Deep Space Nine (DS9) Season 1
EmissaryPast PrologueA Man AloneBabelCaptive PursuitQ-Less
Dax The PassengerMove Along HomeThe NagusVortexBattlelines
The StorytellerProgressIf Wishes Were Horses The Forsaken
Dramatis PersonaeDuetIn the Hands of the Prophets
Stardate 46378.1: Three years after losing his wife Jennifer in the Battle of Wolf 359, Commander Benjamin Sisko is assigned as the new commander of a plundered space station orbiting the planet of Bajor. Having liberated themselves from sixty years of Cardassian rule, the newly established Bajoran provisional government is seeking Federation assistance for the task of rebuilding their pillaged planet. The discovery of the first stable wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant adds a strategic significance to the station, and when it is moved to the "mouth" of the wormhole, it becomes an attractive target for the Cardassians to recapture. The wormhole itself is inhabited by a non-corporeal species that have a religious significance to the Bajoran people to whom they refer as the "Prophets". It was prophesied that their "Celestial Temple" (the wormhole) would be found by an emissary, who in this case is none other than Commander Sisko himself.
When TNG's pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint" aired, it was clear that the characters still required refinement to become useful for storytelling and that the basic premise of TNG would have to evolve to more than just a remake of TOS. TNG needed two seasons to find its way. Well, the latter has to be said about DS9 as well, but in contrast to TNG almost all elements that would later make up the series were already present in the pilot. It is certainly not because of lacking development potential in "Emissary" that much of the rest of the first season and some of the second season would wind up as boring. It just seems that after the exciting pilot episode the writers quickly ran out of ideas.
"Emissary" certainly profits from five years of TNG that laid the ground for modern Trek, and in particular from the episodes "The Wounded" and "Ensign Ro" that introduced the Cardassians and the Bajorans, respectively. So the pilot episode can jump straight into action, without the need to establish too many facts. The teaser with the flashback on the Battle of Wolf 359, referring to the events of TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", is arguably among the most dramatic sequences of Star Trek.
All of the principal characters, including Dukat and Kai Opaka, have a couple of good scenes, and their personal histories, their special skills and some likes and dislikes are almost casually introduced. I like the flashbacks on Sisko's first meeting with Jennifer and on the transfer of Dax from Curzon's to Jadzia's body in Orb visions, because they skillfully combine plot advancement and character development. Another positive example is how Odo liquefies his head in order to let a weapon pass through, so we see that he is a shapeshifter. It would have been awkward if someone had introduced Odo with the words "And this is our security officer. He can morph into anything you want and would love to demonstrate it".
Not everything in terms of character development is entirely successful and not everything is completely in line with later episodes though. Kira comes out as a bit unsympathetic because of Nana Visitor's mostly grim facial expressions, on which the camera rests too often. This will improve in later episodes. Siddig El Fadil overdoes Bashir's naivety in his awkward attempt to date Jadzia and in explaining his idea of an "adventure" in the "wilderness" that repels Nerys. Poor Julian initially appears like a total jerk but at least proves to be a capable doctor when the battle ensues. Quark's comical potential is not exploited in this episode, except for his little bantering with Kira in the end. In hindsight, his behavior in this episode doesn't feel quite right. Odo's look is not yet finalized, but even more obviously he seems to be rather emotionless in "Emissary", much as if he were DS9's Data. Sisko has a bit too little trouble getting used to Dax's new look. It is no issue at all, although it easily could have been one. It may have been better not to establish that it was the first time he met Jadzia Dax. Finally, I don't like Picard's involvement as Sisko's nemesis. Sure, Patrick Stewart was not supposed to be given a chance to outperform Avery Brooks here, but I would have expected more from Picard than just talking the absolutely necessary minimum to a man who holds a grudge against him and who may not trust him.
Well, Picard appears once more though. O'Brien comes to the Enterprise bridge one last time, but decides not to enter Picard's ready room. When he is going to beam over to the station, Picard comes into the transporter room (No. 3, O'Brien's favorite), tells O'Brien that he would miss him and activates the transporter himself on the chief's command. While this is certainly a nice scene, I wonder why no one else would be there to say good-bye after all the years. This just doesn't feel right.
In the course of the series Starfleet science will often clash with Bajoran religion. But on some occasions the two ironically benefit from one another, and the latter is also the case in "Emissary" when Jadzia's analysis of spatial phenomena in the Bajoran system leads to the discovery of the "Celestial Temple".
Regarding the first encounter with the Prophets, it may have been considered a cool idea for the Prophets to have the runabout "land" inside the wormhole, to let Sisko experience an uncomfortable rocky planet, whereas Jadzia sees a beautiful park landscape, and then transform Jadzia into an Orb to be alone with Sisko. But this kind of mumbo-jumbo will remain the absolute exception throughout the series. Fortunately Sisko's following more "cerebral" argument with the Prophets more than makes up for the unnecessary sensationalism and establishes a pattern for encounters with the Prophets that will remain consistent for the rest of the series. Although it is a bit long-winded, I am deeply impressed by the philosophical discussion in "Emissary" in the course of which Sisko refers to a baseball match and to his own life as examples for a linear existence. But Sisko, or rather his memories of once being there, gives the Prophets the impression that he is living on the Saratoga, on the day at Wolf 359 when Jennifer died. And although Sisko has explained to the Prophets more or less successfully that this was in his past, he has to concede that the past is a part of his existence that can be just as real as the present whenever it resurfaces. So the whole discussion has gained a psychological dimension on top of the physical and biological issues that Sisko was talking of. Living in the past is not linear. It is not logical in a linear existence. He shouldn't live in the past.
Many Star Trek stories are written without referencing a particular intergalactic political situation, which is sometimes woven in too late to be consistent. It shows that quite the opposite applies to "Emissary". It is a pleasure to watch how all decisions and actions make sense in the premise of the episode and series. The Cardassians have left the station and the planet, but under the terms of the fragile peace treaty with the Federation they may show up again any time. Picard relays Starfleet's order to Sisko to do anything "short of violating the Prime Directive" to facilitate Bajor's admission to the Federation. Sisko insists on having a Bajoran first officer, no matter how hard it would be to work with Major Kira. Also, Sisko wants the station to remains populated, because only this way his mission to build trust and gain peace can be successful. Quark objects to Sisko's proposal to stay on the station because he thinks it would be under Federation rule, whereupon Sisko affirms that it would be still a Bajoran station.
- Nitpicking: There is no such big window on the whole Saratoga as the one in the room where Sisko finds Jennifer.
- Inconsistency: The producers were aware of some of the continuity issues with introducing the joined Trill Jadzia Dax, such as her make-up that is not like the one of Odan in TNG: "The Host". But the spot make-up simply looked more attractive on Terry Farrell. This, however, is just one of several reasons why she can't be the same race as Odan. There are way too many differences, and ultimately the fact that Dax and other Trills have been working for the Federation for centuries, while the very nature of Odan's race was unknown even to Beverly, does not allow the two to be the same.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I'm afraid we've had some security problems. Looks like looters got in here." - "Now this will be perfect. Real... frontier medicine." - "Frontier medicine?" - "Major. I had my choice of any job in the fleet." - "Did you." - "I didn't want some cushy job or a research ground. I wanted this. The farthest reaches of the galaxy. One of the most remote outposts available. This is where the adventure is. This is where heroes are made. Right here. In the wilderness." - "This 'wilderness' is my home." - "Well, uh, uh, I..." - "The Cardassians have left behind a lot of injured people, doctor. You could make yourself useful by bringing your Starfleet medicine to the natives. You will find them a friendly, simple folk." (Kira and Bashir, in the devastated infirmary)
- "I'll be honest with you, commander. I miss this office. I was not happy to leave it." - "Drop by any time you're feeling homesick." (Dukat and Sisko)
- "Red alert. Shields up." - "What shields?" (Kira and O'Brien)
- Remarkable scene: After O'Brien has beamed over, the Enterprise leaves the station with the TNG theme, which fades over to the DS9 theme.
- Remarkable fact: In his encounter with the Prophets it becomes clear that Sisko is fond of baseball. Baseball will be a recurring theme in the series, and will undergo an odd development.
- Remarkable ship: This is the first appearance of the (Danube-class) runabouts.
Stardate not given: The Bajoran Tahna Los is beamed into DS9 after narrowly evading a pursuing Cardassian warship. Tahna belongs to the Khon-ma, a particularly ruthless terrorist group, and now seeks political asylum. Major Kira, who knows Tahna from her time in the resistance, supports the request in any way possible, acting against Commander Sisko. In the interim the two renegade Klingon sisters from the House of Duras, Lursa and B'Etor, have arrived on the station and meet with Tahna. He tries to enlist Kira's assistance to obtain a runabout but does not reveal his motive. His yet unknown goal is to detonate a bilitrium explosive, which he plans to purchase from the Duras sisters, to seal the entrance to the wormhole, and therefore eliminate the need for a Federation presence on Bajor. But the Duras sisters plan to double-cross Tahna and to deliver him to the Cardassians for a price. Sisko reluctantly allows Kira to accompany Tahna to the rendezvous with the Klingon sisters in the hope of revealing his intended target. Although Tahna manages to briefly elude Sisko and O'Brien, his plan is thwarted when Kira seizes control of the runabout, enters the wormhole, and detonates the device in the Gamma Quadrant.
I like the premise of the episode. The political situation is once again worked out very well, as is the prevailing motive of uncertain loyalties. Kira's conflict with Sisko over the extradition of Tahna comes across as quite credible, as do Kira's qualms about helping the Bajoran terrorist, although she is aware that his radical ways are not hers any longer.
The biggest weakness of the story, however, is Tahna Los. His character is badly developed, his motives never become really palpable and his lines are dreary. And Jeffrey Nordling, who plays Tahna, does not manage to get more out of the limited role of a troublemaker of the week either. Moreover, Tahna Los is said to know Kira, a forged coincidence that is no big deal at all in the following. They keep talking about political matters all the time, but they don't seem to have any common memories, there isn't anything personal. They always call one another by their family names. Well, it would have been more contrived, had Tahna been a former love affair or a mentor or another close friend of Kira's (like they will continue to pop up in the following seasons). But since they apparently know one another only casually, the whole "I know Tahna. He's a good guy." attitude makes no sense. Rather than that, Kira is defending a Bajoran national, who could fall into the hands of their enemies, just out of patriotism. And as already said, this makes perfect sense in her situation, given her history with outworlders.
While the final couple of minutes are quite exciting, most of the rest of the episode is a bit stale. With the exception of Kira everyone remains too relaxed and too passive, while Tahna Los, Klingons and Cardassians are stirring up trouble or obviously planning to do so.
The episode does a good job establishing Bashir's uneasy friendship with Garak, the Cardassian spy who was left behind on the station. Garak is a very special character and will remain one throughout the series. Andrew Robinson's acting with a constant subtle smirk, plus the usual Cardassian eloquence, makes Garak look sympathetic, but only at a first glance. His secrecy and his unclear loyalty defies a categorization as a good or a bad guy as it is commonplace in most TV series and has been so far in Star Trek as well. Of all the new people who come to the station Garak picks Bashir as his Starfleet contact, the inexperienced doctor, whose adventures only take place in his imagination so far. The two are an odd couple, and more proof that DS9 is going a different way than TNG.
