Wed
Jun 5 2013 4:00pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Battle Lines”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines“Battle Lines”
Written by Hilary J. Bader and Richard Danus & Evan Carlos Somers
Directed by Paul Lynch
Season 1, Episode 12
Production episode 40511-413
Original air date: April 25, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Dax and O’Brien have found some old files from when the Cardassians had the station, including some of Dukat’s notes on various members of the underground, Kira among them. (Kira is less than thrilled to discover that she’s listed as a minor errand-runner for the terrorists.)

Kai Opaka has come on board, to finally take Sisko up on his offer of a tour. It’s the first time she’s ever set foot off Bajor, and Sisko, Kira, and Bashir (she came aboard on a medical transport) take her to the Promenade. She asks to go through the wormhole, and the three of them take her on the Yangtzee Kiang.

On the other side of the wormhole, Kira detects a subspace communication—it’s just statistical data with a request for a reply. Sisko intends to follow up later when they don’t have the Bajorans’ religious leader in their runabout, but Opaka points out that she doesn’t get out much.

However, when they investigate, they find a moon surrounded by satellites—one of which fires on the runabout, forcing it to crash land. Opaka does not survive the crash; Kira is devastated. She holds Opaka’s hands and starts the Bajoran death chant.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

Bashir detected life on the moon, and Kira’s funeral ritual is interrupted by the three of them now being at gunpoint. They’re taken to a cave where they’re interrogated by Shel-la, the leader of the Ennis. His people are at war with the Nol-Ennis.

Kira, it turns out, was also injured in the crash, but she’s been hiding it. As Bashir treats Kira, Shel-la reveals that this is a prison planet. Just by being in the Ennis compound, the Nol-Ennis will think that the away team is on the Ennis side. They also don’t have any medical personnel, and Bashir agrees to treat their wounded and give them some first-aid training.

The Nol-Ennis attack. Sisko, Bashir, and Kira stay hidden—at first. Kira then breaks cover and uses her phaser to start a rockslide, which ends the battle. As they tend to their wounded, Opaka walks into the cave, alive and well. Several other people who were killed in the fighting also get up, fully healed.

With Sisko and the others three and a half hours overdue, and Odo being bugged by Opaka’s people every five minutes or so, Dax and O’Brien take the Rio Grande to search for the away team. They try to trace the Yangtzee Kiang’s warp eddies.

The Ennis and the Nol-Ennis are ancient enemies who have fought the same war for generations, for reasons no one even remembers. The leaders of their world sent them all to this moon as punishment, injecting them with artificial microbes that keep them from dying. The war simply goes on and on and on. They don’t even bother with proper tactics anymore, for what would be the point?

Sisko then offers Shel-la a way out: he’ll take anyone who wants to leave when their rescue shows up. But the offer is for both sides—Sisko convinces Shel-la to set up a meeting with Zlangco, his Nol counterpart. However, those talks go very poorly, and a fight breaks out.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

Opaka and Kira have a heart-to-heart on the subject of Kira’s violent past and her desire to move beyond it. Meanwhile, Bashir has gotten the runabout computer running, and his analysis reveals that the microbes are environment specific. If anyone with the microbes is removed from this ecosystem, the microbes stop working, and they instantly die. This applies to the Ennis, the Nol-Ennis, and Opaka.

Dax and O’Brien find the Yangtzee Kiang thanks to O’Brien pulling a piece of technobabble out of his ass and set a course for the prison moon. They avoid being hit by the satellites, and then manage to punch through the interference to contact the surface. O’Brien and Dax work on a way to make transporters work.

Opaka knows she’s supposed to stay on this world before Sisko can even tell her about the microbes. She knew when she came through the wormhole that she wouldn’t be coming back. Her place is to stay on this world and help these people heal.

O’Brien and Dax launch a probe to lure one of the satellites out of orbit, which pokes a big enough hole in the satellite field for O’Brien to beam Sisko, Kira, and Bashir up.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: O’Brien hits on the notion of how to find the Yangtzee Kiang by the best way to find a needle in a haystack: use a magnet. He says he can use a differential magnetomer. When Dax tartly points out that she’s never heard of such a thing and asks what it does, O’Brien sheepishly says he’ll let her know as soon as he makes one.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira goes on an emotional rollercoaster in this episode: first finding out that Dukat viewed her as a minor operative who ran errands for the important people, then helping give the kai a tour of the station, then going with her to the Gamma Quadrant, then watching her die, then watching her be resurrected. On top of that, she shows great frustration with the Ennis’s lack of decent battle tactics (and won’t be dissuaded by Sisko’s barking admonition to stay the hell out of it), and is guilted into admitting to Opaka that she’s not sure if she can be forgiven for her life of violence.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

For Cardassia!: Dukat left a bunch of his files just sitting around in the computer, which Sisko figures might be a useful look into the Cardassian mindset.

