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The Future Will Be Carpeted: An Analysis of ‘Deep Space Nine (S1E14)’

“You know what the Cardassians were like.  What weapons they had.  We didn’t stand a chance against them!”
“How’d you beat ‘em then?”
     –Kira and Mullibok

When people say they hate DS9, I’m pretty sure they’re talking about this episode.  That’s not to say it’s bad; on the contrary, it has some nice character work for Nana Visitor’s Major Kira and a great guest turn by Brian Keith as cranky Bajoran farmer Mullibok.  It just exemplifies everything that people complain about whenever DS9 comes up in conversation.  It’s slow.  They don’t go anywhere.  Bajorans are annoying.  Sometimes, I think that the people who dislike DS9 (also known as “The Factually Incorrect”) have only ever seen this episode.  That would be like judging the entirety of TNG on “The Royale.”

Bajor is planning to tap the molten core of Jerrado, one of their five moons (Five! Bajoran tides must be bonkers. But, I digress.) to provide some much needed energy.  The tiny population living on this moon has been evacuated, save for three individuals: old man Mullibok and his two assistants, a pair of Bajorans who can no longer speak due to some atrocity visited on them during the Occupation.  Kira’s job is to get them off the moon, so that once the core tapping turns the atmosphere into a choking miasma of hell, they won’t, you know, die.  Mullibok doesn’t want to go.  And, that’s it.  That’s the conflict of the episode.

The fascinating part becomes apparent when viewed through the lens of Major Kira.  She’s essentially a character being discovered in reverse.  She spent the entirety of her life under a brutal Occupation, and during that time she got very, very good at murdering Cardassians.  Now, there’s just no market for that particular skill set.  We’re picking up with her as her unofficial membership in a resistance cell has turned into a bona fide military rank, and she’s been plunked onto a space station to liaise with Starfleet.  This would be like exploring the character of Kyle Reese after he safely got back from his final mission and made a life in post-Skynet Earth by opening up a store that sells pipe bombs or something. (Reese didn’t really have marketable skills either.)  We still have not seen Resistance Fighter Kira, we’re only seeing fish-out-of-water Kira.

This episode plays with that characterization.  Here, Kira is the person of the unstoppable government trampling on the rights of an individual.  Mullibok is the person of the Resistance, basically giving Kira the choice between respecting his inalienable rights, something she fought, bled, and killed for, and doing what she has to do by force.  All she has to do to complete her assignment is become a Cardassian.  I mean, she could stun the guy, transport him off, and get him to a doctor, but then we get into a whole slippery slope thing.  The point is, this is pretty much the most uncomfortable position in the world for Kira, but, as Sisko points out, she’s part of the establishment and she’s going to have to get used to that fact.

Meanwhile, on the station, Quark is upset at Rom for ordering a shipment of Cardassian yamok sauce.  I have no idea what yamok sauce is, other than the obvious: it’s a Cardassian condiment.  I’ve always imagined it was similar to garum, the popular Roman sauce made from fermented fish. (No, seriously, Romans were gross.)  I have absolutely no evidence for this.  Anyway, Nog decides he can sell the yamok sauce and generously brings Jake in on the deal.  Writer Ira Steven Behr, who was in the process of taking control of the series and would be the showrunner for the bulk of its run, stated that he wanted to reference Catch-22’s wheeling and dealing Capitalist mastermind Milo Minderbinder with this plot.  (Side note here, Catch-22 is my favorite book, so any reference is welcome.)  The boys do finally get a good deal for their yamok sauce, which they trade for self-sealing stem bolts, which they trade for land, which they sell for latinum.  Yes, this marks the first appearance of DS9’s favorite MacGuffin, the self-sealing stem bolt.  Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, helpfully defines these as “stem bolts that seal themselves.”  Thanks, Memory Alpha.  I’m going to slam my head against a wall in an effort to forget that.

With such a thin plot, there’s room for several short scenes that imply that the crew is starting to warm up to one another.  Sisko flat out tells Kira he didn’t like her when he arrived, but he’s grown to respect, like, and even need her.  As the Emissary grows more important in Bajoran mythology over the run of the show, this scene takes on deeper meaning.  Imagine being a devout Christian and having Jesus literally be like, “Yeah, I thought you were a dick, but I, Jesus Christ, was incorrect in that assessment.  Now, I think you’re pretty chill, and all of planet Earth needs you to be awesome.”  I should point out here that I’ve always imagined Jesus to talk like a bit of a bro.  I have no idea why.  I blame violent video games.

The Jake and Nog friendship continues apace, and it’s refreshing to see a human participating in the culture of another species free of judgment.  There’s no lesson at the end of the episode that Capitalism and, thus, Ferengi culture, is somehow wrong or inferior.  Nope, just two friends selling condiments for fun.  Like kids do.

Lastly, on the runabout just before beaming down, Dax and Kira have a personal conversation.  I get the impression that Dax is an oversharer, who just happily rambles on about whatever is going on in her lives.  In this case, she’s relating a story of being asked out by DS9’s resident barfly Morn.  Now, I bring this up to point out the burgeoning friendship between Kira and Dax, but mostly because I want to talk about Morn and I haven’t found a good spot to do it yet.  Morn has been around since the first episode and is a rather distinctive alien design: he sort of looks like a humanoid potato stuffed into a puffy spacesuit.  Originally, the writers intended him to have dialogue, but as it kept getting cut they eventually decided he’d remain silent.  It eventually becomes a running gag with characters reference Morn’s loquaciousness, or open scenes by imploring him to shut up.  Here, Dax allows that while she turned Morn down for a date, she does find him cute.  Cue the horrified reaction from Kira.

While I enjoy this episode, it is far from flawless.  If you’re trying to convert a new viewer to DS9’s greatness, it’s best to hold this one back.  For now.

Next up: O’Brien learns that gum he likes is going to come back in style.




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