Episode 4.17: Accession

•November 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I love how this episode delves into multiple elements of faith. Both Sisko and Kira experience challenges relevant to engaging in a faith filled life. Sisko experiences a transformation in his role as Emissary. At this point, he had begrudgingly accepted his place as a spiritual figure, but hadn’t accepted that he can lead Bajorans. I think the turning point was when Kira tells Sisko that the Bajoran people would have tried hard at anything the Emissary would have asked of them. That’s when Sisko realizes he has a responsibility to lead, not just an opportunity to. Leadership is necessary for a well functioning society. I think this has been a subtle theme weaving through the episodes on Bajoran Soveriegnty. Consider some of the major conflicts. Winn vs Opaka. Winn vs Bareil. Winn vs Shakaar. As this theme progresses forward, Sisko takes a more active role in his leadership of the Bajoran people. To do that effectively, Sisko needed to incorporate faith into his life. At the end of the episode, he’s speaking about spiritual topics; he reverses the D’jarras. There are several other interesting sparks in this episode though.

This episode is a good reminder that our faith walks need challenges. Akorem was put into Sisko’s path intentionally by the Prophets to challenge him in who he was as Emissary. Sisko must realize he is of Bajor.  Akorem seems like what the Emissary should be: poet, spiritual, Bajoran. I think we best sharpen ourselves against each other. Challenges do make our lives hard, but I don’t want to forget the importance of growth that comes through adversity. I would not have become a scientist if not for hard exams and late night studying with classmates. Something I’m learning as I’m growing older is that how I change due to my hardships is something I can take great pride in.

Akorem’s call to reinstate the D’jarras divides the Bajoran faithful. The way Kira reacts to this is somewhat unexpected, I think, because it seems like she turned off her brain; at one point, she tells Odo that faith doesn’t ned to be explained. But I think there are two sides to this. On the one side, there is the destructive nature of D’jarras and how some Bajorans force others into following them. This act of forcing people into a belief system drives people away from faith, and modern faith should take that to heart. Paths to righteousness are never cleanly defined and truth is usually shrouded in mystery (though, I strongly believe that truth does exist, even if it’s tough to find). However, I think there is worth in Kira’s faithfulness to her beliefs and willingness to walk down a hard path. She has a humble perspective and is willing to try to pursue a difficult goal because she believes in her Prophets and their Emissary. Humility is utterly fascinating in this way. Humility guides us to not force people into a belief system because we don’t know everything; humility guides us to be pliable in what we believe so that we may grow into truths we never conceived.

The last faith gem I saw was the negative tone of Akorem’s utter certitude in his beliefs. His belief in the D’jarras was inflexible; he had truth figured out. As I alluded to, I think that certitude is one of the more destructive components of modern faith. It assumes that humans…with all our flaws, our limitations, our biases…have some precise insight into deep, fundamental truths about existence. Truth is there, and we can know it, but do we have the insight to declare specific axioms? Like “your birth determines your profession”? There is a stark difference between our claims to precise, doctrinal truth vs general, truthful insight; this is an important distinction, I think. I think it’s clear that without aspirations for truth or confidence in our beliefs, we are aimless and incapable of enacting life-giving change in our lives. But inflexible, doctrinal truth claims have no room for humility or growth. Those doctrinal truth claims can be wrong! Which leads to folks twisting themselves into knots trying to not let go of that doctrine they felt was unchanging. This arrests that life-giving change as well. What I’m calling “truthful insight” seems to strike that balance between seeking actual truth and engaging humbly with other perspectives.

The secondary plot with O’Brien has an important element to it as well. This is a nice episode because we can starkly see how much the friendship between Miles and Julian has grown. They are friends at the deepest level. When they started, Miles couldn’t tolerate Julian, and Julian was trying too hard. Miles really misses his friend once his wife comes back. Miles tries too hard to again only be a family man. But he’s a different person now.  Having a dynamic between spending time between his home life and with his best friend is very healthy, I think. It lets Miles feed and grow multiple parts of his psyche. I think for most of us, having diverse types of relationships strengthens our whole personality. In this episode, we see three for Miles: romantic, brotherhood, fatherhood…Keiko, Julian, Molly.

