Aug 30 2013 2:00pm

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Paradise”

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise“Paradise”
Written by Jim Trombetta and James Crocker and Jeff King and Richard Manning & Hans Beimler
Directed by Corey Allen
Season 2, Episode 15
Production episode 40512-435
Original air date: February 13, 1994
Stardate: 47573.1

Station log: Sisko and O’Brien are surveying systems near Bajor to investigate the possibilities of new colonies forming near the wormhole. O’Brien agrees to take on Jake as an apprentice—he scored very low on mechanical aptitude, and Sisko is concerned about it—and then finds a Class-M planet that’s perfect for colonizing. So perfect, in fact, that there are already humans on it, to their surprise, since there’s no colony listed on the books. They don’t respond to hails, but O’Brien detects a low-level duonetic field that interferes with communications. Upon arrival, their tricorders and combadges go dead, and O’Brien hypothesizes that there’s no EM activity whatsoever on the planet.

They meet two humans, Joseph and Vinod, who explain that they were en route to Gemulon V when their colony ship, the SS Santa Maria, suffered life-support failure and they had to land; the duonetic field nailed them. They’ve been trapped for a decade, but they’ve made this their home. The Santa Maria is now simply “the cabin,” and it’s the base of operations for the colony. They meet Alixus, the leader, who is proud of the work they’ve done. They’ve created an entire community without any technology.

The question now is whether or not the colonists will leave when Sisko and O’Brien are rescued. Alixus makes it clear that she herself won’t leave. Alixus also makes it clear that Sisko and O’Brien will have to work for their supper, and the two are more than happy to contribute. Alixus then, rather ominously, tells Vinod, who’s her son, that two strong men will be a boon to the community.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

Back on the station, the Rio Grande isn’t responding to hails. A Starfleet search turns it up flying at warp two near Romulan space. Kira and Dax go after it in the Orinoco.

Alixus has left several books she’s written in both Sisko’s and O’Brien’s bunks (they are neither little nor red, proving she has some sense of subtlety). She’s written on pretty much everything—economics, literature, politics—and she seems to have concluded that humanity has become fat and complacent and dull. To that end, after the crash, she got rid of all traces of technology, since it didn’t work anymore and it was just a reminder of what they couldn’t have.

Of course, they can’t have modern medicine, either. A young woman named Meg is dying, and it encourages Sisko and O’Brien to find ways to make their combadges work, but Alixus discourages such talk in private with Sisko. She also wants no talk of rescue until and unless said rescue arrives. Indeed, she’s acting as if Sisko and O’Brien will never leave the planet.

However, the pair of them work as promised. Sisko fares better than O’Brien, who admits to Joseph that he has a black thumb and the only way he could get anything to grow was to marry a botanist. Vinod also mentions to Sisko that he’s never eaten replicated food, that his mother ate only natural food.

A young man named Stephen is released from a small box, where he’s been sitting out in the sun for a day for stealing a candle. Alixus believes that this is an effective way to maintain law and order; Sisko thinks it’s torture.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

That night, a woman named Cassandra comes to Sisko’s cabin and offers to give him a soothing massage, and she admits that Alixus sent her there to seduce him. Sisko confronts Alixus, who insists that the choice was entirely Cassandra’s. Sisko also finds it curious that Alixus is the only one who was prepared to crash on a planet with no technology, as she has only codex books and only eats non-replicated food.

Alixus’s punishment for Sisko questioning her is to put him on watch all night, and he’s also willing to work in the fields the next day despite the lack of sleep.

Kira and Dax find the Rio Grande. Dax manages to nab it with a tractor beam and bring both it and the Orinoco to impulse. They beam over and retrace the Rio Grande’s course back directly to a star. Dax hypothesizes that someone sent it at warp toward that sun, but aimed poorly and it bounced off the sun’s gravitational field instead.

Alixus announces that Meg has died. While eulogizing her, Alixus announces that O’Brien has been arrested for the crime of wasting time trying to activate technology. But she’s not putting O’Brien in the box, she’s putting Sisko there, since O’Brien was acting under his orders. Joseph points out that he probably wanted to get his hands on medicine to save Meg’s life, but Alixus just uses that as an example of the type of attitude that would’ve gotten them all killed.

Sisko silently hands Vinod his rake and gets into the box.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

After a day in the box, Alixus offers Sisko—who can barely walk and can’t talk—some water and the ability to lie down, if he’ll only remove his uniform and change into the clothes they’ve made in the colony. Sisko stares at the water and the clothes, and then gets up and stumbles out of the cabin and voluntarily climbs back into the box, refusing to let O’Brien help him, pulling the door shut behind him.

