Right after a powerful, thematic episode like A Man Alone, Babel is the first episode that really feels like a one-off episode. While it’s not completely without its redeeming factors, it doesn’t really have any big themes, nor does it really focus on any one character.
The episode begins with an overworked O’Brien working desperately to maintain DS9’s computer systems. Everything is breaking down, and everything is a priority. It’s a workload that isn’t shared with the rest of the command crew. After all, they have time to complain about how the replicators aren’t working, and are creating a horrible cup of coffee. The slackers.
Really, in this episode, O’Brien doesn’t get any respect. In fact, once he repairs the replicator, triggering the release of an aphasia virus, he is soon written out of the episode, being unable to communicate. This is actually the first of the “poor O’Brien” episodes, although his role in this episode is short.
While Past Prologue had one main theme, loyalty, There are two primary themes in A Man Alone: relationships, and racism. The writers manage to weave together these threads while fleshing out more of the more reclusive member of the DS9 crew, Constable Odo.
Bashir and Dax
The episode opens with Doctor Bashir shamelessly flirting with Jadzia Dax, a scene which essentially repeats itself through the episode. Her response is friendly, but evasive. She explains that relationships for Trills are a little difficult, and that joined Trills attempt to “rise up” above their desires. Instead of being discouraged, Bashir, ever the optimist, decides that this means that he still has hope.
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 first episode of any television series is important. For completely new shows, it can determine whether a studio will buy an initial season. While the risks are less for a spinoff of a popular show with a built-in audience, especially a flagship show like Star Trek, there are still important tasks to accomplish. The pilot needs to give clear links to the earlier show, usually including cameo guest appearances from an actor on the earlier series. A pilot episode needs to set the scene and establish setting, and it has to introduce and characterize the major characters.
As the pilot episode for DS9,Emissary establishes a number of major themes and story arcs. We also see the important links to TNG, most importantly The Best of Both Worlds, and Encounter at Farpoint. Perhaps most importantly, Emissary introduces the major characters, allowing the audience to identify with them. While it must introduce the main cast, there is a clear focus on the lead role, in this case, Commander Benjamin Sisko.