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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Sword of Kahless (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

The Sword of Kahless is the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to focus primarily on Worf.

The character arrived on the show (and the station) in The Way of the Warrior, but his development since then had largely been confined to secondary plots. In Hippocratic Oath and Starship Down, Worf learned that life on Deep Space Nine would not be the same as life on the Enterprise. However, he had not really been the centre of any given episode before this point. (Even in The Way of the Warrior, Worf’s arrival and crisis of conscience was just one facet of a larger political situation.)

Sword of destiny...

Sword of destiny…

This is quite remarkable, and a result of a number of unique factors. Most obviously, Worf was not just any new cast member. Worf was a character who had arrived over from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so was something of a known quantity to fans. There was less of a need to establish who Worf was, because most fans already knew. More than that, a lot of the early fourth season episodes had been in development before Michael Dorn had been confirmed to be joining the ensemble. As such, they tended to focus on other characters.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the fourth season is almost one-third of the way through its run before the production team devoted an episode to the newest member of the cast. It is a testament to the production team that the show had the confidence and restraint to adopt such an approach to such an obviously popular character. More than that, The Sword of Kahless is undoubtedly a Worf-centric episode, but it is a Worf-centric episode that makes it quite clear that Worf is a Deep Space Nine character now.

"Thank you, sir. May I have another?"

“Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

One of the recurring themes of the fourth season of Deep Space Nine is the idea that the production team are getting to grips with the fact that they are effectively in control of the larger Star Trek universe. Star Trek: Voyager might have been airing at the same time, but the fact that show was set in the Delta Quadrant meant that its production staff did not have to worry about Klingons or Romulans or Cardassians or Federation politics. Deep Space Nine could do whatever they wanted.

The fourth season of Deep Space Nine found the writing team getting to grips with the fact that they no longer shared custody of the Star Trek universe with The Next Generation. Of course, this had arguably been the case since The Search, Part I, but the show had experienced a little trepidation and anxiety in its third season – a bit of confusion and lack of focus that made it difficult for the production team to really push their narrative forward. With the arrival of Worf, it seemed like the show was increasingly comfortable with its place driving the canon forward.

"I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over 1000." Worf's courtship of Jadzia hits a snag.

“I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand.” Worf’s courtship of Jadzia hits a snag.

One of the more interesting aspects of The Sword of Kahless is just how steeped it is in Star Trek lore. It is a script that is saturated with references to the Star Trek canon, past and present. Most obviously, it features three characters from three different Star Trek shows embarking on the same quest. Kor represents the original Star Trek, while Worf is still at a stage where he can represent The Next Generation. Dax is the ambassador from Deep Space Nine. However, this is only the most overt example.

Continuity comes thick and fast. Worf’s current state of disgrace is mentioned. Toral makes his first reappearance since Redemption, Part II. The House of Duras is resurgent. Worf makes passing references to Kor’s “confrontation with Kirk on Organia.” The details of the Kahless clone from Rightful Heir are discussed, with Kor dismissing the Emperor as “a clone of the original Kahless cooked up in a vat by ambitious clerics.” Worf makes reference to his vision of Kahless, discussed in Rightful Heir.

Blades of glory...

Blades of glory…

However, these continuity elements are not mere ornamentation. They are not simply in-jokes or nods. A great deal of The Sword of Kahless is predicated on what came before, counting on those events to contextualise the current situation. In particular, The Sword of Kahless draws attention to just how much influence Worf has had on the politics and evolution of the Klingon Empire over the previous nine years. The script reinforces the sense that Worf probably doesn’t need the Sword of Kahless to make a difference.

As Kor points out, Worf is probably single-handedly responsible for the fact that the Klingon Empire actually has an Emperor. Referencing the origins of the Kahless clone, Kor muses, “If you hadn’t supported him, he’d be right back in that vat where he came from.” Similarly, Toral points out that the only reason he still exists as a threat is because Worf spared his life. “I can see from your face, Worf, that you regret having spared my life.” There is a clear sense that The Sword of Kahless is drawing attention to Worf’s own history.

"And that is why everyone respects Dax."

“And that is why everyone respects Dax.”

