Written by Gabe Essoe & Kelly Miles and Frederick Rappaport
Directed by Les Landau
Season 2, Episode 10
Production episode 40512-430
Original air date: November 28, 1993
Station log: Kira is behind in her paperwork because she’s been spending the last two days arguing with Minister Rozhan about an irrigation project. She then gets static from Quark about a Bajoran musician named Varani that she talked him into hiring, and then gets static from Varani who has asked her to convince the chamber of ministers to rebuild a concert hall.
A badly damaged ship comes through the wormhole. O’Brien beams the four inhabitants on board before their ship can completely fail. Unfortunately, the universal translator is struggling with the language they speak, so nobody can understand them, nor can they understand the crew. Kira, Sisko, and Odo escort them to the infirmary slowly but surely, and Bashir treats them. The woman who is in charge of the foursome seems to respond better to Kira than anyone else (she even goes so far as to insist that Kira treat them rather than Bashir). Sisko hits on the notion of sharing food, and shortly after that, the translator finally kicks in.
The woman is named Haneek, and she is a Skrreean, as are the other three, who are her males (the Skrreeans are a female-dominated society, as men are too emotional to rule). They’re one of many refugee ships that are on the other side of the wormhole—three million Skrreeans are in need of rescue. She explains that they believe the wormhole to be the Eye of the Universe which will lead them to Kentanna, their promised land: a planet of sorrow where the Skrreeans will sow the seeds of peace.
The Skrreeans are refugees from the T-Rogorans, who conquered them eight centuries ago; they escaped when the T-Rogorans were themselves conquered.
More refugees are found in the Gamma Quadrant, and Kira asks Haneek to welcome them. Hundreds of Skrreeans pour onto the Promande. For Odo, it’s a security nightmare, but Sisko is thrilled to see so many people enjoying their first taste of freedom. Nog gets into trouble when he sprays Tumak, one of Haneek’s males, with a foul-smelling vapor, but Quark can’t blame him because the Skrreeans are disruptive and messing with his business—and leaving little flakes of skin all over his bar. To make matters worse, Tumak later starts a fight with Nog and Jake on the Promenade.
Haneek is unanimously voted the new leader of the Skrreeans by the elder women present, as she’s the one who found the Eye of the Universe. Haneek is not happy about this, as she doesn’t want the responsibility, though Varani does give her a recording of a performance he gave as a younger man, for which she’s grateful. She also thinks that Kentanna is, in fact, Bajor. It certainly fits the criteria of a planet of sorrow. Dax has found a Class-M planet for them called Draylon II, but they would prefer to settle on Bajor.
Minister Rozhan and Vedek Sorad come on the station to give their decision regarding the Skrreeans’ request to settle on Bajor. The petition is refused, as Bajor simply cannot handle so many new immigrants to their world. Haneek insists that they can take over the northwest peninsula and make it arable again—the Cardassians devastated that region—but the chamber of ministers and the vedek assembly can’t take the chance. If they fail, Bajor will have to help them, and they don’t have the resources to do so properly.
Jake tries to make peace with Tumak, and is only partially successful, while Kira tries the same with Haneek, and isn’t remotely successful, as Haneek feels that Kira has betrayed her.
Tumak has stolen a ship and headed for Bajor. It’s still under repair, but they refuse to even take O’Brien’s call telling them that the ship is in danger of exploding. Haneek tries to convince him to turn his engines off, but he won’t listen. Two Bajoran interceptors move to stop Tumak, but Tumak fires on them, which results in his own ship being destroyed. Haneek is devastated, as is everyone else.
Haneek still believes Bajor was the right place for the Skrreeans to go, that they could have helped each other, because their farming skills could very well have made Bajor better. But she also now realizes that Bajor is not Kentanna. The Skrreeans go off to Draylon II.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently the universal translators are ALL AROUND YOU and magically turn your speech into something everyone can understand. This is an instance where the explanation actually is more ridiculous than the usual lack of explanation….
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko has no trouble deferring to Kira as the main spokesperson to the Skrreeans, and indeed encourages it, as it makes his job easier. Unsurprisingly for the son of a chef, he hits on the notion of sharing food as an ice-breaker.
Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is having a very bad day, being harassed by the chamber of ministers, Quark, and Varani before the Skrreeans arrive. She does an excellent job of bonding with Haneek even before they can understand each other, and the bond they form is the spine of the episode.
Rules of Acquisition: When Jake tells Nog that Mardah is studying entomology, Nog immediately assumes that she is studying to be a chef.
