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|Star Trek character|
|Portrayed by||Robert Herron and Kevin Conway|
Kahless the Unforgettable (Klingon: qeylIS'e' lIjlaHbe'bogh vay') is a fictional character in the Star Trek universe. He is portrayed in Star Trek: The Original Series by Robert Herron and in Star Trek: The Next Generation by Kevin Conway. The character is referenced in media relating to the Star Trek fictional universe, and is a Klingon alien spiritual and historical figure.
Khaless is also written about in Star Trek novels, such as "Khaless" Michael Jan Freeman. The character and its presentation in the Star Trek franchise has been studied in explorations of Star Trek and philosophy.
In the Klingon language, Kahless's name is spelt qeylIS. While Klingon began as fictional language created for the Star Trek universe by creative professionals, it has gained significant popularity in the real world and its exact status has been the subject of disputes in the 21st century. The language of the fictional character's name, Kahless was established in 1984 by language expert Marc Okrand.
History of Kahless
In the Star Trek science fiction universe, Kahless (pronounced: /keɪ̯.lɛs/ [kay-les] or /keɪ̯.lɪs/ [kay-lis]; pIqaD letters: "qeylIS") is a messianic figure in Klingon history, who unified the Klingon people and became emperor after three centuries of there being no one holding the title. The Klingons' most important symbol of leadership, Kahless said that Klingons should fight not just to shed blood, but to enrich the spirit. The story of Kahless is a cornerstone of Klingon mythology and religion.
According to the Star Trek backstory in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rightful Heir", Kahless united the empire some 1,500 years ago after fighting and killing the tyrant Molor with the first bat'leth, or "Sword of Honor". He fashioned the sword with his own hands, by dropping a lock of his hair into the lava from the Kri'stak Volcano and twisting it into a blade. Another epic story relates how Kahless fought his brother, Morath, for twelve days and twelve nights because Morath had lied and brought shame to his family. Kahless is also said to have fought off an entire army single-handedly at Three Turn Bridge.
Despite the emphasis on his victories in battle, Kahless was not known as merely a great warrior, but also as a great lover. One day, five hundred warriors stormed the Great Hall at Qam-Chee. The garrison fled in terror. Only the Emperor Kahless and the Lady Lukara stood their ground. Together, they fought through the night and one by one the attacking warriors fell. Finally, after many hours, and with the Great Hall ankle-deep in blood, they emerged victorious, and made passionate love. So began the greatest romance in Klingon history.
In The Next Generation episode "Rightful Heir", set in the late 24th century, on the planet Boreth (a Klingon place of pilgrimage), ambitious caretakers created a clone of Kahless from dried blood from the ancient dagger of Molor in a bid for leadership. The ruse was scuttled by Worf, son of Mogh, who learned the truth and subsequently arranged for the new Kahless II to occupy a ceremonial position as a figurehead “emperor” and spiritual leader in the Klingon Empire.
An image of Kahless was encountered in the Star Trek episode "The Savage Curtain". In the Excalbian Yarnek's study of good versus evil, Kahless was one of the evil images alongside Zora, Colonel Phillip Green and Genghis Khan. Abraham Lincoln and Surak of Vulcan represented good and assisted Kirk and Spock. Played by actor Robert Herron, this Kahless also appeared as the typical original series smooth forehead Klingon (which does not date back to the era of Kahless as revealed in Star Trek: Enterprise). As the Excalbians were reading Kirk and Spock's thought patterns, Kahless's depiction here has been retconned by fans to be based solely on Kirk's limited and heavily biased knowledge of Klingon culture.
In the Star Trek science fiction universe, Klingon warriors will often pray to Kahless for guidance before going into battle. ("Blood Oath") A popular Klingon prayer - often used during the time of Star Trek: Discovery - goes as follows:
- "Whom do we seek?"
- "How do we find him?"
- "Give us light to see."
- "Will he hide from us always?"
In Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant they are comfortable with Worf's exploration of his spirituality on his trip to Boreth.  They note that when Khaless appears not as vision, but actual person to Worf, he reacts with skepticism, and responds by using the advanced technology at his disposal to investigate.