Keep your ears open: “’A minor operative whose activities are limited to running errands for the terrorist leaders’?”

“Major, when you’re through feeling underappreciated, perhaps you’d join me in welcoming the kai aboard.”

Kira being outraged, and Sisko deflating her pissiness.

Welcome aboard: Camille Saviola returns to the role of Opaka following “Emissary,” while the great Jonathan Banks plays Shel-la. Also Paul Collins plays Zlangco and if you look carefully, you’ll notice regular stuntwoman/actor Patricia Tallman as one of the Ennis.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

Trivial matters: This marks Kai Opaka’s final present-day appearance onscreen. She’ll be back in “The Collaborator” and “Accession,” in both cases as an orb-related vision. Opaka will return to the Alpha Quadrant in the novels Rising Son and Unity by S.D. Perry (after succeeding in uniting the Ennis and Nol-Ennis). She appears in several other books, including the Terok Nor novels Night of the Wolves and Dawn of the Eagles by Perry & Britta Dennison (taking place during the Occupation), the novel Bloodletter by K.W. Jeter and the short story “Ha’mara” by Kevin G. Summers in Prophecy and Change (both taking place between “Emissary” and this episode), and the novels Fragments and Omens (the Bajor novel in Worlds of DS9 Volume 2) by J. Noah Kym and Fearful Symmetry by Olivia Woods (both taking place after her return to Bajor).

Opaka gives O’Brien a necklace for Molly early in the episode. It’s never referenced again onscreen, though O’Brien discusses it in the novel Lesser Evil by Robert Simpson.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

This episode marks the fifth and final episode directed by Paul Lynch. While he directed five of the first dozen episodes of the show, he’d never direct DS9 (or any other Trek show) again. To be fair, the poor man was probably exhausted, given that he directed as many episodes in two-thirds of one season of DS9 as he had in five seasons of TNG...

It’s also the first DS9 credit for both Hilary J. Bader and Richard Danus, both of whom contributed to TNG. Bader will be involved in the writing of three more DS9 episodes, and also write for the Star Trek Klingon CD-ROM game, including the lyrics to the Klingon warrior’s anthem, which was later used in “Soldiers of the Empire.” Danus would later write the story for “The Sword of Kahless.”

The Yangtzee Kiang is the first runabout to crash. It is not the last.

Walk with the Prophets: “Your pagh and mine will cross again.” The one thing I intensely dislike about this episode are the scenes on the Rio Grande with O’Brien and Dax. Allegedly, Dax is the science officer, yet every scene on the runabout plays out like a Doctor Who episode with O’Brien as the brilliant, eccentric Time Lord with Dax reduced to the “what’s that, Doctor?” role of the companion. Dax does absolutely nothing useful in the episode, leaving all the heavy lifting to O’Brien. It’s an appalling use of the character who’s supposed to be the science officer.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Tor.com: Battle Lines

It’s actually more annoying in retrospect, knowing that Dax would be allowed to actually function as a science officer. When I first watched this episode two decades ago, I was wondering if it was either a) sexism thinking that only the man could actually Do Science while the woman stood by helplessly or b) lack of confidence specifically in ex-model Terry Farrell’s ability to sound smart, since the episode had two really strong female characters in Kira and Opaka.

However, that’s really the only stain on this episode, which is not a great episode by any means, but a pretty decent, if standard, science fiction story. I like the fact that Sisko offers to rescue them, Prime Directive be damned, justifying it while biting Bashir’s head off when he makes a snarky remark on the subject.

But every attempt Sisko and later Bashir make to improve the situation fails due to the combatants’ inability to see beyond their own conflict. They won’t accept Sisko’s offer of leaving the planet due to an unwillingness to let their people out of hiding where the other side can find them. Shel-la will only accept Bashir’s offer of reprogramming the microbes if he can use it as a weapon.

It’s funny that this is one of only two appearances Camille Saviola made as Opaka in the first season, because if you’d asked me for my recollections of the character it would be that she appeared more than twice. It’s a tribute to Saviola that she imbued the character with sufficient gravitas to make her character seem like more than a two-episode guest shot in the first season.

In general, what elevates this episode from its standard space-opera-ness are the performances. Besides Saviola, Nana Visitor really sells Kira’s emotional turmoil. Her devastation upon Opaka’s death is palpable, without ever spilling over into melodrama, ditto her catharsis with Opaka later on, as she’s forced to admit to how much of herself she sees in the Ennis and Nol-Ennis. Nobody ever went wrong casting Jonathan Banks, particularly as an embittered warmonger (nobody sneers better than Banks), and Avery Brooks does a nice job of trying to find a solution to the dilemma (and also not being at all afraid to wade in when combat breaks out around him).

The whole “I knew this was my destiny” nonsense from Opaka is kind of irritating, though it does seem like fitting work for someone who held Bajor together during the Occupation.

A solid, strong episode with some good character work for Kira, and which sets up lots of future plotlines regarding who the next kai will be.

