Synopsis: We open in Sisko’s office, where Irishy and Jadzia are showing Sisko some old files they found lurking in the computer. They appear to be of a Cardassian Intelligence nature, dossiers on Bajoran terrorists and the like. Jadzia notes that the encryption on the files was almost comically easy to crack, almost like the Cardassians wanted them found. I agree that it’s pretty suspicious – when I think “Cardassian” pretty much the last thing that comes to mind is “shoddy information security.”
The main concern at the moment is that there’s a whole file on Kira in there, and nobody wants to be the one to tell her about it. “You might want to warn Kira before she sees her file…” Irishy is saying, and right at that moment Kira walks in and says “warn me about what?”
Jadzia, Irishy, and Sisko all get these priceless “oh, shit,” looks on their faces, but Sisko knows his duty, and he’s the Commander of this station, so he tries to tell Kira all casually that there’s a Cardassian intelligence folder about her that she can just read any time she wants. I’m not actually sure what he’s afraid of: if she’ll trample him in excitement or anger.
She manages to avoid either, in part because everybody beats a hasty retreat to let her look at the files in private (that’s right, Sisko flees his own office rather than hang out with Kira while she’s working through Cardassian feelings).
Bashir comm badges into Ops to request Sisko’s assistance in one of the airlocks, where Kai Opaka, whom we have not seen since the first episode, has arrived unexpectedly, hopefully with cake. We think one of the great faults of this episode is that it does not show us the scene that must have occurred between Kai Opaka and Bashir in which she showed him pictures of all her cats and gave him some of her cake, and he told her all about medical school and how he was the best one in the class, and she squeezed his ear like she does and was super proud of him and told him to write her once a week. Even not having seen this, we think it’s safe to assume that she and Bashir were chatting and having tea for a good hour and a half before Bashir bothered to call Sisko.
Sisko seems really excited (he must think she has cake too), because he frigging loves Kai Opaka, and he’s rarin’ to give her a tour of the station. Kira comes out of his office trembling with indignation because the Cardassians refused to recognize her brilliance as a terrorist and labeled her a “minor operative.” Poor Kira. Now I’m imagining her terrorist days as some sort of farcical delusion of grandeur, in which she believed herself to be one of the Boondock Saints and everybody else knew that one of the protagonists in Big Trouble. Also, the Cardassian file specifically says that she was limited to “running errands” for terrorist leaders, so now I’m picturing her picking up dry cleaning and making runs to Bajoran Starbucks.
As upset as she is, she straightens right up in to a state of appropriate awe and reverence when Sisko tells her that she and the Kai are now breathing the same air, and they run off to give the Kai the grand tour.
As Kira, Sisko, and Bashir follow the Kai around the station, Bashir notes that the Kai seems “preoccupied” by something. She does seem a little sad, and when Kira asks what’s wrong she says she’s contemplating prophesy. She stands looking out the window in the direction of the wormhole like a puppy with its nose pressed against the glass, until Sisko apologetically notes that you can only see the wormhole when ships are entering or leaving, and unfortunately nothing is scheduled for today.
The Kai looks at him meaningfully, and she’s so cute Sisko just can’t say no. He tells Irishy to prepare a runabout to take him and the Bajoran ladies through the wormhole. Sisko turns to lead the Kai away, and, hilariously, finds himself blocked by Bashir, who looks incredibly hurt that he wasn’t invited. Sisko says that he wouldn’t want to take Bashir away from his duties, and Bashir, seeming to know that Sisko won’t tell him off if the Kai is watching, says it’s a “slow day,” and makes puppy-dog eyes until Sisko gives in. Slow day my ass, what is the WHOLE STATION going to do if one or more of them have some sort of accident? ARE there any other trained medical personnel onboard? Because we never see them.
As they go to board the ship, the Kai approaches Irishy and psychically determines that he has a child. She takes off one of her necklaces and asks Irishy to give it to his daughter for her. Everybody seems kind of perplexed about this except Irishy, who is probably Catholic and thus able to take it in stride.
