Synopsis: We open with Kira in trouuuuuuuble because she still doesn’t have the duty rosters for next week done, despite promising Sisko they’d be on his desk this morning. Apparently she’s going through a lot of shit with some of the Bajoran Ministers about irrigation – Bajorans can yell at each other about agricultural issues for hours – which Sisko knows about because, unsurprisingly, Kira can’t keep her voice down. “I thought I was keeping it down to an angry whisper,” she tells Sisko abashedly.
She explains that Ministers are extremely frustrating with all their red tape and intrigue, and Sisko kindly tells her, guidance-councilor-style, that she can yell at them all she wants as long as she keeps doing her job on the station. She leaves his office with a renewed sense of purpose, only to hear from Irishy that Quark has been looking for her in regards to an urgent matter.
In the bar, everyone is enchanted by a very meta gentleman playing a variation of the show’s theme song on some sort of Space Woodwind. Rom is too engaged with the music to serve drinks, even ever-present alcoholic Morn is crying. Only Quark remains untransfixed, pacing angrily around the bar. When Kira comes in, Quark complains that the Space Woodwind player, who just started his gig yesterday, is driving down drink, food, and gambling profits, which Quark knows because he monitors his income on an hourly basis. It sounds like I’m making that up, but I’m not.
Kira tells Quark to get ahold of himself, because soon people will hear about this guy’s amazing woodwinding and will be coming from miles around to hear him. Quark cynically asks if this is her “Bajoran intuition” at work, and I have to say I share his skepticism. I’m pretty sure Kenny G. is the exception, and not the rule, when it comes to packed houses for solo clairinet acts.
It turns out that Quark agreed to try the Woodwinder out for a month at Kira’s urging, which is why he blames her for his unprecedented drop in profits. He wonders if the Woodwinder could play something with a little more “bounce” to it, so I guess Quark really doesn’t know anything about Kenny G.
Kira goes over to talk to the Woodwinder, who speaks like he’s Laurence Olivier, and apparently he’s some famous displaced Bajoran concert performer or something, and Kira politely asks him if he could be, as he puts it, “a little less exhibition hall and a little more music hall.” He agrees, and asks Kira if she’s talked to any of the Ministers about his brilliant idea to rebuild this one concert hall, because apparently her getting him this job is not enough of a favor.
He starts lecturing her about how important it is for Bajorans to reclaim their artistic heritage – dude, chill, she’s under enough pressure trying to keep your whiny-ass planet fed. Kira says she can’t promise anything, and he looks at her all judgily. God, what a dick.
Kira returns to Ops and expresses her desire to throw Quark out of an airlock and see how far he flies, when Irishy announces that a ship is coming through the wormhole. The ship is in distress, with overheating whosiwhatsists and barely functioning life support, so Sisko orders them beamed over. They are, and when they get there they are pretty clearly escapees from some sort of Space Polygamous Cult Compound.
After credits, Sisko is saying comforting things in his most comforting voice – Medical attention! Ship fixing! Luxurious amenities! Fine dining! – but the Space Mormons seem oddly uncomforted. One guy even yells at Sisko until the redheaded lady puts a hand on him to clam him down, and that’s when Sisko and Kira realize: holy shit, these people do not speak English.
Actually, no one on Star Trek speaks English, technically speaking. In the Star Trek universe, there was a handy-dandy invention called the Universal Translator, which “listens” to alien languages and then translates them, automatically, into the native language of the user. It’s teeny-tiny, and implanted in all Starfleet comm badges. That’s how everybody is able to talk to each other, despite the fact that Kira presumably speaks Bajoran, and Jadzia speaks, I don’t know, Trillian, and Jean-Luc Picard is probably French.
Anyway, Irishy says that the universal translators are working fine, but the Space Mormons have a language so unlike anything they’ve ever heard before that the translators are having trouble with the syntax and language patterns. Sisko says to just keep them talking until the translators figure it out.
Kira mutters that keeping them talking shouldn’t be a problem, since the Redheaded Lady is still rambling on in what sounds like Italian via Fargo. Sisko suggests that Kira lead them to sick bay, and then asks Odo to meet them at the bottom of the turbolift. As the turbolift lands, Kira begins coaxing the Space Mormons out onto the promenade, and it seems like the Redheaded Lady trusts Kira, perhaps because of the intergalactic bond of sisterhood that all redheaded white ladies share.
