Retro Review: ProgressPosted by Michelle - 20/01/12 at 02:01 pm
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season: 01 Episode: 15 (s01e15)
Original US airdate: 05/09/1993
Kira is ordered to evacuate an old man from his lunar home so the Bajorans can use the moon for an energy transfer to fuel their planet.
Plot Summary: The Bajoran government has decided to tap energy from the molten core of its inhabited moon Jeraddo, which will produce energy to fuel all of Bajor but will destroy Jeraddo’s atmosphere. While confirming that all residents have been evacuated, Kira discovers an elderly farmer and two middle-aged workers who are in no hurry to leave the surface. Insisting that Kira help make dinner, the older man, Mullibok, explains that he and his friends escaped to Jeraddo during the Occupation and they have no intention of letting the Bajoran government bully him the way the Cardassians did. Kira tries to explain that Bajor is now peaceful and the energy from Jeraddo’s core will make it prosperous, but Mullibok will not leave his home. When Kira suggests to Minister Toran that perhaps the destruction of Jeraddo is too hasty, the Minister refuses to hold back Bajoran progress for a few backward people and orders Kira to evacuate Mullibok. Returning to Jeraddo with a security team, Kira is able to take the two younger workers, but a furious Mullibok attacks the guards and is shot with a phaser. Kira summons Bashir for medical assistance and goes to work repairing Mullibok’s farm, but after Sisko visits and reminds her that the moon’s fate has already been decided – all that she can control is her own fate – she destroys Mullibok’s cottage so that he will have nothing left on Jeraddo. Meanwhile, on the station, Nog makes a deal to trade Quark’s massive supply of Cardassian yamok sauce for an equally massive supply of self-sealing stem bolts, which Jake then convinces him to trade for land on Bajor. Nog is angry that Jake didn’t hold out for latinum, but soon the pair overhear Odo telling Quark that the Bajoran government wants to buy their land, so Nog decides to let Quark make a deal with the Bajorans for the land in exchange for five bars of gold pressed latinum.
Analysis: One of several terrific Kira episodes from Deep Space Nine‘s first season, “Progress” picks up the themes from “Past Prologue” of Kira’s difficulties in being part of the establishment rather than a rebel and having trouble punishing fellow Bajorans when the stubbornness that enabled them to survive the Occupation now threatens Bajor’s wider interests. Kira very much wants to do what’s right for Bajor as a whole, but she has little confidence that the provisional government can make the best decisions and she loathes the way individuals who have fought their whole lives for what peace they could snatch from the Cardassians are now forced to bend to a Bajoran bureaucracy that can call in Starfleet’s firepower when necessary. I’m sorry that so much of the episode is taken up with the Jake-and-Nog storyline, which while cute has much in common with the one in “The Storyteller” and takes valuable time away from the Bajoran situation, particularly since the two plots never converge; when Jake made the deal for the Bajoran land and the government then expressed an interest, I felt certain that somehow the land was going to end up being farmed by the people evacuated from Jeraddo, but instead it seems to be yet another mysterious project of the government. Had there been more time, I would have expected to hear environmental arguments against tapping the moon’s core – isn’t that just what the Klingons were doing at the start of The Undiscovered Country that led to the pollution of the Klingon homeworld, which inspired the Khitomer Conference? Mullibok may not need a larger social reason to stop the moon’s destruction, but I’m a bit shocked that Kira didn’t use such an argument with Toran.
I suppose any sort of politics or real-world allegory isn’t the point here, but I think it would have strengthened Kira’s position to give her a practical as well as emotional reason to become invested in Mullibok’s situation. As it is, we’re getting a sense that she craves a strong parental figure in her life; her deep attachment first to the much older Kai Opaka and now to this stranger, not to mention the way she responds to Sisko’s gently paternal warning, all hint that while she may have had to be self-reliant for many years, she never learned to prefer it. Despite the prickliness to which Sisko alludes, telling her that he thought she was hostile and arrogant at first, Kira has shown real pride in being a team player and in working with the Starfleet officers she initially claimed to resent. It’s interesting therefore that she feels kinship with this man who has for all practical purposes rejected Bajor and the Bajorans; his scars may have been left by the Cardassians, but arguments that removing a few settlers from Jeraddo for the greater good of Bajor merely make him roll his eyes. We know from recent episodes that Bajor still has agrarian societies, so this isn’t a situation like Voyager‘s “Remember” where those who prefer the old way of life are being shipped off to their extermination. It truly is about the wishes of these three Bajorans against what their planet’s presumably democratic government has chosen for the good of thousands.
Up against these complex conflicts with no easy solutions, the Jake and Nog story feels entirely trivial, like a waste of time since it never hooks in to the crisis of the episode. We already know that the two boys work well together and are becoming fast friends as they teach each other about their different cultural values, we already know that Nog is as clever as his uncle, we aren’t learning anything important from their trading, and the triumphant conclusion seems to support the idea that latinum is a prize in itself – something that Star Trek has always seemed to oppose, given that we never really learn how goods are exchanged in the Federation and we’re told several times that there is no money on Earth. The first time I saw this episode, I thought Kira was going to learn that Jake and Nog had acquired land on Bajor and persuade them to give it to Mullibok, teaching them that some things have greater value than latinum and showing Mullibok that not only Bajorans but even strangers from space can be welcoming and generous. Would that have seemed awfully simple and reductive? Perhaps, but it would be more in fitting with the values of the show as a whole and with the emphasis of “Progress” in particular. Maybe it’s better that there’s no happy ending for Mullibok or for Kira, who beams away from Jeraddo feeling guilty and unforgiven, but Jake and Nog deserve to be more than the comic relief.
As for Sisko, it’s touching to see him protecting his second in command, but I’d love to have heard his personal take on the situation, perhaps in a conversation with Jake. Kira’s split loyalties to Mullibok and to Bajor aren’t so much about technological progress as they are about the treatment of veterans, but Sisko could look back on centuries of “progress” on Earth in which people were forced from their homes, their rights trampled in the name of a projected greater good that often didn’t work out that way. There’s a lovely moment when Sisko asks Bashir to lie about the reasons for Kira remaining on Jeraddo with Mullibok, when Bashir first cites his obligation to the truth then allows himself to be persuaded that the integrity of the command team is more important. Clearly Sisko does understand all the moral uncertainties with which Kira is faced. He’s already seen her face breaking points with the Kohn-Ma and with Opaka’s death, and those are less personal than the crises she will face with Bareil and later Shakaar. As sorry as he may have felt for himself when he arrived on Deep Space Nine, he must see by now how lucky he’s been compared to so many of the Bajorans who consider him their Emissary.
Tags: Retro Review