In a way, this serves to assure viewers that this is very much the same Worf who served on the bridge of the the Enterprise for seven years. His history has been preserved, even as he moved from one show to another. This is particularly important in the context of The Sword of Kahless, which is largely predicated on the notion that Worf is being transformed from a Next Generation character into a Deep Space Nine character. After all, The Sword of Kahless reinforces what will become a recurring feature of Worf’s characterisation on Deep Space Nine: Worf is not a nice guy.

To be fair, The Next Generation made a point to emphasise that Worf was decidedly more alien than his crewmates. The Enemy, Reunion and Ethics all reinforced the idea that Worf adhered to his own value system – that he was not necessarily in total agreement with the ideals espoused by Picard or the rest of the crew. Still, there were very firm limits on just how “Klingon” Worf could be on the Enterprise, with his duality presented as something of a choice between humanity and the Klingon Empire.

Hanging on in there...

Hanging on in there…

To pick one example, The Next Generation had Worf resign his Starfleet commission so that he could serve on a Klingon vessel in Redemption, Part I. On Deep Space Nine, Worf is able to regularly accompany Martok on the Rotarran without a need to remove his Starfleet uniform. In Reunion, Picard is horrified that Worf eliminates a threat to the alliance between the Klingon Empire and the Federation conducted according to Klingon tradition – albeit for personal reasons. In Tacking Into the Wind, Sisko all but officially signs off on a similar assassination by Worf.

Deep Space Nine allows Worf to be a bit gruffer and meaner than he was on The Next Generation. His relationships with Jadzia and Ezri Dax are notably more charged than his relationship with Deanna Troi. (In particular, it is hard to imagine Worf and Troi having the “it wasn’t that good” conversation from Strange Bedfellows.) There is a sense that the world of Deep Space Nine allows the writing staff to develop the less flattering aspects of its characters, to reveal their feet of clay.

Manufactured from whole clothe...

Manufactured from whole clothe…

As a rule, Deep Space Nine allows its central characters to be a bit rougher around the edges than their counterparts on The Next Generation. The show’s primary cast includes a former terrorist, a fascist, a conman, and the franchise’s first working-class regular character. The cast of The Next Generation were never quite as flawless as some fans (including Ira Steven Behr) would argue, but they lacked the same sort of flaws that come as standard with Deep Space Nine characters.

And so, appropriately enough, Worf’s first big character-driven episode of Deep Space Nine features the heroic character attempting to murder a recurring guest star over a religious artifact. There is no ambiguity there; Worf is happy to let Kor drop to his death early on in their adventure and straight-up tries to murder him later on. This is not quite Worf as Picard ever knew him. It marks a very clear break from Worf as he has been portrayed up to this point, a rather dramatic reveal that the assumptions under which the character operates have changed.

The storyteller...

The storyteller…

Understandably, the portrayal of Worf in The Sword of Kahless was controversial, to the point where some fans insisted that there must be a suitably technical explanation for Worf’s “out of character” behaviour. As René Echevarria notes in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion:

“A lot of fan reaction was that there must be a tech explanation, that the sword was emitting something,” says Rene Echevarria. “I was astonished. And it didn’t seem to be one of the more popular shows of the season. Of course, it was hurt a little bit by the production values.”

To be fair, it is easy to see how such confusion might have arisen. Worf would never have done something like this on The Next Generation, and the Star Trek universe is populated with objects and artifacts that change the behaviour of the people who come in contact with them.

"I suppose you'll want a runabout?" "The Rio Grande is available." "Try to bring it back in one piece. I mean, we're not Voyager."

“I suppose you’ll want a runabout?”
“The Rio Grande is available.”
“Try to bring it back in one piece. I mean, we’re not Voyager.”

It doesn’t help matters that Worf seems to go from “zero” to “murder” in the space of a single act. It only takes a single ill-judged criticism from Kor to lead Worf to plot the murder of a Klingon who he has worshiped since childhood. It might have made more sense structurally to place the discovery of the eponymous artifact earlier in the episode so that there would be more time to develop the antagonism between Worf and Kor to make their inevitable conflict seem more natural and organic.

Still, the fact that this is not what audiences have come to expect from Worf is the entire point of the episode. This never would have happened on The Next Generation, but not because it is alien to Worf’s character. It never would have happened on The Next Generation because The Next Generation would never have allowed one of its leads to act in this manner. The basic premise of the episode is a statement of principle from the Deep Space Nine writing staff, a demonstration of just what they can do.

