290. Past Prologue
FORMULA: Redemption + Ensign Ro
WHY WE LIKE IT: Plain, simple Garak! The Sisters of Duras.
WHY WE DON'T: They still don't address this Emissary business.
REVIEW: Right out of the gate, the creators have given us the template for all DS9 episodes. It's a story with plenty of double dealing at the center of which is essentially a moral dilemma. Politics play a big part, and ending is downbeat and gone is the usual epilogue full of platitudes. If not the model for all of DS9, certainly the model for Kira stories.
I think it's especially fitting then that the episode starts right out with the introduction of Garak, one of the series' best characters (a great thing about not moving around on this show is that we get to know the neighborhood quite well, and your favorite guest-star may just become a recurring character). He's immensely charming and ambiguous, always speaks from both sides of his mouth at the same time, and begins a relationship with Bashir here that will become a fixture in the series. Bashir's a bit on the silly side - and if there's an episode that disproves he was a mutant all along, it's this one - but is fun as the junior officer in way over his head. Is Garak friend or foe?
Another ambiguous character is the terrorist Tahna Los, an old friend of Kira's who hasn't stopped fighting the Cardassians. Has he really left his extremist cell? Or is he duping her? Where does Kira's loyalty lie? With a provisional government she doesn't agree with? Or with "her own people"? There's a great scene between her and Odo that shows Kira's capable of more than anger, a touching vulnerability, and Odo playing psychologist. When he decides she's made her choice, he calls on Sisko. Brilliant. A quick note on Kira's new haicut: Apparently, it was Nana Visitor who decided Kira would be too practical to get her hair styled, so she cut it off without producer approval. I tend to agree with the character choice, and it's not yet as severe as it'll become, thankfully.
Odo's no-nonsense manner leads to another great moment when the Sisters of Duras come aboard the station. A great entrance, with a security officer already on the floor, and Odo requesting that Klingon or not, they leave their weapons at the door or they will be thrown off the station. Who the hell is he anyway? "I'm the one giving you the choice." I didn't think using TNG characters as guest stars already, especially when any old mercenaries could have played the role, was a good idea, but this scene more than makes up for the creators' insecurities.
The plot is strangely devoid of any religious connotations - no mention of the Emissary and Tahna thinks nothing of closing the Temple Gates. You wouldn't expect him to know what's probably being debated in the Vedek Assembly at this point anyway. No, the plot's fine as it is, and the many character touches makes it rise above the norm: Sisko using bureaucracy to his advantage, O'Brien siding with Kira because he knows what Cardassians do with their prisoners... these are characters with opinions, they don't necessarily toe the party line.
LESSON: Andy Robinson is DA MAN!
REWATCHABILITY - High: Behind the odd title and the stunt guest stars lies the kind of story we now associate with DS9. They had the formula right there. Unfortunately, I don't think the creators were aware of it, so we'll suffer through some TNG plots through much of the first season.