When a Cardassian warship pursues a Bajoran ship into Bajoran space, Commander Sisko orders the pilot beamed out of the disintegrating vessel. The pilot is Tahna (Jeffrey Nordling), a Bajoran freedom fighter who is a member of an infamous Bajoran terrorist group which has continued perpetrating violence against the Cardassians even after the Cardassian withdrawal from Bajor.
Tahna claims to be done with violence, and requests asylum. Not wanting to cause a rift with Bajor, Sisko grants the request despite his own doubts. But when Security Chief Odo observes Tahna meeting with two Klingon terrorists, and a Cardassian spy (Andrew Robinson) passes additional information along to Dr. Bashir, it becomes clear that action will need to be taken - and soon - to prevent disaster.
Commander Sisko: Though he's in a lot of the episode, this actually is not a very good episode for him. The writers don't appear to have figured out who Sisko is yet. There's really nothing about his handling of the situation that differs from what Picard would do. Avery Brooks does show a bit of spark when he tells Kira exactly what will happen if she ever goes over his head again. But with the exception of that scene, it's a mostly wooden performance, as if the actor can't find the character or simply is aware that the character isn't there this time.
Major Kira: In a pleasant surprise, she still bristles under Sisko's command here. When Sisko won't commit to granting Tahna asylum instantly, Kira attempts to go over his head to his superiors. This shows that she still doesn't trust him to make the right decisions, at least not when it comes to issues close to her own background. It shows something else about Kira. She may have experience as a fighter, but she is politically naive if she truly believes that breaking chain of command simply to express personal disapproval will have any positive result for her. The admiral's response - to warn Sisko that he has "a problem" with "that Bajoran woman" - is not unpredictable, and anyone with an ounce of political sense would have known better. Nana Visitor gives the episode's best performance, a good thing given that this is a "Kira spotlight" episode, and anchors the show quite strongly.
Dr. Bashir: Still largely being written as an overeager fool, bad comedy relief more than anything. The scene in the teaser in which he runs to the bridge, overexcited at being contacted by Garak "the spy," is pitiful. I felt pained both for the character, embarrassing himself to the amusement of the other regulars, and for the viewing of a scene that strives so hard for comedy and fails to achieve it. The actor is capable of better, and my viewing of Trials and Tribble-ations assures me that he'll eventually get better material... but for now, he's actually looking like the weak link in this show's cast.
Garak: Andrew Robinson debuts as Garak, the Cardassian tailor who is the sole Cardassian still on the station. In his first appearance, he's already an intriguing character. He puts up an innocuous front, but has no problem in all but directly letting the Federation people on the station know that he actually is the spy he's reputed to be, so long as he's working through Bashir. Robinson, a veteran actor, gives an effortlessly excellent performance. With actors such as him and Rene Auberjonois around, I'm thinking this is easily the best Trek cast - no serious weak links, and several actors with very respectable careers already behind them.
Though not quite as strong as Emissary, this is a good Episode Two. Enough exposition is still flying around that anyone tuning in for the first time here would get all the information needed about the show's background to continue to follow future episodes. At the same time, the episode presents a solid standalone plot that feeds on the backstory of the series and the events of the pilot. The discovery of the wormhole, in particular, is a major plot point for this episode.
The episode is at its weakest with the Sisko character. Neither the writers (at least of this episode) nor the actor seem entirely comfortable with him here, and the episode feels very much as if it was written for "generic commander." Fortunately, it's at its strongest when dealing with Kira, who actually fares better as a character here than in the pilot. We find that her issues with Sisko and Starfleet were not entirely resolved at the end of the pilot, and we learn more about her backstory as well. Nana Visitor is extremely good, particularly when she reacts to Tahna calling her a "traitor" at one point (a splendid nonverbal reaction from Visitor).
With a solid guest turn by the reliable Jeffrey Nordling, and a plot that - while somewhat predictable - moves along at a decent pace and directly impacts one of the show's leads, this is another promising installment in DS9's first season.
Previous Episode: Emissary
Next Episode: A Man Alone
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