In which we meet a new crew, The Sisko has some ‘splainin’ to do, and Dr Bashir commences being smarmy.
Memory Alpha says: On the edge of explored space, a new crew takes command of an abandoned space station and makes an incredible discovery that will change the galaxy. (Series Premiere) (For detailed information on the episode, please click the Memory Alpha link.)
I’m now going to hop sideways and forward in time and get stuck into DS9. My plan is to do two or three episodes of each series in a row, alternating as I go along. This blog, by the way, is my summer holiday project. I had wanted to foster kittens from the SPCA again, but because I’m in the process of finding and moving to a new flat, that wasn’t practical. I tried to think of something else that would be good fun and take my mind off the lack of kittens, and noticed that I was tending to write enormously long comments in the Weekend Watch-along posts on ontd_startrek/tng. So I decided to make it into a blog and see how far I got. It isn’t as much of an achievement as giving a kitten a good start in life (sorry, Tasha and Data, I know that’s what you’d have liked me to do) but it will be enjoyable.
Now a slice of personal history (bear with me, or if you can’t, skip to the proper start of the review). When TNG first appeared on TV in New Zealand, I was still a child on the brink of adolescence – what nowadays they would call a tween, but we didn’t have rubbish like that when I was young. I watched it because I knew my dad liked the original Star Trek (which I’d never had an opportunity to see, this being in the days when you had to hope a channel would rerun something in order to see it after its first airing) and I partly wanted to enjoy things he enjoyed in order to feel close to him, partly thought he was just generally a good guide to things I would enjoy, as we had some similar tastes. By the time DS9 came along, I was a teenager and much more opinionated. I wanted to give it a chance because it was Star Trek, but at the same time resented it for not being TNG. I didn’t have the necessary perspective to bear with it through the somewhat weak first two seasons, both because I started watching TNG before my critical faculties had really formed and didn’t realise it used to be quite poor, and because we remember more recent things more vividly. If you compare early DS9 with early TNG, it is objectively better (just think how much less you cringe during ‘If Wishes Were Horses’ than during ‘The Naked Now’), but if you compare it with mature TNG, because that’s what your silly little head is full of, it obviously comes off worse.
So I drifted off from DS9 and away from Star Trek generally for a bit. I got into anime and Babylon 5. Original Star Trek finally showed up in reruns (this was at the stage when it was available on VHS but DVDs were not yet common, so buying a complete series was a major investment of shelf space as well as money) so I got to watch that and loved it – oh, man, there was a period while I was in uni when TV2 or 3 (I forget, I have no loyalty)’s Saturday afternoon lineup was MacGyver, TOS, Babylon 5. That ruled. I went to the TNG movies through to Insurrection, but wisely avoided Nemesis (it’s not an original thought, but if you could alter history so that Insurrection was an episode and ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ was a movie, we’d all be better off). I think I do remember watching ‘Trials & Tribble-ations’ when it aired because it was the TOS crossover episode, but of course I didn’t get the full impact of it, not knowing the DS9 characters well and being somewhat confused about why Worf was there.
For quite a few years I didn’t really think of myself as a Star Trek fan (I gave both Voyager and Enterprise a chance when they first appeared, but meh), and somewhere along the line I turned into a Lost fan, specifically the variety of Lost fan who doesn’t give a FUCK who Kate chooses, wants Jack to DIAF, and is generally all about the mysteries and the Others and John Locke and Ben Linus, and being sad that the women were always reduced to men’s lovers or mothers, not people who were important in their own right. You can probably extrapolate from that why I was disgruntled with the end of the show. (Obviously you need to interpose JJTrek somewhere in this paragraph. I did enjoy that, especially Spock Prime, who just dignified the whole thing with his presence, in the same way that Johnny Cash’s incredibly weathered voice turned the rather self-pitying ‘Hurt’ into a song with real depth and poignancy, which leads me to THIS.
I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. It’s overweeningly slashy and angsty and I can hear original-recipe Spock saying ‘To hurt oneself to see if one still feels is illogical; it is possible to test sensation without injury. Furthermore, I do not have an empire of dirt,’ while McCoy in the background grins and forwards the link to everyone he knows, but I love it. Now I will close this parenthesis and maybe one day in the foreseeable future say something substantive about DS9.)
