In the twenty-fourth episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, Kira becomes entangled in the vote for the new Kai when Vedek Winn reveals a devastating secret. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
AHHHHH, THIS SHOW IS SO DIFFICULT AND CHALLENGING AND CONTINUES TO MAKE ME HURT. Y’all, it’s just so fulfilling to watch Deep Space Nine, especially when we get episodes like this. There’s still a deliberate acknowledgment of the complicated political climate on Bajor in “The Collaborator,” and I’d like to start this review by acknowledging something else: there is so much potential in the framework that the show’s writers have built over two seasons.
Part of that comes from a willingness to explore the morally ambiguous and deeply unnerving side of politics through the election of the Kai and the lasting implications of the Cardassian occupation. This episode could have followed Kubus Oak, and I imagine that story would have been as equally engaging as this one. What do the Bajorans do with their own citizens who worked with the Cardassians? Could these people justify what they’d done, even if they’d done so our of a desperation to survive? Where did the Bajorans draw the line? This episode does mark the first time we hear about the law passed that exiles all collaborators from Bajor, but it didn’t bother me that we hadn’t seen it before. In the context of Kubus Oak’s appearance, it makes sense that collaboration wouldn’t have come up.
What I appreciated about Oak’s story is that the writers may have given him a reasoning for working with the Cardassians, but they don’t give him an excuse or a free pass. No, I’d argue that he’s held accountable for what he did, WHICH WAS MONSTROUS, by the way. He didn’t try to take down the Cardassians from the inside. If he had failed at that, then I think that Kira might have been more forgiving of him. Rather, he was directly responsible for many Bajorans being sentenced to work camps. He sent his own people to their deaths. Why?
So he could stay alive.
I think ultimately, that’s why Kubus Oak’s part of “The Collaborators” is relatively small. The story transitions to focus on the upcoming vote to choose the next Kai. Why? Because this is an episode about implications. About ramifications. About the end result of decisions made long ago, not as a way to say that the past constantly defines who we are, but to remind these characters that the history matters, that it still does affect the way we live in the present. In the context of the Bajorans, they’re still living in the shadow of the occupation, even if they’re moving quickly towards repair and independence. Frankly, it’s going to be a long time before we ever see a Bajor that’s not directly affected by the Cardassians.
Thus, it might be easy to see Vedek Winn’s actions as solely power-hungry maneuvers. Indeed, I don’t think we should discount that perspective at all; I certainly don’t trust her at all. Yet much like Kira in this episode, I couldn’t ignore the creeping suspicion that Winn had tapped into some actual truth about Vedek Bareil’s role in the Kendra Valley Massacre. Once the idea got put in my head, I started worrying. Even if Winn was being selfish by pushing Kira into this conflict, I found it difficult to shake my own doubt. What if he had collaborated with the Cardassians? It certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibility! If anything, all the worldbuilding and character development for the Bajoran characters and their culture over these two seasons has helped me get a grasp on the desperation that these people possessed under the occupation.
So when we learn that Vedek Bareil really did give the Cardassians the location of the militia base to the Cardassians, it’s both unsurprising and utterly gutting. His reasoning? He either gave up the base, or he allowed 1,200 Bajorans to die in a wide sweep. He guaranteed the death of 43 people â€“ including Kai Opaka’s own son!!! â€“ to save over a thousand others. Any way you parse this nightmare, someone loses. Everyone loses. And that sad thing about this is that in the end, none of the Cardassians will be held accountable for this. None! Instead, the blame, the ire, and the shame will end up with the Bajorans, tearing them apart further, and I imagine that this is exactly what the Cardassians wanted. They can sow discord light years away, and it just makes me so sad.
Of course, matters are even more complicated than that. They always are! So how’s this for a last-minute plot twist: Bareil was actually covering for Kai Opaka, who revealed the location of the base and got her own son killed. How’s that for a sacrifice? Knowing the truth, I can understand the guilt and fear that appears in all of Bareil’s visions. Is he destined to lead because of his sacrifice? Or does he believe that recusing himself, he can continue to protect the legacy of the previous Kai? Ironically, Winn will never know what really happened. She gets precisely what she wants, wins the role of Kai, and will forever assume that Bareil truly was a collaborator. She can’t ever know the truth, right? And even if she did, I doubt she’d use that information for anything that didn’t benefit her.
So, now we’ve got a future where Winn is Kai. What is that world going to look like? I have no clue, y’all. But I appreciated a chance to experience yet another episode with Louise Fletcher’s incredible acting, and I am eagerly looking forward to all the passive-aggressive snark that is certain to come.
The video for “The Collaborators” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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