Category Archives: Bajoran

“The Assignment”

"I have good news. I have made a decision designed to increase your unhappiness."
“I have good news. I have made a decision designed to increase your unhappiness.”

Keiko returns from some trip that sort of explains why she’s never around and tells O’Brien that she’s actually an alien who’s taken control of Keiko’s body. She gives O’Brien a bunch of stuff to do on the station and tells him if he informs anyone, she’ll kill Keiko. O’Brien gets everything done with the help of Quark’s dumb brother Rom (Max Grodenchik) and realizes the thing in Keiko is likely a pah-wraith, sort of the evil version of the prophets who live in the wormhole. Keiko’s plan seems to be to use the modified station to kill all the prophets. O’Brien leaves the station with Keiko in a runabout and then activates the modifications on the station and fires toward the wormhole. But the shot hits the runabout instead, killing the thing inside Keiko. Keiko is shaken, but OK.

Why it’s important

In what could have been a pretty forgettable episode, we meet the pah-wraiths, who play a major, major role down the stretch in DS9. We even learn that they’ve been hanging out (banished to, really) the fire caves on Bajor.

Also of note is the continued evolution of one of the series’s worst characters, Rom. By this point, he’s still the moron he was early on, but he’s also a “engineering genius”. To the show’s credit, they establish this and then let it evolve to the point where Rom’s skills are key in the events surrounding the Federation’s defense of the station against the Dominion. Still, it’s too bad the creators did such a poor job of writing Rom the rest of the time.

Rom, dumb in all things... except engineering?!
Rom, dumb in all things… except engineering?!

What doesn’t hold up

I truly hate this episode. It’s just so full of nonsense. It’s the worst of the “O’Brien suffers” episodes that we saw about once a year throughout DS9’s run. Colm Meaney, as usual, makes something out of the material, but it’s still a bad episode.

First of all, how would a pah-wraith banished to the fire caves for thousands of years have any idea how to modify the station’s systems? Granted, the creator knows what Keiko knows, but Keiko’s a freaking botanist! And given that she was surprised by O’Brien’s actions at the end, it’s not as if she was all-knowing.

Beyond that, why did she need to be in a runabout near the wormhole in the first place? She could have stayed on the station and gotten a pretty good view of her plan coming to fruition and not exposed herself to O’Brien’s switcheroo. There’s no evidence that she needed to be near the wormhole — and she likely was trying to secure the thing for ALL the pah-wraiths and not just herself. So, really, the only reason for her to be on the runabout was so that O’Brien could have a way out.

Then, there’s Rom. Now, it’s true that the Ferengi (Quark, Rom, Nog) can be good additions to episodes — whereas Ferengi-centric episodes are largely stupid if not pointless. But Rom’s actions here just are too hard to swallow.

Basically, he’s able to ascertain what’s going on by looking at the tasks O’Brien has him complete — which MIGHT make up half of O’Brien’s assignment — and remembering the wormhole/prophets stuff Leeta (Rom’s Bajoran girlfriend) has told him. A lot’s made about Rom being super smart after DS9’s first couple years (in which he was just written as an idiot) but his assessment here is a freaking miracle.

Of course, maybe this is further proof that Ferengi can absorb information more quickly than other races. Of course, if that’s true, it’s amazing that they’re such interstellar dunces.

And you thought being married to me was a "torture O'Brien episode"
And you thought being married to me was a “torture O’Brien episode”

Final thoughts

Then, there’s Keiko. Ugh.

Rosalind Chao’s not a bad actor. But the performance and writing of Keiko throughout DS9 paints her as mostly a nag who complains a lot. Initially, her plot line involved her unhappiness on the station where a botanist had little to do — and that was somewhat passable. But the school stuff mostly went away after the first season and Keiko basically became the unhappy wife.

It’s telling, then, that Keiko appeared just five times in DS9’s final three seasons, including in the final episode. With the Dominion war raging, there was a lot less for her to do — and, really, she and daughter Molly should have likely been away from the station while fighting was going on, anyway.

This episode really gives Chao the most to do that isn’t relegated to her family, other than the school stuff. Chao isn’t bad in the role, but the episode is just so full of holes that her performance isn’t nearly enough to make it a better overall viewing.

Coming later this week …

Odo’s a daddy! Sort of, maybe.


“No, that’s really the Sisko. I know, I know — he looks different with the shaved head and the goatee.”

