Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “The Circle”

“The Circle”
Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Corey Allen
Season 2, Episode 2
Production episode 40512-422
Original air date: October 3, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: We open with some scenes from “The Homecoming,” followed by Sisko meeting with a confused Jaro. The minister thought Sisko would be doing cartwheels, as he was under the impression that Kira’s been a pain in his ass, prompting Sisko to snap, “Who gave you that impression?” He makes it clear that he doesn’t appreciate having one of his officers dismissed without consulting him, at which point Jaro makes it clear that this is a promotion for Kira as a reward for bringing Li Nalas home. Speaking of Li, part of the reason for assigning him to replace Kira is because it’s safer on the station. The Circle’s activities have escalated to assault on one of Jaro’s fellow ministers. Besides, who could be a better liaison officer than the hero of the resistance?

Jake then calls Sisko, having found the Circle’s logo graffiti’d on the door to their quarters. They’re upping their game.

Odo visits Kira in her quarters, and is shocked to find her packing. He expected better of her to just surrender to Jaro’s order, and he’s pissed that she hasn’t even asked Sisko for help. She also assures him that Li is up to the job.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

In rapid succession, Dax, Bashir, O’Brien, and Quark all enter. Dax wants to return lotion, Bashir and O’Brien want to wish Kira well, Quark thinks it’s a party (he even brought Kira’s favorite synthale), and Odo’s spending the entire time being pissed at Kira’s enforced departure.

When the doorchime rings again, this time it’s Vedek Bareil, who asks if he’s interrupting. Kira says no, then hesitates and simultaneously says and realizes that these are her friends. She’s surprised that Bareil’s here, but he says it’s best not to announce one’s movements these days—the violence on Bajor has escalated. The provisional government has told Kira to take a few days off before they decide on her new assignment, and Bareil offers his monastery as a place for her to collect herself and explore her pagh.

Kira takes one last trip to ops, where she meets up with Li and Sisko. Li says he didn’t want this job, and Kira smiles and says, “Neither did I.” Sisko promises that he’s going to get her back.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

Later, Kira is at the monastery trying and failing to make a path of rocks across a stream. She has no artistic talents, and the best she can do is destroy the arboretum one stream at a time. She hates being useless, though Bareil thinks being useless might be an interesting thing for her to try.

Then, to Kira’s shock, he takes her inside to have an orb experience, something she’s wanted her whole life. Bareil leaves her with the Orb of Prophecy and Change, which gives her a vision that includes Kira in the chamber of ministers, alongside Dax dressed as a vedek; then she’s surrounded by Jaro and Vedek Winn, who tower over her; then Bareil arrives in a Bajoran Milita uniform; then Kira’s naked; then Bareil’s naked. Throughout there are voices that she can’t make out; Jaro says they’re speaking to him, but Dax and Bareil both insist they’re for Kira.

Kira doesn’t really want to talk about her vision, at which point Bareil confesses that he saw Kira in the last vision the orb gave him. That was why he invited her down. Kira then lies and says Bareil wasn’t part of her vision at all.

Just as Bareil and Kira hear gunfire in the distance, Winn shows up and snarks them off a bit, making her contempt for both of them abundantly clear.

A friend of Odo’s in planetary security tells him that the provisional government is bringing troops into the capital city, since every other attempt to stop the Circle has been stymied. The Circle has friends in high places, warning them about attempts to capture them. Quark then arrives convinced that it’s all over. The Circle, he insists, isn’t just a bunch of thugs, they’re a bunch of very, very, very well-armed thugs. Quark has learned that the Kressari are providing the Circle with a crap-ton of weapons.

Odo needs more information, so he deputizes Quark and tells him to find out where the weapons are being delivered. Quark refuses until Odo threatens to arrest him for an impeding an investigation, since he obviously won’t reveal his sources.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

In light of this new information, Sisko is traveling to Bajor, leaving Li in charge, and asking him to see if he can find out how much support the provisional government really has. Li is sure that he’ll have help with any difficulties—“I can’t even sneeze without three people handing me handkerchiefs”—and he also suggests a curfew.

Sisko meets with General Krim, who’s in charge of the forces defending the capital city. Sisko has noticed that the military has avoided direct confrontation with the Circle, and also tells Krim about the Kressari. After promising Krim to provide him with any further information about the weapons shipments, Sisko asks Krim about Kira, hoping to get her reassigned back to DS9. Krim, however, can’t help him, as that’s out of his purview. Krim also notes that Sisko could have traded the information about the Kressari for the favor regarding Kira, and Sisko just smiles and says he wouldn’t do that. “I’ll remember that about you,” Krim says with respect.

Sisko’s next stop is the monastery to visit Kira, letting her know that he thinks the Circle is arming for a coup and that the military isn’t necessarily going to support the provisional government. He reiterates his promise to get her back.