Random Thoughts: 1) I’ve done this theme before, so I didn’t go into detail here, but this episode once again reinforces the idea that faith and science are complementary views. With Dr. Bashir, Sisko learns that Orb Shadows are a biological experience with neuropeptides. Yet by the end, clearly Sisko’s Orb Shadow was meant to teach him something from the Prophets, which is a spiritual experience. Both science and the Bajoran faith prove true. 2) Keiko officially returns from her botany trip this episode. 3) I love how Julian is all in with O’Brien to help him get his quarters cleaned up for Keiko. 4) Akorem’s lightship is the same design as Sisko’s from Explorers (Ep. 3.22). 5) “I thought your females carried your young!?!?” 6) I think Kira’s comment, if you have faith “then no explanation is necessary” has a ring of truth to it. There is a sense of contentment that comes with faith.  This doesn’t mean her brain shuts off. 7) When in the wormhole, Sisko and Akorem have to wait. I got a sense that they meditated to reach the Prophets. 8) Akorem doesn’t approach the Prophets with humility. He doesn’t ask “Who is the Emissary?” He seeks to prove Sisko wrong. 9) Kira remembers that Akorem didn’t finish his epic poem, yet after he went back in time, he did finish it. I’m glad they left the episode with a bit of spiritual mystery.


Interlude: Halfway

•October 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The end of this last episode, Bar Association (4.16), was the midpoint of the series, by my math. I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what I’ve done so far, my expectations, and how things have gone. This post is more for myself, so if this pursuit doesn’t interest you, please move onto the next post.

I think the most important part of this project is how I’m creating. I’m being inspired by another work of art and creating my own art. This is incredibly cathartic and joyous. I wish to encourage each of us to forge something. It could be a series of short stories or a video game or woodworking or building up our personal health. There is deep satisfaction in creating something. My father taught me that whenever a job is done, look back on it to see what I accomplished. This is healthy pride in ourselves and our capabilities. I think the act of creation is something truly unique to our human capacity. For those with a Christian slant, I think this is a core component of our status as image-bearers of God. It is deeply satisfying to create. I fear we can lose ourselves in excessive consumption; this is wholly less satisfying than creation. Too many Netflix binge sessions, the mind altering substance of your choice, a repetitive video game…I don’t think consuming is necessarily negative; obviously, I consumed DS9 several times before I blogged about it. But if we only consume what others make for us (i.e. excessive consumption), we might one day look around wondering what the point of it all is. I will say, that when you do create, don’t be too hard on what you create. It isn’t what you make, but the journey that you go on, that inspires the joy.

The writing is going about as I had expected. I wanted to draw out from each episode what the show inspires in me. I think I’m capturing that. I like how I’m able to tap into some of my core qualities that I love: philosophical, spiritual, epistemological, idealism. There is a path of finding myself again that I’m greatly thrilled by. Alongside the satisfaction of creation, I’m deeply satisfied by the journey itself. The act of immersion in the episode and wordsmithing my thoughts, not just the satisfaction of a finished product of a blog post, brings me great joy. After I post an entry, I will go to Memory Alpha Wiki to read each episodes notes on production, writing, trivia, etc. I’m really surprised that sometimes, I’m very close to the writer’s intentions. Other times, my thoughts diverge sharply from their intent. This is the beauty of great art, such as DS9. It inspires as well as communicates.

I think my biggest surprise is how long it’s taken. That’s a lesson in life, I think. Even excluding my 3 year hiatus, I’m much slower than I had originally anticipated. In some ways, I’m grateful for this. It gives me more time to ponder between episodes and helps me not burn out on writing. I’m also surprised how much I’m remembering from my first impressions of the show. It’s almost visceral how I’m brought back to that place I was in high school. I’m loving how, with most episodes, I build on those feelings and see new things. I’m finding how I have grown over the years, and that’s encouraging. A core part of me though yearns for me to complete my project. As satisfying as completing projects is for me, I’m also deeply committed to doing this right. I don’t want to rush my viewings, and I want to ensure I’m able to fully engage each episode without distraction.