An old Bajoran ship emerges from the wormhole and its pilot is Akorem Laan (Richard Libertine, otherwise known as the editor on “Fletch”) a famous poet lost for two centuries. He’s convinced that he’s the Emissary as he found the wormhole and the prophets first. Sisko’s initially relieved, but Akorem starts messing things up by saying the Bajorans should revert to a strict caste system. Such a system would prevent Bajor from joining the Federation and prompts a crazy vedek to kill someone from an unclean sect. Sisko and Akorem go into the wormhole, and it turns out the whole endeavor was a sort of test for Sisko (seems like “The Matrix” creators watched this episode). Akorem is sent back to his own time, the caste system is abandoned and Sisko finally starts to embrace his role as Emissary.

“I prefer Jars of Clay, and that band sucks.”

Why it’s important

Much of the Bajoran stuff from DS9’s first couple seasons was forgotten by mid- to late-DS9. That’s too bad in some ways, as the trilogy to start season two was really good TV. But its lasting consequences were minimal as Bajor just sort of fell in line (other than our old buddy Kai Winn) as the series went on.

But Sisko’s role as Emissary became increasingly important. Having him embrace it here was crucial for the character, as Sisko went from a career Starfleet officer — see his discussion with Worf at the end of “The Way of the Warrior” — to a person who embraced being a religious figure. For three-and-a-half seasons, this was a point of tension for Sisko. After “Accession”, Sisko not only takes the Emissary ball. He runs with it.

Also of importance is the idea that the prophets are “of Bajor” a point first made here. What exactly this means is never explained, but the fact that the prophets have a stake in what happens in linear time is a very important factor in what we see later, particularly in the Dominion War.

Yay! Keiko’s back. Let the bickering begin!

What doesn’t hold up

Of course, the change in the prophets is rather abrupt. Back in “Emissary”, the prophets just sort of tolerated passage through the wormhole and didn’t get linear beings. The Bajorans had built a religion around them, but it certainly appeared as if the prophets hadn’t done anything intentionally to stoke that — even if the orbs they sent were at the center of the Bajoran faith.

Here, it’s pretty clear the prophets helped propagate the religion. Their earlier connection to Bajor isn’t explained — which is fine — but the break from what we saw in season one is abrupt. Now, we learn later that the prophets occasionally would change things after learning about them, so maybe after “Emissary”, they decided to up their game. But that doesn’t make sense for a species that knows no difference between now, the past and the future.

Lastly, I’m surprised no Bajorans wondered whether Sisko did something untoward to Akorem. Remember that these are the same people who very quickly decided Sisko wasn’t the Emissary. Wouldn’t someone have asked some tough questions? Hell, it’s kind of amazing that Kai Winn — who is said to have sided with Akorem — didn’t pop up and fight Sisko.

Final thoughts

A lot of people don’t like the Bajoran DS9 stuff, but I think that had more to do with timing than anything. The Bajoran infighting happened while the series was really getting its sea legs. I think the issue isn’t that the Bajoran stuff was weaker material. I just think it mostly occurred when the actors and writers were fine-tuning their games. Avery Brooks, in particular, grew into the Sisko role as the series went on. Heck, the scene here with Nana Visitor, in which Kira tells Sisko she plans to leave to follow her caste and become an artist, is one of the stronger character moments in the series — especially if you remember where the characters started when the series began.

Now, maybe you could argue that DS9 as a series really took off when the stakes were greater — when the fate of the galaxy was in play, instead of the fate of one (relatively) insignificant planet. Of course, that’s one of DS9’s lasting legacies, that what was at first a rather inconsequential setting became so important in the greater Star Trek tapestry.

This episode also has one of DS9’s best laugh-out-loud moments. The subplot involves Keiko returning to the station and telling O’Brien she’s pregnant. The stuff with O’Brien and Bashir missing each other is nice (if a little forced) but Worf’s reaction to learning Keiko’s preggers — Worf, of course, delivered Molly O’Brien back on TNG — is priceless. A written summary doesn’t do it justice, so just go watch the episode.

Oh, and because it pops up here — when Quark tells O’Brien and Bashir about their usual Thursday night holosuite fun — does it bother anyone else that DS9 uses traditional Earth days? Keep in mind that the Bajoran day is 26 hours long …

Coming later this week …

Is Sisko sleeping with the enemy? Seriously, that was in the old promo.

“In the Hands of the Prophets”

“Tell me what it’s like to be a pawn, my child. I think I might need to know in a few years.”

