The Storyteller (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 14) A Bajoran village mystic names O’Brien his successor; Jake and Nog try to impress a teenaged faction leader

Rewatching ST:DS9

O’Brien tries to weasel his way out of an assignment to ferry Bashir to a Bajoran village that sent a vague (apparently medical?) distress call. The cheerfully oblivious Bashir asks O’Brien to call him “Julien” instead of “sir.” (O’Brien: “Is that an order?”) 

The landing party is led to Sirah, an old man who names O’Brien as someone sent to him by the Prophets. Because this still early in the episode, we get only vague answers to questions about what’s going on, and O’Brien and Bashir just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ a lot, without asking any particularly pointed follow-up questions.

We watch menacing clouds form in the sky, as a dying mystic gives a pep talk that generates lights that repel the clouds. With his final breath he softly Cyranos the lines for O’Brien to shout — stiffly and awkwardly, but apparently affectively.

Bashir is rather amused by the sit-com premise in which the grateful villagers hail O’Brien in his newly acclaimed role as “the Sirah.” Grateful villagers demonstate their familiarity with the “grateful natives” trope by supplying O’Brien with three beautiful young women (whose “services” he declines). O’Brien and Bashir vainly wave their tricorders in search of technobabble to explain what’s going on, but we’re still several acts away from anything like an infodump.

While the modest crowd of extras and voice-over studio actors do a fair job of representing a crowd, there are only three speaking parts among the villagers — the mystic who just died, the elder who proclaimed O’Brien as the new mystic, and the mystic’s overlooked apprentice; so the plot is pretty predictable.

The substantial B-plot features Sisko mediating a border dispute. The leader of one faction is an adolescent girl who captures the interest of Nog and Jake.

I actually had to take a break during the scene where the boys are outside her quarters, too nervous to ring her doorbell. I actually had a flashback to when 13yo me was staring at a rotary phone trying to work up the courage to call a girl. (Reader, I called her.)

Nog is more confident, but Jake is a better conversationalist. Thinking he needs to up his game, Nog proposes shenanigans. All three are laughing it up when a suitably displeased Odo puts an end to the fun.

This being TV, stubborn young Varis learns from Nog the value of seeing a problem as an opportunity; and from Jake that she should trust Sisko. Even though the B-plot ostensibly follows Varis as she emerges as a capable leader, at the same time the writers manage to make the story about Sisko in his role as father. (He seems to soften when Varis asks him, “Didn’t you ever do anything foolish to impress a girl?”)

It’s not a great episode. To be charitable, I have always thought of DS9 as a bit of a downer because it doesn’t share TNG’s sunny optimism, but like an old-time skit designed to showcase the differently-gifted Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this episode is custom-tailored to showcase the idea that in the right setting, diversity can introduce new ways of solving problems — rather than always introducing conflict.

But good intentions and amusing character bits aren’t enough to save either fluffy, low-stakes storyline.

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