A cutting retort...

A cutting retort…

To be fair, The Sword of Kahless overplays its hand in the “let’s make Worf a jerk” stakes, although not quite to the extent that Let Who Is Without Sin… will do in the following season. There are points where it seems like Deep Space Nine gets a little bit overzealous in its attempt to define its own identity, particularly in relation to its more successful and popular older sibling. There were points in the third season where Deep Space Nine was not yet comfortable being the elder of the two running Star Trek shows, and there is an element of that here.

In theory, it is perfectly in keeping with Worf’s character that he would be willing to sacrifice Kor for what he deems to be “the greater good.” In this case, “the greater good” is the possibility of restoring peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire – with the not insubstantial benefit of making Worf a hero to his own people once again. After all, this was essentially where Worf found himself in Reunion, murdering Duras for the dual benefit of making himself feel better and protecting the alliance between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.

Friday night charades with Dax and Kor was always fun...

Friday night charades with Dax and Kor was always fun…

The biggest problem with all this is that the episode never makes Kor seem like a suitable threat to Worf. That is, to a certain extent, the point of the whole exercise – it is easy to cheer on Worf when he murders an obvious bad guy, and so putting him into conflict with a less evil character adds a greater sense of ambiguity to his actions. However, Kor is never really a credible threat to Worf or to the Empire. There is no situation where Worf couldn’t just take the artifact away from Kor after they’d escaped the planet without killing him.

The Sword of Kahless seems to be about reinforcing a sense of ambiguity around Worf’s motivations and his actions. It is telling that The Sword of Kahless reintroduces the character of Toral, the bastard son of Duras who was spared by Worf at the end of Redemption, Part II. Ronald D. Moore had argued in favour of Worf exercising his “Right of Vengeance” as a way of demonstrating that the character was still Klingon; he was vetoed by Michael Piller and Rick Berman, who understandably balked at the idea of a regular character killing a child.

"Light week for us, then?"

“Light week for us, then?”

Had Worf killed Toral in Redemption, Part II, it seems likely that the mission might have been relatively uneventful. It seems likely that this colours Worf’s decision-making concerning Kor, along with the sheer visceral power of holding so religious an artifact in his hand. More than that, it seems quite possible that Deep Space Nine would have let Worf claim Toral’s life as a reminder to the audience that Worf comes from a very different value system and adheres to a very different set of principles.

The somewhat exaggerated character dynamics of The Sword of Kahless make a bit more sense in context. The episode is clearly intended to be operatic and larger than life. Composer David Bell described his work on the episode’s score as populated by “dark, Wagnerian orchestrations.” It is quite obvious why Wagner was an influence here. The Sword of Kahless is a riff on the classic grail legend, drawing on a whole rake of sources from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to Wagner’s last opera Parsifal.

"It belongs in a museum!"

“It belongs in a museum!”

As such, The Sword of Kahless takes on those over-the-top stylings associated with myths or fairy tales. After all, it opens with Kor regaling an audience with an impossible story with little attention to reality or character. Dax explicitly points out that the roles in the story vary depending on who is telling it. “When Kang told this story, you took the high ground,” Dax recalls. Kor shrugs off the criticism over such a minor detail as consistency of character. “Who gets the credit is of no important.”

There is a sense that The Sword of Kahless is almost preempting criticisms of its exaggerated approach to character by arguing that… well, these are stories. “Do you believe a word of this?” Bashir asks. Odo and Kira nitpick at the details of the tale, but O’Brien knows better. “Yeah, but who cares?” he responds. “He tells it well.” There is a wonderful self-aware irony of Worf complaining about the fact that Kor “exaggerates his feats” even as Worf’s own character is subject to the same exaggeration and distortion.

An enDuras test...

An enDuras test…

The Klingons have always lent themselves to self-mythologising, with their culture built around honour and reputation. Klingon stories are frequently framed in terms of the epic, even when they are anything but. Sins of the Father revealed that honour was really just a story that Klingons told themselves so that they might feel better, something reinforced as recently as The Way of the Warrior. As such, a story about two Klingons (and Dax) wandering the Gamma Quadrant in search of a lost Klingon relic lends itself to broad strokes and exaggeration.