Victory is life: The people who conquered the Skrreeans were in turn conquered by one of the member races of the Dominion, who have now been mentioned twice as a power in the Gamma Quadrant. It’s unclear whether or not Quark shared what (little) he learned about the Dominion in “Rules of Acquisition,” so it’s possible that Haneek’s mention of them is the first one any of the senior staff have heard.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Jake has gone on a date with a dabo girl named Mardah, though he only told his father that it was a tutoring session (which it technically was, as Jake is helping Mardah with her study of entomology) and neglected to mention the fact that she’s a dabo girl.
Keep your ears open: “It’s hard to keep a secret in Ops, especially when you’ve been shouting at a monitor for the past two days.”
“Thought I kept it down to an angry whisper.”
“Let’s just say your voice carries.”
Sisko and Kira on her ongoing arguments with the provisional government.
Welcome aboard: Lots of fun guests in this one. Deborah May shines as Haneek (well, actually she flakes a bit…) We also get the wife of Armin Shimerman, Kitty Swink, playing Minister Rozahn (she’ll be back as a Vorta in “Tacking Into the Wind”), and the son of Walter Koenig, Andrew Koenig, as Tumak. Old friend William Schallert (last seen on Trek as the insufferable Nilz Baris in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and who’ll be back in “Trials and Tribble-ations” in that role via footage) appears as the musician Varani. Aron Eisenberg is back as Nog, Betty McGuire plays Vanya, and Robert Curtis-Brown is Vedek Sorad.
But this week’s Robert Knepper moment is Michael Durrell—best known as Robert Maxwell in the miniseries V and V: The Final Battle, as well as the pilot episode of V: The Series—who shows up as a Bajoran general.
Trivial matters: The Skrreeans are not seen or mentioned again onscreen, though they are name-checked in both the DS9 novel Cathedral by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin and the TNG novel Losing the Peace by William Leisner.
Speaking of Cathedral, Varani also appears in that novel, as he is tapped to play the music for Bajor’s entry ceremony into the Federation.
Speaking of Varani, the song he plays early in the episode is a variation on the theme music for DS9.
Mardah will be mentioned again in “Playing God” this season. We’ll finally see her next season in “The Abandoned,” where she’ll be played by Jill Sayre.
The original draft of the script had the Bajorans taking the Skrreeans as refugees. Michael Piller felt (rightly) that the opposite ending would carry more resonance.
Walk with the Prophets: “This isn’t over yet, big-ears!” This episode manages the incredibly neat trick of being well written, well acted, generally well put together, with some excellent scenes, and yet which feels like less than the sum of its parts.
The Skrreeans are a decent little alien culture, with a nice makeup design of yucky flaky skin (a welcome change from the usual default of putting bumpy foreheads on them and hoping for the best; Michael Westmore cites this as one of his favorite alien makeup designs), and the matriarchal society is handled much better here than in TNG’s execrable “Angel One.” The friendship between Haneek and Kira develops very nicely. In particular, one bit is superb: before the translator has kicked in, Haneek points out a dress on the Promenade. Later, Kira gives the dress to her as a gift—but it turns out that what Haneek was saying was how very hideous the dress was. Deborah May expertly plays Haneek as an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary role.
I think, ultimately, my biggest problem is that the ending claims to be an unhappy downbeat ending—but it only is insofar as the friendship between Haneek and Kira is sundered, and that’s on Haneek’s back entirely because she’s being an unreasonable twit. Haneek has focused on Bajor as the place they’re destined to be in because it happens to match the structure of a prophecy, but the arguments put forth by Minister Rozhan, by Vedek Sorad, and by Kira herself are all one hundred percent reasonable. (Hell, if Kira actually agrees with the chamber of ministers, they probably are right…)
Interpretation of religious dogma is a poor criterion to use in figuring out where to spend the rest of your life. What really sours the episode for me is Haneek accusing Kira of betraying their friendship, which is utterly unreasonable and costs the character all the sympathy she’d spent the episode building up.
Draylor II is a better choice for the Skrreeans. The fact that Haneek is too stubborn and too entrenched in her prophecy to see the reality of that doesn’t make her sympathetic to my eyes in the least.
There’s plenty to like in this episode, from Jake and Nog’s talk about Mardah (which will continue to recur) to the delightful character of Varani (well played by veteran William Schallert) to the aforementioned bit with the dress, but it’s not enough to entirely salvage the episode.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest book is Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, a collection of urban fantasy short stories taking place in Key West, Florida. One of the stories is the three-part “Cayo Hueso,” all three parts of which will be available for 99 cents. Part 1 is live now, with Parts 2 and 3 to come over the course of the next two weeks. Look for more on the collection on Tor.com in the coming days.