Kira is annoyed to learn the Cardassians thought of her a minor errand-runner. The scene is played for comedy, but it also sets up Kira as proud of her accomplishments as a freedom fighter.
The Kai Opaka pays a surprise visit from Bajor. Kira is a bit overwhelmed in the presence of her spiritual leader. Sisko offers to take the kai through the wormhole. Bashir invites himself along.
Opaka (who hasn’t brought along a retinue of any kind) drops a few hints that she doesn’t expect to be around for long. This is episodic TV, so within a few minutes, the runabout is attacked by security drones. Guess who doesn’t survive the crash-landing?
Kira’s dramatic grieving is interrupted by the arrival of tattered humanoids carrying makeshift weapons. Shel-La is the leader of the Ennis, who are trapped on this world with their enemies, the Nol-Ennis. In the Ennis cave shelter (again with the caves), Sisko offers Bashir’s medical services, but says he’s not here to take sides.
With that bit of exposition of the way, it’s time for an attack from the Nol-Ennis. After Kira helps drive them away by firing a phaser at the ceiling, a silhouette appears in the cave opening. It is Kai Opaka, no longer dead.
Bashir says his tricorder detects technobabble, but to really study the technobabble, he’ll need to use the runabout’s computer.
As corpses from the recent skirmish start to revive, we learn the generational enemies have been sentenced to fight each other perpetually, to “serve as an example for the rest of civilization,” but the backstory is underdeveloped.
Kira gets a little too excited about getting the Ennis to step up their sloppy war tactics. Opaka gets Kira to admit that, because she’s known nothing but violence all her life, she’s having trouble adjusting to peace. (“Bajor has much to learn from peace,” says the kai.)
Sisko offers to help the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis relocate to different worlds, where they won’t have to keep fighting. The Ennis leader agrees to request a meeting with the Nol-Ennis faction.
That meeting happens to take place near the crashed runabout, which is convenient because Bashir can show up with the news that the computer should have a technobabble analysis in a few minutes. That gives enough time for Sisko to give a speech introducing the Federation (“over a hundred planets who have aligned themselves for mutual scientific, cultural and defensive benefits”), and for the talks to degrade into a melee.
That runabout computer analysis that we’ve been waiting for sure is thorough. It provides Bashir with the technobabble necessary to conclude that anyone who dies on this planet is kept alive by an artificial microbe, and that beaming anyone away from this planet will make the microbes stop functioning, which will kill the revived undead host.
I think we probably needed to see a bit more of the relationship between Kira and Opaka in order to really appreciate what the kai’s pacifism means to Kira. In the same episode, we see Kira enraged that the Cardassians didn’t think of her freedom-fighting activity to be a serious threat, we see Kira humbled by and worried about making the wrong impression on her spiritual leader, we see a gung-ho Kira ignoring her commander’s order not to take a side, and we see her crumbled with grief over the kai’s death. That’s quite a lot to ask, and while actor Nana Visitor threw herself into every emotional contortion the script required it all went so fast.
The B-plot involving Dax and O’Brien on a rescue mission feels padded. I like O’Brien, but Dax is also supposed to be super smart, yet she just kind of sits there while the chief does all the macgyvering.
I get that the script suggests the Kai’s dedication to the “prophets” (the wormhole entities who exist outside of time) grants her a kind of mystic vision, but this script still asks us to swallow a lot in a single episode. I think I’d be more invested in a story that featured the Kai being asked to be taken to a fabled site where Cardassians and Bajorans have been sentenced to fight a generational war. It would be more shocking if the Kai refused to take sides there, as opposed to on a random planet of one-off aliens were fighting their own meaningless war.