Emissary

Sisko and son

“Sorry, son.”

Episode: 1 and 2 (originally aired as a two-hour special)

Original air date: January 3, 1993

Notable guest stars: Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard/Locutus (crossover), Camille Saviola as Kai Opaka (recurring), Felecia M. Bell as Jennifer Sisko (recurring), Marc Alaimo as Gul Dukat (recurring)

In a nutshell: Starfleet assigns command of a backwater outpost to a washed-up officer, but then a freaky wormhole appears and shit gets CRAAAAAZY.

Say hello to: Everybody. (It’s the pilot episode, yo.)

Say goodbye to: Jennifer Sisko (well…kind of) and approximately 10,999 other folks at the Battle of Wolf 359

Missing in action: Nobody! The gang’s all here!

Words of wisdom: “Never trust ale from a god-fearing people, or a Starfleet commander that has one of your relatives in jail. ” – Quark

To boldly go… in a circle around some crappy planet…

The series starts with a flashback to the one of the most pivotal points of the TNG era, the Battle of Wolf 359. Then-Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko is the first officer on the USS Saratoga, part of the Starfleet armada facing off against the Borg. The battle quickly goes south for the good guys and the Saratoga is critically hit, killing most of her bridge crew and causing a warp core breach (fortunately no vessel ever seems to suffer an instantaneous breach, allowing their crews plenty of time to run around and enjoy some drama).

As the Saratoga’s occupants scramble to the escape pods, Sisko makes his way back to his quarters. He discovers his son, Jake, unconscious (or possibly he’s just a really heavy sleeper; it’s hard to tell with kids that age) and his wife, Jennifer, trapped under a pile of debris. He passes off Jake to another crew member and tries to rescue Jennifer, but she’s already dead. Literally kicking and screaming, Sisko is dragged by a crew member out of his quarters and onto a shuttle. As the shuttle departs the Saratoga, Sisko looks back and watches it explode.

Three years later, Sisko (now a commander) walks up to his son, who’s fully awake for once and fishing from a dock. Jake isn’t thrilled about the prospect of living out in the boonies, but Sisko assures him that everything will be fine. Suddenly, a voice informs them that they’ve reached Deep Space Nine. SURPRISE! They’re on a holodeck. They exit the holodeck and take a look at the window at the floating hunk of junk that’ll be their home for the next seven years.

OPENING CREDITS

Sisko makes his way onto the station and discovers that it’s in a pretty sorry state. The Cardassians trashed the place before leaving and just about nothing works. After breaking the news that they’ve got no food or beds, newly transferred token Irishman Miles O’Brien tells Sisko that Captain Picard wishes to speak with him as soon as possible.

Sisko then heads up (down? sideways?) to Ops, where he finds his Bajoran liason, Major Kira Nerys, arguing with a government official. After abruptly terminating her conversation with the official, Kira turns her wrath on Sisko, telling him that the Federation’s “assistance” amounts to another occupation. In her opinion, the Federation is no better than the Cardassians.

Suddenly an alarm is sounded, and the two make their way down (up? sideways?) to the Promenade, where station security chief Odo shows off that fact that he’s a shape-shifter while capturing a young Ferengi thief named Nog. During the apprehension, Sisko fires a phaser, which really pisses off Odo.

Quark, the owner of the local bar and gambling parlor, appears and asks Sisko for a little leniency. He plans on leaving DS9 and just wants to take the boy (his nephew) with him. Sisko refuses to release Nog, but then is reminded that Picard is waiting to speak with him.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

On board the Enterprise, the most awkward mission briefing ever takes place as Sisko meets the man he blames for his wife’s death: Jean-Luc “The Artist Formerly Known As Locutus” Picard. In a nutshell, Picard tells Sisko that’s supposed to do everything he can short of violating the Prime Directive (which doesn’t really seems to apply in this case, but whatever) to help the Bajorans get themselves ready for admission into the Federation. Sisko tells Picard that he doesn’t think DS9 is the proper environment for raising his son and that he’s thinking about leaving Starfleet. As Picard begins to respond, Sisko interrupts to tell him that in the meantime he’ll do his duty to the best of his ability.