So! Lost was over! The ending sucked! They gave Richard a crappy ‘romantic’ backstory and he wasn’t even in the smug WASP church at the end (nor was Miles and I freaking love Miles)! Why was Jacob such an idiot? Why was the Man in Black written as a sympathetic and tragic figure when played by Titus Welliver but as an evil asshole when played by Terry O’Quinn (the shots of his death are so cold)? What the fuck was David? Incidentally, if you want to read a brilliant reworking of Season Six to be far more satisfactory, go here. Read that after my blog though, okay? And I had a freaking awful chest infection, which meant I was off work for weeks and getting bored. I spent a lot of time on the Something Awful forums, where the consensus in the Star Trek thread was that DS9 was the best Trek. I was a bit surprised by that, but decided to see what they meant, so I got hold of DS9 and marathonned it.
Oh my gosh! That was awesome! That was awesome! I had some initial cognitive dissonance because my brain had to reassign the names ‘Benjamin’ and ‘Miles,’ but once I was past that, booyah. May I just say that the Sisko’s symbolic baseball kicks Dogen’s symbolic baseball’s arse.
So now I am a DS9 fan and this blog is happening.
The Proper Start of the Review
Emissary begins with a scrolling text crawl that might remind you a bit of another successful series with ‘star’ in the title. It recounts the basic premise of ‘Best of Both Worlds’ from TNG, then briskly takes us on board one of the ships that faced Locutus at Wolf 359. There’s a Vulcan captain (the same actor will later play Martok and Laas), a black human first officer, one of those blue guys (Bolians? I’ll go with Bolian), and they are not doing well. The shields get totalled and the bridge is ruined. The Bolian and the first officer survive and quickly move to get the civilians to safety. The first officer is looking desperately for Jennifer and Jake, his wife and little boy. He finds Jake first, unconscious but unharmed… but then Jennifer turns out to be pinned under fallen girders from the ceiling.
The Bolian joins him, scans Jennifer with a tricorder, and reports that she is dead – there’s nothing they can do, and it’s time to go. The first officer hands Jake off to him, but in his grief and shock can’t handle leaving Jennifer, and has to be bodily dragged away to the escape shuttle, where he finds Jake again and holds him tight. There is a really neat transition from the way the shuttle is jouncing around while still attached to the doomed ship to an eerie stillness as it is released into space. As they drift away, the officer gazes out the window, sees the ship still holding his wife’s body explode, and stares beyond it to the horrible inhuman bulk of the Borg cube. We hates it; we hates it forever. And scene.
Go look at this picture. I love Brandon Bird’s art, and would give a good deal to see more Renaissance-style historical paintings from the Star Trek universe. I’m going to shift into more of my commentary style now, with less summary; it would be better for you to watch the episode than for me to try to narrate it.
Now it’s three years later, because DS9 does not shilly-shally. In an idyllic rural setting, the officer (I don’t think his name’s actually been spoken yet, unless I missed it in the bridge sequence, but you know he’s the Sisko and so do I, so I’ll cut out this ‘officer’ business) walks along a covered bridge and joins Jake, who is sittin’ and fishin’. The light in this scene is so soft-focus and gauzy it’s almost twee. So they talk about where they’re going, and Sisko slightly inaccurately promises Jake there will be lots of kids. Well, there’ll be Nog. And Molly. And some other Bajoran kids who are mostly in the background not speaking. Will that do? Jake is wearing Space Dungarees with one strap hanging off his shoulder like Huck Finn or something. I like the way that, as they leave the holodeck, Sisko’s arm is round Jake’s shoulders and Jake’s is round his dad’s waist. One of my favourite things about Sisko is how he’s portrayed as a very affectionate father. He frequently hugs and kisses his son and neither of them is at all self-conscious about it. Good role modelling, Sisko.
Our first view of DS9 is over Jake and Sisko’s shoulders. I love the design of DS9, how effectively un-Federation it looks. Now we’re into the opening credits animation. I’ve talked about how much I love the TNG theme’s sense of adventure and exhilaration. I love the DS9 theme’s sense of grandeur and a certain austerity or melancholy. It really does give me a little frisson up my spine.
Sisko’s opening narration fills us in on the Cardassian withdrawal, O’Brien’s new job, and the Enterprise’s presence. Trying to work out how the events of this episode dovetail with ‘Birthright’ parts one and two, from TNG, could give you a little headache. Is Dr Bashir right now on the Enterprise gushing over Data and jump-starting his dreams? (I wish Julian and Data could have spent more time together; I think they would make wonderful friends. I further wish that there had been more crossover between TNG and DS9, particularly because it’s just nonsensical that the Enterprise had so little involvement in the Dominion War. I want an episode with a holosuite double-booking oh-well-we’d-better-compromise mash-up of Julian Bashir, Secret Agent and Sherlock Holmes; you know it would be adorable. [They think something has gone terribly awry when they encounter a supervillain adversary in the game that wasn’t part of the program; it turns out to be Garak, who is mildly annoyed that Julian blew off their weekly lunch date to play with the Enterprise nerds, and has decided to mess with him.] I should close this parenthesis before it devours the paragraph.) The station looks like it had an even wilder party than the Tsiolkovsky. My dear, dear O’Brien, Sisko and Jake enter through those awesome steampunk cogwheel airlock doors. O’Brien exposits, we get our first look at Quark and his family, and our first brush with mystical Bajoran religion.
