Star Trek The Next Generation: Rightful Heir

Do you think this episode was about faith, maybe? They only mentioned "leap of faith" about fifty times.

There's a part of me that is rebelling against this episode in a very hard core way. I'm not religious. Perhaps I'm even anti-religious. That may be controversial, but it does give me an interesting perspective. I think. I've always viewed religion from the outside, confused about the hows and the whys. Or more importantly, what exactly is a leap of faith? Feels hokey, almost childish. Which is kind of what this episode was about, Worf looking at the Klingon culture that he wants to embrace, but isn't really a part of.

Klingon culture is weird, and framing their dogmatic adherance to a wonky set of honor bound rules makes far more sense as a religion. What bothers me, though, is the obvious parallels to the Christ figure. Depicting Kahless, supposedly a warrior not a holy figure, as a man whose words shaped an entire world, dies and promises to come back to lead his people again, isn't thinly veiled – it's in your face (nice mixed metaphor).

I would have preferred a different mythology to frame this story, not Christ, but I suppose it worked as shorthand. What didn't work for me was Kahless. He wasn't inspiring. He was even kind of dull. Everything about his arrival, about the concept they were playing with, was intriguing, but not the man. I'm curious if that was intentional because the questions it brought up were the strongest part of the episode.

Why did Koroth make Kahless appear to Worf, of all people? An outsider, someone formerly disgraced? Was it because he could be impartial? Because of his connections to Starfleet? And Gowron? Or maybe it was because he was at a point in his life where he was questioning his faith? They knew he was susceptible to this kind of epiphany; he was there at Boreth for days and must have had many conversations with the clerics.

The conversations between Worf and Data were a more interesting part of the episode. I loved that Data explained that he had chosen to be a person. It explains so much about Data, how he has always appeared to be more than the sum of his parts. Kahless was less than the sum of his parts, a clone with implanted memories.

Which is a bit sad. How does he live? Sure, he's emperor, but he's a copy of the most important person in his world, a shadow. What is the man thinking about his situation? He doesn't think he's Kahless. He outright said it. It's an interesting psychological problem that no one else would ever have. I mean, what if we still had the blood of Jesus and tried to clone him? Can you imagine? Which is pretty much what this story is, but less offensive to Christians. Like all good sci-fi, it's allegory. It's "what if."

Which brings me to the end of the story, the resolution. Using Data's revelation of his own leap of faith, Worf put together what Kahless could be to the Klingons, making him a figurehead emperor. It is more appropriate than killing him off, and it doesn't actually alter the dynamics of the Klingon empire because Gowron is still in control. Yet, they have an emperor now. I'm curious what Kahless 2.0 will do with that. Will we find out?

Bits:

Picard's way of chastising Worf while supporting his needs was very Star Trek utopian, in that Worf's boss not only cared enough to force him on leave, there was no financial consequence to Worf going on what was essentially a vision quest.

Somehow I ended up reviewing another Klingon episode – I seem to get a lot of them. Strangely enough, this one directly references the last one I reviewed, "Birthright, Part 2," which was a bit of a dud. Worf even acknowledged that his actions in that episode were a little out of place.

According to Memory Alpha, the writer James E. Brooks, pitched this episode as 'Jurassic Worf.'

Kahless did appear in the original series episode "The Savage Curtain," but was depicted in a very different way. This is usually attributed to the fact that the version of Kahless featured in that episode was based on Kirk's personal views, that he was a cunning murderer and villain.

Quotes:

Picard: "It's a pity that you didn't try the holodeck instead of setting fire to your quarters."

Worf: "My behavior has been..."
Picard: "Inexcusable... and understandable."

Riker: "Worf, no offense, but I have trouble believing that the man that I escorted from deck eight is supernatural."

Worf: "They grew you in a test tube, like some kind of fungus – then programmed you like a machine!"

Unfortunately, the ideas behind the story were more interesting than the execution. An extra star for trying something so controversial.

2 1/2 out of 4 Bat'leth's forged from Kahless's hair.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

No comments: