I decided to rewrite the basic story of "Barge Of The Dead" as a DS9 episode based on Worf. It was originally written as a DS9 episode, but was switched to VOY and B'Elanna Torres. I've rearranged several elements of the episode that actually made it to air.
It is the anniversary of the Khitomer massacre. Worf is more aggressive than usual and spends hours in combat on the holosuites. Before heading out on a mission, Worf goes to his new quarters on the station where he is moving his possessions from the Defiant. Among them is a picture of his father Mogh, standing alongside his own father (Colonel Worf from Star Trek VI).
Later, Worf and Martok take a bird of prey on a sortie against a Dominion communication station during which they are ambushed by a JemHadar attack vessel and are forced to evade by flying through the Badlands. They run into trouble and the vessel takes heavy damage. A torpedo from the bird of prey fails to fire and Worf successfully disarms it, but is knocked unconscious and severely wounded when the torpedoes power system causes a feedback surge. Another bird of prey approaches and takes out the JemHadar vessel. Martok's vessel is tractored back to the station.
Worf wakes up in the infirmary. His wounds are healed but he's still unsteady and shaken. Bashir advises him to rest and NOT to go fighting monsters in the holosuite. Worf reluctantly agrees. When he is back in his quarters, Martok sees the picture of Mogh and also notices the statue of Kahless fighting Molor. Worf remarks that although he is honoured to be part of Martok's house, he still feels that his father's dishonour that was inflicted upon his family by Duras has never truly been forgotten. He knows that while he may never rehabilitate his father's name in the eyes of most Klingons, he feels that his father may not have entered Sto-Vo-Kor due to the corruption within the council that led to the blackening of Mogh's name.
Martok tells him that Worf is the one who needs to believe, for it does not matter what other Klingons believe about Mogh, but Worf does need to come to terms with it himself. Only the son can truly honour the father. Martok then tells Worf to rest and leaves, but Worf is still spiritually conflicted.
Worf is in emotional conflict for the next few days. While sitting in Quarks having a quiet drink, Kira walks in and immediately notices him and knows that something is wrong. Worf is guarded but eventually tells her about his father and Khitomer and the unresolved issue within him regarding his father's name and honour. Kira remarks that Worf consults with the Vedek Assembly about using an Orb to seek answers. Worf is hesitant until she tells him when Jadzia herself once had an experience with an Orb. She tells him that his service has won him many friends on Bajor. He agrees to her suggestion and thanks her. He then takes a runabout down to Bajor to consult the Orb of Contemplation.
When he opens the Orb, nothing happens. He begins to doubt whether it will work for him and is about to leave when it shines brightly and in a flash of light, Worf sees himself as a child. He recognises the location as Khitomer where he sees a large memorial column. Worf believes that the Orb is telling him to go to Khitomer which he does. When he reaches the planet, he finds this memorial and touches it. At the exact moment he does, he experiences an Orb vision which takes him to Khitomer, decades earlier.
It the site of a Klingon outpost with thousands of Klingons on the planet. A small Klingon fleet orbits the planet. Tensions are relatively high since it is only a few years after the Narendra III massacre. The Khitomer ruling council have expressed concerns that the colony is relatively unguarded and vunerable to an attack by the Romulans. But the Klingon High Council have been slow to act. Worf walks around the colony looking for his father but when people begin to address him as Mogh it is obvious that HE is his father in this particular vision. He looks in a mirror and he sees his father?s reflection. Mogh resembles Worf greatly, but is larger, more imposing with long greyish hair and a beard. His uniform bears countless medals and awards for honour and valour. "Mogh" is then interrupted by his wife who assures him that he looks resplendent as always. Looking out of the window "Mogh" sees his young son Worf playing in the garden area before his orbiting vessel contacts him in order to begin a routine patrol with a small squadron. "Mogh" beams up and they head off to the outer planets of the Khitomer star system. Once they depart, the Khitomer colony raises its shields.
A few hours later, the Khitomer communications system begins to malfunction. The shields also phases randomly, losing power then restoring power moments later. The Khitomer sensor station picks up a cluster of signals at the outer edge of the star system but because of the malfunctioning communications system, no signal is returned. The sensor station operators simply assume they are the returning Klingon squadron. Moments later, the cluster disappears.