Keiko isn’t even in this episode yet and she’s already complaining. O’Brien’s pronunciation of Kumamoto is actually pretty good to my ears – he’s got the vowel sounds right! I start liking Jake as he not so much complains as disbelievingly points out that there’s nothing to sleep on but a cushion on the floor (and probably Gul Dukat peed on that before leaving – I presume the Siskos’ apartment is Dukat’s old quarters). Contrasting this with the pilot of TNG, which was so eager for us to be impressed by the beauty of the new ship and all the whizzo things it could do, is lovely fun. If Enterprise is a beautiful lady, Terok Nor/DS9 is… is… a raddled old tart?
Sisko has a meeting with Picard to go to, which obviously doesn’t please him. There’s a lovely father-and-son bit when Jake whines slightly about the borked replicator. Sisko beckons him over with an idiosyncratic little two-hand movement, and O’Brien moves off, realising this is private. Sisko tells Jake they’ll have to rough it for a bit, and Jake reluctantly says ‘okay.’ Sisko imitates his martyr voice back at him, and pets his face, smiling fondly, while Jake gives him the petulant child side-eye. It took a long time, in my eyes, for Avery Brooks to really find Benjamin Sisko and make him a believable, compelling man (growing a beard helped), but he always had the daddy stuff right. Oh, and I’ll just briefly note that at this stage Sisko is wearing a TNG-style two-piece uniform, while O’Brien is in the new DS9 jumpsuit – and I am happy to report that he has already pushed his sleeves up. I love what a navvy O’Brien is.
In the command centre, Sisko comments on Cardassian architecture – the prefect’s office is up a short flight of steps so that others literally have to look up to him. I would just like to add to this that on the actual designs for this set, the area O’Brien mostly works in is called The Pit. Sisko comments on the unusual warmth, and O’Brien explains that the AC is stuck at 32ºC. In context this just seems like the climate control is broken, or maybe the Cardassians made it hot to be dicks to the new guys, but we later find out that Cardassians prefer a hot dry climate and are chilly in temperatures we find mild, so I enjoy this detail.
O’Brien stereotypes Bajoran women as difficult before Sisko goes up to the office to meet my favourite Star Trek woman, Kira. (It was, at one stage, going to be Ro Laren from TNG. I don’t actually know why they changed it, maybe because they wanted to do different things with Kira’s backstory than what they’d established about Ro. I often feel like the writers successfully did with Kira what they clumsily tried to do with Tasha, creating a damaged but fiercely brave and idealistic woman. Maybe she just had better help with her stunts, but Nana Visitor is always more plausible when kicking people’s asses than Denise Crosby was, too.) She has an awful frumpy haircut, sort of sub-Dana Scully, and she’s wearing the first iteration of her oddly frequently updated uniform.
Kira is pissy about the Federation administration situation, but she totally has a point, and this establishes one of the most important elements of DS9’s greatness: good people can disagree strongly, without one of them inevitably being proven wrong, and without either of them being possessed by a conflict-enabling alien intelligence. Some people see this, along with Section 31 (shh! secret squirrel), as a violation of Gene’s Vision. I see it as more of a correction of one of Gene’s mistakes, honestly. It makes for a better drama. Voyager has a premise perfect for sustained and compelling conflict between the Maquis and Starfleet crews, but they abandoned that early on because they wanted to restore Gene’s Vision, and that’s a big part of why Voyager is boring – not to mention wildly out of step with the tone of TV drama in the 1990s, when paranoia, cynicism and conspiracies were so hot right now (which makes sense of Section 31, to me – basically, the X-Files influence).
Now we get to meet Odo, yay, hi Odo! We’re also meeting Nog, who is helping some alien in a hoodie rip off one of the damaged Promenade shops (I think it’s what was later established as the assayer’s office). Odo gelatinously pwns the thief, meets Sisko, and now we get Quark! Hi Quark! I’m digging this because DS9 has so many characters that I love, and it’s fun to see them for the first time again in anticipation of what’s coming. In TNG I only love Data (and retroactively O’Brien). Sisko doubtless endears himself to Odo by being a hardass and putting Nog in the brig. He also shows an interestingly one-eyed view of legal history by referring to plea bargaining as a Ferengi tradition. While all this has been going on, Picard is getting impatient, so Sisko has to go see him.
