Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Progress"

***

Air date: 5/10/1993
Written by Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In an return to the core of the series' outlook, Kira is ordered to see to the evacuation of an elderly Bajoran farmer named Mullibok (Brian Keith) from a Bajoran moon that is set to be used in a power extraction project in the coming months. The problem is Mullibok has no intentions of leaving; he's convinced that he is destined to die where he has lived his whole life.

"Progress" is a wonderful sleeper episode that gets to the heart of larger issues using small-scaled human drama. Like "Past Prologue," this episode excels by placing Kira in the middle of tough problems with shades of grey. The interesting issue here is how the provisional government assigns Kira to a job she really doesn't feel she can carry out without betraying part of herself. Kira can identify with Mullibok's plight: a loner facing impossible odds—similar to the odds of the Bajorans freeing themselves from the Cardassian oppression. Keith's Mullibok is an engaging screen presence; he and Nana Visitor work well together.

What really stands out here is a poignant scene between Sisko and Kira that simultaneously highlights the show's intriguing theme (that of Kira now being on "the other side" of an issue she sympathizes with) while also bringing the two characters closer together—with what may be a pivotal moment of understanding in their relationship.

The lightweight B-story involving Jake and Nog's attempts to capitalize on a business opportunity is agreeable but hardly relevant—and coming off the heels of the Jake/Nog storyline in "Storyteller," this feels a little too pervasive. B-story aside, this show is a winner, indicating the direction DS9 seems to be heading in.

Previous episode: The Storyteller
Next episode: If Wishes Were Horses

Season Index

21 comments on this review

Graham Pilato - Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - 4:57pm (USA Central)
(continued) I think the "progress" of rebuilding after the occupation, growing from militant Bajoran people to more patient, more reasonable listeners and activists, made for a fantastic overarching theme -- at the same time as the Starfleet presence on the station had to grow and "progress" in its new relationship with Bajor and, now the endless potentials of a wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant. I see, perhaps because it was simply well-made, themes tied in to titles of DS9's series episodes in the same way that J. M. Straczynski titled his on Babylon 5, a show I am curious (though I suspect he is a hater) about Jammer, your opinions on.

The title episode of DS9's first season (so say I) was Progress, and there was such a lot of well connected themes, plots and arcs already underway here, whether the show's writers knew it or not, that this pattern would continue on through series end... even if, much to its success and its failure at times, DS9 was unlike its competitor and estranged cousin series Babylon 5, as it was never planned from beginning to end all novel-like as was Babylon 5.

DS9 was much funnier, more reliably well acted, and looked much prettier (at least for a time -- Babylon 5's fx got astonishingly good by its second half). There have already been millions arguments made on Babylon 5's behalf, but it was in fact, too glued to its own singular vision and one overworked visionary's writing to survive its five years without turning to some horrible, horrible, schmaltzy soap-opera-y stuff.

DS9 never stooped so low. And its uncertain beginning here, with some totally missable ill advised episodes, like "The Passenger" and "If Wishes Were Horses", made way, with the brilliance of an almost new sci-fi notion of a religion based on gods that are right there to be perceived in the Prophets, powerful creatures as real as they are really different, wonderfully alien aliens -- a rarity in 90s Trek unfortunately -- set the stage for a particularly smart and even deeper second season that will continue to discuss some deep issues to do with frontier living and a society that needs to adapt to the diversity of the universe around it or die on its own.
Wisq - Fri, May 28, 2010 - 10:17am (USA Central)
Regarding the episode "Progress":

While I agree the acting was good, the situation was interesting, etc. etc., I had one major gripe about it: The premise was utterly absurd.

Recap: The Bajorans want to tap the core of the fifth moon. This will produce some power. The only way to get power immediately is to poison the atmosphere, so residents must be evacuated.

This is very obviously meant to be an allegory for removing natives from their land so we can flood the area and build hydroelectric dams. So far, so good.

But wait ... The Bajorans are poisoning the (fully breathable!) atmosphere of their closest off-world colony. The project will only power 200,000 homes, about as much as a single coal power plant. There's a non-destructive alternative available, and it would take only one year to start achieving "meaningful" power output.