 

Warp factor rating: 6


Keith R.A. DeCandido reminds everyone that his newest book, the short story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct, is now on sale.

42 comments
George Salt
1. GeorgeSalt
It really bugged me when Golin Shel-la said that the Ennis abandoned directed energy weapons centuries ago because they are not damaging enough. A phaser cranked up to the "vaporize" setting is not damaging enough? If someone got vaporized, would the nanites reassemble all the molecules? Nonsense! Perhaps the dampening field on the prison moon that prevents the runabout's transponder from working also prevents a phaser from delivering enough energy to vaporize a target, but that's not explicitly stated. Even without phasers, I can think of some pretty ghoulish ways someone could be killed on this moon. A prison moon where convicts are condemned to eternal punishment is the basis for a pretty good sci-fi story, but this one falls apart from poor execution.

Sisko struggled to maintain his command authority in this episode. After the crash, Kira went into her "I don't really work for you" routine. Sisko in turn chews off Julian's head over an offhand comment about the Prime Directive. That seemed a bit out of character.

I didn't like the way the writers removed Kai Opaka so early in the series. I thought that Camille Saviola was pretty good in that role and that they could have gotten a lot more mileage out of that character. I suppose the writers had to move her out of the way to make room for Bareil and the Kira-Bareil romance storyline.

Finally, I'm surprised that neither Kira nor Sisko was held accountable for losing the Kai during a poorly-planned and ill-considered sightseeing cruise through the wormhole. This was an episode that had some potential but suffered from poor execution. The midseason slump continues.
Matt Stoumbaugh
2. LazerWulf
I liked Kira's journey in this episode, but it seemed to me, while not melodramatic, per se, it was a bit overacted. Especially any part where Kira had to show grief (at Opaka's death, or her realization of her true nature).
TBGH
3. TBGH
I would have given it an 8 or a 9. This is the episode that convinced me DS9 would be worth watching for the long haul. Finally a scifi show that addresses religion without those following the religiion being brainwashed, ignorant savages, or on the path to superbeings of pure thought.

Kai Opaka does make the episode, and while now Dax's interaction with O'Brien is jarring, at the time I was thinking she was more of the theoretical physicist mold who can't do engineering in the real world.

To me it most shone in its reflection to similar episodes in TNG where a 'special mediator' is used to forge peace between foes with generations of warfare. DS9 acknowledged it's not that simple and set up for faith and patience to succeed (presumably in the future) where cold logic could not.
David Stumme
4. grenadier
So no one from either of the warring factions ever came up with the idea of wounding someone so badly that the microbes/nanites could not heal? Decapitation comes to mind. Incinerating the body while the victim was unconscious, etc. It seems like they would have long ago resorted to that, and annihilated each other, for the most part.
David Stumme
5. grenadier
Re: #3.

The religious aspects of DS9 have one huge problem though. Is it still faith when you know for a scientific certainty that your gods exist? Once the wormhole is discovered, and its residents are contacted, it's not really a matter of faith for the Bajorans any more. They know their gods exist, where the orbs came from, etc.
Alan Courchene
6. Majicou
I, too, always have a moment of weird realization/rememberance when I'm reminded that this was only Opaka's second appearance, last real-time appearance, and second of four overall. As a character, she looms large over DS9, maybe in part because of her pivotal role getting things started.

Sometimes, I think I suffer from "small-universe syndrome" in my own mind, because I'm also a little annoyed that Opaka suddenly decides, even before knowing she has no real options, that her life's work will now be to help these aliens-of-the-week. From any logical standpoint, it's a noble and laudable goal--but I don't really CARE that much because we just met these people. It's rather like when Kirk sacrifices himself to save aliens-of-the-week we never even see in Generations. It's heroic and selfless (if you leave aside the question of whether it was at all necessary), but my fan's brain is just disappointed.
treebee72 _
7. treebee72
When I did my own rewatch last year, I was surprised that this episode was only the second appearance of Opaka. And reading this recap, I'm surprised again. Even after death, her character is such an important part of the series that she ends up being remembered as showing up more than she really did.
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
@2: Funny, my recollection was that this was the episode where Nana Visitor's acting finally started to impress me. As I said in the comments for "Emissary," I felt her performance there was kind of superficial, but here she conveyed more intensity and depth.

And I prefer the idea of Kira being a minor footnote in Dukat's records to the later retcons about their relationship, which got rather too small-universey.

Overall, this episode didn't work well for me. I was never that fond of Saviola as Opaka, but it was strange that they dumped the character so quickly. The DS9 Companion says it was basically to defy redshirt syndrome, having the sacrificial non-regular in the runabout be someone important that the audience would never expect to see killed rather than just Ensign Neverseenbefore. But that doesn't seem like enough reason in itself to eliminate someone set up as such a major recurring character.

