Emissary (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2) Cmdr. Sisko establishes a Federation presence on a former Cardassian station orbiting recently liberated Bajor

Rewatching ST:DS9

The episode begins with a slide of text about Picard being assimilated by the Borg and forced to lead a devastating assault on Federation forces at Wolf 359.

During that battle, Benjamin Sisko, first officer on the USS Saratoga, gives the order to abandon ship. He rescues his young son Jake, but is too late to save his wife.

A few years later, Sisko brings Jake along to his new posting.

Commence station log, Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko, Stardate 46388.2. At the request of the Bajoran provisional government, Starfleet has agreed to establish a Federation presence in this system following the withdrawal of Cardassian occupational forces. The first contingent of officers, including my Chief of Operations, Miles O’Brien, arrived two days ago on the Enterprise.

The huge promenade deck is a wreck. O’Brien explains his people are all working on primary systems. A Bajoran monk with a knowing look in his eye calls out to Sisko, who brushes him off politely.

Jake isn’t terribly happy about their quarters, and Sisko doesn’t look much happier.

When Sisko goes to Ops and enters what will be his office, the Bajoran Kira is on a video call, berating someone who seems to be responsible for inviting the Federation to run the station.

Security Chief Odo (a shape-shifter who refuses to use weapons) catches the young Ferengi Nog looting. The boy’s uncle Quark, who says he used to run the local casino, says he’s scheduled to leave tomorrow and he’ll happily take the boy with him. Sisko seems to have something else in mind, but first he pays a visit to the Enterprise-D.

Sisko greets Picard coldly, clearly holding him responsible for the actions of Locutus (Picard’s identity when assimilated by the Borg). Picard, who presumably prepared for a routine infodump, is visibly disturbed. 

Back on the station, Sisko tells Quark that he’ll only release Nog if Quark stays on the station, part of his plan to encourage the other civilian businesses to stay.

In a well-written and well-directed scene, we learn about the long-standing rivalry/bromance between the too-stiff Odo and the mercurial Quark, and their relationship with Sisko; all of them are outsiders in the Bajoran / Cardassian conflict, and each is involved for very different reasons.

When Sisko sees Kira tossing twisted bits of metal into a bin, he joins her, and learns about brewing civil war on Bajor; the factions might be unified by a spiritual leader called the Kai, who doesn’t seem to want to be involved.

The monk who called out to Sisko earlier returns, and shortly we are on Bajor in a monastery, where the Kai Opaka suggests Sisko is “the Emissary,” holding a pivotal role in Bajoran destiny.

(The steps built into the fountain are a nice touch.)

The Kai shows him an artifact that her tradition says was “sent by the Prophets,” saying orbs like it have been appearing in the skies for 10,000 years, but the Cardassians stole all the others.

The orb gives Sisko a vivid vision of himself as a recent Academy graduate, meeting his late wife Jennifer for the first time. At first Sisko is confused, but then he dives into the vision, relishing the experience. He’s distressed when it ends and he’s back in the Bajoran monastery.

Opaka gives Sisko the orb, telling him he has to find “the Celestial Temple” and find his own answers.

Back on the station, Sisko observes how much the sleeping Jake reminds him of Jennifer.

On the promenade deck, business is booming at Quark’s. 

We meet the ship’s medical officer Julien Bashir (over-eager, oblivious)  and science officer Jadzia Dax (amused that Bashir is hitting on her but very much above it all). 

Dax is inspecting the orb, and we see she also has a flashback, as the symbiotic organism is transferred from the body of Curzon (an old man who was a mentor to Sisko) to Jadzia (a young woman who volunteered to become the new joined entity Jadzia Dax, inheriting all the memories of the previous joined lives the slug-creature has lived). 

On the Enterprise-D, O’Brien seems to be poking around having one last look. He’s about to slip away quietly, but Picard catches him in the transporter room, and stands at the control panel. O’Brien gives the order: “Energize.” (It’s a very sweet moment, especially since the O’Brien character began as a nameless button-pusher with just a handful of lines.)

As soon as the Enterprise-D departs, Gul Dukat shows up in a Cardassian warship, asking after the orb. Sisko feigns ignorance.

In a delightful sequence that signals a clear departure from the in-your-face over-exposition of TNG, we see Cardassians winning big at Quark’s; we see Kira and O’Brien announcing that the casino is closed. Quark protests, but is it a show? Is he relieved to have an excuse to close? 

It turns out there’s a reason why it wasn’t Odo giving the order to shut down the casino.

After a little subterfuge confuses the Cardassian sensors, Sisko and Dax take a runabout to an area of space where plot contrivance particles are threatening to generate the next plot twist, which turns out to be a wormhole that sucks the runabout into a tunnel of glowing space stuff.

They realize they have traveled 70,000 light years from their origin point. When they turn around, the wormhole opens again, and they head back; but on the way they find themselves landing… somewhere.

Outside the runabout, Sisko sees a a stormy, barren landscape, but Dax sees pleasant greenery. 

Sisko then has an extended vision, which is really the centerpiece of the episode.

On one level, Sisko is communicating with non-corporeal aliens who have no sense of time; on another level, we are watching flashbacks in which different people in Sisko’s life (Jennifer, Jake, his crewmates from the Saratoga, Picard, even Locutus) deliver lines on behalf of the wormhole aliens. Clever editing and Avery Brooks’s performance makes the whole sequence seem like a coherent conversation, even though it’s a different character speaking almost every other line. We learn a lot about Sisko, and as he teaches the aliens about how humans perceive time, the aliens help him learn something about himself.

It’s a very touching scene, though I wonder if it might have been more dramatically effective if it came after we had gotten to know Sisko a bit better, and seen how his relationship with the past was causing him problems, so that we could more fully appreciate what the Prophets did for him in this scene.

(On my rewatch I’m a bit surprised the flashback/wormhole alien sequence didn’t give a couple lines to Curzon, considering how important a mentor he was supposed to be to Sisko.)

Meanwhile, Gul Dukat has taken his warship through the wormhole; more Cardassians are menacing the station; Kira wants to stake a claim to the wormhole, and we get a tense scene in Ops (as if the writers were going out of their way to assure viewers that stories set on a space station can still have pew-pew).

Kira bluffs the Cardassians just in time, O’Brien technobabbles the station’s jimberjam just in time, and Sisko’s runabout returns through the wormhole towing Dukat’s ship just in time, which apparently makes everything better.

The Enterprise-D returns, Sisko shakes Picard’s hand, and back on the station, our new main characters start to settle into a busy routine.

After spending about three years slowly working through a TNG rewatch, when I finished a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to writing up my reactions to all the DS9 episodes. I’ve watched the first eight episodes already, and, well, here I am writing up my first review.