Episode 5.5: The Assignment

The O’Brien Must Suffer episodes are hit and miss for me, and this one was a notable miss. I felt O’Brien was far too pliable to the demands of the Pah-wraith. At one point, O’Brien asks a huge question. He asks why the Pah-wraith didn’t directly inhabit him instead of inhabiting Keiko. Clearly the Pah-wraith has access to all the knowledge of the host, as seen by how intimately the Pah-wraith knows Miles through Keiko’s knowledge. Why not directly control the man with the power the Pah-wraith needs? They never come back to this point and the episode moves on in an unsatisfying way. Thereafter, O’Brien is completely at the mercy of the Pah-wraith. I was hoping that he could push back on it and get Molly to safety, but that also never materializes. The need for O’Brien to work so quickly was also never established. I appreciate what is trying to be done by pitting Miles’s loyalty to the crew against his love for his family, but I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the execution.

Certainly though this episode is important because it establishes the Pah-wraiths as a spiritual enemy to the Prophets. These creatures were cast out of the Celestial Temple, banished to the Fire Caves, and have been working to reacquire residence in Temple. In this initial episode, little more than their background is given to us. The spiritual dimension to their existence is not established here. They do clearly pose a threat to the Prophets and are capable of causing long term damage or death to the Prophets. Over the course of the last half of the show, a series of cosmic battles will play out between these two factions that portrays a spiritual war with actual consequences on Bajor’s future. I certainly enjoy the fact that the spiritual side of the DS9 narrative has tangible elements and effects on the station and crew.

Rom’s role here is what I liked most about this episode. At this point, we’ve been shown that Rom (despite Quark’s opinion) is much more than an idiot. In this episode, he’s absolutely crucial to the salvation of the Prophets and the survival of Keiko and Miles. The Pah-wraith causes its own downfall by forcing O’Brien to work too quickly. The short timeline forces O’Brien to enlist help, and O’Brien chooses Rom because he thinks Rom would be the most easily manipulated. Rom becomes aware of the Pah-wraith’s plan and gives O’Brien the crucial information he needs to kill the Pah-wraith. Like most Ferengi, Rom is much more than he seems, and despite a half-witted exterior, he can be a rock when he is passionate about a cause; here his cause is supporting O’Brien, a man he greatly respects. He’s shown to be exceedingly intelligent in one niche area (engineering). I think this is also reflective of us modern humans. I daresay all of us are great in one area and complete failures in others. Finally, a little more groundwork is laid for Rom’s relationship with Leeta, and this provides a unique path for information for the viewer on the Pah-wraiths.

Random Thoughts: 1) Kira is “away on Bajor”. This is code for “Nana Vistor’s having her baby now”. 2) Rom is very happy in his blue collar job. His contentment bothers Quark because Quark is always striving to improve his station (in his Ferengi way). Rom’s outlook on life is something Quark could learn from. 3) I’m amused at Bashir’s nonchalance at killing Keiko’s plants. 4) Fire Caves will play a crucial role in What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.25). 5) The Bajoran term used here for the Pah-wraiths is the Koss’moran. Throughout DS9, this term is unclear, referring to both a group of Pah-wraiths (as in this episode) or as a single Pah-wraith. The term also changes to Kosst Amojan in later episodes. 6) Odo is punched by O’Brien in this episode. Another of the few consequences for Odo of being a solid. 7) Rom is rewarded by getting on the day shift.

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~ by Joshua Black on March 8, 2018.

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