The episode also commits what's already a common sin in DS9: introducing what should be a revolutionary, civilization-shaking technology and then never mentioning it again. We've already had insta-cloning and a technology to preserve the mind after death; now we've got nanites that can cure all injuries and make people immortal! Sure, these ones were programmed to shut off if they left the planet, but that implies that others could be programmed to work anywhere. So why didn't the Federation immediately track down the race that stranded these guys on this moon and learn about their cure-anything medical technology? Why isn't every power in the galaxy trying to acquire it from them? Good grief, between those three technologies, death should've been virtually wiped out by the end of the series. The entire nature of existence should've been transformed. Yet instead these technologies were completely forgotten, without even a good reason being offered for their abandonment.

And yes, I hated how Dax, the brilliant, 300-year-old scientist, was reduced to second banana to O'Brien, the working stiff who was just very good at his job. In addition to the implicit sexism, what bothered me was the writers' confusion of theory and practice, physics and engineering. What O'Brien was doing here was based in theory, figuring out the underlying physics of the situation. That's different from the job of an engineer, which is based on applying known physics in practical form. Dax should've been the one who came up with the theory about magnetic resonance, and O'Brien should've been the one who, once she'd explained what was needed, figured out how to build a gadget that would do it.
TBGH
9. Ashcom
I have to say I very much enjoyed this episode because of the way it dealt with a series of problems with no real solution. Instead of the usual science-fiction "deus ex machina" technobabble way out, it basically just finished by acknowledging the lack of solutions and saying "this is the situation, it is what it is, now we just have to deal with it."

That said, it does ignore one glaringly obvious problem, which is that Kai Opaka is not lost. She's alive, and everyone knows exactly where she is. And regardless of her personal wishes, surely the provisional government would not be content to simply give up on such a powerful symbol of their newfound freedom. And yet, seemingly, they are. They just shrug their shoulders and say "oh well, i guess we need a new Kai then."
Raymond Seavey
10. RaySea
I've always wished they had Opaka appear more before killing her.
While Camille Saviola was excellant, we still know the character is important because we've been told she's important, rather than being shown. It would have been nice to build the character up a bit before just killing her off.
Alan Courchene
11. Majicou
@9: I can certainly buy that the vedeks would want to elect a new kai. After all, communicating through the wormhole is non-trivial, and Opaka's self-proclaimed new calling is hardly going to give her time to guide the Bajoran people spiritually. Alive and not lost, sure, but a pretty good example of the phrase "Unable to fulfill her duties."
Mike Kelmachter
12. MikeKelm
In a way Kai Opaka had to die, and not just to defy redshirt disease. As the undisputed spiritual leader, she was just too influential to allow any of the shenanigans we saw in later seasons (the Bajor first plot in season 2, the caste system nonsense, all of Kai Winns maneuvering,etc). The show is built about the concept of getting Bajor into the federation and Siskos duel roles as Federation representative and Bajoran religious figure. Having Opaka around puts a damper on any sort of resistance to the first and has a religious figure on the same level as the Sisko. So in a way she had to go.

One small issue about Obriens magnetic detection. First, it isn't a new concept. Aircraft have used Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) gear to detect submarines, so it's not like this is a huge leap Obriens making. Also, there's a lot of metal in space- asteroids are basically giant hunks of iron, so figuring out a 40 meter long ship from a 500 ton asteroid isn't going to be easy. Especially because I doubt that a vessel that is designed to withstand the rigors of space is magnetic.
TBGH
13. Eric Saveau
Dax and O’Brien find the Yangtzee Kiang thanks to O’Brien pulling a piece of technobabble out of his ass
That was a really nice keyboard; I'll have to see if I can salvage it...
Dante Hopkins
14. DanteHopkins
The one thing that always stood out for me was Nana Visitor's performance in this episode. You feel every emotion from Kira, particularly after the Kai's initial death (Kira's crying and death chant always brings me to tears), then having the Kai come back for Kira to lose her all over again. The scene with Opaka and Kira is a powerful, and Kira's range of emotions here add a powerful component to the episode.

I have to admit, it never dawned on me that Dax should have been the one to figure all the science-y stuff. She is after all, y'know, Science Officer. Maybe 13 year old me simply liked looking at Terry Farrell, but then again 33 year old me is probably guilty of the same thing. That Dax didn't really do much would have bothered my here if I didn't already know Jadzia was gonna go on to be a good Science Officer.

I hated that hey got rid of Opaka so early, especially in light of the Winn-Bariel saga. But I guess they had to set up for the stories to come. Still, taking out Opaka always seemed to me (at 13 and 33) a missed oppurtunity.
Christopher Bennett
15. ChristopherLBennett
@12: If it's such a common technology today, that makes it even more ridiculous how clueless Jadzia was about it.

