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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Explorers”


Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Explorers”

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Rereads and Rewatches Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch: “Explorers”


Published on January 7, 2014


Written by Hilary J. Bader and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 3, Episode 22
Production episode 40512-468
Original air date: May 8, 1995
Stardate: unknown

Station log: Leeta, one of the dabo girls, goes over to Bashir and hits on him under the guise of being worried about a cough she doesn’t really have. Dax interrupts to let him know that the Lexington is due to put in at the station in three weeks. The ship’s chief medical officer is Dr. Elizabeth Lense, who was the valedictorian in Bashir’s class at Starfleet Medical, for which Bashir was salutatorian. Bashir tries and fails to play it cool regarding that, while Dax twists the knife on the subject quite nastily.

Sisko returns from a trip to Bajor where he checked out an ancient archive. He’s back with a goatee and the image of a solar sailing ship that, legend has it, explored the solar system and possibly went to Cardassia. Sisko intends to build a ship just like it, using the same tools the Bajorans used then (or as close as he can get). Kira thinks it’s cool that he’s doing it, but O’Brien is skeptical that the ship will be spaceworthy. He’s even more skeptical that such a ship would’ve made it to Cardassia. Kira tartly points out that the Cardassians have always said the same thing—that Bajor could never have achieved interstellar travel before they did.

But Sisko wants to build it and see if it’s spaceworthy—he doesn’t expect to get to Cardassia, he just wants to take it out for a spin. Over the next several weeks, he does just that, using an old cargo bay that Kira has emptied for him.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, Jake

Making it through the Denorios Belt is the hard part. Sisko thinks that if he can just get the ship through there, it’ll go a long way toward proving the ancient Bajorans could’ve done it. Sisko wants to bring Jake along, but Leanna is supposed to be back from Bajor in a week when the ship’s done, and he really wants to see her. Sisko is obviously disappointed, but says he understands.

At one point, Dax comes by to bring him lunch. She’s enjoying seeing this side of him—the last time he geeked out over a project this much was for Jake’s nursery—and also is impressed with the level of detail. The only real difference between Sisko’s ship and the original specs is the gravity net under the deckplates (“Weightlessness makes me queasy”).

Dax also can see how disappointed Sisko is that Jake isn’t coming along. Meanwhile, Jake receives a communiqué from New Zealand that makes him at once happy and sad. He then goes to the cargo bay and asks if the invite to go along is still open. Father gives son a huge-ass hug in reply.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, Dukat

Dukat calls Sisko out of the blue, urging him to reconsider the trip, because it’s incredibly dangerous, and all he’ll be doing is wasting time trying and failing to prove a Bajoran fairy tale.

The Siskos set sail into the wild black yonder. They clear the station then unfurl the sails. Sisko keeps an eye on their course, asking Jake to make the occasional correction. They take a break and eat some zero-G rations, to Jake’s dismay. Sisko gets caught up in the romanticism (and the extreme quiet).

However, Jake needs to have a conversation with his Dad. He starts by handing him a padd containing a short story. Sisko reads the story and likes it—says it shows a lot of promise. Jake reveals that the communiqué was from the Pennington School in New Zealand, who’ve offered him a fellowship. Before they can discuss it further, one of the sails goes wonky…

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Lense

Bashir has been studying up on the latest medical stuff. He tells Dax how competitive he and Lense were in med school and he wants to be able to keep up with her. When the Lexington arrives, Lense (and several of her crewmates) go to Quark’s. Bashir sits with O’Brien across the bar, the latter urging the former to go talk to her. When he finally gets up to do so, she walks right past him without recognizing him at all.

A support strut broke, forcing Sisko to jettison a sail. With only three, he doesn’t think he can make it to the Denorios Belt—but Jake doesn’t think they should give up, so they don’t.

With help from O’Brien, Bashir drowns his sorrows. The pair of them sing “Jerusalem” while spectacularly drunk in O’Brien’s quarters. The chief figures that either Lense is secretly in love with Bashir or really hates him. Bashir decides to confront Lense and find out why she just walked past him—but O’Brien convinces him to wait until morning when he’s sober. Bashir agrees, he collapses on the couch, and they break into “Jerusalem” again.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, O'Brien, Bashir

Jake tells Sisko that he’s not taking the fellowship—he can defer for a year—because he’s worried about Sisko. He hasn’t been on a date in a year. Jake even knows someone who wants to meet Sisko—but before he can tell him about this mystery woman he wants to set his father up with, something hits the ship, the main power goes off, and the ship, somehow, goes to warp.

