This time it was more me: I’m having a bit of difficulty summoning up enthusiasm at present, so I wasn’t best receptive to an episode that I thought was better than last week’s Quark-focused bore-fest, though apparently ‘The Sword of Kahless’ wasn’t well-received by its audience at the time.
This is the first Worf-focused episode since Michael Dorn joined DS9, and in light of what is to follow, it’s interesting to see that the only other cast member prominently featured was Jardzia Dax. That probably wasn’t part of some deep-laid, long-term plan, but rather that the third player in this three-hander was her old blood-brother, the Klingon Kor (another splendidly rumbustious performance from Jon Colicos).
Kor is on the trail of the legendary, and quasi-mystical Sword of Kahless, an ancient bat’leth used to overthrow a tyrant, lost for at least 1,400 years, and whose return is prophesied to herald a new era of glory for the Klingon Empire. Jardzia, who confirms that Kor’s lead may well be genuine, introduces him to Worf, whom Kor befriends – any enemy of Gowron is a friend of mine – and agrees to take along.
The bat’leth is found surprisingly easily and somewhat early in the episode, but that was my preconceptions at play, since the intent was not to make an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie out of this (though the influence is clearly present) but to focus upon the effect the artefact has on both Kor and Worf.
Temporarily imprisoned on this distant planet, prevented by jamming from teleporting back to their runabout by a small band of Klingons looking to steal the glory of discovery from them, the two Klingons both find themselves laying claim to the Sword: not to bring it to the Emperor but to wield it themselves, to take over the Empire and lead it to glory.
Thegrowing tension, squabbling and rivalry between the pair only increased Dax’s irritation until, like a mother with toddlers, she takes the toy away so neither of them can have it. I realise that that’s not the comparison the show was aiming for, but that’s how it came over. Most of the second half of the episode consists of increasingly irascible conversations as the trio work up and down a limited number of already familiar cave-sets, supposedly a complex natural underground labyrinth. The sets restrict the field of vision, restrict the room for action, making things very talky, and were apparently a bugger to film in a limited time (several scenes from the original script had to be edited out because they would have taken too long to set up: these might have made it a bit more complex an episode).
Ultimately, the trio escape, and more importantly the Klingon pair escape their madness. In an unfortunately perfunctory manner, which can only be attributed in-episode to Dax losing her rag and phasering the idiot pair, they agree that the Sword is too damned dangerous to discover right now: if it can cause two such fine and upstanding characters to fight like angry cats, what will it do to the Empire?
So Dax teleports the bloody thing into space to float around, awaiting discovery again, and Worf sententiously prophecies that this will be when the Sword knows it is needed, and that’s your lot for another week.
The episode didn’t go down well at the time, though its critical reputation has risen since. It was the first Worf-centred episode supposedly because it was the first to be written after Michael Dorn signed up to the series, a proposition I can’t entirely accept, given that he’s essential to the season premiere. It also features a hard-ass, fighting machine Dax, encouraged by Director LeVar Burton to let it rip, in a style that Dorn and Colicos delightedly dubbed “Action Barbie.”
But, as I said upfront, something I struggled through rather than enjoyed, but an episode that, despite its clear flaws, deserved a bit better than it had from me.