If Star Trek was going to play with the tropes of Arthurian legend, the Klingons are the ideal prism. The Sword of Kahless offers a sampling of familiar elements. The Sword of Kahless is at once the Holy Grail and Excalibur. The bastard son of Worf’s dark counterpart Duras who claims to be rightful heir to the Klingon Empire, Toral slips into the role of Modred. The episode even ends with our heroes returning the sword to the void of space, recalling the return of Excalibur to the waters. As with most myths, Worf prophecises a return, when the time is right.

Now that's just littering...

Now that’s just littering…

Kor is the perfect guest star for a story like this, a suitably larger-than-life presence whose every pronouncement feels like it is intended as a rule to live by. Actor John Colicos described Kor in Shakespearean terms:

“I love the character! Kor is a Falstaffian character, a bon vivant, a good storyteller and the story gets grander and grander every time he tells it,” Colicos revealed on that interview occasion. “He reads a lot, has a huge library and, I suspect, is working on translations of Shakespeare into Klingon. I’m finding that this character is getting larger and larger [than life]. He’s of gargantuan proportions now, or will be when I’m through with him.”

Although Kor was the very first major Klingon character to appear on Star Trek, sparring against Kirk in Errand of Mercy towards the end of the franchise’s first ever season, the version of the character presented on Deep Space Nine feels very much like a different character altogether.

Gone baby gone...

Gone baby gone…

The version of Kor who appears across Deep Space Nine could just as easily be an original character; that is how the three warriors had originally been conceived in Blood Oath. Kor’s character arc on Deep Space Nine is powerful and moving, but it does not feel rooted in the version of Kor who menaced Organia. John Colicos’ performance ensures some continuity of character, but it is hard to reconcile the lovable and playful rogue from Deep Space Nine with the menacing and brutal Klingon from Errand of Mercy. But then age changes everyone.

This is the first episode of Deep Space Nine to be centred around Worf. It comes surprisingly late in the season. When Voyager introduced the character of Seven of Nine in its fourth season, the character rather dramatically (and immediately) altered the balance of the show. In contrast, Worf has not been allowed to unsettle the ensemble; he has not drawn attention away from the other major characters on the show. Any anxiety about Worf drowning out other cast members should be put to rest.

Never gets old...

Never gets old…

According to Ira Steven Behr in The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, this was not an intentional creative choice. The show’s first Worf-centric episode was pushed back by production realities:

“This was the beginning of our finding our stride with Worf,” reports Ira Behr. “It was the first episode where we even scratched the surface of the character.” Until this point in the fourth season, Behr continues, they’d been working with stories that had been green-lighted prior to word that Michael Dorn would be joining the show. As a result, he says, “Worf had not connection to them, because we just didn’t know how to fit him into those scripts.”

Worf would get two more character-centric episodes before the end of the season, suggesting that he got the same level of attention afforded to Bashir, Quark or Kira. The show certainly handled his introduction with a bit more skill than it would the introduction of Ezri in the final season.

We are not amused.

We are not amused.

In many ways, The Sword of Kahless feels like something of a Next Generation reunion. Not only is it the first episode of the season to focus on Worf, and not only does it reintroduce the character of Toral, but it was also written and directed by two Next Generation alumni. The Sword of Kahless is the second episode of Deep Space Nine to be directed by LeVar Burton, who had worked with Michael Dorn as a regular cast member on The Next Generation. Burton handles the direction quite well, even if the cave sets do feel a little monotonous after a while.

The Sword of Kahless is written by Richard Danus. Danus had worked on the third season of The Next Generation as a story editor, and is credited as the writer on Déjà Q. Danus did not stay on staff on The Next Generation long enough to become part of the show’s definitive writing team, but he made a positive impression on Ira Steven Behr. When a confused and befuddled Behr was drafted in to do a re-write on The Hunted, it was Danus who took the time to help the writer get to grips with show. Behr was happy to get an opportunity to work with Danus again.

Sword play...

Sword play…

The episode is also notable for its soundtrack. The Sword of Kahless is not the first episode of Star Trek to be scored by David Bell. Bell had been working on the franchise from the third season of Deep Space Nine and the first season of Voyager, recruited to help manage the increasing workload:

“Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway had been doing virtually all of the episodes of both DS9 then Voyager – an enormous amount of work – and I think the production staff wanted to bring someone else in to pitch relief when needed,” said Bell. “Fortunately, it ended up being nine fantastic years of work for me.”