A dust up between the Federation and the Bajorans ensues when Keiko O’Brien (Rosalind Chao) starts teaching Bajoran children at the station’s school that the wormhole is not (explicitly) the Bajorans’ celestial temple. Orthodox Vedek Winn (Louise Fletcher) shows up and starts making noise in her bid to become the next kai, after the previous one’s death earlier in season one. Her chief rival Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) comes to the station to help mediate, and Winn gets O’Brien’s Bajoran assistant, Neela (Robin Christopher) to make an attempt on Bareil’s life. O’Brien figures out what’s happening in time to alert Sisko, who stops Neela. Kira, who had supported Winn, confronts her, accusing her (rightly) of plotting the whole thing to get Bareil out of the way — though Neela later says she acted alone. This sets the stage for Winn to be a manipulative power player and enemy to the Federation going forward. The event also has the effect of pushing Sisko and Kira together after a season of (mostly) acrimony.

Winn and Bareil brace for the stunning conclusion to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

Why it’s important

Early DS9 focused much of its time on turmoil involving the Federation and Bajor. This is likely the best example, as it shows the schism between the spiritual Bajorans and the non-spiritual Federation. It also partly explains the factions forming on Bajor that take effect in the three-parter that begins the second season. We won’t review those three episodes — though they are good — because the actions in them really don’t have consequences. The characters and the extremist group behind it never appear again, except for Winn and Bareil, who are introduced here.

Winn, of course, is a HUGE character in the DS9 mythos, as we’ll see going forward. So, to a lesser extent, is Bareil.

Thematically, this episode shows one of DS9’s strengths — the ability to slowly and gradually depict an evolving situation over several years. The Federation/Bajoran turmoil was personified by Sisko and Kira and the quiet realization that the two of them have at the end of the episode is an important development.

What doesn’t hold up

Really, Keiko O’Brien is the biggest problem in this episode. It’s hard to imagine that she would be so hard-headed AND oblivious to the fact that her secular teachings could cause problems among a spiritual people. In “Emissary”, we learn that the only thing that binds the Bajoran people together is their religion. Even if Keiko disagreed with Winn, her shock at what happened was an example of poorly done exposition (or bad acting, anyway).

The only other problem is that the Bajoran issues seen here as a big damn deal mostly go away in later DS9. Essentially, the creators pivoted from the Bajoran storylines in season two (when the series wasn’t doing well) and brought in the the Maquis, the Dominion and (later) the Klingons. That probably was a smart idea for the sake of the series — but it’s too bad that we see SO little of the Bajoran turmoil going forward (when so much time is wasted on things like Ferengi nonsense or Lwaxana Troi pining for Odo). Other than Sisko’s role as the Emissary, Winn’s backbiting and the eventual rise to power of Kira’s resistance buddy Shakaar in season three, the Bajorans seem pretty content and in step with the Federation.

And that feels odd considering just how tumultuous and factional things were during the Federation’s first year-plus at DS9. I guess you could figure that as more Bajorans accepted Sisko as the Emissary, they figured they should follow his lead and/or they were tired after the struggles with the Cardassians and the brief civil war. But it’s never really explained that way. Maybe implying it was a better choice …

Final thoughts

This is a great episode as far as understanding why DS9 was such a square peg in Trek. This wasn’t the type of outing that any other series would have likely attempted. Where I grew up, DS9 and TNG aired back to back. I can imagine someone wondering what the hell they were seeing while watching “In the Hands of the Prophets” after seeing a TNG episode like “Timescape”, a fairly by-the-numbers sci-fi/Trek outing, which aired around the same time.

But “In the Hands of the Prophets” is still a good episode, even if some of the first season issues still show up. It’s the episode that best explains the Bajoran situation after the Cardassian withdrawal.

Coming next week …

Are all humans evolved and peace-loving in the 24th century? Apparently not …


THERE’s our favorite Cardassian monstrosity!

Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) takes over as head of the new Deep Space 9, a former Cardassian space station. It orbits Bajor, which had been brutally occupied by the Cardassians for decades. The station is on the edge of friendly space and the Bajorans need the Federation’s protection and help to rebuild. Sisko’s mission is to ready Bajor for Federations membership, and he is identified by Bajoran spiritual leader Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) as the “Emissary” an important figure in the Bajoran faith destined to discover the “celestial temple” where the Bajorans believe their prophets (gods) live. Working with his science officer, Jadzia Dax (Terry Ferrell), Sisko finds a wormhole (leading 75,000 light years away, to the Gamma Quadrant) near Bajor, and non-linear aliens inside it, possibly the Bajorans’ temple and prophets. A Cardassian vessel follows and disappears, prompting more Cardassians to come to the station, demanding to know what happened to the ship. Sisko eventually convinces the wormhole aliens that he’s not an invader and they help him get past his wife’s death — which occurred during the Battle of Wolf 359 — by showing he’s been living a non-linear existence (i.e. he’s stuck in the past). Sisko convinces the aliens to allow passage through the wormhole and returns the Cardassian ship to the Alpha Quadrant, preventing an all-out attack on the station. With the wormhole’s discovery, DS9 is set to become a key outpost for the Federation.

