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Rightful Heir (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
"Rightful Heir"
TNG, Episode 6x23
Production number: 40276-249
First aired: 17 May 1993
148th of 176 produced in TNG
148th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
271st of 728 released in all
Kahless
Teleplay By
Ronald D. Moore

Story By
James E. Brooks

Directed By
Winrich Kolbe
46852.2 (2369)
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At the Klingon monastery on Boreth, Worf sees a very real vision of Kahless the Unforgettable.

Summary

When Lt. Worf is late for bridge duty, Riker finds him in his quarters, absorbed in prayer, the room arranged like a traditional Klingon shrine. This is only the latest puzzling behavior from Worf; he has been increasingly forgetful and slacking off on routine duties.

Worf explains to Captain Picard that ever since the incident in the Carraya system (TNG: "Birthright, Part II") where he found young Klingons and taught them about their heritage, he has felt empty. As he saw their eager acceptance and recognition, he realized that he himself did not believe these things strongly, if at all. He was trying to summon a vision of Kahless, to reconnect with his spiritual roots.

Picard asks if there is a place where he could explore these things more fully; Worf says that place would be Boreth, where devout Klingons await the return of Kahless. It is not far from where the Enterprise is now. Picard says that since his spiritual quest is interfering with his duties, he should consider himself on leave, go to Boreth, and return prepared to resume his duties properly. He says kindly, "I hope you find what you're looking for."

The Boreth temple is built into the side of a mountain, with many interconnected caverns and caves decorated in ancient Klingon style. Worf joins several other Klingons in intensely-focused prayer around a fire pit, repeating "torva luq do Sel." (This is pronounced Torva luk do shell.) One very young man suddenly looks up and cries out that he sees Kahless standing before him. "He wants something – me! He wants me!" High priest Koroth congratulates Divok and says this is a vision of great power, telling him that his place among the honored dead is secure.

Worf packs up to leave; he has been there ten days and has received neither visions nor insights. Koroth reminds him of the story of The Promise: how when Kahless left, he pointed to the star around which Boreth orbits, and promised he would return there. That was fifteen centuries ago, and ten days is a relatively small amount of time. He tells Worf that this is a place of questions, not answers, and that Worf should open his heart to Kahless.

Returning to the shrine, Worf prays alone; Divok sits nearby to tend the fire. Suddenly the air shimmers in front of Worf and Kahless appears. Worf is overjoyed, but Divok is puzzled; he sees Kahless too. While Divok runs off to get Koroth, Kahless holds out his hands to Worf. Rising, Worf touches him and breathes, "You are real!"

Kahless enters the temple and tells the story of how his bat'leth was created. This story is known only to the high priests; it was kept out of the sacred writings deliberately so it could be used as a test in case the real Kahless came back. Kahless explains that he has returned to unite the people, to stop the fighting and petty wars. Koroth and his assistant Torin are convinced, and lead the pilgrims in chanting praise to Kahless.

Unconvinced, Worf does a tricorder scan to make sure Kahless is even a real Klingon, and remains quiet and reserved at the party that is given in Kahless's honor. Kahless notices that Worf still has questions; Worf says it is honorable to question and not take things for granted, but Kahless replies that a leader does not have to answer questions; a real leader commands obedience. Worf says that is true if the leader is worthy. Realizing that Worf is issuing a challenge, Kahless engages Worf in single combat. The fight is brief, fierce, and seems almost equal; it ends abruptly when Kahless turns away, laughing and a bit out of breath, and says that Klingons must fight not only to spill blood, but to enrich the spirit. He leads the people in a loud, proud chant, "We are Klingons!" Not everyone is convinced at first, but his enthusiasm is infectious. Only Worf remains detached and thoughtful.

Kahless is brought aboard the Enterprise-D. Dr. Crusher wants to run more tests to be sure he is not a coalescent being, a bioreplicant, or simply a dressed-up Klingon. In any event, Gowron is coming aboard, having received the news of Kahless's return with something less than enthusiasm. Data asks how Worf and the other Klingons will ascertain that Kahless is for real, and Worf says it is a matter of faith.

Gowron beams aboard, and he is indignant. Convinced that Kahless is an impostor, he has brought a sacred knife that is supposed to have the blood of Kahless on it. He is not mollified when the genetic pattern tests match up. He talks about how hard it is to fight an idea, and that the crew of his ship have already split up into factions over whether or not this is Kahless. It will destroy the unity of the Empire.

