This episode is interesting for me, because while it does its job — having Our Heroes encounter the Dominion directly for the first time, and making it clear that the Dominion will be a direct threat in the future — those parts aren’t actually what I enjoy most about it.
Hmm. I…don’t really have much to say about this one? There are some good Kira moments, and it’s overall a pretty solid episode, but for whatever reason it just doesn’t really do much for me; most of my notes are just about specific lines or interactions I liked.
So this is the conclusion to the show’s first real multi-parter! And it’s not too bad, actually. I kind of feel like the pacing of the three episodes together is a bit off, but that may also be that it’s been 26 years since it was made, and after years of Peak TV™ my expectations around story beats are different.
OK, so my initial thought, actually, is that it feels a lot like Mullibok is meant to be younger? Like, the reluctant respect and affection that develops between him and Kira feels a bit like he was meant to be a bit younger, and for some attraction to develop as well? Apparently the initial vision of the character was as someone significantly “more manipulative and less likable”, so maybe that’s why it feels a bit odd to me.
But more to the point, I FRIGGIN’ LOVE BAJORAN INTERNAL POLITICS. I love, love, love that the rebuilding of Bajor is not a neat, simple, smooth process. I love that people have different ideas about what it will mean to move forward, to build a new Bajor and to live in it, that there are costs to everything, and that there aren’t always clear answers about who’s right. In “The Storyteller”, Kira and Sisko discussed a Bajoran saying, that “the land and the people are one”, but that was really more appropriate, thematically, for this episode.
(This also makes it a bit annoying that every place we see on Bajor seems to have a sunny Mediterranean climate. I mean, I get the Doylist reasons, and Star Trek has frequently just sort of ignored the whole thing where a habitable planet is unlikely to have one single climate all over anyway, let alone a single culture. But it still kinda bugs me.)
This is another one where the central plot — Weird Space Thing of the Week — is something I can take or leave, but as a vehicle for some great character moments, it’s a delight.
I do have some questions about this particular Weird Space Thing. Primarily: no one ever noticed this before? The Cardassians came down so hard on Bajoran religion and culture in their efforts to “civilize” them, no one ever noticed that this idyllic little village had this weird superstition completely unlike anyplace else on Bajor? No one else on Bajor knows about this or has ever tried to help/investigate? (Come on, you can’t tell me ghost/cryptid hunters wouldn’t know about this and be investigating. Also, good lord where is my spinoff about ghost/cryptid hunters in the Star Trek universe?)
It also seems a bit odd that the chief medical officer on the station is being called for a two-hour trip to Bajor for a medical emergency — I get that Bajor’s still recovering and the infrastructure is shaky, but the Sirah’s condition doesn’t really seem to be anything particularly unusual; there must be someone closer than two hours away who can take care of him. For that matter, aren’t there other medical staff on the station? What if someone has a heart attack back on DS9 in the few days Bashir’s gone? Hell, what if someone just falls and breaks an arm while he’s asleep? This is a recipe for burnout, Starfleet! Teach your officers how to delegate!!!
(I know the village’s magistrate was pretty vague and just told them that they were in danger of extinction, so Bashir assumes it’s some kind of disease, but also…no one asked more follow-up questions? Or, like, thinks to alert the Bajoran government, who are dealing with trying to rebuild their society, that they have what sounds initially like a potential outbreak of some devastating disease on their hands? MY QUESTIONS STAND.)
But back to the topic of character development
Like “Battle Lines”, this feels like another good use of Bashir. Which is to say: they’re embracing the fact that he can be annoying as hell. I’ve mentioned before that it can feel, early on, like we’re meant to find Bashir’s inability to take a hint sort of cute and charming, which just tends to make it all the more irritating (and, when it involves his crush on Jadzia, flat-out gross and creepy). They lean into it here, however, with him being at least as annoying as he is helpful (the way they call attention to the rank difference feels like a very deliberate acknowledgement of the way Bashir’s coming on so strongly makes things really uncomfortable and awkward, for instance). Somewhat paradoxically, the fact that the text is admitting that yes, he’s being moderately obnoxious makes Bashir a lot more tolerable.
Bashir and O’Brien’s relationship will evolve a lot over the course of the series, and it’s a lot of fun, knowing that they end up as BFFs, seeing O’Brien struggling valiantly to hide his low-key hostility. WHOMST AMONG US HAS NEVER BEEN THERE, O’BRIEN? I believe that is what the kids today call a “big mood”.
(It’s also kind of fun, knowing that the primary reason their friendship was pushed heavily later was because the showrunners found out about Garak/Bashir shippers, panicked, and started avoiding putting them in scenes together, given that a large part of the fandom then proceeded to start shipping Bashir/O’Brien. I was never really into that pairing myself, but I *am* into doing things out of spite, so I wholeheartedly support the effort.)
The B plot
JAKE AND NOG ARE SUCH KIDS, BLESS THEM BOTH!!!! That’s most of what I’ve got. I was, however, weirdly delighted by Odo’s little smirk after he chases the kids from their hangout spot above the Promenade. You like the kids, Odo, don’t deny it.
Just. In a world where a twelve-year-old Black child with a toy was gunned down, and the shooting was ruled justified, with many, many voices rising up to defend his murderer because hey, he looked much older and was clearly a scary thug — in a world where the President of the United fucking States stands by his call for the state to murder a group of Black teenagers for a crime they did not commit — it feels really, really important to have this portrayal of a fourteen-year-old Black boy who’s treated by the narrative as just that: a fourteen-year-old boy. Jake Sisko is an awkward teenager who wants to play games, look at cute girls, and hang out with his best friend. He occasionally grieves for his dead mother, fights with said best friend, and needs advice from his father. He’s a kid. And it’s incredibly depressing and infuriating that, nearly twenty-five years after this episode aired, it’s still unusual for a Black teenager to be allowed to act his age.