The celestial temple — otherwise known as the reason the Federation got in a big war with the Dominion.

Why it’s important

Considering DS9’s status as the black sheep of Star Trek series, it’s really astounding how much was established in this pilot that went on to be of huge importance for the rest of the series and for Trek generally. A quick list:

— The wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, which sets the stage for the war with the Dominion in DS9’s later seasons.

— The proximity to the Cardassian Empire, and notably Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo) who would become DS9’s main villain.

— The Bajoran theology and Sisko’s place in it, which would be a major thread throughout the next seven years. Bajor’s political instability would be a major thread in the early seasons.

— The mysterious background of Odo (Rene Auberjonois), which would eventually tie in to the Dominion leaders, the Founders.

All of that happened in DS9’s pilot episode — one that ALSO tied in TNG’s most significant event, “The Best of Both Worlds”. Having Sisko be a survivor of that attack — and having him harbor feelings of anger against Picard, who shows up in this episode — were truly great touches.

“Yeah, I don’t like your boy Picard. Got a problem with that, Trekkers?”

What doesn’t hold up

DS9 wasn’t initially successful and was never as successful as TNG or TOS because it was so different. It was much darker — too dark, for some fans — and that was set into motion even in season one.

But I’ve always felt DS9’s initial issues — other than some boring station-bound episodes — stemmed from many of the characters being over the top in the early seasons. Kira’s too angry, Odo’s too antagonistic, Sisko’s too brooding, Bashir’s too annoying and Quark is too villainous. The Dax character — who was pretty much totally redefined in season two — is too cerebral. Really, the only character who doesn’t become more likable over the years was O’Brien — and, of course, that was probably because the character had already existed for years on TNG.

It’s almost as if the creators tried to do something SO different that they didn’t do characterization very well. That improved over time, but the characters are more like archetypes in the first season. As a result — and somewhat strangely — DS9 is the most interesting series to watch for its evolution. More than any other series, the first season is very, very different than the final season.

From a consistency/historical perspective, DS9 sort of rewrote two alien races we first saw in TNG. Bajorans initially were a bunch of refugees and not slaves on their own planet. The Trill look changed here, but backstory changed more later as the relationship between the symbiont and the host was very different in TNG. For more, see our reviews of “The Host” and “Ensign Ro”.

Final thoughts

While the series is inconsistent, I find DS9 to be as strong as TNG or TOS (which both had seasons that were pretty weak). That’s a stance many fans won’t embrace, but it’ll come through in these reviews. While TOS was the trailblazing series and TNG was the most consistent (even given the weird first and second seasons and some awfulness in season seven) DS9 was the most daring. It’s the Trek series that most closely approximates the great television of the past 15 years (“The Wire”, “Breaking Bad”, etc.). When it failed, it did so because it slid back into episodic shows when doing so didn’t make sense and/or when the consequences didn’t match the buildup. Or, it failed because it had too many Ferengi episodes. Speaking of which …

Coming next week …

The first of many Ferengi episodes. Shoot me.

“Ensign Ro”

“My name is Guinan. I tend bar, I co-host ‘The View’ and I listen.”

After an attack on a Federation colony, the Enterprise is asked to track down the alleged perpetrators, Bajoran terrorists. The Bajorans are (ahem) a race of refugees, forced from their homeworld (ahem) decades earlier by the Cardassians (whom we met in “The Wounded”). Admiral Kennelly (Cliff Potts) comes on board and tells Picard he must take on a Bajoran officer, the disgraced Ensign Ro Laren (Michelle Forbes). Ro has spent some time in prison after her actions resulted in the death of some officers, and her assimilation into the crew is difficult as several crew members (Riker and Geordi, notably) make it clear they object to her very presence. She helps Picard find the terrorist cell but then works separately, with direction from the admiral, to undermine the mission. Guinan befriends Ro and gets her to come clean to Picard. With Ro’s help, he uncovers a plot between the admiral and the Cardassians to flush out the Bajorans and end the terrorist threat. Picard then tells the admiral that the Cardassians used him — that the Bajorans couldn’t have attacked the Federation colony, as they don’t have the ability to travel far or fast enough to have carried it out. Picard then welcomes Ro to the crew.