And only some asteroids are heavily metallic. Many are carbonaceous, others largely silicate rock.
TBGH
16. Lsana
@9,11,

I didn't watch a lot of early DS9, but from what I remember, the Vedeks were not a totally disinterested, unambitious lot. I can easily imagine them reacting to this news with the thought, "Hmmm...wonder what it would be like to be called 'Kai.'" Plus, as others have mentioned, Kai Opaka was just too politically powerful. Any Vedek who had ideas about manipulating Bajor in a particular direction might very well be happy for the opportunity to either (a) become Kai, (b) have an ally/puppet become Kai, or (c) at the very least end up with a Kai whose moral authority was not quite so absolute as Opaka's. Given that I could easily see the, "The Kai has made her decision and we must respect it" faction winning the day and a new Kai being chosen.
Chris Nash
17. CNash
I would've appreciated a little more backstory to the Ennis and Nol-Ennis conflict - the actual reasons why they were fighting for so long that their government just got fed up with them and imposed this punishment. I had a thought that the structure of the name "Nol-Ennis" suggests "not-Ennis" - they both lay claim to the name "Ennis", and whatever priveleges, lands, titles etc. that confers, and their conflict is derived from that.

I enjoyed Nana Visitor's performance in this episode immensely. She really sells Kira's emotional conflict in her scenes with Opaka; it follows on from her development in "Past Prologue". Camille Saviola is wonderfully serene as Opaka, reminding me of Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan, but with a little more gravitas befitting a major religious leader.

As for O'Brien and Dax - I appreciated O'Brien's development into more of a miracle-worker figure akin to Scotty, but Dax should have shared in that development along with him. If the writers were determined to have O'Brien handle all of the technobabble, they should've paired him with a character who wouldn't be expected to know what he was talking about. For example, Odo - already established as not particularly technically minded, and a simple explanation of "The Bajoran government insisted that I accompany the Chief to search for the Kai" would have been plausible enough.
TBGH
18. Matt Doyle
For some reason I just can't suspend my disbelief for this one. if the microbes already healed or restored these people, why would leaving kill them? Do they suspend or replace normal healing? If it's the death of the microbes that will kill the people, why wouldn't it kill Sisko or Bashir or anyone else exposed to it? If not, why wouldn't the already healed wounds be... already healed?
This seems like a fantasy plot in a sci-fi world. I like fantasy. As an episode of Merlin or Hercules: the Legendary Journeys or something I could have dealt with this notion. With proper technobabble support I can even see some ways to rationalize it in sci-fi... but I want those rationalizations, & I don't feel the episode gives them to me!
While it may indeed hit some emotional notes right, this episode otherwise felt to me like a weird, out-of-place tangent. I'd call it the worst of the season so far if Move Along Home didn't have that one all sewn up.
Jack Flynn
19. JackofMidworld
Dax and O’Brien find the Yangtzee Kiang thanks to O’Brien pulling a piece of technobabble out of his ass...
Reading that was the high point of my morning so far.
Rob Rater
20. Quasarmodo
Count me in on the number who didn't like this episode.

You'd think after years of fighting with never any effect, there'd be members of one or both groups who realized the futility of it all and just gave up on the fighting, leaving to live their lives some other way.
alastair chadwin
21. a-j
A side note, but I was inordinately pleased that when Bashir called up Ops with the line 'Commander, you'd better get down here' with the standard 'What is it?' response he did not reply with a 'I think you need to see this' as normally happens but actually answered the question. I suspect that this must be about the only time this happens in TV drama, especially SF.
TBGH
22. dragontrainer
20 - Quasarmodo,

Unfortunately, there are a number of areas here on Earth whose histories would disagree with you.
Christopher Hatton
23. Xopher
Quasarmodo, dragontrainer is right. That said, watch Defiance, where a war ended for just that reason; the soldiers on all sides in one place became the "Defiant Few" when they simply refused to go on fighting.
Matt Hamilton
24. MattHamilton
The reason why I do not care about the Dax thing is because I never liked this episode and just pretend it doesn't exist, as I'm wont to do. I don't HATE this one like Move Along Home or anything, but it's just, blah!

Yes, I noticed that right away upon first viewing, that that technology would be searched out, found and put to use by every major race in the quadrant, if not the galaxy, and even some species who aren't so major. But, hey, we got a war coming up and need some tearjerker moments so let's just forget that ever existed. I never cared for Opaka, really. And, I guess I'm alone here but I always thought that Nana Visitor was a bit of an over actor all the time. Even later, I thought that she, even in a small moment, just moved, spoke and acted more than what the situation called for.

YOu're right about one thing, KRAD-One can never go wrong hiring Jonathan Banks. There is a reason why my favorite actors are people others can't name...because they are very good actors and not superstars and he's among the best.

