In which some things pay off and some things are set up.
Friday, I left you with the bombshell that Picard is finally, after his encounter with the Cardassian intelligence network, broken. Today, we explore some aftermaths. We open with a title screen reminding us of that time Picard was forced to lead an attack on Starfleet by the Borg. This one from the point of view of a lieutenant commander aboard a rinky-dink Miranda-class that got her aft to her. This ship went into battle with civilians on board, so it’s not just Galaxy-class cruise ships. Also, this poor guy’s wife was on board, at least until the room collapsed on her. And his kid, but at least the sprog survived.
Sisko gets to watch as the Borg blow his ship into component atoms, and three years later he finds himself being posted to a station orbiting Bajor. Hey, remember what we just heard about Bajor? That the Cardassians just withdrew? Sisko pulls his kid out of the holodeck and we get our first glance at the ugliest space station ever to fall under Federation control, and I’m including K7 in that.
Deep Space 9 is the new platform for the Federation presence above Bajor at the request of the Bajoran provisional government. Bajor is not part of the Federation – how can it be, it’s barely part of Bajor. But relations are good enough that they’re willing to ask for the quasi-military presence of one of the big interstellar hegemonies. Sisko is getting Miles O’Brien from the Enterprise as his new Chief of Operations. The man has specialized in transporters for the last few years, but then again he also has experience with Cardassian tech. I’ll allow it.
When the Cardassians left, there was a bit of a kristallnacht on the way out, and most of the civilans who ran the shops are on their way out. Sisko is not pleased about anything he’s seen so far, including the creepy priest talking about ‘the prophets,’ but it’s possible new depths of displeasure have been reached when Miles mentions that Picard wants to talk.
I’m going to have to make a list of things I want to talk about and get to them slowly. O’Brien mentions design – the Prefect’s office is on an elevated platform, requiring everyone working in the Ops pit to look up in respect. Contrast to the bridge of the Enterprise, where the captain gets a fancy but functional chair in the center of the action, but on the same level as most of the crew, and with a wide front area to pontificate and mingle. Security and tactical is the one that’s elevated – still a central location, but not blocking the captain. Also, the station is a lot more angular than Federation design – there are corners everywhere, even on the edges of circular cutouts. The set design here is phenomenal – it feels about as alien as you can get without getting into H.R. Geiger territory.
Sisko gets to meet Major Kira Nerys – Miles gives only the barest glimmer of a warning about serving with Bajoran women. Kira does not believe in the good intentions of the Federation, but before Sisko can finish his speech, he gets an opportunity to show off his bona fides as the kind of person she can work with – or not. A break-in is happening and they arrive just in time to meet the security chief – a shapeshifter of some sort.
Quark, a local businessman, appears to try to get his nephew out of trouble. Sisko is going to use this for leverage of some sort, but before that thread can be pulled, Picard has apparently gotten impatient. He is, after all, being kept waiting by a mere commander. He is not one to show it and tries to be jovial, but Sisko… holds a grudge. Picard is trying to give some of the political background – strip-mined for resources, no longer self-sufficient, in the middle of global conflicts, while being set on fire by Sisko’s death stare. Also, Sisko is considering resigning to go raise his son on Earth.
Back to station politics – Sisko’s demand for Quark is that he stay. To be a community leader. To supply services to the Bajoran and Federation staff. He questions how he can run a business under Stafleet rules, but the station is a Bajoran one, not Federation. And after all – it’s that or his nephew growing up in the prison of a recently-liberated and very angry people. He’s gotten Odo’s respect, at least. One gets the very distinct impression that’s hard to do.
Religion is also going to be a big theme here. The Bajoran religion is the only thing that’s keeping them together, and their pope is called the Kai. Creepy Priest Dude has chosen a good moment to insist that Sisko meet with Kai Opaka. Her first move is to fondle his ear as a way to sense his pagh – life-force, soul, whatever. It’s strongest in the earlobe, I guess. Hard to imagine how that tradition came about but at least it explains why Ro Larren wanted to stab Riker in the gentleman vegetables when he ordered her to take off her earring.
Opaka indicates that Sisko is apparently going to be The Emissary,a nd leads him down a secret stairway covered by a holographic fountain – to hide great religious treasures from the Cardassians, one imagines. She shows him one, a ‘tear of the Prophets’ and it transports him to a beach, with a tray full of lemonade, on the day he first met his wife, and he gets to relive it.
There have so far been nine of these ‘tears,’ these orbs, in the last ten thousand years, and Opaka tasks Sisko with finding the Celestial Temple before the Cardassians do. It is his Destiny. To complete a fetch quest.
As Quarks reopens for business, the Medical and Science officers arrive. The fresh-faced, over-eager young doctor gets gracefully picked up by the fresh-faced yet cynical science officer, who is an old friend of Sisko. A trill. That’s going to be fun. Doctor Bashir is really excited about ‘frontier medicine’ in the ‘wilderness.’ Starfleet Medical did not teach him tact, beacause he says all this to Kira, who has yet to be amused by naive charm in her life.
Dax’s first move in studying the orb is to compile a database of all known anomalies in Bajorian space going back ten thousand years. That’s… impressive that the information is available. When she is exposed to the orb, she experiences the moment her symbiont was implanted – the formative moment in her life. This is juxtaposed with O’Brien taking his last look around the Enterprise. He almost leaves without saying goodbye to Picard.
