Episode 1.13: Battle Lines

Kai Opaka plays a very small role in DS9, one that is smaller than I had remembered.  But thinking on it, her leaving Bajor early is a necessity.  She is the Kai of a war-torn world, representing hope in Bajor’s hopeless struggle against the Cardassians.  She was the figurehead for the faith that gave the struggle meaning.  But that Bajor is gone now, and her Kai must pass as well.  This isn’t necessarily good given how the selection of a new Kai will progress.  The new Bajor will face new challenges and with new leaders representing that new era.  But that is for another time.  For now, we examine Kai Opaka’s ‘death’ and the circumstances surrounding it.

On this penal colony, death has no meaning.  Upon dying, the person is revived by nanites or some such tech-based plot device, and this process seems to have no end.  This punishment is particularly ironic because the crime these people committed is generational feuding.  So they kill and revive, kill and revive endlessly.  There is such futility in this violence.  This continues the theme introduced in Past Prologue (Ep. 1.3).  What point does such violence have?  As a whole, DS9 does not make the argument for pacifism.  The entirety of the final two seasons are devoted to a just war.  But before justifications are made to condone violence, one must begin with a rightful disdain for violence.  Past Prologue rebutted violence in extremism; Battle Lines reveals the consequences of violence becoming an end to itself.  These people have no idea why they fight.  I would bet that would be true even before they were ever exiled to this prison.  As Kira keenly notices, they fight because they have forgotten how to live.  Left unchecked, violence can infect us deeply, burrowing into our psyche, and becoming our motivation.  It becomes our rationale, rather than a result of exhausted options.  These people, the Ennis and the Noll-Ennis, cannot even have a cordial conversation because they have allowed their violent tendencies to consume them.  This has degraded their Paghs, leaving them shells of sentient lifeforms.  This is what motivates Opaka to stay.  She is a healer and desires to minster where she is most needed.  The sobering stories of Past Prologue and Battle Lines offer the needed deliberation about violence before one is confronted with a situation like Call to Arms (Ep. 5.26).

Kira’s growth here parallels this rather nicely.  When her emotions get out of hand as she considers the lack of camp defenses, she is ordered to stop by Sisko, but doesn’t.  She does stop at Opaka’s command.  Why?  Because this is a spiritual battle for her (and the prisoners on the colony).  She is struggling to control this violence that has consumed her entire life leaving her without peace.  Even when violence becomes necessary, it carries a heavy toll to be inflicted upon the Pagh.  Kira’s self-image is tainted; she views herself unworthy of forgiveness due to her actions.  The Prophets are unconcerned with this!  The irony is that forgiveness, by definition, is unfair.  But it does not make her unworthy to receive it. Like Odo in Past Prologue, Opaka does not tell Kira anything she does not already know herself.  Violence defines her now, but it does not have to continue defining her.  She is worthy of forgiveness.  The prisoners have a similar decision, but they choose to stick to the violence.  Thankfully, Kira makes a different decision.  Do not miss that this is inherently a question of faith.  What we allow our defining qualities to be is absolutely an action displaying our faith.

Random Thoughts:  1) Bashir’s engineering extension courses pay off here.  2) Euthanasia is also mentioned on at the very end, but is not expanded upon.  3) I really hope I remember all this when Season 6 starts, which is months from now.  4) Kudos to the acting of Paul Collins and the makeup artist.  They did a great job of giving Zlangco a hollowed out look, adding to the idea of his pagh being empty.  5) Yangtze Kiang down!  Runabouts destroyed-to-date: 1.

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~ by Joshua Black on August 17, 2012.

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