This scene on the Enterprise is really interesting. (For one thing, Patrick Stewart mispronounces Bajor as Ba-ZHOR. Perhaps that’s French for Bajor.) For Picard, his experience as Locutus is a trauma three years in the past; for Sisko, because of his grief and anger, it’s still present. Picard was as much a victim of the Borg as Jennifer was, but because he was the face of the Borg attacking Wolf 359, Sisko can’t see him that way. I would also like to say that I admire the way DS9 uses the Big Bad of TNG, the Borg, to build its foundation, but then leaves the Borg alone, picking up the less developed Cardassians and going to town on them, and coming up with the Dominion on its own. Voyager needed to get a Big Bad of its own, quite frankly, and having anything to do with the Borg in Enterprise was just silly. Actually, most of Enterprise is just silly to me, because I feel it should have been chiefly about the Romulan War. You could get around the fact that in Kirk’s time they believe no-one on the Federation side ever saw a Romulan in the following ways: a) some people saw them but died before they could record or report it, b) those devious Vulcans sure as shit knew so T’Pol can see them, c) this seems as good a time as any to bring in a newly-formed Section 31, they love secretive bullcrap like that, and d) Enterprise characters see them, but for some overwhelmingly compelling reason, can’t tell anyone what they know.
But I was watching Deep Space Nine, wasn’t I.
Yes, so this scene is awesome for Patrick Stewart’s reactions, his confusion at Sisko’s hostility turning to dismay and guilt as he realises what it’s about. Neither of them refers to the dead elephant in the room, but it informs their whole manner to one another, particularly Picard’s obvious distress (he goes and looks out the window at Bajor, partly because he’s talking about Bajor, but also, I’m sure, to hide his face while he assures himself it’s under control), and his futile effort while pouring the tea to make friends a little, to appease Sisko with a smile and a hot drink. (Surely tea will help.) The whole time Sisko stares laser beams right through him, and the scene ends with Picard feeling like utter shit, because he is, after all, a deeply good and decent man. Because he’s so good he can’t get defensive and resent Sisko for hating him for actions that were not really his fault; he understands too well how he must feel.
And that’s why Patrick Stewart and Jean-Luc Picard are both great.
Things I like in the next scene – Sisko’s plan to make Quark stay as an anchor for the Promenade business community is smart, and the fact that Sisko says DS9 is in danger of becoming a ‘ghost town,’ because besides being an old mining station and a Federation facility, DS9 is always equal parts Casablanca and beleaguered Wild West town. Space is the final frontier, but in Treks to date we only saw what it was like to keep exploring that frontier, not what it was like to actually live on it and be stuck there. Precisely because DS9 does not trek, because it stays put and the crew have to deal with many of the same people again and again for years, it can tell stories in ways that TOS and TNG never could, with much more continuity, and really develop the cultures of the aliens present in greater depth than even, to that date, the Klingons and Vulcans. That’s so neat.
So I guess ‘Wagon Train to the Stars,’ as Gene initially pitched it, becomes ‘Little Station on the Prairie.’ Only with more World War II.
I’m really noticing the difference between Odo’s makeup here and what it later was – his face is more leathery, presumably with more of Rene Auberjonois’ real wrinkles showing through.
In the next scene we see Kira’s uniform undershirt for the first time, and I wonder as always why it has those decorative criss-cross panels. The Bajorans care a surprising amount about uniform design for people just coming out from under the rather stylish jackboot of an oppressor. Kira explains that the Bajorans’ religion is the only thing that holds them all together. I’ve always wondered how it works that a whole planet has one religion, and the majority of people are sincere believers. Has everyone all over Bajor always worshipped the Prophets, or did there use to be other, local religions that the Prophets squeezed out? Are there Bajoran atheists, agnostics, people who don’t really believe but their religion is so much a part of their community, culture and family life that they just keep going along with it, like Christians who go to church out of habit but never have a really spiritual thought? Here, of course, I’m just running up against the way that Star Trek tends to portray whole species of people as if they were just nations, and usually pretty homogeneous nations at that. Ethnic and cultural diversity is chiefly a human thing; you might find the odd black Vulcan but he won’t speak with a substantially different accent or appear to have a different cultural background than a white one.
