As long as the trappings are right, the story is lumped into that genre without concern as to what’s actually going on within it. I imagine this is for philistines who can’t handle seeing an alien without being warned in advance. Star Trek, as a whole, runs with this creative freedom, telling stories that range from the comic adventures of the crew dealing with an infestation of adorable, furry blobs, to the body horror of worms crawling into their ears and taking over their thoughts. DS9 takes this freedom to an exhilarating extreme, often bouncing between radically differing genres in the very same episode. “The Circle,” ostensibly a story about a xenophobic terrorist group acquiring military grade weapons, features a scene directly inspired by the Marx Brothers.
That scene comes early on as Major Kira packs up her stuff for the transfer back to Bajor. As she’s packing, characters keep showing up and joining a conversation in progress they barely understand. It works as comedy, it’s a great way to show off the easy chemistry the cast has developed over the previous season, and it even allows theformerly standoffish Kira to acknowledge (to late arriving Vedek Bareil) that the array of aliens in her quarters are her friends.
This is probably as good a place as any to discuss our good friend the Vedek. He’s set up as the nice, earthy, humble contrast to the ruthless, sanctimonious, and power-hungry Winn, and in that, he’s just fine. In this episode, he’s positioned as a love interest for Kira, and in that he does not work at all. Even the fact that this relationship is signed off on by the Prophets -- in a vision Kira gets after looking into the Orb of Prophecy and Change -- feels like the writers shilling a little too hard for this pairing. In all his “romantic” scenes, Bareil comes off as a creeper, so this feels less like a monk falling in love with a soldier, and more like some guy measuring Kira for the skin suit he wants to make out of her. When he invites her to spend some time at the monastery, you half expect a smash cut to him dancing alone in a basement to Q Lazzarus.
Meanwhile, while Kira and Bareil hang out at the monastery, Sisko has his hands full with the Circle. On Bajor, things are even worse as tensions have exploded into a shooting war. While the Circle has somehow acquired military-grade weaponry, the actual Bajoran military refuses to engage them. Odo is tasked with finding out where they’re getting the guns, and in an excellent scene utilizing Rene Auberjonois’ and Armin Shimerman’s comedic gifts, Odo deputizes Quark to poke his lobes where they don’t belong. “You’re a deputy or you’re a prisoner,” Odo says. “I’m a deputy,” Quark sighs. These two make an incredible team -- not that either one would care to admit it -- with Quark tracing the weapons to the non-militaristic Kressari race, and Odo discovering that the Kressari are just a front for the Cardassians. That’s right, the Cardassians are arming the Circle to drive out the Federation, after which time the Cardassians can come right back and take over the wormhole. It’s this kind of magnificent bastardry that makes me admire the spoonheads.
Back on Bajor, the Circle abducts Kira: you know it’s them, because they’re in the same creepy masks and robes combo they wore when branding Quark last episode. She wakes up in a cave helpfully tagged with the Circle’s symbol. I know it’s there for the audience, but it really seems like a silly thing for them to put up. I mean, who is it for? Tourists who get lost? New recruits? Does Al-Qaeda tag their caves, and I never heard about it? Anyway, she wakes up, and who’s there but Minister Jaro. It’s Frank Langella, so we knew he was evil. He’s preparing a coup against the Bajoran Provisional Government, and he wants to know from Kira what the Federation would do in response. She refuses to talk, so he has her tortured. Nice guy, right? It gets even worse when he has a meeting later with Winn. While he preens over his soon-to-be successful coup, she angles for the promotion to Kai. They’re gross and I want to shoot them.
Thanks to Quark, though, the crew learns where the Circle’s headquarters are, and they send a rescue mission. The funny part is on DS9, the “red shirts” tend to be Bajoran security personnel, and thus wear beige. “Beige shirts” doesn’t really have the same cultural cache, though, so if I refer to “red shirts,” remember they’re in beige. Anyway, Li Nalas goes along on the mission, pointing out that he was a soldier first and he owes Kira for what she did for him. They rescue Kira, but the situation has deteriorated in the meantime. Bajoran assault ships (I guess they haven’t built proper warships yet?) are en route to DS9 and are demanding Starfleet evacuate within seven hours. Sisko is ordered to leave, but this is a man who doesn’t know how to walk away from a fight. Using the flimsiest of excuses, he’s planning to wait for the Circle and show them what three quadrants will soon know to be the most inescapable of truths: Do not f--k with Ben Sisko.
Next up: Dax reveals her fear of spiders.