Thursday, September 24, 2009

Classics: DS9 1:12 – Battle Lines

Plot Synopsis:

Sisko, Kira, and Bashir take Kai Opaka on a trip through the wormhole at her request. While in the Gamma Quadrant, they pick up a strange signal. Following it to a moon in a nearby star system, they are shot down by a defense satellite, and the Kai dies in the crash. As Kira begins to recite the Bajoran death chant, she and the others are discovered by the Ennis, one of two tribes who were exiled to this moon as punishment for their inability to resolve their blood feud. After a brief battle with the “enemy,” the Nol-Ennis – a battle in which Kira, now in full survival mode, gets involved – Sisko and company are stunned when Opaka walks into the caves of the Ennis alive. It is revealed that this penal colony’s creators have conferred a brutal kind of immortality upon all those who die in this prison – an immortality that renders escape impossible. After a swiftly aborted attempt to broker a peace, Sisko is forced to leave the Kai behind.

The Ratings:

Overall: 8 – The writers are starting to leave the Trek comfort zone.

Writing: 8.5

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate more how gutsy this episode was on more than one level; indeed, after Emissary and Past Prologue, this is the first episode that truly feels like a DS9 episode. Outside of its inclusion of the spiritual dimension, which I will discuss further below, Battle Lines also allows Our Heroes to fail - allows the force of reason to fail – and in the process concludes without a return to our previous set point. In the meantime, while this episode is quite effectively demonstrating the art of tearing asunder the status quo, it further manages to take one character – Kira – through a process of personal discovery and growth. In short, like Past Prologue, this is an episode of genuine consequence. What happens in this episode will have repercussions throughout the series.

Acting: 7

You know, when we were much younger, SABR Matt used to make fun of Kira’s reaction to the Kai’s death, but in this particular context, I think it’d be very difficult to truly go over the top. I imagine Visitor was told something along the lines of, “Your character is representing an entire race – and this race – your character included – has depended upon the guidance and consolation of this spiritual leader throughout a long and devastating conflict. Show us that.” If I were an actress in Visitor’s position, I believe I too would feel a primal cry is appropriate. Perhaps the result wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as silly as SABR Matt often made it sound. :)

Throughout the episode, there was the occasional moment of awkwardness, but there was also some genuine brilliance as well. Kira’s quieter interlude with Bashir after the afore-described scene, for example – a moment I feature in the highlights below – is absolutely perfect. That single tear – that quiet mourning – is far more heartbreaking than the initial howl.

Message: 8.5

This is the first episode that explicitly touches upon Kira’s religiosity. We see a woman who has, up until this point, consistently displayed a rather skeptical attitude towards authority repeatedly behave in a deferential – nay, reverential - manner in the presence of the Kai. Moreover, we see a woman who has never come across as particularly self-conscious reveal that she fears the judgment of her gods. And all of this is played completely straight, with no suggestion that Kira’s beliefs shouldn’t be taken seriously. In a Trek, that’s pretty incredible.


“Dax and Mr. O’Brien discovered some of the last prefect’s personal files. There’s a file on you, but – you may find it disappointing.”
“I’m a big girl, commander.”
(Then, later:)
“A minor operative whose activities are limited to running errands for the terrorist leaders?” – Funny, but also indicative of Kira’s unresolved spiritual wounds.

“Major – I’m so sorry. I would’ve done anything.”
“It’s all so senseless. Opaka’s always been a symbol of hope to me. Her words gave our struggle meaning. And now she’s dead. Her life ends on some unknown moon… and for what?” – This may be the best scene in the episode.

“We’re trapped on this moon with only his forces between us and damnation – we have to defend ourselves to stay alive! Now, when the Nol attack again -”
“I said that’s enough!”
“This is not your war, Kira.” – The resistance fighter in Kira takes control – and is quelled by the force of her faith.

“I’ve never heard of a differential magnetamer. How does it work?”
“I’ll let you know as soon as I finish making one.” – Hah. They hung a lampshade on the technobabble.

“Don’t deny it, Kira – the violence inside of you. Only when you accept it can you move beyond it.”
“I’ve known nothing but violence since I was a child.”
“In the eyes of the Prophets, we are all children.”
“I’m afraid the Prophets won’t forgive me.”
“They’re just waiting for you to forgive yourself.” – God never stops loving you. He just waits for you to reach out to Him.

“Isn’t that like assisting a jailbreak?”
“I don’t need you to interpret the Prime Directive for me, doctor.” – Awesome.

“You really think the fear of death will end the fighting? It never has in any other war.” – Perhaps true. Fortunately, in this episode, diplomacy doesn’t end the fighting either.

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