- When one of his security officers points a phaser at Lursa and B'etor, Odo steps between them, straight into the line of fire. This way he makes it look like he disapproves of his people's use of weapons, before knowing what has happened. A good security chief would have sided with his people and let them keep control of the situation before asking any questions.
- Bajor VIII is quite obviously a Class-M planet with oceans, lush vegetation and six colonies that Tahna mentions. Why does this planet never play a role again in seven seasons?
- Under the impression that the station is Tahna's target, Major Kira says "100,000 kilometers to DS9". But at warp the runabout would pass by the station even as she is speaking these words. After that announcement almost one minute passes before Kira slows to impulse, during which the runabout must have traveled several million more kilometers past the station (and probably past the wormhole too).
- Remarkable quote: "You know. There is one thing about you humanoids that I can't imitate very well. Pretense. There's a special talent to it. It's as hard for me as creating one of your noses." (Odo, to Kira)
- Remarkable facts:
- The opening sequence was modified since "Emissary" and now shows the opening of the Bajoran Wormhole.
- Major Kira now sports a shorter haircut.
- Remarkable ships: This episode features the runabouts Yantzee Kiang and Ganges. The latter was equipped with a special pod, to allow a visual distinction of the runabouts.
Stardate 46421.5: Odo is enraged when he meets Ibudan, a Bajoran who was convicted of murdering a Cardassian but was released from prison by the new Bajoran government. When Ibudan is murdered in a holosuite, Odo is the main suspect because evidently no other humanoid entered the holosuite. As a restless mob of the station's denizens gather to confront Odo, Bashir makes the startling discovery that the murder victim is in fact a clone, created and subsequently murdered by the real Ibudan in order to implicate Odo. In a final twist of irony, Ibudan is swiftly apprehended by Odo, and is accordingly charged with the murder of his own clone. Meanwhile, after Jake and his new Ferengi friend, Nog, are caught playing pranks on the promenade, Keiko O'Brien decides to open a school on the station.
The basic idea of this episode reminds me a tad too much of "Past Prologue": A Bajoran troublemaker with a hidden agenda comes to the station, by which the loyalty of a non-Starfleet officer is tested. Only that Odo, for a change, has a motive to kill the unpleasant guest rather than to support him. The concept of the challenged loyalty worked with Kira because we knew a bit about her history with the Cardassians and her present problems with subordinating to Captain Sisko. It was just enough to make her motivation clear. Odo, on the other hand, is still a mystery at this point of the series. He is a non-humanoid who, for some reason, has always been on the station and is still there and who appears to have a special idea of justice. We wouldn't really expect a principal character to be guilty of murder even though DS9 is arguably a "darker" series than TNG. But it appears that either Odo's character is yet unfinished at the time of the episode or was even twisted to appear less sincere and a bit sinister just to make his involvement more interesting. In any case his hostility and even violence towards Ibudan is out of character in hindsight. And the later, refined Odo wouldn't have insisted on enforcing his own way of justice at any rate. Also, we have to wonder anyway how the Odo of this episode could have possibly worked for the Cardassians for years.
In terms of character development other than Odo's, this episode attempts to accomplish just too much. We have Julian still with a crush on Jadzia, but the Trill nonchalantly defies his awkward attempts to be close to her. Bashir is jealous of Sisko, who is Dax's friend. Sisko, on the other hand, admits that he feels uncomfortable with Dax's new appearance after there didn't seem to be a problem in "Emissary". At least, that's what he says, while it still doesn't look embarrassing how he interacts with Dax. There is interaction among most principal characters, and these little plot threads are just too many for just one episode. I only like the idea of Keiko setting up a school, but the path to this decision and most of the other characters' problems to adjust to life on the station and with each other come out as too trivial.
On a more serious note, we can see a big deal of intolerance on the station. Sisko has preconceptions about "that Ferengi boy" and doesn't want Jake to hang around with him. Vice versa, Rom does not want to sit Nog beside "that human boy". This conflict will be gradually resolved as Jake's and Nog's friendship develops. But most importantly the Bajoran mob is xenophobic, and they apparently only take the opportunity that Odo is a suspect in a case of murder to try to get rid of the "Shifter". I doubt the crowd would renounce their preconceptions so easily only because they proved wrong in one case. However, it will be the last time in the series that Odo's being different is a problem to the general public until the Founders show up.
With so much else going on, the murder mystery is not always as much in the focus as it perhaps should be. The investigation should have been conceded more screen time, and there should have been stronger involvement of the characters aside from Odo. I like the discovery that Ibudan killed his own clone and I was quite amazed by it the first time I watched the episode. But with only a few minutes left the conclusion is rushed and the consequences are just notes in Sisko's log. I find it sad that it is mentioned only in a brief note that the clone of Ibudan that Bashir created is kept alive and will live a normal life. We don't learn far he was developed in the end, how he would gain the necessary knowledge and experience and whether Bashir has a bad conscience for playing god, even if it was unwittingly.
- Nitpicking: I wonder, is it possible to grow organic tissue without knowing what is growing?
- Remarkable dialogue: "I can't believe you're defending him, Quark. You're his worst enemy." - "Yes, that's the closest thing he has in this world to a friend." (Zayra and Quark, about Odo)
- Remarkable facts:
- Jadzia says she has been trying to solve the Altonian brain teaser for some 140 years. She likes to eat steamed azna. Cold hands a peculiarity of the Trills, as Jadzia says (while cold feet are a peculiarity of human women ;)).
- Odo has to return to his natural liquid form every 18 hours to regenerate.
- The name "Lamonay" that Ibudan is using is an anagram of "anomaly".
- Nog buys something on the promenade that will be known as a jumja stick. He and Jake release Garanian bolites on a restaurant that make their victims' skin flash in alternating colors.
Stardate 46423.7: In the midst of being inundated by a spate of maintenance requests, O'Brien inadvertently triggers a device that releases a virus, causing an advanced form of aphasia in his brain that makes him unable to communicate with anyone. As the virus keeps spreading through the food replicators and then mutates into an airborne strain, the station's officers gradually become incapacitated. Even worse, the virus turns out to be lethal. Bashir still finds out that not the Cardassians but the Bajorans created the virus before he is affected too. Kira travels to Bajor and kidnaps the co-creator of the virus, Surmak Ren, by beaming him into her runabout and infecting him as well. When Captain Jaheel tries to escape from the quarantined station and overloads his ship's engines, Odo and Quark have to work together to remove his ship from the docking ring. Surmak Ren soon manages to develop a cure based on Bashir's research.
The idea of "Babel" is reminiscent of a couple of TOS and TNG episodes where McCoy or Crusher, respectively, were in a hurry to develop a cure against a spreading disease that would otherwise kill everyone on board. While it is overall not the most original premise, I like the concept of the aphasia that disables any communication with the patients in "Babel". This effect, however, only serves to make the disease more interesting in the first place and doesn't really have further consequences. Once a character has contracted the disease, it wouldn't matter in this story whether he or she remains aphasic, is paralyzed or falls into a coma. The episode should have explored the phenomenon of aphasia better, even at the expense of more technobabble. But most of all it should have kept the focus on the condition of the patients instead of reducing them to babbling idiots and switching only occasionally to them. Who knows, perhaps Jadzia's intact mind might have found something to help cure her and it may have been interesting to see how she tries to communicate that to Bashir. Also, it wouldn't have needed the pending explosion of Jaheel's ship as another race against time - and with the extremely unrealistic premise that the second of the explosion is exactly known in advance.
The execution of the episode is fair and overall too conventional. It becomes a bit boring after a while how one crew member after the other is affected by the virus, usually with a melodramatic cut on the patient's helpless looking face.
I really feel with O'Brien in this episode. First everyone bugs him with repairs, then he is the first victim of the aphasia virus, and the probably most embarrassed. It would have been better to involve his family in some fashion though; I find it hard to believe that no one would stand at his bed and be worried about his condition.
I like the B-story about Quark, who accesses a command level replicator because his own devices are malfunctioning. It is nicely tied into the main story of the spreading aphasia virus. The only omission is that the episode doesn't show Quark operate that replicator before the station is already quarantined. I would have appreciated an according cue that Quark inadvertently helps distribute the virus. Overall, it is appropriate to involve Quark in a bigger role than as the resident bar owner. But his and Odo's characters and the subtle irony in their relationship still have to develop, it is all still a bit crude here.
Surmak Ren comes across as an unnecessarily unsympathetic character. He denies Kira any help, even when it is clear to him that she knows he helped in its creation and even though it would now affect his own people and not the Cardassians. He only agrees to assist when he learns that he himself is infected too. What a dick!
There is one minor issue with how the development of the aphasia is shown. Whenever yet another crew member falls victim to the virus, everything is shown from the perspective of those who are not yet affected. However, when it strikes in Julian's brain, we can see how his computer display changes to something nonsensical in his eyes. While this is about how Julian perceives it, the depiction is not consistent.
- Inconsistencies: I have two gripes with the way the disease is being handled. Firstly, no one even attempts to communicate with the patients through some sort of sign language, with symbols on a tricorder or anything like that. If the aphasia leaves the process of thinking intact, there is no reason why it shouldn't be possible to "talk" in the same fashion as between two people who don't know one another's language. As already mentioned, it would also have involved the patients in a more appropriate fashion. Secondly, I wonder why at no point anyone only considers a simple countermeasure such as masks against the virus. Even after it is evident that the virus has become airborne and probably everyone is infected, there would be still a chance to save at least a few people.
- Remarkable quote: "You claimed Rom fixed your replicators. Rom is an idiot. He couldn't fix a straw if it was bent." (Odo)
- Remarkable shapeshifting: Odo morphs into a trolley table (the one Quark wanted to transport the replicated meals with).
- Remarkable fact: Odo says the station was built 18 years ago. That would have been in 2351, but will be contradicted in "Wrongs Darker than Death or Night".
- Remarkable behind-the-scenes fact: The picture in Dekon Elig's file is actually one of visual effects supervisor Dan Curry.
Stardate not given: The station receives its first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant, an unannounced ship carrying a single lifeform, who happened to spot another ship going through the wormhole and followed it. As the visitor's starship is damaged and requires help in repairs, Sisko sends O'Brien to make first contact with the alien, who calls himself Tosk and seems to be nervous about something. When Tosk attempts to break into the station's weapons storage, Odo arrests the alien. Another starship from the Gamma Quadrant arrives and promptly scans the station. The crew of the new ship transport over and attempt to take Tosk forcibly. After a skirmish with station security the leader locates Tosk in his cell. After further negotiations Sisko learns that a "Tosk" is a lifeform bread to be hunted by the other aliens, the "Hunters". Under the terms of the Prime Directive, he agrees to hand over Tosk to the Hunters, knowing that they would display him in a cage for his failure to escape. O'Brien, however, frees Tosk, so the hunt can continue to everyone's satisfaction.
Just for a change, it is a nice nod to have O'Brien in charge of establishing the first contact with an alien species. It doesn't always have to be a formal procedure, and if an alien such as Tosk here needs to have his ship repaired above everything, he wouldn't care very much anyway if Sisko came to greet him personally. But that is about the only special thing about the plot, which is overall a too conventional incidence of the theme "Aliens coming to the station and stirring up trouble".
