Deep Space Nine: s03 e22 – Explorers


A solar spaceship
A solar spaceship

From the unusually extended open, it was clear that this was going to be an episode of two stories, unlinked, and from the way it came last, it was also clear that the one with Commander Sisko – returning from Bajor freshly-adorned with the goatee beard he’ll bear for the rest of the series – would be the primary strand.What wasn’t so apparent upfront was just how perfunctory Doctor Bashir’s part of the episode was going to be.

So let’s dispose of that immediately. It began with the good Doctor in Quark’s, being hit on in most transparent fashion by a wide-eyed and pneumatic Bajoran dabo girl. That is, until Dax punctured Bashir’s balloon by telling him that the Lexington is coming to the station.

The significance of this was that the Lexington‘s Doctor is Elizabeth Lens, that she and Julian were at Medical Collage together and that she was the Valetudinarian to his Secondetudinarian, or whatever the word is, I couldn’t catch it. Basically, it means she was top and he was second,though the dictionary definition of Valetudinarian equates basically to hypochondriac, which makes for a little gentle irony. Julian’s still not got over it.

Anyway, once Doctor Elizabeth gets to DS9, she actually walks past Bashir, ignoring him completely. Julian goes off and gets bladdered with Miles O’Brien who, in a genuinely funny moment, tells the Doctor that, from the bottom of his heart,he doesn’t hate him like he used to!

And the story ends with Bashir ‘confronting’ Dr Lens in the bar, discovering that she didn’t know he was Bashir (who she mistakenly believed to be an Endorian) and going back to the Infirmary to study his latest cultures.

Actually, the point was that Doctor Elizabeth finds her Starship job boring and transitory and envies Julian the DS9 job for its interest and long-term effects, so Julian actually beat her, so there! It’s not that edifying an ending, an effect not helped by the awkward concealed contrivance of revealing that the pair of rivals have never seen each other before, nor that Doctor Elizabeth gets so little screentime that she can’t even begin to develop as a cut-out, let alone a character. It’s not a great strand and even if extended would be hard pushed to bear the weight of much complexity, but the time it’s allotted is so limited that it wasn’t worth doing at all. It’s filler, nothing more.

So what’s the main story? It’s both a bonding exercise between Sisko and Jake and an enjoyable excursion into space history. Sisko returns from Bajor not only full of face-fuzz but with blueprints of an ancient Bajoran spaceship, based on the oft-discussed theory of solar sails, directing a craft via solar pressure.

Apparently, there’s an ancient Bajoran legend (or fairy-tale, as Gul Dukat, making his first of two appearances at the other end of a viewscreen, terms it) that one of these ships sailed from Bajor to Cardassia, thus discovering it first. Sisko’s fascinated by this and is determined to, firstly, build an exact replica and, secondly, fly it to Cardassia with Jake as his crew.

It’s all very Thor Heyerdal, but the appeal of the craft, with its insect body and its wide-trailing solar wings is undeniable. It’s the atavistic reversion to the closest equivalent to sailing: the sense of passage, the absence of speed, the lack of insulation from the atmosphere.

It makes for a lack of drama, the closest being when the Sisko’s run into disturbances, including a tachyon eddy, that rob them of three of their four sails, drive them above warp speed and dump them way off course. But that proves to be the root of their success: the warp jump actually takes them to Cardassia, proving the historical possibility of the Bajoran journey. And, my goodness, here’s Dukat, popping up for his second appearance at the other end of a viewscreen, to announce that by a lucky coincidence (hah!), Cardassian archaeologists have just discovered the remains of a very old crash site… Huzzah and spatial fireworks!

In between, Jake reveals to his father that he has aspirations towards writing, that he has written a story that Sisko thinks has promise but which has already brought him the offer of a writing fellowship at a prestigious school. At Wellington, New Zealand. On Earth.

But he’s not going to go yet, he will defer his admission for at least a year. Partly because he’s not ready, but more because he doesn’t want to leave the old man on his lonesome (aww!). On the other hand, he’s setting his old dad up on a date with a freight captain he happens to know (I think I can safely suggest the name Kasidy here, can’t I?).

Overall, a pleasant, if not unflawed episode. I believe that the dabo girl, Leeta (played by Chase Masterson) will reappear regularly. My eyes will not be offended by that.

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3 thoughts on “Deep Space Nine: s03 e22 – Explorers

  1. This was another episode where it just seemed like DS9 was starting to hit on almost all cylinders. This episode was spectacular or splashy but a solid episode that looked at the past, but started building towards the future. Jake and Sisko’s relationship. Dukat can actually be nice and not smug. Bashir and O’Brien. It was one that I figured I’d be bored by, but somehow I was engrossed with the character building and interactions.

    The words are Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Granted the main Starfleet Medical Schools class would be huge, but the explanations they gave still seemed trite how she wouldn’t have known what he looked like, especially if she had been following his work….

  2. No, they’ve never been part of our education system, in fact I’d never even heard of Salutatarian before seeing this episode. Valedictorian I’ve heard several times but when it came to writing up, I couldn’t recall it, hence the misuse of Valetudinarian…

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