Sunday, January 1, 2012

Kor Returns, So Does Toral, And All For "The Sword Of Kahless"

The Good: Great use of genuine emotion and motivation
The Bad: Recasting of Toral, Awkward direction, Uninspired acting, Ultimate resolution
The Basics: When the revered Klingon Kor offers Worf and Dax the chance to accompany him on a quest, they accept, not knowing how bad it will get.

In "Blood Oath," the Klingon from Star Trek's "Errand Of Mercy," Kor showed up and managed to survive the episode. In Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s "Redemption, Part II" (reviewed here!), Worf has the opportunity to kill Toral, Son of Duras and end the Duras line once and for all. Instead, he spares the boy's life and goes on his merry way. Apparently, in the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, some of the writers wanted to clean up some of those loose ends. They attempt to do so in "The Sword Of Kahless."

Kor arrives on the station, proclaiming he has evidence that will lead him to the greatest Klingon artifact in the history of the Empire, the legendary bat'leth sword that the Emperor Kahless used thousands of years ago. Dax is able to confirm the authenticity of the shroud that Kor had that defined the location of the relic and together, Kor, Dax and Worf enter the Gamma Quadrant to find the blade. Once they locate the blade, they are ambushed by Toral who believes with the Sword, he could rule the Empire. As the trio attempts to get back to their ship and escape Toral and his forces, Kor and Worf begin to lose control and both desire one thing: to possess the Sword.

What I have always likes about "The Sword Of Kahless" is that it does not try to explain away the obsession Kor and Worf have for the blade with alien involvement, spatial anomalies nor weird radiation. They become obsessed with the blade and the power because they are corrupted by simple greed and lust for power. In the end, Kor and Worf are simply jerks and the desire for the blade brings out the worst in them. There's no explanation more than that and the truth is, there would not have been a satisfying one if there was.

The problems with "The Sword Of Kahless," and there are many, start with the direction. While LeVar Burton usually does a fine job (his "Indiscretion" a few episodes back was phenomenal), on this episode, his direction is obvious. He attempts to milk the viewer with a sense of tension in many of the cave scenes. One moment in particular stands out and that is when the trio is hunting for food. There's a build-up and musical scoring that attempts to play the scene as if they were about to ambush Toral, but it lacks the feeling of immediacy or sensibility for making an ambush so the viewer knows instantly that it's something else.

Similarly, though probably more of a problem for fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Star Trek universe is the recasting of Toral. In "Redemption," Toral is a boy and clearly inexperienced. He is played by J.D. Cullum and he's played quite well. The character comes alive with a youthful energy and sense of movement. In "The Sword Of Kahless," Rick Pasqualone portrays a slightly older Toral and it's impossible to see a resemblance between the two character. Indeed, until Worf makes it explicit, it seems there's no connection between the two Toral's. Pasqualone was completely miscast for the role and he lacks charisma and strength in the role. All he serves to do is make somewhat more believable the extraordinary growth spurt Alexander has when he appears on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Also problematic is John Colicos' performance. While the late Colicos did several great performances both in Star Trek and in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Sword Of Kahless" is not one of them. He does a magnificent job in the opening scenes of the episode, each time he must portray Kor drunk, but when Kor becomes obsessed with the Sword and the power he could wield with it, his believability plummets. Instead, he seems almost a parody of a Klingon warrior. It would have been far better had Colicos infused a sense of age to Kor. Instead, only the make-up indicates Kor's age and it seems incongruent with both the character and the importance of the conflict in the episode. Colicos could have accented how outrageous and unrealistic the paranoia over the Sword was had he acknowledged through his acting that Kor had no realistic chance of maintaining control of it.

In the end, "The Sword Of Kahless" is unsatisfying to fans of the series or the Star Trek universe as it feels largely like a journey nowhere. The impression of importance at the beginning of the episode of the artifact completely dissipates in the conflict between Kor and Worf. As a result, the question must be asked, "was this truly worth it?" My answer is no.

There's not much to recommend this episode to non-fans of the series. It starts as a potentially noble and interesting quest and quickly degenerates into a petty squabble between two people who both seem instantly delusional. If that's something you enjoy watching, this might be for you. Otherwise, I recommend tuning in next week instead . . .

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the turnaround season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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