In which the opening monologue lies, Sisko gets in the box, and I return to an old hated enemy from 1999.
Sisko and O’Brien are doing some surveying of planets nearby to the wormhole to see if setting up colonies is a thing they can do. I guess a single year is more than enough time to decide that there’s no local government that would object to you putting up a flag. O’Brien is also being passive-aggressive about Sisko putting Jake in for an apprenticeship. Jake is apparently absolute underpants at mechanics, but so was O’Brien once it was excell-or-be-captured on Setlek III. Thus proving that even in the future, standardized testing can’t be everything. Setlek III was a very formative time for young Miles O’Brien.
They’ve found an M-Class planet that looks so perfect for a colony that someone’s already built one. Humans, but there’s no record of such a colony existing, and no response to hails. With no better ideas and only a low-level duonetic field in the area, they beam down. Clearly, the duonetic field isn’t at all worrying or they would have taken precautions. However, as soon as they beam down, their tricorders and communicators and phasers stop working. Gonna be tricky to get back to the shuttle. And they are immediately accosted by Robin Hood. Or at least some dude with a longbow.
They are shortly thereafter greeted and un-threatened by Joseph and Vinod. Joseph recognizes them as Starfleet and becomes friendly, and they introduce themselves. Ten years ago they were en route to Gemulon V when their ship lost life support and apparently fell though the wormhole without being destroyed or encountering the Prophets, then managed to limp it’s way at low warp to this planet. What a crazy coincidence, as nobody knew about the wormhole at the time.
After ten years, they’ve made the planet their home. To be fair, it looks perfect. Like the titular paradise, they’ve turned their Erewhon-class transport into a town hall of sorts and are living in canvas tents. They meet the townsfolk and the leader, Alexis, and chat about soccer and ship designs, as well as the astatine deposits that they assume are generating the duonetic field in the area. Not that they mind. Alexis boasts about how much they’ve accomplished despite their setbacks. Alexis decides that she never wants to leave if they get everything up and running, and this seems to set the tone. She also talks a little more privately in a way taht suggests she doesn’t expect Miles and Sisko to leave either, rescue party or no.
Back aboard DS9, the station is expecting a visit from an Admiral intent on cleaning Sisko out in poker. Benjamin can’t bluff, it seems, but this does mean we’ll learn of their disappearance that much faster.
On the planet, Sisko is reading one of Alexis’ books that was left in his room. Like space-Gideons, I guess. Alexis has a lot to say about the decay of human culture, and is all about returning to the core identity of humanity at the cost of all the technology they once had, because she feels it was a bad trade in the first place. How lucky that none of their tech works on this planet for her to have that revelation. Although what she thinks the ‘core identity’ of a human is if not a tool-builder is beyond me. She has, however, built a community.
A community without medicine. An insect is transmitting space-malaria, but nobody’s found the right herb in the forest yet, if one even exists. No doubt modern technology could take care of it before the young woman currently afflicted dies. Sisko, O’Brien, and Joseph are interested in trying to get back to their shuttle, but Alexis insists that it would be a waste of time, and also that talking about his rescue party and wearing his uniform is a disruptive influence on her… community.
Dax has gotten reports of the runabout, abandoned and traveling at Warp speed. Kira and Dax go to intercept, leaving… someone I guess? in charge of Ops. And back on the planet, as Sisko and O’Brien work in the fields, some other workers drag a starving and delirious kid, Stephen, out of a hotbox. He was in there for over 24 hours for stealing a candle. This is how justice is dispensed in the community. Later that night, a lovely young lady walks into Sisko’s room, because Alexis doesn’t believe in doors. She offers him an oil massage and… other incentives.
Sisko begins putting some things together. All of Alexis’ books on paper instead of PADDs. Never eating replicated food even prior to landing. The man can’t bluff, probably because he does all of his thinking out loud. Very Ned Stark-like, particularly since he goes to confront the architect of his present difficulties without backup. She counters his accusations of her as a cult leader by making him stand watch, because sleep deprivation isn’t a standard practice at all.
Checking in on a B-plot, Dax and Kira have found the shuttle and Jadzia has to stop Nerys from beaming over there while both ships are at matched warp velocities and basically stationary to each other. That’s apparently fairly dangerous. Fortunately, Dax, as the science officer, always has a better idea – drag it out of Warp with a tractor beam. The risk of this tearing both ships apart is lower than beaming through two active warp fields, and if Jadzia isn’t just messing with Kira (which it seems like she isn’t) the odds of her ‘better idea’ working depend heavily on whether the hull welders were having a bit of an off day when they built this particular ship. That makes it sound like transport though a warp field is basically impossible. I’m looking at you, J.J. Abrams.
On the planet, the sick girl is dead, because stumbling around with herbs is not ideal, if you have better options like not actively rejecting modern medicine. I’m looking at you, anti-vaxxer movement. Alexis makes this moment all about how O’Brien was ‘wasting precious time’ trying to activate his tricorder, and how Joseph’s defense of O’Brien is an example of the insidious nature of the lure of technology. As O’Brien’s commanding officer, Sisko goes in the box. Also, I just want to point out that the lock on that latch doesn’t really do anything.
Aboard the shuttle, the logs have been erased at one point, and they backtrack the navigation logs and it looks like someone tried to fly the ship into a star, but they track it back to said star to pick up the warp signature. Back at the community, Sisko is out of the box, but Alexis won’t give him water until he accepts the rule of the community and at least gets rid of the uniform. She’s been trying to get him out of his clothes since he got there, one way or another, but Sisko will not be broken. He nearly passes out while walking back to the hotbox. He must be terrible at poker. He can’t bluff or fold.
O’Brien has determined that the field isn’t being caused by the deposits, because he’d have been able to work around them. It’s something else, and he needs Joseph’s assistance or at least rock-induced noninterference. “Hey look over there, is that plausible deniability?” With a homemade compass consisting of a gourd and a magnetic rock, he locates a significant source of electromagnetic interference and finds a working piece of equipment that’s almost certainly a jammer of some sort. However, he is found by Vinod and his longbow, who’s all about protecting that secret, but unused to hunting the most dangerous game. Particularly not a guy who survived Setlek III.
With Vinod captured, the jammer off, and the phasers working again, O’Brien rescues Sisko and outs the truth. However, the shuttle is still not back. Alexis has to admit that she intended the ship to crash-land here, which I suppose must mean that they’re on the close side of the wormhole, despite what the opening dialogue seems to have suggested. Grr, terrible phrasing. Anyway, she admits to having stranded everyone on this planet for decades to kidnap them into her ideal community. Isn’t their struggle for survival, she asks, work all of those people dying to diseases that would take give minutes in any modern sick bay. Which would be forgivable, if not sane, if she had asked for volunteers instead of what she actually did.
Kira and Dax arrive, and they offer to rescue everyone. With Alexis disgraced, Joseph steps up and says that they have, in fact, found a home. A Stockholm, if you will. Sisko takes Alexis and Vinod back to the Federation for rial, all the adults filter back home to talk about what comes next, and the two children young enough not to remember a life before the community stare in awe at the punishment box destroyed with a bolt of smiting fire by two angels who took away their leads in a column of silver light.