In the Star Trek science fiction universe, the stories of Kahless are the origin myth of the Klingon people. Passed down from generation to generation, these stories remind the Klingon people of their origin and identity. Klingons study these stories for all of their lives; many find new truths in them every time. Many of these stories are held within the sacred texts, a few exclusively. Nevertheless, they remain an integral part of Klingon lore.
The following stories are portions and excerpts of song and lore surrounding the life of Kahless:
- Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. Kahless 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." Kahless honored his choice and went back inside. The next day, the storm came, and the man was killed, as the wind does not respect a fool. (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
- ...Kahless was determined to teach his brother a lesson for having told a lie, but Morath refused to fight his brother, and instead ran away. Kahless pursued him across valleys and over mountains, all the way to the edge of the sea. And there on the shore, they fought for twelve days and twelve nights because Morath had broken his word and brought shame and dishonor to his family. (TNG: "New Ground", "Firstborn")
- ...Kahless held his father's lifeless body in his arms. He could not believe what his brother had done. Then his brother threw their father's sword into the sea, saying that if he could not possess it, neither would Kahless. That was the last time the brothers would speak. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II")
- Kahless looked into the ocean and wept, for the sword was all he had left of his father and the sea filled with his tears and flooded beyond the shore. The people begged Kahless to stop his weeping, and he did and walked into the water to find the lost sword. He searched and searched the murky ocean bottom, holding his breath for three days and three nights until he eventually found the sword. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II")
- Kahless later invented the forms of what would become the Mok'bara when he went to the Underworld in search of his father. Kahless showed him the forms, and his father was able to remember his body and return to the world of the living. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II")
- Kahless single-handedly fought off an entire army at Three Turn Bridge. (DS9: "Let He Who Is Without Sin...")
- ...The tyrant Molor was so strong that no one could stand against him. Kahless would rather die than live under Molor's tyranny... (TNG: "Firstborn")
- Kahless went into the mountains, all the way to the Kri'stak Volcano. He cut off a lock of his hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock, which poured from the summit. The hair began to burn, but then he plunged it into the lake of Lursor and twisted it into a sword.
...And the blood was ankle deep. And the River Skral ran crimson red. On the day above all days. When Kahless slew evil Molor dead... And after he used it to kill the tyrant Molor he gave it a name: bat'leth, "the sword of honor". (TNG: "Rightful Heir"; DS9: "The Way of the Warrior")
The story of the sword is known only by the High Clerics, because it was never written down in the sacred texts. This was so that if Kahless was ever to return, they could be sure it was him. (TNG: "Rightful Heir") When the Shroud of the Sword of Kahless was discovered, it was determined that the Sword of Kahless dated back at least 1,400 years. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")
- With the Sword, Kahless slew Molor, conquered the Fek'Ihri and forged the first Empire. Kahless would also use the Sword to skin the serpent of Xol, to harvest his father's field, and to carve a statue for his beloved Lukara. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")
Molor's defeat is celebrated yearly with the observance of the Kot'baval Festival. (TNG: "Firstborn")
- A thousand years ago, at the dawn of the Empire, five hundred warriors stormed the Great Hall at Qam-Chee. The city garrison fled before them. Only the Emperor Kahless, and the Lady Lukara stood their ground. It was here that they began the greatest romance in Klingon history. (DS9: "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places")
- Kahless and Lukara were nearly killed moments after they were married, by Molor's troops. (DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited...")
The wielding of Ma'Staka's at the conclusion of a Klingon wedding is a continued tradition in Klingon culture.
- Kahless was condemned to die by the tyrant Molor, who was angered that Kahless had incited the people against him. The night before his execution, Kahless asked that he be allowed to go out into the night and say farewell to the moon and the stars, for he knew that in the Netherworld, he would not see them again. Kahless gave his word that he would come back, and Molor let him go. Kahless had given his word and Molor understood what that meant. The next day at dawn, Kahless returned and was put to death. (TNG: "Birthright, Part II")
- This story is contradicted by "The Promise", indicating the degree of disparity that potentially exists in each of these stories told.
