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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Emissary”


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Rereads and Rewatches Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Emissary”


Published on April 23, 2013

Written by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
Directed by David Carson
Season 1, Episode 1
Production episode 40511-721
Original air date: January 3, 1993
Stardate: 46379.1

Station log: We start three years in the past, with the Battle of Wolf 359. Locutus of Borg—the assimilated Captain Jean-Luc Picard—requests Starfleet’s surrender. We see the battle from the POV of the first officer of the U.S.S. Saratoga, Lt. Commander Benjamin Sisko. The Saratoga’s shields are drained by the Borg, and the ship is quickly trashed. The captain is dead, and the warp core is going to go in four minutes. Sisko calls for evac, then goes to his quarters to find his young son Jake unconscious and his wife Jennifer dead. The tactical officer has to literally drag him away from Jennifer’s corpse. Sisko watches the Saratoga explode from the escape pod.

Jump ahead three years. Sisko is now a full commander and has been assigned to Station Deep Space 9 in orbit of Bajor. The Cardassian Union has withdrawn from Bajor and the provisional Bajoran government has asked the Federation’s assistance in administrating the space station. Jake isn’t thrilled about the new assignment—why can’t they live on the planet instead of some old space station?—but is placated by Sisko’s assurance that there’ll be other kids there.

The Siskos arrive and are met by Chief Miles O’Brien, transferring over from the Enterprise—which is docked at the station—to be the new chief of operations. The Cardassians trashed the joint before they left, and it’s a total mess. Priority has been to fix ship’s primary systems, which is why the Promenade is still a mess. A lot of the shop owners are packing up to leave.

Sisko encounters a Bajoran monk, who invites him into the temple. Sisko politely declines, and then we get a lengthy mysterious closeup of the monk so we all know that he’ll be important later (except he won’t, but his request will be).

O’Brien tells Sisko that Picard wants to see him. Meanwhile, Jake is not happy with their quarters—no bunk and the replicators are offline—but Sisko just tells him they have to rough it for a while, and Jake reluctantly goes along.

Reporting to ops, Sisko goes to the prefect’s office and meets his Bajoran attaché Major Kira Nerys. She has just finished arguing with one of the provisional government’s ministers, and she makes it clear that she really really really doesn’t want the Federation here, viewing them as no better than the Cardassians. She fought all her life for Bajoran independence, not Bajoran dependence. Their conversation is interrupted by a break-in, and Sisko and Kira help Odo—the chief of security and also a shapeshifter—stop two thieves. The younger of the two thieves is a Ferengi, the nephew of Quark, who owns the local gambling establishment. Quark requests that Nog be released to his custody, as they’re departing the station soon, but Sisko refuses, ordering Odo to take Nog to the brig with the other one.

The Enterprise again requests Sisko’s presence to meet with Picard, and Sisko reluctantly does so. He’s utterly hostile to Picard—and Picard recoils from Sisko’s explanation of how they “met” as if he’s been slapped—and the captain’s explanation of the commander’s assignment is tense. Sisko’s mission is to get Bajor ready for entry into the Federation. Sisko also reveals that he’s considering resigning his commission and returning to Earth, a more ideal environment to raise his son. Picard says he’ll look into a replacement.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Sisko meets with Quark in Odo’s office. Quark wants Nog released. Sisko is willing to do so—if Quark stays. If he steps forward and says he’s sticking around, then others will follow. Without that, the Promenade becomes a ghost town. Quark is not eager—he feels the provisional government is way too provisional, and he doesn’t think he can operate under Starfleet rules—but ultimately he agrees in exchange for Nog’s freedom. Sisko plays him like a two-dollar banjo, and Odo admits to Quark that at first he had thought he wasn’t going to like him.

Kira is doing cleanup work on the Promenade. Sisko jumps in to help, making it clear to Kira that he’s more than happy to get his hands dirty. Kira says that Quark is right about the government. The only person who could unite the factions is Kai Opaka, the Bajoran spiritual leader, but she lives in seclusion. However, right after this, the monk shows up. Opaka has invited Sisko to Bajor to meet with her.

