2.15: “Paradise”

First of all, this has nothing to do with the episode, but I feel like Sisko would approve: NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATS

Anyway.

This one was solid! Not particularly memorable, for me, really, but solid. It definitely had an Original Series vibe to it.

Gail Strickland, who plays Alixus, did a really interesting job, I thought — she gave the character a certain charisma that made her believable as a cult leader. I loved, for instance, Alixus’s insistence that oh, no, the people in the village aren’t her followers, they’re all here of their own free will, because they think this is a better way of life; it felt very true to cults/abuse situations, that insistence that since a person is technically, physically, capable of leaving, there clearly can’t actually be anything wrong here. And the shot from the end, of the unhappy-looking children, who of course had no say in whether the community remained or not, was an interesting note to close on, rather than wrapping everything up neatly.

I have several concerns right from the beginning

So, Sisko and O’Brien are kind of a weird choice for a survey team, right? Like. Shouldn’t Dax be at least one of the people on this team? You know, the science officer? And come on, you saw that there was a field that interfered with technology, so you…both decided to beam down together, leaving no one on the ship to try and boost communication or transporter signals or whatever? SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE.

Also, to be honest, I feel like their first sign that they should be suspicious of this little separatist community was that their ship was named the Santa Maria.

Family talk

I like that we get the first hints, here, of the later conflict for the Siskos around Ben’s assumption that Jake will be going into Starfleet. Well, I use “conflict” in more of the literary sense than the interpersonal one — one of the things I like about it is that it’s actually resolved within a few episodes, and in a pretty healthy, realistic way: Sisko is somewhat surprised, and perhaps a little disappointed, that Jake doesn’t want to go into Starfleet after all, but he also recognizes that whatever disappointment he might be feeling is on himself for simply assuming that his son would want to follow the same path he did. All these little interactions and smaller-scale conflicts make the Siskos’ relationship feel emotionally real and grounded in a way that one might not immediately expect from a space opera.

(…which makes it all the more jarring that the “brothers” Sisko mentions are almost never mentioned again, that I recall. Of course, the implication from his remarks to Odo in “The Alternate” seemed to be that his father was dead, too, and Joseph Sisko appears in the show later, so maybe they hadn’t finalized all the details on Sisko’s backstory yet.)

Horniness rankings

There’s actually a surprising amount of horniness in this one, upon consideration. Like, the way Sisko and O’Brien are immediately greeted with “two more strong, healthy men”? Horny. Dax talking about how she learned rope tricks? Horny. The fact that there are apparently shorts under the Starfleet uniform? Strikes me as weirdly horny TBH. Me when Sisko calmly hands over his gardening implements to Alixus and she’s clearly starting to worry that he’s not gonna break? Horny.

2 thoughts on “2.15: “Paradise”

  1. I also thought this was a very solid episode. I think when it first aired, they played up the cult angle (Branch Davidians were recently in the news) but to me it’s less a story about “a cult” (which is easy to caricature – although the episode doesn’t really do that) than it is about one person’s philosophy of embracing an authentic identity through primitivism. I find this kind of thought really fascinating, both in real life and in fiction.

    After all, we currently live in an era in which it is possible to vaccinate children and protect them against diseases that have caused great suffering and death, and some people choose voluntarily not to do that because they see it as representing a way of life they don’t like. For this reason the episode’s storyline with Meg hit very hard. Alixus says: “We’re doing everything we can for her,” and Sisko immediately fires back: “No we’re not.” And of course, despite the colonists feeling optimistic about “a new combination of herbs” to treat her disease, she dies.

    Interesting too that the episode sets up parts of Sisko’s backstory that one could imagine making him sympathetic to Alixus’s group. We learn – I think for the first time? – that his father runs (“ran,” past tense, they say here) a restaurant and that he grew his own produce. (The episode doesn’t bring up that O’Brien’s mother also was a chef who used authentic ingredients, which we learned way back in TNG’s “The Wounded” – it should have.) Think also about how Sisko’s career in Starfleet – exploring the galaxy with technology – intersected with an adversary that literally was humanoid embrace of technology embodied, and that intersection resulted in the death of his wife. Although the episode doesn’t dwell for long on the idea that Sisko might find this way of life appealing, it isn’t totally absent, either. The difference of course is that Sisko can smell coercion – the exact opposite of how Starfleet officers command loyalty – first with simple observations of what’s going on and later when Alixus screws up bigtime by sending a woman to … rub oil on him. Not subtle.

    That unsubtle approach ultimately I think is where the episode errs – it’s not a big problem, but it steers the plot too fast so it can wrap up within a single episode, which I think was a mistake. This drama would have worked better and been more effective in two parts. That also would have enabled a more satisfying conclusion. What they gave us was solid for a single episode, but I wanted to see more of the colonists grappling with what it meant to have had a decade of their lives stolen; that might have made Joseph’s statement that the colonists had, indeed, discovered something new about themselves there more meaningful and earned.

    In unanswered questions, how the hell did Alixus or her son beam up to the Rio Grande without a Starfleet communicator? Neither Sisko nor O’Brien ever lost theirs, that I saw, at least not until the end. If they could gain control of the ship to the extent that they could command it to fly off into the sun at warp (which seems bloody unlikely) why didn’t they just set it to self-destruct in orbit? (I suppose that might have left debris that someone could have detected.)

    Finally, the show continues to make brave choices with Jake, explicitly telling us that he doesn’t want to join Starfleet – a major swing from TNG where the young character’s only real identity was wanting to be a Starfleet officer like his biological father and chosen father figure (at least until later on in the show). I hadn’t remembered that this was set up so early, and the payoff later in the series is rich indeed.

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    1. After all, we currently live in an era in which it is possible to vaccinate children and protect them against diseases that have caused great suffering and death, and some people choose voluntarily not to do that because they see it as representing a way of life they don’t like. For this reason the episode’s storyline with Meg hit very hard.

      Oh, that is a really interesting point, and a connection I hadn’t made. I also really liked your comments about Sisko’s past and career, and why a low-tech way of life might resonate with him, minus the “coerced into it by a charismatic extremist leader” angle.

      And agreed on the wrap-up feeling a bit rushed — if not two episodes, I would have really liked to have seen a return to this colony later, to check back in and see whether they’ve developed a healthier dynamic.

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