Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Battle Lines"

***

Air date: 4/26/1993
Teleplay by Richard Danus and Evan Carlos Somers
Story by Hilary Bader
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Sisko, Kira, and Bashir take Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) through the wormhole for a brief excursion, but their Runabout is shot down by an automated satellite system when investigating a nearby planet. Opaka is killed in the crash in a surprising, tragic twist of fate. Meanwhile, the survivors find themselves in the middle of two warring factions of a penal colony. The twist: no one on this colony dies; their cells have been re-engineered to keep them fighting a futile battle with no possible victory for either side.

Once you accept the implausibility of immortality in this sort of warfare (couldn't you sever your enemy's head to kill him?), this story's premise is intriguing. Ambitious production design stands out, as do some above-average fight scenes. The episode's relevant theme is the prisoners' error of continuing the pointless violence; neither faction can put aside their hate and think their situation through. When the same condition that gives the prisoners their immortality brings Opaka back from the dead, the episode wisely uses her character as a symbol of non-violence.

The most interesting character aspect is the focus on Kira's violent past and how, with the Kai's help, she comes to realize this internal conflict and decides to begin the journey of leaving her violent impulses behind. Opaka's subsequent decision to remain among the prisoners with the hope of helping them end their conflict and beginning their healing uses the foreshadowed idea of "destiny" rather well. It shows a character who has a new mission ahead of her, and it also promises to bring about sweeping changes on Bajor as a result of the important figure's absence. Running alongside the Kira storyline, this makes a lot of sense. The final line of dialog hints that we may see a follow-up to the storyline, which I definitely would welcome (even if it turns out to be five years down the road).

Previous episode: Vortex
Next episode: The Storyteller

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23 comments on this review

William - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 11:36pm (USA Central)
This is your first review where you and I significantly go off-course.

This is my least-favorite DS9 of the first season, so far.

The saving grace is the Kira/Opaka scene (personally, I like the ear-grabbing thing).

I never could get past the premise or how happy Opaka was to trade guiding Bajor through its transition for being a peace broker among two strange gangs of 20 or so people. The whole moon seemed stunningly boring and dismal.

Bajor had an epic sweep. This moon is an afterthought. And now -- so is Opaka. MAKE WAY FOR WINN!
Van_Patten - Fri, Oct 12, 2012 - 8:14am (USA Central)
Following an impromptu visit to DS9, the Crew take Bajor's Spiritual Leader Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) through the wormhole and tragedy ensues.

Not sure I think this is as good as Jammer does. I found it seemed to drag, especially the battle scenes on the Moon. The opening, with Opaka visiting the station does promise much and I like Kira's reaction when given the details of her intelligence file (Odd how Dukat is not mentioned by name) - Indeed for me the various conversations involving Sisko/ Odo/Bashir and Kira in the Captain's Office are some of the most memorable parts of DS9's Freshman season.

The story goes somewhat off the rails in the second part of the story. As Jammer says, although it's high concept, the idea of 'perpetual war' where no one can die seems far-fetched. I confess to not recognising under the make-up the usually superb Jonathan Banks as Shel -La, but the script here doesn't do much to flesh him out. Unquestionably the highlight are the scenes between Nana Visitor and Saviola. I liked the Kira/ Opaka dynamic, and it's a shame they didn't return to this story later in some ways. (I'd argue Season 2's 'the Collaborator' is more about Bareil than Opaka) I've been critical of Nana Visito's performance but here she is in fine form, perhaps foreshadowing an even better performance in a few episodes time.

All in all, the interminability of the scenes involving the Aliens and the shakiness of the concept do undermine what could have been a season highlight. 2.5 stars for me.
Comp625 - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 3:01pm (USA Central)
I'd have to agree with Van_Patten on this one. I, too, don't think "Battle Lines" deserved its 3-star rating. I think it has to do with me not being able to look beyond the implausible immortaility backdrop.