On the runabout, Sisko tells Kai Opaka that they’ll be entering the wormhole in just a few minutes, and she thanks him for “indulging” her, because she’s polite to a fault. Kira is all, “no need to thank us, we would do anything for you, if you asked me to drink your bathwater I would be flattered but consider myself unworthy.” I think it’s important to note that Kira is actually pretty good at diplomacy when she’s dealing with her own people – then again, nobody gives me a cookie for being polite to my fellow human beings, so perhaps it’s not that impressive after all.
They travel through the psychadellic wormhole and pop out in the Gamma Quadrant, and the Kai is so moved by the trip that she’s almost crying. Remember, this is literally where her gods live. This would be like Jesus being reborn and taking the Pope on a quick spin through heaven, going, “oh, I guess it’s OK if you like that sort of thing.”
Siko goes all science teacher on the Kai and says it would take their fastest starship 60,000 years to get to where they are right now, and she’ll be amazed at what it will have done for Bajor a few years from now. The Kai’s face clouds over, and she says, “if that is to be my fate, commander.” Oooooh! Foreshadowing! I love foreshadowing!
Kira, of course, completely misses that there might be anything amiss, and suggests that they should go back. The Kai doesn’t want to, because, she says, “prophesy can be vague, and that is why we must test it.” Sisko is all, saywhatnow? And the Kai goes all enigmatic again before telling them they can head back.
But it looks like that’s not in the cards, because the computer starts beeping – it has picked up a sub-space signal, a long string of stats asking for reply. The Kai is all “let’s go check it out!” and Kira and Sisko are all, “I don’t know if that’s the best idea,” and the Kai is all, plleeeeeease, and Sisko literally cannot say no to her so they head off to the moon of the signal’s origin to investigate.
The signal is coming from some sort of malfunctioning satellite, and what they picked up was the system trying to fix itself. That’s nice, good to know, you should probably leave now. Bashir says there are lifeforms down there, concentrated on 12 square kilometers , and they may or may not be humanoid. Fascinating! Shouldn’t you be getting home? One of the satellites starts scanning them, and shoots them right after they get the shields up. But the shields don’t do them a lot of good, because after a lot of panic and technobabble they wind up crash-landing on the moon’s surface.
As they exit the runabout, it becomes clear that the Kai ain’t going anywhere. Sisko and Bashir carry her out, and Bashir says she had an “upper pulmonary collapse” and her top vertebrae are all smushed. He does some half-hearted CPR, but she’s gone. Kira collapses on top of the Kai and howls like a wounded animal (between howling, yelling, and whining, Kira gets a lot of good vocalization this episode) before pulling herself together and trying to say what I presume are Bajoran death rites. Bashir, ever the voyeur, looks at this spectacle as Sisko keeps glancing around for bad guys, which is good, because some freaky looking dudes sneak out of a cave with guns trained on them.
Back on the station, Odo is in Ops, extremely concerned that they haven’t heard from the runabout, which is three and a half hours late. He says Kai Opaka’s handlers are calling him every five minutes, and he doesn’t know what to tell them. Irishy and Jadzia say that they’re doing the best they can, and with any luck they should know what direction the ship was headed in soon. Odo is all, “I don’t think you understand exactly how serious this is, you have lost the Bajoran Pope,” and Irishy is all, “you’l just have to tell them we’re doing the best we can,” and Jadzia offers that the Bajorans can station a ship on the Gamma Quadrant side of the wormhole if it’ll make them feel better about their Pope having mysteriously vanished in space.
Back on the moon, the away team have been brought into the cave to meet the leader of their captors, where everybody is dressed like they’re extras in an inept Mad Max reboot. On of the hoodlums comments that their POWs aren’t all the same race. Kira defiantly says she’s a Bajoran, and Siko introduces himself and Bashir like he knew that Bashir was going to be too scared to talk. He also doesn’t say what race they are, which may be a mistake, but, if not, I think is kind of indicative of Sisko’s character. I can imagine that an African-American starship captain might feel some prickly issues about “race” identification, and Sisko refusing to categorize himself for this guy who asked him so rudely feels very authentic and in-character somehow.
The leader, who has some pretty spectacular radiation-poisoning-style bodily deterioration going on, says he’s the leader of the “Ennis” then asks why they’re there. Sisko is all, “um, your satellite shot at us, asshole,” and the guy is all, “BUT WHY WERE YOU NEAR OUR SATELLITES IN THE FIRST PLACE?” And Sisko starts explaining about the wormhole and the station and that they were just checking stuff out. The Leader is all, “so you know nothing of our planet? Nothing of the PUNISHMENT?” Oh, that doesn’t sound good.