Another story that mentions Kahless entering the afterlife said that he was there to rescue his brother from the Barge of the Dead and deliver him to Sto-Vo-Kor. According to the Eleventh Tome of Klavek, Kahless returned from the dead still bearing a wound from the afterlife. (VOY: "Barge of the Dead")
The Story of the Promise
- When Kahless united the people and gave them the laws of honor, he saw that his work was done. So one night he gathered his belongings and went to the edge of the city to say good-bye. The people wept, they did not want him to go. And Kahless said, "You are Klingons. You need no one but yourselves. I will go now, to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return." Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, "Look for me there, on that point of light." (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
The story of "The Promise" indicated that Kahless was to reappear in the lava caves on the planet of Boreth. The Followers of Kahless, or "Guardians", waited there for his return. To Klingons, there was no more sacred place. For over 1,500 years, Klingons came to Boreth to ask questions. According to the Clerics, the only way a Klingon warrior could find the answers they sought was to: "Open your heart to Kahless, ask him your questions, let him speak to you with your mind unclouded by doubt or hesitation. Only then can you find what you are looking for." (TNG: "Rightful Heir")
In the Star Trek science fiction universe, the Clone of Kahless was created by a Klingon scientist named Gothmara, with the assistance and aid of materials provided by the Clerics, "The r'tak of Boreth" (ST:DS9 Books The Left Hand of Destiny).
By Lieutenant Worf's design and with the cooperation of Chancellor Gowron, the Clone of Kahless becomes emperor of the Klingon Empire in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Rightful Heir". The emperor is a figurehead, with power residing with the Klingon High Council. Worf believes this to be the first step in a renaissance for the Klingon people. This idealism is seen to be unfounded when the Clone's opposition to the Klingon invasion of Cardassian space is unheeded by the High Council and their armies.
The Khaless clone is played by actor Kevin Conway in the episode "Rightful Heir".
The clone was made from cells that existed from original Khaless, but he is not made aware of the cloning process and instead tricked into thinking he is the original Kahless. In addition to being cloned, the monks used stories to imprint on his mind, thus altering his natural mind.
According to Star Trek writer Ronald D. Moore, the inspiration for the idea of bringing Kahless back was the popularity in the early 1990s of cloning with DNA, such as popularized in Jurassic Park. Then there was idea of doing this with a person, in this case Kahless of the Klingons empire was chosen and the concept developed from there. Previous episodes and book had established a kind of Klingon religion in the Star Trek lore, and the writing for Kahless was influenced by that.
Novels and opera
The non-canon novel Kahless, written by Michael Jan Friedman, gives a different version of Kahless' history. In the novel, Kahless left for Sto-vo-kor with a scroll detailing how he really brought about the creation of the new Klingon Empire. The scroll says that Kahless was a loyal soldier of Molor who killed the son of the tyrant because he was acting in a dishonorable manner. Kahless fled with his company of soldiers and was then thought of as a sort of hero to the people. However, he did not think of himself a hero. It was Morath, who was not blood-related but was still considered a brother under Klingon custom, who forced Kahless to stick with his rebellion and slay the tyrant. While Molor was indeed a strong and capable warrior, when Kahless and Morath finally met him in battle, he was severely weakened by the plague happening at the time. Kahless gave Molor his d'k tahg to commit suicide. Instead, Molor threw it at Kahless, but Morath jumped in front of the blade, after which Kahless decapitated the tyrant. Thus, the blade contains the blood of Morath who sacrificed his life for his friend, not the blood of Kahless. Moreover, the book makes clear that the supposed clone of Kahless is a clone of Morath. The novel also describes the creation of the first bat'leth. Kahless had a vision of his dead mate in Sto-vo-kor telling him to do exactly what the myth says (make the sword from his hair and lava). Instead, he draws the image of the sword and gives it to a swordsmith. Despite the scroll being proven authentic, most Klingons still see their Emperor as a semi-divine figure.
Kahless is referred-to in the 1984 tie-in novel The Final Reflection by John M. Ford. Captain Krenn tells the story to Dr Tagore, of how the Klingons have one who is not forgotten. When his ship was dying, Kahless had his hand bound to the captain's chair, so none could say he left the bridge. The ship's crew could then abandon the ship, because Kahless had taken on the ship's fate. Krenn tells Tagore that's the source of the Klingon phrase Kahlesste kaase, Kahless' hand, a swear or curse that many of the Klingons in the book utter when impressed or awed.
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