I always play a little game with myself with each new episode of Deep Space Nine, trying to assess from the open where the story will go this week. Invariably the first half can be disregarded as a distraction: the formula is a bit of ‘life-as-normal’, to then be interrupted by the actual subject of the story, which also provides the lead into that superb theme music.
‘The Sanctuary’ offered a double-helping this week, with first Major Kira getting a mild disciplinary over allowing her frustrations with the Bajoran Provisional Government to override her duty to complete the duty roster, then Quark complaining that the aged Bajoran musician blowing a heartfelt version of the theme, who he’d taken on at her request, was bankrupting him by tempting his customers to listen, not gamble.
So the actual meat was held back to the final seconds: a strange ship, in bad repair, comes through the Wormhole, it’s crew of four – two men, one boy, one female leader – are beamed aboard, but the Universal Translator can’t turn their language into English for us…
Unfortunately, this extended open was a symbol of the poor, stretched quality of the story this week. The story itself was so thin, and frankly predictable, that it felt like all sorts of unimportant and irrelevant stuff had to be crammed in just to make it last long enough.
The newcomers are Skreea, the woman named Haneek, the boy Tumak and the two men Haneek’s insignificant husbands, or rather bondsmen. The Skreea are a matriarchal society in which males are generally dismissed as over-emotional and impractical, and are polyandrist possessions of the females: in short, a complete contrast to Alpha Quadrant society, but possessed with enough gender-reversed parallels as to set up a fruitful tension between the societies.
Having outlined that, I have spent more time on the subject than the show did.
The Skreeans are a farming race fleeing from conquering invaders – a direct parallel there to Bajor which also went all-but unexplored – and there are three million of them out there on the other side of the Eye of the Universe (no relation to the Pete Atkin song of the same name), seeking refuge on their planet of hope, Kentanna.
Haneek, a simple farmer, becomes by default a leader, in the same way that Kira becomes, by default, the Skreea liaison, and, or so it seems, a friend to Haneek. That is, until Haneek decides that Kentanna is Bajor.
Unfortunately, the Provisional Government decides that in the planet’s current state, struggling to feed itself as it is, it cannot accept three million refugees on an isolated and barren peninsula. It doesn’t matter that the Skreea are farmers and that Haneek is absolutely convinced they can grow anything anywhere. It doesn’t matter that they don’t want aid at all, that they plane to be self-sufficient. The Bajorans point out – an under-emphasisedplus point for them – that if it all goes pear-shaped, they simply couldn’t sit by and let the Skreea die: they’d have to aid them and they haven’t got the resources.
The hell of it is that Kira agrees, which immediately snaps Haneek’s friendship: Kira won’t do exactly what she wants? Hate her.
It’s unworthy. It may be understandable but it immediately diminishes Haneek, whose case is precarious given that it’s apparently based on nothing more solid than we-can-do-it conviction whereas the Bajoran case comes at least in part from study.
And that’s it, basically. The Skreea have no option but to accept the much more promising uninhabited planet Sisko and Dax have found for them and Haneek and Kira part with only bitterness on Haneek’s part about not getting her increasingly self-righteous way, and words about how Bajor is basically paranoid after the Cardassians. Even then, Haneek can only offer ‘we’ll never know if it would have worked but it would have been better if it had.’
Of course, since that’s a crap ending, it has to be gussied up a bit first, with some artificial, tacked-on drama. Haneek’s spoilt brat son Tumak – boy, they really know how to get you on some people’s side, don’t they? – steals a ship and sets off for a one-boy-and-his-two-mates invasion of Bajor. Unfortunately, he’s chosen a ship under repair, with a plasma leak. He won’t answer hails, won’t shut his engine down, gets fired at by Bajoran interceptors (aiming to miss) and blows up.
I really could not get into this episode. It was crude and predictable and did everything it could to deprive the Skreea of sympathy, down to giving them all very flaky skin that made them all unpalatable to look-at. Yet the story could easily have been a much better episode, one that integrated all its little sub-plots into a cohesive central track, that set-up an inevitable tragedy, that properly got the viewer onto the side of Haneek.
But it was too inept, and too lazy to do so. Maybe it ended up being a rush-job, too little time to work out the script properly, maybe filler was all that could be scraped together this week, but it was a seriously thin and lacking effort, and well below season 2’s standards thus far.
For future reference, the story mentions the Dominion for only the second time, and for the first time to the Federation.
Better next week, I hope.