Synopsis: The first attempt at a joint operation between Bajor, Cardassia, and the Federation — building a communications relay in the Gamma Quadrant — faces setbacks after the discovery of an ancient Bajoran prophecy that seems to predict the effort will result in the wormhole’s collapse. Kira and Sisko have to reckon with his status as the Emissary in the process.
This is arguably not a particularly important episode, but I really enjoyed it — there are some great character moments, and of course, you all know how I feel about Cardassian drama.
It’s been way too long since we had some good Sisko-Kira stuff
First of all, as a Jewish woman, the vagueness of Trakor’s prophecy was really delightful to me, given that Torah study typically involves a room full of very intelligent, well-read people vehemently disagreeing over what a few lines mean, and usually ending up with even more possible interpretations than when we started.
This is perhaps the first time the show has really addressed Sisko and Kira’s relationship vis-à-vis the whole, you know, “he’s a representative of her gods” thing. Which is a little surprising, from a dramatic perspective, because boy is there a lot of character-exploration potential there (and this was, apparently, originally intended as a second season episode, but they couldn’t really get it to work and shelved it for a bit). On the other hand, as someone whose natural instinct, when faced with a problem, is to ignore it and hope it goes away until it becomes so huge as to be unavoidable, it was arguably extremely realistic.
Hell, more generally, this is the first time in awhile that we’ve really gotten much meaty one-on-one Sisko-Kira stuff at all, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. A lot of the first season is pretty forgettable for me, but I adore the development of their relationship, how they start to learn to trust each other, even come to like one another. But I also feel like this episode suggests that perhaps the reason they haven’t grown to be closer friends is that they weren’t really ready to wrestle with what his being the Emissary means — for either of them.
Sisko is, if not a full-on atheist, at least very nonreligious, and seems to share the general Federation stance that religion doesn’t really belong in public life. He certainly doesn’t believe that the entities living in the wormhole are gods, and scrupulously avoids interfering in Bajoran internal affairs. In fact, upon consideration, prior to this, I’m pretty sure Winn is the main, if not the only, person who’s made much of a point of calling him “Emissary”. Kira, meanwhile, spent most of her life living under the rule of an alien race — one who invaded her home on a pretense of helping them — and, after driving them out, has found herself working alongside another bunch of aliens saying they’re here to help…except that this time, one of those aliens has been tapped by her gods as their representative.
At the beginning of this season, Sisko was surprised to find that he had come to consider the station, “this Cardassian monstrosity”, his home. Throughout the rest of the show, he becomes more and more comfortable with the Bajoran people — and specifically with his role as Emissary — to the point that by season six’s “Waltz”, when they needed Dukat to make a threat that would truly shake Sisko to his core, they went “from this day forward, Bajor is dead. All of Bajor. And this time, even their Emissary won’t be able to save them.” As with his thinking of DS9 as home, I’d argue that this season really marks the beginning of Sisko’s growing identification with Bajor — this season, and perhaps even this very episode.
Cardassian drama, with bonus Cardassian cultural background
First of all, I really love Ulani and Gilora? They’re absolutely delightful and I wish we’d seen them again. In the midst of all the suspicion on all sides (and, I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bajor and the Federation both have plenty of reason not to trust the Cardassians), it’s really lovely to see something where all three sides really are operating in good faith. I love me some Cardassian intrigue, but having the scientists be exactly what they seemed — with even Gilora’s dickishness towards O’Brien being the result of a misunderstanding because she thought they were flirting — was just…nice. Part of the goal was, in fact, to remind people that there are Cardassians who are interested in reaching out to the Federation, that they aren’t all a monolith; they were drawing on US-Soviet scientific cooperation for inspiration.
We also get further hints of the divisions in the Cardassian government; while I recalled that Dejar was an Obsidian Order agent, I had forgotten the role she ultimately played. Initially, I assumed she was just there as a handler for Ulani and Gilora — and I got the impression they thought she was, as well — and the reveal that her goal was to undermine the new treaty was a great way to move along the subplot of the Central Command-Obsidian Order divide.
I also found it an interesting detail that Cardassians view women as better suited for science and engineering than men. Ulani says that the Science Ministry is under the jurisdiction of the Central Command, but since they don’t have official titles and aren’t wearing uniforms, I’m assuming they’re civilian employees, since you can count on one hand the number of female Cardassian military officers we see over the course of TNG and DS9 combined — and those were on TNG, I believe, with only one ever having a speaking role; I’m not sure we ever see any on DS9. Anyway, in light of all that, it’s interesting to me that the Obsidian Order seems to be pretty evenly split, gender-wise; there’s Dejar in this episode, Korinas in “Defiant”, and Iliana Ghemor, but there was also Entek in “Second Skin”, Enabran Tain, and, of course, Garak.
Also — and I feel I should be congratulated for making it this far into the post before bringing this up — all I am saying is that, in light of the fact that demonstrating “overt irritability” towards someone can be, among Cardassians, a sign that you want to bone, Dukat’s gleeful reaction to Sisko’s thinly-veiled dislike during this exchange in “The Maquis, Part 1” makes a lot more sense:
Dukat: Education is power. Joy is vulnerability.
Dukat: Your reaction surprises me, Commander. I thought you would understand. Of all the humans I’ve met, you strike me as the most joyless and the least vulnerable.
Sisko: I am when I’m with you.
[Dukat laughs, apparently delighted]
Dukat: Well said. But in truth, I’m looking forward to getting to know you better on this journey.
He absolutely, 100% thought Sisko was flirting with him. End of story. I will not be hearing arguments.
- Julian, telling Kira all about why Morn was in the Infirmary sick seems extremely unethical. Does the Federation not have some kind of HIPAA equivalent? And he’s doing it right in the middle of the Promenade! My mother, who spent years as an ER nurse, was appalled.
- I honestly love everything about Gilora and O’Brien’s scenes together? Both the actors are just an absolute delight.
- Ditto Ulani and Gilora’s arrival on the station; the shared sheepish discomfort between Ulani and Sisko was just…oddly charming to me?
- On the topic of that scene, when Ulani says that she’s been getting calls from a bunch of guls “wanting to emphasize how important this mission is”, that definitely includes Dukat calling to tell her to say hi to Sisko for him, right? Right. Glad we’re all clear. (I assume he will also be calling her afterwards to ask if Sisko and/or Kira mentioned him.)
- First and foremost, of course, Gilora for O’Brien.
- Dukat’s horniness for Sisko is such that I managed to bring it up twice in an episode where he doesn’t even appear, so honorable mention for him.
- I feel like Ulani may have been low-key into Kira and/or Dax?