I like Colm Meaney's performance as O'Brien, who is neither familiar with Tosk's technology nor his culture and stays open-minded all the time but who is also torn between duty and conscience. I think the story focuses a bit too much on him though and still doesn't show the character in much depth, but he definitely makes the best of it. In any case it becomes clear that it was a great idea to transfer O'Brien to DS9 from the Enterprise, where he was never allowed to play such an important role. And this episode also sort of compensates for O'Brien's disability in "Babel". Even more praise goes to Scott MacDonald as Tosk, a very alien character in every respect and perhaps the actual principal character. He not only endured wearing the heavy costume all day but also managed to show subtle facial expressions through his thick mask.
I also like the directing that maintains a comparably (for the first season) fast pace but never gets bumpy. Especially the scenes when O'Brien is investigating the shuttle while Tosk is cloaked and when the Hunter locates the cloaked Tosk in the prison cell are quite thrilling.
This episode could be over after two thirds of the time when O'Brien is hanging around at Quark's and lamenting about his inability to help Tosk. I'm glad that it continues after this point, because otherwise it would have been just another bland "We're bound to the Prime Directive" episode. The way it is resolved, after O'Brien's interference, everyone can be content. O'Brien has saved his friend Tosk from being publicly dishonored, Tosk has the prospect of dying with honor some day, the Hunters can carry on with what they love much more than anything, Sisko has helped an alien in distress without a stain on his record. I have mixed feelings about the ending though, because it comes with even more violence. It was rather reckless of O'Brien to endanger the people on the station like that.
- Inconsistency: I find it hard to believe that an individual that is bred as a slave and doesn't even have a name can be dishonored in any fashion. But that may be just one more peculiarity of the Hunter-Tosk culture.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "I am sorry. I have no vices for you to exploit." (Tosk, to Quark)
- "Hell. Those guys wanted a hunt. I just gave them one." (O'Brien)
- Remarkable shapeshifting: Odo morphs into a painting.
- Remarkable facts:
- Odo says he has never used a weapon.
- Tosk needs 17 minutes of sleep per "rotation" (day). He can make himself invisible. He can store nutrients in the plasmic fibers of his body. In several ways Tosk is the prototype of the Jem'Hadar that would appear at the end of the second season.
- Remarkable ships: Tosk's ship is a re-use of the Vulcan freighter T'Pau in "Unification", while the Hunter ship initially appeared as the Tarellian vessel in "TNG: "Haven".
Stardate 46531.2: The runabout Ganges returns to the station with hardly any power and its crew and passenger in danger from lack of life support. Jadzia Dax and another crewman have returned with Vash after finding her in the Gamma Quadrant. With her is Q, who has been hounding Vash as a traveling companion for two years. Vash brings several artifacts to the station that she has acquired in the Gamma Quadrant, among them a remarkable crystal. She makes fast friends with Quark and agrees with the Ferengi profiteer to auction them off. Unbeknownst to the crew, however, the crystal draws energy from the station's power systems, leading to a massive build-up of gravitons that pushes the station towards the wormhole. Using ionized tritium, Dax is able to pinpoint the origin of the gravitons, and Sisko has the artifact beamed into space. There an embryonic lifeform frees itself from the crystal and vanishes into the wormhole.
This episode attempts to draw on the established characters of Q and Vash, who are both so wonderfully antithetic to the goals of Starfleet. There is good continuity with TNG: "QPid", the mediocre Robin Hood-themed episode, at the end of which Q took Vash on something like a tour of the galaxy. But other than Picard's nemesis enticing away Picard's girl-friend there was nothing particularly interesting in their relationship, and not really anything that would have called for a sequel. In the course of the DS9 episode it still doesn't become more palpable what Q possibly finds attractive about Vash, other than her being an unconventional woman by 24th century standards, and why Vash was putting up with the obnoxious Q for so long, other than being able to obtain valuable artifacts from places she could never have visited on her own. Their motives for staying together two years have been quite blunt, and so are their conversations that are lacking profundity, that rely on clichés and that are getting boring soon. The involvement of Bashir with his unusually corny pick-up attempts and Quark with his usual infallible lobes doesn't really make Vash's presence more enticing.
But that was already supposed to be the more interesting part of the episode. The potential of the characters is simply not exploited. Only Sisko's encounter with Q is really entertaining and a bit enlightening too. Right, Jean-Luc would never have permitted Q to drag him into a boxing match in the same fashion as Sisko. But the possibilities that lie in their confrontation are not further explored. Deep Space 9 is quite obviously not a place interesting enough for Q, and other than providing a bit of diversion in the form of legerdemain his role is mostly limited to that of a cue provider.
- Why doesn't O'Brien suggest earlier that Q may have taken Vash to the Gamma Quadrant? And even if he is not familiar with the details, were there no records from the Enterprise that Sisko could have requested instead of marveling at Vash's unlikely journey?
- Dax reports a "massive build-up of gravitons" inside the Gamma Quadrant crystal that endangers the station. Why does Sisko order to beam it just "500 meters off the docking ring"? Why not 500 kilometers? They could safely observe the artifact with sensors instead of the naked eye.
- Remarkable quote: "There's still the Delta Quadrant to explore." (Q, almost prophetic, as he would visit Voyager right there in the second season)
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "You hit me. Picard never hit me." - "I'm not Picard." - "Indeed not. You're much easier to provoke. How fortunate for me." (Q and Sisko)
- "An abysmal place." - "Tartaras Five?" - "Earth. Oh, don't get me wrong. A thousand years ago it had character. Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Watergate. But now it's just mind-numbingly dull." (Q and Vash)
- Remarkable alien: the one who signals six hundred bars of gold-pressed latinum at the auction with the six fingers of his hand
- Remarkable decoration: In Vash's quarters we can see the Bajoran decoration consisting of a rotated image of the DY-100 sleeper ship.
- Remarkable guest appearances:
- This is the last of three appearances of Jennifer Hetrick as Vash.
- Q has his only appearance on DS9.
Stardate 46910.1: Dr. Bashir attempts in vain to avoid the kidnapping of Jadzia Dax by a group of Klaestrons. Only the station's tractor beam can stop their departing ship. Ilon Tandro claims that Curzon Dax committed treason and was responsible for the killing of his father, General Ardelon Tandro, 30 years ago in the civil war on Klaestron IV. He demands the extradition of Jadzia Dax, which to decide about is up to a Bajoran arbiter, Els Renora. Sisko, however, argues that already the warrant is incorrect because if anyone, the former host Curzon or the symbiont Dax but not Jadzia committed a crime. Meanwhile on Klaestron IV, Odo finds out that Curzon was in bed with General Tandro's wife at the time he is said to have sent transmissions to the enemy, so the charges are dropped.
I always liked this episode but I think that was mostly because of its similar theme as the great TNG: "The Measure of a Man". And indeed, the discussion whether Jadzia Dax is only another incarnation of the Dax symbiont or a totally new person is just as enlightening as the debate on Data's right of self-determination. The legal ramifications, that Deep Space 9 is a Bajoran station and there would be no extradition without a hearing, are worked out nicely as well. Overall, however, "Dax" winds up as just a decent episode without real highlights. The philosophical aspects and, to lesser degree, the murder mystery are in the focus, rather than the characters. Ironically, the one character most talked about is never even present: Curzon Dax (if we follow Sisko's argumentation that, if anyone, he would have to be accused). Jadzia, on the other hand, remains totally passive all the time and looks really miserable and in many ways out of character. Even in the end, when Enina Tandro has broken the silence, Jadzia remains unusually silent, the whole story isn't wrapped up in any fashion, which I find rather unsatisfactory.
On a side note, Miles and Keiko travel to Earth to celebrate her mother's 100th birthday. Either Mrs. O'Brien is a lot older than she looks, or her mother has become pregnant at about 65 years (which raises the question, would this be desirable?). But I really wonder why not a similar explanation for Keiko's absence was made up in "Babel" where she should otherwise have been present.
On another note, Bashir's newly gained nonchalance in flirting with women is becoming a nuisance. The old Bashir was too shy and awkward to even talk to his female colleagues and he had a crush particularly on Jadzia, the new one has no trouble hitting on three women in two episodes (not counting in the Klaestron woman who hits him ;-)).
Finally, I wonder why of all places the hearing has to take place in Quark's. As if the five people would need so much room. It could have been in the wardroom or in a makeshift courtroom in the habitat ring just as well.
- Remarkable dialogue: "How can you be so sure that the symbiont was the criminal influence? What if it were the Curzon host that was responsible? Then the surviving symbiont would be completely innocent." - "No. They'd both be guilty. You yourself have argued that the two personalities, once joined, function as one. Your own Doctor Bashir confirmed it. When you put salt in water, the two become indistinguishable and inseparable." - "I think you've just made my point for me. When the water boils off, the salt returns to its original state. Pour that same salt into another liquid, and you have something completely different. Jadzia Dax is an entirely new entity." (Sisko and Ilon Tandro)
- Remarkable ship: The Klaestron ship is the first re-use of the Tamarian ship from TNG: "Darmok" (which itself started its life as the Talarian observation craft).
Stardate not given: Major Kira and Dr. Bashir are aboard the Rio Grande when they respond to a distress signal sent by a Kobliad ship. They can rescue just the Kobliad security officer, Kajada. Her prisoner, Rao Vantika, grabs Bashir's neck and then dies. Back on the station, Kajada suspects that Vantika is still alive, for he has faked his death more than once. Also, a shipment of deuridium from the Gamma Quadrant is to arrive at the station, a substance essential for the survival of the Kobliad. While a DNA scan confirms that the body is indeed Vantika, Jadzia Dax theorizes that he could have transferred his consciousness to another person by injecting encoded glial cells to this person's body. This person is Dr. Bashir, who is now under the control of Vantika and who has enlisted help from mercenaries to hijack the deuridium freighter. When his plan is being foiled and the ship is secured by the station's tractor beam, Vantika threatens to go to warp, thereby killing Bashir and polluting the system with deuridium. But Jadzia succeeds in modulating the tractor beam with a frequency that would disable Vantika's cells in Bashir's body. After the glial cells have been beamed out, Kajada vaporizes them and thereby everything that is left of Vantika.
"The Passenger" comes with some excitement - albeit of a quite conventional kind. We've seen all the motives in this episode before, especially the transfer of a criminal consciousness to an unknowing Starfleet officer as, for instance, in TNG: "Power Play". The episode is also surprisingly reminiscent of "A Man Alone", which aired just a few weeks earlier. At one point, there was at least a nice remark about Vantika's body not being that of a clone, creating continuity with Ibudan in the latter episode.
In light of the precedences and of the possibilities of 24th century technology the crew should be much better prepared for the things to come though. But they are always more than just one step behind Vantika's plan. And whilst Bashir may hide some facts or ideas, for he is the one possessed by Vantika's consciousness, Sisko and everyone else on the station are rather short-sighted. Initially no one gives much credence to Kajada's words, although her arguments are quite convincing. She has been chasing Vantika for 20 years, she knows he has been using cryogenics and bioregeneration to prolong his life before, he purged the computer memory on Rigel VII in an attempt to escape her, and ultimately he set off the fire on the prisoner transport - to commit suicide?
Only Jadzia Dax of CSI: Bajor is clever enough to consider the possibility of a transfer of Vantika's consciousness to another person. But instead of carefully considering all people that Vantika has been in contact with just prior to his death (which, besides Kajada, could have only been Bashir), she too easily suspects Kajada.
