“So honor the valiant who died ‘neath your sword,
But pity the warrior who slays all his foes.”
— from Fall of Kang, by G’Trok
Traditionally, the captains are the stars of each Trek show, so it might be surprising to note that until this hour, Sisko has not been the main character of an episode since the pilot. There’s a compelling argument to be made he’s the hero of the Dax episodes (and that’s a whole other problem), and possibly parts two and three of the Bajoran Trilogy (Though those are so sprawling, it’s tough to single out one person.), but a show really entirely about the man in charge? Sisko had turned into an aloof authority figure, and it was time to humanize him.
It did not go well.
Not to say that Sisko isn’t humanized here, but it’s in his few scenes with Jake rather than the engine of this limp hour that does it. The episode opens with Sisko’s station log (not Captain’s Log, since he hasn’t reached that rank), explaining that it’s been four years since the massacre at Wolf 359 and the death of his wife Jennifer. What disturbs Sisko the most is that the sad anniversary nearly passed unnoticed. That’s the paradox of mourning: we want to get to the place where the memory of a loved one no longer hurts, and yet as soon as that place comes within reach, we recoil. To paraphrase Captain Kirk, we need our pain. He’s losing Jennifer bit by bit every day, and there is nothing he can do about it. Jake wakes up in the middle of the night to find his father brooding and shares the nightmare that woke him up. In the dream, he was desperately trying to find Sisko, and there, in the stillness of their quarters, Sisko says, “Here I am.” It’s so simple, and once again shows us what a great father Ben Sisko is, a phenomenon practically unheard of in science fiction. Jake is comforted, but says, “I miss her.” “Me too,” Sisko says, and father and son are united in remembrance of the most important woman in the world to both of them.
The second scene happens after Sisko has fallen in love with a mysterious woman he met while wandering the Promenade. Jake was in the middle of telling a story over dinner — and in true fashion, it’s a gross teenaged boy story about someone vomiting — and Sisko is daydreaming. Rather than being upset that his son is talking about vomit at the dinner table, he apologizes. Jake asks him point blank if he’s in love, pointing out that he has all the signs Nog described. Then, quietly, Jake tells him, “It’s okay if you are.” This benediction is the sweetest gift a child can give a widowed parent, and Sisko understands it for what it is. He sincerely thanks his son, and it got pretty dusty in my living room. I had to turn on a show about trucks that hit other trucks and also make chili for some reason just to get back to normal.
So, who is this woman? Her name is Fenna, and she’s some kind of alien. The only clue as to her species is that her ears are superficially similar to those of the Ocampa, but they’re out in the Delta Quadrant. She appears out of nowhere, flirts with Sisko, and then vanishes suddenly. With apologies to Nathan Rabin, who has stated a desire to retire his Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, Fenna does hit some of the beats. Her lack of an inner life is a bit more excusable than it would be in a film, as there’s only so much time an individual episode has to devote to its guest stars. Plus, Star Trek has always been a mystery show: you can’t introduce a love interest for your main character out of nowhere without something weird and spacey going on.
In this case, the weirdness is explained with the arrival of Dr. Gideon Seyetik, a terraformer who has stopped on the station en route to his crowning achievement of reigniting a dead star. Seyetik is a bombastic genius, a man who can’t help crowing about himself at the slightest provocation. It’s tough to argue. The man’s job is making planets. If the Federation still required W-2s, he wouldn’t be out of line listing his occupation as “God.” Even as he boasts about his autobiography (nine volumes and counting), his painting (biggest canvases Bashir has ever seen), or some waterfalls (as tall as Mount Everest), he occasionally displays an undercurrent of sadness. He won’t be able to top the resurrection of a star, so everything after this triumph — and his success is a foregone conclusion — will be downhill. He’s even driven to quote Klingon poetry, which is the country music of the Star Trek universe. Seyetik has arrived with a Federation crew (including a commanding officer who is so wooden I swear he has to fight termites) and his wife Nidell. And, wouldn’t you know it? Nidell is a dead ringer for Fenna.
They dress differently, Nidell looking a bit like Claire Huxtable in space, while Fenna looks like she should be running in slow motion through a Bryan Adams video, but it’s the same woman. Sisko’s a bit concerned, and Dax is like, “So what, she’s married, wouldn’t have stopped Curzon.” At this point, I don’t think Curzon’s penis could be restrained by earthly means. If he was here, he’d probably want to get that dead star pregnant. Nidell has no memory of romancing Sisko, while Fenna continues to pop up in his quarters. Well, turns out that Nidell is part of a race of projecting telepaths, and they can make avatars out of energy in times of stress, but this puts them in comas. I . . . I don’t know how evolution would let something like that happen. “Let’s see, this guy dies when he panics and this person doesn’t . . . wonder who breeds?” Anyway, she’s fallen out of love with Seyetik (like all his wives do), but since her species mates for life, she’s stuck.
It’s not exactly riveting television. The ending works reasonably well, with Seyetik plunging himself into the star. He’s solving his own problem of never topping this achievement, and he’s dying in a pretty awesome way. He’s also setting Nidell free of her commitment to him. Plus, he gets the amazing final words of “Let there be light!” and he really means it, as the dead ball crackles to blazing life. The problem is, there isn’t enough action to support an entire story, and there is no b-plot to give Sisko’s hunt for his mystery woman a breath. Perhaps it was just a bit too ambitious — a terraformer, an energy projector, an enigmatic woman — to come together in the time they had. And, perhaps Sisko as a character just needed to know that he was allowed to move on, because once he does, really does, he finds himself a truly great and fascinating woman.
Next up: Bajor is officially nice enough to move to.