Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Sword of Kahless

Worf: It was not our destiny to find the sword.
Kor: You’re wrong. It was our destiny to find it. It was just not our destiny to keep it.

Kor appears at the space station, with news of a big clue to the whereabouts to the Holy Grail of the Klingon Empire – the Sword of Kahless. Like other Holy Grails, the journey searching for it is the source of adventure – and like other Holy Grails, finding it isn’t the panacea that it was dreamed to be.

Kor starts the episode with tall tales, which amuse some and irritate others. (I like Quark’s reaction best.) This is the only appearance that most of the actors make in the episode, which focuses on Klingons. Kor has enlisted Jadzia’s assistance in his quest, and Worf begs to join.

They need Sisko’s permission to take a runabout. I liked Sisko’s rationale for giving Dax and Worf the runabout, that finding the Sword of Kahless – especially if the mission were accomplished by two Starfleet officers – could significantly improve relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire (which at this point are very bad).

Actually, many of those involved have ulterior motives for wishing to find the sword, most of which involve power and glory. Kor and Worf are in various states of disapprobation with the Klingon High Council. Kor has been serving as the Klingon ambassador to Vulcan, which sounds like an honorable assignment, until you recall how different Klingons and Vulcans are. Worf, of course, has offended Gowron, the Klingon leader. Anyway, Kor wants one more deed of glory before he dies (showing up the High Council is an added bonus), especially as through the episode we begin to suspect that some of his other accomplishments may have been exaggerated. Worf wants to present the sword to the emperor-clone in order to unite the empire, which is currently fractured.

The episode goes through the usual difficulties of locating the sword. I liked Jadzia’s reaction to discovering that there was a force field that even the Vulcans couldn’t get through (Why didn’t you mention that, Kor?) and the first impression that it had already been vandalized. Worf’s discovery of a second force field is enjoyable. They get through the second force field, and find the sword!

Unfortunately Kor has a history of loose lips and although the treasure hunt to the sword is supposed to be a secret, he has been telling everyone, often while drunk, which is why other Klingons know about it and have been tracking him. In fact, Kor is garrulous throughout the episode, talking as much as a Cardassian, but that’s the sort of Klingon he is. At first we enjoy his hyperbole, and then it becomes rather exhausting, not just for us but especially for Worf. Jadzia, who both knows Kor well and has a high tolerance for other people’s foibles, bears it better.

The Sword of Kahless has an unexpected effect on Worf and on Kor: instead of uniting them (which at first it does), it somehow inflames their ambitions and creates divisions, setting Klingon against Klingon. Worf tires of Kor’s tall tales and dismisses him as old and clumsy, while Kor despises Worf for his soft human tendencies. Each of them now wants to be the Klingon to bring the sword back to the Empire; each is now considering leading the Empire. They begin fighting each other, only pausing when there is a common enemy (or a cave rat to catch for dinner), and it gets worse and worse. Finally Jadzia, who as a non-Klingon, is apparently immune to the influence of the sword, shoots them both.

And so they end up throwing the sword out into space, because if it could cause so much strife between two Klingons who are the same side, then there’s no telling how it will tear the Klingon empire apart. In a way this feels like a cop-out, deciding not to accept the burden of following the story through. On the other hand, Worf has had so much impact on Klingon society in the past (and will in the future) that perhaps it’s just as well that one of his occasions of playing kingmaker didn’t work out. This episode also strengthens the growing bond between Worf and Jadzia Dax.

Title musings: “The Sword of Kahless” is the title of the episode, and this is one of those times where the title is so straightforward that there’s not much to say about it. I’m only glad that they didn’t call it “The Bat’leth of Kahless,” which is harder to type.

Bits and pieces

At one point, when they are discussing the potential authenticity of the cloth that may have wrapped the sword, Jadzia mentions the “shroud of the sword.” This is a play on the phrase, “Shroud of Turin,” a piece of cloth that many believed to have wrapped the body of Jesus. Radiocarbon dating shows that the shroud of Turin’s material was made sometime between 1260 – 1390 AD.

Sisko’s blue razor is cool. If it is a razor. Maybe he’s just polishing his face or touching up his beard. Apparently the blue razor has been used in other Star Trek episodes.

If Kahless is from only 1400 years ago, the Klingon empire isn’t very old, is it?

Other episodes in which Worf influences the Klingon High Council include: TNG 4:7 ("Reunion:"), TNG 6:23 ("Rightful Heir"), DS9 7:22 ("Tacking into the Wind").

This quest of Jadzia’s is much more sensible than DS9 2:19 ("Blood Oath"), where she nearly got herself killed and used a lot of extreme illogic to justify her participation.

I liked how Kor’s frequent drunkenness makes him completely unaware that he was attacked by a Lethean. A Lethean makes an appearance in another Star Trek episode, DS9 3:18 ("Distant Voices").

Quotes

Quark: You know what I like about Klingon stories, Commander? Nothing. Lots of people die. And nobody makes any profit.

O’Brien: But who cares? He tells it well.

Kor: Oh, Worf – the traitor! The pariah! The lowest of the low! It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Jadzia: You told me not to tell anybody.
Kor: He guessed!

Kor: 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.
Dax: I’m sure he was very proud.

Overall Rating

An enjoyable episode, but a little slow in spots, and it’s hard to see how Worf and Kor could agree to space the artifact at the end. Three out of four shrouds of the sword.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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