Unfortunately, at this point, there are already a couple of cues for the viewer to know that Bashir is the one carrying Vantika's consciousness. We've got a disguised "Vantika" talking to Quark with Bashir's voice (and apparently without Quark noticing that) and Bashir's mention of the Vulcan synaptic pattern transfer that readily explains why the dying Vantika grabbed Bashir's neck. But except for the triumph of being smarter than the clueless station crew the case becomes rather uninteresting for the viewer in the second half of the episode. Also because Kajada, the only guest character left, is disabled and it is only left to her to say something like "I told you so".
Speaking of guest characters, we never even see Vantika except for that scene at the very beginning when he says just one sentence. We don't learn anything about his motivation, we are not told anything about his person. (Criminal) characters that we only know from people talking about them were already a problem in "Past Prologue", "A Man Alone" and "Dax", and this not only repeats here but is taken way too far, as Vantika is just an evil force with Bashir's face.
Aside from the above reservations the build-up of tension isn't all that bad though. It only doesn't really come as a surprise when Quark and the local thugs encounter Vantika in Bashir's guise. And just as the story is reaching its apogee, we've got a cookie-cutter villain whose portrayal by Siddig El Fadil with his exaggerated slow intonation is awkward and who exchanges nothing but the usual platitudes with Sisko when the two negotiate.
I also don't like Odo in this episode. Why is he so upset about Primmin after talking only a few words with him - and even after the Starfleet security officer has apologized to him? So upset that he threatens Sisko with his resignation? Even though Primmin is not staying for long? This whole conflict out of thin air is quite gratuitous.
- Nitpicking: If the deuridium is so crucial for the survival of the Kobliad, why is there no Kobliad security officer to overview the transport? Kajada is there, but she came to Deep Space 9 only by chance.
- Remarkable dialogue: "Poor woman [Jadzia]. She's obviously infatuated with me." - "You're deluding yourself." - "There's nothing wrong with a good delusion. I sell them upstairs to dozens of people every day. Besides, there is something in her eyes when she looks at me." - "An allergic reaction, no doubt." (Quark and Odo)
- Remarkable facts:
- The Kobliad are a dying race. They need deuridium to stabilize their cell structure. It prolongs their lifespan.
- Vantika purged the computer memory on Rigel VII ("The Cage").
- When Dr. Bashir mentions the "synaptic pattern displacement" of Vulcans, he is speaking of the katra transfer ("Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan").
Stardate not given: A Vulcan ship has made contact with a new species in the Gamma Quadrant, the Wadi, and Sisko and his senior officers don their dress uniforms to greet them when they arrive at DS9. But all the visitors are interested in is Quark's games. After a while the Wadi catch the Ferengi cheating. As a penalty, Sisko, Dax, Bashir and Kira are trapped inside a game world controlled by the Wadi, while Quark is watching helplessly, reacting to the game as they go, in an attempt to free the officers. When Quark thinks that the officers are lost because of his fault, the Wadi leader declares that it was all just a game.
This episode starts off as rather entertaining with two personal defeats of our brave commander. First Ben Sisko decides to tell his son Jake a few things about girls when he learns that Nog beat him to it - "So all you know about women you've heard from the Ferengi boy." In a quite similar fashion Nog's uncle Quark interferes with Sisko's first contact with the Wadi because his reputation proceeds him - even to the Gamma Quadrant. Sisko is excited to welcome his first official guests from beyond the wormhole, and he barely finishes the introduction of his senior officers, when the Wadi leader interrupts him, "Where are the games?" So much for the teaser, the only really good part of the episode.
Well, in every survey I have seen this episode ranks among the few worst DS9 installments, and with a reason. I think it is mostly its setting as a child's game with silly puzzles and the "Allamaraine" rhyme that the players had to sing that made the fans wince. But the premise also reminds me of the numerous horror movies in which people are trapped in some haunted house or a high-tech cube where there are predictably killed one by one in various unpredictably disgusting ways. I think no matter whether a sick mind locks you up somewhere to enjoy your death or an unknown race forces you to take part in an essentially harmless treasure hunt because they have a strange kind of humor, the idea is absurd to start with. It can be done as a one-off story, but it should be ensured that no one ever does a remake, sequel or anything. So with this episode DS9 had its share of silly games, and in this regard it's fine with me, and the episode is even mildly entertaining. A bit like in TOS: "Shore Leave", an episode with equally strange occurrences, and a quite similar resolution along the lines "It's just a game".
Once they are in the absurd situation of being players in a board game, the crew members act quite plausibly, and they make the best of it - even when it comes down to singing a rhyme (although this is arguably the apogee of silliness, I almost couldn't believe it when I first saw it). And so does Quark, who has been caught cheating and merely attempts to escape unscathed and perhaps with a bit of profit. What really bothers me is that no one seriously attempts to negotiate the release of the four officers with the Wadi. Odo literally abides by the rules that the Wadi have set up. He even trusts in Quark's "expertise" in gambling when it comes to saving the four crew members, rather than relying on a combination of diplomacy and phasers. And worst of all, when Quark is supposed to remove one player from the game and breaks down, Odo does nothing to support him; he even exchanges an almost mischievous glance with the kidnapper! The motivation of the Wadi remains unclear at any time, except that they value fun above all, whether they are trying Quark's games or teach the Ferengi a lesson for cheating. Aliens have seldom been as disposable anyway as the Wadi are here. With their culture reduced to playing games, we could be sure that they would never return. What a waste.
So while "Move Along Home" has a few minor redeeming qualities in my view, I agree with most fans that it is a silly plot with an insufficiently considered execution. Most obviously the episode is undecided whether it is essentially funny with some serious aspects, or the other way round. The directing oscillates erratically between comical and dramatic without a clear tendency, and without a visible concept. And the outcome ("It's only a game", whereupon the Wadi almost immediately "move along home" and the episode is over) is most unsatisfactory.
One point because it could have been even worse.
- Remarkable rhyme: "Allamaraine, count to four. Allamaraine, then three more. Allamaraine, if you can see. Allamaraine, you'll come with me."
- Remarkable ship: The Wadi ship starts its career as a versatile alien vessel.
Stardate not given: Grand Nagus Zek, the head of all Ferengi, appears on the station to hold a conference on developing business relations with the Gamma Quadrant. During the meeting with Ferengi delegates the old leader announces his retirement and totally unexpectedly declares that he has chosen Quark as his successor. This causes a great deal of unease among the assembled high-ranking Ferengi. Zek dies the next day as it seems. Soon someone attempts to assassinate the new Nagus Quark with a locator bomb. While Odo is investigating the case, the two assassins, Quark's brother Rom and Zek's son Krax, plan to finish their business and blow Quark out of an airlock. But Odo and Zek, who feigned his death, thwart the plan. Zek, now knowing that Krax is no worthy successor, decides to exploit the business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant himself.
"The Nagus" overall maintains a good balance of drama and comedy, and it does not wind up as a burlesque as so many Ferengi installments before and after it. The episode introduces the Grand Nagus and does a thorough job expanding our knowledge about the Ferengi culture, maybe more than all Ferengi-themed TNG episodes combined. This deserves praise and accounts for extra points in my assessment, although in the following the episode isn't all that exciting, at least not as exciting as it could have been.
Nothing of major importance happens in the first half of the episode, but ironically this is the fun part with its abundance of trivia and of well-written and well-performed character interaction. It is still a curious plot twist that I enjoy a lot when Zek declares to the stunned Ferengi elite that the bar owner Quark would become his successor. But subsequently, as Zek dies, someone attempts to assassinate Quark and Odo investigates the case, there is not as much thrill in it as there should be. It is not the semi-comical nature of this Ferengi intrigue that fails to convince me. Actually, as already mentioned the really farcical DS9 episodes of this kind are still to come. I just think that the writing and execution becomes a bit sketchy after all the successful efforts to set up the story. I would have liked to learn more about everyone's motivation. I would have liked everything that happens to have more consequences, either in this one or in a following episode. I don't understand at all why Odo wouldn't promptly arrest Rom (and Krax likewise) for repeated attempted murder. And why does Quark put up so easily with Rom's failing? And most blatantly, the events in the course of which his father attempted to kill his uncle apparently leave Nog totally unaffected, who almost seems to have a bigger problem with coming to accept "unprofitable" human education.
Rom as a killer? It don't know if this really works. I think that at this point of the series the writers obviously didn't yet know what to make of his character, and whether he would remain a series regular at all. It is the first time he has a major part in the plot, still it isn't really fitting how the naive and usually harmless Ferengi waiter becomes frantic and attempts to kill his brother twice, out of pure envy and greed. On the other hand, while it will remain the only time that he commits a crime, Rom's motivation is customarily inexplicable, and Quark's family is crazy even by Ferengi standards.
- Remarkable quote: "Please feel free to use my own, uh, [points at Rom] brother's quarters for as long as you're with us." (Quark, to Zek)
- Remarkable dialogue: "Hold on. You're saying Vulcans stole your homework [an essay on ethics]?!" - "Yes, sir." - "Any idea why?" - "Because they don't have ethics?" (O'Brien and Nog)
- Rule of Acquisition #1: "Once you have their money, you never give it back."
- Remarkable facts:
- The Grand Nagus is carrying cane with a Ferengi head on it that every Ferengi is supposed to kiss.
- Zek keeps one of the extremely rare Corvan gilvos (TNG: "The Most Toys", "New Ground") as a pet.
- Tube grubs, a favorite Ferengi food, appear for the first time.
- We learn that it is a custom to sell vacuum desiccated disks of a deceased Ferengi.
- It is the first time that the Bajoran Gratitude Festival is mentioned (that will be prominently featured in DS9: "Fascination").
- It is also the first mention of the Fire Caves (here: "Fire Caverns") that will be referred to again as late as in "The Assignment" as the exile of the Pah-wraiths and will eventually play a major role in "What You Leave Behind".
- Remarkable set dressing: There are two quite interesting displays in the classroom, one showing the development of starships, including Greg Jein's Bonaventure design, and one with comparative xenobiology, including the anatomy of a Tribble (and of other non-humanoid lifeforms that had appeared in the Star Trek).
Stardate not given: While Quark is negotiating the sale of an alien "Fabergé egg" with Miradorn twins, a man from the Gamma Quadrant enters the room, attempts to steal the egg and eventually kills one of the twins. Odo, after capturing him, finds out that the alien named Croden is wanted on his homeworld Rakhar for previous crimes, but also discovers the man knows something about Odo's kind, the Changelings. Croden shows him an artifact that can morph into a different shape just like Odo and that may be something like a distant relative. During the transport to Rakhar the Miradorn's twin brother comes after the pair. They enter a nebula, where Croden allegedly found the artifact and even met Changelings in person. But once they have landed on an asteroid, Croden uses the artifact as a key to the stasis chamber in which he kept his daughter safe, the only member of his family who survived the persecution. Odo steers the runabout into a pocket of toh-maire gas, where the Miradorn ship explodes when it fires its weapons. He eventually decides to let Croden and his daughter go.
This episode does quite a bit for Odo's character development. But other than that, it is uninteresting for the most part. The dialogues are not as witty as in most previous DS9 episodes. They are either so much to the point that they become blunt, or they wind up as tiresome monologues, especially when Croden is talking. Only in the final ten minutes the episode finally gains momentum with some decent action and less talking.