At this moment, Kira doubles over in pain, and Bashir finally begins to assert himself as a doctor and as a character. Kira insists that she’s fine, and Bashir says, “The HELL you are!” and walks up to one of the Ennis and says “She. Needs. Treatment.” And he doesn’t break eye contact even though the Enni’s gun is pointing at his throat. Whoa, go Bashir!
“I’d like my medical case,” he says, “if you don’t mind.” He is on fire today! As he rushes off to treat Kira, the Leader gives Sisko some important exposition, explaining that they’re at war, and they have to be constantly vigilant. He says that they used to use phasers, centuries ago, but stopped because they weren’t damaging enough, that is how intense his war is. Sisko says they just want to leave, and a rescue team will be by soon. The leader is all, “whelp, hope they have better luck with the shooty satellites,” and Sisko is all, “you don’t control them?” The guy says everyone on the moon is a prisoner. Sisko jumps to the assumption that they’re a penal colony, but the guy neither confirms nor denies it. He just points out that Sisko’s very presence in their cave is will indicate to their enemies that Sisko and co. are their allies, putting their lives in danger.
Then he shows Sisko a writhing pile of dying people, the latest casualties of their enemy, the Nol-Ennis. The Leader says that they have few resources, not even doctors, and he was hoping that he and Sisko could help each other out.
Over in the corner, Kira is crying about Kai Opaka and the senselessness of it all.
Sisko comes over and says that he’s struck a deal with the Leader, Bashir’s doctoring skills in exchange for protection. Bashir is all, “tip top, Kira should be fine, I’ll run some more scans when we get home,” and Sisko discourages him from expecting a quick rescue. Just then, a team of guys with guns, presumably the Nol-Ennis, run in and shoot up the place. There’s lots of dramatic falling and jumping and dying, an the away team seem to be hiding out behind a rock – until Kira’s gut instincts take over and she does a flying somersault to grab a gun and join the fray.
Sisko seems to feel this is a bad decision, but she shoots at the ceiling, causing a small cave-in that smushes the Nol-Ennis. As they check out the damage, they suddenly see a figure approaching from the cave mouth. It’s…it’s Kai Opaka, looking perfectly alive and just slightly more crazied than usual. Ummmm. OK. This can’t end well.
Bashir checks her out, and says disbelievingly that everything looks fine. Kai Opaka seems to remember the wreck but nothing else, and doesn’t seem particularly troubled by the idea that she’s just come back from the dead. Kira goes to take her on a little stroll about the cave, and Bashir tells Sisko that the Kai’s physiology has been completely altered, although he isn’t sure how. He says there’s some sort of “bio-mechanical” device keeping her body going at the cellular level. He thinks that if he could fix the computer on te runabout he could run a full analysis. Just then, all of the Ennis killed in the fire fight start coming back to life as well.
In another runabout, Jadzia and Irishy are trying to find the team, and trace them to the general vicinity of an uncharted star system. “Guess it’s time to chart it,” Irishy says, and they head off.
Back on Planet Road Warrior, the Leader, who has come back to life also, is explaining to Sisko and Bashir that dying and coming back to life are just sort of the way of things there. Now Bashir wants to get the computer running so badly that he’s pawing at the cave walls, because dammit he is going to win the Space Nobel Prize this year. The Leader says that they’ll guarntee Bashir’s safety while he tries to fix the computer, and explains that living forever is all part of “the punishment,” so they have a vested interest in seeing Bashir’s results.
The Leader says that the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis are ancient enemies, and their planet’s leaders couldn’t make peace. So, finally, they sent them to this hellhole to kill each other forever and ever and be an example to the rest of the galaxy. Kai Opaka is interested to know the root of their original disagreement, and of course no one knows. Kai Opaka is all, “then why are you still fighting?” and the Leader is all, “VENGEANCE,” and he doesn’t seem to mind when everyone else points out that that makes no sense.
