Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993): S06E23 – Rightful Heir


Rightful Heir is the 149th episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The 23rd episode of the sixth season.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, Lieutenant Worf suffers a crisis of faith which leads him to an encounter with the seemingly resurrected messiah of ancient Klingon religious beliefs. He soon finds himself caught between supporting the religious figure and the more secular leader of the conventional Klingon political power structure.


As the episode begins, Lt. Worf fails to report to his bridge duty station, and Chief Operations Officer Lt. Commander Data and First Officer Commander William Riker become concerned. Riker finds Worf’s quarters filled with incense and burning candles while his chief of security sits before a small fire nearby in a trance-like state. A repentant Worf explains to Captain Picard that he was attempting to reconnect with his Klingon spiritual beliefs by performing a Klingon ritual in an attempt to summon a vision of Kahless, the original messianic warrior who founded the Klingon Empire. Picard responds to Worf’s crisis of faith by suggesting he immerse himself in Klingon culture and grants him leave to journey to the Temple of Boreth, core of Klingon beliefs concerning Kahless.

After ten days of doubt-filled rituals, Worf sees what he thinks is a vision of Kahless, however, he soon discovers it is an actual being. Worf brings the prospective spiritual leader to the Enterprise, but is troubled that Kahless does not remember how Klingon warnog tastes or what Sto-Vo-Kor, the Klingon afterlife, is like.

Klingon Chancellor Gowron arrives, saying he has a test which will indisputably prove if Kahless is genuine. Gowron is displeased with the prophet’s return, convinced he is an impostor foisted by the priests to gain power and could incite a civil war. Gowron requests that the Federation genetically test the sacred dagger he brought which was stained with the blood of the original Kahless in antiquity, but is disappointed when the test indicates a match.

Gowron provokes a D’k tahg duel with Kahless and wins, leaving a dispirited Worf to ponder how the supposed “greatest warrior of all” could be beaten. Worf demands an explanation from Koroth, the High Priest of the Boreth Temple, who disconsolately replies that Kahless is not a resurrection, only a clone of the original, offering the rationale that the legend of Kahless’ return did not specify the exact manner. He adds that such a legend is desperately needed to rally the people’s faith and guide them. Data advises the uncertain Worf that once during a crisis of his own, he made the leap of faith to “assume that he was a person”, and thus could grow beyond the sum of his programming.

Gowron is outraged when Worf tells him the truth and prepares to execute the clone and priests. Worf tells Gowron he has decided to support Kahless, explaining that he has made a leap of faith as Data once did, adding that the clone’s origins do not matter. He suggests the Klingon High Council appoint Kahless to the ceremonial position of Emperor; while only a figurehead, he might be able to unite the Klingon people. In conclusion, Worf observes that while not the “true” Kahless, this man is at least the “Rightful Heir” to Kahless; opposing him might lead to civil war. Seeing the wisdom of cooperation, Gowron offers his devotion. Departing soon after for the Klingon homeworld Qo’noS, Kahless notes the troubled demeanour of the “Son of Mogh” and reassures him that the personal belief systems espoused by Kahless made the ancient Klingons what they were, the man was not important; even if the real Kahless never returned it might not matter, as his spirit lives within the hearts of all true Klingons.

Star Trek TV Series

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Winrich Kolbe.
  • Writer(s): James E. Brooks.
  • Release Date: 17 May 1993.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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