If I were asked, at this still early point in my great Deep Space Nine re-watch, to nominate a favourite episode, there is no doubt but that I would select this. ‘Second Sight’ was a story about love, in all its manifestations, and it ended with a gesture of nobility born out of an obligation that, no matter how it tried to wrap itself around with other motives, could only have come from love: the love that places the loved one above all things. I confess that I am susceptible to such stories.
The open teed things up, despite the misdirection of a weird dream from Jake, by showing Sisko in pensive mood: it is four years since his wife Jennifer died, and in amongst the feelings of loss is a sense of almost shock that, after so short a space of time, he has come so close to forgetting that it is the anniversary.
Disturbed on more than one level, Sisko goes walking along DS9’s dim and quiet corridors until he is approached by a young woman, an attractive young woman in red, who gives her name as Fenna (Salli Elise Richardson, knocking it out of the park). The attraction between the pair is immediate, as is the air of mystery about Fenna, who is unforthcoming about who she is, where she’s from, where she’s going, and who disappears whilst Sisko’s head is turned.
The disappearance is done neatly. It’s made to look as if Fenna has just walked away, perhaps in a coquettish, playing-hard-to-get manner, but if that’s so she’s evidently moved uncommonly quickly to get so much out of sight.
Sisko is clearly made up by the encounter, giving him an advanced case of the bright and cheerfuls that worries the heck out of Major Kira. But Sisko’s not so obliviously full of the joys of what are clearly a bunch of springs that he doesn’t stop by the set Odo onto the task of hunting down this mystery woman after she reappears out of nowhere, spends half the day with him, then pulls another vanishing trick.
Since Sisko has no information about Fenna except her name and that she has an effect on him that can stop a bull, the Constable is a little dry about the immensity of the task, but takes it on.
Meanwhile, DS9 is host to the famous, and famously egotistical Professor Gideon Seyetek (Richard Kiley, also knocking it out the park), who is the Galaxy’s best terraformer and possessor of the Galaxy’s biggest ego. Seyetek plans to crown his entire career by re-igniting a dead sun, to re-energise a frozen system. He’s larger-than-life (too much so for the Major and the Chief, but fascinating to the Doctor), one of those truly bombastic personalities who manage to be deprecatingly open and their ego whilst indulging it to the maximum at every moment, and thus immensely likeable as well as immensely wearing.
Seyetek invites the senior staff to a meal on the Prometheus, a Federation ship that will deliver his pod containing the reigniting device, and which the Chief has been souping up in case the sun ignites so fast it goes supernova and they have to hightail it out of there. It seems he has a wife, a splendid cook (to recipes of his perfection). Her name is Nadill, and in one of those flashes of insight that come aabout ten seconds ahead of the reveal, she is Fenna.
Except she’s not Fenna. She doesn’t recognise Sisko, has never met him, has never even left the Prometheus for DS9.
I was hooked by then, because I could not for the life of me see where this was going, I could not see an actual ending that would make sense, and would work. Well, they got me and good. Fenna’s third appearance to Sisko included a first kiss, and an all-but declaration of love to a man getting all the more confused by the impossibility of what’s going on, but it ended the same way, with a disappearance. Only this time in front of Sisko’s eyes, dissolving into nothingness.
We needed answers so, at the last minute, Sisko joined Seyetek’s mission. The terraformer was in a strange frame of mind, quoting Klingon poetry. Throughout the episode, he had been calling the reignition of this sun his ‘crowning glory’, but as the event drew near, the realisation was beginning to dawn that crowning glories crown things only too finally. Throughout his majestic career, majetric in truth as well as ego, Seyetek had always had a rigid faith in being able to top himself, to go on ever upwards, and he was facing his mortality in the understanding that there would be no more warriors to slay, no more worlds to conquer.
And then the answers started to be thrown at us, thick and fast. Fenna appeared to Sisko in his quarters, professing eager love but when Dax was summoned, with tricorder, Fenna was simply not there: no body, no DNA, nothing but energy. They took her to Seyetek’s quarters: Nadill was asleep,unconscious, dying. Seyetek exploded at the sight of Fenna. His wife was a projective telepath: in moments of deep emotion, they can sometimes project a duplicate of themselves, a manifestation that is identical, that shares no memories. It had happened before and nearly killed Nadill: now it is going to.
Why? Because when Nadill married Seyetek, she truly loved him. All of his wives had, at first. But all of them fell out of love with him in the end. But Nadill may not love him any longer but she was tied to him: her species mate for life. She cannot leave him, no matter how much she wishes.
Hence Fenna. Hence the escape from love dead to love that could live, from ending to beginning. And Sisko, loving a phantom, loving a dream, the first woman since Jennifer to attract him, knowing that it isn’t real, that Fenna was an unconscious projection of his wants and needs as she was of the dying Nadill, trapped in loveless love with only death as an escape.
Sisko sacrificed, by sending Fenna to re-merge with Nadill.
And Seyetek stole the spacepod, and rode the fire down to the surface of the planet, knowing that his crowning glory was to be his death, that there would be no disappointing future in which there was nothing to equal this. But because this was the only way to free the woman who no longer loved him, but whom he had loved. His life for hers, the kind of giant, dramatic gesture that fitted his life and his ego, but at the heart of it all was the simple knowledge of what Love is truly about. Love is about the Other, about Her, or Him. There is no I in Love.
Let there be light.
Nadill lived and went home to her own planet. She neither knew nor remembered anything of this, of Fenna. She asked Sisko what she was like. He told her something that was at one and the same time the greatest of lies and the greatest of truths. She was like you.
I have nothing more to say.