|Kai Opaka comforts Kira.|
The station's command crew are surprised when Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) abruptly takes Sisko up on his offer to show her the station. When it becomes clear how interested the Kai is in the wormhole, Sisko decides to take her on a trip through it.
It's meant to be a quick trip - through and back again. But when they investigate a signal from a nearby moon, they are fired upon and crash. Opaka is killed, while the others find themselves thrown in amongst a group of prisoners known as the Ennis, who are in the midst of a brutal war. After an attack in which the Ennis take heavy casualties, Sisko, Bashir, and Kira discover that this moon has another secret.
Anyone who dies will return to life - again and again and again, until life itself becomes a curse!
Commander Sisko: Flatly refuses to become involved in the conflict, but he does offer aid, in the form of Bashir's medical expertise, in exchange for the Ennis' protection while awaiting rescue. When it becomes clear that this is a neverending conflict, he attempts to mediate peace, offering both sides a way off the moon.
Major Kira: Though she has grown to respect Sisko, she still does not always defer to him. Following the attack in the caves, she gets worked up, trying to organize a more effective defense. When Sisko orders her to stop, she ignores him. Only the Kai's intervention keeps her from willful disobedience. Her absolute respect for and faith in Kai Opaka is evident throughout, from her instant obedience of her soft-spoken urgings to her grief at the woman's (temporary) death. Nana Visitor gets some strong scenes here, particularly an emotional moment in which she tries to deny her own violent nature even as she clearly worries that her personality is defined by that violence.
Dr. Bashir: Finally, a genuinely good episode for him! "Dr. Cocky Horndog" is given a rest, and instead we get a Bashir-heavy episode in which he is characterized through his medical abilities and his caring for life. The result plays to Siddig El-Fadil's strengths, and allows the regular I would most eagerly thrust out an airlock to emerge as a likable figure.
Dax/O'Brien: These two are paired for "B" plot duties, acting as a search and rescue team for the others. Dax interprets the clues left by the Sisko's shuttle, tracking the landing party to the moon. O'Brien then pulls out a dazzling array of Technobabble Techniques to locate Sisko's party and beam them back aboard.
It isn't much of a reach to draw a direct line between the endless war of this episode and the Occupation that is this series' principal backstory. It's about as subtle as a nail-studded 2x4 to the cranium, but this isn't really a problem, as it allows for a scenario that connects very effectively with Kira's character. Nana Visitor, already the series' strongest regular, gets some superb character material, and her emotional turmoil keeps this episode gripping.
I have to give credit to the makeup department. The Nol and the Ennis look like residents of hell: filthy, battered, and battle-scarred. When Shel-la (Jonathan Banks) drops his mask of being reasonable and starts ranting about "wiping (the Nol) out" and not allowing "a single Nol to leave this moon alive," the combination of the scarred look granted by the makeup and the actor's own ability to create villains is genuinely unsettling.
The script also further expands the basic situation on Bajor through its treatment of Kai Opaka. Though she was previously seen in Emissary, this episode gives us a much stronger sense of what she means to the Bajorans, and why. Her "death," and what follows it, should have some impact on the show that follows... and in the case of Deep Space 9, I find myself a bit more hopeful that it actually will be followed up on than I would be with other Trek shows.
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