Also, am I fair in stating that the Kai is like the Pope and the Vedeks are essentially Bishops and Cardinals? I may be biased here, but I never liked the fact that the entire planet seems to be, well, Catholics. The Federation is basically a secular society, or at least Earth is, and Bajor is entirely religious. You see some who are more devout than others but they all believe. I never really believed that. That's why I like Ro Laren in the books so much. She is the one Bajoran who doesn't believe in the Prophets as Gods. She knows they exist, she clearly has an understanding of what they are and how they are higher beings but not Gods...so her earring is worn on the wrong ear, kind of as an afront but really to stop the Vedeks from grabbing her ear to read her Pagh. I like that. Like I said, not really important and I may be biased on that issue but whatever. I don't like this episode is my point but I rambled.
Matt Hamilton
24. MattHamilton
The reason why I do not care about the Dax thing is because I never liked this episode and just pretend it doesn't exist, as I'm wont to do. I don't HATE this one like Move Along Home or anything, but it's just, blah!

Yes, I noticed that right away upon first viewing, that that technology would be searched out, found and put to use by every major race in the quadrant, if not the galaxy, and even some species who aren't so major. But, hey, we got a war coming up and need some tearjerker moments so let's just forget that ever existed. I never cared for Opaka, really. And, I guess I'm alone here but I always thought that Nana Visitor was a bit of an over actor all the time. Even later, I thought that she, even in a small moment, just moved, spoke and acted more than what the situation called for.

YOu're right about one thing, KRAD-One can never go wrong hiring Jonathan Banks. There is a reason why my favorite actors are people others can't name...because they are very good actors and not superstars and he's among the best.

Also, am I fair in stating that the Kai is like the Pope and the Vedeks are essentially Bishops and Cardinals? I may be biased here, but I never liked the fact that the entire planet seems to be, well, Catholics. The Federation is basically a secular society, or at least Earth is, and Bajor is entirely religious. You see some who are more devout than others but they all believe. I never really believed that. That's why I like Ro Laren in the books so much. She is the one Bajoran who doesn't believe in the Prophets as Gods. She knows they exist, she clearly has an understanding of what they are and how they are higher beings but not Gods...so her earring is worn on the wrong ear, kind of as an afront but really to stop the Vedeks from grabbing her ear to read her Pagh. I like that. Like I said, not really important and I may be biased on that issue but whatever. I don't like this episode is my point but I rambled.
TBGH
25. Data Logan
I do feel that at times the Bajorans were portrayed as too much of the "race of hats", with their hat being their very Catholic-like religion. Bit too simplistic.
I often wanted a more realistic portrayal of the religious beliefs. We should have seen a lot more varied interpretations of the religion. Especially after the Prophets are actually discovered to be wormhole aliens by the Emissary. I would have expected the religion to split on just that alone, with some saying the wormhole aliens are Prophets, and others saying they are not, and still others maybe saying "why are we letting these aliens get away with pretending to be our Gods for millennia? Let's get them!" Really, a religious war or jihad likely would have been just around the corner at this point. Like all the controversy that happen in the Klingon Empire when Kahless "returned" as a clone.

Again, the novels do a better job with the religion, presenting a few different factions. Even the Pah-Wraith followers are presented as a completely viable option versus just an "evil" cult.
Matt Hamilton
26. MattHamilton
Well, I hadn't even gotten to the Pah-Wraiths in my comments. I actually hated anything that had to do with them. They were silly and made the Prophets silly. The "Wormhole Aliens" were at least interesting in that they didn't live linear lives and were kind of a collective. But when the Pah-Wraiths came on the scene, it was kind of Jedi Vs. Sith
Christopher Bennett
27. ChristopherLBennett
@25: It doesn't bother me much that Bajoran religion was more unified, and less troubled by the physical reality of the wormhole aliens, than human religions. After all, they've had tangible proof of higher beings watching over them for thousands of years, in the form of the Orbs, and in the form of the interaction with the Prophets that the Orbs allowed. And unlike human prophets, they make predictions that actually come true without having to be creatively rephrased after the fact. So it's not like human religions where you have many different ideas about the nature and will of the divine and the only way to choose among them is faith. There's a much more empirical basis for their beliefs. Thus, while there would surely be factional disagreements about the meaning of the Prophets' teachings and the best way to follow them, it stands to reason that pretty much every Bajoran religion would be a form of Prophetism (to coin a term), unless it came from some part of Bajor where the people had been isolated so long that they'd never heard of the Orbs. But Bajor is such an ancient world that it's probably been many millennia since any population was completely cut off like that.

@26: I agree about the Pah-Wraiths. One reason that David Weddle & Bradley Thompson were my least favorite members of the DS9 writing staff is that, in addition to doing episodes that were generally more mediocre than the other staffers', they introduced two of my least favorite Trek concepts, the Pah-Wraiths and Section 31.
Christopher Hatton
28. Xopher
The wormhole aliens (the "Prophets") ARE gods. It's pretty clear what they are. They don't understand linear time because they live outside it, but they can make anything happen they want. Not like a monotheistic God, but definitely gods.