Bell would remain a part of the franchise’s soundscape until the end of the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise, putting out an impressive body of work across three different Star Trek series.

Dinner's up...

Dinner’s up…

The music on Star Trek is often a bone of contention between the composers and the producers. Composer Ron Jones had an occasionally frought relationship with producer Rick Berman over the music, leading to the decision to phase Jones out of rotation in the fourth season of The Next Generation. Dennis McCarthy recalled that Berman instructed him that Star Trek music should be like “wallpaper”, and that it should not draw attention away from the visual storytelling.

This approach was understandably controversial. Many would argue that Berman was right that music should not distract from visuals, but that it was possible to use music to enhance and enrich the show’s storytelling. Deep Space Nine was already beginning to adopt a somewhat looser approach to music, inviting its composers to construct bolder and more operatic scores than those featured on The Next Generation or Voyager. This is particularly obvious in this stretch of the fourth season, with The Sword of Kahless and Our Man Bashir arriving back to back.

"No need to get bent out of shape, Doctor."

“No need to get bent out of shape, Doctor.”

The Sword of Kahless heralds in a new sound for the show, with Bell attempting a bolder soundscape that would come to define the Dominion War – lots of ominous horns, lots of operatic overtures. In particularly, it foreshadows Bell’s soundtrack to Sacrifice of Angels, which would set the tone for the show’s last two seasons. Bell enjoyed a much more enjoyable relationship with the production team than Jones had:

I never experienced any meddling at all. Making changes during recording session is part of the gig. As I mentioned earlier, there were a few occasions where I was asked to make a slight change in a music cue or record an alternate version (change the entrance or ending a bit). I was usually prepared for this and had a couple different versions in mind as I composed, so the changes were easy to implement on the scoring stage. I often overwrote music cues I had doubts about because subtracting notes from a score during recording session is much easier than adding them! There was absolutely no meddling from producers in my experience on Star Trek. Until the end when Enterprise ratings began to sink and the handwriting was on the wall for us, the entire experience was a delight.

This is arguably another demonstration of Deep Space Nine coming into its own, cementing its identity as distinct and unique when compared to that of The Next Generation or Voyager. The work of the composers on Deep Space Nine is frequently overlooked, particularly in their attempts to get away from the “wallpaper” approach that defined the last few seasons of The Next Generation.

The hunt is on...

The hunt is on…

The Sword of Kahless is also notable for the introduction of the Hur’q into Klingon history. In many respects, the Hur’q are a rather strange beast. Although they are frequently brought up in the licensed tie-in materials, the Har’q are only mentioned in two episodes of the entire franchise. Outside of their pivotal importance to the plot of The Sword of Kahless, the only other reference to the Hur’q in the Star Trek canon is a passing allusion to “the Hur’q invasion” in Affliction.

It feels like the Hur’q should really be a bigger deal, given their status as a bunch of invaders from the Gamma Quadrant who subjugated the Klingon Empire and then disappeared mysteriously. Although they work quite well as a plot device to explain why the Sword of Kahless ended up in the Gamma Quadrant, The Sword of Kahless seems to imply that they played a much more significant role in the history of the Klingon Empire. We are told that Hur’q is the Klingon word for “outsiders” and Kor dismisses them as “the great plunderers of the galaxy.”

Quark's: Where old Klingons go to drink. And die, that one time.

Quark’s: Where old Klingons go to drink. And die, that one time.

The Hur’q invaded the Klingon homeworld over a millennia ago, thus placing them in the ancient history of the Klingon people. The video game Klingon Academy makes some of the subtext explicit, suggesting that the Klingons actually acquired warp technology from the alien invaders. This would certainly fit with Deep Space Nine‘s habit of nitpicking the Klingon warrior culture . If Klingon culture is as obsessed with honour and war as it claims to be, it is unclear how they developed the infrastructure necessary to support a large intergalactic empire.

