An entertaining if rather predictable episode that centred upon Chief O’Brien for a third successive week, this time paired up with Commander Sisko, with a minor role for Major Kira and Jardzia Dax as a rescue team.
Sisko and O’Brien, in the Rio Grande, are surveying potential colony planets near the Wormhole when they find human lifeforms on one such. They beam down, only to discover that their technology does not function planetside: no technology functions.
The occupants are the survivors of a crashed ship, on its way to colonise another planet. The ship developed life-support problems, was forced to land here, discovered the technological baffle and has spent ten years fending for itself, living off the land, forging a community. You know, building a primitive paradise.
We’ll leave aside practical problems, such as the ability of such a limited gene pool to sustain itself and create genetically healthy future generations without running afoul of the original Eden dilemma: the episode does this, blithely.
The colony is led by Alixus, who initially comes over as open-hearted, generous and quietly proud of what the community has achieved. She, at least, will stay, rather than return with Sisko and O’Brien to technology: she has reunited with her core being. It’s an admirable attitude but unfortunately the whiff of the fanatic very quickly drifts in, and the rest of the episode is pretty easy to foresee from there.
Sisko and O’Brien are confident of rescue. Alixus is determined that they should never leave, and that they need to be forced to accept the community forever. Back on DS9, Kira and Jardzia discover that the Rio Grande isn’t answering and that, moreover, it’s flying away at Warp 1.5. They pursue and retrieve it and trace it back to the relevant star system, along with some momentary, artificially induced danger that’s just giving their strand some unnecessary juice.
Sisko’s rigid determination not to give in is tested by the community’s primitive version of prison, a metal box in the sun. Meanwhile, O’Brien, convinced that the duonetic field that is causing this blackout is not being generated naturally, discovers and switches off the machine generated by it.
Because, as we’ve all known since about ten minutes in, the whole thing has been set up by Alixus, a technology rejecting philosopher. She set up the problems that forced a pre-determined landing here, so as to force the community to come into being, and to ‘prove’ her point. Of course, it’s entirely contradictory that in order to do so she’s reliant upon heavy duty technology, like the field generator and the teleporter that enabledher to get aboard the Rio Grande and try to fly it into the sun: this blows a hole in her fanatical case but the story isn’t going to go there, because it would spoil the ending.
Sisko and O’Brien arrest Alixus, who will be tried for causing the death of community members who were allowed to die for want of modern medicine. She’s unrepentant: she’s been proven right. Indeed she has: in a slightly pat ending, Joseph speaks for all in saying that this is their home and they all want to stay. Even the one whose first question was about how women’s fashions have changed. This is their life. Nobody’s in the least affected by discovering, literally minutes before, that their entire last ten years has been based upon lies and tyranny. Nope, doesn’t wash with me. Most, maybe. But not all.
Though we’re left with a ‘poignant’ closing image to suggest that maybe it isn’t as unanimous as it seems. Two people – children, a boy and a girl aged about 10 – 12 – hang back to stare at where Sisko et al have teleported from.
Good luck kids. Once again, the adults have decided what’s good for you without taking your thoughts into consideration. You’re the future of the community, the only children around, so it’s bloody lucky that you’re a boy and a girl, otherwise reproduction goes up the Swanee, and who cares if you discover, under the pressure of a community’s expectations and assumptions, that you loathe each other, you’re going to end up having to fuck each other because there are no alternatives. The adults are going to switch the duonetic field back on.
Unless the Federation is smart enough to send another runabout three months later, to see if anyone’s changed their minds, the fanatical dictator, Alixus (played neatly by Gail Strickland) has won this one.