Ro, Picard and Data in in a world of blankets.

Why it’s important

Ro becomes a quasi-regular over the next season-plus and shows up again in the seventh season (eight episodes in all). She was a nice addition to the cast that, too often, had no conflict and could be kinda dull. But, really, the setup here between the Cardassians and the Bajorans is key — despite the rough edges we’ve come to expect with the TNG/DS9 handoffs.

The Cardassian look is still off here — we see the weird uniforms from “The Wounded” again — but this episode kept the Cardassians from being one-off baddies that we never see again. So, good on that.

Lastly, this is one of the clearest examples — though not really the first — of the Federation bending overly backwards to make a connection with a former foe (or, to generally avoid conflict). We saw a bit of this in “The Wounded”, when Picard is told to avoid a war at all cost because Starfleet isn’t in the position to deal with the conflict, a possible allusion to the aftermath of losing 40 ships to the Borg.

But, going forward, the Federation really does some odd things to appease the Cardassians. In finalizing the treaty, they agree to put a bunch of Federation colonies in Cardassian space and a bunch of Cardassian colonies in Federation space, which was a pretty clear tactical fail. And it spurred the terrorist Maquis into action.

I’m glad that it’s always made clear that the Federation doesn’t attack first, as it really does fit with Roddenberry’s vision in the best possible way. But does the Federation have to be so appeasing that it does dumb things — like conspiring with Cardassians in this episode to kill some fairly harmless Bajorans?

Mr. Mott, the best barber in Starfleet, makes one of his few on-screen appearances.

What doesn’t hold up

Well, put simply, the Bajoran back story is pretty much completely redone for DS9, much like our buddies, the Trill. The look of the Bajorans stays and the Cardassian occupation is still a key point. But the result of the occupation totally changes.

In “Ensign Ro”, Bajorans — or “the Bajora” as they’re called here — are essentially gypsies. They’ve been forced to relocate to worlds all over the quadrant because the Cardassians annexed their homeworld. That, of course, makes this episode possible, because the Bajoran refugees aren’t  in Cardassian space, where Picard and Co. couldn’t reach them. The Bajorans here are apparently just around Cardassian territory — and their proximity (presumably) allows them to carry out terrorist actions.

But in DS9, the back story is VERY different. We don’t really hear about Bajoran refugees. It’s possible they existed, but given the Bajoran-heavy storylines in early DS9, there’s no indication that Bajorans returned to Bajor en masse — as they don’t appear to have really left at all. Instead, we hear about Bajorans who were essentially slaves to the Cardassians in the Bajoran system. The resistance fighters were terrorists (like those we see here), but they weren’t operating on far-flung moons in other systems. They were (as far as we ever see) restricted to Bajor and its moons.

Couldn’t the terrorists have gone back and forth between Bajor and other systems? Well, the information that proved the Bajora’s innocence here (that they couldn’t travel at warp speed to get to the colony that was destroyed) and information to that effect in DS9 (Bajoran ships that we see are all impulse-powered, though they know about warp drive) would indicate that the Bajoran terrorists would have been restricted to one system, be it Bajor or elsewhere.

Now, an obvious question remains: If the Bajorans that we see in this episode aren’t capable of traveling at warp, why would the Cardassians see them as a threat? At least on DS9, you could see how the Bajorans could travel the system and actually cause problems for a nearby occupying force. But if the Bajorans are spread out among several systems and are limited to impulse speeds, the Cardassians shouldn’t be at all bothered by them. It would take YEARS for a Bajoran terrorist ship to get close to Cardassian targets (presuming that Bajorans aren’t gypsies on Cardassian planets). And if other Bajoran terrorist than the ones we see in this episode could travel at warp, why are the Cardassians busy going after the cell we see in this episode? Wouldn’t they have other hasperat to fry?

Final thoughts

It’s not a huge thing, but apparently Worf and Ro attended Starfleet Academy at the same time, with Worf graduating in 2361 and Ro graduating in 2362. Given both their personalities, it’s not hard to imagine that they weren’t social types who wouldn’t have associated with other students, let alone each other — and we have no real idea how many students attend the academy at the same time. However, it would have been interesting had the connection been made in the episode, with a line of dialog from either character. FWIW, Riker and Geordi both graduated in 2357 (making Riker’s officiousness to Geordi in “Encounter at Farpoint” strange in retrospect) a year before Worf and Ro started at the Academy.

Coming next week …

Riker intimidates a Ferengi, Troi flirts with a Zakdorn and Worf sings Klingon opera in a bar. Oh, and Picard meets Spock or something.