Sisko realizes that the tachyon eddies near the Denorios belt were able to make the sails move—a normal ship would have too much mass to be affected by something as insubstantial as a tachyon, but the solar sails are designed to be affected by such—and they now have no clue where they are. Reluctantly, Sisko activates the portable com unit in order to contact the station, but there’s no response right away.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, Jake

Bashir finds Lense sitting alone at Quark’s and he, basically, introduces himself. Turns out she thought he was Andorian—he was pointed out to her at a party, which Bashir did attend with his friend Erib, an Andorian, and Lense got the two mixed up. She didn’t see him give his salutatorian speech because she was too busy being nervous about her valedictory address, so she never realized who he was. She also has read up on his work on immunotherapy with Bajorans, and they go off to the infirmary to see his latest results, which probably isn’t a euphemism.

While the Siskos wait for someone to respond to their communication, Jake tells his father about the freighter captain he wants to set him up with. Then three Cardassian ships show up—turns out they’re in the Cardassian system. Dukat contacts them to congratulate them on re-creating the journey of the ancient Bajorans. Turns out, by a startling coincidence, they just now found wreckage of an old Bajoran solar sail ship on Cardassia Prime. Isn’t that amazing?

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers

But they make up for it with a pretty nifty little fireworks display…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity?: In truth, a real solar sail ship would need to have sails that are waaaaaaaaaaaay bigger than this. But the ship does look cool…

The Sisko is of Bajor: We get to see Sisko’s passion for engineering up close and personal as he builds an entire sailing ship from scratch, insisting on re-creating it precisely. (The production team also went for a very Jules Verne-ish sailing ship look.) He was hoping to share it with Jake, and he does eventually, but it’s mainly so son can talk frankly to father without danger of interruption. Which doesn’t entirely work, what with sails breaking and tachyon eddies messing with stuff, but it’s the thought that counts.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko

Don’t ask my opinion next time: Kira is thrilled that Sisko is doing this, hoping he’ll prove that eight centuries earlier, Bajorans did go to Cardassia. She’s the one who provides him with the raw material to build the ship and clears a cargo bay for him.

The slug in your belly: Dax reminds Sisko that she’s been a father more than once and reassures him that he’ll have plenty of adventures with Jake. “I could tell you stories,” she says, and Sisko smiles and says, “You already have.”

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Bashir, Quark

Rules of Acquisition: Quark has a bet with Morn as to how Lense and Bashir’s meeting will go. Quark wins.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: Leeta, a new dabo girl, totally hits all over Bashir before Dax cockblocks him. Meanwhile, Jake wants to set Sisko up with someone, since he hasn’t been on a date in over a year, and Jake himself is still apparently seeing Leanne, despite the disaster that was their double date with Nog and Riska in “Life Support.”

For Cardassia!: Cardassia’s official position is that Bajorans couldn’t possibly have visited Cardassia before the latter achieved faster-than-light travel. When Sisko proves that it could’ve happened thanks to the tachyon eddies near the Denorios Belt, the Cardassian government all of a sudden reveals an archeological find of a Bajoran solar sailboat from eight hundred years earlier. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Bashir

Keep your ears open:

“You’re not an in-between kind of guy. People either love you or hate you.”


“I mean, I hated you when we first met.”

“I remember.”

“And now…”

“And now?”

“Well, now, I don’t.”

“That means a lot to me, Chief, it really does.”

“And that is from the heart! I really do… not hate you anymore.”

O’Brien and Bashir, both really really drunk.

Welcome aboard: Chase Masterson makes her first appearance as Leeta. Intended to be a one-off (and a make-good on rescinding casting her as Mardah in “The Abandoned”), the producers liked her enough to make her a recurring character. She’ll next appear in “Facets.” Meanwhile, Bari Hochwald plays Lense (she’ll also appear in Voyager’s “Friendship One” and Enterprise’s “Marauders”) and Marc Alaimo returns as Dukat.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Bashir, Leeta

Trivial matters: Sisko sports a goatée for the first time, a tonsorial choice he will retain for the rest of the series, the first step in Avery Brooks’s returning to the look he sported as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk. The second step will be taken between the third and fourth seasons when he shaves his head.