Deep Space Nine has touched on this idea a number of times in its run. Dramatis Personae featured several members of the cast mocking the idea of Klingon scientific research. Visionary meditated on the incompetence of the Klingon intelligence service. Deep Space Nine would never explore these questions as thoroughly as Enterprise would in stories like Judgment, Affliction and Divergence, but the introduction of the Hur’q into Klingon history develops these themes. It seems to imply an answer to the old “how did Klingons develop space flight?” chestnut.

"You mean the Sword of Kahless I ordered from the back of my Kahless the Unforgettable comic book when I was twelve was not authentic?"

“You mean the Sword of Kahless I ordered from the back of my Kahless the Unforgettable comic book when I was twelve was not authentic?”

There seems to be an element of poor timing to all this. At the same time that Deep Space Nine was introducing the Hur’q into Klingon history as a possible explanation for how the Klingons developed such advanced technology, Voyager was doing something with the Kazon. The second season of Voyager revealed that that the Kazon had only mastered space flight by annexing technology for the Trabe, a species who had oppressed and enslaved the Kazon sects. While the Hur’q were only mentioned twice, the Trabe were a vital part of Kazon backstory.

In fact, The Sword of Kahless first aired the same night as Manoeuvres, a story in which Maj Cullah explicitly discusses the historical overthrow of the Trabe. Given the difficulty that Voyager was having defining the Kazon as anything other than “the poor man’s Klingons”, this feels like an unfortunate coincidence. Of course, both Voyager and Deep Space Nine developed the idea independently – and Voyager actually broached the Trabe in Initiations, before Way of the Warrior had even aired. Nevertheless, it adds to the sense that the Kazon are cut-price Klingons.

The Trill of the chase...

The Trill of the chase…

The Sword of Kahless is not necessarily one of the fourth season’s stronger shows. It is just a little bit too broad to work as the first showcase episode for a new cast member, even a new cast member instantly recognisable to the audience at home. More than that, the cave sequences can get a little monotonous, meaning that The Sword of Kahless never picks up the pulpy momentum that it really needs. Nevertheless, it is a fun and interesting little episode that gives a sense of exactly what the Deep Space Nine writing staff have in mind for Worf.

17 Responses

  1. As you have often mentioned the writers loved classic movies and reworked them into episodes, therefore this feels like a reworking of The Treasure of Sierra Madre. It is nice that Jadzi has the Walter Houston role rather than the more obvious choice in Kor. I also think that for once it was fortuitous that the budget ran out because I think all the ancient traps that the writers initially wanted would have served as a distraction to the character work.

  2. I thought the Hur’q were a canonised version of the ‘Old Kings’ from the rpg/boardgame Star Fleet Universe setting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Fleet_Universe). They certainly seem very similar.

  3. Just thinking here, so the Hur’q brought warp technology, presumably other advanced tech too and left thousands of years ago to the Gamma Quadrant, and the Klingons killed their old Gods.
    It’s possible that they’re the same, just with different versions of the stories turning into these completely seperate legends over time.

  4. Voyager was accused of catering too much to Jeri Ryan’s presence (it’s true) and you could say the same of Ezri in S7. Terry Farrell never got as many episodes in a single season as Nicole de Boer did.

    I loved the caption Darren about bringing the Runabout back in one piece compared with Voyager’s shuttlecraft because not only was it funny, it made me realise something – why didn’t Voyager have Runabouts? How many shuttles did they go through before they built the Delta Flyer? Runabouts are far more advanced and as Tom Paris (quite rightly) said in Extreme Risk, “Starfleet shuttles just don’t cut it in the Delta Quadrant. We’ve needed something better since the day we arrived”. At the beginning of S2, they lost three shuttlecraft in as many episodes. Yeah, great caption Darren, although I did think “an Enduras test” was stretching it a little.

    The caves are monotonous Darren; it reminded me of the VGR episode Twisted with the cast wandering the corridors for what seemed like an eternity. And the only operatic score I can ever recall on Voyager is Heroes and Demons because of its Beowulf plot, and perhaps Scorpion.

    • Yep. We’ll talk about Ezri when we get to her, I think, but it’s true that she was maybe one more detail than the final season could handle. And yet the production team still had time for two Ferengi episodes, a mirror universe episode and two holodeck episodes. But at least they combined the mirror universe into one of the Ferengi episodes.