If this planet COULD regenerate cells and keep people alive, wouldn't the entire Gamma Quadrant want to flock there and somehow steal, learn, and/or reap the god-like benefits that this planet offers?

Also, I think it would have been more powerful to have killed off Kai Opaka in ways that related to the Bajoran/Cardassian storyline. Imagine if she was killed on the station via a Cardassian assassination? What if Vedek Winn's crafted a plot to kill Opaka herself? Or that Winn's schemes led to an "accidental" death of Opaka? Instead, Opaka is forever stuck on some alien-of-the-week planet that we never see or hear of ever again.

Nana Visitor's performance was the highlight and saving grace of this episode. Her reaction to Kai Opaka's death helped to further develop the importance of the "Kai" figure through the eyes of the Bajorans, much like real-life religions idolize their leaders (e.g. Catholics and the Pope).

My rating: 2 out of 4 stars
grumpy_otter - Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - 8:41pm (USA Central)
I liked this a lot. The Kai is a serene character--Camille Saviola does a good job making her seem truly wise.

I was a little embarrassed for Kira--because I like her--when she got so emotional. That was a bit overdone.

I liked the warring factions, also. Nice to see the brilliant Jonathan Banks in an amazing role as Shel-La. His performance was nuanced and gave a convincing sense of how pointless their lives had become. I could understand why losing the fear of death might make reconciliation impossible.

DS9 seems to use very recognizable character actors a lot more than other series have--I'll keep my fingers crossed for Danny Trejo!
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 3:24pm (USA Central)
I think if we accept the premises of Bajor and DS9 this episode is a good contrast between the spiritual leadership of Opaka and Winn... Opaka saw how her abilities were needed on the moon, whereas Winn was an opportunist.
Corey - Thu, Jul 25, 2013 - 5:23pm (USA Central)
I'm going to have to echo the others comments' - this episode doesn't rate 3 stars to me either.

When-ever sci-fi tries to use a impossible or amazing thing/event, it needs to sell the audience on its premise - in this case, that a normally mortal being can be killed any way you can imagine and will come back whole and functional, and endlessly. Bashir's explanation did NOT sell me on it.

What if I put a grenade on someone's head, and it exploded, putting brain matter everywhere. You mean to tell me that somehow, the whole brain will constitute itself from scratch, and more than that, will function as it did before? No! If an episode is FUN enough (Q episodes are good examples) you can sometimes get away with such preposterous ideas - this episode, though isn't fun enough.

I did agree with the good production values and acting, and Kira character development was interesting, so perhaps 2.5 stars is more accurate.
Niall - Thu, Aug 1, 2013 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
Agreed. This is a dumb episode and a bad way to write out a character.
azcats - Mon, Sep 9, 2013 - 4:32pm (USA Central)
i always think of this premise with Wolverine and Xmen..but everyone else seems to buy his immortality.


just grind him up in a meet grinder and spread his body over 7 continents. i guarantee, he wont come back to life.
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:21pm (USA Central)
The whole idea of their immortality was full of plotholes. Kira is out of character. The good part is Kai Opaka, having her negotiate more between the sides would have been a better story.
2 1/2 Stars
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:56pm (USA Central)

I strongly dislike the Bajoran storyline and this episode was very cheesy way to take Kai Opaka out of the story.

3/10
Manticore - Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - 1:34am (USA Central)
This was kind of a silly episode, but it was cool to see Jonathan Banks, who I know as Breaking Bad's Mike Ehrmentraut, in a role on Star Trek, and he does a great job.
Bravestarr - Wed, Apr 23, 2014 - 1:12pm (USA Central)
Not going to lie, I almost gave up on DS9 while watching this episode. Keep in mind I came off of TNG, and Voyager, so I was a little Star Treked out. This episode though I found slow, boring, and dull. Thankfully DS9 gets MUCH better later on around the 3rd season, but man did this episode suck.
Yanks - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 10:22am (USA Central)
Just recently watched this episode.

