Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Past Prologue”

“Past Prologue”
Written by Katharyn Powers
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 1, Episode 2
Production episode 40511-404
Original air date: January 10, 1993
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Bashir is joined at the replimat by a Cardassian—the only one left on the station—named Garak, who owns the tailor shop on the Promenade. Bashir is a bit of a nervous wreck, as the rumors on the station are that Garak is a spy. After they’re done talking, Bashir runs to ops, now convinced that Garak is a spy and thinking that he’s getting to know Bashir to get Federation medical secrets—which he insists are safe with him, to Sisko’s amused relief.

Just when Bashir’s getting really silly—asking a pained O’Brien to put a monitoring device on him “just in case”—Kira interrupts with a Bajoran ship being pursued and fired upon by a Cardassian vessel. This does not fill Kira with warm fuzzies. Sisko warns the Cardassian off, while the Bajoran ship asks for emergency docking.

O’Brien beams the ship’s lone occupant on board just before it goes boom. He identifies himself as Tahna Los, and he requests asylum. Kira recognizes him from her days in the resistance. Bashir takes him to the infirmary while Gul Danar demands that Sisko turn him over. Danar identifies him as being part of the Kohn Ma, a group of terrorists who have continued the violence even after the withdrawal, including against some Bajorans.

Sisko isn’t willing to let the Kohn Ma use DS9 as a shield, but Kira argues the importance of repatriating even splinter groups like the Kohn Ma back into Bajoran society. Tahna admits to Sisko that he has committed acts of violence against Cardassians even since the withdrawal, but he also claims to be tired of the violence and has renounced the Kohn Ma.

Kira goes over Sisko’s head to Admiral Rollman—who promptly informs Sisko that he has a problem in his command. Kira then visits Tahna and makes it clear that she’ll let Tahna be turned over to the Cardassians over her dead body. (O’Brien also tells Sisko that he wouldn’t turn anyone, no matter who, over to the Cardassians’ tender care.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

Danar meets with Sisko, insisting that Tahna is a wanted criminal and must be turned over to them. But Sisko isn’t willing to set the precedent of turning freedom fighters over the Cardassians, so he’s granting Tahna’s asylum request.

Kira escorts Tahna to guest quarters and they get into a lively discussion about the future of Bajor. Tahna doesn’t want the Federation there, but Kira argues that they’re a necessary evil, especially after the discovery of the wormhole. Without a Federation presence, the Cardassians would waltz right back in and take control of the wormhole and Bajor. She is also working to get the provisional government to grant asylum to any Kohn Ma who renounce the violence and come home.

Lursa and B’Etor show up on the station and are reluctant to turn over their weapons, though Odo convinces them to finally do so, and only after they’ve injured one of his deputies. They then go to Quark’s and just sit. Odo wants to throw them in jail and call the Klingons (the empire lists them as renegades after the civil war they started), but Sisko reminds him that the Cardassians aren’t in charge anymore.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

Garak is also in Quark’s, soon joined by Bashir. Garak claims to be people watching, seeing what people are wearing, which is something that interests him as a clothier, and he particularly is fascinated by Klingon fashion.

When Tahna enters the bar, the two Klingon women finally get up and leave. Tahna meets with them in a rat-infested cargo bay, where they demand their payment. Tahna says it’ll be on the station tomorrow, as he wasn’t able to get it before being shot at by Cardassians. After the trio leave, one of the rats turns liquid and then reforms as Odo. Sisko did, after all, say to keep an eye on Lursa and B’Etor.

Kira tells Sisko that she’s gotten the ministers to convene a hearing on the Kohn Ma and that two more of Tahna’s associates have agreed to come in if Sisko can guarantee their safety. Sisko readily agrees, and Kira expresses gratitude for his support in this. Sisko accepts the gratitude and tells her to make sure she mentions it the next time she talks to Admiral Rollman. “Go over my head again, and I’ll have yours on a platter.” Kira is chastised to say the least.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

Odo reports his findings to Sisko, who believes that the gold Tahna mentioned will be in the hands of the two Kohn Ma coming in the next day. Sisko tells Odo not to tell Kira what he’s found out just yet.

