that the Star Trek franchise will ever get, with the search for the Sword of Kahless being similar to that of the search for the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indeed, of this episode, director LeVar Burton says, "it's the search for the Holy Grail and it's about how the importance placed on the end of the quest, or on the object, affects who we are. The truth is that life is not about the destination, it's about the journey." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The episode has also been referred to as the Star Trek version of the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Collection sleeve notes)
- In the original script, the USS Mekong was to be the runabout used by Dax, Worf, and Kor, with the Rio Grande being the runabout used in the final episode, as the Mekong was presumed destroyed in "The Die is Cast". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion - A Series Guide and Script Library)
- The final design of the Sword of Kahless was done by Dan Curry, based upon an illustration by John Eaves. Originally, Eaves was assigned to design the sword himself, but after making some preliminary drawings, he went to Curry, who was the original designer of the bat'leth, and allowed him to finish the project. (Deep Space Nine Sketchbook: John Eaves, DS9 Season 4 DVD, Special Features)
- The blue razor Sisko uses to shave his head and beard with in this episode is identical to the razor Geordi La Forge shaved with in TNG: "Code of Honor". According to Michael and Denise Okuda, it was the same prop from "Code of Honor". (Star Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon text commentary)
- Showrunner Ira Steven Behr was pleased with the episode. Behr commented: ""The Sword Kahless" was an interesting show to conceive. I thought it was a good Worf show, with the idea of taking Worf to that place where he crosses the line, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The goal consumes you, so that it wraps your mind up and you can't shake free of it. I thought that was a lot of fun, and I thought that it worked well. I thought the acting was nice – John Colicos was terrific and Michael was wonderful. I think the episode suffered a little bit production wise. Those caves got a little boring and the action scene at the end was okay, but could have been better. Recently, I've been reading a lot of things that said we didn't use Worf enough, but I thought that the shows that we did use Worf in were all interesting shows, and were definitely interesting takes and interesting riffs on that character. By the time we brought Worf into the mix, we had half the season conceptually. Not stories yet, but we knew what we were going to do in these shows and since we had those ideas, you better believe that we were going to do them, since ideas are tough to come by!" ("The Producer's View", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 8)
- This episode was somewhat unpopular with some viewers when it first aired, something which disappointed writer Hans Beimler and producer René Echevarria. What particularly disappointed them was the fact that many viewers were unable to accept the notion that the bat'leth itself had no actual power. According to Echevarria, "A lot of fan reaction was that there must be a tech explanation, that the sword must be emitting something. I was astonished." Beimler explains Echevarria's astonishment when he says, "the sword itself doesn't have any magic. It's the concept of the sword that has the power. We wanted to explore the notion that there were some dark streaks to be revealed within these characters. The minute anyone starts talking about the sword it starts infecting them, so Worf gets caught up from the very beginning." Both men were disappointed that many fans missed this point, instead assuming that the Sword of Kahless had some mysterious power that simply wasn't revealed in the episode. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- The episode has become more popular in recent years and was voted by fans to be part of the Klingon Fan Collective DVD release.
- John Colicos greatly enjoyed the episode, commenting: "I absolutely loved it. I thought this was a marvelous kind of tour de force, and I loved all the baiting with Worf – the fight that we had together – all of that was really quite fun to play. I enjoyed that tremendously. Hans Beimler wrote it specifically for me, and he gave me glorious opportunities – in fact he put the word 'glorious' in, too, which seems to have gone down in Klingon history". ("The Sword of Colicos", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 8)
- Upon the opening of the wormhole, Kor remarks that their quest for the sword, "will be glorious." He says something similar to Kirk towards the end of "Errand of Mercy" regarding the possibility of facing the USS Enterprise captain in war.
- "The Sword of Kahless" was the second episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to be directed by LeVar Burton after "Indiscretion" and the first to have Michael Dorn in a main role. Burton was pleased with the final episode, commenting: "Great episode. Good Klingon stuff. I think that was the first episode I directed last season that had Michael Dorn in it so it was great to hook up with him again. That was a lot of fun for me. I thought John Colicos was terrific, too. It was also a show that was memorable for me because we spent so much time in the caves on Stage 17. of the seven-or-eight-day schedule, we had about four in the caves, I enjoyed it. I thought that was a good episode". Burton also coined the name "Action Barbie" for Farrell during the filming of the episode. He explained the origin thusly: "Action Barbie – that's my girl. Because she is. She's Action Barbie. She's this incredibly statuesque woman who doesn't mind throwing a kick or punching you in the groin. She's Action Barbie to me". ("Directing The Sword of Kahless", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Official Poster Magazine, issue 8)
- Terry Farrell commented: "["The Sword of Kahless"] was great because it was the first time I did action for LeVar Burton. He didn't expect me to do well at it. When I did, he called me 'Action Barbie'. So "Sword of Kahless" was my Action Barbie episode, and I've been Action Barbie on the set ever since". (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 18)
- Toral was last seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Redemption II", in which he was played by J.D. Cullum.
- The Hur'q are also mentioned in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Affliction".
- Worf makes a reference to Kor's battle "with Kirk on Organia," a reference to TOS: "Errand of Mercy" where Kor made his first appearance.
- Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) does not appear in this episode.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 4.5, 13 May 1996
- As part of the DS9 Season 4 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf
- Terry Farrell as Lt. Commander Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Alexander Siddig as Doctor Bashir
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
Alvanian cave sloth; ambassador; amusement; Bajoran wormhole; bakrinium; bat'leth; battle cry; blister; blood; blood brother; bloodwine; Cardassia; cave-rat; Caves of No'Mat; chant; cleric; clone; cup; Dahar master; Degebian mountain goat; disruptor pistol; d'k tahg; DNA; Earth; electrostatic charge; Emperor's Crown; Federation; Fek'Ihri; Ferengi; field destabilizers; figurehead; First Empire; force field; foster parent; Gamma Quadrant; Gowron; Great Domes of Qo'noS; Hall of Heroes; heart; holographic projection; House of Duras; Human; Hur'q; Hur'q Central Museum; icon; "in comparison"; Invasion of Cardassia; jamming signal; Kang; Kirk, James T.; Kahless; Kahless the Unforgettable; Kahless' father; kilometer; Klingon; Klingon-Cardassian War; Klingon Empire; Klingon High Council; Klingon history; Klingonese; Koloth; Korma Pass; legion; Letheans; Lukara; mek'leth; meter; Milky Way Galaxy; mining; Mogh; Mok'bara; Molor; "Old Man"; Organia; Pakled; phaser; pariah; poison; polarity; politician; plunderer; pretender; Qo'noS; Quark's; razor; red; Right of Vengeance; Rio Grande, USS; river; Romulus; Rozhenko, Helena; Rozhenko, Sergey; runabout; Sabak; Sabak's armor; Serpent of Xol; Shroud of the Sword; skinning; sleep; slit; snoring; square meter; Starfleet; statue; strategic operations officer; Sword of Kahless; T'nag; tavern; throat; toad; Torch of G'boj; Torna IV; tour guide; traitor; tricorder; vat; Vulcan; Vulcan (planet); water; Worf's cousins; Yridian brandy
- "The Sword of Kahless" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Sword of Kahless" at Wikipedia
- "The Sword of Kahless" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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