Where Emissary focused on developing the character of Benjamin Sisko, the second episode spreads things out a bit. In Past Prologue, we get to see a great deal more of Major Kira in this episode, as well as have Dr. Bashir meet the sole remaining Cardassian on the station, Garak, a clothier by trade, as well as a potential spy. The theme of the episode is that of divided loyalties. Who do you place your faith in, who do you really trust?
Garak and Bashir
When I first announced that I was going to be watching and reviewing Deep Space Nine, the reaction was pretty immediate: Garak is a real fan favourite. As I started to watch this episode, I was quick to remember why.
The opening dialogue between Bashir and Garak is a great piece of characterization. Once again, Bashir comes across as rather lacking in social graces, although we can see how he’s trying desperately to come up with small talk. For his part, Garak acts the part of a skilled diplomat, smoothing over Bashir’s confusion. Garak’s dialogue is exceptionally crafted, playing upon multiple layers of ambiguity. Nothing is as it seems, which is exactly the point. When he calls himself “plain, simple Garak,” the viewer knows that he is anything but a plain, simple character. When Garak “makes contact” with Bashir, we start one of the great friendships in the series.
Of particular note is that when Bashir heads to Ops to gleefully report this “contact” to others, including Miles O’Brien, he is essentially ignored by O’Brien, aside from rolled eyes. The O’Brien/Bashir friendship is one of the greatest in the series, and it pretty much falls flat at the beginning. Just as Garak and Bashir make unlikely friends, so too do O’Brien and Bashir.
As tactless and naïve as Bashir is in this episode, his enthusiasm is infectious. I still didn’t get much of a feel of depth to his character in this episode, yet.
The major part of the episode explores Major Kira’s loyalties to Bajor, and the checkered past of the Bajoran resistance to Cardassian rule. As the liaison officer to the Bajoran Provisional Government, Kira’s loyalty is not to Starfleet, as she has made abundantly clear. In this episode, her past loyalty to Bajoran freedom fighters such as Tahna Los is tested against her new position. This quickly becomes a moral dilemma for Kira, as she discovers that her old friend is planning further terrorist attacks against the station and the wormhole.
Kira turns to Odo for advice, revealing a deep, existing friendship between the two. She really opens up at this point, admitting her uncertainty about where her loyalties lie. Odo’s enigmatic reply is that “the only important thing is not to betray yourself.” Eventually, Kira turns to Sisko, revealing what she knows about Tahna’s plans. In rejecting her friend, Kira chooses a society where Bajor can take participate on an equal footing with other galactic powers. Kira wants Bajor to be progressive, she wants to reconcile splinter groups, and help her people heal. Most importantly, Kira recognizes that their best chance to do so involves continued cooperation with the Federation.
One of the big takeaways from this episode is that Kira will really go to bat for a cause that aligns with her plan for Bajor. She will navigate any bureaucracy needed, and will quite forcefully argue for a cause she believes in.
Bajor for Bajorans
This is our first look at how different sections of Bajoran society have responded to the Cardassian occupation and withdrawal of Bajor. The wormhole’s existence raises Bajor’s importance in the quadrant, making an isolationist position more difficult to accept. Tahna Los represents the first of those who is fighting for independence from all outside influence.
Kira speaks passionately about Bajor becoming a power in their own right, although she admits that it won’t happen overnight.
It was nice to see the writers and director using the raised command platform in DS9 Ops so effectively in this episode, when Kira thanks Sisko for his help in arranging amnesty for Tahna Los and other members of the Kohn-Ma. Curtly, he reminds her to remember that the next time she is insubordinate and goes over his head to Starfleet. With the camera angle, the viewer is looking up past Kira to Sisko in a position of power. It’s a simple camera trick to emphasize power differences, but it’s quite effective nonetheless. This power dynamic feeds into our understanding of Cardassian architecture, as noted in the previous episode.
This is the first of many episodes which bring the Klingons into play. While the presence of the Duras sisters Lursa and B’Etor in this episode give some insight into the current state of the Klingon Empire, their role in the episode is relatively minor. This is a follow-up to the events from the TNG episodes Redemption and Redemption II, which saw civil war in the Klingon Empire, led by the House of Duras.
Their appearance in DS9 is another contextual link to TNG, without requiring a member of the main cast. It also widens the scope of the show, from dealing with the Cardassians and Bajorans, to a larger stage.
Past Prologue first aired January 10th, 1993. Written by Katharyn Powers. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.