So sad they chose to get rid of Kia Opaka. I really enjoyed how she was a positive religious figure. But I know DS9 (& trek in general) wants to protray religion as primative and currupt, so we need a character like Kia Winn.

Voyager and TNG get pummeled all the time about "technobabble" while DS9 is always lauded for having superior writing. (which I don't agree with) This episode should be crowned as the medical technobabble king.

Let's see.... we need something that regenerates wounds, so how about nano-probes... no, that's the Borg... how about microbes? .... nanites? ... then they have to remain in the system or they die (only when used to revive death), then they can't leave the moon because they made them "environment" specific (because they want Opaka out of the picture)..... eeeshh....

An interesting point about the PD here. Sisko initially commits to beaming everyone off the moon (clearly meddling in the internal affairs of another world) then instead of letting Bashir reprogram the nanites he just beams out of there. I guess the punishment isn't so cruel and unusual anymore, eh? All while making us feel better be telling Opaka "if we can ever find a way" ....pfffft.... really? (that's the writers snickering in the background)

Zero stars for failing on every level and for getting rid of what could have been a great character.
2piix - Wed, Jul 2, 2014 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
@Yank:

People say Deep Space Nine has superior writing because it has a high quality, long term story line. It's okay if it occasionally falls into a little bit of technobabble.

This is very much unlike Voyager, which hit the reset button constantly. And gave us constant torrents of stupid sounding technobabble.
Yanke - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 7:01am (USA Central)
To quote Worf...

"little" :-)

DS9 has used technobabble just as much as the other series from the start. (Emissary)

But I guess it wasn't "stupid sounding"?
Robert - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 9:06am (USA Central)
I actually won't even say "stupid sounding" in the problem. It's deus-ex-technobabble that's the issue.

See Voyager's "The Swarm" :
KIM: Captain, our shield strength just went to zero.
CHAKOTAY: How did that happen?
KIM: Each one of those little ships is emitting an interferometric pulse. They're modulating in opposition to our shield frequencies, completely cancelling them out.
JANEWAY: All right, that's enough. Tuvok, give them a phaser sweep with the forward array. Don't destroy any of them, just let them know we're not going to sit here like ducks.
TUVOK: Aye Captain.
JANEWAY: What was that?
KIM: The interferometric pulses they're emitting. They've reflected the energy of the phasers right back to us.
CHAKOTAY: Anything we fire is going to affect us instead of them. What about a photon torpedo?
TUVOK: Since our shield strength is non-existent, I would not recommend it.
PARIS: They're only seven thousand kilometres away and still coming.
JANEWAY: Harry, start analysing those interferometric pulses. See if there's any pattern, any code to them. We might be able to find a weakness.
KIM: I'm on it.
PARIS: Captain, they're right on top of us. I can't shake them.
TUVOK: Captain, they are clamping onto our hull.
CHAKOTAY: They're starting to drain our systems.
KIM: Captain, I've got a pattern on the interferometric pulses. It's a lattice, connecting all the ships to each other.
JANEWAY: All right, here's what we're going to do. Turn those pulses right back on them. Tuvok, lock phasers on their nearest ship. If we can destroy one of them, there's every chance the interferometric pulse that links them together will cause a chain reaction.
TUVOK: But the phaser fire will be reflected back toward us.
JANEWAY: Harry, modulate our shields to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. That should allow the phasers to hit the ship.
TUVOK: Ship's phasers are locked on a target, Captain.
JANEWAY: Tuvok! Harry! Do it!
TUVOK: The swarm of ships has disbanded, Captain. They are moving away.

Sorry for the semi long dialogue dump. But the crew didn't earn that victory. Janeway just beat a superior force by modulating the shields (which were down) to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. Despite only studying these guys for 4 seconds. I mean... COME ON! I dislike this episode anyway because it's the one where Janeway violates Federation law and an alien's space to avoid a 1 year detour against the advice of Tuvok... but the solution is stupid too.

