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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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