Compare this to a modern hydro dam. They've dramatically reduced the benefit and increased the destructiveness, and rejected a safe alternative due to a tiny delay. This takes things well beyond the point of absurdity. It's the sort of thing I might expect from Ferengi, not from Bajorans -- with full support from the Federation, no less!

I realise Trek has never been about total realism, but I just found this premise jaw-droppingly ridiculous, and I found it detracted (and distracted) heavily from the episode. What were the script writers thinking?
Elliott - Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
Wisq:

Your note about the premises of DS9 being ridiculous (and most notably the part about Federation support) is the great systemic flaw of this series. Very few seem to be aware of it or acknowledge it, but this show makes major distortions of Star Trek canon in order to make its point. Sometimes, the point is well taken, but it depends upon a reality which is incongruous with what we know from the other series.
Ken Egervari - Thu, Oct 14, 2010 - 1:06pm (USA Central)
I have a problem with "Progress", and it's about the story's content.

DS9 used to be my favourite show period, but my philosophy about life has changed a lot since then, and I've watched this series 2 times.

After watching some old episodes, I realize that the underlying philosophy in this show is of self-sacrifice, duty of the state, blackmail when it becomes convenient, and so on. The shows are littered with principles that are just evil, and the characters willingly go along with it for "the greater good".

Progress is an example of this. A man is being forced from his house, and Kira recognizes that it's wrong. It IS wrong. There is no debating this.

The moral? She uses force to remove him against his will from his own land. Wow, just wonderful.

I would have respected Kira a lot more if when she was given to choice by the minister to step down so he could find someone else to remove him, she should have said, "Fine, I'll have no part with it, and you can have my resignation." That would have made the story much more interesting, and it would have been moral.

The problem is that this show, as a lot of star trek shows, is that it emphasizes that the greater good, or the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few with complete disregard to property rights, or the right to life.

It really makes me actually hate a show I once loved. I'm just looking at it from a different perspective now. It's unfortunate.
Maaz - Fri, Oct 15, 2010 - 10:23am (USA Central)
Just to add a bit to what's being said about Progress lately...

I agree that There are some stupid ideas in the episodes, most notably that you would need to tap the core of a moon for such a minimal amount of power, but it seems laziness on the part of the writers. They needed a situation that would need to evacuate a small number of people for the good of the many, and this is all they could come up with.

It does show Kira on the other side of the fence, the enforcer rather than the insurgent. And try as she may, she can't go against her uniform. Similar to what has been happening in China with the Three Rivers project where hundreds of villages are being evacuated and submerged to create the hydroelectric dam.

The need of the many out-weight the needs of the few. This works for a couple of reasons. This is post occupation Bajor, everyone is expected to pull together for the greater good and they government doesnt have time to discuss it. Secondly, this isn't the Federation, it may be at some point, but right now, this is how they do things.



Ken Egervari - Fri, Oct 15, 2010 - 11:53am (USA Central)
Yeah, but what bothers me is that Sisko seemed to be pro-evacuation as well.

The thing is, whether it serves the greater good is irrelevant. The real question is this - what gives them the right to violate the property rights and the right to life of a few in order to serve the good? I'm sorry, but mixing a little evil to get a "good" doesn't work.

If the government offered to buy/trade with them so they could consensually relocate, that would be a different matter, but they clearly tried to remove these 3 people by force. All reason ends at the sight of a gun.

Also what bothers me is that there was a slower method to achieve the same goals without relocating them and without violating rights. This was the moral choice, but they willingly said, "No, it's all or nothing!" Couldn't they have traded/asked the federation for a replacement? Was that not possible? I'm sure it would have been.

It's not just about progress every 2 or 3 episodes has a theme along this end, especially the Ferengi episodes. While some aspects of the Ferengi are not all that great, their desire for profit isn't evil at all, yet the show tries to link the profit motive with the unequal rights of females and the violation of rights of others (theft, scheming, disreptuble business practices).

