In the very first moments of Star Trek: Discovery, the Klingons mention one name a lot and keep mentioning him for the next two hours. But who is Kahless? Turns out, Kahless is an old Trek reference and the Klingon version of space Jesus.
Over 10 years after the events of Star Trek: Discovery, Captain Kirk and Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise will grapple with the concepts of good and evil alongside President Abraham Lincoln and Kahless the Unforgettable, a messiah of the Klingon Empire.
T’Kuvma’s (Chris Obi) adoration for the teachings of Kahless the Unforgettable, founder of the Klingon Empire, in Star Trek: Discovery led him and his followers to call the 24 Klingon houses together to take on the United Federation of Planets.
But who, exactly, is Kahless, this mystical Klingon whose conquests still inspire faithful, war-mongering Klingons centuries later?
It’s important to note straight out of the gate: No one’s ever actually seen the real Kahless in any Star Trek series. Throughout the various Star Trek shows and films, Kahless has appeared as a projection and a clone (Kahless II, created by the clerics of Boreth), but his influence has been just that — more of an influence than any sort of real role.
In Season 3, Episode 22 of Star Trek TOS, “The Savage Curtain,” Kirk and Spock battle on the side of “good” alongside Earth’s President Lincoln and Vulcan’s Surak against team “evil,” which includes a projection of Kahless. The laws of honor Kahless imposed upon his people — most of which were aggressive in nature and about how not to be a coward — were considered too violent to be deemed “good.”
After spending his life shaping the traditions and teachings of the Empire he created, Kahless died a near-divine figure and promised the Klingon people that he would, one day, return to lead the Empire to glorious victory once again. Like many in T’Kuvma’s group in Discovery (read: the albino Klingon who became the torchbearer), Kahless wasn’t a highborn leader, but still managed to rise to greatness.
Kahless’ promise of a Messiah-like resurrection clearly had an impact on T’Kuvma, who was looking to reunite the Klingon Empire in Kahless’ name. And if T’Kuvma is truly following in Kahless’ footsteps, then does that mean he’s also expecting a resurrection?
Commander Michael Burnham should hope not, considering she’s the one who fired the kill shot.
Star Trek: Discovery is now premiering on CBS All Access.
If you liked this article, check out this video on why Klingons look different in Star Trek: Discovery.