That heartwarming moment over, crisies can’t wait to get started. An incoming Cardassian ship, headed by Gul Dukat, former Prefect of Bajor, is asking permission to come aboard. He seems genial, as these things go. He shows up to offer Cardassian protection, because they’re far from Federation space and so poorly-defended, and there are absolutely no knives at all behind that smile. Nor the pointed questions about Bajoran Orbs.
Jadzia Dax has indicated that there’s a preponderance of evidence about weird nonsense near the Denorias Belt – a region of charged particles that are hazardous to navigation. With the Cardassians lurking nearby (within long-range or spy sensor range, at least) they’ll have to figure out a way to sneak over to have a look. Now me, I’d dispatch a bunch of scout ships to any other nearby anomalies until anyone watching gets bored, but then again, I don’t have access to Federation Super-science.
Seemingly unrelated, Kira and O’Brien go down to Quark’s to shut down the establishment, and he gives all the Cardassians a bag to shove their gold into. But that bag is Odo, who can apparently change his mass as well as his volume. I say this because he had sufficient mass to tackle a huge thief, but could be easily toted around while also full of gold by a Cardassian. I mean, either that or Cardassians are frighteningly strong. Maybe their armor has servo assist? Anyway, he goes aboard the Cardassian ship and presumably disables some sensors.
The shuttles assigned to Deep Space Nine are beefier than the ones aboard the Enterprise. It makes sense on reflection – anywhere the Enterprise needs to send someone, it can get most of the way there, drop them off in a shuttle, and warp out. Deep Space Nine would need longer-range vehicles given the lack of a warp drive.
As Dax and Sisko get closer to the local space oddity… how did that one source put it? ‘The heavens open up and swallow their ship.’ The anomaly spits them out next to a star that most closely matches one surveyed by a 22nd-century probe sent to the Gamma Quadrant. No mention of how it got there, surveyed enough star systems to be able to spit out an analysis of this star, and send it back is forthcoming. It is, after all, 70,000 light-years away. A wormhole. And unlike the Barzan wormhole, this one would have had to be at least ten thousand years old and truly stable.
On their way back, the shuttle slows down of its own accord, and an atmosphere appears. The shuttle lands. Sisko walks out onto a storm-ravaged cliff, and Dax walks out into a delightful garden. it takes them a moment to realize that the two of them are seeing separate things, and then an Orb shows up and probes, then tases them. Whatever’s going on, it appears clear that the beings responsible can control perceptions. They kidnap Dax and send her back inside an Orb, but keep Sisko in a blank white nothingness.
They communicate as important people in his life – Opaka, Picard, Jennifer, Jake. They are pretty clearly non-corporeal, and they also don’t understand the concept of time.
Jadzia’s return may have alerted the Cardassians, and Kira demands that O’Brien move the station to the wormhole. Dax suggests using the deflector dish to create a subspace field around the station, altering the local gravitational constant of the universe sufficiently to allow their half-dozen thrusters to move the station.
Do you have any idea how good it feels to be watching a show that’s already paying attention to continuity? It’s almost like I’m watching Babylon 5 again.
Kira, Dax, and Bashir run off to go to the wormhole, and Odo tags along because that’s where he was found. Meanwhile, Sisko tries to speak to the wormhole aliens, who seem to be worried that he will destroy them. For all that they claim not to understand the concept of time, they certainly seem to use a lot of cause-and-effect reasoning. Perhaps it’s just linearty that they don’t get.
Here’s what I don’t like about the station-moving sequence. Why not establish the field, engage the thrusters, and then turn it off? Once the station is moving uniformly, you don’t have to add more acceleration. You can just turn the field on again and thrust the other way, unless they need to do a full burn halfway there and full burn to decelerate on the back half in order to make it under the time limit.
Sisko explains pleasure and loss and death to the non-corporeal aliens, who ask him why he ‘exists’ in the day he lost his wife, at the battle of Wolf 359. This is disrupted by the Cardassian ship going through, and the wormhole closes with Sisko trapped inside. During this time, he explains the concept of consequences as they apply to unpredictable future outcomes, using the uncertainty of baseball as a metaphor for existence.
In the newly-arrived station, Kira negotiates with a new Cardassian trying to explain that the other warship was taken through a wormhole which is conveniently no longer there. My question here is which the Cardassians think is more likely – that the station they trashed and disabled two weeks ago was able to destroy a Cardassian warship without at race, or that something weird happened in space. He doesn’t seem to be full of smarm, so the obvious conclusion is that my hypothesis in True Q is supported – Q has been exposing the Enterprise to a far higher amount of weird space nonsense than the typical ship encounters.
Sisko’s personal epiphany is that he never left the Saratoga and his dead wife. He can’t stop remembering it. He exists there, and has to figure out a way to live without it. Meanwhile, Kira fires a warning shot using every torpedo they had and gives a pretty badass speech that holds off the Cardassians for long enough to set up the illusion of a terrifying array of armaments. The Cardassians suspect this is the case, but the delay helps. A bit. Not much. Barely at all, in fact. Just barely long enough to delay Kira’s surrender until the wormhole reopens and Sisko’s shuttle tows the Cardassian ship out of the wormhole, disarming the conflict.
Despite the fact that the wormhole aliens indicated that every ship passage through it hurs them, Sisko and the Federation have opened the wormhole up to passage through it. Sisko makes his peace with Picard and with his new posting. Quark tries to establish his profit margins, and life on Deep Space Nine begins.