The thing is, Quark in his later years was more than rational about how he ran his bar. He really was. The federation/Odo still tried to constantly blackmail him anyway, and do all sorts of evil things to him that actually morally wrong, but the show takes this "our way is morally superior" approach. They just assume it's true, even though it has been proven to not be true at all.

It doesn't stop there. There are just countless episodes where the Federation and the main characters take stances that not moral, and it's amazing how I didn't see it before.
Maaz - Sat, Oct 16, 2010 - 6:03am (USA Central)
The one dimentional nature of species if somethign that the entire Star Trek premise has a problem with, (although Voyager did at times try to get away from it), that everyone in a species has to behave in exacltly the same way. They have the same religion, the same culture and behaviour.

If you just look at Earth today, or even just Europe, there are several cultures with different attitudes towards power, money, politics, gender, war and a multitude of things you would find in a diverse people. The French have a very different attitude to the English or the Bulgarians. This is something that Trek regularly fails on, there might be one or two klingons (Duras and D'Ghor some to mind) who aren't completely honourably but most tow the line of honour and bravery.

Back to the Bajorans and Progress in particular, you could argue the Prime Directive comes into effect, Sisko wouldn't interfere in an internal Bajoran affair. Kira, she's serving the new government, she doesnt want to but she has to.

Giantevilhead - Tue, Nov 22, 2011 - 6:55am (USA Central)
The main issue with "Progress" is really the old problem of sci-fi writers not understanding scale.

Realistically speaking, tapping the core of the moon would probably power an entire continent. Considering how the Bajorans are still recovering from the Occupation, they probably desperately need that power. Despite the Federation assistant, there may still be a lot of homeless and starving people on Bajor. They still have to meet the immediate needs of all those who continue to suffer from the Occupation. Utilizing the non-destructive might mean people starving to death or having to live through a winter without adequate heating.
LastDawnOfMan - Thu, Aug 9, 2012 - 5:43pm (USA Central)
The problem that starts to really crop up in this episode is one that many series suffer, that the heroes ridiculously do everything there is to do in a situation with literally millions of other people who, realistically, would be sharing that work.

You have a whole solar system full of people, plus the resources of the Federation and other nearby systems, yet the tiny handful of people running this station are the ones tasked with expelling an old farmer from a moon. Kira spends days doing that one thing.

Kira spends many episodes yelling at her ministers and telling them what to do as if she had been elected their president or something. This tiny group of people are also exploring systems on the other side of the wormwhole, solving every medical or scientific crisis that arises in their part of the quadrant on many on the other side of the wormhole, etc, etc.

In a later episode, it shows Dax and Kira doing the menial task of manually directing traffic to and from the station. So it seems questionable when they keep putting their entire command staff on missions to chase miscreants down or explore.

TL;DR Tiny number of main characters doing everything, everywhere in the galaxy.
Bsherder - Sun, Sep 2, 2012 - 4:39am (USA Central)
I don't recall which episode it was but in one of the next generation episodes Picard said that the federation or starfleet values all life or something along those lines. If you listen closely it sounds like a lot of different birds, animals and insects are on that moon.

If the process they are using to get energy is toxic to humanoids then i would think it would also be toxic to the native wildlife. They didn't bother beaming out all that wildlife which will now die just so they can get energy.

I gotta agree with what Wisq posted. What they are doing doesn't make much sense. The moon also looks huge and not small like an asteroid when the runabout was orbiting it. I can't guess size or what parts of the planet are habitable though.

Can't they just beam all the wildlife off the moon and into cages or even cargo bay size living areas till they can relocate them.

I know its up to the Bajorans since it is their moon but why wouldn't starfleet who knew about it come to the rescue of the wildlife for all the bravado you hear about how humans have evolved and advanced over the centuries.

The reality is probably that the staff making the episode just didn't bother filtering out all that additional noise or thought people just wouldn't care or even notice. Honestly i didn't notice all that sound till i watched the episode a second time.