Opaka—after grabbing Sisko’s left ear and asking him if he’s explored his pagh, or life force—brings him to a secret underground chamber. She opens a Tear of the Prophets—an orb—and suddenly Sisko is on a beach, re-living his first meeting with Jennifer. When the orb experience ends, Sisko is devastated. Opaka explains that there are nine orbs that have appeared in the sky over the past 10,000 years. The Cardassians have all the others. Opaka gives Sisko the orb and says that he must find the Celestial Temple of the Prophets before the Cardassians do, and more than once refers to him as the Emissary. She also says that he must find the temple, not for her, for Bajor, or for the Federation, but for his own pagh. (She also makes it clear that she can’t even consider trying to unite her people until the temple is found.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Returning to the station, Sisko finds that Quark has indeed reopened, and the bar is going strong, with gamblers, drinkers, and musicians all cavorting along. A ship arrives with the chief medical officer and science officer. Kira takes Dr. Julian Bashir to what’s left of the infirmary. Bashir geebles to Kira about how he asked for this assignment, thrilled at the notion of “frontier medicine” in the “wilderness.” Kira slaps him down in short order, reminding him that this “wilderness” is her home. Bashir thumphers a bit before Kira leaves.

Sisko takes Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, his new science officer, to the lab so she can study the orb. Dax is a Trill, a joined species, and her previous host was Sisko’s old friend Curzon Dax. To that end, Sisko calls her “old man,” and when she starts her study of the orb, it gives her a flashback, too, to when Curzon died as the Dax symbiont was implanted in her.

O’Brien takes his final walk through the Enterprise, and Picard himself beams him over to the station in a cute reversal of their usual roles.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

As soon as the Enterprise leaves, a Cardassian ship arrives commanded by Gul Dukat, who was the prefect of Bajor. He verbally fences with Sisko in the office—which had been Dukat’s office until two weeks ago—and Dukat also makes it clear that he knows Sisko visited Opaka and came back with an orb.

Dax finds a correlation among the various bits of data surrounding the orbs and thinks the temple might be in the Denorios Belt, a charged plasma field that most ships avoid like the plague, as it’s a navigation hazard. Sisko wants to investigate, but not while the Cardassians are watching. So Odo infiltrates Dukat’s ship, sabotaging their sensors while Sisko and Dax board the Runabout Rio Grande—one of three small Starfleet ships assigned to the station.

The Rio Grande explores the Denorios Belt and they suddenly find themselves in an opening in space. They disappear off of DS9’s sensors, and eventually come out in the Idran system—which is in the Gamma Quadrant, 70,000 light-years from Bajor. It seems to be a wormhole, though it behaves in no way like any wormhole Dax is familiar with. It might have been where the orbs came from, in which case the wormhole’s been there for ten millennia. That would make it the first stable wormhole known to exist.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

To Dax and Sisko’s surprise, the runabout slows down and lands on a Class-M planet—which should be impossible inside a wormhole. They exit the runabout; Sisko sees a barren wasteland, Dax sees a beautiful forest. Dax is changed into an orb and sent back to DS9, while Sisko communicates with—someone. They talk to him via images from his memories—Picard (as himself and as Locutus), Jake, Opaka, Jennifer, some baseball players, the Saratoga crew—and Sisko is forced to explain the concept of linear time to them, as they apparently exist in all times. The wormhole aliens do not understand linear existence at all.

Kira mounts a rescue mission on the Runabout Yangtzee Kiang, and also instructs O’Brien to move the station to the mouth of the wormhole. Bajor needs to stake a claim to this wormhole, a claim that Kira reluctantly admits will be stronger with Federation backing. However, Dukat’s headed to the Denorios Belt also.

