Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Past Prologue"


Air date: 1/11/1993
Written by Kathryn Powers
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When Tahna (Jeffrey Nordling), a former member of a Bajoran terrorist group, seeks asylum from Sisko after a narrow escape from Cardassians who have labeled him a criminal, he begins carrying out a new plan that involves gaining the trust of his old acquaintance, Major Kira. The most interesting aspect of "Past Prologue" is that it introduces the many shades of grey that define some of the strongest aspects of the series. The heated arguments between Sisko and Kira highlight how much of an asset that conflict between regular characters can be on DS9.

Meanwhile, the episode introduces "plain, simple Garak" with an amusing, unforgettable opening sequence between him and Doctor Bashir—and continues to develop Bashir's energetic kid-like naivete. Kira and Odo show an interesting understanding in a standout scene that reveals Kira's problem of being torn between her loyalties to the "old" Bajor and her loyalties to the ever-evolving provisional government that has made its alliance with the Federation.

Plot angles involving Tahna, Garak, the Cardassians, and even the Duras sisters tie together with surprising plausibility, leading to an episode that goes a long way toward defining characters and relationships while being quite entertaining all the same. Only the lack of development in Tahna as a character holds this one back.

Previous episode: Emissary
Next episode: A Man Alone

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17 comments on this review

Christina - Thu, Jul 23, 2009 - 10:28pm (USA Central)
"Btw, is it just me or does Garak seem to be hitting on Dr. Bashir from the get go (...)?"

It's not just you. ;-) Bashir is so adoringly nervous during their first meeting, he acts like a blushing virgin girl, and yet he seems fascinated by Garak's charm and intimations of sinister secrets.

I see Garak and Bashir as the one great tragic love story of DS9, because they ended up apart, each one bitter and traumatized by their respective war experiences.
Elliott - Sun, Apr 24, 2011 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
2. Past Prologue

Teaser *** 5%

Ahh, Garak. What an absolute joy. He's strange and probing and uncomfortable and so gloriously enigmatic. The scene is also strangely charged with something bordering on sexual tension. Bashir on the other hand, is understandably discomforted, but obnoxiously and unbelievably naïve for a 26 year old. His eagerness to be some sort of spy-hero is cloying at best. Kira's self-righteous shouting is if anything worse. A lot of this has to do with delivery. Given a quickness, a fluidity to the delivery of lines would lend a great deal of empathy to the dialogue, but alas it's all very stilted. The entry of Tana Los is sufficiently mysterious to engage and wet the appetite for more.

Act 1 17% **

First question, how does O'Brien know from looking at his panel that the Cardassians are “hopping mad”? The fact that Sisko so easily slips into his opportunism again in invoking “docking regulations,” it's rather disconcerting that he's the commander of the station. On the other hand, I appreciated his sentiments to Kira. Her political spouting is grating and totally unsympathetic. She's totally self-serving and hostile. No experience as a member of the underground permits such an attitude in or out of a starfleet command structure. Her communiqué to Admiral Roland is the icing on the cake. I don't like that she seemed more concerned with the lack of procedure than the lack of loyalty in the situation, but I digress. O'Brien's attitudes—so easy to stereotype and generalise about Bajorans and Cardassians—are perhaps even more disquieting coming from a human family man. Sisko's obstinacy in the face of Danar is unreasonable—even if he's right about Cardassian “justice,” it would behove the situation to show some of that cunning he's supposed to be renown for and offer a little diplomacy.

Act 2 **.5 17%
Los is a f**king idiot and it's obvious. He's just a child who likes to play with guns and exercise his aggression. You'd think given Kira's argument to Los about the benefits of Federation presence and the wormhole, she'd ingratiate herself to Sisko a little more. I'd like to meet a Bajoran who isn't a violence-prone asshole to validate the claim that their culture is enlightened. Lursa and Betor are likeable as ever, but don't really get developed in this episode, their motivations are vague and their presence borders on gratuitous. Sisko's refusal to arrest the Duras sisters is also silly given how he behaved towards Danar. Either he's a Federation idealist or he isn't, why make two choices which are both out of everyone's interests and contradictory in their motivations. Garak saves the act, however, with his unique brand of charm, slipping suddenly and with deadly sincerity into something more closely resembling his true nature upon spotting Los.