Kira jumps in with her two cents at this point. She is personally insulted at how shoddily these people are conducting their never-ending war, and it seems like she might start having Bajoran Revolution PTSD flashbacks any second, yelling at him about guards and preparation and strategy.
Kai Opaka very gently and very firmly reminds Kira that this is not her war, and Kira looks startled. It really amazes me how fast Kira always falls prey to groupthink. Other Star Trek characters across the series will inevitably be kidnapped and indoctrinated into different alien groups (it happened to poor Chakote on Voyager like, all the time), but it usually takes the course of a whole episode to take root, and every act is like an intense psychological study on propaganda. Put Kira in a group, though, any group, and she will die for it within fifteen minutes. Get this girl in a social sciences study and she’d acclimate to any tribe they put her in so fast it’d make the researchers’ heads spin. It’s what made her a great terrorist in the Resistance, but it doesn’t do her a lot of good in the real world.
The Leader takes this opportunity to chuckle at Kira’s naivete, saying that they used to defend themselves until they realized it was pointless. He says Kira will understand the longer she’s here, and Sisko is all, “Oh, I don’t think so.”
He ratchets his Sidney Poitier voice up to 11, and lays down the law, Federation-style: his people are going to find them, and take them home, and it will not take years, and if the Ennis want to come with them, they’d be perfectly happy to take them, on the condition that the Nol-Enni come along as well. The Leader of the Ennis really really wants it, but says that the Leader of the Nol-Ennis will never agree, because apparently he’s a real dick, and Sisko is all, “tough titties.” He says that if the Leader really cared about his people and stopping their suffering, he’d do whatever he had to do to ensure peace.
I have to ask: isn’t this like, a giant violation of the Prime Directive? Sisko’s just mucking around in their (admittedly terrible) culture, all like, “sure, we’ll take everybody on this planet and just transplant you somewhere else as a nomadic people who know only war, no problem.” Just sayin’.
On the rescue runabout, Irishy and Jadzia are concerned that they’re not seeing any M-Class planets about (i.e. a planet that won’t kill you if you land on it and get out). Jadzia thinks their scanners are messed up, though, which means that they’ll have to survey all the planets and moons around individually, which will take forever. Luckily, Irishy has a stroke of inspiration: he says that runabout hulls are made of magnets (?) so all they have to do is make probes that will go out and look for that specific kind of magnetic resonance (?). Jadzia thinks it won’t work, but Irishy says it will! Because he is magical.
On Planet Thunderdome, we see Bashir working on the wrecked runabout for ten seconds, and he seems pleased with his progress, but that’s too interesting so back to the negotiations with the cave people. The Leader of the Nol-Ennis has agreed to peace talks, with no weapons, and Kira is all, “but what if they want a rumble?” and he’s all “then we’ll rumble ’em right,” and I’m all, WHO GIVES A SHIT, if they shoot all of you you can just resume the negotiations in twenty minutes when you come back to life. Jesus. I think I’m supposed to be frustrated with them, but not this frustrated, surely.
Sisko, making an excellent executive decision, says that Kira and the Kai will chill out in the cave while the negotiations are going on. He and the Leader wander off, and the Kai asks Kira if she recognizes herself in these people. Kira says no, and the Kai makes that face your grandma makes when you say you can’t visit her because it’s finals week and you haven’t done laundry all semester (“oh, that’s all right, really, I guess I’ll see you at your wedding, whenever that is. Dress warm.”).
Kira is worried that the Kai has the wrong impression of her, and the Kai is all, “what impression would that be?” Kira says that she doesn’t enjoy fighting, even though all of the available evidence totally suggests that she is incapable of orgasm unless holding a phaser/punching someone. She says that isn’t how she is, and she doesn’t want the Kai to think she is a violent person without soul or conscience.
In response, the Kai squeezes her ear (unlike the similar Ferengi gesture, a Bajoran ear-squeeze is extremely affectionate, spiritual, and non-sexy). Kira starts crying, and the Kai gives her a hug and tells her not to deny the violent part of herself. She says that only when Kira accepts the violence inside her can she move on. Kira says that she’s known only violence since childhood, and Kai Opaka points out that they are all children in the eyes of the Prophets.
