|O'Brien attempts to fill the role of a Bajoran village elder.|
Sisko has been asked to mediate a dispute between two rival Bajoran factions: the Paqu and the Navot. A 90-year-old treaty established a river as the border between their lands - a river that was diverted by the Cardassians during the Occupation. This new border significantly favors the Paqu, whose new leader is the 15-year-old Varis (Gina Philips). If Varis agrees to re-establish the old borders, that and her youth may make her appear weak - but the alternative may be a civil war!
Meanwhile, Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien go to a Bajoran village to deal with a medical crisis. Bashir arrives expecting a plague or contagion. Instead, he finds that the Sirah (Kay E. Kutler), the village's leader, is dying of old age. When Bashir tells the villagers that there is little he can do, the villagers expect to be destroyed by a mystical creature known as "The Dal'Rock." The Sirah dies and names O'Brien his successor, leaving Bashir and O'Brien to prepare for battle without having any idea what a "Dal'Rock" is or how to fight one!
Commander Sisko: Mostly a remote figure here, seen mainly through the filter of Jake's statements that he is someone smart who can be trusted. When Varis decides to take Jake's faith in his father to heart, Sisko does a decent job of listening to her and advising her in a paternal manner, without actually telling her what to do.
O'Brien: Not at all comfortable at being thrust into the role of "village elder." He is particularly, and amusingly, uncomfortable when the villagers insist on delivering gifts to him - including three pretty young women. The offering of the women at first confuses O'Brien, then sets him to stammering when Bashir tactfully explains why the girls were sent. Colm Meaney is particularly fun to watch at the climax, as he attempts to tell the story and fails miserably. He is almost like a coach giving a pre-game pep talk at one point: [I]"All right, there it is. Let's send this one out! Where are those lights?"[/I]
Dr. Bashir: In the episode's first few minutes, it looks as if we are going to see the return of "Annoying, Obnoxious Comedy Relief" Bashir. Fortunately, this is not the case. The early scenes appear to be a nod toward that early (mis)-characterization, as Bashir's chattiness grates on O'Brien. By showing up-front that Bashir has been as annoying to the other regulars as he's been to the viewers, the writers seem to be acknowledging that they bungled his early episodes. Bashir gets some good scenes acting as the doctor to the dying Sirah, and some genuinely enjoyable comedy as he plays a combination of Greek chorus and interpreter in O'Brien's dealings with the villagers. On the whole, this episode continues last episode's promise of better things for the character in the future.
Jake/Nog: Carry the episode's "B" plot in surprisingly engaging fashion, with their interactions with Varis proving a lot more enjoyable than I expected. Nog becomes jealous enough of Jake's monopolizing the conversation with Varis to be convincing, but it thankfully doesn't lead to extended arguments or a tedious rift in their friendship. Instead, Nog finds his own moment to step up. He learns enough about Varis' problems to offer some particularly Ferengi advice, which ends up being useful to her in turning a problem into an opportunity. Yes, the Rules of Acquisition can be used for good!
Cute Space Babe of the Week: Gina Philips is Varis, who has been made leader of the Paqu after both of her parents were killed by the Cardassians. She is trying to compensate for her youth and lack of experience by digging her heels in on a single position and not wavering, no matter what. This is working out just as well as one would expect. Philips is rather poor in the "negotiation room" scenes, where she fails to convince as either a leader or an ambassador (ironically, the actress' problems mirror the character's). Fortunately, her performance is vastly better in her scenes with Jake and Nog, in which she is called upon simply to behave as a teenage girl. Since there are more of these scenes than there are of the negotiating room scenes, her overall performance ends up being a lot better than it at first appears will be the case.
Deep Space 9 does The Man Who Would Be King, but without all the beheadings at the end. The Storyteller is an expendable episode, but it is an enjoyable one. The O'Brien/Bashir scenes make up the main plot, and their partnership is quite fun to watch. Colm Meaney and Siddig El-Fadil play very well opposite each other, and the characters make a good, Odd Couple-style fit. The "B" plot makes probably the best use of Jake and Nog to date, and reinforces the basic strength of Jake's bond with his father. The "C" plot, with the negotiations, is both less enjoyable and less convincing, but at least it takes up only minimal screen time.
The thing that most annoyed me about the episode was the lack of reference to the events of Battle Lines. Exactly one episode after the departure of Kai Opaka, Sisko is again closely dealing with a Bajoran internal situation. It would have been easy to have included some reference to the Kai, even a mention that with her gone, these small disagreements are starting to turn into major rifts. This would have granted significance to an admittedly fun throwaway episode, while tightening the series' continuity. Even in its early days, Babylon 5 would never have let such a thing pass unmentioned.
In any case, a few too many story strands, and a general feeling of being a bit expendable aside, this is an entertaining episode. A "B" episode, to be sure, but a very pleasant one just the same.
Previous Episode: Battle Lines
Next Episode: Progress
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