Lursa and B’Etor arrive at Garak’s shop, wishing to turn Tahna over to the Cardassians, assuming there’s a reward. Meanwhile, Kira discovers that Tahna knew Kira was on the station all along and hasn’t renounced the Kohn Ma in the least. But he does insist that the violence is over and that he has a non-violent plan to get everyone what they want. All he needs is a ship.

Garak—after pointing out that two more Kohn Ma have arrived on the station—insists that it’s time Bashir got himself a new suit and that he should come by for a fitting at precisely 20:55 hours.

Kira goes to Odo for advice. No matter what she does, she’ll be betraying someone, and she doesn’t want to betray her people. Odo questions whether or not they really are her people, and finally he goes ahead and summons Sisko to his office, saying there’s someone there who wants to talk to him.

While Bashir hides in the dressing room, B’Etor and Lursa inform Garak that they will be selling bilitrium to Tahna on Bajor VIII’s moon. After that transaction, the Cardassians can have him. Garak informs Bashir that the Cardassians were chasing Tahna because he stole an antimatter converter—combine bilitrium with that, and you’ve got yourself a bomb.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

The crew set up a sting operation, since nobody’s actually broken a law yet. Kira will give Tahna the Yangtzee Kiang and go with him to complete the transaction with Lursa and B’Etor. O’Brien and Sisko go ahead to the rendezvous in the Ganges to swoop in once the transaction’s done and Tahna is officially in possession of an explosive.

A Bird-of-Prey decloaks and the exchange takes place. O’Brien sets course to intercept the Yangtzee Kiang, and Dax announces that Gul Danar’s ship is also en route. Tahna holds a phaser on Kira and tells her to set course for the station or he’ll detonate the device here, which will destroy the colonies on Bajor VIII.

Neither the Ganges nor the Cardassian ship will catch up to the Yangtzee Kiang before it reaches the station—but it turns out that DS9 isn’t Tahna’s target, the wormhole is. If he destroys the mouth of the wormhole, no one will care about Bajor anymore, and the Federation can leave.

Kira shoves the runabout off course, knocking Tahna to the deck. The Yangtzee Kiang goes through the wormhole, and by the time Tahna is able to fight his way past Kira to eject and detonate the bomb, they’re in the Idran system on the other side, where the explosive goes off harmlessly, to Tahna’s fury.

The Ganges arrives through the wormhole, and Sisko gives Tahna a choice: surrender to Sisko or wait for Danar to show up and surrender to him. Not being an idiot, Tahna turns his weapon over to Kira. Before Odo takes him away, Tahna disgustedly calls Kira a traitor.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: Bilitrium is an energy source. When run through an antimatter converter, it becomes a big-ass bomb. If it explodes at warp speed, the radiation will spread over half a solar system.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is now sporting a shorter hairdo, done at the request of Nana Visitor, who felt that Kira wouldn’t have anything but the most basic hairstyle that would require the minimum fuss.

She finds herself stuck between her past as a terrorist and her present as a major in the Bajoran Militia—also between her past loyalty to Tahna and her present duty to Sisko. We also get the first of what will be many long talks between Kira and Odo about Things and Stuff, which will become a backbone of the series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

Plain, simple: We get our first look at the mysterious tailor who will become such a major part of the show. He befriends Bashir for reasons that likely range from the entertainment value of watching him thumpher about nervously in response to Garak’s possible double meanings to genuine use for him as a method of communicating covertly with Sisko (something Sisko himself figures out in short order). At this stage, it’s unclear what Garak is doing on the station beyond selling clothing. He’s willing to let Lursa and B’Etor believe that he still has pull on Cardassia, though we never see him actually contact home. Indeed, the only person he seems to get in touch with is Bashir, leading one to think that he promised the Klingon women payment he couldn’t come through with. (Of course, the Cardassians never got Tahna, so the Klingons wouldn’t be entitled to payment, exactly…) Either way, right off the bat we get Garak’s trademark charm, layered conversation, euphemisms, and torturing of Bashir, all continued hallmarks of the character.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

For Cardassia! Danar is pissy from the moment he enters Bajoran space, unhappy with Sisko for granting Tahna asylum—and more than happy to say I told you so later on when Tahna’s true purpose is revealed.