The mysterious and notoriously lying Croden remains unsympathetic for most of the time, right up until the point in the runabout when he tells Odo the story about the security people entering his home and killing his wives as a punishment for him being an "enemy of the Rakhari people". While Croden was lying about everything so far, the viewer is tempted to believe this. The fact that he cared for his daughter all the time, her testimony that he committed no crime but to protect her and finally his rescue of Odo comes too late to really redeem him, however. While the Rakhari government is most likely a repressive one and Croden's persecution may indeed be unjust, at least Croden's attempted robbery and the killing of one Miradorn twin still constitutes a crime. And while I wouldn't condone the motive of revenge and while Odo has every right to protect himself and his prisoner against an attacker, it leaves a bit of a bad taste that the other twin is killed too, while the murderer is allowed to escape. Maybe it is good that DS9, more often than TOS or TNG, does not find or only pretend to have found a perfect solution to every problem. So the outcome is only realistic if it is not totally satisfactory. Odo may have done just the right thing from his viewpoint, only that his decision was apparently a bit too much influenced by the personal motive that Croden would help him find out something about his origin, and also by the sympathy with a caring father, as if this would supercede any charges against Croden.
- Science watch: An asteroid with breathable atmosphere? Come on!
- Remarkable dialogue: "You attribute odious motives to my every charitable act." - "That's because your favorite charity is your own pocket." (Quark and Odo)
- Remarkable shapeshifting: Odo morphs into a drinking glass.
- Remarkable fact: Croden is the first to use the word "Changeling" instead of shapeshifter, and the first to mention the persecution of shapeshifters.
- Remarkable ship: the Miradorn raider with its characteristic forked hull that would reappear as the mercenary ship in TNG: "Gambit"
Stardate not given: The station receives an unannounced visit from Kai Opaka, the spiritual leader of Bajor, whom Sisko offered a tour of the station. Knowing that no ship would pass the wormhole on this day for Opaka to watch, he invites the Kai to travel through the wormhole on a runabout, together with him, Kira and Bashir. In the Gamma Quadrant they follow the trace of a subspace signal to a moon with a satellite network, where the runabout is shot down and Opaka dies in the crash. But some time later she is alive again, because of artificially created microbes that have restored her body functions. The moon is a prison, to which the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis were exiled and where they can carry on with their conflict forever, thanks to the microbes. Sisko gathers representatives of the two factions to start peace talks, with the hope of getting all of them off that moon, but it ends in another bloody skirmish. In the meantime Bashir has discovered that the microbes only work in the special environment on the moon, which means that also Opaka has to stay behind. But Opaka has already decided for herself that it is her destiny to stay. After Jadzia and O'Brien have managed to create a gap in the satellite network, just Sisko, Kira and Bashir are beamed up.
The underlying idea of this episode is promising, although we already know the motive of dead warriors who are resurrected to continue their fight from TOS: "Day of the Dove". But unlike in the TOS episode the conflict is not resolved in the end, and unexpectedly one key figure is killed and remains dead one way or another. It also has a further ethical impact, because in the TOS episode a strange entity forced people to fight for no obvious reason or even for wrong reasons (such as Chekov's brother Pyotr who never existed). In "Battle Lines" it is their own people who make the Ennis and Nol-Ennis battle each other on that moon, because they are criminal, but perhaps just because they are considered unstable elements in their society. And really, the two factions would have the power to stop it by themselves, they have nothing to gain but bitter revenge and they still carry on. So does it justify isolating the few for the benefit of the many? In any case it is a perverted idea to give prisoners an eternal life, only so they have even more reason to waste it.
Speaking of unethical ways to prolong a war, there is a clear parallel to another TOS episode. More precisely, the way the warriors are being kept alive in "Battle Lines" although there is nothing left to fight for is almost the exact contrary to what happens in TOS: "A Taste of Armageddon" where the civilization is being kept intact and "only" the people are killed before their time. Still, the result is remarkably similar. The fighting goes on for centuries, both sides reject the mere idea of talking with their enemies, and at some time no one even recalls why it all started. But this is the mechanism behind most wars, even the more realistic ones in Star Trek and the ones fought in the real world. As absurd as the circumstances are, "Battle Lines" is another strong statement against war.
However, while this episode definitely doesn't have a happy ending for a change, most actions and decisions are made quite convenient for the Starfleet crew. Sisko would have to feel remorse for carelessly getting Opaka in danger in the first place, but I think he will simply file that under "bad luck" and my impression is he can live with it very well, provided that he followed all rules. In particular, Bashir doesn't have a hard time at all. After Sisko has assembled representatives of the the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis for negotiations, the two factions begin fighting again just before Bashir finds out that they couldn't leave anyway. So the good doctor doesn't have to blame himself for causing the new violence. In a similar fashion, Opaka says she would stay on the moon before Bashir can tell her that she'd die if she left, sparing him that unpleasant duty and sparing Sisko the hard decision to leave her behind. The two officers, with their unharmed bodies, their tidy uniforms and their superior morality are a bit too much towering above the Ennis and Nol-Ennis. Some more involvement would have been good for the story.
Kira Nerys does have that involvement. I find it quite fitting to show the soft side of the otherwise resilient major when she mourns the death of Kai Opaka, the religious leader she admires, and quite touching too (kudos to Nana Visitor). Her interaction with the resurrected Opaka, which brings forward this other side yet again when the two talk about her time in the Bajoran Resistance, appears to a bit forced to me though. There are definitely other issues at hand in their situation. But even though the timing is not exactly the best, it does a great deal to affect at least Kira personally. Unfortunately the departure of Kira, Sisko and Bashir comes too quickly, in a way that it doesn't trouble Kira too much just like it never really troubled the other two officers.
On a final note on the ethical implications, when Bashir objects to Sisko's plan of beaming up all the prisoners, the two only briefly discuss whether the prison moon would be protected by the Prime Directive. But what Sisko says about them being "abandoned by their world" and "separate and unique" is remarkable, because it establishes a reasonable exemption to the Prime Directive. It may not have been the right time to discuss this in more detail, but I figure that only a self-determined, self-sustaining and "naturally" evolved society would be protected, and the Ennis and Nol-Ennis are definitely none of these.
"Battle Lines" attempts to build up tension by gradual escalation of the situation but this is done too slowly. One example is that Shel-la makes a big secret of his people's peculiar situation, with allusions such as "A doctor? How ironic." or "We have none [doctors]." instead of just telling the aliens what is going on, as unlikely as it may seem. It takes half the episode, starting with some casual conversation, interrupted by the crash and Opaka's death, followed by another ten rather boring minutes on the planet, until something unexpected happens and Opaka comes back from the dead. The rest of the episode bears some good character interaction but most obviously a lot of fighting. The fights are well staged but appear as particularly meaningless in this special case as no one really dies, although I concede that to demonstrate exactly that is the intention. And as already mentioned, although it is part of the story, the departure of Kira, Sisko and Bashir from the moon is rushed and rather unemotional and leaves me disappointed.
Another thing that I don't really like is the depiction of the prisoners, who are yet another group of generic sci-fi savages in caves, as we have seen them so many times before, only with quite good make-up here. At least it is explicable in the case of the Ennis and Nol-Ennis why they look and perhaps why they behave like they do. Overall, this episode is not as impressive as it could have been. It has some good ideas that never completely unfold and is rather below average.
- Inconsistencies: What do the Ennis and Nol-Ennis eat? And where does the energy for their weapons come from? Wouldn't it be possible to defeat the other side by cutting them off from their supplies or destroy them in spite of everything?
- Continuity: In hindsight Dukat's scarce personal log on Kira is doubtful in light of their personal ties that would be revealed later, especially in "Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night". But he may have had even more personal files that he deleted without a trace.
- Remarkable error: The nacelle that can be seen beside the crashed runabout actually belongs to a Type-6 shuttlecraft.
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Please, Commander. I don't get out often." (Kai Opaka)
- "I'm sorry, Commander, but I've discovered we can't afford to die here. Not even once." (Bashir)
- Remarkable facts:
- Idran is the closest system to the wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant, 70,000 light years from Bajor. "It would take our fastest starship over 67 years to get here," as Siskon explains to Opaka.
- "The Federation is made up of over a hundred planets who have allied themselves for mutual scientific, cultural and defensive benefits. The mission that my people and I are on is to explore the galaxy."
- The central star of the prison moon system emits "abnormal levels of delta radiation", the form of radiation that paralyzed Captain Pike, as mentioned in TOS: "The Menagerie, Part I".
- The Yangtzee Kiang is the first runabout lost in the course of the series.
Stardate 46729.1: The station is hosting a conference on a conflict between the Paqu and the Navot on Bajor that has broken out because the Cardassians redirected a river that was laid down as the border between the two. The leader of the Paqu is Varis Sul, a teenage girl that catches Nog's attention. He and Jake befriend the girl and contribute their share to the solution, which keeps the border as it is but allows the Paqu, who would otherwise be cut off, free access to the river. Meanwhile, Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien have been sent to Bajor for a medical emergency. The two discover that an entity composed of energy periodically attacks the village, and does so while the pair are there. Aiding the dying sirah, a "storyteller", O'Brien helps back away the strange phenomenon the locals call "Dal'Rok". After saving the village the locals proclaim O'Brien as their new sirah, angering Hovath, the old sirah's apprentice. The Dal'Rok is in reality a manifestation of the village's anger and can be defeated only with unanimity. When O'Brien fails during another attack of the Dal'Rok, the young Hovath, who was always meant to be the successor but lacked the necessary determination so far, successfully takes over the task.
The only remarkable thing about this episode is that it sort of marks the beginning of Julian's and Miles's friendship. They are an odd couple in much the same fashion as Matthau and Lemmon, and I like the very idea of that. It is priceless how Bashir insists on O'Brien calling him "Julian" instead of "sir", and the very first time that O'Brien says "Julian" he does it with demonstrative reluctance and it still has the ring of "sir" to it. Their interaction in the episode is nice to watch, and it accounts for one point. Seeing how much potential the idea of an odd couple has here, it is a missed opportunity that, in later episodes, the two would end up as buddies of much the same kind with their common pastimes.
Other than the characters themselves, their little adventure on Bajor absolutely fails to convince. The idea of a creature composed of bad thoughts, of course, is the same as in the famous sci-fi movie "Forbidden Planet" and in TNG: "Skin of Evil". I don't mind that the motive is re-used here, but rather that the Dal'Rok itself and the "storytelling" used to appease it come across as pointless mumbo-jumbo. The orb fragment from which the Dal'Rok was purportedly created doesn't make it any more plausible, but perhaps it was a good idea not even to try to further explain it. It is frustrating anyway that aliens once again seek the help of Starfleet but keep crucial facts a big secret until it is almost too late. At least Julian and Miles really make the best of their situation, when they are willing to play what must appear like a silly game to them (not unlike in "Move Along Home"), while trying to find reasonable scientific explanations for what is happening.
I have misgivings about the idea of a society that projects all fear and all anger on someone or something else, a straw man or a scapegoat, rather than on itself. Such a society is likely to be united just when the danger is imminent, and happy only when the declared enemy has been defeated. Totalitarian systems including the Nazis liked to unite people in such a fashion, and while the Dal'Rok is just an imaginary enemy here, it is not a big step in my opinion for the close-minded villagers to blame real people for everything bad that happens to them, and to cheer for anyone who helps them get rid of them.