Joseph finds O’Brien putting together an improvised compass that he can use to track the duonetic field. Joseph can’t just look the other way, as Alixus would put him in the box. So Joseph lets O’Brien knock him out and then the chief follows the compass to a clearing, where the dirt is covering a device that emits the very duonetic field he detected. Before O’Brien can do anything about it, he’s almost killed by one of Vinod’s arrows. O’Brien subdues the young man, then turns the field off, returning to the community with a bound Vinod. He frees Sisko by the extreme but demonstrative measure of firing at it with his now-working phaser.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

Alixus admits that she helped invent the duonetic field and that this planet was always the Santa Maria’s destination. She also says that she destroyed the Rio Grande, and she admits that she chose the planet months in advance, and that she always intended for them to stay there forever. She gives a very nice speech about how much better Stephen and Joseph and Cassandra’s lives are, leaving it to Sisko to remind everyone about the dead, that Meg and the others died to prove her theory, and they’re not living better lives now because they’re not living at all. Alixus is willing to answer for that, and she and Vinod are going with Sisko in custody. Everyone else, however, stays behind—this is still their home. They’ll have to decide for themselves whether or not to keep the duonetic field on or off and whether or not to contact the outside world. But whatever else Alixus did wrong, she did give them a community. So the only ones to accompany Sisko and O’Brien back to the runabout are Alixus and Vinod.

The last shot is of two of the children of the community staring at the box.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? A duonetic field can wipe out all electromagnetic activity in a particular range. Kind of like an EMP only without the destructive elements.

Also, navigating a vessel without being able to make course corrections in the vastness of space is a risky business. Alixus’s deliberate ignorance of technology probably worked in our heroes’ favor here, as the Rio Grande would only have to go a fraction of a degree off course to completely miss the sun, enabling Dax and Kira to find it. (Of course, DS9 still would’ve kept searching for Sisko and O’Brien, but Alixus didn’t know about the wormhole and how much more traffic the area would continue to get as time went on, so she probably deluded herself into thinking that their colleagues would have more trouble finding them.)

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko reveals that his father grew all the food for his restaurant in a garden, and he made his kids pick it all when they were growing up.

He also imagines that his son is on a track to join Starfleet. He will be disillusioned of this notion eventually.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira wants to beam over to the Rio Grande from the Orinoco while both ships are at warp, which is a very risky maneuver.

The slug in your belly: Dax’s alternative to the above is to catch the Rio Grande in a tractor beam and slow both ships, which is only slightly less risky. But she pulls it off. Because she’s just that awesome.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Cassandra offers herself to Sisko, complete with massage oil. Sisko is less than impressed, and immediately asks Alixus which book of hers talks about sexual procurement.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

Keep your ears open: “You got a better idea?”

“I’m a science officer. It’s my job to have a better idea.”

Kira being reminded by Dax of her job description while channeling Dr. Peter Venkman.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

Welcome aboard: The big guest is longtime character actor Gail Strickland, who puts in a charismatic performance as Alixus. We also get Julia Nickson, last seen as Ensign T’su in TNG’s “The Arsenal of Freedom,” as Cassandra; Steve Vinovich as Joseph; Erick Weiss, last seen as Ensign Kane in TNG’s “Conundrum” and “Relics,” as Stephen; and Michael B. Silver, best known for his recurring roles on NYPD Blue, CSI: Miami, and, currently, Royal Pains, as Vinod.

Trivial matters: We get some more revelations about Setlik III, first mentioned in “The Wounded.” It was there that O’Brien first learned how to mess with transporters, and O’Brien says that it was his performance there that earned him the promotion to tactical officer on the Rutledge under Captain Maxwell, as also established in that same episode.

The final draft of the script was provided by executive producer Ira Steven Behr’s former colleagues on TNG’s third season, Richard Manning & Hans Beimler. The writing team was offered a staff position on DS9 on the strength of this episode, but they turned him down. Beimler would eventually reverse his decision and join the staff in the fourth season. This is, however, Manning’s only DS9 credit.

Your humble rewatcher used duonetic fields in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers story Here There Be Monsters and the novel A Singular Destiny, and also had Sisko referencing the events of this episode to Picard in the Slings and Arrows eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment. James Swallow also had a planet with a duonetic field in his story for the Voyager anthology Distant Shores entitled “Closure.”

Andre Bormanis included a science log from Dax about the duonetic field generator in his reference book Science Logs.

Walk with the Prophets: “I did it all for the community.” Until I read it on Memory Alpha (which is a great site, by the way, it’s been immensely useful to both this and the TNG Rewatch), I never realized that half the cast is missing from this episode, nor did I really realize that there’s almost no scenes on board Deep Space 9 itself. Such experimental episodes would become more commonplace as the series went on, but this was a bit of a departure.

On the one hand, one can easily accuse this is being yet another TNG script with the serial numbers changed so that it works as a DS9 episode. On the surface, there wouldn’t even appear to be anything particularly DS9 about it. Hell, the scriptwriters are (up to this point) far better known for their TNG scripts.

But to my mind, watching this episode two decades ago, this was the episode that cemented Benjamin Sisko as one of the great Star Trek leads. Avery Brooks’s performances to this point have ranged from brilliant to solid to only occasionally off-kilter, but to me, any doubts I had about the Sisko character were forevermore erased by the scene where he gets up, stares at the water he desperately wants, stumbles out into the square, and puts himself back in the box while still in his full uniform. It’s a stellar moment of civil disobedience, and gets the point across magnificently in a manner that would usually result in a speech from Kirk or Picard, instead speaks volume without a single word, only a few glances and a shake of the head when O’Brien moves to help him.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

The other reason why the episode works is a great performance by Gail Strickland. She’s so damn earnest in her beliefs, so utterly convinced of the rightness of her own actions. Her charisma is just right for the role: not overbearing, but kind and smiling and reasonable. The only time it falters is when she talks about how much the sacrifices hurt, as only then does she become disingenuous—and indeed that’s when Sisko calls her out, both when he first learns of Meg and later when Alixus admits to setting up the colony on purpose. The only time Alixus isn’t genuine is when she tries to say that she’s suffered horribly from the deaths in the community, because dammit Meg suffered a crapton more, what with actually being diseased, the cure having been sent toward its doom by Alixus when she threw away the runabout.