Compare to Parallax (an episode I really like) where the solution is a complete technobabble fest, but they make you feel like the characters earned it, and they get bonus points by making it easy to follow by describing it to finding your way back into a hole you made in the ice.

I don't hate technobabble, but you want to feel like the characters earned their win, instead of just reversing the polarity on a differential magnometer and presto!

Robert - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 10:36am (USA Central)
I will say though that there is a certain something to smile at with "interferometric pulse".
Yanks - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 11:56am (USA Central)
Technobabble is a relative term.

Obrien used it to make DS9 "lighter" in Emissary... lol

One could argue that the performance of the Voyager crew was exemplementry. They observed the situation, reacted to a life and death situation and made the necessary adjustments. Knowledge is power you know.

:-)

But then again, what the hell is "interferometric".

It's always a cop out. If it isn't, then it's not technobabble.
William B - Thu, Jul 3, 2014 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
Interferometry is a real thing -- which involves using the wave nature of light and radiation in order to create constructive and destructive interference patterns. It's generally used for things like measurements though -- a famous example is the Michelson-Morley experiment, which used an interferometer to make precise measurements of the speed of light in two separate directions, in an attempt to find the speed of the "aether" the Earth was moving through; the null result (i.e. the result that the speed of light was the same in all directions) is what led indirectly to Einstein's theory of relativity.

Of course, it's unclear that an "interferometric pulse" would do what they say it would do.
Elliott - Fri, Jul 4, 2014 - 5:56pm (USA Central)
Robert's point about "The Swarm" is totally valid. In that story, the crux of the story's premise (argument) depended on silly technobabble to resolve. But DS9 is absolutely guilty of this sin. Can you identify this episode :

JAKE : I consulted with Dax, and we realised the accident must have created some sort of subspace link between my father and myself.
MELANIE : That's why he always appeared somewhere near you, even if you were hundreds of lightyears away from where the accident happened.
JAKE : We also realised that there was a pattern to his appearances; they were governed by fluctuations in the wormhole's subspace field. Dax' calculations also showed that the next time he appeared, I'd be an old man.

It's not as bad as "The Swarm" stuff, but it's still technobabble and the story's resolution depends on it. In "The Swarm", for the record, the main story was not even about the titular swarm, but about the Doc and his worth. I would also say that the dialogue above represents the absolute worst example (or best) of the Babble of Voyager. Most of the time, it was NOT that bad.
Yanks - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 8:09am (USA Central)
@ William.

Thanks! I love it when smart folks contrinute :-)

Maybe the "pulse" was used by the Swarm species to determine relative spacing... :-)

@ Elliot.

I would agree. And I haven't watched this episode in quite awhile and forgot all about the main story. Thanks.
Robert - Thu, Jul 10, 2014 - 9:26am (USA Central)
@Elliott - I actually did like the doc plotline in the Swarm. And I specifically used 2 Voy examples for my "good" and "bad" example because although I prefer DS9, I do think all Trek could do technobabble good and bad.

They did solve the Swarm's B-plot with nonsense technobabble in seconds. The difference in the Visitor is that the dilemma as presented was that the solution to the technobabble was suicide. So it became a human issue. To me the technobabble did not get in the way.

Similarly to my example of Parallax (which was a technobabble fest) the point of the episode wasn't to solve the problem, the point was to show Torres being a competent engineer and to bond with Janeway. Which they did well!

She didn't bond with Janeway due to technobabble and the technobabble didn't make her an awesome engineer... they bonded over the problem and the technobabble illustrated her being an awesome engineer. The Swarm's b-plot was again, solved by reversing polarity on their shields which were down. Yawn.
Elliott - Wed, Aug 13, 2014 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
Teaser : **, 5%

So, the appointed geniuses discover a profile of Kira and some other Bajoran terrorists in the station's computer. Sisko remarks that Kira might be disappointed. Well, we mustn't forget that Kira is a psychopath, so an emotion like “disappointed” ends up coming across like hysterical rage. But they're all used to that now, as they all leave Sisko's office before she has a chance to read said file.