Act 3 ***.5 17%

I have to say I laughed out loud when Sisko dressed Kira down in front of the entire command crew. While I can't say I approve of his lack of curtesy, it was nice seeing Kira smote a bit for her arrogance. Odo, for his part is engaging as an investigator and likeable for his frankness. “I think they all simply get tired of hearing my voice.” Hehe, truest thing you ever said, Kira. Actually, the scene where Los presents his plan to Kira is spot on. The arguments are solid and driven from a place of truth, both politically and in terms of character.

Act 4 *** 17%

But seriously, is Bashir 12 years old? Any subtlety in his relationship with Garak suffered a great deal given his adolescent dullness. Very quickly, the “new suit” joke becomes as tired as the “plain and simple clothier” gag. The episode didn't thirst for comic relief, it needed to develop Los with that time. Standout in the episode is the conversation between Odo and Kira. Damn if Odo isn't intuitive about humanoid psychology given his attested ignorance about the subject, but here it really works. The line “the only important things is not to betray yourself,” is a little bit of sophistry which really leaves a bad taste in my mouth however. It does on the other hand hint at the kind of people the Changlings will turn out to be. The reveal that the terrorist is making a bomb is a big let down. Who didn't see that coming? Surprising plot elements are not necessary for good drama. In fact I'd wager that most of the best drama comes as no surprise from an events point of view: drama stems from mythology and mythical plots are hardwired into our psyche. The key when turns of event are hardly earth-shattering is not to rely upon them, as I think the final scene here does in abundance.

Act 5 *.5 %17

I find it incredulous that given the gravity of the situation, Sisko would be willing to send Kira alone when he still oughtn't know if he can trust her. Why not send Odo along as a belt or something? Ah, anyway, Visitor does a very good job at believably portraying someone who is lying very well to Los. Los' threat to explode the bomb in Bajoran space is a comic-book style contrivance...there has been nothing to suggest this kind of desperation in a man who has myriad options and no pressing emotional concerns. It serves to move the plot along, which is something, but what follows drifts into excess...we get spinning ships which end up in the Gamma Quadrent with Kira and Los playing Die Hard in-vehicle fight inside...it's borderline laughable. The only dialogue the whole endeavour elicites from him is “Damn you” and “traitor.” Ho hum. Adding a little action into the mix isn't a problem on its own, but in this case it cut deeply into an ending which never occurred, namely a meaningful rehash and resolution between Kira and Sisko. A 3 second stroll down a corridor doesn't count I'm afraid.

Episode as functionary **.5 %10

Well, it's great that we get to scratch a bit into Kira's past. While I certainly appreciate complexity in my characters, making them appear absolutely two-faced is not a way to win me over to them. Understandable and worthy emotional struggles are undercut by trivial and self-serving political posturing. Sisko comes across as more of a plot piece than a meaningful foil for Kira as he really needed to be given the episode's premise. The bad guys are all underdeveloped. As a second episode, it's not too bad and spreads what gold there is around making for an uneven but watchable hour.

Final Score **.5
Van Patten - Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - 1:53am (USA Central)
Surprisingly impressive for the second episode although it was a little unfortunate they had to rope in some TNG characters in the shape of the Duras sisters (Arguably the main positive aspect of Star Trek: Generations was their demise) Nevertheless, A well- told story.I don't think the tension between Kira and Sisko was 'kept up' (At least not until the season finale) but those scenes were well- done.

The actor playing Tahna is sometimes slightly off- kilter, but the plot moves quickly, and the early promise shown by Rene Auberjonois in the pilot is confirmed here. His no- nonsense portrayal of a job- obsessed man with nothing else in his life really hits home. The scene where He advocates the immediate detention of the Duras sisters is excellent.