All in all, halfway through, I’m exceedingly happy that I started this project, and I’m still thrilled and committed to seeing it through.

Random Thoughts: 1) The only real negative is that because this is taking so long, I missed blogging about the episodes of Star Trek Discovery as they come out. A few years ago when I heard about Discovery, a friend suggested I blog on that. I loved the idea, but I knew I was going too slowly with this DS9 blogging project. I decided to just stick with just DS9 and not overburden myself. 2) That said, I’m enjoying Discovery. Only seen 4 episodes so far, but I like the darker tone it’s taken. Obvious parallel to DS9. I like the burdens on Burnham and how she has a deep core of truth and justice that is conflicted with her racial prejudices and penchant for action.  3) Video games, if they are the right genre, can be an interesting hybrid of consuming and creating.  Some allow for a very deep story to be shaped by the player (like the Mass Effect series) that gives the player a sense of creation.  It’s an interesting world to explore with both consuming and creating.

Episode 4.16: Bar Association

•October 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The main focal point of this story is Quark and Rom’s relationship. The complications from Ferengi society’s expectations frame the story, but this isn’t a story about Ferengi society. Quark is being particularly Ferengi in this episode (profit mongering, lacking compassion), but most of Quark’s struggles with his brother are because Quark wants to improve his brother according to Ferengi standards. However, Rom finally realizes that he doesn’t fit well into Ferengi society. I think a big impetus for this is how Nog broke the culture barrier to get into Starfleet. Thanks to that, Rom has had his eyes opened to his potential. Had he continued to struggle at trying to be a good Ferengi, he might have still needed his brother’s guidance. I think this offers a nice twist on the episode. Both Quark and Rom could be right, depending on what path Rom ultimately goes down. Within Ferengi society, Rom would have been destitute; his brother was offering good advice to avoid run-ins with the FCA. But Rom finally seizes his full potential and becomes an engineer in a dramatically different culture. There’s a lesson here that we shouldn’t be too confined by our cultural expectations. However, Quark definitely crossed a line (and has been crossing it since childhood) when he used shame to confine Rom. Shame can only belittle us and diminish our potential. What Quark hasn’t failed at is loving his brother. Though he has many faults, Quark was trying to protect Rom.

Though the brotherly interaction is the focal point of this episode, there are still some parallels between Ferengi society and modern Western society. Unions are outlawed by Ferengi because Ferengi want to ultimately become the exploiters, not the exploited. The Starfleet crew are bewildered by this stance, and Rom has to explain this to them. To those in Roddenberry’s paradise, this is a foreign concept. I think we often teeter near the edge of this one. Most companies don’t outright exploit their employees, but it can come pretty close, I think. I’ve worked for companies that utilize every excuse possible to compensate us as little as possible (both in pay and benefits); don’t even get me started on graduate school. We do have workers’ rights, both at company levels with unions and in government with regulation, but there is a tension we should be wary of falling out of balance.

We all need a Worf in our lives. Someone who is staunch, a rock. Worf has his way of doing things, and these clash hard with life on the station. The writers have built this up over several episodes since Worf’s entrance. As a new character, it’s easier for the viewer to see Worf from Jadzia’s perspective. That he’s stubborn instead of steady. Some of Jadzia’s comments imply this, like how she scolds him for hiding on the Defiant and that he won’t be able to avoid station life by doing so. However, the stabilizing nature of Worf’s character makes him fit for leadership. Certainly it can cause friction with those of a free spirited nature (Jadzia), but there are some fantastic strengths of this personality type. I love his ending line, “Maybe it is all of you who will adapt to me.” A man like Worf swirls with confidence (in himself, in his tastes, in his actions), and that spills over onto others. Those around Worf can swell with similar confidence and stability.

