Sunday, February 27, 2011

2-10. Sanctuary

Refugees from the Gamma Quadrant.


When a badly-damaged ship comes through the wormhole, Sisko orders the occupants beamed aboard. At first, the Universal Translator is unable to decipher their language. Finally, Haneek (Deborah May), the leader of the Skrreans, is able to make herself understood. She tells Sisko and Kira that her people are refugees, trapped on the other side of the wormhole, and begs them to bring her people here to safety. There's one big problem with her request, though. The Skrreans number about 3 million!


Commander Sisko: Is very diplomatic in dealing with the Skrreans' prejudices about males. He is understanding that they're a female-dominated society, and does not take offense when the Skrreans stare at him and the other men. He works hard at finding a planet that is ideal for settlement by them. When Haneek decides that her people should settle on Bajor, Sisko facilitates that request to Bajor.  Nevertheless, he knows what their answer must be and continues gently but firmly pushing the planet he has found.

Major Kira: As someone already juggling more responsibility than she perhaps can comfortably handle, Kira finds it easy to sympathize with Haneek. The two quickly become friends, and Kira seems to relax in Haneek's presence. At the same time, Kira's first loyalty is to her own people. When the provisional government makes its inevitable ruling against Haneek, Kira makes it clear that she supports that decision - even at the cost of Haneek's friendship.

Quark: Develops a rapid prejudice against the Skrreans. They're everywhere, Quark complains, and "they don't buy anything." He finds them to be a general nuisance, and quickly generalizes that to the entire Skrrean people - setting a bad example for Nog in the process.


Sanctuary is a well-intentioned story, basically about asylum seekers. It has compassion, but not to the extent that it isn't realistic when the Skrreans make their request to settle on Bajor. As an episode, it sympathizes with the Skrreans, but still provides reasonable arguments for the Bajorans' refusal to allow them to settle. In short, it has the makings of a very good Star Trek episode.

Unfortunately, good intentions do not in and of themselves make for good drama. Sanctuary is not particularly good drama. One problem is that we are clearly meant to sympathize with Haneek's request to settle on Bajor. But, perhaps to avoid leaving the Skrreans stranded, the script also has Sisko finding a less complicated alternative world, one that genuinely does sound more viable for Haneek's people.  Given this, her objections don't seem to be based on any sort of reason, which makes it very hard to sympathize. As far as I could see, the Skrreans want to settle on Bajor in order to provoke some conflict from an episode that otherwise would have no conflict. Period.

Then there is the manipulative climax. Perhaps having realized that the episode isn't as dramatic as intended, the writers go for a big tragedy. Only the tragedy, as portrayed, doesn't feel like the inevitable result of anything. Basically, the script has to twist itself into a pretzel shape in order to make the tragedy plausible without turning anyone into a "bad guy." Tragic endings can be very effective. But if it takes that much labor to make the tragedy even pretend to work, then maybe the writer should take the hint that either this episode doesn't require a tragic ending, or that substantial rewrites are needed before the ending in order to make it feel like an organic part of the whole.

Sanctuary is an episode of good intentions. It tries. But it is both labored and unevenly paced. Sometimes, even episodes that make a genuine effort turn out to be failures.

Overall Rating: 4/10.

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