This is Lense’s only onscreen appearance, but she’ll become a regular in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series as the chief medical officer of the da Vinci for most of the series’ run. The forthcoming revelation (in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?”) that Bashir is genetically enhanced will lead to trouble for her during the Dominion War, as Starfleet Command questions her for the better part of a month to make sure she’s not genetically enhanced or a changeling infiltrator, as seen in the stories Oaths by Glenn Hauman and your humble rewatcher’s War Stories. She will become pregnant in Wounds (a story that also features Bashir), and give birth after transferring off the da Vinci in Ghost, both stories by Ilsa J. Bick. She transfers to the Starfleet Medical Forensics Division in the latter story, and she’s still there eight years later in A Ceremony of Losses, David Mack’s contribution to The Fall miniseries. (Ilsa and I had been planning to do a six-part eBook miniseries focusing on the SMFD with Lense as the featured character—Ghost was kind of the pilot for that—but the monthly eBook line was cancelled before we could develop it.) Other stories that feature Lense heavily include Hard Crash by Christie Golden, Bitter Medicine by Dave Galanter, and Out of the Cocoon by William Leisner.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Bashir, Lense

Originally, Bashir and O’Brien’s drunken singing was supposed to be of “Louie Louie,” calling back to “Heart of Stone,” but the rights to use the song were too expensive; ditto their second choice of “Rocket Man.” Siddig el-Fadil and Colm Meaney suggested “Jerusalem,” which is public domain, and which both felt was the perfect song for two drunk Brits to warble.

The Siskos’ journey in the lightship was inspired by Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 journey from Peru to Tahiti to see if a pre-Columbian civilization in South America could have sailed to Polynesia.

We’ll see another Bajoran solar sailing ship in “Accession.”

The freighter captain Jake wants to set Sisko up with is Kasidy Yates, whom we’ll meet in “Family Business,” the very next episode. Jake mentions Sisko not having gone on a date in over a year, presumably referring to “Fenna” in “Second Sight.” (Jake may never have been told that she was a telepathic figment.)

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, Dax

The Vanguard series of novels will establish a 23rd-century journalist named Tim Pennington, after whom the school Jake is considering is named.

Walk with the Prophets: “It’s almost like being on the deck of an old sailing ship.” I absolutely adore this episode’s low-tech take on seeking out new life and new civilizations. Sisko’s enthusiasm for the light ship is infectious and delightful, and a side of him we’ve never really seen before—but one that fits, given that we know he has a background in engineering (serving at Utopia Planitia prior to “Emissary”) and ship design (“Defiant” having established that he helped design the titular vessel). I particularly love O’Brien—for whom engineering is work, dammit—going on at great length about how dangerous and risky the whole thing is, and Sisko countering his question as to why he’d do such a crazy-ass thing with, “It’ll be fun!”

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, O'Brien, Kira

And you can see how much fun he’s having putting it together. It’s just a pure delight to watch Sisko in action—which makes his disappointment when Jake evinces absolutely no enthusiasm for going along that much more heartbreaking.

But eventually, we learn that there’s more to it than that. Jake isn’t enthusiastic about the shipbuilding project because he’s more concerned with the fact that his father’s love life is stalling out—and then there’s the Pennington acceptance to think about. As a result, we get several excellent father-son moments. Indeed, this episode really gets to let Avery Brooks shine as Sisko through three of the character’s best facets: his enthusiasm for a fun project, his love for his son, and his friendship with Dax (the scene where she brings him lunch is a masterpiece).

Plus, of course, we have the lovely culture wars between Cardassia and Bajor. It’s something comparatively harmless compared to the other issues between the two nations, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that people argue about, so hearing Kira defend the notion that the ancient Bajorans did sail to Cardassia against all of O’Brien’s skepticism, and Dukat’s dismissal of the very idea all sound very true and real. (I do like that Dukat does seem to be genuinely concerned with Sisko’s safety. Seems their bonding in “The Maquistwo-parter and “Defiant” had an effect…) And I especially like the very science fictional solution, to wit, that the skeptics and the believers were both right. All things being equal, the sailing ship could never have made it to Cardassia—but the tachyon eddies changed the playing field.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Explorers, Sisko, Jake

The B-plot doesn’t hold together as well, though the whole thing’s worth it for the drunken bonding between O’Brien and Bashir. Honestly, even if the rest of the episode was dreadful, it would be elevated tremendously by watching Colm Meaney and Siddig el-Fadil croon “Jerusalem.” And the initial notion of Bashir being nervous about seeing Lense again works okay, but the payoff is totally unconvincing. I just find it impossible to credit that Lense never saw Bashir except at one party. Leaving aside any other consideration, there would’ve been a rehearsal for the graduation ceremony, so her claim that she was too busy stressing about her speech to see his doesn’t track.

Still, a fun little episode. It’s nice to get something a bit lighter after the heaviness of the previous two-parter.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest novel, Gryphon Precinct, is now available in Kindle and Nook format, as well as trade paperback and in audio. This is the fifth book in the acclaimed “Precinct” series of fantasy police procedurals, following Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, and Tales from Dragon Precinct.

About the Author

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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