After Dukat’s ship goes through the wormhole, the aliens close it before the Yangtzee Kiang can enter it. The aliens are furious at the constant intrusions. Sisko uses baseball to explain his existence—you throw a pitch not knowing what will happen. The aliens don’t get how they can revel in their ignorance of what will come, but Sisko explains that that defines human existence. But the aliens still don’t understand why Sisko “exists” in one particular “place,” that being the memory of Jennifer’s death on the Saratoga. Sisko insists he wants to be somewhere else, but the aliens say that he keeps leading them there. He watches as the tactical officer dragged him away from Jennifer’s corpse, and Sisko finally gets it—emotionally, he never left the Saratoga. Every times he closes his eyes, he sees Jennifer’s broken body. He hasn’t figured out how to live without her—he hasn’t been able to hit that particular pitch.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Kira returns to the station just as three Cardassian ships led by Gul Jasad want to know what happened to Dukat’s ship. Refusing to believe Kira’s wormhole story and assuming Dukat’s ship to be destroyed, Jasad demands DS9’s surrender. The Enterprise is still 20 hours away. So Kira bluffs them—O’Brien spoofs their sensors so the Cardassians think the station is heavily armed and defended, and Kira herself makes it clear that, while a Starfleet officer would admit it was a lost cause, Kira’s a Bajoran whose been fighting lost causes all her life. So bring it on….

However, Jasad refuses to believe that the station’s armed and attacks. The station is heavily damaged—but then the wormhole reopens as Sisko flies the Rio Grande through the wormhole, Dukat’s powerless ship in tow. The Cardassians withdraw after the Enterprise arrives. The aliens have agreed to allow ships safe passage through the wormhole, which suddenly makes Bajor a critical port of call. Ships will be flying through the wormhole in droves to explore the Gamma Quadrant.

Sisko meets with Picard and assures him that he won’t be resigning any time soon. Picard wishes him good luck and goes on his way back to his own show.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: O’Brien uses a thoron field to block sensors knowing that the Cardassians will penetrate it and discover his duranium shadows that fake weaponry and shields far greater than they actually have.

He also has trouble beaming Odo off of Dukat’s ship, but it able to get the transporter working after kicking it. Percussive maintenance FTW!

The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko is told by Opaka that he is the Emissary—which doesn’t get as much play in this episode as you’d think, given the title, but will become important later—and that he must find the Celestial Temple of the Prophets. He apparently does, although this episode doesn’t make it explicit that the wormhole aliens are the Prophets whom Bajorans worship.

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Sisko apparently requested a member of the Bajoran Militia to be his first officer. Kira is acerbic and unfriendly, but she also handles things expertly while Sisko is making first contact, moving the station to the wormhole mouth and holding off the Cardassians until Sisko’s return. It’s obvious that she got this assignment because of its distance from Bajor itself, as she disagrees with the provisional government on most things, so they sent her into orbit.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

The slug in your belly: This is Sisko’s first time meeting the new host of the Dax symbiont, Jadzia. The orb shows us the last moments of the previous host, Curzon—Sisko’s old friend—and the implantation of the symbiont into Jadzia.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Rules of Acquisition: Quark is all set to leave the station as he fears the provisional government won’t last a month, and “when governments fall, people like me are lined up and shot.” But he does stick around in order to get Nog out of jail.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

For Cardassia! Dukat wastes no time in returning to his old stomping grounds to remind Sisko that he’s nearby and that his intelligence sources on Bajor are still quite good, mentioning that he knows that Sisko visited Opaka and brought an orb back. It’s clear that withdrawing from Bajor was not his idea and occurred over his objection.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo changes his face to its liquid state in order to not be hit in the face with a flail. Later, he changes into a bag that Cardassian winnings are put into so he can infiltrate Dukat’s ship.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Bashir awkwardly asks Dax out on a date as they board the station to Sisko’s amusement and Kira’s disgust. Speaking of Kira’s disgust, Quark tries to hit on her; her threatening refusal only turns him on more. Sisko met his future wife on a beach shortly after he graduated Starfleet Academy; he was taking lemonade to some friends, but the sand was too hot on his bare feet and he took refuge on Jennifer’s blanket. Later, he proposed to her while on a picnic in the park where little kids were playing.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Keep your ears open: “This’ll be perfect! Real frontier medicine!”

“Frontier medicine?”

“Major, I had my choice of any job in the fleet.”

“Did you?”

“I didn’t want some cushy job or research grant. I wanted this! The farthest reaches of the galaxy, one of the most remote outposts available. This is where the adventure is, this is where heroes are made—right here, in the wilderness.”