Furthermore, I believe the dramatic twist of Hovath, the sirah's apprentice, attacking O'Brien with a knife is quite counterproductive. Because it casts a shadow on this character, who thereby proves that he is obsessed with his ambition and that he doesn't mind resorting to violence to get what he thinks is his. I think the intention was rather to show him as uncertain and self-conscious, as someone who doesn't step forward but needs to be pushed. It leaves a bad taste, because in real life, on any planet, a sneaky knifer is not someone who should be trusted as a leader to keep up the good spirit of a village, much less would he deserve the position - other than O'Brien being more than lucky to transfer his responsibility to whoever wants it.
In addition, how could the old sirah anticipate that his apprentice would do the only right thing, at the right time? Hovath could have killed O'Brien, or he could have done nothing to gain the position. Wouldn't the sirah's death have been enough and the much better motivation for Hovath to take over the position? The way it happens is typical TV logic that just doesn't make sense in real life.
The border dispute on Bajor in the B-plot is quite mundane and perhaps realistically so, and it is almost the antithesis to the mysterious things happening in that other village on the same planet. But it is quite boring until Jake and Nog spot the leader of one of the factions, a pretty teenage girl, on the promenade, whereupon something like a sub-plot to the B-plot kicks in. And this rather small part of the episode is the only one that I am really fond of and wins another point. I find the interaction of the three young people quite entertaining and even realistic, with Nog being very shy in Varis Sul's presence, and Jake taking the lead for the first time. The two boys eventually get her down from the her stance to outperform the adults and particularly her dead parents in terms of bring "strong", which she obviously confuses with "uncompromising". In some fashion they both contribute a bit to the solution of the conflict, Nog by proposing to grasp opportunities and Jake by recommending her to seek his father's advice.
- Inconsistency: Bashir says on the runabout that O'Brien has been sitting there without talking for two hours. It takes as much as two hours from the station to Bajor?
- Remarkable dialogue: "Just remember, I saw her first. She's mine. [Nog goes up the stairs]" - "Then, how come you can barely say two words to her without getting tongue tied?" - "That's a lie." - "I've never seen you so nervous. You must really like her." - "I never said that. All I said was [Nog spots her] uh-ah-oh..." (Nog and Jake)
- Remarkable quote:"It's a stupid game that even hew-mons stopped playing hundreds of years ago." (Nog, about baseball)
- Rule of Acquisition #9: "Opportunity plus instinct equals profit."
- Remarkable scene: Nog plays a practical joke on Jake, when he "accidentally" pours the contents Odo's bucket on him, actually consisting of oatmeal.
- Remarkable facts: Jake mentions baseball player Buck Bokai, who would appear "in person" in "If Wishes Were Horses".
- Remarkable prop: This is the first appearance of Odo's bucket.
Stardate 46844.3: The station is assisting the Bajoran government in an energy transfer, tapping the molten core of Bajor's fifth moon Jeraddo in an attempt to provide energy for the planet. The moon holds some settlers, so Kira and Dax are dispatched with a runabout to make sure the evacuation is complete before the transfer begins. Sensors pick up lifeforms. Kira beams down to find a group of three Bajoran farmers, who refuse to leave their homes. Among them is an older man named Mullibok, who invites Kira for supper. Kira returns without the farmers. When she beams down again to Jeraddo with two security officers, they are being attacked and one of them shoots Mullibok. Kira stays on Jeraddo to care about the injured man. But although she sympathizes with him, Kira eventually decides that there is no way back and destroys his house. On the station, Jake and Nog make a bargain with Cardassian yamok sauce that Quark just wanted to get rid of.
We have seen this plot before in TNG: "The Ensigns of Command", when Data was on his own to convince stubborn settlers to leave their planet and eventually destroyed the aqueduct just like Kira blasts Mullibok's kiln with her phaser. I never liked "The Ensigns of Command" a lot, but "Progress" is even less interesting because it relies too much on Kira's unlikely emotional attachment to Mullibok. Environmental aspects or political issues such as the question whether the Bajoran government is allowed to take away people's homes much like the Cardassians did are casually mentioned by Kira and alluded to by Mullibok but don't really play a role here - although it would have given the story much more significance. Everything that takes place on the moon is more or less pointless because eventually Mullibok would have to leave anyway, and I wonder if it wouldn't have been better for him to be just beamed up, instead of prolonging his futile tilting at windmills.
Mullibok is a quite incoherent character. Most obviously he is a grumpy old man, who has suffered under the Cardassians and has chosen to live as an unworldly hermit to be able to forget. In an idyllic cottage with vegetable baskets and even garlic in a net. But Mullibok also has something of a narrow-minded redneck or maybe of a fanatic environmentalist, and he is only a bit more benevolent than his two combatants, who attack strangers with their pitchforks, especially those with uniforms. Mullibok too holds a grudge against every authority, and while he can't actively fight Kira he does everything he can to defy her at any time. Well, his invitation for supper to Kira, who has only come down to evacuate him immediately as he should be well aware of, and his dedication to finish the kiln against all odds may appear as charmingly naive. On other occasions, however, he comes across as pretentiously stubborn. In a very self-aggrandizing fashion he makes a big deal of how he alone overpowered six Cardassians and how he was the first to "tame this place". And he regrets that he missed the "fun" of chasing away the Cardassians from Bajor, which naturally offends Kira, who risked her life every day and certainly had no "fun" doing so. But still Mullibok is careful not to overstress Kira's patience. I even think Mullibok is manipulating her all the time, and if only subconsciously. Granted, he may still be traumatized after all those years, as his nightmare about the Cardassians proves. But every time she confronts him with the facts he successfully evades the topic when he either turns to something trivial or responds with the melodramatic plea "If I leave I'll die". Mullibok probably doesn't know himself what he really wants, he has just ruled out the evacuation for himself. And even as his long-time friends Keena and Baltrim have been brought to Bajor, he still keeps up his resistance. As futile as it is to defy the government of Bajor, he seems to enjoy the little triumph of having Kira on his side as long as it lasts.
It is a basic weakness of the story that Mullibok's stubbornness exerts a strange fascination on Kira, so much that she is willing to jeopardize her job and stay with him until the bitter end. Her behavior is close to being out of character, for we already know well how short-tempered she normally is and how she reacts to criticism of her present and past roles, and to people who stand in the way of Bajor's welfare. The only good rationale for Kira's emotional attachment is that she may see the cozy home that she always wanted to have on Jeraddo, in a romantic transference. But Mullibok doesn't really work as Nerys's father figure, I just don't see this in the episode. Actually, the two do not develop a particularly close relationship. Even though there is a certain mutual sympathy, they are too different characters and even worse, they talk at cross-purposes all the time. I also can't understand why she would bother to stay and help Mullibok build the kiln even after everyone else is gone, already knowing that he would never use it and that she may have to destroy it eventually. This is a typical exercise with a symbolic meaning that demonstrates us that it's a TV show and not real life.
At first I thought that Sisko would put up too easily with Kira's strange obsession to help Mullibok. But the scene when he wants Bashir to retroactively justify her prolonged presence on the moon "for humanitarian reasons" is great. And he soon shows that he cares when he himself travels to that moon to convince her to come back - although the appearance of the commander further enhances Mullibok's status as a rebel.
The light-hearted B-plot about Jake and Nog, the yamok sauce and the famous self-sealing stembolts is the perhaps more interesting part of the episode, and probably the one that fans rather remember about it. And even though the bartering as it takes place here is not really realistic, this little story demonstrates how trade works and that a good trader anticipates that his goods may be of value for someone else. I only don't like the unlikely coincidence that, just as Jake and Nog, the "Noh-Jay Consortium" have bought the land, it is chosen as the building site of a reclamation facility.
- Inconsistencies: So Bajor has a moon with full gravity, breathable atmosphere, clouds and lush vegetation? That's already quite unlikely. But then why does this obvious paradise have just 47 inhabitants? And since Bajor has at least five moons (Jeraddo is the fifth), wouldn't there be an uninhabitable one, and one closer to the planet be available to be tapped?
- Remarkable dialogue:
- "But you know those seven or eight little wiry hairs that come out of his forehead?" - "What?!" - "They make him look kind of cute." (Dax and Kira, about Morn)
- "It's top grade merchandise. You can't find a better stem bolt in this sector." - "Oh, I don't doubt it. What does he need them for?" - "The usual." - "The usual?" - "Well, you know. Why does anybody use self-sealing stem bolts?" - "I wouldn't know. I've never used them." - "Never?" - "I've never even seen one." (Nog, O'Brien, Jake)
- Remarkable quote: "Look, I understand you're used to sympathizing with the underdog. You've spent your life fighting to overcome impossible odds just like he's doing. But you have to realize something, Major. You're on the other side now. Pretty uncomfortable, isn't it?" (Sisko)
- Remarkable facts: Jeraddo is Bajor's fifth moon. It used to have 47 inhabitants that were evacuated with the exception of Mullibok, Keena and Baltrim. The two latter have been on the moon for 18 years, Mullibok himself for 40 years. Power will be generated by tapping the molten core of the moon, which would make the surface uninhabitable. There appears to be a "softer" method using "phased energy retrieval", but it would take too long to implement.
Stardate 46853.2: Various manifestations of the crew's imagination come to life, such as the 21st century baseball player Buck Bokai, the fairy-tale character Rumpelstiltskin, a sensual version of Dax that so far existed only in Bashir's mind and other strange effects. The real Dax attributes the phenomena to a possible subspace rupture forming near the station, of a kind that destroyed a whole solar system in the 23rd century. As such an anomaly is actually discovered and an attempt is made to collapse it, the rupture widens and threatens to destroy the station. But Sisko recognizes that the anomaly is just another product of everyone's imagination. The whole scenario was set up by an alien race in an attempt to understand the concept of imagination.
I fairly enjoyed this episode, and I think it is a great twist when Sisko comes to understand that the subspace rupture, just like everything strange happening on the station, is just a product of the crew's imagination. Only the ultimate outcome, that some sort of non-corporeal aliens have created the whole scenario to study the very concept of fantasies, is disappointing. We have seen something like that so many times before in TOS and TNG. Also, considering that the station was about to be swallowed by an anomaly, the episode doesn't quite succeed in combining the humorous motives with the overall serious tone. At least, while it was a bad idea to suddenly resurrect Bashir's insatiable crush on Jadzia, I find the odd love triangle of Bashir and the two Jadzias quite amusing. I also like how "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Buck Bokai" interact with O'Brien and the Siskos, respectively.
A fundamental weakness of the story is that the aliens have been exploring the galaxy for quite a while and are still unfamiliar with the very concept of imagination according to "Buck Bokai", although it can evidently be found in almost every corporeal species, even Odo's. Also, considering that they say they don't understand imagination, their preparation for their roles is just too perfect. "Jadzia", "Rumpelstiltskin" and "Buck Bokai", with all their various facets, are far too authentic to be played by alien actors who lack imagination. Both problems will occur in a very similar fashion TNG: "Liaisons", when the Iyaarans attempt to get a grasp on the concept of emotions. And finally it is extremely hypocritical when "Buck Bokai" claims that not he and his company put the station in jeopardy but blames everyone's imagination! Somehow I have the impression that Sisko would have lectured him on ethics and told him to get the hell off his station, had the alien not been disguised as his favorite baseball player. On the other hand, "Buck's" blatant misconception may ultimately prove that the aliens have no idea of where reality ends and imagination starts. It only should have been further explored, because with the few words used to explain everything it comes out as just another case of superior aliens performing experiments on the unknowing crew as their guinea pigs. Actually, it becomes clear already half-way through the episode that the imaginary characters are studying the crew, which takes away much of the suspense, while it still isn't revealed where they come from and why they are doing it.