Random Thoughts: 1) I am now halfway through the series. When counting the three episodes that aired in 2-hour blocks as double episodes (The Emissary, Ep 1.1; Way of the Warrior, Ep. 4.1; and What You Leave Behind, Ep. 7.25), this episode is the end of the first half. 2) For some reason, I think the CGI is crisper and smoother in this episode. 3) O’Brien calls himself descendent of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland reigning from 978-1014. 4) Bashir and Leeta’s relationship is in full swing now. Leeta also starts to see Rom with respect and interest. 5) Odo rattles off a couple TNG episodes to show Worf that security on the Enterprise was not the same as his rose-colored memory: A Matter of Time (Ep. 5.09) and Rascals (Ep. 6.07). 6) The holographic waiters are absolutely hilarious. 7) Odo agrees with Quark! About mobs anyway. 7) Sisko leaving Worf, O’Brien, and Bashir in the brig is a bit Old West again. This feel is so rare anymore. 8) Sisko really puts Quark in a tight place with his threat of back rent, power bills, maintenance costs. It left Quark with the only option of defying the FCA, which will come back to haunt him. 9) The secret deal Quark and Rom negotiate here, and the fake ledger that Quark ultimately uses to trick the FCA, will be the impetus for the events of Body Parts (Ep. 4.25). 10) The look of disgust on Quark’s face when Rom refuses the bribe with enthusiasm is the moment Quark realizes his brother is no longer the Ferengi he knew. The viewer sees this also whenever Rom orates with great skill. 11) Rules of Acquisition 263 and 211! 12) I really like Quark’s moment of honesty about being afraid of the FCA. They crushed his eye socket. Though Rom fights for a just cause, he is ignorant of the consequences of his actions. Quark is much more practical than his brother. 13) Worf pipes his new Klingon operas throughout the entire Defiant in subsequent episodes. 14) Also hilarious was where the Nausicaans were playing darts by throwing them into each other. 15) I’ll be honest. This entry feels forced in some places. I think many of the Ferengi episodes are cautionary. Not necessarily reflecting reality, but reflecting a potential reality. Thinking of this in that way makes this entry feel less forced to me.

Episode 4.15: Sons of Mogh

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

For all the ways the Federation claims to be inclusive and multicultural, they have a strong tendency to only accept people if they already align with the Federation way of thinking. Ritual murder is intended to shock the viewer; to see a good, honorable character willingly go through with it should shock them even more. This first part of the show challenges the viewer in how we define our socially accepted behavior. Do we only accept those who have the same core values as us, but with a different package? Or do we honestly and truly accept those who have a different set of core beliefs? It is my experience that most of the time, inclusiveness is only applied to those who may have a different external appearance (race, gender, dress, etc) but still have the same core, internal values. Do we accept someone who differs on dietary needs? Gun control policy? A white supremacist agenda? On the one hand, it is crucially important to stand up for truths, advocate for our strong beliefs, and protect the downtrodden. But on the other hand, it is crucially important to respect others, enable their strong beliefs, and seek unity (though not uniformity). As with most seemingly divergent viewpoints, the path to meld them is through wisdom. I think that finding this path takes a lot of wisdom, probably more than our collective cultures have amassed yet.

Worf is likely the most inclusive and multicultural of any main cast of any Star Trek. Where the first part of the episode challenges us, the second part shows us how Worf handles these conflicting needs. I think the key scene is when Dax comes to apologize to Worf for interfering with the ritual. She sees herself as disrespecting the ritual and acting dishonorably. Worf, however, sees her following her conscious as honorable. He seeks to understand Dax’s cultural context, then he finds honor in how she acts relative to that. To Worf, acting honorably isn’t tied to a specific action. He sees honor more broadly. Even further, he is able to apply the concept of honor onto another species’ context. He understands how Dax should act for her system of values. I think this is the first step down that wisdom path: seeing not the superficial actions, but seeking to understand the motivations that underlie them.

The end of the episode doesn’t give us an easy solution to Kurn’s request and Worf’s problem. Worf does, on one hand, successfully meld his two cultures; he kills Kurn’s identity, but not his body. But think about that solution. Worf still ritually murders his brother. This should be an uneasy solution to the viewer, but I think there’s honor in it. As with Jadzia, Worf is able to find the core of Kurn’s request and fulfill it using the Federation’s cultural norms. But regardless of his multiculturalism, Worf is still a Klingon. Life and death intertwine strongly in his worldview, so much so that without honor, life is meaningless. This was the plight of his brother Kurn, and he had to find some way to address that.

