In the twenty-second episode of the third season of Deep Space Nine, this episode is ADORABLE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
This episode shouldn’t work, but it does so beautifully.
I do feel like Dr. Bashir’s plot in “Explorers” is extraneous because it doesn’t fit in with the greater theme of the episode. That doesn’t mean I disliked it, though. It starts off odd enough. Is Julian into role play surrounding his own job??? YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THAT IMAGERY, BY THE WAY. Once the writers abandon this bizarre little moment, they instead focus on Julian’s (largely imagined) relationship with the woman who bested him at Starfleet, earning a prestigious assignment in the process. And really, this is a fantasy. Julian has not had any contact with Dr. Lense in the four years, so he has no means to actually form any reality-based theories about how she’ll treat him. Or react to him. Or if she’s even thought of him. That unknown element is what makes Julian increasingly frustrated, so he keeps inventing new possibilities.
I mean, he also gets very drunk with O’Brien, which is a delight. To his credit, O’Brien’s advice really isn’t all that bad, either. The problem, of course, is that Julian spends this whole episode constructing a narrative that makes Dr. Lense out to be a vicious rival, and the truth is far, far from this. SHE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE, Y’ALL. I do love how deflated he is by all of this. Well, then his ego is inflated once he finds out her assignment wasn’t all that great, but alas, I found the main story so much more entertaining anyway. This was like a nice distraction.
In the end, there’s no looming threat or heinous creature waiting for Jake and Sisko. This is not an episode about betrayal or political complications or violence or anything that we’ve come to expect from Deep Space Nine. Sisko builds an accurate replica of a Bajoran spaceship that might have been used for interstellar flight, and then he tests it. That is it. The story isn’t particularly tense, since we know that Sisko or his son aren’t going to die. They’re either going to make it to Cardassian space, or they won’t, and neither option is necessarily a massive reveal in the Star Trek canon. In many terms, this is one of the simplest episodes in all of Deep Space Nine.
AND I ADORE IT. It is a character study of a father and son, or two explorers trying to replicate a trip, or of two men with uncertain futures trying to come to terms with the unknown. It deliberately builds off of Jake’s reluctance to pursue a life in Starfleet, and instead, his interest in writing is furthered. We knew he was writing decent poetry, but what if this really is what he’s destined to do in life? It’s lovely to see Sisko unconditionally support his son through this, too, as I imagined that a lot of Starfleet parents would prefer their children to stay within the same line of work.
Thus, I saw the setting as the perfect means to tell this story. Sisko wanted to re-create this journey and give himself over to the unknown. Even if Jake is putting off his fellowship for a year, he’s still got a huge expedition ahead of him, one he’ll have to take without his father. He’s an explorer, too, and this script likens anyone who makes a leap of faith to an explorer. So, does that mean that Sisko taking his son’s suggestion to date again counts as the same thing?
I suppose we’ll have to see. We don’t actually meet the woman that Jake thinks his father will like, but Jake’s explicit permission is a big step. He wants his father to move on, though I suspect that’s part of the reason he wants to stay behind. Sure, he’ll gain more experience he can mine for creativity, but I’m guessing he wants to see if his father will start dating again.
I honestly don’t know what this show would be without the Jake/Sisko relationship. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. A close second place: Sisko’s new facial hair. GODDAMN.
The video for “Explorers” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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