“This ‘wilderness’ is my home.”

“I—I didn’t mean—”

“The Cardassians left behind a lot of injured people, Doctor. You can make yourself useful by bringing some of your Federation medicine to the natives. Oh, you’ll find them a friendly, simple folk.”

Bashir being an arrogant, pompous ass and Kira taking the piss out of him.

Welcome aboard: The big guest star, of course, is Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard (and also Locutus of Borg). Just as DeForrest Kelley appeared in TNG’s “Encounter at Farpoint” to pass the torch, and just as Armin Shimerman will appear in Voyager’s “Caretaker” to do likewise, Stewart shows up here to give Sisko his mission.

In addition, several folks show up in what will become recurring roles: Marc Alaimo, playing his second Cardassian, Gul Dukat (having played the first-ever Cardassian, Gul Macet, in TNG’s “The Wounded”); Camille Saviola as Kai Opaka, Bajor’s religious leader; Aron Eisenberg as Quark’s nephew Nog; and Max Grodénchik as “Ferengi pit boss,” a role that will solidify in a couple of episodes as Rom, Nog’s father and Quark’s brother (Grodénchik previously played two other Ferengi in “Captain’s Holiday” and “The Perfect Mate” on TNG). Also, Felecia M. Bell plays Sisko’s wife Jennifer, a role she’ll return to (kind of) in “Through the Looking Glass” and “Shattered Mirror.”

The captain of the Saratoga is credited to John Noah Hertzler, better known as J.G. Hertzler, who will later return as General Martok (among other roles). April Grace reprises her role from TNG as an Enterprise transporter chief. Majel Barrett continues to be the voice of Starfleet computers (on the starships and runabouts), but the space station computer voice is done by Judi Durand. (The show will continue to use both actors, Barrett for all Starfleet computers, Durand for all Cardassian ones.)

Trivial matters: Just like every other Trek spinoff pilot episode, “Emissary” was novelized. Emissary was written by J.M. Dillard (who also novelized six of the eleven films, and would go on to novelize the Enterprise season-spanning two-parter “The Expanse” and “The Xindi”). Dillard was able to include other members of the Enterprise crew beyond Picard to say goodbye to O’Brien. There are also several scenes with O’Brien’s wife Keiko, which were cut from this script but will be seen in “A Man Alone.”

The teaser takes place during TNG’s “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II,” and for the first time dramatizes the Battle of Wolf 359. The rest of the episode takes place between the TNG episodes “Chain of Command, Part II” (which set this series up to an extent, establishing that the Cardassians had pulled out of the Bajoran sector) and “Ship in a Bottle.”

O’Brien references the Setlik III massacre, established in “The Wounded.” O’Brien’s past experiences against the Cardassians will continue to be a recurring theme on the show.

During the Cardassian attack on the station, Bashir instructs Odo to put pressure on a wound while Odo thumphers a bit—this is a callback to a similar scene in the 1970 movie MASH, where Rene Auberjonois played Father Mulchahy and was asked by one of the doctors to put pressure on a wound.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

All the Bajorans we see in this episode wear earrings on their right ears, and a religious ritual we see performed is the grabbing of the left ear. This is mostly notable because Ro Laren on TNG wore her earring on her left ear, which will later on be established as being the tradition of the Pah-wraith cult who are opposed to the Prophets. The novel Avatar Book 1 by S.D. Perry would establish that Ro is not a Pah-wraith cultist (as some fans thought might be the case), but rather she just wore it on the other ear so vedeks would stop yanking her lobe.

Armin Shimerman’s prosthetic nose wasn’t ready in time for shooting, so his nose looks different from how it will look in every other episode. He was using Max Grodénchik’s nose, making his face look much flatter.

The crew of the Saratoga and Sisko’s time aboard her is explored in more depth in the novel Saratoga by Michael Jan Friedman (who did a similar thing with Picard’s time on the Stargazer in the novel Reunion). The captain of the ship was identified in that novel as Saros, though the Dillard novelization Emissary and the short story “Requital” by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels in Tales of the Domininon War named him Storil, and the videogame Crossroads of Time called him Sutik. The tactical officer was named Hranok in the Emissary novelization and Zar in Saratoga; your humble rewatcher solved that particular conflict in the eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment by saying his full name was Hranok Zar.