And while I’m at it, it is interesting to me that DS9 is set right by a nation coming out from under the colonial control of an empire, and two of the main human characters, O’Brien and Bashir, have national/ethnic backgrounds that had to come out from the control of the British Empire (although Bashir’s ethnicity isn’t exactly pinned down canonically, I’ve read Ronald Moore or someone saying they thought he was either British-Arab-Sudanese like the actor playing him, or Indian or Pakistani. For some reason I want Bashir’s roots to be in the Subcontinent [though obviously Muslim rather than Hindu or Sikh] more than the Middle East/North Africa. He must be a bit of a mixture whatever he is, given the contrasts between his accent and his parents’. I should maybe shut up about Julian since he hasn’t even appeared in this episode yet). Isn’t it innnnnnteresting that no direct comparison that I can remember is ever made between the Bajoran freedom fighters and the IRA? There’s an episode of TNG that was never broadcast uncut in the UK because it contained a reference to the success of the IRA.
But anyway, the old dude who invited Sisko into the Promenade temple earlier pops his head into the hole Sisko and Kira are sitting in and tells him it’s Time. And then we go to a really beautiful matte painting, with animated sky, of a city on the surface of Bajor. It looks a bit like Tuscany. Sisko walks around in a monastic sort of place echoing with soft chanting, and Kai Opaka comes out to meet him and feel his ear and talk about Pah/Qi/The Force. I used to live on a street called Pah Road. Seriously. (It’s called that because there used to be a Maori fortified village, or pa, in this area, and it was named before Maori spelling got standardised. There are multiple Pah Roads in New Zealand. Kai is also a word in te reo Maori; it means food. Linguistic dissonance, I have it.) This is where the title of Emissary is first brought up. Opaka reveals, pretty awesomely, that the water in the ornamental pool in this room is just a hologram, and leads him down the spiral staircase thus uncovered. So this monastery could double as a lair for a Bond villain. I approve.
They go down into a candle-lit grotto and Opaka talks in riddles for a bit, because that’s what mystical religious types do, and then she presents to him, or perhaps presents him to, the Tear of the Prophet, the first of the Bajoran orbs we’ll see. With a mystified ‘What the hale…’ Sisko finds himself in some really ugly purple beachwear, carrying a tray of lemonade, and just realising that the sand he’s standing on is too hot for comfort. Now he relives his first meeting with Jennifer, but he knows it’s the second time around and she doesn’t. In a risqué touch, she’s sunbathing with the back of her bikini top undone to avoid tan lines, and has to hold it on with an arm across her boobs at first. (I realise here that I’m kind of ignorant about black people, because I’m thinking ‘Wait, would a person with Jennifer’s mid-brown complexion actually tan further?‘) When Sisko starts to realise what’s going on, he lets out an absolutely ridiculous ‘OW!’ of delight. This scene makes me want lemonade, and fortunately I actually have some in the fridge (made it from scratch, I’m so damn good), so I’ll go and get some.
Realistically, Jennifer thinks he’s a loony and strides off along the beach, but he trots along beside her and she (unrealistically, because if a guy I already thought was strange pursued me when I tried to walk away, I would go into full fuck-off mode and so would most gals I know) softens a bit. A guy in an incredibly dorky male maillot crosses the background behind them, delighting me. It appears that women’s swimwear in the 24th Century is pretty much what’s normal for us, but men’s is horrible. (Actually, men’s fashion in the 23rd and 24th Centuries is generally horrible, and everyone looks far better when they wear 19th and 20th Century suits for time travel, Chicago gangster planets or historical holodeck games. Natty gentleman Data in ‘Time’s Arrow’ looks awesome.) Sisko brings up the family cooking tradition for the first time, but oddly says his father was a gourmet chef, as if he were dead or retired instead of still running a DAMN good Cajun restaurant. I like noticing things like that in pilots. But then the Tear appears, looking kind of like the Holy Grail, and he’s back to the grotto, where Opaka fills him in on some orb mythology and tells him he needs to find the Celestial Temple before the Cardassians can. She gives him the ark holding the orb, which seems to be lighter than it looks, and throws some Destiny at him.
Jake is actually sleeping on a cushion on the floor, the poor little guy. Sisko tells him he looks like his mother, and thanks to good casting, he actually does.
Quark’s has reopened, and Quark’s is fun! There’s a cool wandering tracking shot starting from Sisko’s position just outside the doors, through the whole set taking in the different activities and lots of extras in groovy alien makeup, then back around to Sisko walking in and approaching the bar.
‘Never trust ale from a god-fearing people,’ says Quark, and I guess that’s fair enough since the Irish are better known for stout. He is not a fan of Sisko.