In amongst all this, Dirty Harry star Andrew Robinson makes his first (and only in Season 1) appearance. His character is justly praised, and the excellence of Robinson's performance goes some way to making this a good vehicle for fledging Actor Siddig (I know he's called something else here)

So, light years ahead of its TNG counterpart second episode- agree with the rating, and even reaching it today, it's still an excellent second episode of a series. 3 stars from me also...
Wiliam - Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - 11:01pm (USA Central)
I thought for the first post-pilot episode, it was good. As you said:

The most interesting aspect of "Past Prologue" is that it introduces the many shades of grey that define some of the strongest aspects of the series.

Again, you can tell upon review they really had a vision for these characters -- and the people as cultures.

They just never seemed to get that many really compelling actors in these guest-star Bajoran roles, though. So a lot of the Bajoran political intrigue stories end up being lost in the fog of my mind as fairly good, but rarely stand out.
NCC-1701-Z - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 12:06am (USA Central)
Overall, a respectable effort. I liked how Kira basically got her own ep, and was genuinely wracked by divided loyalties. It's nice to see genuine conflict between main characters, and my favorite scene was probably her talk with Odo - very brother-sister like. Her choice was made kinda easy by Tahna turning out to be a bad guy at the end, but I still thought it pulled through.

And, I love "plain, simple" (HA!) Garak already. Hope to see more of him in the future.

The chase scene felt flat and preordained, though. I would have liked a little more action, and if the senior staff knew Tahna was going to steal a runabout, couldn't they have just taken the phasers out of the cabin so Tahna couldn't simply grab one and take Kira hostage, or replaced them with fakes? Seemed to me to be a basic precaution I would have taken in Sisko's place.

High 2.5 or mid- to low 3 for me.
grumpy_otter - Sun, Apr 7, 2013 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this! The "who is selling out whom?" aspect really worked for me and kept me interested until we discovered Tahna's ultimate plan.

I thought he was fine as a character--I wanted to believe him at first, so that was convincing, and when he turned out to be still with the Kohn-Ma, I understood and sympathized with his motivations.

Of course, this is in the middle of me writing a lecture about China during the "scramble for concessions" so I am fairly anti-imperialist at the moment. I totally get why he would want to destroy the wormhole and keep Bajor for Bajorans.

And I love Kira! I don't find her annoying at all and am not sure what others are seeing. I actually yelled "kick his ass, Kira!" during the shuttle fight.

So far, the first three episodes of DS-9 are knocking all other series' first three out of the water!
William B - Tue, Apr 9, 2013 - 10:15am (USA Central)
I just realized -- Katharyn Powers, writer of this episode, is the same Katharyn Powers whose only other Trek episode is *Code of Honour*. I know that CoH was partly torpedoed by the director, plus we don't know about the levels of rewrites of both episodes, but, well, wow, an improvement.
azcats - Wed, Sep 4, 2013 - 2:57pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode. but i forogt about the Garak character. I always loved his "intrigue."

I thought it was maybe a bit too soon to make Kira soften her stance to the federation. but you knew it had to be done eventually.

i forgot how much a dupe the doctor was in the first season. it is almost like he is 20 years old.

solid show. 2 or 2.5 stars....

also, i wish elliott had done his reviews for Voyager...
Snitch - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
I liked the episode, although Kira's acting is a bit off, her character seems a little too naive in this episode. Where is Ensign Roe when you need her.

I enjoyed seeing the Duras sisters in the continuity plot of the week.

Garak is setting up his reign of greatness in the series. "a new suit at 20:55 did I make myself clear?"

3 Stars from me.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 1:31pm (USA Central)

A decent follow up to the pilot with some important introductions and character development.

Yanks - Wed, Jun 18, 2014 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
I thought this episode was pretty good. Love how they brought in the Duras sisters.

The best part was we start to get to know "plain, simple Garak".

Very good first regular episode.