Sisko explains to Odo about the translator issue as the Space Mormons look at the promenade with wonder and Odo and Kira herd them along like easily distracted ducklings. For some reason the whole gang stops off in a store, which seems like an awful idea, so that the Space Mormons can poke and prod things and call them by the funny names for them they have in their own language. Odo is trying unsuccessfully to enforce the rule my mother called “look with you eyes, not with your fingers,” when Kira, who appears now to be the Mormon Whisperer, finally communicates to the Redheaded Lady, who seems to be the mom or the boss or something, that they need to put the merch down and a get a move on. Again, I don’t fully understand why we are in a store in the first place beyond an excuse to have this amusing little culture clash.
Later, in sick bay, Bashir says that one of the boys has a plasma burn, which he can easily take care of with his special burn-healing-gun, but when he goes to use it the Redheaded Lady snatches it out of his hand and hands it to Kira, urging her to use it. Kira shakes her head and Bashir takes the tool back, assuring her in his best I’m a Doctor Voice that everything will be fine.
After he fixes the kid up, Kira and Sisko lead the Mormons to their quarters, where Sisko regenerates some food and Kira eats some of it first to prove that it’s edible. I have my doubts, the stuff looks like burnt cheese sticks. If I had to choose one dish to represent Earth cuisine, I think I would have gone with, I don’t know, unburned cheese sticks, or maybe something even more awesome, like lamb curry or tacos or Happy Hippos (which the European manufacturer’s site accurately if awkwardly describes as “unresistable”).
But the Mormons seem to like the cheese sticks, which the Redheaded Lady communicates to Kira with hand-grasping and intense close-face talking, and suddenly some of her words begin to become clear. Those words are, roughly: “My people need your help! We have no time for burnt cheese sticks.”
She is extremely relieved to be understood at last, and Sisko asks her where her people are. She explains that they’re on the other side of the “eye,” and there are about three million of them, so, awesome, when can we leave?
In Ops, the Redheaded Lady has a strategy meeting with all the main characters, and she confides to Kira that she feels awkward having so many men at the table, because their job is just to stay home in the kitchen taking care of the kids and being bad at math. Jadzia is fascinated by this, and, awesomely, when Bashir tries to clarify, “all your leaders are women?” she curtly says, “you heard her, Julian.”
Redheaded Lady goes on to explain that men are too emotional to be in positions of power, what with them always wanting to start wars and whatnot, and then she sees Odo, Irishy, and Bashir glancing at each other and awkwardly says she didn’t mean to offend anybody. I guess that explains why she didn’t want Bashir fixing up that dude’s burns – she thought he was the nurse.
As Sisko comes out of his office, Jadzia and Irishy tell him about the female-dominated society, and how men are too emotional to be leaders, and the Redheaded Lady, embarrassed, quickly justifies things by saying, “we love our men. Really.” Before she can get into how men have more power than you might think because the hand that rocks the cradle, etc., Sisko asks if she’s one of the leaders of her people.
She says no, she’s just a simple farmer, she just got lucky by being the first person to find the “eye of the universe,” which is what her people call the wormhole. Apparently, they have a whole series of sacred texts that tells them that there’s a planet just beyond the wormhole that is “full of sorrow,” that her people will remedy by sowing “seeds of joy.”
Sisko says he can’t make any promises about locating her mythical paradise planet, but that he can find her people somewhere to live on this side of the wormhole. She says it’s going to be difficult to rendezvous with all of her people, because they’re apparently all spread out, looking for the wormhole. The additional problem is that the station only holds 7,000 people, which means that any Space Mormons passing through are going to have to be confined to their ships for the most part. Redhead Lady says that’s fine.
Sisko asks if there’s a particular leader or leaders that they should be looking for, and she explains that most of their leaders have been killed in an eight-century-long conflict with their oppressors, from whom they were able to escape when they were themselves conquered by an invading force, whose name she doesn’t even know. All she knows is that they were members of The Dominion.
Later that evening, Kira wakes up the Redheaded Lady in the middle of the night. The Redheaded Lady kindly invites Kira in and shoos away two of the dudes she had with her earlier, who look like twins and are wearing footie pajamas. Kira is all, “are those your husbands?” and the Redheaded Lady is all, “husbands? I don’t know what that word means, but if it means concubines, then, yes,” and Kira is all, “you sleep with both of them?” and the Redheaded Lady is all, “WELL DUH.”