And it’s time to meet Jadzia and Julian! I realise I can’t remember when Sisko changed his uniform to a jumpsuit, but they’re both in TNG suits (and Julian’s doesn’t fit him very well, making him appear even more awkward than he already is as he haltingly tries to make a date with Jadzia for later. I like the way she just stands and smiles at him until he stammers to a stop, and then accepts his invitation). Anyway, Sisko and Dax walk and talk some Trill exposition, and she’s very lovely, and always so poised. Jadzia’s so cool.
Julian is bewildering Kira with his perkiness and enthusiasm for working in kind of a shithole – because ‘this is where the adventure is! This is where heroes are made.’ She finds his naïve attitude patronising and snots at him before she leaves, so in a short scene we get a good idea of the base of Julian’s personality (I like to think he devoured The Dangerous Book for Boys as a child), and the size of the chip on Kira’s shoulder. I like this especially because initially, the showrunners didn’t have any big plans for Julian; he was just there because logically, the station needed a CMO. Thus he grew very organically, just in response to the stuff happening around him. The Paramount powers that be hated him and were constantly trying to get him killed off or at least written out, so it’s really a testament to the showrunners’ determination that he was retained until the very end. I can only say, what the fuck was their problem? Julian Bashir is adorable and Siddig El Fadil is an excellent actor, also gorgeous. Lose him and you lose the best friendship in Star Trek (sorry, Spock and Kirk, you just aren’t quite as wonderful together as Bashir and O’Brien), and the best of Garak’s development. Who else could have been the foil for Garak in the way Julian was? Then again, I gather they weren’t too thrilled with Garak either, because he seemed gay. Dorks.
Sisko asks Dax to research the orbs and Old Mans her, and she gets cracking. While she waits for the computer to run the search, the orb takes her into a flashback to her joining operation. She looks very pale and nervous, and as the symbiont is transferred from Curzon’s pouch to hers, her whole demeanour changes – we see the Dax serenity come into Jadzia’s face. It’s cool.
O’Brien goes back to the Enterprise for a last look around, and he’s actually put his TNG uniform back on for the occasion. I think the idea at this stage was that different uniforms are worn on ships and on stations, although later it was just that the DS9 style was the new one to which the Enterprise crew eventually changed over. (In First Contact, Jonathan Frakes had to wear Avery Brooks’ uniform because there wasn’t the time or budget to make him one in the new style, and they were about the same size. I suppose that makes Avery Brooks a manbear too.) He stops on the bridge, but there’s nobody cool there, and turns down an opportunity to visit Picard in his ready room before heading for the transporter room. Goodbye to all that. But Picard pops in to catch him, because you don’t let someone as sweet as O’Brien leave just like that. They have a nice low-key farewell, and Picard runs the transporter to send O’Brien to his new home. Picard looks thoughtful, perhaps realising this is the beginning of the end, and the pan-pipe-like notes of the beginning of the TNG theme play as we cut to the Enterprise flying away, leaving DS9 to be its own show.
Now it’s time to meet Gul Dukat! Oh boy, I love Dukat. I also appreciate the fact that they gave him a name that’s so good for spitting out contemptuously, as Kira does. Dukat meets Sisko in his old office, and he’s all smarm and that incredible neck. Marc Alaimo is part giraffe. He offers Cardassian support in a way that makes it very clear he thinks Sisko’s in a weak position, and then starts fishing for info on the orb. Sisko’s face shuts down and he says ‘I don’t know anything about an orb’ in a way that makes it completely obvious he knows about the orb and wants Dukat to fuck off.
Dax and Sisko have a chat about the orbs – she’s found some information about this bit of space where weird stuff happens, which she thinks could be the Celestial Temple. Sisko wants to check it out, but without the bloody Cardies noticing.
FIRST SHOT OF MORN. Dukat’s guys are having a nice time in Quark’s, winning a buttload of latinum, until Kira and O’Brien arrive to shut the bar down. Two of the Cardassians chortle together (it’s definitely chortling) that they got kicked out because they were winning too much, as they stash their bag of loot… somewhere, I’m not clear whether this is guest quarters on the station or on Dukat’s ship. Except! The bag of loot is Odo, and he gloobs and slithers out to sneak around. The gelatinous Odo visual effects really are pretty good (and very obviously inspired by the liquid metal T-1000 in Terminator 2, which is okay because Terminator 2 is awesome, especially Robert Patrick as the T-1000).