Bashir calls to inform them that Opaka has arrived at the station in time for Kira to storm out and start vomiting all over ops. They escort her to the promenade, where she stares at the stars enigmatically with that cliché “spiritual” reserve Hollywood just loves, and promptly manipulates Sisko into taking her in a runabout to see the wormhole. On their way, the Kai looks at O'Brien and tells him “you have a child” and hands him a necklace to give to her. Cue eye-rolling. What is this crap? How does she know he has a kid? Why does she give him this gift? This is all just cheap contrivance to create this aura of religiosity around her, with no explanation or justification. Do the prophets occasionally let slip irrelevant information to the Kai? Does she wake up one day and suddenly know about some Vedek's latest venereal disease or how many wormholes aliens can dance on the head of a pin? Eh, she must be a Jedi.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

So they take her on the laser-light show through the hole and to the Gamma Quadrant. Suddenly, the Kai's demeanour has totally changed and she behaves like, well, a normal person instead of some Dalai Lama knockoff. She remarks that “prophecy can often be vague...that's why we must test it.” Uh-huh. They pick up a distress call from a small planet and leave to investigate. A satellite knocks out their systems and they crash land on the planet. And, what do you know, the Kai is dead. You're really doing great at this job commander. I can see why you'll get promoted so often. Kira's tearful mourning is...I hate to say it, because I actually want to like this part, but it's really lame. If you're going to go for the over-the-top reaction (which is warranted by the way), then you better be ready to sell the shit out of it. Tears, banging the ground with your fists, snot dripping from your nose, uncontrollable sobs, the whole thing. Or, you can go for the reserved approach. Silent tears, shallow breathing, a little nausea. Instead we get this really uncomfortable blending of the two with open-mouthed moaning, with no tears, screaming but with the careful closing of the eyelids. Too bad. Some strangers emerge from behind the rocks and cue commercial.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Back on DS9, the smart people are heading up an investigation to find the missing runabout while Odo complains that the Bajorans are bugging him about Opaka's disappearance. You've got to love how Odo seems more annoyed that he has to deal with these people than concerned over the loss of the command crew and the Kai. I hear you, Odo. Bajorans are aggravating.

Meanwhile, the crash survivors are introduced to the survivors of a Zombi apocalypse. Actually they're prisoners who are fighting a kind of civil war with another, er, tribe I guess. Kira remarks that Opaka's death was meaningless. This is exactly the kind of scene we needed in “Skin of Evil” by the way. I would be remiss in not pointing out here that all of the choices which led to her death were made by the Kai—she wanted to leave the station and go through the wormhole; she wanted to investigate the signal. At each juncture, Sisko acquiesced to her wishes. So any potential burden of guilt for our regulars is totally stripped away.

Wait a minute, didn't grateful dead guy just say that these people have given up using energy weapons? So of course in the very same scene, they get into a firefight with energy weapons! Who wrote this? Hilary Bader, known for such gems as “The Loss,” “Dark Page,” and “Meridian.” That explains it.

A few of the Ennis (that's the group the survivors encountered) are killed in the skirmish. Or are they? A cloaked figure approaches them, and it's revealed to be the Kai. Oh no a ZOMBI!! It's happening again!! “You will go to the Degoba system....”

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Opaka describes her death. It's a good performance, bits of real horror mixed in with wonder and confusion. Brava Ms Saviola. Bashir confirms that some sort of mechanical changes have occurred in her body which have “radically altered her physiology,” thus allowing her to live. Indeed, the dead from the battle start getting up and walking around.