Then Kira says she doesn’t have any males at the moment, and the Redheaded Lady looks really sad for her, and says that males are super useful for cooking one’s breakfast and keeping one supplied with highballs. Kira changes the subject, saying that several hundred of her people will be arriving soon, and that they thought it would be a good idea if Redheaded Lady was there to greet them. Redheaded Lady protests again that she’s just a farmer, but Kira points out that she was the first through the eye of the universe, and that’s gotta count for something.
Then she gives her a present: the sparkly dress she was pointing at in the shop earlier. The Redheaded Lady gets this sort of hunted look on her face and says that Kira misunderstood her gesticulating – she was pointing at the dress because it was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen in her life. “Well, that makes two of us,” says Kira, successfully diffusing the awkward. May I remind you that Kira lived through a holocaust and that dress is apparently the ugliest thing she’s ever seen. I don’t think it’s quite that bad, personally. The two in-control ginger ladies have a good laugh.
Meanwhile, Nog and Jake are talking, and Nog is wearing his Travoltia-tastic ’70s boots, so you know some shit is going down. Apparently Jake, 14-year-old Lothario, went on a date with a Dabo girl, and Nog wants all the deets. Jake says it wasn’t exactly a date, he had to help her with her entomology homework. I bet Sisko loves that, actually, his son tutoring the young girls gone astray to get their Space GEDs or whatever. I bet that looks great on the old college applications.
Nog thinks the very idea of a Dabo girl studying entomology is preposterous, and when Jake explains that it’s the study of bugs, Nog assumes that she wants to be a chef, which is apparently an acceptable career for ladies to have as far as Ferengi are concerned. Just then, they spot the Burn Victim Dude from earlier down on the promenade, eating out of ashtrays or something. Whatever it is, Nog thinks it’s disgusting, but Jake tries to be nice and says hi with a little wave. Jake’s a good kid.
Meanwhile, in Ops, the first ship has arrived and the Redheaded Lady goes to welcome the heads of households and their husbands and children. They stroll the promenade in their shapeless, dingy clothing, looking at the lights and shops in wonderment in a sequence that would undoubtedly be better if someone dubbed Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America” over it. You know what, I said that as a joke, but then I tried it and it was actually pretty awesome.
Odo is his usual Odo self, yelling at the Space Mormons not to run or shove on the promenade. That’s one of the little-known reasons the minutemen want us to close the borders: too much shoving. Sisko gives him a nice mini-speech about the beauty of freedom, but something tells me this is going to get out of control soon.
Sure enough, Odo stops Jake and Nog, who are running towards him with a bunch of Space Mormon boys in hot pursuit. It seems that Nog sprayed some smelly vapor on them as a hilarious joke, which they found unamusing. Odo assures them he’ll take care of it, and escorts Nog away by the tip of his ear. I think I need a community verdict, here: awesome or horrible that Odo gets to basically grab Nog and Quark by the balls when he’s taking them in? The Space Mormon Kid yells after Nog that this isn’t over, and then he briefly growls at Jake for good measure.
In the security office, Nog is oohing and ahhhing over Odo’s digital wanted posters while Odo reviews stuff on his kindle. Nog muses that illegal weapons sales are very profitable, and when Odo asks how he knows that, Nog says that his Uncle Quark told him. “And how does he know?” Odo asks politely. Nog realizes he is deep in the shit and starts stammering when Quark walks in to glare at him while saving both their asses. Odo says he asked to see Rom, but Quark says Rom is busy with inventory and asks what this is all about.
Odo explains that Nog sprayed the Mormon boys with powerful-smelling vapor, and Quark just barely manages to conceal a smile as he asks Nog what he has to say for himself. “I’m sorry?” Nog ventures. Quark tells the confused Nog to apologize, and Odo lets him go. Quark muses to Odo that you can hardly blame the kid, because the Mormons don’t buy anything and their skin flakes off and it’s gross. Quark says they’re ruining his business, and Odo wryly says that he hopes they never leave.
In the bar, a group of elderly Mormon women have universally elected Redheaded Lady their leader. Kira comes to talk to her, and the Redheaded Lady says she feels trapped by everybody’s expectations that she’ll find their planet of legend. Kira says that Sisko is doing his best to find them somewhere to live, and she shouldn’t worry because she’s not alone. Just then, the Woodwinder Dick comes over, and Kira introduces him as the greatest musician Bajor has ever had. He says that, as a Bajoran, he knows what it’s like to be displaced. In friendship, he gives her a small holographic recording of him Kenny-G-ing it up, which she accepts with grace.
