The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S6E26)’

“Take us to Cardassia, Mr. Nog.”
    -- Captain Benjamin Sisko

Whenever I think about running a television show, my sphincter clenches up with the tensile strength of an industrial vice. Too many outside factors determine the stories you’re allowed to tell: your ratings, your network, your executives, your actors, and so forth and so on. Although we call them “talking props” in the industry, it turns out actors are creative folks with thoughts, ideas, and feelings about what they’re doing. And, sometimes, they just up and walk away.

At this point in the show, Terry Farrell (a.k.a. Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax) was done. I can hardly blame her. From the beginning, she was a problematic character, and the writers never got a handle on telling stories for her. In the beginning, her best tales were always about something Curzon had done, and later, she turned into a supporting character in Worf’s tales. I think she’s an interesting idea, and in many ways one of the most successful feminist portrayals in science fiction (especially at the time), but she never quite came together. I’m not just saying that because I still regard season three’s “Meridian,” a Dax episode, as the worst the series had to offer.

Terry Farrell got another job on another series, and suddenly the writers had to get rid of her character. She thought it would be best (and I agree) to have her death come in “Change of Heart,” having Worf leave her behind to accomplish a mission. The writers disagreed, saying that would compromise Worf’s character too much. Instead, they started laying the groundwork for it, having both Quark and Bashir realize they were still a little in love with her, having her and Worf talk about starting a family, and having Chief O’Brien mention that death is inevitable in his goodbye toast for Captain Cusak. Essentially, the writers couldn’t control whether Farrell would stay, but they could make it hurt more when she left.

They decided to continue the thread introduced in “The Reckoning,” showing the cost of Kai Winn’s lack of faith. Because the Reckoning never occurred, Kosst Amojan (Space Satan) was never defeated, and he can still mess stuff up royally for our heroes. While I’m not the biggest fan of the Prophet/Pah-wraith conflict, I can justify the pseudo-mysticism of it with the idea that these races are almost impossibly alien. They don’t really get linear time and can scarcely communicate with corporeal entities. They’re nearly Lovecraftian, and that’s one reason why the red-eyed mustache-twirling of the Pah-wraiths always rubbed me the wrong way.

Starfleet has decided they’ve been playing defense for too long. It’s time to start the invasion of Cardassia, and Ben Sisko (recent recipient of the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor) is tapped to plan it. Additionally, in a nice bit of continuity, he’s also serving in his position as Emissary for the Bajoran Gratitude Festival (introduced way back in season three’s “Fascination”). Sisko locates a weak point in Cardassian lines: the Chin’toka System, which soon becomes important in DS9 lore, and guarded mostly by autonomous weapons platforms that have yet to come online. He convinces the Romulans to join a joint Starfleet-Klingon taskforce to take the system out.

That’s when the Prophets warn him not to go. Once again, they tell him he is “of Bajor,” like this is supposed to mean something. Eventually, he manages to tease out that this is a prohibition against leaving, and Sisko is forced to choose between his identities. Admiral Jenner lays it out for him: Sisko’s been trying to be both a Starfleet officer and the Emissary of the Prophets, and Starfleet is getting mighty tired of it. In many ways, Sisko’s true arc on the show is that decision, and this is the low point in his journey. He chooses Starfleet Officer, and while he wins a temporal victory, the price is far higher than he wanted to pay.

That price is the life of Jadzia Dax, in case anyone wasn’t following. There’s more, but that’s the one we, as viewers, can empathize with. This is the result of Dukat’s new plan of ultimate evil. He returns to Cardassia from exile, having firmly embraced his status as villain, and gets permission from Weyoun and Damar (the new head of the Cardassian government) to root through the archives for an artifact stolen from Bajor. Dukat finds it, and after conducting a short ritual, gets himself possessed by a pah-wraith. Though it’s never said in this episode, it’s later confirmed that the possessor is none other than Kosst Amojan, who is only still kicking around because Winn prevented the Reckoning. (Alternately, he could have won the Reckoning and would still be around with dramatically weakened Prophets, but we’ll never know, now will we?)

Dukat beams onto DS9 (He’s still tooling around in that Starfleet shuttle he had in “Waltz,” so presumably he can get around Starfleet security.) and touches an Orb of the Prophets, turning it black. Later, it’s confirmed that all the Orbs everywhere went as dead as this one. Unfortunately, Dax was in the temple as well, saying her thanks to the Prophets. Earlier in the episode, Kira told her she prayed to the Prophets to help Dax and Worf conceive, and when the gene-resequencers Bashir gave Dax went ridiculously well (conceiving a child for a Klingon and a Trill is no easy task), Dax was thinking she should thank the Prophets. Dukat/Kosst Amojan kills her with space magic.

In one of the best, and in some ways strangest, moments of the episode, Dukat pauses at the dying Jadzia and tells her that he never wanted to harm her. I don’t know if I believe him, but more importantly to his character, I believe that in that moment, he believes it. His beef is with Sisko and through him, the Prophets. The true damage of Dukat’s action is revealed when the wormhole collapses in on itself, apparently closing permanently. Sisko feels a disturbance in the Force and has to be helped off the bridge by his son (there as a war correspondent) just before the attack on the Chin’toka System as those supposedly offline weapons platforms come online and begin slicing up the good guy fleet.

The task force [thanks to quick thinking from O’Brien and Garak (along to help liberate his homeworld, and who cares because we love Garak)] disables the weapons platforms and takes Chin’toka. It’s the first actual gains the good guys have had in the war, and the first time victory seems like a possibility. Even the cost of leaving -- the closed wormhole -- hurts the Dominion more as they can’t bring reinforcements over.

For Sisko, the victory is a pyrrhic one at best. He succeeded as a Starfleet Officer, but failed as the Emissary and lost his best friend because of it. He takes a leave of absence from the station, and the last shot of the season is him washing clams in the alley outside his father’s restaurant. Most telling is what he took with him: his iconic baseball. The one he left on his desk as a message for Dukat that he would return, and the one he leaves to Kira in the final episode of the show as a legacy and a blessing. Sisko took the baseball to Earth.

He doesn’t know if he’s coming back.


Next up: Sisko works some stuff out.

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