Worf’s great strength is his ability to foresee consequences. His honor is shaped by insight more so than most Klingons. For example, he didn’t see honor in the Klingons fighting the Federation. The honor of battle is momentary; he is concerned with the greater, dishonorable defeat that would eventually come from a war with the Federation. Victory, not simply battle, is the greater honor. Kurn does agree; Kurn voted against Gowron to break the Khitomer Accords. With Kurn’s desire for death, Worf found greater honor by allowing his warrior brother to live on as part of another honorable family, than to either kill him or force him to endure dishonor. Worf fears he is becoming weak because of these inventive ways he finds honor. But the end of the episode, I think, clearly insinuates the strength Worf has. He becomes a Klingon without a house, so that his brother may find peace with another family. This is an enormous sacrifice. Kurn’s last words to his brother before having his memory wiped are, “You are an honorable man.”

I don’t have much to say on the secondary storyline. It’s a nice continuation of the fear of the Dominion and how the Dominion is manipulating the Alpha Quadrant powers to fight each other. Good secondary plot material to move along the season’s overarching narrative. It allows the Bajorans to flex some sovereignty and protect what’s theirs. It also helps drive the need for Sisko’s mission at the beginning of Season 5 to mend relations with the Klingons.

Random Thoughts: 1) Tony Todd plays Kurn. He is also the elderly Jake from The Visitor (Ep. 4.3). 2) I’ve noticed that this season has a lot more inter-character banter in it. “Eat Quark’s food?” “Let’s not get crazy.” 3) Jadzia definitely wore her outfit to distract Worf. She’s clearly pursuing him. 4) I liked the blood spatter on Worf’s tunic after he stabs Kurn. Excellent touch. 5) Sisko exemplifies the Federation’s intolerance for other cultures. He demands of Worf an explanation, then immediately rejects any explanation that is culturally contextual for Klingons. His fury is well acted, I think. 6) I like how both Dax and O’Brien try to defend Worf to Sisko. 7) Worf is now indebted to Odo. I don’t recall offhand whether this favor is directly called in or not. 8) The staff meeting has a nice, casual feel to it. Tea and couches. 9) Without Kurn, the mission to obtain the Klingon data would have failed. On two accounts: the fake database and killing the warrior.

Episode 4.14: Return to Grace

•September 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I think Dukat has one of the most fascinating character progressions in DS9. He goes through many ups and downs, holds great power and little power, is both a confident man and a broken man. He starts the series a man in power, though deposed from his highest office, Prefect of Bajor during the Occupation. He’s arrogant and one-dimensional. However, with each passing appearance, the writers add layers to Dukat. By this time, Dukat’s motivations are multi-faceted. Dukat is shown to have a complex relationship with the people of Bajor; he admires them, but believes they need Cardassian authoritarianism to thrive. Like most Cardassians, he has a strong sense of family. He’s then thrust into a situation where he must decide whether that sense of family extends to his illegitimate child. Thanks to his choice to honor Ziyal as a daughter and the events of this episode, Dukat has become the polar opposite of the man he started the series as. Instead of leading an occupational force fighting terrorists, he has become a rebel himself, fighting for his people against a superior aggressor. He acts for the noble cause of defending his people. If Ziyal is to be believed, he is even beginning to question the value of the Occupation. Once Dukat returns to grace though, he leaves this position of humility where he is open to such dissonant thoughts. The title of this episode, I think, refers to Dukat’s return to control over his destiny, his life, his career. He returns to a position of power. Soon enough, this Dukat who righteously fights for the Cardassian people will be gone. I think this is great for the character, to be honest. Dukat’s path will twist and turn a few more times before the series end. He will rise and fall and rise yet again.

Dukat’s passion here is for the Cardassia that was. He sees the civilian rule of Cardassia as destructive to the strength of the Cardassian people. He’s appalled at the civilian government refusing to use the trove of information he has captured. Despite being given what he sought (the post of Military Advisor), he sees the hollow quality to this victory. The mental changes that Dukat undergoes here will lead him to forge the pact that ushers the Cardassian Union into the Dominion. His lack of trust in the civilian government convinces him that he needs outside strength to restore Cardassia as a dominant power in the quadrant. This, of course, leads to the Dominion having a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant and a staging ground for the Dominion War.