Dax and Sisko tootle off in the Rio Grande, and I always liked how the DS9 shuttles were all named for rivers on Earth. Odo has sabotaged the Cardassian ship, so they can’t follow. O’Brien wants to beam Odo back to Ops, but has trouble with the Cardassian transporter, and has to kick it to make it go. Sounds about right.
There’s some flying and some made-up science and then BOOM! WORMHOLE! After a neat light show, Dax and Sisko find that they’re in the Gamma Quadrant, and this is a very special wormhole. On the way back, the shuttle runs into trouble for no obvious reason… and an atmosphere forms around it. Ooooooooh.
Sisko gets out and wanders around a Dark and Stormy Night sort of set, but when Dax comes out of the shuttle she sees a pretty park. They bicker about their different perception of the scenery, before an orb appears. At this point, Sisko says ‘Do you see it too?’ and Dax answers ‘yes,’ and I think that they could be talking at complete cross-purposes, because maybe Dax sees a unicorn! The orb feels them up with a beam of green light and flies away a bit. Sisko introduces himself and it zaps them! Rude. As the scene flickers between Dax’s park and Sisko’s stormy canyon, the orb sort of beams Dax away, and then the ground is cracking and white light is shining through the cracks, and it’s just really really weird.
This whole part, with the white light and the Prophets, this is where the pilot started to lose me when I originally watched.
The orb pops out of the wormhole at the DS9 end, and Kira has O’Brien beam it aboard – where it turns into a surprised Dax. Everyone is like ‘what.’
White light and heartbeats and flashbacks and baseball and Borgs. Jennifer and Picard and Opaka and Jake appear, asking questions and calling Sisko It. Like a good Starfleet officer, he keeps his cool and follows first contact procedures, explaining himself… and then he has to explain what time is.
Everyone’s in Ops trying to sort things out and Kira gets the idea to move the station closer to the wormhole, so Bajor can claim the thing before the Cardassians. O’Brien cannae do it, but Dax thinks of a technobabble way to make the station ‘lighter’ so they can move it fast with the minimal thrusters they have. They agree to send a message to Starfleet for backup but take action now. Kira takes Dax and Julian off for some sort of job, telling him ‘You too, Doc. Time to be a hero.’ He says ‘Yes SIR’ in a way too enthusiastic way, and Odo is like ‘ew.’ He goes to follow Kira, and insists on coming along as Security. He exposits about being found in the Denorius Belt and hoping to find an explanation of who he is and where he’s from. Oh Odo. You won’t like it. It’ll be bitchy and frumpy and flaky. (Also: He does not want Julian smarming up to Kira.) So off they all go.
Borgs and baseball players and Picards want to destroy Sisko for being… a jerk or something, and he has to justify himself, and basically his whole species, to them. The wormhole dudes don’t experience time, etcetera. Fortunately, although they are suspicious of him, they’re more open-minded and less spoiling for a fight than Q was back in the day, and he starts to get somewhere with his explanations.
O’Brien fiddles with things in Ops and argues with the computer and says ‘thrust’ a lot. Off they go! Interestingly, they’ve installed the standard Majel Barrett voice on the station computer, but it still has Cardassian programming, including safety protocols that don’t want to let O’Brien do what he’s trying to do. He has to do something or other manually. This is a lot more compelling than all that saucer separation and redocking that he helped with in ‘Farpoint,’ maybe because they’re jiggling the camera.
Kira’s team’s shuttle, where Julian is naïve and Odo is cynical and Dukat is smarmy on the viewscreen. He’s totally onto what Sisko is up to, because Sisko has such a shitty poker face.
Sisko tries to explain death and loss and continuity to a wormhole alien using Jennifer’s appearance, and her line readings are really, really stiff and artificial. I don’t know if the actress is bad at this kind of science fiction dialogue, or if she’s doing it on purpose to show the alienness of the voice speaking through Jennifer. I guess it’s the latter, because next we see a memory-image of a Benjamin and Jennifer conversation (Oh hey! I could call then Bennifer! But I won’t) and she sounds like a proper person again. Their conversation is really naff, though, and doesn’t feel like natural dialogue to me, and here I put the blame on bad writing rather than bad acting. Basically they agree to get married and smooch. The Jennifer alien, watching them, kisses her fingertips and looks very surprised. Sisko tries to explain about why people enjoy physical touch and it’s nafffffff. Then they go back to the scene of Jennifer’s death, and she walks out of a fireball in her bikini, which is so strange, and he says he doesn’t want to be here and they say then why does he exist here? Because this event of grief and death is still ever-present in Sisko’s mind.
The Cardassians make it into the wormhole but it closes before Kira’s shuttle can get to it. Dang!