Pah-Wraiths? Feh. Stupid concept, poorly executed, makes no sense.
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: What evidence do we have that the wormhole aliens "can make anything happen they want?" There's actually rather little evidence of them exerting any influence on events outside the wormhole. The main instance was in the ending of "Accession." That was the one time they seemed to do anything that involved controlling the nature of external reality. Normally their interaction with the outside world was more subtle, either sending out Orbs or occasionally possessing individuals. They could predict future events, of course, but that was simply because they had experienced those events already, not because they made them happen.
Phil Parsons
30. Yakko
@24: No you're not alone when it comes to Nana Visitor. I don't find her histrionics in this episode convincing either. I think she does some great work in the course of the series and I love the character but I prefer the "less is more" approach to conveying onscreen emotion - particularly in an intimate medium like television.
Phil Parsons
31. Yakko
@29: Don't forget about "Sacrifice of Angels" where they made an entire Dominion fleet vanish and altered the course of the war. (I wonder if any of the EU ever offered an explanation of what happened to those ships - seems a grim prospect that the Prophets would have ended their existence altogether.) Admittedly that occurred inside the wormhole but it does almost seem like something out of the Old Testament. I do agree with you, however, that their divinity seems entirely a matter of perspective and faith and that nothing in the show states it outright.
TBGH
32. Erik Dercf
Let me barrow from Aliens and say

"Lets nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

Put those people out of their misery for solving their problems earlier.

Cheers all
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@31: As you say, that happened inside the wormhole, in the Prophets' own territory. Naturally they can influence what happens in their own domain, but that doesn't make them gods who can alter the nature of our reality at a whim. Indeed, I think the ending of "Accession" was inappropriate because it gave them more far-reaching, godlike power over events outside the wormhole than was ever shown at any other time.

It's a pervasive bit of laziness among sci-fi and fantasy writers to treat all beings with superhuman powers as if they all had infinite power, rather than giving each a set of defined limits and sticking to them. Particularly in Trek, there's a tendency to treat all superior races as identical. Like the fan theory that Trelane was a Q, even though his "magic" tricks were far more limited than the Q's abilities and they were actually the work of a machine Trelane controlled rather than his own innate power. I've even seen the Metrons from "Arena" described in tie-in fiction as energy beings even though there's no evidence in the episode that they aren't corporeal humanoids (aside from a bit of sparkle around Carole Shelyne, which was really just light from her metallic toga reflecting off the camera lens). So I guess it's no surprise that the wormhole aliens went from "existing in another continuum where time has no meaning or relevance and everything is so alien that observers can only perceive it through analogies drawn from their own minds" to "having godlike power over reality and able to possess people to wage mystical battles." What started out as science fiction drifted increasingly toward fantasy.
Matt Hamilton
34. MattHamilton
I actually liked Section 31. Sure, they were a bit hoaky as shown but there was a lot of potential. Just like I would never buy that Starfleet, as a naval entity, was strictly scientific (especially when there were scientists whom Starfleet worked for, i.e. Carol Marcus) and that there would be no Marines or MACOS, as Rodenberry would have wished, I refuse to believe that there isn't a clandestine agency within the Federation. Sure, there is Starfleet Intelligence, but that's akin to Military Intelligence, to me at least, while Section 31 is more CIA or NSA, at least the way those agencies are shown on film. Also, it seems confused on occassion just what the Federation is. Sometimes, it's all of the worlds that are a part of the Federation, as any member race can join Starfleet or stay in their own military/scientific vessels. Other times, the Federation is Earth with a whole bunch of allies. Section 31 represents the Federation but only seems to be about Earth. I suppose there wasn't enough screen time devoted to them or background information to clarify some of their objectives, and I'm reading too much into something...once again.

To me though, just because you have more imperical proof of your belief structure doesn't mean that everyone would believe they were gods at all. If humans had more imperical proofs of our beliefs then there would be arguments over whether or not they are actually devine. Again, the only person to have this mindset was Ro Laren. Everyone else, despite the fact that they were found to be aliens living outside of time, have absolute faith in the fact that they are gods and to me that makes no sense. Again, I may be biased because I have no religious belief as it is, so I always was a bit confused by their absolute devotion.
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
@34: Even on Earth, different cultures have different ways of defining divinity. We English-speakers use the word "god" to translate other religions' terms, but often it's an imperfect translation that brings our own assumptions and cultural baggage with it and can keep us from realizing that those assumptions aren't universal.

