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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S1E2)’

“It was so much easier when I knew who the enemy was.”  — Major Kira Nerys


DS9’s great strength has always been its sprawling cast.  While the other entries in the franchise largely confined their drama to the command staff of a starship with the occasional reoccurring player, DS9 built a rogue’s gallery of guest stars, many of whom were among the show’s strongest characters.  Of these, a single man stands atop all others and remains my favorite amongst any of the Trek shows.  That man?  Garak.  Plain, simple Garak.

Garak is introduced in this episode with only a hint of what a fascinating, complex, and downright magnificent bastard he will become.  Really, at first he comes off as nothing more than some creep hitting on a clueless Dr. Bashir.  There is one thing instantly remarkable in his reptilian presence, and that’s that Garak is Cardassian, the only one left on the station, in fact, and the persistent rumor is that he is a spy for his people.  Garak insists he’s a simple tailor, laughing off this whole spy nonsense.  Casting Andrew Robinson (no relation) in the role, who is most famous as the Scorpio Killer (a.k.a. the guy on the wrong end of “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?”), is a pretty big hint that Garak is more than he says he is.

Garak approaches Bashir ostensibly for friendship (with romantic subtext — Robinson considered Garak to be of inclusive sexuality, and it shows in the performance), which utterly baffles poor, naïve Julian.  Sisko believes that this relationship is Cardassia’s way of opening an unofficial channel of communication with Starfleet and encourages Bashir to be friendly.  Garak’s goal, at least in the short term, is to make the Federation aware of a terror plot hatching on the station, but he couches it in spy language, telling Bashir to come by at a specific time to buy a suit.  Bashir never quite understands that the suit-buying is a ruse (and the funniest moment of the episode is when he holds up a space-age ‘90s blazer in the mirror to see how it would look on him), and he’s just there to eavesdrop on a meeting between a Bajoran terrorist and a pair of familiar Klingons.

The Duras Sisters, Lursa and B’Etor, who made a career of bothering the Enterprise, have arrived to do the same to the station.  They’re more important in drawing a connection between the series, reassuring people that Deep Space Nine exists in Picard’s universe than they ever are to the plot.  They’re not unwelcome additions, but they do feel at least a little tacked on, since their only purpose in the narrative is a) to establish to the audience that a specific character is shady and b) to give him half a bomb.  Odo, having perused their extensive criminal records, just wants to lock them up.  Sisko (much like Walter Sobchak) roundly rejects the concept of prior restraint, leaving Odo to gripe, “Cardassian rule may have been oppressive, but at least it was simple.”

I really should be talking about the actual plot of the episode, but the first appearance of Garak distracted me.  Sorry about that. I’m just anticipating the awesome that will soon follow in his wake like an angelic choir.  The real story begins when Ops (that’s DS9 for “bridge”) detects a Cardassian ship firing on a much smaller Bajoran ship like it’s the beginning of Star Wars or something.  This is a problem, because we’re in Bajoran space, and presumably the treaty between Cardassia and Bajor included a provision about not shooting at one another.  As the Bajoran ship gets blown to pieces, O’Brien manages to beam out the sole occupant.  His name is Tahna Los, he’s an old friend of Kira’s from the La Resistance, and he wants political asylum.

The Cardassians are pretty mad.  They accuse Tahna (Remember, Bajoran names are last name first, first name last.) of being part of the Kohn-Ma, a Bajoran extremist group that never stopped fighting the war.  They’re so extreme — and I mean like Al-Qaeda extreme, not jumping out of helicopters to do snowboard tricks extreme — they’ve even assassinated at least one minister in the Bajoran Provisional Government.  Tahna never denies his membership in the Kohn-Ma but does claim that they’re ready to leave violence behind.  Kira is all about backing her old pal and believes in the need to repatriate groups like the Kohn-Ma to create a united Bajor.  There’s a bit of tension between the old friends as Tahna wants a truly independent Bajor and makes a lot of passive-aggressive sellout comments at Kira, while Kira believes that Starfleet serves a purpose: namely keeping the Cardassians from invading again now that there’s a super valuable wormhole to be claimed.

While Kira works on the Provisional Government to grant amnesty for Tahna and the other Kohn-Ma (I imagine at least some of this included the sending of fruit baskets to the family of the minister they killed.), Tahna meets up with the Duras sisters.  He’s buying some bilitrium, which when combined with an anti-matter converter can be made into a powerful bomb. (This deal includes the first mention of gold-pressed latinum, and there’s a passing mention of it as “gold,” which will become a goof in a couple seasons.)  The Duras sisters instantly try to betray Tahna to the Cardassians (I think betrayal a behavioral tic with them at this point.), in the aforementioned meeting that Garak has Bashir eavesdrop on.

Meanwhile, Tahna tries to recruit Kira into whatever insane plan he has, keeping the whole doomsday bomb thing to himself.  He needs one of the station’s runabouts, and I realize I should probably pause here to explain what a runabout is, since they’re fairly important on the show.  They’re sort of like the ship equivalent of brunch, in that they’re not quite ships and they’re not quite shuttles, but you get a decent vessel with a phaser array.  They’re all named after Earth rivers, and DS9’s current complement includes the Rio Grande, the Yangtzee Kiang, and the Ganges.  There’s a ton of turnover, since runabouts are about as durable as your standard tissue, if you sneezed photon torpedoes.  In unrelated news, I just got the best idea for a superhero comic.

Anyway, Tahna doesn’t explain what he’s up to until he has the bomb in hand, proving he’s seen at least one Bond movie.  He’s going to blow up the wormhole.  With that gone, Bajor will no longer be important in the quadrant, and everyone can just go home.  Knowing what I know, and knowing what’s on the other side of that wormhole, maybe blowing it up wouldn’t be so bad?  It’d safe them some trouble, but they don’t know that yet.  It does strike me as odd, though, that a Bajoran (who are established, over and over, as a profoundly religious people — and hey, who could blame them? I’d be religious too if there were a bunch of godlike beings who could see the future living on the moon.), would ever risk a bomb going off near the Celestial Temple.  Oh, Tahna says he just wants to close it, but come on.  I’m pretty sure that a faithful person wouldn’t want C4 anywhere near Jesus Christ, or Ganesh, or Ahura Mazda, or Cthulhu.  You know, whatever your deity of choice, you have to think that blowing up the door to their house isn’t on the list of okay things to do.  Then again, it’s not in the Bible, and that book has its share of rules.

Kira, unaware of the actual plan, does a little soul searching about whether she should help her old pal or the Federation, who she regards as a necessary evil.  Either way, she’s betraying someone.  “The important thing is that you don’t betray yourself,” Odo counsels.  With that in mind, she pretends to go along with Tahna while Sisko and O’Brien tail them in another runabout.  Once the plan is in motion, Tahna finally mentions his wacky idea about bombing heaven.  There’s a fight, and they end up spewing the bomb into the Gamma Quadrant before returning home, before Kira can subdue Tahna and place him in custody.

DS9 once again reaffirms its Darker ‘n’ Grittier vision with the very end.  If viewers were hoping Tahna would suddenly “get it,” maybe tearfully promise to do better, they’d be disappointed.  Kira tries to explain that everything is different and Bajor needs to adapt to survive.  Tahna merely looks at her like something he found on the bottom of his shoe after a nice jog through a field of used diapers, and spits, “Traitor.”  Sisko opens his mouth to say something, but there’s nothing to be said.  That word, “traitor,” hangs in the air as the credits roll.

Next up: Jake and Nog embark on the epic bromance that defines the series.




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