Sisko and Picard at DS9

The only way Starfleet could have arranged for less sensitive briefing would have been to have had a holographic representation of Sisko’s dead wife deliver it.

Back on the station, Sisko and Odo talk to Quark about the possibility of staying on DS9 and helping rebuild the station as a community leader. Quark refuses, pointing out that the provisional government on Bajor probably won’t last the week and he doesn’t want to be around when it falls. Sisko uses his ace card and agrees to release Nog on one condition: Quark stays. Reluctantly, Quark agrees.

Sisko joins Kira on the promenade to help clean up some of the mess and reveals his total lack of knowledge about Bajorian society. Kira says the only real hope her planet has lies with Kai Opaka, Bajor’s spiritual leader. Conveniently, a creepy priest shows up and tells Sisko that it’s time to meet the Kai.

Kai Opaka takes a liking to Sisko immediately, rubbing his earlobes, encouraging him to explore his life-force (pagh), and telling him that he’s the Emissary of the Prophets – basically their world’s conduit to their gods. After laying that nugget of info on a man she just met, Opaka takes Sisko to look at a holy relic.

Suddenly, Sisko is whisked away to a beach. He runs into his wife, which is really quite odd given the fact she’s dead and all. Sisko quickly realizes that he’s reliving the day he met Jennifer for the first time and proceeds to start working his seductive magic on the future mother of his child. Just when it appears that he’s about to get somewhere, Sisko is sent back to his current reality.

Opaka puts the relic away, explaining that it’s one of nine orbs that have been left on Bajor by the Prophets. The Cardassians took the other eight during the occupation. She then tells Sisko that his destiny is to find the source of these orbs – the “celestial temple of the Prophets.” As they part ways, she gives him the last orb to help him find the temple.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

As the Enterprise prepares to depart, two more crew members arrive: the young, brash, horny Doctor Bashir and the smokin’ hot Trill science officer Jadzia Dax. Sisko and Dax go way back: he knew Dax years ago in a different host body, back when he was an “old man.”

Bashir immediately gets on Kira’s bad side by talking about how excited he is to be practicing medicine out on the frontier – a wild, wild west that happens to be Kira’s home. Meanwhile, Sisko and Dax take the orb into the lab and apply their wicked science skills to it. Dax touches the orb and launched into her own little vision – remembering the most recent transfer of her symbiont from Curzon to Jadzia. Thus, the viewers at home are reminded that the pretty lady has a giant pulsating slug inside of her.

Back on the Enterprise, O’Brien hangs out on the bridge, debating whether to say goodbye to Picard or not. He chickens out and heads to the transporter room, but Picard comes in before he can slink away unnoticed. The two men exchange pleasantries, Picard beams O’Brien over to DS9, and the Enterprise finally leaves.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

As soon as the Enterprise leaves, the Cardassians arrive to introduce themselves and “welcome” the station’s new masters. Gul Dukat, the head of Cardassia’s occupation of Bajor and the former commander of DS9, promises to help Bajor as much as possible with its reconstruction efforts. He then lets Sisko know that he’s aware of Sisko’s meeting with Kai Opaka and the existence of the orb. Sisko refuses to bite and agrees to allow Dukat’s men on the station as visitors for the next few days.

Dax uses her computers and science learnin’ to deduce a likely location for the location of the celestial temple, but Sisko knows he can’t investigate any further with the Cardassians snooping around. With Quark’s help, he manages to plant Odo aboard the Cardassian vessel, where the shifty shapeshifter disables the warship’s engines and sensors. Free from the prying eyes of their Cardassian guests, Sisko and Dax take off in a runabout to explore the location.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

As the runabout makes its way to the coordinates, a wormhole suddenly appears and pulls them in. They emerge in the far-away Gamma Quadrant and quickly surmise that the orbs must have made their way to Bajor from there via the wormhole. They also figure out that the wormhole is most likely stable, making it the only one in the known universe.

The wormhole

The interior of the wormhole looks a lot like an 80s music video.