Later, in her quarters, the Smelly Mormon Boy, who seems to be her son, the burn victim from earlier, comes in all disgruntled and says he’s going to take a shower. As he stalks off, Redheaded Lady asks the computer to show her a star chart of the area, and I do not think this could possibly be going anywhere good.
Later, Jake and Nog are talking about exactly how pissed-off Rom was about the whole prank situation (pretty pissed-off) when they run into the Smelly Mormon Boy, who is looking extremely menacing. Jake prompts Nog to apologize, but Smelly Mormon Boy says that Nog doesn’t sound sorry, and tackles him. Jake leaps to Nog’s defense, and the Smelly Mormon Boy’s posse jumps into the fray, and soon it’s a good-old-fashioned brawl. Quark notices from the bar, and runs in to break it up. I think this is probably the worst possible adult authority figure intervention with the possible exception of Keiko O’Brien.
Quark breaks up the fight, hisses at the Smelly Mormon Boy and then tells him that they don’t want them there, any of them, and the Smelly Mormon Boy says that the cult feels the same. He and his posse leave, and Quark deadpans that it’s a shame the Mormons don’t teach their children manners.
Elsewhere, Sisko is explaining to Kira that he and Jadzia have been looking for unoccupied M-class (i.e., inhabitable) planets in the sector, and think they’ve found the answer in a planet called Dralon 2. Everybody smiles at each other and goes to tell the Mormon ladies.
The Mormon ladies are smiling to, which makes me nervous, although the Redheaded Lady explains that they don’t mean to stare, it’s just that seeing Sisko in a uniform is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs or a rapping grandma or something. Sisko says they have encouraging news, and lets Kira tell it so it’ll be taken seriously. Kira tells them about Dralon 2, but then the Redheaded Lady smiles patronizingly and says all their work was unnecessary because they found their holy planet: Surprise! It’s Bajor!
After commercial break, Sisko voices over that some Bajoran Ministers are coming to the station with an official response to the Mormons’ desire to emigrate. Oh, good. Bajoran Minsters. They always make things better and not in any way worse.
As Kira walks to the meeting, the Dick Woodwinder jogs alongside her and asks her to bring a message to the Redheaded Lady: Dear Redheaded Lady, allow me to express how sorrowful I am in my heart that we have to tell such lovely people to get their own goddamn planet. Kira thinks he’s being a little premature, but he says there’s no way the Bajoran provisional government is going to let this happen, because Bajor is in shambles. He has a point. I certainly don’t know why anyone would want to move there.
In Sisko’s office, the Bajoran Minister, with her Vedek backup, says that they’ve decided to turn the Mormons down, because they can barely feed their own people, let alone 3 million refugees with a unique society. The Redheaded Lady looks gobsmacked, and says they can take care of themselves and just live in Bajoran Australia or something, and also they’re really good farmers so it’s a win-win.
The Minister points out that all kinds of shit could go down, no matter how good you are at farming, and they ran a series of projections that look pretty bleak. Redheaded Lady says that projections can be wrong, and the Vedek is all, “what if they aren’t? SCIENCE,” but I think the real issue here is that the Bajorans are uncomfortable being featured in prophesy that isn’t their own. You can bet that if the Bajoran scriptures said, “and lo, a pimply redheaded woman will arrive with a whole bunch of people after a time of darkness to bring in the light,” they would be all over that shit.
The Redheaded Lady keeps saying that they wouldn’t be a burden, but it seems like Bajor is a real nanny state, because the Minister says that if the Mormons started dying they would step in and give them whatever it took to make it work, and that would tax their already depleted resources and be bad for everyone.
The Redheaded Lady appeals to Kira, who looks like she’s about to cry. Kira says that she can’t help, though she wishes she could, and that Bajor isn’t their holy planet. Sisko reminds Redheaded Lady that there’s always Dralon-2.
In the Holiday Inn Express Breakfast Buffet, Jake comes across Smelly Mormon Kid and makes a food recommendation. Smelly Mormon Kid seems in the mood to talk, and asks if Nog (“that troll”) is really Jake’s friend. Jake answers in the affirmative, and when the Smelly Mormon Kid says that Nog’s an idiot, Jake answers in the affirmative again, though he qualifies that Nog isn’t that bad once you get to know him. He brings up Dralon-2, and the Smelly Mormon Kid says he doesn’t want to move there, and ends the conversation. It’s hella awkward.