Ziyal has a profound influence on her father. While she is with him, she is able to ground him and keep him from becoming too arrogant or grandiose. She fosters in him a humility that he can’t get anywhere else. Dukat also treats her with respect and tries to give her a good life. She inspires goodness in him. Oddly, if Kira respects anything in Dukat, it is how he treats Ziyal. I wonder if Kira’s act to bring Ziyal back to DS9 didn’t facilitate the Dominion’s pact with Dukat. Without Ziyal to temper Dukat, Dukat’s worst qualities (arrogance and manipulation) resurface; he loses the speck of humility Ziyal fostered in him, and he seeks to regain DS9, where his daughter resides. I think there is more to why Dukat forged the pact with the Dominion (such as his desire to “correct” the mistake of withdrawing from Bajor), but had Ziyal been with him, I truly wonder if she would have been able to guide his conscience differently.

Random Thoughts: 1) Shakaar will have a background influence over the next season or so. He actually only appears in 3 episodes total (2 of which have already happened). But his name is invoked a lot, like it is in this episode. 2) Possibly the worst insult to Dukat is to ignore him, as the Klingons did after he opened fire. 3) Kira and Dukat do complement each other well. He has a strategic mind, and she knows how to improvise well. 4) Damar is introduced. Originally a bit part, he becomes a major side character. Casey Biggs is another solid guest actor in a major role. Odd fact: he was once married to Roxanne Dawson, who plays B’Elanna Torres on VOY. They were divorced long before either of them landed a role in Star Trek. 5) The Breen are mentioned yet again. They get a lot of idle mentions here in this season. In what I think is intentional, their physiology is quite opposite of the Cardassians; they love the cold. 6) Dukat’s destruction of his old ship is symbolic of his return to power. 7) Kira clearly sees much of herself in Ziyal. She wants to put the girl on a different path than the one Kira walked. Kira did a lot of terrible things during the Occupation. It wasn’t glamorous, as Ziyal wants to make it. 8) I think Dukat’s attempts to lure Kira into his cause by calling her a bureaucrat actually backfire. For Kira, life on DS9 is what she wants. She doesn’t see glory in her past or in fighting how she did. She wants to life a peaceful, spiritual life. Not one knee-deep in the trenches. A mundane, bureaucrat life can give her the opportunity for such pursuits.  9) While the Dominion aren’t featured at all in this episode, I’m flagging it as The Dominion because of the clear implications this has on Dukat and his future actions.

Episode 4.13: Crossfire

•September 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

What I find beautiful about this episode is how a character so alien can be made so very human. This is a common literary element in Sci/Fi, but I think it’s well executed here. Odo is the most alien of any Star Trek species (with the possible exception of the Horta); he is literally a different phase of matter (liquid) who lives to become things around him. Despite his alien nature, he is confronted with loneliness, unrequited love, and a descent into depression. Odo is faced with the reality that he may be too late in expressing his feelings to Kira; this is something that probably resonates very strongly with a majority of DS9’s fan base. Shakaar lays out Odo’s dilemma for him: either he says nothing to Kira, enjoys the friendship they have, and the relationship goes no further; or he risks losing the friendship for something more. Odo’s advice to Shakaar is to have patience. When Odo quietly mutters that this is what he’d do, it strikes deep at my heart, because both the audience and Odo realize that patience only leads to the status quo. Shakaar ignores this, pursues Kira, and forms a romantic relationship with Kira. This is the best evidence that Odo has missed his opportunity. Odo’s depression is enhanced by how his struggles with his own feelings impact his ability to do his job. Not only does he fear he’s too late with Kira, but that fear puts himself, Kira, and Shakaar in danger. To add injury to insult, Worf ends up doing Odo’s job for him. Every bit of order in Odo’s life is falling into chaos.  In the beginning of Odo’s rampage in his quarters, he throws and shatters a plant in a pot.  This is deeply symbolic.  The plant was given to him by Kira when he moved into the quarters, and the pot was the bucket he regenerated in.  This being destroyed symbolizes both the (implied) destruction of his future with Kira and the destruction of his old self.  At the end of this episode, Odo has moved on from both.