I also appreciate how, for all that the plot with Varis isn’t treated as anything particularly out of the ordinary, it’s also, when I spend more than a few seconds thinking about it, completely brutal: Varis doesn’t have parents to turn to for help, like Nog and Jake do, because her parents were murdered. She’s a child, and she’s negotiating land rights on behalf of her people because anyone else who could do so was murdered. It’s a really lovely example of what makes Deep Space Nine so memorable: it would be so, so easy to let Varis’s storyline just be straight melodrama, but it’s not. She’s a sympathetic figure, but she’s also flawed; she makes missteps and struggles and, like many other Bajorans, she’s learning how to live in this new world they’re trying to build.
I have one more question
Why does Odo need a bucket, anyway? Can’t he just…be goo on the floor? Maybe he gets crud in him, like when you have to pick lint and cat hair off your clothes. Or…does he not have quarters? I guess if he’s living in the office, it’s pretty rude to other people working there to just be sleeping on the floor.
- Nog’s entirely age-appropriate crush on Varis is pretty friggin’ adorable.
- Bashir is channeling his horniness into enjoying the drama that plays out before him, and it’s also pretty hilarious.
Okay, this feels more like the show that Deep Space Nine is going to become, I think. As with “Q-Less”, the focus is entirely on the characters, with the external plot serving their storylines, rather than the other way around.
My last rewatch was with my then-roommate Mindi, who loves Nog and Rom, and when I yelled “THEY’RE SUCH GOOD BOYS!!!!” over Jake and Nog I got all nostalgic for sitting on her couch, trying to avoid being attacked by one of her cats, and was sad that she was not here to watch it and yell with me.
For real, though, I feel like Nog has one of the more underrated arcs on the show. He starts as a pretty one-note character, a plot device for Sisko’s parenting arc, and by the end he’s the first Ferengi in Starfleet and dealing with PTSD.
(Also: I get that the Ferengi were concerned about Federation ~indoctrination~, and the fact that a woman was the authority figure in the classroom. But they’re not illiterate! WHY CAN’T NOG READ, this is concerning!!!!! What the hell, Rom? Was it supposed to be his mother’s job to teach him, and since she’s [footage not found], Rom just figured “oh well”? I HAVE QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS.)
Speaking of characters being fleshed out more
This was the first episode where I really felt like Jadzia was recognizable as the character she’ll become over the course of the show. Initially, they’re trying convey Dax’s centures of life experience by trying to make Farrell play Space Galadriel, which is frankly a misuse of Farrell’s strengths. As they move away from that, letting Jadzia have more of her own personality, Dax shows up instead as a confidence and self-assurance beyond Jadzia’s years, and she’s playful and adventurous instead.
That transition starts for real in the second season, but Farrell’s performance here hints at it. Which is to say, I love the following things in her scene with Sisko:
- The way she turns her chair backwards like the Cool Teacher
- The fact that she admits her parenting advice might not actually be all that helpful
- The fact that she just…stays there, eating Jake’s dinner, when Sisko leaves??? EVERYONE ON THIS STATION IS SUCH A MESS AND I LOVE IT
Also, O’Brien’s “what, what? oh no” face at Sisko’s “Your daughter’s three, wait until she’s fourteen” is glorious.
OK but yikes though
WHEW, the whole bit about the Ferengi being jazzed about doing business in the Gamma Quadrant because no one there will know yet that they can’t be trusted, and they can break their word with impunity. Like. W H E W. Got it, Star Trek, they’re untrustworthy and suspicious, and are naturally greedy businessmen, and they’re also short with comically oversized head appendages! I get it. I get it, Star Trek, and it’s not great! IT’S NOT GREAT, STAR TREK.
(Hell, it makes Nog’s illiteracy even weirder and more unbelievable. How are we supposed to trick the goyim with all our learning and fancy contracts full of loopholes only we know how to exploit if we can’t read or write those contracts? At least keep your offensive stereotypes consistent, Trek!)
- Wallace Shawn as Zek is just chef’s kiss
- Quark going full Don Corleone is delightful. Armin Shimerman is ALL IN on this show and the fact that Quark is given more to do than just be a
JewishFerengi stereotype is one of the things that makes the other Ferengi appearances bearable.
- I also like that where Nog is concerned, Sisko is occasionally inclined to…something almost like NIMBY-ism? The tension he’s struggling with feels very real: yes, he absolutely believes in the Federation’s ideals about diplomacy and reaching out to different people, but in practice, dealing with Ferengi in his daily life, it’s hard for him. I also like that this tension isn’t something that’s quickly resolved — a couple of seasons down the line, he’s reluctant to recommend Nog for Starfleet Academy, immediately assuming that it’s some sort of prank or scam.
One last thing
“You don’t GRAB power, you accumulate it quietly, without anyone noticing!” SERIOUSLY STAR TREK WHAT THE FUCK. Like, granted, actual fucking Nazis weren’t being called “very fine people” by the President of the United States when this was airing, so while it’s aged poorly, it might be slightly more bearable in an environment where white nationalism isn’t increasingly mainstream. But still, good lord.
- The Nagus, which, you know what, good for him. I also really love how pretty much from the beginning, Deep Space Nine’s holosuites are for porn. Jake and Sisko were in a fishing program in the pilot, but since that was on a starship instead of the station, it’s the exception that proves the rule.
- Quark, particularly for the special pleasure he takes in trolling Odo about his new status as Nagus, good lord, I love it.
- Dax, for Sisko’s aubergine stew, apparently? I mean, it sounds great, but come on, Dax, boundaries!!! Although Sisko doesn’t seem to mind, so who am I to judge?