The episode doesn’t shy away from the horror of what Alixus has done, seen most clearly in Meg’s fate, as well as the sense of betrayal evinced by Cassandra, but Joseph’s heartfelt words at the end ring true as well. Joseph in particular puts a human face on the whole thing—Alixus is too fantatical, Vinod’s too much his mother’s son, and Cassandra’s mostly there to fail to seduce Sisko and look all dewey-eyed and stuff, but Steve Vinovich gives such a delightful (one might say Colm Meaney-esque) every-person performance as Joseph that you believe him when he says he believes in the community. The paradise of the title isn’t entirely false—though Meg’s death is a reminder that it isn’t entirely true, either.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Paradise

There are ways I wish the episode had a bit more bite to it—for example, have Meg die, not of some strange insect they can’t figure out a cure to, but something simple that we can fix now, like (to keep the “bite” metaphor going) an abscessed tooth that got infected—and the ending is way rushed (something that could’ve been avoided just with a cut to the next morning or something). But overall this is a strong episode that does a better job at looking at the issues of technology versus lack of same than some previous entrants on other Trek series (notably the original seriers’ laughable “The Way to Eden” or TNG’s good-but-flawed “The Ensigns of Command”), and also a very convincing cult.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido is at Dragon Con 2013 this weekend. He’ll be doing a Writer Q&A on the Star Trek Track on Saturday at 5.30pm, and a bunch of other things including a meetup for The Chronic Rift podcast Sunday night in the Hilton Bar. His full schedule is hereand you can search for his name on the DC app to find his schedule as well.

1. tortillarat
The first time I saw this one I was so angry at Alixus. It's not often that I really can't stand a character or that a TV episode elicits a real emotional response. I'm not talking about bad acting or being annoying (Wesley), but rather that Alixus herself is someone I would immediately dislike if I met her in person. She's so arrogant and closed minded and megalomaniacal and believes everything she does is right while embracing torture as a method of control...and yet she's totally realistic. There are real people out there just like her, and I'm sure we've all met or at least read about them. It probably didn't help her case that a certain president was still in power and we were embroiled in the most violent years of the Iraq war when I first watched it, and I saw some parallels there. She wasn't nearly as infuriating when I watched it again, but damn she's crazy.

There's great acting and a great story here. Strickland's performance makes it all the more memorable; another actor could've made it an average run-of-the-mill episode.
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
As I read through these rewatches with you, I am struck by how much I still love DS9. At the time it was on, it was very much in the shadow of TNGfor me... I definitely didnt appreciate it. But now , all of these years later I really see how good it was especially compared to the shoes that come next like voyager and enterprise and various other scifi shows IMHO.

I dont have much to comment about this specific episode other than sisko and the box reminds me of a similar scene in the movie "Bridge over the river kwai" Funny how the leader must suffer and survive for the followers (and in this case viewers) to respect him.
Christopher Bennett
3. ChristopherLBennett
I agree, Sisko climbing back into that box was a damn powerful moment. I remember Dennis McCarthy's music being particularly effective at that point as well.

What's great about Sisko's action there is that he wordlessly shows Alixus's people what a good leader really is. She wants her people to suffer for her beliefs, but Sisko takes his people's suffering on his own shoulders. And so he shows her to be a hypocrite and a far weaker leader than he is. That's some top-notch civil disobedience there.

Dax's "I'm a science officer" bit was a terrific moment too. I've commented how much I hate the bit in "Battle Lines" where Dax listens cluelessly while O'Brien does her job for her and comes up with the science ideas. Her line here felt like a deliberate repudiation of that scene, and underlined how much the writing of the character had improved.

Of course, the real reason the runabout wasn't destroyed is that it was the Rio Grande. If Sisko and O'Brien had taken a different runabout, it would've flown right into the sun and they would never have been found. But the Rio is indestructible.