- Continuity: Dax mentions a subspace rupture as the possible cause of the illusions, thereby conjuring up the whole trouble that would follow. In fact, a connection between subspace anomalies and illusions has previously been established in TNG: "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Remember Me".
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "I could create a shape-shifter playmate for you. The two of you could intermingle." - "You're disgusting." (Quark and Odo)
- "I know what you look like. but you're not-" - "Ah, don't say it. I don't like the sound of it, you know." - "Rumpelstiltskin." - "You didn't think that would make me break in two and disappear, did you? Not this time. I learned my lesson back in the kingdom. I don't make deals like that any more." (O'Brien and Rumpelstiltskin)
- Remarkable quote: "Ladies and gentlemen, and all androgynous creatures, your attention please!" (Odo)
- Imaginary characters/events: Rumpelstiltskin (imagined by the O'Briens), submissive Jadzia (Bashir), Buck Bokai (the Siskos), two scantily clad girls (Quark), explosion in the lower pylon (Kira), Quark in prison (Odo), subspace rupture (Jadzia, and pretty much every one else). In addition, according to Odo there are "incarnations of the Prophets, long dead lovers, gunji jackdaws [actually emus], blizzards, trollops" (the latter probably denoting Quark's girls).
- Remarkable facts:
- A similar subspace rupture was reported in the Hanoli system in the mid-23rd century. When a Vulcan ship investigated the phenomenon and attempted to close the rupture, it was destroyed along with the whole system.
- Only 300 spectators attended the final game of the baseball World Series in 2042.
Stardate 46925.1: A group of pompous Federation ambassadors arrive on the station, proceeding with a fact-finding mission concerning the wormhole. Sisko has the foresight to assign Dr. Bashir to escort them about the station while he prefers to tend to business. Among the ambassadors is Lwaxana Troi who develops an interest for Odo. Shortly afterwards a probe comes through the wormhole and after data has been downloaded from there, the station begins to experience strange malfunctions. A turbolift with Odo and Lwaxana Troi gets stuck, and there is no way of getting them out before Odo has to return to his liquid state. Lwaxana, however, assures him that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. O'Brien finally recognizes that the program behaves like a "puppy" that wants to be entertained, and so instead of trying to eliminate it he transfers it from the main system to a subroutine he calls a "doghouse".
"The Forsaken" earns its three points solely for the development of Odo's character and his touching interaction with Lwaxana Troi. This part of the episode is well written and excellently performed by Majel Barrett and René Auberjonois, especially considering how easily the encounter of two diametrically opposed characters may wind up as daft. And really, at first it doesn't look like the story could possibly work. Odo solves the case of Lwaxana's brooch in his typical astute and taciturn manner. She feels immediately attracted to him, which is no surprise as we know her taste of men at latest since TNG: "The Cost of Living". The whole setup feels so contrived. And it seems to get even worse. Because it is the stuff that corny episodes are made of when Odo attempts in vain to escape from her into the turbolift and then the lift gets stuck so the two have to spend time together. But in the following their interaction unfolds an unexpected potential, a really great chemistry. Alas, this amounts to just a couple of minutes in an overall tedious episode.
While it may have been required to isolate Odo and Lwaxana in an embarrassing situation for him to start talking about his feelings, I only wish it had been done without the whole story about the space puppy. This main plot doesn't sit well with me at all, because it is so obvious how the standard situation of an alien lifeform or a computer program (or both in one in this case) disabling the station is gratuitously built around the Odo/Troi story. It is almost routine how O'Brien solves the problem by doing the exact opposite of what he has been trying all along (a common cliché in sci-fi and fantasy), and that he refers to the program with a simple analogy as a "puppy" that needs a "doghouse" (which sounds a lot like the trick of "souring the milk" in TNG: "Galaxy's Child"). And despite the threat that the alien program poses and all of the crew's efforts it never really gets exciting.
The sub-plot about the three bored ambassadors is even worse. Taxco, Loral and Vadosia are unlifelike cardboard characters who never do anything but lament and complain, only to suddenly commend Bashir for his levelheadedness and competence after he has saved their lives. How these people with their impoliteness and negativity could possibly become ambassadors in the first place, or how they could develop such an unbecoming attitude in their job is beyond me. Anyway, this whole sub-plot is so utterly contrived that it is hard to endure.
- Odo says he imitates the hairstyle of the (here still unnamed) Bajoran scientist who worked with him. We will see this scientist, named Mora Pol, and his hairstyle in DS9: "The Alternate".
- Lwaxana mentions that she and her daughter were once trapped aboard a Ferengi cargo ship, as seen in TNG: "Ménage à Troi".
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Procreation does not require changing how you smell, or writing bad poetry, or sacrificing various plants to serve as tokens of affection. In any event, it's all irrelevant to me." (Odo)
- "You know, I've always been attracted to quiet men. Odd, isn't it? But maybe there's more truth than we realize to that old axiom that opposites..." [Odo gives her a look] "Quietly." (Lwaxana Troi)
- "Nothing makes them happy. They are dedicated to being unhappy and to spreading that unhappiness wherever they go. They are the Ambassadors of Unhappy." (Bashir)
- Remarkable facts:
- Betazoids cannot read Ferengi minds. Dopterians are distant relatives of the Ferengi, so the same applies to them as Odo correctly surmises.
- The station's power core operates on laser-induced fusion.
Stardate 46922.3: Kira suspects that a Valerian freighter scheduled to dock at the station is delivering weapons to Cardassia as they did during the occupation. But Sisko refuses her request to search the ship. The wormhole opens, and a Klingon cruiser returning from the Gamma Quadrant explodes just after exiting. The vessel's first officer is able to beam aboard the station, but dies after cryptically uttering the phrase "Victory!". In the following, the officers begin to behave strangely, and they form two factions aboard the station, one in support of Major Kira and one remaining loyal to Captain Sisko. The situation escalates when the opposing camps scheme to eliminate one another. Odo and Bashir manage to remove the cause for the tensions, a telepathic matrix created by the Saltah'nans that made the crew as well as the Klingons re-enact an ancient power struggle.
Oh my. What an awkward timing. Just one week after "Pup" came through the wormhole and infected the station's computer system here we have another virus from the Gamma Quadrant, this time one aimed at the crew's minds. But while these two particular episodes should have been better separated, they are symptomatic of the first season of DS9 that tries hard to work with all the old story recipes with the sole novel ingredient that they now take place on a multicultural space station, rather than on a Starfleet ship with a perfectly collaborating crew. Many early DS9 episodes are alike, and most have similar themes as previous TOS or TNG episodes. The prototypes of "Dramatis Personae" are TOS: "The Naked Time" and TNG: "The Naked Now". Since these two episodes it is almost a tradition of Star Trek to show everyone out of their mind on at least one occasion very early in the series, in order to define the true characters even better. Also, the plot of "Dramatis Personae" is very reminiscent of TOS: "Day of the Dove" where an alien influence acted as a catalyst for existing conflicts in much the same fashion.
It was probably writer Joe Menosky's well-meant intention to let the conflict among the crew start as rather subtle by building it upon a pre-existing disagreement, Sisko's and Kira's differing stances about the Valerians who possibly smuggle weapons. This is unlike in the previous episodes with mind control plots where hostility and other detrimental emotions came almost out of the blue, with a (melo)dramatic impact, and in surprising varieties. Likewise, the factions among the DS9 crew that form in the following and their intrigues are apparently based on pre-existing friendships, which is supposed to make them more plausible and to keep up the impression that everything is in order as long as possible.
But ironically this deliberate subtlety and the aspired realism of the story development comes out as a very counterproductive. It just doesn't work that everyone is suddenly obsessed with their job or a hobby, is forging alliances and urging everyone else to pick a side, demanding a pledge of their loyalty. Kira attempts to persuade Odo to investigate the Valerian vessel and lies to him blatantly about Sisko agreeing with her, and she easily gets away with this and various other manipulations. While it is not unthinkable that Kira may openly oppose Sisko under normal circumstances just as well, no one of the Starfleet crew would remotely consider mutiny an option, and definitely never for a reason as little as helping a friend to get their way in a minor issue. If the station crew were still sane, everyone of them would have to be perfectly aware that there is something very wrong with himself or herself, or at least with everyone else. Especially since everyone is talking in an obnoxiously aggressive tone. But this is clearly not the case. No one ever asks the question what the hell is going on even as bodily violence ensues. Even Odo, as the one who is definitely not affected, needs a long time before he becomes aware that something is "abnormal" and decides to act. If however the whole crew really don't notice anything, the telepathic matrix must totally control everything that makes up their loyalty and sense of duty, but nothing else. But people are not machines in which you could selectively disable something like an "anti-mutiny routine", much less would it have this very same effect on different species.
The explanation that the telepathic matrix makes people re-enact the power struggle among the Saltah'nans, rather than letting their emotions run out of control, does not justify what we are seeing. Because no one appears to play a role. The way the conflict is depicted is misleading. It almost seems like it could have happened just as well without telepathic manipulation, and it blurs the difference between the genuine conflict potential among the crew and the one imposed on them by the matrix. As a matter of fact, Kira's attitude towards Sisko is unusually hostile before the matrix strikes no less. And Bashir is conveniently open to reason when Odo talks to him, and he paradoxically helps remove the telepathic matrix that controls him. It all doesn't fit together and leaves me disappointed.
Even though there may have been less credible instances of mind control in Star Trek, this may be my least favorite. The whole intriguing becomes boring after a couple of minutes because it is so repetitive, and even annoying because the tone of the dialogues is artificially fierce. I hate watching and listening to Sisko, O'Brien, Kira and Bashir in this episode because these four are so gratuitously over the top. While the writer didn't provide a half-way original story with witty dialogues, ultimately the directing and the actors failed to make this episode palpable and enjoyable.
- A second after the explosion of the Klingon ship O'Brien says: "I'm reading a transporter signal. Someone must have beamed off the ship just as it exploded." But where is that Klingon while O'Brien is speaking and before the station's transporter is activated? Either in a piece of hardware such as the pattern buffer that must have been destroyed with the ship. Or somehow stuck in open space. But the matter stream would not be initiated until the other side (the station) confirms it, and without the station's support it would collapse together with the ship.
- I understand the motivation to represent the "telepathic matrix" with a light effect. But it would have been more plausible without showing an actual manifestation of that matrix. And more impressive without the somewhat silly lights around people's heads.
- What Odo does to get the matrix off the cargo bay doesn't look like a controlled decompression, because he simply opens the door. And still it is sufficient for everyone to just grab hold of a cargo box in order not to be blown out.
- Remarkable prop: The Saltah'na clock that Sisko is a fine piece of craftwork. It will be seen in his office in many future episodes.
Stardate not given: A Kobheerian freighter docking at the station requests medical help for a passenger it is transporting. The passenger turns out to be a Cardassian named Marritza with a case of Kalla-Nohra Syndrome, a disease that was exclusively diagnosed in Gallitep, a former Cardassian labor camp on Bajor. Kira Nerys has Marritza placed under arrest and delves into his background. After visual evidence from the camp has been unearthed, the man has to admit he is Gul Darhe'el, the notorious commandant of Gallitep. But after Odo's further investigation it turns out that he really is Marritza, who served as a filing clerk in Gallitep. By altering his face and posing as one of the biggest war criminals in Bajoran history he wanted to make the case public and help alleviate Cardassia's and his own guilt. When Marritza is released and about to return to his home planet, a Bajoran appears from the crowd and stabs him - apparently just because Marritza is a Cardassian.