Sisko and Dax take the runabout back into the wormhole to get back to DS9, but during their return, the runabout loses power and lands on a solid surface inside the wormhole. They get out to explore and find themselves in very different places – Sisko sees a bleak landscape with raging electrical storms while Dax, right next to him, is surrounded by an idyllic paradise.

A giant orb flies in and scans them both; seconds later, Dax is swept away by the orb and transported back to DS9. Sisko is taken to an undefined point in space, surrounded by glowing white light. He soon sees visions from his past – Jennifer, Jake, Picard, Locutus, some random Cubs player – all asking him questions. They are manifestations of the wormhole aliens/Prophets, who are non-corporeal beings and consider Sisko a pretty crude and low-level life form. They speak to him through these visions, bouncing back and forth between people and events in Sisko’s past, as the commander attempts to save his life and get the beings to understand what he’s trying to say.

Meanwhile, back in the Alpha Quadrant, the crew makes preparations to mount a rescue mission to find Sisko. Realizing that the newly discovered wormhole might just be her planet’s ticket to galactic relevance, Kira hatches a plan to move the station to the wormhole’s mouth and claim it for Bajor. O’Brien says it would take six months to move the station into position, but then Dax busts out her science and shortens their transit time to mere seconds (theoretically). While he makes the necessary preparations, Kira, Dax, Bashir, and Odo prepare to enter the wormhole in a second runabout and begin their search for Sisko.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

In the wormhole, Sisko tries to explain himself to the aliens, who continue to speak to him through the forms of people in his past. The aliens mull destroying Sisko, but he insists that he means them no harm and was sent by the Bajorans to find them. He quickly discovers that the aliens have no concept of linear time.

Back on DS9, O’Brien channels his inner Scotty while dealing with an uncooperative computer and manages to get the station moved to the mouth of the wormhole. Gul Dukat, however, now knows about the wormhole’s existence and thinks Sisko is negotiating with whoever is inside. He decides to go into the wormhole himself and make sure Sisko doesn’t gain any kind of advantage for the Federation.

Meanwhile, the aliens continue to probe Sisko’s memories while trying to understand the concept of linear time. They also fail to grasp the meaning of death and the inability of humans to exist in all times at once. To prove their point, Sisko is returned to the moment of his wife’s death on the Saratoga. Although Sisko claims to not be able to return to his past, the aliens point out that he still exists there.

Dukat’s ship emerges in the Gamma Quadrant and the aliens seal the wormhole in response.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

The aliens tell Sisko that linear creatures are destructive to their kind, so they’ve closed off the wormhole to protect themselves. They continue to have difficulty understanding the progression of normal time and how humans can exist in a universe with uncertain outcomes. To help them understand, Sisko uses baseball as an example of how actions can have any number of consequences. He explains that the lack of knowledge of what’s to come is what drives him – and all humans – to explore the stars and learn as much as they can.

The aliens seem to accept Sisko’s explanation, but fail to reconcile it with what they call his continued existence in the past. He returns again to the Saratoga with his wife buried under the rubble.

At DS9, the situation goes from bad to worse. They confirm that the wormhole has disappeared just as three Cardassian warships arrive demanding to know where Gul Dukat is. Surmising that DS9 has somehow destroyed Dukat’s ship, they give Kira one hour to surrender the station.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Sisko wants to know why the aliens keep returning him to the Saratoga, but they explain that he’s the one bringing them there, not the other way around. They tell him only he has the power to remove himself from where he doesn’t want to be. Unfortunately, they don’t give him ruby red slippers.

As he watches himself being pulled away from his dead wife, Sisko realizes that he never really left the Saratoga at all, nor has he ever let Jennifer go. Acknowledging this frees Sisko from his pain and the burden he’s felt for the past three years. He’s a changed man, ready to go forward and live his life again. The aliens apparently are cool with this.

Kira’s hour expires and she launches the station’s torpedoes as a warning shot to the Cardassians, hoping to bluff them with a show of force and some sensor trickery. The Cardassians don’t buy it though, and begin attacking the station. Just as Kira is ready to signal her surrender, the wormhole suddenly reappears.

