Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Deep Space Nine, Season 4: The Sword of Kahless

Deep Space Nine, Season 4
"The Sword of Kahless"
Airdate: November 20, 1995
79 of 173 produced
79 of 173 aired


Worf is introduced to the Klingon Dahar Master Kor on the eve of his greatest quest - to find the mythical sword of Kahless, the founder of the Klingon Empire. Worf gets more than he bargained for, though, when possession of the sword causes division between him and his erstwhile hero.

It was a perfect day... when I found a sword with you...


Matthew: Here is an episode with a great setup, but definite story and pacing problems. Chasing an ancient artifact of profound cultural significance while trying to fend off other seekers or same? Hey, if it worked for Indiana Jones, it should work for Star Trek. But little things just end up eating away at the excellence of this episode. From a story angle, lots of odd things have to transpire in order to move the story along. The search for the sword takes basically no time. They get through a force field in 3 seconds that Vulcans couldn't. Huh? And Toral will definitely also be able to break the field, from the inside, without being prepared? If Toral's ship was jamming communications in space, why can't they simply beam out whenever they want, since they are in charge of said jamming? Why do they allow the runabout to stay in orbit at all? They could just blow it out of the sky. The pacing is just plain off. Most or all of the excitement happened in the first ten minutes, and then yet another DS9 episode gets lost in a dark cave. In the end, the setup just seems like a silly series of undue coincidences, foisting a dragging middle and conclusion to the episode.

Kevin: I, too, certainly liked the idea of this episode. I love the Klingons, and fleshing out their culture is always fun for me. I also enjoyed bringing back elements of other Klingon stories, like following up on Toral. I also like the idea of an external invasion force was what set the modern empire on its militaristic path. It would have been fun to follow up on them directly at some point. That all said, I have to agree that the execution falls a tad flat.  Your mention of Indiana Jones was a good one because I think it shows the problems of trying to cram this story into 43 instead of 90 minutes. The forcefield thing nagged me too, for starters. I was also not a fan of bringing back the Lethean. It's like an entire species that exist to commit very specific psychic attacks.

Matthew: From a character perspective, things start out pretty well. Worf idolizes Kor, naturally. He wants to fulfill his destiny in a glorious quest to help the Klingon empire. But how could Worf go from supporter of the emperor and hoping for reconciliation between Klingons and Starfleet, to jerkoff bent on interstellar domination, just because of a sword? Unless the sword has some sort of psychic powers, it's tough to believe. I get that they were trying to say that this cultural artifact had a strong sway over the hearts and minds of Klingons, but it just came off as unbelievable. Maybe more establishing dialogue and/or travails getting there would have helped. I get that Kor might have that ambition. I just think it might have been a more interesting story had Worf been opposed to Kor being trying to grab power because of his age, drunkenness, or proneness to confabulation. Then, after all this, they beam it into space. First of all, wouldn't it be terribly easy to find it, knowing where it was cast off, and just using a ship with sensors? Second, if they were both driven so mad with ambition, why would they agree to it?

Kevin: A lot of the little notes here actually worked really well for me. Kor holding court and telling stories was great, and I like how they worked in Worf's current and lifelong sense of alienation from other Klingons. Of course, he would idolize Kor, maybe even more than other Klingons. I liked Dax throughout the episode actually. It was fun watching her be friends with Kor again. I think the continuing story of Worf's alienation would have been a better thing to focus on. You're right, short of some actual psychic force at work, they get too ambitious too quickly in the presence of the sword. With a softer touch, they could have made it a more credible avatar for both characters wants without drifting into melodrama. I think they particularly veered too far by having Worf try to get Kor killed in the ravine. It verges on character assassination.

Matthew: In the end, when you ask the question - what happened in this episode to justify this story's existence, the answer is not a whole heck of a lot. Worf's characterization seems to go sour at some point. Dax is just sort of a referee, she doesn't really change with relation to either Klingon. Nothing changes between the Empire and the Federation. So after starting off with so much optimism for such a routinely successful kind of story, this episode ends up being a big nothing - difficult even to remember.

Kevin: These are good points, though in the end I suppose I found the episode a tad more entertaining. In particular, I liked the museum scenes. They had a great atmosphere, and the reveal of the actual sword had some real energy behind it.


Matthew: John Colicos is the big guest star, and he is fine. I don't think the script was the absolute best here, but he remains charming and interesting enough for me to not hate watching him. Rick Pasqualone was kind of "meh" as Toral, without much personality. I'd have preferred a reprise for J.D. Cullum in the role, he had a much more definite presence.

Kevin: Colicos is great in all three of his DS9 appearances, and I think his best is yet to come. He certainly still has the energy he had in both Blood Oath and his TOS appearance. I can't blame Pasqualone too much here as the script didn't give him a lot to do. Maybe it was the obvious physical differences between the two actors, but the whole time, I could never quite invest him with the previous history of the character.

Matthew: Michael Dorn does what he needed to do. I believed his hopes and his dreams for both the sword and for the empire. The script has him do a 180, and that was less believable, but not I think because of any bad acting. He didn't rescue it, but I think he's blameless. Terry Farrell has a nice authoritative air, but not a whole lot else.

Kevin: In straight character scenes, like in the bar, both Dorn and Farrell did a really good job. Beyond that, this is no one's best work, but it's certainly no one's worst.

Production Values

Matthew: The sword itself is gorgeous. It has a lovely texture, a nice and elaborate design compared to the standard bat'leth, and really looked like metal. It seems like the kind of thing that a real super-nerd would lust after for their living room (or mom's basement?)

Kevin: I loved the design modifications. It was not only a great prop in its own right, but gives the bat'leth itself a sense of history and change over the ages. It's the little things like that give alien cultures a sense of history, and I'm happy when they put in the effort. This may be more an acting note, but both Colicos and Dorn did a good job handling the bat'leth like it was a weapon and not a prop.

Matthew: Sigh. Yet another boring, dark cave. I'm really getting sick of this cave and the way they choose to light it on DS9. If this episode had been on the side of a mountain, it probably would have been more exciting. This is a place where budget really hampers an episode. I renew my long standing objection to Trek Fu. Jadzia Dax should not be able to cold cock a Klingon warrior into unconsciousness.

Kevin: I agree on the cave. Had they gotten to a new set at some point, it would have helped. I understand that practical problem of staging the fight, but I always felt the stylized fighting was a concession to the constraints of a family television show. I believe that Dax could have received training to level the field a little against a Klingon, but that showing that fight would be too graphic for the show.


Matthew: I was going to say that I think the acting and the story setup just bring this mess into 3 territory. But upon reflection, I think this is a 2.  The inherent interest is there, but it just dies on the vine. Too many stupid things, characterization that just feels off, and no real consequences.

Kevin: I agree with your criticisms, but in the end I found this a little more entertaining that Matt did. Maybe it is my love of Klingons or merely my affinity for Kor as a character, but especially in the set up and museum scenes, there's some real energy here. This just makes it into average territory, getting a 3 from me for a total of 5.

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