Overall i enjoyed the episode but as i have already written parts of it didn't make any sense.
Cail Corishev - Wed, Sep 12, 2012 - 1:11pm (USA Central)
Another reason the premise didn't make sense: the Federation is supposed to be so wealthy that it doesn't even use money anymore -- everyone has everything he needs, because replicators and other technologies produce goods so cheaply that there's plenty of whatever anyone wants.

So why doesn't the Federation just send Bajor a bunch of power plants? They wouldn't even have to be permanent, since the story line said an alternative source would be ready within a year. Just park some spaceships in orbit and beam the power down if necessary. It's just like the episode with the land reclamators, when the Federation sends six and the Bajorans practically have a civil war over them. Why not send 60, or 6000, or a reclamator-replicator that can make six million? The supposedly wanting-for-nothing Federation sure gets parsimonious with Bajor, considering how much they're supposed to care about the place.

(And why exactly is the Federation so anxious to invite into its ranks a downtrodden society that can't even hope to feed its own people without drastic techno-solutions and massive outside aid? Before the wormhole was discovered, that really makes no sense at all.)

It would have been an easier call if they'd set up the story so Bajor really had no choice -- maybe an imminent natural disaster on the moon that no one could stop, and the old man refusing to leave. Making it a decision by the government -- and one made more for expediency than for necessity -- makes Kira's choice harder and more interesting. She could have stayed with the old man and dared them to kill them both, or taken up arms and attacked the people getting ready to poison the moon. She didn't go down those paths because she really is changing from someone who valued individual liberty more than anything -- enough to kill and die for it without compromise -- into someone who sees the value of diplomacy and order. She recognizes that change and doesn't like it, which makes this story so much more interesting than if it'd just been a question of whether to save a man against his will.
Van_Patten - Sat, Nov 10, 2012 - 12:30am (USA Central)
DS9's inaugural season continues with an episode that when first watched, I must admit I found rather far-fetched, overly talkative and with, frankly little at stake to make one care about the outcome. Revisiting it now, I think I can safely say it holds up remarkably well.

First review we've encountered Elliott's argument in such a crystallised form so worth tackling it. Apparently DS9 subverts the Trek canon against the Other Series (Possibly against TNG) but it remains far better acted, and to be blunt much more interesting than Voyager ever managed in its first season that I think this critique is a little harsh.

In Progress, The population of a small moon is to be evacuated to provide power for Homes on Bajor and Kira finds herself in a dilemma regarding one holdout household.

In response to Carl Corishev, I can only offer two arguments -1/ The Federation, given Bajor's thinly veiled ambiguity as to whether Federation membership IS desirable (Witness Episode 19 and the Trilogy at the start of Season 2h is reluctant to give them the requisite technology?

2/ They fear a renewed Cardassians buildup as a result of them becoming too much of a 'donor' to the Bajorans - the critique observing the ridiculously small scale of the project's impact is a fair one.

That said, taking the episode with these caveats in mind, I found it very interesting. Nana Visitor gives her best performance yet (better than 'Battle Lines') and her scenes with Brooks are very believable. The performance of Brian Keith as Mullibok is also very good and the interaction between the Primary lead and the main guest is a highlight.
I did not find the B plot as irritating as Jammer and it highlighted the character development of Aron Eisenberg as well. Definitely an episode that needs to be watched carefully, but for me a highlight of the season, if not the best episode thus far in the series. 3.5 Stars from me.
grumpy_otter - Sun, Apr 21, 2013 - 8:16am (USA Central)
I didn't think that much about this episode until i read the comments--when I watched I was "Whoa! Brian Keith!" And then "Whoa! What the heck kind of underwear is Kira wearing to make those weird bumps? Those ain't lovely lady lumps!"

Lots of good points made by previous commenters--I think it partly all comes down to what you believe about property. Like in Insurrection--is it right to take away what others have built and claimed for a greater good? I don't think there is a bright line answer for this--it is all circumstantial.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 30, 2013 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
While there are definite plot holes, the purpose of this episode is clearly an exploration of Kira's conflicts and her development as a character, from a rebel to an apologist for the new administration.

Many countries (not only communist ones or dictatorships either, but good old Western capitalist democracies) have laws which allow governments to confiscate properties for development projects, whether these projects are good ideas or not, and then their officials are forced to defend these projects.

