Klingon writer Ron Moore shows his affection for the original Star Trek series by resurrecting a throwaway character from the episode "The Savage Curtain" in this Worf episode inspired by the science of Jurassic Park. While the story is handicapped by its contrived nature (isn't it amazing that Worf happens to pick just this time to try to rediscover his religion?) and its heavy-handed messages about faith and belief (it's the words that matter, darn it! The words!), "Rightful Heir" would still probably be a very good episode if there was a knockout, memorable performance from Kahless, the Klingon Messiah. Instead, he comes across as ordinary (and sounds like Bob Hope with a heavy smoking habit) and the episode lacks punch as a result.
Many people have written this off as just another boring Worf episode, and while it's tempting to do so at first, "Rightful Heir" is now one of my favorite TNG episodes. It is one of the first ever attempts on TNG to deal with the subject of religion, and here it is addressed tastefully and in a way that makes for good science fiction. The return of Kahless brings about division and distrust between Klingons, and Worf is thrust into the middle of a spiritual dispute when his own faith is on rocky ground. But substitute Kahless for, say Jesus, and it doesn't take long to realize that this episode is not really about Klingons at all, but really about today. At the episode's conclusion we are reminded that perhaps the teachings of Kahless are more important than whether or not he will return. Particularly in Christianity there is a great focus on Jesus as a divine being, and Jesus the moral teacher often gets lost in the shuffle. This episode makes great points but in enough of a sci-fi manner that you still have to dig for them. Don't write this one off.
Once "Redemption" happened, the writers needed to find something to keep Worf's character interesting. In the 5th season they tried giving him a son, which failed miserably. In the 6th season, they tried to explore his Klingon persona - first in "Birthright", then in "Rightful Heir".
Unfortunately, what drove Worf's strength as a character in the first four seasons - the character as a tormented outsider, struggling to find his place among his people - is totally absent in these episodes. Worf is an insider largely at peace with his identity as a Klingon. To make it worse, his Klingon interlocutors are generally dull; only Gowron really adds any interest here.
Not a total waste of time (more interesting than "Birthright"), but you'd have to wait for season 2 of DS9 to get another good Klingon episode.
Some mysteries are best left... well... mysterious. Klingon spiritual beliefs fall into that category. Worf was one of my favorite characters on Deep Space 9, but it was hit-and-miss on TNG.
In this episode, writers attempted to explore Worf's spiritual beliefs, brought on by a crisis in faith begun a few episodes before. So he shows up late for work, his quarters are filled with smoke and he ends up in hippy garb, his hair down, trying to meditate in a cave. A fellow supplicant gets a vision of Kahless. Then Worf himself sees the ancient Klingon warrior.
Hard to tell if it's all real or if Worf has just been hanging at a Phish concert.
Nope, it seems Kahless has returned to lead Klingons back to the right path.
As ancient Klingon warriors go, Kahless is pretty tame. Despite picking up his batliff, (which is odd since Worf later goes in pursuit of this long-lost object on Deep Space 9), Kahless seems pretty philosophical and serene. No violence, no anger, no aggression. In fact, dude's kind of boring.
We find out Kahless is actually a poorly prepared clone -- a fact that doesn't really seem to bother anyone. Worf grapples briefly with the fact, but quickly moves on to put Kahless in charge of restoring morality to the Klingon Empire.
In the end, we learn nothing about Klingon spirituality, except for a few goofy trappings, and Worf comes off like a petulant dolt rather than a serious person. Worse, he seems like a knee-jerk reactionary babbling on about the old ways and old beliefs and returning to a moral path.
Whatever happened to the Klingons' warrior ways? None of this seems in character for the Klingon culture.
It's time for another episode like "Redemption" and "Reunion." Forgoing the "re" prefix this time, Rightful Heir focuses on a sort of cool premise - THE Klingon hero from history, Kayless, comes back from the dead and challenges the Klingon Empire leadership. The twist where he's actually a clone is pretty interesting; I guess the problem with this episode is this type of "threat to the empire" plot has been done, and the plot unfolds a little too slowly in the last half (which basically consists of Gowron complaining with Worf/Kayless)...
The ending is pretty neat, and definitely makes sense. A figurehead can be a good thing. Season 6 has done an okay job of making Worf "a Klingon for all seasons" (vice Season 5 when he was on daddy patrol), but I just wish the plots have been more engaging (like "Sins of the Father" as an example). Instead, it seems like we're recycling material.
Worf fails to report for duty. Riker suspects something has gone wrong with Worf.. Riker has a security team meet him in Worf’s personal quarters. Riker finds candles lit and Worf in a trance. Picard tells Worf what he did was inexcusable, but understandable. Picard asks just what was he doing. Worf was trying to meditate hoping he Kahless would show up in a vision. Picard puts Worf on leave so he can explore his feelings. So Worf returns to the Klingon home world. While there Kahless shows up, but is it truly him. I rate this one a 8.5
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