Episode 3.22: Explorers

After the heaviness of the last two episodes, a light-hearted episode seems in order.  The two plots of this episode are bound together by a pair of bonding experiences.  Jake and Sisko grow closer to each other as Jake takes a major step along his journey to manhood.  The journey in the Bajoran craft brings them together even as Jake seeks to create his own life beyond Sisko.  Julian is self conscious about his life course, and he has a bromantic evening with O’Brien.  Two light storylines about life on the station.

From my explorations of manhood, there are two major events in a boy’s life that he must go through before becoming a man, and they are not necessarily in this order.  Both help him answer that important question, “Do I have what it takes?”  First, he must differentiate himself from his father, as he continues to do in this episode.  The second is to have a rite of passage, which for Jake occurs during Nor the Battle to the Strong (Ep. 5.04).  Jake is not Starfleet material.  This isn’t to say that he isn’t honorable or strong or intellectual.  Rather, he isn’t interested in the rigidity or scientific nature of that life.  He is artistic, passionate, and elegant with words.  His maturity in this episode is astounding.  He chooses to spend time with his father so that he might get Sisko’s blessing to venture to Earth on his own.  While the boy must step away from the father, the healthiest way to do that is with the father’s wisdom and encouragement; Sisko offers both.  His wisdom comes in telling Jake that experience makes for good storytellers.  Sisko relates his own stories of homesickness to both prepare Jake for what he faces and to encourage him in overcoming it.  Despite Jake deciding to go in a year, he never capitalizes on this opportunity.  The upcoming war with the Klingons prevents this.

Bashir’s subplot is a direct extension of his struggles in Distant Voices (Ep. 3.18).  He questions his life course, in particular that moment in medical school when he became 2nd in his class.  I’m aware that the writers didn’t plan on making Julian genetically modified, so at this point, him missing the pre-ganglionic/post-ganglionic question was not intentional on Bashir’s part.  He either really missed it or unconsciously missed it because he didn’t believe in himself.  Given his demeanor throughout Seasons 1 and 2, I am inclined to believe the latter.  And this fits with how he reacts to Dr. Lense.  The reason she intimidates him comes from within Julian himself!  She represents his failure and his missed opportunities.  I constantly question my life choices, whether I would have been better off on some other life path.  But the reality is that we always paint what could have been in a far better light that it likely would have been.  Julian gets the rare opportunity to see what he missed, and he is shocked to learn that his rival would have preferred his own career on DS9.  That the path we chose to follow is fantastic because we chose it.  We create our lives with our choices, and that act of creation is divine and sublime.

The conversation between Bashir and Dr. Lense is a critique on the TNG vs DS9 differences.  Julian’s able to focus on long-term projects while Lense is forced to move on from a world too quickly.  Lense admires and finds that situation more favorable than her own.  This is a nod to how DS9 stories must face, struggle with, and enjoy the consequences of their actions.  Unlike the TNG crew who always seem to stand outside the situation or culture they are interacting with, the crew of DS9 are immersed and interwoven into their setting.

I like Dukat’s role here.  I actually think that he really cares about Sisko.  He honestly sees Bajoran history as a bunch of fairy tales, and he doesn’t want to see Sisko (someone Dukat’s come to respect) throw his life away over a myth.  He does his best to persuade Sisko otherwise, then he wishes him luck.  It is left open to the viewer whether Dukat knew all along about the Bajoran wreck on Cardassia.  It fits his personality either way.  Either he knew and tried to deceive Sisko, which fits his pride, or he didn’t know and tried to dissuade Sisko, which fits his lack of respect for Bajoran history.  Given I usually paint Dukat in a positive light, I tend to think of the latter.

Sisko delves more deeply into Bajoran history, and crucially, he has begun to believe the history before he’s given modern proof for the historical stories.  Instead of brushing off Bajoran history, he a priori believes that it did happen, and he sets out to prove it.  He has begun to have respect for the claims made by ancient Bajorans.  For Sisko, this a step towards becoming invested in Bajoran theology.  Sisko’s shift reflects some ways that theologians and religiously-minded folks approach religious historicity, particularly Christian history.  Strangely, this can lead people to two diametrically opposed behaviors.  One set of folks use it to keep their minds open and explore the truth claims of impossibilities (this is Sisko’s attitude here).  Another group of folks use it to give themselves easy answers and excuses to not engage hard questions.  This says to me that the attitude someone has is vitally important to how one goes about these journeys.  And for Sisko, his attitude changed when he saw Trakor’s Third Prophecy played out before him, in Destiny (Ep. 3.15); in this episode, he begins to act on this new attitude.

Random Thoughts:  1) I want to again emphasize that my musings on this blog about the journey from boyhood to manhood are not meant to exclude females from these thoughts.  If these types of experiences are important to womanhood, then I hope girls on the path to becoming women find these thoughts helpful to them.  But I’m not in a position to speak to that journey, so I will leave those details to those who walk that path.  2) Don’t know if Leeta was meant to be a one-off appearance or not, but she becomes a fun side-character.  3) As we’ll most likely discuss during Dr. Bashir, I Presume (Ep. 5.14), I’m not a fan of the writers making Julian genetically modified.  I think it weakens his character.  I much prefer the doctor who doubts himself over the one who hamstrings himself to keep a secret.  The former is much more real.  4) There’s something I like to call “temporal arrogance”.  This is the idea that because a claim is made in the past (typically ancient past), it has less weight than a competing claim made using modern methods.  Claims can be scientific, philosophical, spiritual.  While progress certainly has given us better answers to many questions, I think it’s foolish to believe that all questions answered before our time are wrong.  The logical extension to this is that all questions we answer now are wrong; time just needs to march on a bit.  5) Sisko’s goatee sticks around for the rest of the series.  These are a scant 5 episodes though where he has both hair and a goatee.  6) Some off-duty fashion is shown here.  7) The gravity net was totally a convenience for the producers of the show.  8) Absolutely loved the drinking songs and the intense bromance moment between O’Brien and Bashir.  Miles doesn’t hate Julian anymore.  And if it’s not hate, it must be… 9) Once again, the timing around the space travel doesn’t really make sense.  It appears as if they got to Cardassia in a few hours, yet it must have been days in the craft to fit with other parts of the Star Trek canon.  10) The Lexington is a science vessel, somewhat binding both plots to the title where Dr. Lense is another explorer.  11) Going into writing this episode, I didn’t expect to write much.  But apparently, having two beers at an after-work happy hour makes me more prolific.

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~ by Joshua Black on April 15, 2017.

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