Sunday, December 30, 2012

4-17. Accession.

Akorem Laan (Richard Libertini),
the new Emissary of the Prophets.


When a 300 year old Bajoran lightship comes through the wormhole with one Bajoran aboard, Sisko has the man beamed directly to the infirmary. The man is Akorem Laan (Richard Libertini), a revered poet from Bajor's past who disappeared more than 200 years ago. Akorem was swallowed up by the wormhole, and has only returned to Bajor now. He declares himself to be the Emissary of prophecy - the very role into which Kai Opaka thrust Sisko, and which the captain has reluctantly filled ever since.

Sisko is all too happy to step aside to allow Akorem to be The Emissary... Until the new Emissary's first public appearance, that is. Akorem may be a revered poet, but he is still a man from the distant past. He is shocked that modern Bajorans no longer follow their d'jarras, a strict caste system that was in place in his time. His first speech is almost fanatically devoted to this single topic, insisting that every Bajoran should return to his or her d'jarra - a thought which doesn't rest easy with all Bajorans, and which would disqualify Bajor from admittance into Starfleet!


Capt. Sisko: "I'm just a Starfleet officer again. All I have to worry about are the Klingons, the Dominion, and the Maquis. I feel like I'm on vacation!" Be careful what you wish for. Sisko doesn't waste a second in relinquishing the "Emissary" title to Akorem. But once he does, he is left as little more than a bystander as Akorem's desire to reinstate the caste system wreaks havoc. When it leads to the murder of a Bajoran Vedek for having been born to the wrong caste, Sisko realizes he must reclaim the title he was so eager to escape. Being the Emissary may not be something he enjoys, but it is his responsibility, a duty he cannot shirk without consequences.

Major Kira: Her religious convictions keep her from questioning Akorem after Sisko steps aside as Emissary. She tries to explain to Odo that having faith means "no explanation is necessary." If the Emissary says something must be done, it is her place as a Bajoran to accept him at his word. In one of the best moments in the episode, one that recalls similar exchanges in last season's Destiny, she tells Sisko just how much the Emissary's word means."Maybe you never realized this, Captain, but we would have tried to do whatever you asked of us when you were Emissary - no matter how difficult it seemed." Sisko's wordless reaction is the perfect cap to an excellent scene.

O'Brien/Keiko: The "B" plot is about the return of Keiko, and its affect on O'Brien. He is certainly happy to have his family back, but it's been a year and he has developed certain routines for his leisure time that don't include her. At the same time, she's been spending time on her work, something which doesn't include him. O'Brien quickly misses his playtime with Julian, and his constant presence is a distraction for Keiko. The solution is obvious, and more time is devoted to this side plot than is called for, but Colm Meaney plays all of this as authentically as ever.


Accession is a very early script by Jane Espenson, a writer who would move onto a truly splendid career, writing for series as disparate as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, Once Upon a Time, and Game of Thrones. This script isn't up to the very best work she would eventually do, but even in this early work there is the attention to characterization, the intelligence, and the thoughtfulness that would make her so successful.

I always appreciate seeing Deep Space 9 return its focus to Bajor, something which has become much less common since the introduction of the Dominion threat. This episode starts out feeling like wheel-spinning. After all, we know that Akorem will not remain as Emissary past this episode, and we know that Sisko will reclaim the title with no lasting consequences. It all seems like a setup for an hour of filler - and insofar as this episode is unlikely to affect later ones, it could probably still be classified as such.

But the details make it richer than it might be otherwise. The d'jarra draws on the caste systems of countries such as India and Pakistan, among others, and just enough information is given about it to make it fit with what we already know about Bajor's past society. That the d'jarras were abandoned only fairly recently, with the Cardassian Occupation, makes it plausible that Akorem could persuade a large percentage of the population to return to this system... something that would be implausible if it had been abandoned centuries ago. The script also namedrops Kai Winn, whose suspicion of Starfleet and previously established fundamentalist tendencies likely make her happy to embrace Akorem as the Emissary.

It's a good episode, but not a great one. The main thing that limits it for me is that we see very little of how this impacts the average Bajoran. We see how it impacts Kira, as she prepares to give up her life and career to follow her d'jarra. I would have liked some other Bajoran characters in this episode, though, to show a variety of reactions. We hear that Shakaar won't give up his position and return to farming, for example. But we don't see him, even though this would have been excellent episode for him to make an appearance. We could see him and Kira in conflict, with the religious Kira accepting of the new Emissary even as Shakaar rebels. I'd be a lot more interested in that as a "B" plot than the issues of the O'Briens.

The O'Brien strand is definitely the episode's weakest element. It doesn't really seem to fit with the "A" plot, and it takes away screen time that the main story could have used to feel more fully developed. It's not really a badly-done plot, though it's given at least two scenes more than it needs to make its point. But it would have been better placed in a different episode, perhaps one with a lighter overall tone.

My issues with the "B" plot and with the lack of really seeing the effect of the new Emissary on the Bajoran population keep this from an excellent score. Still, this is a solid episode with some tantalizing hints for the future. The Prophets inform us that they are "of Bajor." More than that, they pronounce that "the Sisko" is also "of Bajor." This is a statement that I suspect will get followed up in the future.

Overall Rating: 7/10.

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