Except how does a runabout lost near Bajor end up near the Romulan border? That isn't consistent with the galactic cartography the shows' technical staff had worked out by that point, with Cardassian space on the Alpha-Quadrant side of the UFP and Romulan space on the Beta-Quadrant side.
4. bookworm1398
This episode had some great lines and scenes, but I hated it because of the ending.
I don't know why the writers chose to have an ambigious position, what is wrong with an unbashadly pro-techonology message... this is a science fiction show after all. There were so many other opportunities to show how these people were suffering due to lack of technology - rotting teeth, people constantly hot and sweating due to the lack of air conditioning, constant back pain from bending over for farming, near sighted people squinting without glasses - and the big one contraception. They had the perfect opening to bring that up with Cassandra was with Sisko - aren't you concerned you will get pregnant? but they ignored it.
And in the end, nobody chooses to leave? Not just among the adults, none of these small town kids are curious about the big city lights?
5. RobinM
Trust me I'd have been one of the first people volunteering to leave this rock no matter how pretty. I always wanted to travel and I'd be blind without new glasses. The most terrifing thing about Alexus was she founded her colony on a lie and by artifical means. I'm sure she could of created her own above board back to nature hipppie dippie commune if she asked for volunteers. Zelots are crazy no matter what century they live in. Sisko Rocks as a leader in this episode too.
6. Alan Balthrop, DTM
One small kibitz: how does an enlisted man get to be Tatical Officer of a Starship and then returned to being an NCO? Wouldn't he be field-promoted to Lt. and sent to the Starfleet equivilent of OCS?
7. Tunod D. Denrub
My only real issue with this episode is that not one person acted as if they felt betrayed. No one seemed really shocked or horrified that Alixus basically forced all of them to bow to her belief through an outright lie and essentially played dice with all their lives. No one showed the faintest bit of outrage that she had forced them onto that planet for years, kept them under control with torture, and essentially built a cult of personality around herself and 'the community' just to prove a point.

Every other part of this episode was good. Very good. But the way everyone just kind of goes "*shrug* Too bad about that, I guess" when they find out she caused the crash and started the duonetic field? That bugged me. That bugged me a lot. It's a missed opportunity on the writers' part.
Matt Hamilton
8. MattHamilton
I too found Alixus dispicable. I hated her. It was one thing to have a bunch of people on a planet and reject technology because it was their choice. But to force it on people and not even tell them? If she was so noble she would have told them exactly what she'd done upon building the settlement and those who wanted to stay? Fine. But for someone to die for her dream or for her theory is just disgusting.

And I too agree about having Meg die of something so small, so easy to fix. It would have been like Stephen King's The Stand. There was a whole section of the book dedicated to the people who survived the plague still dying off because of everyday things that couldn't be helped like a heart attack or the lady that locked herself in the walk in freezer but with no people, no help, she starved to death. And another person in their group died of appendicitis. Something that now is considered trivial or an easy fix, out patient, would kill! That's a horrible thought.

Also, yes, it was nice to see Dax actually do something with Science because she is, you know, the Science Officer.
Chris Nash
9. CNash
Gail Strickland's performance really sells this episode for me; she gives Alixus just the right amount of cult-leader fervour, creating a character who - like Louise Fletcher's Vedek Winn - is charismatic enough to lead her people while keeping her true, self-aggrandizing nature just below the surface. Her scenes with Avery Brooks are fantastic; Alixus reacts to Sisko's overt rejection of her philosophy and defiance of her rule by becoming extremely passive-aggressive. She can't just have him punished for not following her, as that wouldn't look good to the community - instead she first tries to break him with the double-shift of night watch and field work, and when that doesn't work, punishes him for O'Brien's actions, not directly.

I'll echo the earlier comment that some of the villagers should've been a bit more outraged when the truth finally came out. Don't they have families or other loved ones who would probably have thought they were dead all these years? For that matter, why didn't anyone from the Federation investigate when their ship went missing ten years ago? Given that Sisko and O'Brien stumbled upon their colony almost by accident, it shouldn't have been difficult for a half-decent starship crew to locate them, putting paid to Alixus's whole plan.
Christopher Bennett
10. ChristopherLBennett
@7 & 9: I think it's very telling that the colonists weren't outraged at the truth about Alixus. It shows how thoroughly she had them brainwashed. It's not easy to deprogram people who've been conditioned to follow a leader unquestioningly.
adam miller
11. adamjmil
I probably haven't seen this since it first aired, but add me to the list of people who hated Alixus, and because of that I hated this episode. She was so unreasonable, so obviously meant to be evil, and had such an arrogant and condenscending tone in every sentence she uttered...that I found it cartoonishly over the top. I did not find her charismatic.

It is true that there are people like that, especially these days. If this were shown today it would probably be viewed as a commentary on political idealogues moreso then technology or cults.

From what I remember, I do agree that Brooks gave a standout performance. And I actually agree that it should be rated highly, I just can't imagine watching it again. YMMV.
Shelly wb
12. shellywb
I really liked this episode, and thought Avery Brooks was wonderful. To me, this was one of the first episodes that felt like Star Trek, and yet did it firmly as DS9. This to me foreshadows the qualities of the long story arcs I admire in later seasons.
David Levinson
13. DemetriosX
I also found the ending a bit abrupt and a trifle vague. These people all need a rumspringa and I'm surprised that absolutely no one felt betrayed.

Avery Brooks is a tremendous physical actor. He can convey a tremendous amount just with body language. There was a lot of comment about how stiff he was the first season, but I think that may have been a deliberate choice. Sisko was a man holding everything in and walling himself away from everyone and everything except his son. Over time he relaxes and realizes he has friends in his crew, and we can see that in the way he holds himself. Less ramrod straight, more relaxed.
Robert Dickinson
14. ChocolateRob
Alixus certainly makes me think of Sofia Lamb in Bioshock 2 (of course DS9 is earlier than PS3).

Scary Lady, isolated community, extremist views on the greater good.

