Explorers (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 3, Episode 22) Sisko builds an ancient Bajoran spacecraft; Julian meets a med school rival

Rewatching ST:DS9

With a come-hither glance and an obviously fake cough, the dabo girl Leeta introduces herself to Dr. Bashir. 

A very amused Dax interrupts with news that the valedictorian of Bashir’s medical class will be visiting the station soon. (Bashir was salutatorian, and he’s not bitter about that, no, not at all.)

Sisko returns from a visit to Bajor, sporting a beard and a plan to build an accurate replica of a solar spaceship the ancient Bajorans are said to have sailed all the way to Cardassia.

The montage is enjoyable, as Sisko welds things and studies plans. Dax notes she hasn’t seen Sisko looking this happy since he was designing Jake’s nursery.

This is a low-stakes episode that does not rush through its character moments, such as the hilarious in vino veritas scene with O’Brien and Bashir:

O’Brien: Well, people either love you or hate you.
Bashir: Really?
O’Brien: I hated you when we first met.
Bashir: I remember.
O’Brien: But now.
Bashir: But now?
O’Brien: Well now… I don’t.

Jake is at first not interested in joining his dad on the adventure, but once his refusal has done its job adding a little emotional tension to the plot, he changes his mind. Jake has a nice subplot about his interest in going off to a prestigious writing school, but I think the actor is just a bit too old for such unrelenting bright-eyed earnestness (“Hey, Dad!” “So you really think it was good?” “Can we fix it?” “What happened?” ” Well, they’ll find us eventually, right?”). 

The plot requires us to accept not only that ancient Bajorans had the technology to launch a craft into orbit and travel interstellar distances, but also that somehow all knowledge of that technology was lost, except for blueprints that are detailed enough that a non-engineer could build a working replica in his spare time in a few weeks, and apparently no Bajoran engineers have ever tried that idea.

As entertaining as the concept is, it’s just hard to accept that, after last week’s episode emphasized DS9 as a strategic hotspot in the all-out war that the whole season has been building to, the highest-ranking Federation officer in the sector has the spare time for a DIY project of this magnitude, motivated only buy “fun.” Gul Dukat makes a video call to discourage Sisko’s interest in “Bajoran fairy tales,” which hints that legitimizing the Bajoran stories would make the Cardassians look bad. 

Sisko states that the ship he built is “an exact replica… except for the gravity net I installed in the floor.” But the controls, and the portholes, and for the prophets’ sake a nook for a hammock, are all perfectly oriented towards a floor that the ancient Bajorans couldn’t have stood on.

When the ship first launches from DS9 and the solar sails unfurl, I remember on my first viewing being impressed by the CGI. Even though the model isn’t that impressive 30 years later, it still supplies a lot of detail and moving parts that serve the story well enough. 

The A-plot probably would have worked better as a first season episode, with a little less crank-turning and a lot more attention to Sisko’s role as the Emissary.  Kira seems more bewildered than actually interested that Sisko is suddenly this interested in Bajoran culture, and neither character seems to remember that earlier in the season they both put a lot of effort into drawing a connection between Bajoran legends about astronomical events and Sisko’s own mission and values (s3e15 “Destiny”).

This episode just doesn’t seem to exist in the same continuity as the rest of the season. In a few seasons, when they suddenly decide to give Bashir a genetic engineering backstory, his actions during the B-plot will no longer make sense. 

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