Overall Rating: 4.5
It's *so* not fair...my co-author gets Whispers and I get this conflicted and morally ambiguous and relativist tripe.
On a routine survey mission of nearby star systems in the search for possible new Federation colonies, Sisko and O'Brien stumble on a group of humans who have colonized a planet in the Orellius Minor star system without logging their settlement officially. O'Brien detects a low level duonetic field on the planet's surface and they beam down to investigate. As soon as they hit the ground, all of their EM devices - phasers, tricorders, comm. badges - go dead. After convincing scouts from the colony that they are peaceful, they get introduced to the community leader, Alixus. A woman who we can tell almost immediately loves the sound of her own voice. They get the colonists' story of crash-landing on this planet and realizing that nothing technological can function and having to survive using only their bodies and minds and are welcomed into the community - auspiciously, while they wait for rescue teams from DS9 to arrive - as long as they promise to contribute with the community workload.
O'Brien - born engineer that he is - boggles at the group's insistence that they love their life here in this EM-free zone. He spends the entire episode trying to find a way to get his gear to work, getting both of them into trouble with Alixus very quickly. It doesn't help that neither of them are willing to get rid of their Starfleet uniforms and that Sisko spends some of his limited free time investigating Alixus's personality through her copious writings and realizes she's likely deceiving the colonists to play out a social experiment. It seems Alixus believes that technology separates human beings from their core identities, and has been struggling to live a tech-free life for years - and now has just happened to crash land in the perfect spot to dictate her beliefs to a group of refugees - all of this despite a number of deaths from routine bacterial infections and harsh, cold winters. When Alixus resorts first to using sexual procurement, then to torturing Sisko in an effort to break him of his philosophy, O'Brien breaks from the fields to search for the source of the duonetic field. He discovers the field is man made and angrily reports his findings (complete with a phaser blast to prove his point) to the colonists. Sisko puts two and two together and accuses Alixus of the fraud. She confesses and agrees to go back to the Federation to accept responsibility for her actions. The rest of the community - apparently unfazed by the fact that they've been lied to, agree to stay behind in their luddite paradise.
So close...and yet...so far...from making a great moral statement about the dangers of any form of utopianism, not to mention the moral ambiguity of anti-progress movements. All it would have taken for me to thoroughly enjoy this episode would have been for the colonists to respond like real people and get pissed off at Alixus for stranding them here and lying to their faces while good friends and loved ones died for her dubious philosophy. Right up until the dramatic conclusion - which was a cowardly act of relativist garbage - I was prepared to applaud DS9 staffers for once again siding with reality over romantic lunacy. For what it's worth...without the sickening conclusion, the dialogue is pretty snappy and balanced.
Avery Brooks, Colm Meaney and Steve Vinovich and Michael Buckman Silver (Joseph and Vinod respectively) all were very strong. However, the leading antagonist ruins the performance for me. For some reason, Gail Strickland - who is supposed to be portraying someone politically gifted and emotionally imposing enough to get control of a group of refugees and become leader of her own utopian world - chose to play Alixus with this bizarre breathless quality and weak persona that just don't jive for me. I just did not buy that this little woman was going to be the one chosen to lead the colonists after the crash, nor that she had the strength necessary to keep order using her cruel torture box.
1) When Alixus claims (and no one argues against this) that creating her little tech-free zone saved Steven from a life of crime and others from mediocre jobs and no fulfillment, I bristle rather severely. Sorry, but NO...technology is NOT the source of modern criminal behavior, nor the reason for recidivism. And the cure for those things is not torture, nor communities without the concept of privacy, nor hard labor. None of that addresses the psychological and spiritual reasons (not to mention the hard physical realities for some - their need for supplies and their inability to obtain them legally) for criminal and immoral behaviors. It's an eco-nut fantasy to imagine that taking away my computer is going to change me into a better person without some God concept and without a good support system within my community and without the right to my privacy. In fact, nature is red in tooth and claw, and the human thirst to advance technologically has improved the standard of living for billions of us, thereby reducing crime, increasing our freedom to seek out our core identity and bringing us closer to God.
2) It is a distinctly relativist (and dangerously fallacious) claim we are expected to swallow when the entire community kisses Alixus's boots for lying to them for ten years, costing who knows how many lives. "We've found something here...this is our home now..." - excuse me while I hurl. Sorry, but, again...NO. The ends never justify the means when the means include murder, torture, sexual favors and brainwashing with pedantic self-published literature and hard labor. One wonders who Hoseph endured - being "the last convert" to Alixus' new religion of willful ignorance. Sisko certainly went through hell for having a different belief system. It's outrageous to try to backtrack after spending 40 minutes depicting Alixus as dangerous and morally despicable by spending the final 5 minutes depicting her as having been right all along even if her methods were not. This is the kind of thing a moral relativist will do - they will spend an hour screaming bloody murder about the plight of women in this world, and then they will bend over backwards to make it not OK to condemn a society for how it treats women (*cough*Islamic World*cough*). I'm left with the distinct impression that we are supposed to come away from this episode pseudo-intellectually stroking our beards and thinking "there really is no right or wrong here...maybe she went about things inappropriately, but you can't deny the results..."
I think I'll stick to think she's not only completely wrong ideologically, but completely immoral and dangerous.
SISKO: Did you send Cassandra to my room to win me over to your cause?
SISKO: I think you're contemptible. - enough said.