To be honest, If Wishes Were Horses really didn’t capture my imagination. Manufactured crises with deus ex machina endings just don’t cut it. Still, there are some redeeming qualities in the episode, one of which is watching Bashir try to explain to Jadzia Dax why his subconscious created a version of Dax that has the single goal of seducing him.
This is a different twist on a First Contact story. Some wormhole aliens tap into the subconscious minds of the inhabitants of DS9, and take on forms from their imagination. Some hand wavy techno-babble is used, but the main point is to enable a story which uses the power of imagination, something which Odo refers to as a waste of time.
It’s an interesting idea, but doesn’t really get developed enough. Instead of focusing on the idea of a first contact story, this is really a disaster of the week type of story. If you can’t yet tell, I’m not usually a fan of this type of story, unless it can offer something exceptional in the way of character development. Sadly, there is nothing really new or novel in this episode. Bashir’s infatuation with Dax is already well established, and nothing really interesting occurs.
After Storyteller, I was really glad to watch Progess. It’s a more nuanced plot that drives character development, particularly that of Major Kira, while also revealing more about how the Bajoran government works. Not really much in the way of story arc development, but it does speak to social changes.
Progress is always seen as some shining ideal, the great leap forward. New advances in engineering allow us to build great public works, such as hydroelectric dams, or as in this episode, geothermal devices to harness power from the molten core of one of Bajor’s moons, to generate power for large groups of people. With every dam, large lakes are formed, displacing people and animals upstream. In Progress, Bajoran refugees live on the moon’s surface, and must be displaced. Because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and all that jazz. Even if it means burning down their homes first.
The Storyteller isn’t nearly as compelling of an episode as it could be. Of the two main plots, I found that of Jake and Nog to be amusing, while that of Bashir and O’Brien fell a bit short. I can understand and appreciate the message the writers were working on, but it was really poorly executed, and just didn’t work for me.
I think that Battle Lines is the third episode to give us a peek behind the curtains of the wormhole. Along with Captive Pursuit, and Vortex, we start to see glimpses of galactic civilization on the other side.
Myths and Legends
From Captive Pursuit, we get a genetically engineered version of The Most Dangerous Game: hunting sentient creatures for sport.
In Vortex, aside from exploring some of Odo’s origins, we see a planetary government which punishes dissent with the death of the entire family.
In Battle Lines, two warring factions, the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis, are raised from the dead to continue their fight, without any hope for eventual victory. They claim this is done as a form of punishment. This bears echoes of Tartarus, the Greek abyss used to imprison and torment the worst of the villains and gods.
Just like with Sisyphus’ boulder, the war is not something that can ever be resolved. Its an eternal torment. There is a similar battle in Norse myth where the warriors are continually resurrected to fight the next day.
The Kai and Prophecy
From this basis in myth, we get to the story. Kai Opaka, the religious leader from Bajor who named Sisko the Emissary to the Prophets, has arrived on the station. She’s obviously preoccupied with the wormhole, and shows every sign that she won’t return, even giving jewelry to O’Brien’s daughter.
When the runabout crashes, the Kai dies in the impact. It seems a pointless death, bringing to mind Tasha Yar’s passing. Just like Tasha in Yesterday’s Enterprise, the Kai is resurrected, although without the whole temporal displacement thing happening. Like the Ennis and Nol-Ennis, she becomes trapped in the world, but with a different purpose.
We see the most change in this episode from Kira. The opening has a great scene where she reads the Cardassian report on her, where she is described as a minor operator who runs errands for the resistance. We haven’t yet seen direct evidence of the Bajoran resistance, but Kira clearly sees herself defined by her actions and her perseverance during those times.
With her insecurity brought to the surface with the Cardassian report, Kira fan girls over the Kai. She’s desperately seeking her approval, perhaps to reaffirm that she’s followed the correct path.
Kira sees the struggle of her own people, mirrored in the fight between the Ennis and Nol-Ennis. It’s not a perfect mirror, as Kira is quick to point out. The Bajorans fought for life, for a future. The warring factions in this episode are locked in a battle to the death, without even the hope of death.
There’s a great line in this episode referring to technobabble. O’Brien starts spouting off that he can send a probe to find the runabout’s magnetic fields using a differential magnetometer. Without missing a beat, Dax says that she’s never heard of it before, and asks how it works. Star Trek has always made terminology up to “sound like science”. It’s the Maltese Falcon of science fiction: the terminology is very rarely important, in storytelling terms. What it enables is the ability to move the plot forward. In this case, the technobabble serves a few useful purposes:
Shows how O’Brien can innovate as an engineer, instead of just fixing things on the station. Engineering is important on Star Trek. While he may have started as the Transporter chief on TNG, O’Brien is well within the engineering tradition.
gives Dax and O’Brien a reason for taking so long to find the Runabout.
allows a meta-reference to the pointlessness of technobabble.
a way to solve the problem of getting a transporter lock through the dampening field to make a rescue
While researching the technology responsible for resurrecting the dead on the planet, Bashir wonders if it would be best to alter the programming to once again permit the release of final death. When the Ennis hear of this possibility, they instead see an actual victory, where they can finally wipe out the enemy for good. Rather than be party to this, Sisko, Kira and Bashir are transported back to the roundabout, leaving those imprisoned behind.
This is new territory for Star Trek. The suggestion of death as the answer, brought forth by a Starfleet medical officer doesn’t exactly jive with Roddenberry’s vision. Its interesting to see how while the characters explore ways to effect meaningful change on the planet, yet instead hightail it out of there. It seems unusual, but perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that sometimes, people just aren’t ready for change. As a piece of social commentary, this can bring some heavy implications to the state of international relations. This is the kind of thing people mean when they say that DS9 is a darker show than TOS or TNG.
The changes from this episode are deeper than what they first appear. While Kai Opaka was a minor character on the show, she was influential, as well as peaceful and supportive of Sisko in particular. The honeymoon’s over, sweetheart. Opaka’s replacement isn’t going to be all sugar and spice. Also of note is that Kira’s sense of awe for the Kai is not alone. Many other Bajorans would feel similarly. Now not only is the Kai gone, but she was left on the other side of the wormhole by the Federation, in the eyes of some.
Battle Lines first aired 25 April 1993. Teleplay by Richard Danus and Evan Carlos Somers. Story by Hilary J. Bader. Directed by Paul Lynch.
Where The Nagus was an episode of the week, Vortex is an episode which advances a number of plots and themes, most importantly, Odo’s origins.
We start the episode with a standard gimmick: Odo is concealed as an inanimate object to eavesdrop while Quark is some stolen goods. It’s a quick scene, easy to figure out. That’s web things go south, and one of the twinned Miridorn is killed. It seems that Quark had arranged for a robbery of the sale, as there’s greater profit from hiring a thief than in buying the goods direct. Continue reading “Star Trek DS9 Reviews: Vortex”
The Nagus was a much harder episode to watch than I remember. Wallace Shawn is as amusing as ever, but the multiple levels of racism in the episode is disturbing. There are obviously redeeming values in the episode, but they have to do mostly with the subplot.
You don’t have to look back far in human history to see other cultures similarly vilified, with statements like “they just don’t share our values”. What a farce. In some ways, the regular Ferengi characters are more human than the other crew members, even if Rom is still woefully underdeveloped.