Worf invites Kahless for a drink, apologizing for the not-quite-right taste of the replicator's attempt to do Klingon Warnog. Kahless obviously cannot tell the difference, and says that he has forgotten many things. Asked about the next life he says he does not have those answers, but is merely a traveler. While he is corporeal, he knows only the here-and-now.

Gowron is convinced the whole thing is a ploy for Koroth and the other priests to seize power. He points out to Worf that they want him on their side, because Kurn now sits on the Klingon High Council and, as Kurn's older brother, Worf has influence. Worf pleads with Gowron to keep an open mind and listen to Kahless, giving himself a chance to have his faith restored, before taking up arms.

Gowron seeks out Kahless in the holodeck, where the temple has been recreated and Kahless is telling the story of a man who would not go inside the city walls when a storm blew up. He faced the storm and was killed. "The wind does not respect a fool," he says. "Do not stand before the wind, Gowron." Gowron challenges Kahless to remember details. Kahless says it does not matter, only that he has come to restore honor to the people. Gowron contemptuously challenges him to combat. As before, Kahless seems not to be able to fight very well, and tries to distract everyone with laughter and talk about fighting in the right spirit, but Gowron is unmoved and at last defeats Kahless, knocking him to the floor. Gowron laughs mockingly.

Now convinced that this is not Kahless, Worf wants answers. So does Kahless. Koroth explains slowly that the problems with Kahless's memory and his inability to fight like a real Klingon have to do with "the way he returned." The priests used Kahless's original genetic material to create a clone. All of his memories were actually programmed in from the sacred texts or from personal information the priests had. Worf is shocked and outraged, but the priests claim they did it to unite the people.

Worf returns to the holodeck temple and finds two of Gowron's men still there; they still believe. Data is there, and asks how Kahless's defeat has affected Worf's faith. Worf is unable to answer. Data tells how he was first activated and told he was only a machine, but believed he could become more than that. He calls this a leap of faith.

Worf chooses to tell Gowron, privately, that Kahless is a clone, but that since the people do need something to unite them and put a halt to the strife in the Empire, they should be told of Kahless – the whole truth. Instead of becoming leader of the empire in Gowron's place, Kahless can be Emperor, a moral guide, inspiring the people to return to true Klingon ways. Even though he will not really be Kahless, he will be Kahless's rightful heir. Gowron accepts this with reservations.

As Kahless prepares to leave, he tells Worf that perhaps what Kahless gave the people – the unique ways of thinking and behaving that make them Klingons – is more important than Kahless himself. Perhaps it does not matter if the real Kahless never returns, because his spirit lives in the heart of every true Klingon.

Memorable Quotes

"Worf! What the hell are you doing?"

- Riker


"On your feet, Lieutenant!"

- Picard


"I am Kahless...and I have returned."

- Kahless


"You still do not believe it is me, do you, Worf?"
"I want to believe."
"That is a beginning."

- Kahless and Worf


"Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. "I am not afraid," the man said. "I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me." I honored his choice and went inside. The next day, the storm came, and the man was killed. The wind does not respect a fool. Do not stand before the wind, Gowron."

- Kahless


"What was his name?"
"What?"
"If you were really there, you should be able to tell us the name of the man who stood outside the walls. Describe him to us. How tall was he? What was he wearing?!? What color...were his EYES?!?"

- Gowron and Kahless


"They grew you in a test tube, like some kind of fungus--then programmed you like a MACHINE!"

- Worf

"We will tell them the truth. All of the truth. But we will also tell them that even if he is not the real Kahless, he is the rightful HEIR to Kahless."

- Worf

"Kahless left us, all of us, a powerful legacy. A way of thinking and acting that makes us Klingon. If his words hold wisdom and his philosophy is honorable, what does it matter if he returns? What is important is that we follow his teachings. Perhaps the words are more important than the man."