If only DS9 had alternate endings wherein the heroes can choose whether or not give that psycho the drowning she deserves.
alastair chadwin
15. a-j
Potentially a good, perhaps great episode and Sisko's return to the hotbox a stand-out moment.
But oh my, that ending.
Others above have analysed why that ending is so wrong better than I can so I will only point its endorsement of torture, mass deception , murder (denying life saving treatment of an ill person) and denial of informed choice makes this episode morally repugnant.
Chris Nash
16. CNash
@15 a-j: I wouldn't say that the episode is morally repugnant, just the actions of Alixus and her son. Like a lot of Star Trek episodes (and other episodic series in general), the writers have just 45 minutes to tell a coherent story; they have to choose what to focus on and what to gloss over, and in this case, the colonists' response to Alixus's actions was left by the wayside. In fact, none of the colonists save for Joseph, Cassandra and Stephen are given any real development (and the latter two only barely), so I wasn't expecting the episode to dwell on their psychological recovery after Sisko and O'Brien had left. As Christopher said, these people were victims of a kind of psychological conditioning, reminiscent of a cult, and deprogramming them would take more time than the episode had to spare.

I still stand by my original comment, though, that we should have seen an emotional reaction from maybe a couple of the colonists, rather than the blank acceptance that "it's all ok because we have a great community!" espoused by Alixus and Joseph.

It's clear throughout the episode that we're expected to side with Sisko, who provides the common-sense viewpoint of the outsider against Alixus's entrenched beliefs. The episode doesn't explicitly say that Alixus's philosophy is wrong, just that her methods were extreme and - as you said - morally repugnant.
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
I think the intended message was that while Alixus's methods were wrong, the ideal she claimed to stand for was legitimate, and that with her gone, her followers would have the chance to realize that ideal the right way. Without the "duonetic" field, they would be capable of using technology when they needed it, such as for medical or other emergencies, so they'd have the freedom to choose when and how much to use technology or to avoid it. So they could explore a traditional, natural lifestyle but wouldn't necessarily be imprisoned by it.

And I just have to say -- "duonetic"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I guess maybe it's meant to be related to "magnetic," maybe like "duotronic" vis-a-vis "electronic," but the word "magnet" doesn't break down that way; it's from ho Magnes lithos, "the Magnesian stone" (from a place in Ancient Greece where it was found). So if that's the intent, it should be "duomagnetic." Okay, technically "-tronic" is short for "electronic" in the same way, though -tron does have a separate Greek meaning of "instrument." And at least there's a real-life precedent for -tronic as a suffix.
Charles Olney
18. CharlesO
I think I agree with krad and I suppose disagree with a lot of the comments here: I don't see the ending as problematic per se. It really is just problematic because of how absurdly rushed it is.

The actual decisions on the part of the people to stay actually seem fairly reasonable to me. Not 'reasonable' in the sense that I would make that choice from where I'm sitting. But reasonable in that they reflect the actual sorts of things that people might do in such circumstances. This is not-quite-a-cult and that creates a lot of strange issues with agency and decision. It just feels absurd because they try to cram the whole thing into a couple minutes.

If the rescue came the next day you could hear the same speech and think of it as the considered decision of someone who had thought through the issues. Not necessarily thought through them well, of course.

If anything, the only real complaint I have is that I wish the villagers would have expressed a touch more concern in the opening several acts. They just kind of plug along with a general attitude of 'well, whatever is happening now is happening' for the whole episode. The arrival of newcomers, their welcome into the community, the concocted punishment based on 'time-stealing,' O'Brien rolling back into camp and freeing Sisko, the reveal that their whole community is a sham - nothing much seems to phase them.

All of which is to say: I found the apparent hold that she had on them to be a bit over the top and not really justified. And that does cut into the strength of the episode a bit. But the good stuff (especially Sisko's quiet civil disobedience) really is wonderful.
alastair chadwin
19. a-j
I take your point, but:
"Gail and I worked very hard to make that character reasonable, because her motives were right-thinking. She had created a paradise, and she needed to preserve it through discipline. We set out to let her be the reasonable and caring human being that she and I agreed she was, but we were swimming upstream. It didn't come out that way. But I think that it's to Gail's credit that in making the effort the character came out with more human traits."
Corey Allen (director)
From Memory Prime

So there was a deliberate intention to endorse Alixus' actions. I, sadly, have to stand by my earlier assessment
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@19: I don't agree with your reading of Allen's statement. He wasn't saying they endorsed her actions; he was saying they understood that her motives were good. Those are two profoundly different things. Many, many people throughout history have undertaken horrible actions with benevolent motives behind them. People who are good at heart have been responsible for awful choices that have done great harm to others, because they sincerely believed it was necessary for the greater good. Hence the saying "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
21. Ranching Unicorno
@20 - I agree. Additionally, I think te key sentence in that comment was "it didn't come out that way". How do you get an audience to sympathize with someone who meant for the best, but whose actions were clearly wrong?

Two much less severe examples that I think of on a regular basis - W and Obama. I don't think that either had/has nefarious plans and wants to oppress the weak and kick babies and steal candy from puppies. But, both have galvanized opponents with actions that leave observers frustrated and baffled. Both had the best of intentions, and I can endorse that while condemning their actions. I think that was the intention was here, only, I agree that it didn't come out that way.