After Sisko leaves, Kira is kidnapped by masked members of the Circle. They bring her to an underground cavern, where she is met by Jaro—who is, in fact, the head of the Circle. He wants the Federation gone, carrying the same view Kira did in “Emissary,” to wit, that they’re no better than the Cardassians. He also wants information from Kira as to how the Federation in general and Sisko in particular will react when the Circle’s endgame becomes clear. Kira, of course, refuses to talk, leaving Jaro to resort to torture.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

When the Kressari ship arrives, Li, Dax, and O’Brien blind them with bureaucratic nonsense as a pretense to inspect the cargo containers. Eventually, the Kressari disembark from the station, albeit with Odo as a rat-shaped stowaway. After they clear the station, a Cardassian gul beams aboard the ship and approves a weapons shipment.

Upon Sisko’s return to the station, he learns of Kira’s disappearance from Bareil. The newly (and grumpily) deputized Quark announces that he’s learned that the Circle is headquartered in caves under the Perikian Peninsula. Sisko leads a rescue party that includes O’Brien, Bashir, a security contingent, and Li—the latter at his own request. He doesn’t know what it means to be a navarch, but he can fight in the trenches, he takes orders well, and he owes Kira.

The team beams down from the runabout—O’Brien remaining behind to pilot and beam people back at the drop of a hat—with Sisko handing everyone a combadge to pin on Kira as soon as they find her. They also see that the Circle has just received a new shipment of weapons.

Those weapons get used in a firefight quickly, but Bashir finds the badly injured Kira while the two sides exchange phaser fire and they beam out.

While Bashir treats Kira in the infirmary, Odo returns with the evidence that the Cardassians are the ones secretly supplying the Circle via the Kressari. Once the Circle gets rid of the Federation, the Cardassians can waltz right in and take Bajor—and the wormhole—back.

Unfortunately, the coup has now started. All communication with Bajor has been cut off.

Jaro meets with Winn, and they broker a deal, where she’ll throw public support behind him, saying the Prophets bless his coup, in exchange for his full support in making her the new kai.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

O’Brien informs Sisko that two assault vessels are on course for the station from Bajor, and they’ve given all non-Bajorans seven hours to evacuate DS9. Sisko talks to Admiral Chekote, who makes it clear that this is an internal matter to Bajor. The Cardassians may get involved in other people’s civil wars, but the Federation doesn’t, and Chekote orders Sisko to withdraw from the station.

Sisko asks O’Brien how long it would take to evacuate the station—not just the people, but all Federation property of any kind. O’Brien says it would take days, and the assault vessels will be there in seven hours.

“Then I guess some of us won’t quite be done by the time they get here.”

To be continued…

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko gets to verbally fence with both Jaro (whom he obviously doesn’t respect or trust, especially given the story he tells about the politician full of hot air) and Krim (whom he does respect, and that favor is returned to a degree, which will come into play in the next episode). And he comes away from both those meetings learning more from what the two men didn’t say than what they did.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Full episode for Kira: she realizes how important the people on the station have become to her, she tries and fails at peaceful meditation, she has an orb experience, she finds out the truth about the Circle, and she gets tortured.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

Rules of Acquisition: Quark is able to find things out from people who, as he says to Odo, “don’t talk to people like you,” thus learning how well-armed the Circle is. He’s actually the linchpin of the plot, as our heroes only realize the Circle is a force to be reckoned with (and eventually that they’re being supplied by Cardassia) from Quark’s info.

For Cardassia!: Cardassia’s reasons for not wanting to rock the boat in terms of their relationship with Bajor in “The Homecoming” come into focus here: why start a conflict over Cardassia IV’s labor camp when they plan to take Bajor back as soon as the Circle kicks the Federation out?

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo turns into a panel surface on a container in order to stow away on the Kressari ship, then remains on board as a rat.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Sparks fly like whoa between Kira and Bareil, and that’s before the Prophets provide Kira with a wet dream about the two of them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

Similar sparks fly between Jaro and Winn—it’s pretty damned obvious that, if they’re not sleeping together now, they absolutely have in the past. (Jaro’s small smile followed by an almost-playful, “Don’t tease me,” pretty much confirms it.)

Keep your ears open: “Is this a joke? Did you plan this?”

“Nobody could have planned this.”

Kira and Bashir commenting on the chaos in her quarters as half the station comes by to wish her well.

Welcome aboard: Back from “The Homecoming” are Richard Beymer as Li and a still-uncredited Frank Langella as Jaro. Back from “In the Hands of the Prophets” are Philip Anglim as Bareil and Louise Fletcher as Winn. Bruce Gray makes his first of two appearances as Admiral Chekote (he’ll return in TNG’s “Gambit Part 1” a week later) and Stephen Macht makes his first of two appearances as General Krim (he’ll be back in the next episode, “The Siege,” in a much larger role).