Walk with the Prophets: “Commander, please enter—the Prophets await you.” On the one hand, this works nicely as a pilot episode, introducing the new characters fairly well, establishing the status quo and setting everything up nicely. On the other hand, as a story, it doesn’t have much life to it.

The most compelling parts of the episode are where we get to know who these people are. Some of these work better than others, of course. Bashir and Odo in particular are basically given long speeches explaining their characters, a classic case of telling when we should be shown it, but there isn’t really much of an opportunity for the latter. (Amusingly, Bashir’s character infodump does more to illuminate Kira’s character than Bashir’s.)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rewatch on Emissary

Sisko in particular is very obviously different from the other two Trek commanders we’ve seen, in part because he’s a family man. Kirk and Picard were very much above-it-all-type commanders—lamented by Kirk in “The Naked Time” and Picard in Star Trek Generations—but Sisko spent his entire career married and most of it also with a kid. His relationship with Jake in the present and Jennifer in his memories makes him a very compelling character. His manipulation of Quark is very entertaining, and the slow burn in his first scene with Picard is devastating. Avery Brooks is maddeningly inconsistent, though. He handles quiet anger, amusement, and affection superbly. Every scene with Cirroc Lofton’s Jake conveys a strong father-son bond (which would become one of the show’s most compelling features), and the two scenes with Sir Patrick Stewart are magnificent (it’s only a pity these two fine actors weren’t given another opportunity to be on screen together). Stronger emotions, though, tend to trip him up—neither his screams to not leave Jennifer at the beginning of the episode nor the catharsis he undergoes when watching that happen at the climax are especially convincing. Ditto his breakdown after the first orb experience. There’s also this odd head tilt he does that just seems like a bizarre affectation.

The race to the Celestial Temple is also unconvincing. These things have been around for 10,000 years, but now everyone’s in a rush to find it? It just seems horribly constructed, an excuse to put the pieces in place.

The main characters work well. After the idealized humans of TNG, it’s a refreshing change to have characters with a bit more acid in them. Kira and Odo both introduce themselves to Sisko as obnoxiously as possible—the former by snottily declaring that he probably wants the office, the latter by angrily asking, “Who the hell are you?”—and Quark has to be blackmailed to stay. And even the Starfleet officers have their facets: Sisko has to raise a son in this mess, O’Brien has to in essence rebuild the station from scratch (his arguing with the computer is great fun, as is his percussive maintenance on the transporter), Bashir is a naïf who gets off on the wrong foot with almost everyone, and Dax is the latest in a long line of people who’ve lived a single and dual life at the same time.

Surprisingly, given how compelling they would become, Dukat and Opaka don’t make much of an impression here. Marc Alaimo mostly just gets to sneer a lot; Dukat will get so much development in seven years (not all of it good, but still) that it’s a surprise to see how lifeless he is here. He makes no more or less an impression than Joel Swetow as Jasad, both of them twirling their mustaches as generic baddies. As for Camille Saviola, she bring gravitas to the role of Opaka, but all the kai does in this episode is speak in that cryptic way that TV writers think religious figures should speak in and contrive an excuse for Sisko to find the wormhole.

Still and all, this story does set the show up well, even if the actual plot leaves a bit to be desired.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a bunch of DS9 fiction, among them the novel Demons of Air and Darkness, the short novel Ferenginar: Satisfaction is Not Guaranteed in Worlds of DS9 Volume 3, the novella “Horn and Ivory” in What Lay Beyond, the second portion of the crossover series The Brave and the Bold, the short story “Broken Oaths” in Prophecy and Change, the TNG/DS9 crossover eBook Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment (part of theSlings and Arrows miniseries), the DS9/Starfleet Corps of Engineers crossover eBook Cold Fusion (reprinted in the collection Miracle Workers), and has also worked DS9 elements into several other novels, stories, and eBooks, because he’s just that crazy.

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Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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