- Kahless

Background Information

Story and script

  • When pitching the story, James E. Brooks dubbed it "Jurassic Worf" in reference to the 1993 film Jurassic Park. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • While Brooks' pitch focused on intrigue among the clerics, Ronald D. Moore decided to take the story in a different direction by examining spiritualism and faith in the 24th century. Moore explained, "I thought it was a real nifty idea and I thought it was an opportunity to do a show unlike others we've done. The subject wasn't something that we tackled, so I was eager to do it. I wanted to do something interesting. I'm very proud of the script. It deals with faith and belief that we don't normally deal with on Star Trek." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Jeri Taylor recalled that the episode sparked discussion among the writing staff about their views on faith and its place in The Next Generation. "Gene Roddenberry was very much a secular humanist, and I don't think that story would have worked with anyone else but Worf." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Brooks did not use Kahless in his pitch, but Moore saw the episode as an opportunity to develop and redefine the character first seen in the TOS episode "The Savage Curtain". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) The Kahless in the Original Series episode was portrayed in a very different light – as a barbaric murderer who used cunning and trickery (including vocal mimicry of his enemies) to gain an advantage in combat. The Star Trek Encyclopedia rationalizes the apparent inconsistency by noting that the image of Kahless was formed from the biased perceptions of James T. Kirk.
  • Much of the lore of Kahless revealed here originated from dialogue cut for time from "Birthright, Part II". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • In a line cut from the episode, Data revealed that Kahless' death occurred 1,547 years prior to the episode (822 A.D.). In another, the crew considers whether the Kahless clone was a plot by the Duras sisters or the "B'Nok faction." Alexander's absence was explained as a visit to Worf's adoptive parents on Earth. Additionally, Worf interprets his entrance into Starfleet as the fulfilment of Kahless's prediction that he would do what no other Klingon had done before. The script for the episode, including these deleted lines, can be viewed here.
  • The final draft script is dated on 8 March 1993.
  • First UK airdate: 13 December 1995

Production

Dan Curry with Boreth inspiration

Dan Curry with his inspirational painting for the Boreth monastery.

  • "Rightful Heir" was filmed between Tuesday 9 March 1993 and Thursday 18 March 1993 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16.
  • Director Winrich Kolbe recalled, "[This] was a difficult show to do. It started out rather conventionally, but once we got on Stage 16, we spent three days there. It was totally smoked in, in order to get that haze..I'm still coughing. The special effects people kept telling us it's non-poisonous and just a slight irritant. Well, I had a very heavy allergy which I think was caused by the smoke, but the show just looks terrific. It looks like a movie." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The design of the Klingon temple was inspired by similar structures Dan Curry had seen in the Himalayas. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • On Michael Dorn's performance, Kolbe remarked, "Michael and I have an interesting relationship. I try to push him and sometimes I push too hard and he will fight back. Michael has matured since I met him four or five years ago. He has become a lot more secure and has become a lot better. That obviously helped on this particular show. He knew it was his show and we went in there from the beginning saying that we're going to make this the best show of the season." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Dorn stated, "It was a well-written script. Usually you get ten different colors or changes, but in "Rightful Heir" maybe there were two minuscule changes. Rick [Kolbe] and I had mini-discussions about where the character should be. He's wonderful and I trust him – so if he says, 'Michael, try it like this,' you go, 'Okay' and you trust him." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

Sets and props

Continuity

Reception

  • Brannon Braga remarked, "It's a show which has some powerful metaphors for modern day religious beliefs. Star Trek has never tackled religion with such vigor as in this episode. The man playing Kahless as the Jesus Christ of the Klingon Empire was great and Michael Dorn's performance is powerful. It has the potential to be a very controversial episode that will take Worf's character in some interesting new directions." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Rick Berman recalled, "I had a lot of fights with Ron about this. The character of Kahless and the backstory and the dialogue of Kahless were all a little bit too on the nose Christ-like for me. We had a lot of long debates and eventually it was modified by Ron in a way that I think made it much better. I think he not only solved my problems but made the [episode] better. Kevin Conway's performance is great and it's a wonderful episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And

Co-star

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt doubles

Stand-ins

References

Alawanir Nebula; Boreth; Carraya IV; Carraya system; Caves of No'Mat; exobiology; Federation; Gariman sector; Kahless; Klingon; Klingon High Council; Klingon Empire; Knife of Kirom; Kri'stak Volcano; Kurn; Lake of Lusor; Molor; mortar; neurophysiology; Omicron Theta; painting; Qo'noS; Quin'lat; shrine; statue; Sto-vo-kor; Sword of Kahless; Toq; tricorder


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"Suspicions"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 6
Next episode:
"Second Chances"

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