Anyway, the aliens don’t like people sticking ships up their wormhole, and they have a debate about responsibility and consequences and talk talk talk and flashbacks and linear.
Baseball! Fun! So now Sisko has to explain a game that most people in his own society don’t get any more. I wonder why tennis survived when baseball didn’t? I wonder how cricket is doing? I imagine Julian in cricket whites and smile foolishly. Cirroc Lofton is clearly having trouble with the Jake-alien’s lines. So we’re explorers and we like weird stuff and we’re pretty cool and we just want to be friends. And we’re not imperialist oppressors or a club for Homo Sapiens, honestly.
Anyway, because O’Brien is awesome, he’s moved the station to the wormhole location, except the wormhole doesn’t seem to be there any more, and some cross Cardassians are, wanting to know what happened to the Dukat ship. Kira and Jadzia explain things to the Cardassian Gul, not to his satisfaction, and how good is it to see women in real command roles in Star Trek? And they might have to surrender! And they have ONE. HOUR.
Something I’ve never found out is what exactly a Gul is. Like what would be the equivalent title in English? Is it like a knighthood? Are they more like earls?
Julian is naïve and O’Brien knows what’s up when it comes to the Cardies. They can’t surrender or it’ll be the ol’ four lights routine for all of them.
So basically all this is therapy for Sisko so he gets over the fact that he would have liked to die with Jennifer, that his continued life is a burden to him, that he can’t move on from the day she died. He chooses to exist in this moment of misery because he can’t see a future – and Avery Brooks is crying and this whole thing is a bit naff but he’s doing his best.
So Kira is being a commanding badass on the station and firing warning shots at the Cardassians and bluffing like crazy that they have Federation defences and basically saying ‘I’m fucking nuts, you don’t want to pick a fight with me.’ She’s awesome. O’Brien has a really awkward line, ‘Major, remind me never to get into a game of Roladan wild draw with you.’ I thought they just played poker on the Enterprise. If he had just said poker, we’d have a nice connection to ‘The Corbomite Maneuver.’
Anyway, they create a massive illusion of duranium shadows so they appear to be heavily armed, and the Gul is like ‘they’ve created a massive illusion of duranium shadows!’ BUT he can’t be absolutely sure. Still, because Starfleet is on the way and he hates those guys, he starts shooting at them. O’Brien works out a way to zap them with phasers, but he only hits their storage bays and doesn’t kill anyone. More shooting and frightened extras on the Promenade. Shit blows up. Odo does his best to take care of everyone and Julian goes to help. O’Brien is very annoyed that the Cardassians are breaking things he just fixed. I sympathise; I hate it when I’ve cleaned the toilet and someone uses it straight away.
On the Promenade, Julian gets to show Odo that he’s very competent and can actually take charge in a medical situation. Odo is actually quite scared to do something medical, which is a nice touch.
Just as Kira thinks she’s going to have to surrender, the wormhole comes back! YAY! And the Rio Grande comes out, towing Dukat’s ship! Yaaaaaay! And Sisko is all calm and in control and not weepy at all, and everybody’s happy, well, except all the wounded and mangled people (thirteen injured and no fatalities, says Julian).
Jake and Sisko are happily reunited and there is hugging and kissing and big smiles. The Enterprise comes back and the Cardassians fuck off, and the wormhole aliens are cool with people using their hole.
Picard and Sisko have a last conversation about the new situation, and Sisko indicates that despite his earlier attitude, he wants to stay on DS9. They shake hands, and I guess Picard can see that the hate’s gone out of Sisko. He wishes him luck and takes off. Forever. Seriously, the Enterprise is never coming back here, no matter how logical that would be. After all, you don’t want your flagship engaging in the main front of a huge war that could make slaves of you all, when it could be pooting around visiting the Comedy Planet of Youth. Dealing with the Nexus and the Borg I can accept, especially because First Contact is a kick-ass movie, but Insurrection… oh well.
On the Promenade Julian asks Odo where he can practise with a phaser (because the writers have worked out they want to pair him with someone gruff, but not exactly who yet), and Kira bawls Odo out for conduct unbecoming a community leader, and he attempts to hit on her, and she threatens him with grievous bodily harm, because she’s awesome that way. Sisko, Dax and O’Brien walk and talk about getting the station fixed up, and we crane-shot up to a point above the Promenade, then out to a view of the station, with… um… they kind of look like X-wing fighters moored outside.
I began a lot of sentences with ‘Anyway’ in this review. So that’s the premiere of Deep Space Nine! Next time, it’s ‘A Man Alone,’ and then I’ll hop back to TNG.