In the third episode of the first season of Deep Space Nine, EVERYTHING IS AWKWARD AND UNCOMFORTABLE AND CONFLICTED AND I LOVE IT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of terrorism.
Well, good god, THIS SHOW IS ALREADY SO INTENSE. And I love it? In one sense, this feels so categorically unlike all of the Star Trek that comes before it, though I don’t want to ignore the clear willingness of The Next Generation to be deeply uncomfortable and brutal at times. (I can’t forget that my journey through Deep Space Nine comes right after “Chain of Command.”) I don’t think that “Past Prologue” is all that original, given that we’ve seen an exploration of Bajoran politics through Ro Laren, but I believe that’s the point. This episode builds off of that in order to help us understand why this is as complex as it is.
Which I hope means that this is going to be a series FULL OF POLITICAL INTRIGUE AND COMPLEXITY. If this is how Deep Space Nine is set up, then I’m excited. What we’ve got here is a ridiculously layered story about how Major Kira deals with her own loyalties to both her people and to the Federation. Again, I think we’ve seen something similar to this from Ro Laren’s character in The Next Generation, but somehow, this is a billion times more uncomfortable. The issue here is that the Cardassians are clear oppressors in this scenario, so it’s easy for Kira to be drawn to Tahna. They’ve got a history together, one that’s violent and completely understandable. I never felt like Deep Space Nine was trying to criticize the Bajorans for fighting against Cardassian control. But what happens after the Cardassians have left? How do the Bajorans get justice? What does justice look like in this world?
At heart, both Kira and Tahna want the same thing: full independence for the Bajorans. Unfortunately, neither person agrees on the means to achieve that goal. Despite that Kira resists the claim, I think Tahna was right in saying that she adapted. With the expulsion of the Cardassian forces and the incoming Federation presence, she found a way to deal with her situation. Does she wish that the Bajorans could gain their independence on their own? Of course she does! She’s stated it more than once so far. But she’s also much more pragmatic than Tahna is, and she recognizes the value in the Federation, especially now that the wormhole can provide Bajor with so much in terms of trade and travel.
Of course, that’s not an easy decision for her to arrive at, given that she used to be a part of the Kohn-Ma, the organization that Tahna still subscribes to. What value do they have now? Are their acts terrorism or self-defense? I don’t know that “Past Prologue” actually answers that question, especially once it’s revealed that Tahna’s target the whole time is the wormhole, not the Cardassians. Tahna wanted the Bajorans left alone, and eliminating their value to the Cardassians and the Federation seemed like the best possible solution to him and the other members of Kohn-Ma. It’s a high cost to pay, of course, and any chance of invigorating Bajor’s economy through trade would have been eliminated if Tahna had succeeded.
Thus, I think that Deep Space Nine never had any interest in answering the bigger questions here because it’s too early. There’s too much left to deal with in this conflict, and for now, all they address is the shifting loyalties of Major Kira. Well, I say “shifting” because she’s obviously no longer interested in supporting the Kohn-Ma if this is what they’re willing to do. But I don’t know that her loyalties changed all that much here. She still supports Bajor the entire time, and I think she’s making a great decision to think of the future of her people. I say that, and I also have to acknowledge that this doesn’t make her feel better about her decision, either. It’s obvious she was tortured by it all, and look no further than that awesome scene with Odo for proof of it. Without using any exposition, the writers are able to demonstrate how close those two characters are. Odo’s no-nonsense attitude plays a huge part in that, and I want about a billion more scenes between them.
Of course, I’m ignoring the other character dynamic that’s just as compelling, so let’s talk about Dr. Bashir’s scenes with Garak, okay? I WANT ABOUT A BILLION MORE SCENES BETWEEN THEM. In just one single episode, Garak swoops in and becomes the most intriguing character in the whole show. WHY DID HE STAY BEHIND? Why is he so willing to help the Bajorans, despite being a Cardassian? How much of his behavior is an act to disguise who he really is? WHAT IF NONE OF IT IS? What if he’s really that oddly charming all the time? Oh my god, THIS IS THE GREATEST MYSTERY OF OUR TIME. I want so much more, SO MUCH MORE.
I think that’s a good feeling to have for Deep Space Nine at this point. From the continued use of O’Brien as more than just a set piece to Commander Sisko’s beautiful ability to take no shit from anyone ever, I think that this show is shaping up quite nicely. It feels different, you know? I can’t quite place my finger on why that is, but I hope to have the means to describe it better as I watch more episodes.
The video for “Past Prologue” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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