For instance, there's the old story that the Aztecs saw Cortez and the conquistadores as gods, and that some other Native Americans saw white settlers as divine. While that's technically true, it would be a gross misunderstanding to think, as generations of Westerners have done, that it meant the Native Americans saw Europeans as infinitely superior beings that they had no choice but to submit to. Because that's not what "god" meant in their culture. For Native Americans (among others), divinity was a property that could be found throughout nature and even in members of their own communities -- their priests or their shamans. They didn't believe white men were gods because they automatically recognized whites as superior beings, but because they believed some of their own people were divine and assumed the same was true of these new arrivals. And while a divine being had to be engaged with cautiously, that didn't mean it was an absolute monarch to be bowed to and worshipped -- just a powerful entity to be negotiated with. And sometimes even gods are expected to follow the rules. The Native Hawaiians saw Captain Cook and his crew as divine because they happened to arrive at a time and in a way that was consistent with what the legends said about when divine beings would show up, so they were celebrated accordingly; but when they came back later, in the ritually wrong time and manner, they were killed for it. Not because the Hawaiians realized they weren't gods after all, but because the gods weren't playing by the rules of the universe and the balance needed to be restored.

One thing that makes it hard for Westerners to understand foreign belief systems is our rather unusual dualistic view, the belief that the spiritual and divine realm is something completely separate from and above the material world, so that a corporeal being can't be a god (unless he's Jesus -- for some reason Christians allow that exception but can't recognize others). So within that set of assumptions, it's hard to understand how the Bajorans could see the wormhole denizens as gods when they're provably, physically real. But look beyond Western preconceptions and there doesn't have to be a dichotomy there. There are cultures here on Earth that have no problem treating the physical and spiritual realms as one, so there's no reason why Bajoran culture couldn't see the Prophets as gods and aliens simultaneously.
Matt Hamilton
36. MattHamilton
But it is one thing to see something as divine and connected to the spirit world but not neccessarily a God as westerners think of the term, and it is another to recognize a spiritual precence and worship it. The Bajorans clearly worship and/or pray to the Prophets, where as Native Americans never worshipped or prayed to the European settlers as they came. They may have seen them as connected to the divine, just as the Bajorans may see the Prophets as connected to divinity, but yet worship them, knowing full well that they are aliens. Well, I suppose some of them don't really see them as aliens just becase they reside in the wormhole. Seeing as the Bajoran wormhole is the only stable one of it's kind, it's reasonable to assume that there are sects of Bajorans who believe that it is the only one ever to exist and that ever will as it is the gateway to heaven. But that is never explored because, again, the writers chose to just blanket the planet with one religion and they ALL follow it blindly. In everything you said, you are right and have stated more ellagantly than I could. In the world of the writer's, however, they failed to recognize that not every individual would see them as gods, nor would they worship them blindly.
Christopher Bennett
37. ChristopherLBennett
The point is that there's no limit on the variety of ways that different cultures can approach religion and faith, so just because Bajoran culture's religion doesn't seem explicable to you, or doesn't correspond to Earthly experience, that doesn't mean it couldn't really work that way. After all, as I said, it's unlike any Earthly religion in that it's demonstrably, objectively real, and in that it's existed for over ten thousand years, at least twice as long as the oldest active religion on Earth, Hinduism.
TBGH
38. Patrick Depew
A little late to the party on this one, but I think that the reason I didn't fully embrace this episode had a lot to do with the fact that I really didn't care for Kira during season 1. I just thought she was too whiny and disagreeable. I really didn't care about her inner struggles or guilt over what she had to do in her past. I changed that stance over time but when watching this episode I just kept thinking, "Oh, get over it!"

I also didn't like that they got rid of Opaka so quickly. I thought she was a good character. Considering that it led to the introduction of Winn, the poster child for "if you don't like religious figures, you'll like them even less after spending a few minutes with her," it was disappointing for Opaka to be out of the show so early.

I thought the concept was interesting of these people being resurrected just to be killed again was interesting. It plays like they're bots in a round-based first person shooter game in some ways. But ultimately neither side deserved much sympathy, so I felt that maybe the concept was somewhat wasted.
Joseph Newton
39. crzydroid
I wonder a little bit if I would've even really remember Opaka if I had been watching this for the first time when it originally aired. We haven't seen her since the first episode, which would've been 12 weeks prior, and no mention was made of it in between. No mention of him being the "Emissary" was mentioned here either. I wonder if I would've just been like, "Oh yeah, that whole plotline," but essentially still been confused about it.

And the line about the wormhole only opening when a ship approaches makes a certain amount of sense. Is it that the wormhole can be entered at anytime as a ship approaches? I always used to think that it opened on a schedule. This makes more sense as ships are always flying into the wormhole at seemingly random times.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
40. Lisamarie
I am mainly commenting here so I can follow the discussion - anything I wanted to say or comment on has been thoroughly discussed already (I do find the topic of religion very interesting, ESPECIALLY the definition of what a god means - I remember having to realize that when I was a youngster reading Greek mythologyt and wondering how on earth their gods could be so 'immoral' or just plain fallible at times -, but I don't have the time/energy right now so I'll just wait for another episode that touches on it to jump in). It was cook to see Opaka again - sorry to see her go.
TBGH
41. Greasy Mud Fart
Lol @ Opaka smiling while condemning the crew to what appeared to be their death (and what really turned out to be hers). They couldn't have made the character more annoying if they tried. She was obviously trying to kill them all.

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