These are positions and conflicts people have to face, whether they are well-thought out situations or not.

As for the B-story, well, it is reminiscent of high school economics projects... amusing enough.
Snitch - Mon, Oct 14, 2013 - 6:30pm (USA Central)
This episode makes me miss Ensign Ro, well written but the Kira actress just annoys me and is more bitchy then a rebel. I love the story, and the problem of suddenly have to be the government and force people of the land. That must be hard for a true rebel at heart.

3 1/2 Stars
K'Elvis - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 8:23am (USA Central)
The plot is nonsensical, it's attempting to shoehorn a plot into a setting where it can't fit. At the most basic, it's an old plot: someone's house is in the way of some project. It could be a new freeway, it could be a new dam, it could be Arthur Dent's house. When you drive on a freeway in a city, you're probably driving where someone's house used to stand.

The plot would have worked if it had been on the surface of Bajor. But a moon with a molten core, large enough to support an atmosphere and support life just isn't plausible. Why in the world would they throw away a colony that can support life? Are colonies so cheap that they can just trash them, particularly when it could have been avoided by merely waiting a year? The Hoover Dam provides enough electricity to power 1,700,000 homes, making this power plant seem quite paltry.

Kira is in a position where she simply has no choice. If she doesn't evict him, someone else will. This episode forces her to accept that part of doing her job is doing things that she disagrees with. This could have been a much better episode if it had been better thought out. Put it in a valley on Bajor, make it a hydroelectric plant, and the story becomes plausible.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 2:02pm (USA Central)

Not the most exciting episode and the premise didn't make a lot of sense, but I liked it anyway. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Kira.

5.5/10
Jack - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 11:46am (USA Central)
A man gets impaled by a farm instrument and another takes what was almost certainly just a phaser set on stun, and Kira is more concerned with the latter. Lovely.
cade - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
I strongly agree with Ken Egervari's moral objections to this episode. DS9 used to be my favorite ST series, but that was when I was a kid who didn't think much about the messages being sent. Revisiting the series, I'm finding a number of episodes deeply troubling and antithetical to what Star Trek once stood for. Conversely, as an adult I've come to appreciate TNG and its ethics a lot more.
Andy's Friend - Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - 6:03pm (USA Central)
I don’t recall this particular episode, and sadly Season 1 of DS9 is the only season of Star Trek I don’t have on dvd (never loan a season of ST to anyone save your very best friends!), but from what you all write here, there seems to be a paradox in the whole premise:

Bajor has just suffered an occupation where all their rights have been ignored and trodden on by the Cardassians for decades. I find it hard to believe that Bajor wouldn’t place a great emphasis on all sorts of rights of the individual after such an experience. Evacuating the population of a colony against their will in order to explore some power source there is just the kind of treatment that population might have expected from the Cardassians. Surely the Bajoran government wouldn’t want to be compared to the Cardassian occupation forces...

As I said, I don’t remember the episode, and maybe this issue is adressed in it. It just seems strange.

@cade: I’m glad you came around! ;) I like DS9, but see it mostly as TNG taking a trip down all the wrong ethical paths. It’s entertaining. It has great production values. It has many very well written stories. Unfortunately, it’s a Federation so corrupted and perverted that it is hardly worthy of the name compared to TNG. And unfortunately, that’s not how DS9 sees itself.

As others have pointed out, DS9 is 24th century humans behaving like we do today. TNG is 24th century humans behaving like maybe, just maybe, we could all become something better one day...
DavidK - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 6:53am (USA Central)
It's been awhile since I've seen this one but aren't the holdouts offered land on a different moon as compensation? As long as you're justly compensated, the government forcibly purchasing your property isn't unusual, it happens all the time even now via eminent domain. You do have legal recourse though, Bajoran lawyers should have been rushing to defend these farmers, get the issue out into the press, drum up some grassroots support for this David and Goliath story, make the political costs greater for the Provisional Government than the gains of booting them out.

Damn I think I want to see my version now.

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