All that said, Alexis plays into an interesting stereotype - that white person that embraces Indian culture. I've seen it with a lot of white people (especially women) who embrace a sort of hippy/crunchy vibe and all things natural part and parcel to Hinduism/Indianism. Vinod's name just pushed her into the stereotype for me. I almost wish his name had been Jeff or Pierce or Chang.
Nick Hlavacek
22. Nick31
Alixus is just the logical extreme of what happens when people give up freedom to leaders who rule because they know what is "best" for everyone else. Unfortunately it happens all too often.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its
victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under
robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us
without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C. S. Lewis
23. Zabeus
Maybe I missed something, but how did Alixus and Co. get off telling their guests - Starfleet officers - what to do? They hadn't been there a week and were already being punished under their weird community rules? I can understand making them "work for their supper", but "punishment for Sisko questioning her" and "arrested for the crime of wasting time trying to activate technology"? Even the brainwashed colonists should have thought this was ridiculous. They were Federation citizens at one time too. Obviously Alixus had a hidden agenda, but the rest should have at least been expecting a rescue ship from then on.
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
@23: Why is that ridiculous? Visitors to a country aren't exempt from that country's laws -- well, unless they're diplomats and have immunity.
25. Zabeus
@24, Do you think under Federation law I could get in a shuttle, travel to some uninhabited planet, claim it as my own country, and kill or imprison anyone who trespassed on it (without warning)? I would think there may be several legal issues surrounding that.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@25: Your comments weren't about Federation law. They were about how Alixus's people would perceive her punishments of Sisko and O'Brien. Alixus's people consider their colony to be its own sovereign nation. Therefore, they would not find it ridiculous that visitors would be held to the same laws that applied to them.
Keith DeCandido
27. krad
FYI, thanks to airline foolishness that has left me stuck in Atlanta for an extra day, the DS9 Rewatch for "Shadowplay" will now go up on Wednesday.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
alastair chadwin
28. a-j
Where we disagree is the idea Alexus's motives are good. They are not. Here is someone who kidnaps a group of people, deprives them of their freedom and technological support they have been brought up with which leads directly to some of them dying, then condemns them to a life of unremitting labour with no time allowed for anything other than work. Presumably there is no art, no music, no poetry as these are things that would be deemed a waste of time. Disobey her, and they are tortured. All this to indulge a petulant dislike of technology and a rather childish 'back to nature' philosophy seemingly derived from a shallow reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson at an impressionable age.
What part of this is good? :)
Christopher Bennett
29. ChristopherLBennett
@28: Err, if I'm Christopher Nolan, then why haven't I seen any of the profits from the Dark Knight trilogy? (Anyway, if that' s who I am, then I apologize abjectly for letting Zack Snyder get anywhere near Superman...)

Again, what you're talking about is more to do with her actions than her motives. Like I said, lots of people do bad things for what they believe are good reasons. It's not like she was intentionally trying to be evil, like she was some cackling cartoon villainess who only wanted to be bad for bad's sake. It's not like she was trying to steal these people's wealth or exploit them to mine dilithium for her or some conventional villainous motive. She genuinely believed that a life of simplicity and discipline was better for them. And originally, she attracted followers who agreed with that belief, who came to her voluntarily. She did trick them by setting up the stupidtechnobabblename field, but because she believed it was a way to give them the life they wanted. Of course I'm not saying that was right, or that the extremes she took it to later were right. But that's not what the word "motive" means. Motive means your reasons for doing what you do, the goals and intentions that drive your actions. She started out with good intentions, but then compromised those intentions with a lie, and over time that corruption grew and she let the power go to her head.
30. Andy Holman
It's been a few years since I saw this episode, so take my recollections with a grain of salt, but I never found Alixus charismatic. The episode didn't sell me on her sway over the community. Even taking into account that she was the leader of their mission, and had the most know-how for living off the land, nothing in the episode really drew a line between that and the rest of the community accepting torture as a way to punish those who break the rules. Had they already tried more lenient punishments like withholding food for a day, or public shaming?

If I'd been more convinced that the community as a whole were truly brainwashed, the ending would have worked a little better for me. As it was, I just got the sense that they lived by Alixus's rules because they had no choice, and that some of them should have at least needed to think it over before turning Sisko down on his offer to leave.

But I suppose it's interesting to consider the notion that, six months after this episode, DS9 gets a call from them because someone's dying of malaria, and all of a sudden they've realized the value in having at least marginal access to technology.

31. Tesh
If the *intent* is to tell other people what is best for them and then force them into it... no, I'm still going to call that pretty nefarious.
Charles Olney
32. CharlesO

So you also think that seatbelt laws are nefarious? And all taxes? And mandatory public education? And laws against domestic violence? All of these things take certain accepted notions of the proper way to live and put the force of law behind them.

But, you might say, it's the secrecy of it that's really problematic. She sold people one bill of goods in the name of another.

Well, the founders of the US did precisely the same thing. They met to discuss amendments to the Articles of Confederation, only to emerge a few months later with a wholly new Constitution. It was negotiated in secret and people were not permitted to know who had arranged which portions. We don't think about it this way anymore because we've decided that we like our system, but the constitutional origin of our own state is entirely premised on an unconstitutional usurpation of the previously existing system.