Enterprise at DS9

Reunited. And it feels so good.

Sisko’s runabout emerges from the wormhole, towing Gul Dukat’s ship behind it. He explains that Dukat ran into some trouble and Dukat orders his forces to stand down. The Cardassians decide to leave before the Enterprise returns.

Back on DS9 at least, Sisko is reunited with Jake and reveals that the aliens have decided to grant free passage through the wormhole for all parties. It seems like a pretty good deal at the time. In a few years though, it won’t seem so great.

The Enterprise returns to DS9 and Picard once again meets with Sisko. He commends Sisko on finding and securing the wormhole and says this is will no doubt accelerate Bajor’s rehabilitation and make it one of the most strategically valuable places in the galaxy. Sisko asks Picard to forget his earlier comments about possibly leaving Starfleet and assures him that he’s the guy for the job. For some reason, Picard begrudgingly agrees and the two part ways.

As the Enterprise leaves once again, Sisko and his officers survey the damage and begin repairs to the station. And dare I say, begin their journey to becoming a family. *sniff*

Thoughts and ruminations

  • Out of all the Star Trek series premiere episodes, I think is probably the strongest one. It does an effective job of introducing all of the main characters while providing some meaningful backstories for them. It also immediately strikes a darker tone than TOS or TNG – one that will only get darker in the years to come.
  • In the 27-some years since the character was introduced, it’s always been “Jean-Luc Picard” with a hyphen – except in the scrolling intro text for this episode.
  • Using the Battle of Wolf 359 for the prologue sequence was a great decision by the writers. It not only provides Sisko’s character with the requisite character development origin point, but also ties this series in with what was TNG‘s arguably strongest moment. It gives DS9 instant credibility – these people really do exist in the same universe and are a part of the same overarching narrative as the characters we already know and love.
  • When TNG premiered, the concept of having families aboard a Starfleet vessel was new and appeared to be somewhat controversial (at least in Picard’s mind). Now, three years later, it looks like all sorts of vessels have families on them, including Ben Sisko’s USS Saratoga. Since these vessels weren’t designed with families in mind, how do they accommodate them and still have room for the necessary crew? Or is having one’s family with them a privilege reserved for senior officers? Or did Starfleet grant a special exemption for the Sisko family because it was needed for the plot?
  • I love the theme for this series. I wasn’t a huge fan of Dennis McCarthy’s score for Star Trek: Generations, but all of his TV stuff has been solid.
  • Not showing the wormhole during the opening credits for this episode is a nice touch, although I’m probably pretty sure it’d been revealed already in promos. (Maybe not though; it was easier to keep such things under wraps before the internet ruined our lives.)
  • I remember thinking 20+ years ago that having Sisko be a commander was kind of lame, but I guess that makes sense if it’s only been three years since Wolf 359. Still kind of lame though. Trek needs a captain in the big chair. Or office. Or whatever.
  • This episode immediately shows that this is going to be a very different series. Sisko’s big immediate challenge isn’t exploring the cosmos or doing battles with incorrigible foes, it’s just holding together a wrecked station and keeping its inhabitants from leaving in droves. His first officer hates his guts. The entire arrangement between the Bajorans and the Federation seems to be destined for failure. Bajor is on the cusp of civil war. And Sisko is two steps away from leaving Starfleet himself. Not exactly Data whistling tunes on the holodeck, is it?
  • This episode brings up a really big question for TNG: Why don’t more people have a problem with Picard after the whole Borg incident? I know we’re all supposed to be enlightened, noble beings in Roddenberry’s futuristic utopia, but Locutus and the gang did a lot of damage and killed a lot of folks. Doesn’t it seem likely that some people would hold a grudge against Picard? This issue is rarely addressed in the final four seasons of TNG and never explored with any real depth.