Meanwhile, Kira goes to visit the Redheaded Lady in her quarters, and the Redheaded Lady accuses Kira of being a false friend. She says Kira betrayed her, and Kira says she thinks the government made the best choice for everyone, and she was hoping they could still be friends. The Redheaded Lady says Kira came looking for forgiveness, and she does not forgive her. Ouch. Kira is turning to leave when Sisko comm badges her and says he needs both her and the Redheaded Lady in Ops immediately, because Smelly Mormon Boy and two of his buddies have stolen a ship and are headed for Bajor.
In Ops, Sisko says it was easier to steal a ship than it would have been normally, given all the commotion around the station. They didn’t even realize the ship was gone until the Bajorans called them. Irishy adds that there’s something wrong with the ship, and they tried to make Smelly Mormon Boy aware of it, but he refuses to acknowledge them. Sisko tells Kira to open a channel, and she does, and the Redheaded Lady gets on the line. She tells him that the ship is in danger, and, at Sisko’s urging, tells him to turn off his engine, telling him that everyone on the ship is in danger. To add to their troubles, a Bajoran ship is now on their tail because they’re in restricted space.
Kira opens a channel to that ship, and says that the Smelly Mormon Boy’s comm system may be down, so they have to let him land. The Bajoran ship says they’re under strict orders not to let any Mormon ship land, and Kira tells them about the extenuating circumstances. Kira asks where they’re getting their orders, and they say it’s coming direct from this general, and Sisko snaps at Jadiza to get that guy on the phone. Kira tells the Bajoran ship to stand by because the general is going to countermand that order any minute now.
The general gets on skype, and Sisko explains the situation to the him, who says that if the Smelly Mormon Kid turns of his engines, they can tow him back. Unfortunately, the Smelly Mormon Kid starts firing on the Bajoran ship, becaise he’s a total idiot, apparently. The Bajoran ship fires back, even though Sisko, Kira, and the general are all yelling at them, but then the Smelly Mormon Kid’s ship explodes because it was leaking radiation that was ignited by the fire. Everyone is very somber, and the general apologizes. The Redheaded Lady’s face goes very hard.
Later, all of the Mormons are being herded onto their ships, and Kira is coming to wish the Redheaded Lady good luck on Dralon-2. She glares at Kira and says that Bajor has made a terrible mistake. She says that it’s pretty stupid to turn away three million farmers when your planet is having a famine, and also that fifty years of Cardassian oppression have made the Bajorans suspicious and afraid.
Then she says she supposes Kira was right: Bajor is not their holy planet. And with that, she strides purposely to her ship and ends the episode.
Tim’s Analysis: This episode is ostensibly about immigration and is written mostly as a generic culture clash story. We’ve seen this sort of thing several times in TNG. What makes it stand out a bit are the religious connotations (which Meredith will discuss) and the ending. On any other Star Trek, the captain would have ended up either proving that the pilgrims were frauds trying to steal something or negotiated a treaty where they get to settle somewhere remote. This episode veers further into the real world by having a sad ending. The pilgrims don’t get to settle on Bajor. They have to keep looking. There is no shiny happy ending and a group laugh on the bridge. The pilgrims just have to keep going because Bajor isn’t going to be nice to them and our heroes can’t do anything about that. Bummer.
Also worth noting: we get another passing mention of the mysterious “Dominion” in this episode.
Meredith’s Analysis: Tim and I have called this episode Space Mormons for years, originally because their hair and dress are sort of evocative of the modern-day FLDS cult of Warren Jeffs fame. But as we watched the rest of the episode, we realized that the stories are similar in a lot of ways: the prophesy-inspired pilgrimage to a land that God picked for them, the ill-treatment, misunderstanding, and “not in my backyard” shenanigans as they tried to get there, the tragic death, the emphasis on agriculture, and the polygamy, to name only a few. Mormons also sought freedom in a new land promised to them by God, which they thought was in Missouri (aka Bajor) for a while, but the people there thought they were strange creepy heretics, and the Mormons had to move on following some pretty terrible shit, not least the murder of leader Joseph Smith (represented here in many ways by the Redheaded Lady’s son).
It’s a fascinating story, and whether the writers intended the parallels or not (I find it difficult to believe they did not), the theme of pilgrimage is a really strong one. We’re supposed to emphasize with the Federation and, to a lesser extent, Bajor, and how we, former pilgrims and immigrants, deal with new pilgrims now that we’re established is a question worth asking. DS9 isn’t afraid to throw out there that we may not always be the good guys, as hard as we may try, and this episode handles that idea very well.