Young Worf spends the day at the market with his mother and they speak about returning to QoNos where Worf boldly declares his intention to join the Klingon Defence Force and become a warrior like his father, which amuses Worf's mother. At that moment, the colony loses power and the shields fail. A fleet of Romulan vessels decloak and immediately begin to attack, bombarding the surface. The larger vessels remain in orbit and shower the colony with an attack which from the surface resembles an enormous meteor shower. The smaller Romulan attack vessels head into the atmosphere and begin strafing the helpless Klingons. Khitomer sends out a distress call which is picked up by "Mogh's" squadron. The Klingon fleet tries to mobilise and engages the Romulans. A large battle takes place and the Klingons do destroy a number of Romulan vessels but are greatly outnumbered and are overwhelmed. At this point, the colony defences strike back with surface turrets but again are no match for the Romulans. Worf's mother pushes him towards safety before being crushed by falling debris and she dies instantly. "Mogh's" squadron reach Khitomer and head into the atmosphere to engage the Romulan fighters but his vessel is hit and they spin out of control and crash land on the planet. The Romulans then leave. Thousands of Klingons are dead. The colony has been near exterminated.
In the rubble and debris Worf finds his father's twisted vessel and his father laying there close to death. Worf sees a small emblem on his father's sash. A badge with Klingon text which says "The Order Of Kortor". His father then dies and Worf tries to open his eyes to send him to Sto-Vor-Kor. To the young Klingon's horror, his father has no eyes, just black empty sockets. The young Worf recoils with horror and stumbles back to see death and destruction all around him. Worf then wakes from Orb shadow and is back at the memorial where he begins to wretch and cough up blood and the Kortor badge emerges from his mouth. As he holds the badge, it begins to glow and becomes hot.
Back on DS9, Worf shows Martok the badge and they take it for analysis. The artifact is centuries old and refers to Kortor, who in Klingon mythology was the first Klingon. The Order Of Kortor was an elite group within the Klingon Defence Force of which Mogh was a member. The analysis however does not shed any light on how the artifact found itself in Worf's throat. As they head back to Worf's quarters Martok suggests that he's learned that the impossible and bizarre is part of life it seems in the Bajoran system. Worf manages to raise a smile. Martok suggests that Worf wears the Kortor badge, but Worf declines saying that he doesn't quite feel as though he is the warrior that is father was. Martok disagrees but respects Worf's decision for now at least. Martok leaves and Worf places the artifact on the table where it begins to bleed. Worf hears Klingon voices and the cries of warriors engaged in combat. Worf is then called by Sisko to attend a conference and Worf acknowledges.
At the conference, Worf hallucinates again and can see a group of grotesque looking feral Klingon warriors breaking into the conference room and killing everyone in it. The warriors then converge on Worf and punch him in the face. When he wakes he is in another world. The sky is chaotic and blood red. He is on a riverboat of some sort. Many other Klingons are on the vessel. A large Klingon approaches Worf and brands him with a hot iron with an inverted Klingon insignia. The rocking motion of the vessel causes Worf to vomit over the side. As he does, he sees that the "water" is actually composed of blood and emaciated skeletal looking Klingons. Worf is sickened and moves away from the side. An elderly Klingon warrior tells Worf that he is on the "barge of the dead" which ferries the dishonoured over the River R'Tek on the way to Grethor, the Klingon version of Hell. Worf explains that he hasn't died and he doesn't understand why he is considered dishonourable. At this point, the large Klingon piloting the barge turns to Worf and mocks him, explaining that his father was weak and could not save the Klingons at Khitomer and as the son of a dishonoured Klingon, Worf will now pay the price as will Worf's son one day. Worf asks who this Klingon is and he explains that he is Kortor the first Klingon who was created by the Klingon gods but became so powerful, he killed them. But by doing so, his soul was condemned to be the underworld boatman for all eternity. He tells Worf that his life is so worthless and dishonourable that he does not deserve to live another day, so his soul has been taken now.
At that moment, another Klingon warrior begins to climb over the side of the barge causing a panic among the other passengers. He shouts that his family are calling him and they are in the water. Worf looks over the side of the ship and sees only bones and blood and death floating by. The other Klingons try to stop the man from jumping, but they fail and he plunges into the water, only to be dissolved and he himself becomes part of the water, blood and bones, with the ridges of his skull plain to see.
