EmissaryBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 12, 2004 - 3:50 PM GMT
Commander Benjamin Sisko is reluctantly assigned to Deep Space Nine, a former Cardassian station under Federation jurisdiction but the property of nearby Bajor, which has just thrown off decades of Cardassian occupation. Following the death of his wife at Wolf 359, the battle with the Borg, Sisko wanted to resign, but promised to fulfill his remaining obligation first. Bringing his young son to the newly acquired space station, he meets his new crew, including Bajoran first officer Major Kira, who has survived the Bajoran occupation and doesn't think much of pristine Starfleet officers; an adventuresome doctor, Bashir, who wants to practice frontier medicine; mechanic Miles O'Brien, formerly of the Enterprise, who is now chief of operations; and a Trill science officer, Dax, whose symbiont formerly inhabited the body of one of Sisko's old friends. The security officer on the station - Odo, a shapeshifter - and the bartender - Quark, a Ferengi - worked on the station when it was Cardassian.
Sisko visits the Bajoran Kai, where he is shown a vision in a Bajoran Orb and warned that he has an important destiny to protect the Prophets, who live in a hidden Celestial Temple. Heading into an area of unusual neutrino activity, the commander discovers a nearby wormhole which leads directly to the Gamma Quadrant, thousands of light years away. Dax's readings indicate that it may be the first truly stable wormhole ever discovered. Contact with the aliens who keep the singularity fixed at both ends, making it a natural corridor and an invaluable resource, reveals to Sisko that the beings have no sense of linear time, so they must communicate with him by appearing to him as people he has known, including his dead wife. He realizes that these are the same beings whom the Bajorans worship as Prophets, as indeed their riddles claim.
When he returns to the station, Sisko must fight off Gul Dukat while Kira proposes moving the station into position to defend the wormhole from those who would exploit it. While O'Brien works on that problem, the emissary to the Bajoran Prophets must convince them of the value of permitting linear life forms to enter their realm. After making him relive the death of his wife, the aliens agree. In turn, Sisko agrees to stay on Deep Space Nine instead of resigning.
While there were some long sections of this pilot that dragged, it was still a vast improvement over "Encounter at Farpoint" which launched TNG, and my immediate affection for several of the characters is heartening. For starters, I absolutely loved seeing two women in charge while Sisko was off bonding with the aliens in the wormhole! Kira is a very cool character; I was initially afraid she was going to be one of those obnoxious stereotypes of a woman who has to be in charge, but she's far more complex and given her history, her motives for distrusting Sisko are compelling. She has nice rapport with Odo, one of the few who can understand what she went through, given his own history on the Cardassian station.
We didn't really see enough of Dax, Bashir, or any of the rest to get a real sense of who they are other than the introductory sentences: Bashir seems a slightly older Wesley Crusher with a medical degree, Dax seems absurdly calm and pretty for a top-notch scientist, O'Brien seems to be playing Scotty practically right down to the accent. We learned quite a bit about Sisko's past, but little about what sort of commanding officer he will be; I thought his initial rapid concession to doing things Kira's way was heartening, but I want to know what will happen the first time they clash. Avery Brooks has a marvelous voice but his acting at moments reminded me of William Shatner's over-the-top posturing; that might just be because some of the dialogue with the aliens was written stultifyingly, but it's hard to know at this point.
The idea of a Star Trek set on a station that doesn't move is inherently problematic. There's no opening voice-over on Deep Space Nine because they're not exploring strange new worlds; they're waiting for the new life and new civilizations to come to them. While Bajor and its problems offer some compelling story ideas, it's unlikely that those will be enough to sustain a series. I wonder what else the writers will come up with to bring in.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.