And then we have our Robert Knepper moment: I had no idea that was longtime character actor Mike Genovese (a favorite of mine since his role as Lieutenant Garfield on The Flash way back when) buried under the Kressari makeup.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

Trivial matters: This obviously continues the story begun in “The Homecoming” and will continue in “The Siege,” this being Trek’s first three-parter.

The opening of Act 1 in Kira’s quarters is a deliberate homage to the classic stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera. All that was missing was Quark asking for two hard-boiled eggs, then Morn honking and Quark adding, “Make that three hard-boiled eggs.”

The orb Kira experiences is identified by Bareil as the Third Orb, and also as the Orb of Prophecy and Change (the latter providing the inspiration for the title of the tenth anniversary DS9 short story anthology that your humble rewatcher contributed to). It’s unclear whether or not it’s the same orb that Sisko and Dax experienced in “Emissary,” but since they received flashback visions rather than prophetic ones, it might have been a different one. Only four of the nine original orbs will be identified by name in the show, the others being the Orbs of Wisdom (“Prophet Motive,” “In the Cards”), Time (“Trials and Tribble-ations,” “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night”), and Contemplation (“Tears of the Prophets”). The post-finale DS9 novels identified the other five as the Orbs of Memory (Avatar Books 1-2, Unity), Destiny (Cathedral, Raise the Dawn), Souls (Cathedral, Fearful Symmetry, The Soul Key), Unity (Cathedral, Unity), and Truth (Day of the Vipers).

Your humble rewatcher provided some history for the Perikian Peninsula in the novella “Horn and Ivory,” collected in both Gateways: What Lay Beyond and Twist of Faith.

Krim only appears in this storyline on screen, but he returns in the novels, being named Bajor’s representative to the Federation Council after Bajor joins the Federation in Unity. He’s assigned in the Bajor portion of Worlds of DS9 Volume 2 by J. Noah Kym and is also seen in the role in your humble rewatcher’s Articles of the Federation.

Walk with the Prophets: “I’m sure I could destroy your entire arboretum.” Unlike the previous episode, which actually had some closure in the revelation of Li’s true story and his agreeing to become navarch, this episode is entirely setup, ending with a much nastier cliffhanger, as Starfleet is basically being kicked off the station.

But it’s really good setup, as we get the sense of things escalating on Bajor, and it’s told effectively and subtly: Bareil’s need to travel in secret, the sound of gunfire frighteningly close to the monastery, and the revelation that Jaro’s behind it all, which is less surprising given that, well, the guy’s played by Frank Langella, for cryin’ out loud.

Langella also sells Jaro as an understandable (if not sympathetic) character. As Krim says at one point, “We’re all patriots, Commander,” and Jaro truly believes he’s doing what’s best for Bajor. What he doesn’t sell, because the script won’t let him, is why so clever a character can’t see the long-term implications of kicking the Federation out. Even if the Cardassians weren’t the ones arming the Circle, their goals still play right into the Cardassians’ hands, as tossing Starfleet paves the way for Cardassia to come back and claim the wormhole (which is probably a much bigger prize to them than a planet they already abandoned).

Stretching the storyline to three parts not only helps add to the scope of the story (the episode obviously takes place over the course of several days, too), it also gives time to focus on the most compelling character in all this: Kira. Her reassignment and replacement by Li serves two purposes for Jaro: punishing Kira for disobeying orders (the public reason) and getting Li out of the way so he won’t distract the public from his coup. The extra length of the story allows the entire first act and half the second be entirely about her, and Nana Visitor is, as always, completely up to the challenge. I particularly love her moment of realization when she introduces Odo, Dax, O’Brien, Bashir, and even Quark to Bareil as her friends.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: The Circle

Most of the guests comport themselves well. Richard Beymer gets less to do, but his helplessness in the nigh-meaningless role of navarch is entertaining to watch. Louise Fletcher returns as Winn, and her “bless your heart” conversation with Kira and Bareil is a symphony in sweet sarcasm, followed by a delightful Evil Meeting Of Evil between her and Jaro. Stephen Macht shows tremendous gravitas as Krim, setting up his larger role in the following episode. The only weak link is Philip Anglim, whose serene presence in “In the Hands of the Prophets” is subsumed to a somewhat creepy fascination with Kira, his intense stare just barely holding back from being a leer. (Having said that, the conversations between him and Kira are beautifully done.)

I particularly like that Kira’s character evolution is really what undoes Jaro here. His entire plan is predicated on the outdated information that Sisko would dance a jig at the notion of being rid of Kira and also thinking that Kira’s contempt for the provisional government would make her an ally of his.

 

Warp factor rating: 8

Rewatcher’s note: I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel based on the universe of my novel Dragon Precinct and its sequels. Art will be by JK Woodward, (the artist on the Star Trek/Doctor Whocrossover comic book). Please check it out and spread the word!


Keith R.A. DeCandido is a writer and stuff.

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