On the barge, Worf sees an elderly but still strong Klingon. He notices immediately that this is his father Mogh. Worf is stunned and approaches him. He introduces himself as Worf and Mogh already knows who he is. Mogh says he was once in Sto-Vo-Kor but was ripped away, unable to return. Worf cannot understand why. Kortor explains that Worf cannot save Mogh and is welcome to leave and return to his life, but the price will be Mogh soul being left in Grethor. Worf refuses despite Mogh?s encouragement to leave. Mogh does not see why both of them should be condemned. Worf tells his father that he only wanted Mogh to be respected among Klingons and that he cannot and will not abandon his father. Worf asks Kortor if there is some way to redeem both his and his father?s soul and prove that the House Of Mogh is honourable. Kortor says that there is one way, when they reach Grethor, they must fight and defeat Fek'lhr, the demon that rules the Klingon underworld.
Eventually they reach the shores of Grethor, an intimidating looking place with enormous walls and burning torches. Mogh, Worf and Kortor leave the barge and head towards the gates of Grethor. They enter an arena carved from rock. The spectators are the same feral-looking Klingons who Worf had seen on DS9. At this point, Kortor takes his place ready to watch the battle. Two bat'leths appear and Worf and Mogh pick them up. They await the demon, which appears through a metal gate. This is Fek'lhr, a monstrous looking Klingon, the largest ever seen, who possesses a bat'leth covered with barbs and spikes. The fight ensues with lethal combat, both father and son facing the demon together as the crowd howls for the blood of Worf and Mogh. At the point of defeat, they both summon the strength to continue fighting and they manage to catch the demon between them, simultaneously cutting Fek'lhr in two at the waist. The demon falls and sinks into the ground. An exhausted Worf and Mogh fall to the floor, alive but pushed to their limits.
At this point, the landscape of Grethor begins to change and Worf, Mogh and Kortor find themselves in a new environment. Standing on a huge bridge. Worf looks across to the other side and sees a castle-like building with a Klingon symbol shining brightly. Worf asks if this is Sto-Vo-Kor. Mogh explains that this one version at least of Sto-Vo-Kor. It's the version Worf expects to see. But there is no particular setting for Sto-Vo-Kor. When a warrior dies, they can shape their afterlife to how they wish it to be. Kortor explains that far from being the one who carries and torments the dead on their way to Grethor, his purpose was actually to try save souls rather than condemn them, by focusing their minds, which have become corrupted in the living world.
Kortor saves the souls of dead Klingons from Grethor by reminding them that honour comes from within the heart of an individual Klingon. Self-respect and personal adherence to honour means far more than what others may think and that the reason Mogh was pulled from Sto-Vo-Kor and found himself in Grethor is not because of his deeds, but rather because Worf felt uncertainty and guilt regarding his father, and that is what was keeping him in the underworld. In Klingon tradition Kortor explains, the actions of a Klingon passes to their descendants. In the Klingon afterlife however, the deeds of the descendants affect the status of their dead ancestors. Only when Worf sets aside caring about what other Klingons think about him, his father and family, and instead concentrates on what he himself believes, which is what is most important, will Mogh return to Sto-Vo-Kor. Worf understands and, as such, this act finally frees Mogh.
Mogh and Worf then say their final goodbyes and Mogh tells him that one day, he expects to see Worf again in happier times in the afterlife. Mogh then crosses the bridge and enters Sto-Vo-Kor, once and for all, now that Worf's doubt has been put to rest. Kortor tells Worf that the time has come for Worf to return to his life and Worf walks in the opposite direction to Mogh and reawakens in the conference room where his crewmates and Martok surround him. They explain that he collapsed and they've been trying to wake him. After being checked out by Bashir for any permanent injury, Worf returns to his quarters where he talks with Kira about his experiences. She points out that she believes it may very well have been real, that the Prophets, or perhaps the Klingon version, showed Worf what he needed to hear and see. She bids him goodnight and leaves. Worf thinks on her words and then sees the statue of Kahless and Molor. He then notices the badge of Kortor, which belonged to his father. He picks it up and looks in the mirror, then he attaches the badge to his sash.