What I don’t want to imply here is that Kira is some prize to be had between them. What I think the core element DS9 is trying to convey is that we cannot expect life to be unchanging. Life progresses around us. And per Quark, we must either allow our feelings to manifest, or we have to move on. If we stay in our unchanging bubble, before we know it, life has passed us by. A powerful truth about life I learned early on is that life will change. The better pursuit is whether we change with grace and whether we change into who we want to become. There is certainly comfort in the familiar, in the order of our lives. Having order can be helpful, especially for some personalities. But as with most things in life, we need wisdom to know whether our order is preventing us from gaining other joys or stagnating our progress.

Odo and Quark’s friendship has this stark, masculine quality to it where they cannot bring themselves to openly acknowledge their plutonic feelings. It’s actually a safe kind of relationship for Odo. Where Odo needs to confront his romantic feelings for Kira, his plutonic feelings toward Quark don’t need the same kind of confrontation. They have a stability between them; it’s important to remember that Quark and Odo knew each other years before the events of Emissary (Ep. 1.1). And so Quark is able to recognize the feelings Odo is having before Odo himself publicly acknowledges them. Odo must address his not just his feelings, but his capacity to handle his feelings. Odo spends some hard years coming to grips with the fact that he even has the capacity to love a humanoid. And he spends time learning how to be vulnerable, how to trust others, how to be pliable to others’ needs. Quark plays a key role in guiding Odo through these difficult transitions. What’s important to remember about Quark (and most Ferengi) is that their honorable nature often manifests itself in their profit seeking ventures. It is a deep testament to Odo’s integrity that Quark has set up a betting pool. Is helping Odo going to help Quark’s profit margin? Sure. But his underlying concern is to help Odo out of his depressive spiral. Despite their friction, they have a caring, grudging respect for each other.

There’s a lot of little elements that really bring this episode together, but I couldn’t work them into my above thoughts. So here they are in a somewhat random way. Quark, as a Ferengi, is a listener and a watcher; he sees the love triangle before anyone else. Odo and Kira have plutonic moments, like with the belt or how Odo scowls at the party. Odo’s ordered world is shattered when Kira arrives late to their weekly meeting and doesn’t want her drink. Odo is utterly forlorn when he stands guard all night outside Kira’s quarters just to watch Shakaar leave in the morning. Quark and Odo’s continued faux lack of concern for each other is fun to watch. Concentrating on the essentials is the hook Odo needs to get himself out of depression. Odo cancelling the weekly meeting is important. If he didn’t, he’d just be living a farce of a relationship with Kira; that quickly becomes destructive.

Random Thoughts: 1) Shakaar is the guy that should work for Kira. They have plenty of boxes checked. They have a history of friendship. They have chemistry between them. They are comfortable and open with each other. I think it’s a shock for most of us to learn that romance is built on more than our expectations. Weirdly, it is only after coming to this realization that we see how obvious this is. 2) Quark’s pause before his line, “Nah,” is perfect. 3) It’s a nice addition that the domestic violence Odo and Kira discuss is a woman beating a man. More instances of DS9 challenging social norms in subtle ways. 4) Bashir and O’Brien’s banter is fun. Definitely a bromance. 4) Worf and Odo have a natural connection between them through their mutual desire for order. And mutual comfort with using intimidation to manipulate people. 5) Odo’s belt, which was added, then dropped, from Odo’s outfit, is used as an element to represent Odo’s letting go of his feelings for Kira. 6) The DS9 writers again take a crack at Roddenberry’s paradise. The Federation claims to be open and understanding, but they always think they are right. 7) Worf challenges Odo when Odo is distracted from doing his job. I think there’s value in the Klingon way here. Too much grace can become unhealthy enabling. Challenges can be healthy. 8) I love the camera angles on Quark and Odo at the end of their scene in Odo’s quarters. The camera looks up at a confident Quark, but down on a depressed Odo.  9) Obviously, Odo doesn’t miss his opportunity; he needs to grow in some substantial ways before His Way (Ep. 6.20).  10) The terms of an accelerated entrance into the Federation that Shakaar negotiates are for naught.  When the ceremony finally happens in Rapture (Ep. 5.10), visions from the Prophets cause the Bajorans to not go through with it.