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo turns into a very tiny rat to spy on Lursa and B’Etor.

Keep your ears open: “You can leave the weapons or leave the station. Your choice. Please make it now.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the one giving you the choice.”

Odo making it clear to B’Etor (and Lursa) who’s boss on the Promenade.

Welcome aboard: The most notable guest star is Andrew J. Robinson, making the first of many appearances as Garak, the mysterious lone Cardassian left on the station. He will go on to become an important recurring character.

Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh reprise their roles as Lursa and B’Etor, last seen in the “Redemptiontwo-parter on The Next Generation. They’ll next be seen on TNG’s “Firstborn.” In Gul Danar, Vaughn Armstrong plays the second of a record thirteen characters he’d eventually play on modern Trek, having previously been Korris on TNG’s “Heart of Glory,” and next appearing on Voyager’s “Eye of the Needle” as Telek R’Mor. Susan Bay, the wife of Leonard Nimoy, played Admiral Rollman.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

And finally we have our first Robert Knepper moment of the DS9 Rewatch! I totally forgot that Tahna Los was played by longtime character actor Jeffrey Nordling….

Trivial matters: This episode was aired second even though it was produced third (after “A Man Alone”), no doubt in part to take advantage of the appearance of Lursa and B’Etor. Had it been aired in production order, writer Katharyn Powers would have the odd distinction of writing the third episode of both TNG and DS9 (she cowrote “Code of Honor”).

Garak was made a tailor at the suggestion of producer Peter Allan Fields, as an homage to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (for which Fields was a writer): the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters was in Del Floria’s tailor shop.

In the Terok Nor novel Dawn of the Eagles by S.D. Perry & Britta Dennison, which takes place during the occupation of Bajor, Kira rescues Tahna from his imprisonment by Cardassians. That novel series also establishes that the Kohn Ma was named after the cell’s two founders, Kohn Biran and Ma Jouvirna.

The episode title derives from The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Act 2, scene 1: “what’s past is prologue.”

With the appearance of the Ganges, all three runabouts assigned to the station have been named. They’re all named after Earth rivers, a trend that will continue throughout the series.

Walk with the Prophets: “Bajor for Bajorans!” As much as “Emissary,” this episode sets up a great many of the recurring themes on DS9. For starters, there’s Bajor’s moving forward from being an oppressed people to a player on the galactic stage, and the different responses Bajorans might have to it. Kira and Tahna represent two different types of freedom fighters. Kira adapts to her circumstances, become a superlative politician—for all that she denies it to Tahna—while Tahna refuses to accept change. He and the rest of the Kohn Ma want to put the toothpaste back in the tube, somehow make Bajor go back to the way things were before the occupation. And he and his people won’t stop the violence just because the Cardassians have pulled out. Kira is fighting for what Bajor is and can be—Tahna is fighting for Bajor was and can’t ever be again.

Meanwhile, we have Garak, whose presence and mystery will be a lovely source of storylines for the rest of the series. The character could easily have been a walking, talking cliché—his double meanings are sometimes a little too obvious—but Andrew J. Robinson imbues him with such charm that it’s impossible not to love the character. And you have to think that he specifically picked Bashir as his proxy because he knew that the naïve young doctor will let his imagination run wild and that that would be fun to watch.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch on Past Prologue

We also get an excellent example of Odo in action as security chief on the Promenade: making it clear to Lursa and B’Etor that his regulations will be followed, then performing surveillance to learn what they’re up to.

Finally, we get a much better example of how Sisko will be running things. In particular, I like the way he gives Kira everything she wants, shows how useful and cooperative he is, and then drops the hammer on her for going over his head to Admiral Rollman.

Overall, an excellent episode.

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s life has given him lemons, but he doesn’t like lemonade!


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