Lincoln violated any number of constitutional provisions in the course of the Civil War - in the name of preserving the union. While some do lament those choices, the balance of history seems to support what he did as necessary. His fidelity to the overall system does not just excuse but actually justifies those violations.

The point is not that you have ACCEPT the line of reasoning. The point is that she provides a particularly extreme version of a sort of paternalism that is very much a part of our current political existence.

While the episode could have been better about making that point by slightly ramping down her insanity and showing us a bit more of why people went along with her, it is certainly an interesting study.
alastair chadwin
33. a-j
Whoops. Sorry.
34. Bradley37
The ending bothered me because the bad guy won. Alixus didn't care that she and her son were getting carted back to the Federation for murder, kidnapping, and property destruction. "The Community" survived since nobody else left and they vindicated all her theories.
35. TBGH
The way I saw it was that the ending strongly contrasted Sisko with Alixus. She forced people to do what she believed was right and by having the colonists be brainwashed/stupid/idealists/whatever and wanting to stay, it showed another way in that Sisko was the morale leader who would not take away their free will even when he didn't understand or agree with their choice.

(Without some pressing legal reason such as we saw on the moon of Bajor)
Dante Hopkins
36. DanteHopkins
I echo some of what's been said in that Alixus didn't really get a proper comeuppance where she sees what she's done is wrong. More than wrong, reprehensible. She speechifies to her unwitting cult followers, who basically say yeah,what she did was wrong, but look at our wonderful community. In that sense it was a letdown, but as CLB points out, its a testament to how effectively she had her cult brainwashed. So its a totally believable ending, albeit an unsatisfying one.

Gail Strickland's performance highlighted what made Sisko a true leader and Alixus a weak, insecure leader. That wordless moment where a physically weakened Sisko goes back into the box spoke volumes about leadership and integrity, something Alixus never had.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
37. Lisamarie
What a creepy episode - I enjoyed the 'community' at first (although I figured something would take a more sinister turn) but....yeesh.

I also was of the opinion that the ending was not meant to endorse her actions, but just to show how powerfully she had impacted them. Or, perhaps a more positive interpretation, that they could at least see the good in the community and the idea of living a simple lifestyle, and wanted to pursue it without Alixus's cultish leadership, with everybody's free will and perhaps a bit more compromise. Although I did find it hard to believe that nobody wanted to come forward or decide they wanted to explore a new lifestyle or see the stars (it honestly seemed like they were setting Cassandra up as somebody who would choose to leave).

After all, she goes on and on about man's ingenunity, etc - but isn't that what technology is? Technically, the loom they use to weave their clothes is technology! I am not really pro or anti techology - there is a lot in our family we do without (I'm not a big fan of smartphones, ipads, cable, etc) - but I don't shun it either. I think there certainly is some satisfaction to be had in working with your own hands and seeing what you accomplish. Ironically, I'm an IT person who supports/writes code for some pretty useful medical software, but at the same time, I am a bit jealous of some of my stay at home mom friends who can knit, sew, garden, can, do their own plumbing, electric, home repairs, etc. Some of them are pursuits I just don't have the time for, and some of them are just things a bit beyond my own abilities (I'm not very good with my hands). I'm also a big believer in the sanctity of every day work, so in some ways their lifestyle is very appealing to me (I also have a few homesteading friends that I think have a pretty good life) but of course, withuot the fanatacism and rejection of life-saving advances. Even my crunchiest homesttead-y friends still use the internet or avail themselves of life-saving technology when one of their children is seriously injured.

Sisko climbing into the box was a pretty badass moment...kind of a 'there are four lights!' moment for him. I know what it's like to be seriously thirsty/dehydrated (due to an ill-advised/prepared for bike trip). I don't know if I would have had the gall to do that.
38. Anthony Pirtle
This was certainly a good episode, though like others I felt like there wasn't anything particularly DS9 about it except for its reassertion of Sisko and O'Brien's previously established character traits. Also, and again like others, I felt the ending would have benefitted from having at least one colonist choose to leave. Cassandra would have been a good choice, as she was already established as thinking about it.
39. JoshK
This episode is really interesting because it is one of the few (along with TNG's Force of Nature) that demurs from the standard Star Trek-technological triumphalism that now comes off as kind of naive, given the problems of global warming we're facing.

If I understand it right (and I may not), Star Trek's theory of the future is that technology will eliminate scarcity, and thus competition over resources, free markets/capitalism, and economic inequality. I mean, wasn't mankind literally on the verge of extinguishing itself in the 21st century before warp drive and replicators and all of that stuff came along?

And yet people used to all of the accoutrements of 2370, are deprived of their technology, have to endure hardship and scarcity (and fatal diseases) and can maintain a community where they don't screw each other over and are able to live fulfilling lives. That kind of celebration of human potential is much in line with Star Trek, but suggests we don't need technology to achieve it.

If you think about it, Alixus should be the greatest non-god adversary a Starfleet officer ever faced.
Christopher Bennett
40. ChristopherLBennett
@39: Err, I think it was pretty clear that Alixus was screwing her people over big time.