So far the Cardassian occupation of Bajor has been a frequently recurring but subordinate theme of the series, while the focus used to be either on current events on Bajor or on new discoveries in the Gamma Quadrant. As unlikely as it seems, the last time we saw a Cardassian at least in a small role was as long ago as in "Past Prologue"! So there was a lot to work up in "Duet", towards the end of the first season. And it was done with an interesting story about a very unusual Cardassian character. A story with two turning points, of which the first (Marritza turns out to be Darhe'el) is something we may have expected but the reversal ("Darhe'el" is really Marritza) comes as a surprise. The episode is enjoyable in an odd fashion, and I am only glad that, while it certainly tackles the crimes of inhumane real regimes such as the Nazis, it is about a fictional conflict between fictional peoples.
Aamin Marritza initially seems to be much like other Cardassians: complacent, talkative and full of disdain for the Bajorans. He first denies any participation in the crimes against the Bajoran people. He does exactly what the Bajorans would expect from a former member of the occupation forces, from someone who is probably a war criminal, who pathetically plays down his own involvement instead of repenting and who sneers at his prosecutors: "Atrocities? What atrocities? Oh, I do vaguely recall hearing a scream from time to time." And with his defiance he only caters to Kira's anti-Cardassian sentiment. As Kira says herself: "I don't want him to be a file clerk. I want him to be, I don't know, something worse." Later, when the visual record shows up that seems to prove that he is actually Gul Darhe'el, he has the chance to top it all. He gloats over the superiority of his race and the efficiency of the Cardassian killing machinery. He leaves out no opportunity to appear as hateful: "What you call genocide, I call a day's work." But the impression of a ruthless villain turns out to be very wrong. Marritza is not like the Cardassians we know, and not like comparable war criminals in human history either.
Once it is clear that he doesn't cover up his past to escape unscathed but, on the contrary, wants to be punished, the previous charade comes across as quite eccentric. Marritza is just too perfect in his role as the cowardly yet inconvincible Gul Darhe'el in the disguise of Marritza. He has altered his face to look like Darhe'el. Also, Marritza has totally interiorized the merciless attitude of the "Butcher of Gallitep", paradoxically an attitude that he strives to overcome. We only see and listen to the real Marritza, as opposed to the actor Marritza who plays Darhe'el, towards the end of the episode.
Well, Marritza's plan may be unlikely, bizarre and ultimately wrong. But it raises a couple of important points.
Marritza knows that his own guilt is only a small piece of the puzzle. And he should be aware that for the Cardassians accepting a collective guilt is not a viable way to achieve reconciliation with the Bajorans. Yet, it may be the only way that the Bajorans could accept as long as their memory of the Cardassian cruelties is fresh. And so Marritza fabricates his and his people's guilt for all Bajorans to see, and gives them someone to focus their hatred on. But collective guilt and collective punishment is a one-sided and ultimately racist concept. Marritza could have served his people with honesty, by telling the truth about what happened in Gallitep - what he did himself and what he witnessed and didn't try to prevent from happening. Instead of that he lies for the good cause of revealing the whole truth about the Cardassian crimes. But two wrongs don't make a right. You don't earn the respect or even the forgiveness of your enemies with false pretense, even if it is as spectacular as in Marritza's case whose intention it is to be executed as a scapegoat. The only reason why Marritza may be successful in spite of everything is ironically because the truth is revealed against his wishes, and some Bajorans may rethink their opinions on Cardassians in light of his compassionate repentance that would have remained unknown, had he been executed as "Gul Darhe'el".
Unlike other war criminals Marritza does not play down but overstates his guilt and is ready for all the consequences. But as laudable his intention is to help build a new Cardassia that acknowledges its failings, there is an insane arrogance in his plan. He ultimately seeks to be something like the Cardassian version of Jesus Christ, a Super-Cardassian whose suffering can earn redemption for his whole people. A self-imposed destiny that finds its fulfillment in a similar way as planned when Marritza is killed by a Bajoran. I also can't avoid the impression that he still takes a bit of pleasure, perhaps of a masochistic kind, in posing as the ruthless villain in a self-aggrandizing fashion, rather than as the scrupulous bureaucrat that he really was. We have to bear in mind that it just as if a lowly SS officer had posed as the overbearing Heinrich Himmler. Only when Marritza eventually breaks down in tears it becomes clear that his pretending to be Gul Darhe'el was an act of escaping from his unbearable life, rather than a real plan to accomplish something for his people. At least this is my impression. Considering how personal his transformation to Gul Darhe'el has been, including the cosmetic surgery, the patriotic motives are probably of secondary importance. But overall he remains inscrutable because we don't see the real Marritza until the final few minutes.
Kira goes through a quite interesting development in this episode. She is not any more fanatic about the matter than any other Bajoran who has survived the occupation. But it means a lot to Kira to lead the investigations in this case. Although on present-day Earth and probably in a regular criminal case in the Federation too her bias would be a reason to turn down the request, Sisko is okay with it. Kira admits she wants Marritza to be guilty of more than just managing files. She seeks revenge as Dax correctly suspects. And although Kira may have made up her mind after her talk with Dax, her initial motivation is affirmed when Marritza, now openly posing as Gul Darhe'el, appears as someone who deserves to die. She maintains her determination in denial as Odo is presenting various pieces of evidence that cast doubt on "Darhe'el's" story. Odo finally convinces her the man down in the holding cell can't be the "Butcher of Gallitep". Now she is prepared to listen to the true story with a more open mind. Still, her change of mind when Marritza breaks down comes a bit too suddenly. I would have expected her to be lenient with the man who is no villain after all. But Kira has too much sympathy with him than it could realistically be the case.
- Remarkable quote: "He's a Cardassian. That's reason enough." (Kainon, after stabbing Marritza)
- Remarkable facts:
- The Kobheerians are apparently members of the Federation, as Sisko mentions.
- Marritza initially pretends to have contracted the Pottrik Syndrome, which is similar to Kalla-Nohra.
Stardate not given: Keiko O'Brien is conducting class when Vedek Winn shows up and confronts her about her non-religious teachings. Using this as a platform Winn then calls for a boycott of the school and foments fervor against the Federation. Tensions between the Bajorans and Starfleet rise further, and a bomb destroys the classroom. In the meantime O'Brien is investigating the disappearance of his staff member Aquino, only to discover that he has been murdered by someone whom must have caught tampering with a runabout. O'Brien finds evidence that Neela, a Bajoran member of his staff, is the culprit. Vedek Bareil, Winn's rival in the election of the new Bajoran Kai, appears on the station, and Neela's attempt to kill him and escape with a runabout is foiled in the last moment. She was acting on behalf of Kai Winn, whose activities lured her opponent to the station. Yet, her involvement in the scheme remains unproven.
The first season closes with a story that continues where "Emissary" left, albeit now without any participation of the Prophets that are mentioned in the title. Instead of explicitly showing the essence of the Bajoran faith, this episode focuses on the believers and how their religious zeal is being exploited for a quite mundane political intrigue.
The perhaps most interesting aspect of the episode is how it tackles the clash of religion and science in schools (or rather the clash of their respective proponents). Creationism has long been an issue in US schools as I understand now. At the time the episode first aired I had no idea at all how fervent the dispute already was in the US. I think only the internet brought the issue (back) to Europe.
I like how the episode weaves together two major plot threads (Winn's agitation against Keiko's school, O'Brien's investigation of Aquino's death) and two minor ones (O'Brien's discomfort that Neela could become more than just a colleague, Sisko's acquaintance of Vedek Bareil). It is a slight letdown, however, that the story rushes to introduce as many as three new Bajoran characters, namely Neela, Winn and Bareil, which could have been done much more elegantly in the course of the preceding episodes. It is quite obvious that at this early stage of development the series was being written and produced in the form of single episodes, something that arguably worked better with the concept of TNG.
Our perception of Vedek Winn changes considerably in the course of the episode. Initially she appears to be a still rather decent person. It is clearly inappropriate how Winn suddenly appears in Keiko's classroom ("coincidentally" just as Keiko is talking about the "wormhole aliens") and calls her lessons into question. But there is no bigotry in what she is saying. After all we must concede that she may have been offended by Keiko's teachings. Later, however, Winn totally overstates the importance of her disagreement with Keiko when she calls for the boycott of the school, as if the candidate for the position of the Kai had nothing better to do than care about the salvation of half a dozen Bajoran kids. At this time we can imagine that this symbolic act of resisting the alien intruders may gain her much recognition in her orthodox order. But then it becomes clear that Winn is actually the driving force behind the bombing and that Neela is secretly working for her. Would Winn really go that far, just to defend her faith against one human woman, or just to win a few points over Bareil? It doesn't make very much sense at this point of the episode until Bareil comes to the station and Winn's true intention to get rid of the competitor altogether are revealed. I only wonder if she really hoped to keep her involvement a secret, and if she did take into account that Bareil would become a martyr, had he been murdered by a Bajoran fanatic, which would only weaken her own position.
Keiko O'Brien is basically just as uncompromising as Vedek Winn. And even if she were willing to include something about the Bajoran faith in her classes, she wouldn't be exactly the right person for that. The conflict may have been resolved, had Keiko agreed to a Bajoran vedek as a guest teacher. But while Winn certainly had no interest to settle their conflict, Keiko was probably not ready for it either, as in her view it would have watered down the truth that lies in science.
Commander Sisko is more open to the Bajoran religion than Keiko. On the one hand, this is no surprise, considering that he is more of a diplomat than probably any other Starfleet officer. And since he has become the Emissary, he has a commission from the Bajoran people just as well. Serving two masters at the same time requires a lot of compromises that Sisko is willing to make. But even when he is talking to Jake he maintains the position that he states publicly. Science and faith both have their place in the universe.
Major Kira's involvement in this episode could have been stronger, but it may have overburdened the episode that was already full of character conflicts. Still, I was hoping for her to play a more active role.
Something that gains a new significance after the attacks of 9/11 is how religious fanatics can appear as quite nice in their daily lives, and that they may not even need to dissemble, because quite possibly they really are nice people. This is how Neela is being portrayed, especially in her interaction with Miles O'Brien. Only when duty calls, the religious fanatics forget everything and become killer machines.
- Remarkable dialogue: "You've got to realize something, Jake. For over fifty years, the one thing that allowed the Bajorans to survive the Cardassian occupation was their faith. The Prophets were their only source of hope and courage." - "But there were no Prophets. They were just some aliens that you found in the wormhole." - "To those aliens, the future is no more difficult to see than the past. Why shouldn't they be considered Prophets?" - "Are you serious?" - "My point is, it's a matter of interpretation. It may not be what you believe, but that doesn't make it wrong. If you start to think that way, you'll be acting just like Vedek Winn, only from the other side. We can't afford to think that way, Jake. We'd lose everything we've worked for here." (Ben and Jake Sisko)
- Remarkable quote: "My philosophy is that there is room for all philosophies on this station." (Sisko)
- Rule of Acquisition #7: "Keep your ears open."