So the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis are a real throwback to TOS “ancient enemies fighting the same war for generations.” I checked on Memory Alpha and indeed Ms Bader was inspired by “Day of the Dove”'s hopeless fighting message. What I appreciate about this episode is the opportunity afforded by the familiar setup to attempt some character building with Kira. She instinctively starts pointing out the strategic faults in the Ennis' camp and Opaka observes that this is not her war.

This brief moment of good writing comes to a sad end as Sisko offers to beam all the Ennis and Nol off the planet once the rescue party arrives. Um, what? Sisko, have you heard of this thing called the Prime Directive? Do you care that these people were put here as punishment for a crime? That the people who put them there might be slightly bothered if you just decided to remove them all? Considering it is probably the Dominion who put them here as “an example,” that would have been a pretty costly mistake wouldn't it, Sisko? Anyway, Cmmdr. Hindsight gets the two sides to meet and attempt to work out a truce.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

We keep getting these scenes with the Smart People searching for the away team, running into obstacles, etc. This is textbook padding. There's no point to showing any of these scenes. Once it was established they were looking for them, we didn't need to see the search party until they arrive on the planet to rescue Sisko and co. And it's really padding because we get not a damned bit of character insight into either Dax or O'Brien, they're just spouting technobabble and pressing buttons.

We get a pretty good little followup with Opaka counselling Kira about her anger and brutal history during the Occupation. Kira remarks that she doesn't want Opaka to think of her as “a violent person without a soul or a conscience.” This explanation gives us some insight into how Kira ticks. Her devotion to religion is a means of compensating for an internal emptiness. She is ashamed of how she was forced to act during the Occupation (I think of Miles' line “I don't hate you, Cardassian; I hate what I became because of you.”), and fills that emptiness with something which she sees as beautiful: a beatific faith personified by Opaka herself (who Kira remarked had been a constant source of inspiration to her). Opaka offers her absolution.

After another padding scene on the runabout, Sisko offers his sophomoric justification for violating the PD (well at least he remembered it exists); he says he believes the Federation would recognise them as “separate and unique.” Why? Because they've been altered into essentially a new species by the nanites which have reanimated their corpses on this planet. I don't know why it doesn't occur that being altered in this way does not change the fact that politically, this is still an internal matter. Just own up to the fact that you're violating the law, commander! This is the same sort of cowardice from “Captive Pursuit”--'well, I'm *technically* not breaking the law, so I can't get in trouble.' What a wienie.

Anyway, Sisko offers an alternative to perpetual violence; resettling them on separate worlds. Of course the negotiations quickly break down and they start killing each other again because fuck you. Bashir rescues Sisko from being impaled by an axe remarking “we can't afford to die here, not even once.”

Act 5 : *, 17%

Bashir confirms our worst suspicions, that the reanimation process condemns these people to either live on this world for ever or die, including the Kai. Opaka eagerly accepts her fate saying that “all the prophecies of her life” have led her to this point. Geez. Well, isn't that rosy? So, any shred of possibility that Sisko and co. might bear some responsibility for stranding the Kai here is totally wiped away again since she WANTS to stay. Oh, I'm sorry, the *Prophets* want her to stay. Mhm. I hate it so much when religious people insist that doing something good requires the justification of God. You want to help these people? Great! You need to derive some meaning from the hellish existence to which you've been condemned? No objection. Just don't fucking patronise me by insisting that you're following a divine plan and that somehow makes it better, makes you better. “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

Eh, whatever. The away team is beamed away and Opaka settles in.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

A few good character-building scenes with Kira save this episode which is otherwise content to shift from being dull, to being insulting. That the Ennis and the Nol are stuck in their ways is a foregone conclusion. Obviously, the episode is important in that it gets rid of Opaka, making way for the introduction of Winn and Berail, so, don't skip it. I suppose if you forget it's Star Trek for the hour, turn off your brain and accept at face value all the new-age hokey bullshit, it can be tolerated. Overall, it's pretty much what one would expect as a followup to “Emissary.”

Final Score : **

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