Episode 4.12: Paradise Lost

•September 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The story in Homefront (Ep. 4.11) turns out to be a red herring. The direct Dominion threat to Earth never materializes. The true threat to paradise comes from Leyton and his coup. I think the heart of the episode lies in the exchange between Sisko and the O’Brien Changeling. Paradise on Earth is balanced on the edge of a pin. It only takes 4 Changelings to push key individuals into staging a coup, to incite martial law, and to cause a Federation ship to fire on another Federation ship. Fear is the key weapon the Changelings wield. Humans may be ingenious enough, honorable enough, compassionate enough to create paradise, but they also fear losing control of what they have. That fear is deep seated in our communal psyche, I think. Leyton’s obsession with the chain of command is a manifestation of this fear. The exchange Sisko and Leyton have at the end are over diametrically opposed philosophies. The chain of command demands obedience; it exerts control over others. Oaths (such as those to the Federation) relinquish control; they give away one’s sovereignty to be obedient to another or to a higher cause. What I find fascinating is that paradise is built on the latter, not the former.

I learned a new term in the last few weeks: Alternative Wisdom. I believe Paradise Lost is a story of alternative wisdom. Traditional wisdom is the kind that fits into our expectations, into our box. Follow the law to be good; the rich get richer; everything in life has a right and a wrong answer. These are the kinds of things we expect out of life. Alternative wisdom is the kind that surprises you. Generosity pays dividends back to us; there can be many true answers; the more we tighten our grip, the faster something slips away. Alternative wisdom runs counter to our standard expectations. I believe this story is one of alternative wisdom. To hold onto paradise, we must release our control over it. We cannot force paradise into being nor protect it at the point of a phaser. Paradise rests our ability to surrender our need for control in favor of trust in our fellow man.

A key manifestation of Sisko’s oath to the Federation is how he constantly seeks civilian authority throughout the episode. Foremost, he goes through the President of the Federation, not his superiors at Starfleet. It is through the President’s authority that Sisko must act. If he acts on his own, he’s no different than Leyton. Sisko’s brooding over the situation lasts three scenes, until Joseph, another civilian authority, convinces Sisko that he must act. After this, he turns again to the President, though at this point, he is too late as Leyton beat him to it.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but I think the story kinda just fizzles out as a second part. The first part was great, filled with paranoia, questions of loyalties, and the hints of moral compromise. In Homefront (Ep. 4.11), Sisko exhibits these qualities; Paradise Lost shifts all those emotions and actions onto Leyton, which somewhat disappoints me. The ending was also really abrupt to me; Sisko went from being in the cell to being in total control very quickly. The believable part was how Benteen abandons Leyton, and it all falls apart. The loyalty to the Federation and to each other is deeply engrained, and destroying a fellow starship would be horrendous.

Random Thoughts: 1) Leyton’s plan was working on the populace. After the power station sabotage, even Joseph is willing to get blood screenings. As a proxy for the civilians, this was to show that Leyton’s coup would have been more easily accepted, had been successful. 2) I really like Nog’s role in this. He brings very unique, very Ferengi abilities to Sisko’s crew. He knows how to obtain information discreetly. He’s also learning what it means to take orders. In a related note, Odo breaks into Leyton’s files using skills he learned from Quark. 3) Sisko manipulates Cadet Shepard by tricking him into showing off what Red Squad did. 4) Colm Meaney exaggerates himself for his role as a Changeling. Both movement and speech are overdone. 5) The Bajorans are used as a resource outside the Federation to assist Sisko, foreshadowing their coming role in the Dominion War. 6) Odo gives a terrible Vulcan Neck Pinch when rescuing Sisko. 7) At the end, Leyton is truly deluded. He falls back on loyalty, not truth, when Sisko directly lays out the consequences of his actions. 8) Letyon intentionally targeted and manipulated Sisko. He knew ahead of time that Sisko would be a pawn, which is why he set up the wormhole to act in the manner that it did.  9) The title of the episode comes from John Milton’s book of the same name.