“Bajor has much to learn from peace,” she says, but Kira is worried the Prophets won’t forgive her. The Kai says that Kira just has to forgive herself. One of the things that makes DS9 so remarkable as a series is that it really tackled issues of religion and politics, and it did it well (unlike some of the clumsier episodes of NexGen, which feature Picard alternately rolling his eyes at civilizations that consider large groupings of sky-energy Gods and arguing contract law with a woman who claimed to be the devil). Throughout the series, we see the secularism of the Federation work, and not work, and we see the spiritually obsessive Bajoran faith work, and not work. Whatever floats your boat, DS9 seems to say (unless what floats your boat is a sexually exploitative suicide cult run by a former Nazi, but that’s seasons and seasons away). This is one of the examples of faith working on an individual, personal level, not because it’s right or wrong or true or untrue, but because it does what it’s supposed to do: help a woman who is kind of broken feel better and start to heal.
On the runabout, Jadzia and Irishy are reading their probe data, and one of Irishy’s crazy probes finds the crashed runabout, just like Irishy said it would. They race off to save the day.
On Planet Dystopian Australia, the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis are meeting under a flaming pillar, and Sisko asks Bashir how he’s coming on fixing the runabout computer. Bashir says it’s going well, and that that the weird nano-machines at the cellular level of everyone who’s died on this planet are definitely artificial. I’m not sure how he figured that out if he hasn’t fixed the computer, yet, but maybe he took a course in medical school about eyeballing that sort of thing.
Sisko tells Bashir about his “make peace and get out of here” plan, and Bashir says (super cheerfully) “isn’t that a bit like assisting a jailbreak? Heh, heh, heh.” and Sisko makes a face like he was just personally introduced to the man who shot Martin Luther King Jr., and says, “I don’t need you to interpret the Prime Directive for me, doctor.” On the one hand, ouch, burn Bashir; on the other, glad to know I’m not the only one who spotted that little snag.
Sisko reads Bashir the riot act, and Bashir looks like he’s going to cry, and slinks off to fix his computer some more.
The Leader of the Nol-Enni seems suspicious about these awfully convenient visitors who want to help them (I can’t say as I blame him), and asks Sisko about the Federation. Sisko is stone-faced, but I know on the inside he is jumping up and down that he finally gets to deliver his first contact speech, which aliens have been completely uninterested in hearing for the last several weeks.
He gives him the boilerplate, exploration, mutual discovery, peace, blah-blah-blah, and now the Leader of the Nol-Ennis seems suspicious because now it sounds even more too good to be true (again, I can see his point). He and the Leader of the Ennis almost come to blows, so Sisko appeals directly to the masses. He says that if they’ve had enough suffering, they should make their leaders stop. Sisko says that they can either keep fighting and stay here, or have a cease-fire until the rescue comes and never have to see each other again.
The Leader of the Nol-Ennis points out that Team Sisko appears to be allied with the Ennis, seeing as how one of Sisko’s people shot at them and all (ooooh, Kira’s in trouble), but Sisko insists that they aren’t allied with anyone. The Leader of the Nol-Ennis says that, if that’s true, than the Ennis can just bring all their people out here right now to prove that it’s not a clever ruse. I do not understand why they haven’t ALREADY DONE THIS. I cannot emphasize enough, IF THEY SHOOT YOU, YOU WILL COME BACK TO LIFE, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE. This isn’t a Brontë novel, don’t tell me it’s about honor and vengeance, it’s about stupid is what it is.
SO, anyway, they start fighting right there at the peace talks, and even Sisko starts punching people (which doesn’t seem like it’ll do a lot for his “I’m not on anyone’s side” argument). Just as a guy sneaks up behind Sisko to mallet him to death, Bashir jumps out of the runabout and knocks him clear, saying that he’s just discovered that this is not the place they want to die, “not even once.”
On the rescue runabout, Irishy and Jadzia are analyzing the moon, and quickly the shooty satellites scan them, just as they did Team Sisko. But Irishy is extremely clever today, and zooms them out of range before they can get shot at. It turns out those satellites also project a dampening field that makes it 99% impossible to get communications through. Luckily, as Irishy says, that leaves him one percent to work with.