I don't think ST is either pro-technology or anti-technology. It's humanist. It's based on the principle that the human mind and heart can overcome all challenges. Technology is a product of the human mind, a means that we can employ to the end of building a better world, but ultimately it's human intelligence and effort and dedication that are responsible for that betterment. It's not about humanity versus machines, because machines are an extension of humanity. They can be used positively or negatively depending on the intent and responsibility of the user.
41. Joshk
But it was pretty clear that Alixus's people found more fulfillment on the planet and decided they would stay there, even though it turned out Alixus screwed them over. No one chose to beam up with Sisko and O'Brien.

I don't think we disagree much on where ST stands on technology. I'm saying that for the most part ST views it as a vital tool for humans to fulfill their potential, which doesn't seem that far off from what you're saying. In my mind, viewing technology as a necessary (but perhaps not sufficient) cause of human betterment is more or less a pro-technology sentiment. And then there's all the episodes (and I mean ALL of the episodes) where some problem is solved with some technical solution the writers pulled out of their asses. :)

So yes, Alixus was a villain, but the show ultimately legitimated her views, which obviously bugged some of the earlier commentators.
Christopher Bennett
42. ChristopherLBennett
@41: But there's no way of guaranteeing they'll actually have such a utopian existence once Alixus is gone. That's what they expect to be the case, but she's been brainwashing them for years, so it makes no sense to assume that their beliefs represent absolute objective truth. There is no way in which that event "proves" that living without technology is somehow "better." I don't think it legitimizes her views at all -- on the contrary, I think it underlines how dangerous cult leaders like her are, because their followers often keep clinging to their teachings even after they've been debunked.
43. JoshK
@42 I do not think the show is "proving" their life is better, but I think it is saying it's a debateable issue, which is a departure for Star Trek (and I believe the irritation of many of the commenters here back me up in that regard). Your brainwashing reading of the ending is interesting but I disagree; Joseph clearly was NOT brainwashed; if he were he would not have agreed to O'Brien's request to literally look the other way.
Christopher Bennett
44. ChristopherLBennett
@43: I used "brainwashed" figuratively; the point is that it's hard to shake off an ideology you've held for years, even if you find that the person you've been following was a fraud. I see the ending as demonstrating only the belief of the colonists, not whether there was validity to that belief.
45. Lizl
Sorry to be the odd one out here, but I found Sisko really frustrating in this episode. There were several opportunities where he could have taken an action or spoken out to show how hypocritical their leader was. Also, while climbing back in the box was pretty badass, it could have also majorly backfired and killed him (which would not have helped the people at all). I would have preferred a Picard-esque speech before he went back in the box at minimum.
Christopher Bennett
46. ChristopherLBennett
@45: But that's just it -- going back in the box, refusing to compromise his principles and bow to Alixus's will, made such a powerful statement about her hypocrisy and cruelty that words would have been redundant.
47. LizL
Yes, but if they were so brainwashed that no one stopped him from re-entering or even protested verbally, they would have surely left him to die had O'Brien not succeeded. Dying for a statement that is lost on the people seems wasted. I suppose I'm a pragmatist. Nonetheless, I will say it was one of my favorite episodes of DS9 thus far.
Christopher Bennett
48. ChristopherLBennett
But how would a speech have made any more impact, if they were immovable anyway? Surely what matters most is that he stayed true to himself and didn't let her break him.
49. Passerby
This episode is powerful right up to the end, where the luddism that infects so much sci-fi tries to force an ambiguousness to it. After we'd already seen characters willing to leave the planet or use technology to help the others, they suddenly decide to be more dedicated to a non-technological life after they've found out they've been manipulated and abused for her personal beliefs?

It made absolutely no sense. I mean sure, maybe I could buy that they suddenly all had their brainwashing kick in and went all cult follower, secretly afraid Alixus would come back and lock them in the box if they tried to leave. I could go with that. What I can't stomach is the idea that Sisko would stomach it, as is implied by the ending. They ought to be flying a runabout-load of Starfleet counselers in there to deprogram everybody to find out if they really want to stay or if they're just still caught in Alixus' thrall. I mean, Joseph seemed a great guy, but at the end he steps up and picks up Alixus' torch and starts singing her same song... we might have just seen the birth of the next cult leader! But apparently Sisko just glowers and decides oh well, he's had a crappy enough day and he's leaving, which sort of kicks the magnificent showing he's made of his willpower and dedication up to that point right in the nards.

Actually, if we look at it logically in that it's a system close enough for a day trip from DS9, those brainwashed idiots probably got themselves a thoroughly technological Cardassian buttkicking not too much later. So there's your moral: Stick to your brainwashing, get tortured to death by alien lizardmen.
Stefan Raets
50. Stefan
Maybe a minor thought, but still: I like how the idea of accessibility is explored in this episode, with Alixus being the ultimate gatekeeper. The community is trapped because of the duonetic field, as are Sisko and O'Brien. "Alixus doesn't like doors" so all the houses are open to everyone. The prison box is the ultimate punishment -- your movement is even more restricted than it already is, AND you are cut off from the community.

This was a very powerful episode, one of the better ones in the series so far.
51. Aoxomoxoa
@ Bennett - "duonetic" is supposed to remind the viewer of "Dianetics," which is another cult

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