      Ideally, Jadzia would have died and Ezri would have been a recurring presence at best or reassigned at worst. (What’s this about a Trill taboo?) But… Deep Space Nine would have been down to one single female lead if it didn’t bring back a female Dax. It could have introduced a new female character, but that would have been a lot more demanding than reintroducing a new Dax. They could have elevated one of the show’s recurring female characters, but Leeta and Kai Winn would seem to be the only two options and the studio certainly didn’t want more Bajoran stuff on the show at that point. So there had to be a new female character, and it had to be Dax.

      So I think Ezri was an inevitability. And, with that, the options were either actually try to develop her or push her to the background. They chose the former, which I think was the right choice of the two options. Because Ezri actually has a character arc, in contrast to Jadzia; one of the big issues with the writing of Jadzia was that she was a very stable and grounded character, but Ezri came loaded with possibilities. I suspect Ezri would have integrated much better had Terry Farrell’s contract lapsed a year or two earlier, it was just spectacularly bad timing coming into the final year. It was just that these were the best choices of the worst options.

      • Did you mean Terry Farrell’s contract Darren? After her six years were up, she decided not to renew like the rest. It still seems a bit pointless with only one more year to go.

      • Yep. Very good spot. Corrected!

        But, then again, I can’t fault Farrell too much for her decision. That’s how the industry works. You sign the original five- or six-year contract, hope that the show does well, and then negotiate a raise when it does. There’s a lot of money in that final year, just ask the Next Generation cast. Although I don’t think we have figures for the final season, I suspect that Farrell wasn’t offered as much as other key players, if only because Dax was not considered a breakout character. (It’s also possible that she had unrealistic expectations owing to her friendship with the Next Generation cast. They got HUGE raises for their seventh season, and she was very close to them. In contrast, DS9 wasn’t performing as nearly as well as TNG, and I suspect they couldn’t offer raises on that scale.)

        If Farrell didn’t get what she wanted, it made sense to bail and head to Becker. After all, that meant if Becker succeeded, the production team would know she was serious when she asked for a raise that time.

      • I never knew that Farrel was friends with the TNG cast. That’s interesting.

        And I always got the impression that, like with Claudia Christian on B5, there was more going on behind the scenes than we know. There’s some stuff in the 50 year mission that makes it seem like Behr was kept out of the loop for whatever reason, which sounds similar to some background politics that went on behind JMS’s back with both CC in season 5 and Foundation Imaging in S4.

      • Yep. It’s notable that the documentary notably glosses over that particular story when dealing with Farrell’s departure.

  5. “The music on Star Trek is often a bone of contention between the composers and the producers. Composer Ron Jones had an occasionally frought relationship with producer Rick Berman over the music, leading to the decision to phase Jones out of rotation in the fourth season of The Next Generation. Dennis McCarthy recalled that Berman instructed him that Star Trek music should be like “wallpaper”, and that it should not draw attention away from the visual storytelling.”

    I’m certainly glad they tried to abandon that “wallpaper” music philosophy. Just imagine Bride of Chaotica! with the standard music, and that episode would have flat-lined! And Scorpion would have been far less memorable without that epic soundtrack.

    • Yep. There’s a conscious move away from that “aural wallpaper” trend at around this point in the franchise, and I’d agree that it is definitely for the best.

  6. “The Sword of Kahless” has a strong story at its core, but the execution lets it down. In theory, the fight between Worf and Kor reveals more about both characters and Klingon society in interesting ways. In practice however, it devolves into endless, petty bickering. In theory, a quest for a legendary Klingon artifact will be extremely exciting and fun. In practice, it’s just a bunch of actors running through poorly lit cave sets that have been used on Star Trek a dozen times before. It also doesn’t help that those two approaches never really mesh well with each other, and that the storyline with Toral is superfluous. There’s some good stuff here, but it’s not as well-made an episode as most others in the fourth season of DS9.

    • Yep. It’s one of the weakest episodes of the season, and perhaps the weakest episode of the season that isn’t actively awful like Shattered Mirror or The Muse.

  7. This episode has always had the feel of Lord of the Rings, and especially so after having watched Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Worf and Kor have come under the malign influence of the sword, like Gollum and and Frodo and the One Ring as the sword wants to be found and returned to the Empire, with Sam/Dax having to intervene. In the end the sword, to dangerous to keep,
    is cast into the void as the ring is cast into the fiery mountain.

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