Back on Planet Escape From New York, the victims of the battle start coming back to life. Bashir tells Sisko that his research is damming: once the microwhatsits bring a body back to life, that body cannot live without them, and the people who designed them made them environment specific, meaning that anyone who died and then came back to life on this planet will die for keeps the minute they leave. Well, so much for the peace talks. And the Kai.
Irishy gets a comm signal through to Sisko, and they apprise him of the situation. They say they’ll let him know before they make an attempt to penetrate the satellite network. Sisko resignedly goes to talk to the doomed Kai.
In the cave, the Kai says that the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis only know how to die, and have forgotten how to live. Sisko gives the Kai and Kira the good news about the rescue party, and before he can go on, the Kai says, “I’ll be staying, commander.” Kira is taken aback, and the Kai explains that that’s what all the prophesies say, and when they came through the wormhole she psychically knew she wouldn’t come back out the other side. She tells Kira to make sure Bajor knows she answered the call of the Prophets, which is to stay here and be grandmotherly and teach the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis Important Life Lessons.
Irishy and Jadzia are on the runabout hypothesizing about how to get past the satellites, and we just know Irishy is going to solve it because Jadzia is on her period or something today and seems incapable of contributing usefully to any of their discussions so far. And he does! He says he’s going to “poke a hole” in the satellite net, which I something I think I could have thought of.
He tells Sisko they’ll be able to beam them up soon, and SIsko says to only transport three of them because the Kai is staying behind. Irishy and Jadzia seem shocked, but Sisko promises to explain later.
On the moon, Bashir explains to the Leader of the Ennis that they can’t leave after all. The Leader is all, “typical,” and Bashir asks Sisko if maybe assisted suicide for two entire races of people might be ethically permissible just this once? He seems to think that he could reprogram the microbes so that they would stop bringing people back to life when they die, and everybody could have a normal lifespan. Sisko doesn’t really have an objection, and the Leader of the Ennis jumps all over it, and says that would make everybody super happy.
Kira wonders, quite reasonably, why the fear of death would ever stop a war, especially one as stupid as this one. The Leader of the Ennis is all, “Oh, no, that that’s not what I’m thinking at all,” explaining that the main advantage of reprogramming the micromachines would be to wipe out the Nol-Ennis once and for all. Bashir, Sisko, the Kai, and even Kira are all suitably disgusted. Irishy comms in that they’re ready to transport, and Sisko is all, awesome, we’re leaving without giving you our assisted suicide technology, take that.
The Leader of the Enni runs off in a huff, and Kira, Sisko, and Bashir all look sadly at the Kai one last time. Sisko says that they’ll come back for her if they can ever figure out a way to make it work, and the Kai tells him that he work is here now. However, she says, Sisko’s pah will cross with hers again.
They beam out, and she’s left looking off into the distance at this new band of war-torn ingrates she has to fix.
Meredith’s Analysis: The thing is, this episode is really about Bajor. Kira and Kai Opaka represent the bipolarity of the plant right now – Kai Opaka is the part of Bajor longing for peace and harmony and willing to slog through the mud to get there (in this episode she reminds me a lot of Marmie from Little Women, for those of you who are part of the Star Trek/Little Women fan demographic that I’m sure exists somewhere). Kira represents the part of the planet that is theoretically devoted to peace, but has been through so much shit they aren’t really sure what it looks like anymore, and can’t stand behind those principles when push comes to shove.
When Sisko tells the Leader of the Inna that he’d commit to peace at any cost if he really cared about his people, the message is for Bajor, too: if Bajor is to stand, it cannot be petty and divided against itself. Thank god that as the series rolls on, both the Bajorans as a people and Kira as an individual will start listening and growing. The scene with Kai Opaka and Kira where Kira’s crying is really tender and moving, and “Bajor has much to learn from peace” might as well be the name of the goddamn episode.
Tim’s Analysis: This episode gives us a small taste of some of DS9’s real strengths in later seasons. Post- Occupation Bajor is a complicated place and the writers are very smart to spoon-feed us these tidbits.
As far as significance in the series, the departure of Kai Opaka opens up the Kai seat for a Vedek (Bajoran Bishop) to ascend to and as you just read in Mer’s analysis, Bajor is anything but consistent these days. I don’t think I need to tell you we’ll be dealing with that soon.