3.5 stars for me.
Black_Goat - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 1:33am (USA Central)
Past Prologue: B+
The Good:
- Garak is excellent, and I already know that we’ll be seeing more of him. He’s a wonderfully quirky character, and as morally ambiguous as the rest of this episode. I do wonder why he approached Bashir of all people (other than the fact that Bashir is a regular). Perhaps he sees that Bashir is full of enough self-importance to be easily manipulated.
- I’m liking Bashir, though he’s almost too bumbling at points – unlike “Emissary”, this episode didn’t showcase his medical skills to balance out the naïve fluttering. But that first scene with Garak was funny, as was the follow-up where he tries to convince the bridge crew to wire him.
- Odo. His nostalgia for the simpler days under Cardassian occupation, his inability to fake pretense, his basically straightforward way of handling Kira’s indecision – this is a character I’m growing more and more interested in.
- And speaking of Kira, this was a great episode for her. The conversations with Sisko, Tahna, and Odo reveal a certain degree of guilt about working with the provincial government of Bajor and the Federation, but I like the argument she makes about still fighting for her people, just in a new way.
- The whole plot really fit together rather neatly. Tahna is manipulating Kira while working with the Klingons, who are planning on betraying him to the Cardassians. Garak, somewhat fascinatingly, plays both sides of the fence by roping in Bashir, which allows Sisko to apprehend Tahna instead of the Cardassians. Sisko and Odo test Kira, who decides to betray Tahna. I enjoyed guessing who would end up playing who.
- Thematically rich episode, dealing with the delineation between warfare and terrorism, past and present, duty (to one thing) and duty (to another). Going back to “Emissary”, I might argue that Kira’s decisions in this episode validate some of the stuff Sisko says about pursuing the unknown based on our culminated experiences; she knows that the actions of the Kohn-Ma are no longer viable so she chooses to go with the Federation.

The Mixed:
- Tahna is pretty good in the earlier parts of the episode, and I like the ways in which he tests Kira. Even his eventual goal of destroying the wormhole is understandable. But it was probably a mistake on the writers’ part to let him start slapping Kira around; that very quickly burned away my sympathy for him and eliminated some of the episode’s moral ambiguity.
- Avery Brooks was better in this episode, although he was given less to do. I’m enjoying Sisko’s relationships with Kira, Odo, and Bashir, but Brooks is just so stiff, physically, in certain scenes, and some of his deliveries are quite wooden.

The Bad:
- The Klingon sisters were pretty goofy and awful, though functional within the plot.
- The chase sequence at the end was weak, and poorly edited to boot. I was confused as to what was happening at the end in regards to the wormhole and the bomb.
- Little follow-up to certain aspects of the pilot, especially the religious ones.
- Jake and Quark were no-shows this week, while Dax and O’Brien were given little to do. This is certainly understandable given the show’s large cast, but it’s still disappointing.

Robert - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 6:40am (USA Central)
@Black_Goat - You said you were not a Star Trek fan, so I'm not sure how much Next Generation you've watched. In case you were not aware the Duras sisters were recurring antagonists on Next Generation and their inclusion was a marketing ploy to get TNG fans to watch DS9.

Likewise when you see Q and Vash in a few episodes, same deal :)
Black_Goat - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
@Robert - I kind of suspected as much. Understandable on DS9's part, but unlike the Picard appearance in 'Emissary", the sisters didn't add much for me. And they're just so goofy.
Robert - Fri, Nov 21, 2014 - 12:55pm (USA Central)
"And they're just so goofy. "

You probably don't want to watch Star Trek 7 then, the movie where they were one of the primary bad guys :)

In either case, welcome to DS9! If you make it through to episode 19 I guarantee you'll like it!
Ash - Mon, Feb 2, 2015 - 8:57am (USA Central)
The ironic thing is if Los were successful it would have prevented the dominion wars and saved countless lives.
Diane - Wed, Feb 11, 2015 - 5:47pm (USA Central)
I like this episode for 2 reasons, Kira got just what she deserves. She automatically believes Tahna because he was Bajoran freedom fighter in the past. He didn't have the same goals in mind that she had. He manipulates her then betrays her. Secondly, Sisko let her know in no uncertain terms, he was her boss and if she went over his head again, she would be history. I loved the ending when Kira looked like a fool and just walked away with Sisko, he could have gloated, but he didn't.
My second reason is Garak and Bashir.

*I notice on different occasions how people say DS9 was underrated, I remember how DS9 continually beat Voyager in the ratings, all of the time. DS9 was not understood, but it has a cult-following now. Personally I thought and think this show is extraordinary. Star Trek had gotten to be old stuff and needed a change. (DS9)

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