  • If bringing Bajor into the Federation is so damned important, why has Starfleet given this assignment to Benjamin Sisko? He doesn’t appear to have any special skills or experience that would make him a clear diplomat and world-builder. I suspect that Bajor’s future is more important to Picard than it is to the Federation, who most likely have written off the planet as a lost cause. That also explains why Sisko was appointed to the post over his own objections – this is a dead-end job that no one expects to last more than a few weeks or months at most.
  • Jake Sisko isn’t Wesley Crusher 2.0. And thank the prophets for that.
  • Nog, the juvenile delinquent. An interesting way for his character to be introduced given where he’ll end up.
  • Sisko doesn’t know who Kai Opaka is? Way to read your mission briefing packet, Ben.
  • This episode jumps right into the spirituality of the Bajorans right away. As soon as Sisko gets down to the surface, Kai Opaka is groping his earlobes and launching him on a spiritual quest.  This marks the beginning of a very, very different path from previous Treks. When Kirk and Picard encountered faith and organized religion, it was always just a collection of superstitions used by dumb locals to rationalize what they hadn’t yet discovered through science. In DS9, it’s integral to the main story and even though it’s chipped away in bits and pieces by scientific explanations, it never quite loses it’s mystical quality. At the end of this series, everything won’t have been wrapped up in a neat, little scientific box.
  • Kai Opaka’s costume concept must have been “Qantas stewardess meets nun.”
  • Even for mystical relics on a science fiction show, the orbs are awfully cheesy looking.
  • Kira learns Starfleet operating procedures pretty quickly. Within the first half-hour, she tells Sisko that he needs to come see something for himself instead of just telling him what’s going on over the communicator.
  • Runabouts are lame. Souped-up station wagons in space.
  • This episode introduces the new Starfleet uniforms and the Great Problem of Non-Uniform Starfleet Uniforms (GPNUSU). I’ll have more to say about this later, but just know for now that it bothers me greatly.
  • Kira’s offense at Bashir’s comment about “frontier medicine” is great.
  • In TNG, Trills had distinctive forehead ridges and no spots. On DS9, Dax has spots and no forehead ridge. She must be a “southern Trill.”
  • In two hours, Dax finds out more about the orbs than Bajoran monks did in 10,000 years. Because Starfleet.
  • Aww. Picard loves O’Brien. Warm fuzzies all around.
  • Miles O’Brien appears to be the only non-commissioned officer in 23rd Century Starfleet (although all of the inconsistencies regarding his rank occurred on TNG.)
  • Gul Dukat represents another new direction for Star Trek – a regularly recurring nemesis.
  • Despite all their lack of mutual trust, Quark and the Starfleet and Bajoran officers all band together pretty quickly to pull one over on the Cardassians.
  • The interior of the wormhole is pretty cheesy looking as well.
  • The sequence where Sisko and Dax exit the runabout and walk around the wormhole planet (for lack of a better term) is mega-trippy.
  • When I first watched this episode years ago, I really hated the way the wormhole alien sequences were handled, but after watching them again I’ve found them to highly effective in creating an aura of mystery for the aliens – allowing them to interact with Sisko without really revealing much about themselves.
  • How is the Enterprise already two days away from DS9? Doesn’t that mean Sisko has been missing for two days?
  • The inability of the aliens to comprehend a linear existence is refreshing. Usually these non-corporeal beings are omnipotent. There’s learning to be done by both sides for once.
  • Of course, I love the use of baseball to explain linear existence.
  • Bashir’s naïveté is annoying…but I guess that’s the point.
  • Are all these displays in Cardassian or Bajoran? And how are all these Starfleet officers reading them with no problems whatsoever?
  • I don’t even pretend to understand the necessary physics, but it seems unlikely that a runabout would have enough towing power to haul a Cardassian warship.

The verdict

This episode has a Herculean task to achieve – not just launch a series filled with new characters in an existing universe, but also lay the foundations for a complex story. It’s uneven in parts (the second half seems to be a little slow), but overall I think it does a fantastic job. Four out of four Odo buckets. 

The Odo Scale

The Modernish Father

Your guide to DS9 is a father of two, husband of one and inspiration for millions of sardonic bald guys. A Texas native who recently moved to San Francisco, he loves baseball, history, most science fiction and generally all things nerdy. Find out more on his blog.

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