Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Sanctuary"

**

Air date: 11/29/1993
Teleplay by Frederick Rappaport
Story by Gabe Essoe & Kelley Miles
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Three million refugees from a race called the Skrreeans come through the wormhole looking for their destined homeworld. It's later revealed that Bajor is the world they have sought, and the problem becomes finding a place for them on a torn world that can barely sustain itself.

However, before this premise is revealed the story spends its first act mired in a lot of silliness involving the Universal Translator, which ultimately has little dramatic relevance and winds up being simply implausible. (And just because there's a language barrier doesn't mean the Skrreeans have to enter every room with such overstated trepidation.) Once we're through the awkwardly played scene where the Skrreeans become linguistically comprehensible, a social allegory of sorts begins to take form. About all I can say here is that I see what they were going for, but the execution leaves much to be desired. The idea of the Bajorans denying the Skrreeans the sanctuary they request is definitely a plausible argument, and the issues of xenophobia and unwelcomed immigration are certainly relevant.

But the script is heavy-handed in its obvious messages, and the dramatic tension is forced. Even though Sisko finds the Skrreeans a perfectly reasonable (probably more reasonable) alternative planet, Haneek (Deborah May), the Skrreean who represents the refugees, remains positively adamant on Bajor for reasons that are never made clear. The episode seems to be preaching about Bajor's unwillingness to help outsiders for the sake of preaching, rather than building a solid story around the premise.

I also don't care for the completely forced and manipulative ending sequence, where the story sends Haneek's son Tumak (Andrew Koenig) charging toward Bajor in a stolen ship, for the sole reason of killing him off and driving home the would-be message. Yes, there are some valid points here. But there's also a lot of lackluster drama that wants to mean more than it really does.

Previous episode: Second Sight
Next episode: Rivals

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16 comments on this review

Nebula Nox - Wed, May 16, 2012 - 11:41am (USA Central)
The Jews returning to Palestine comes to mind ... and the dangerous consequences of bullying
John - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 6:04am (USA Central)
The only reason for the universal translator issues and the Skrreean's misandry is to get Kira and Haneek to bond. Overplayed and unnecessary really.

And I would agree with you Jammer that the refugee issue is poorly handled. The get out of jail card of having a perfect spare planet available for colonisation robs the Bajorans of any moral consequences and leaves Haneek looking arrogant and ungrateful.

I guess the genesis project is not needed in the 24th century.
Ian - Fri, Jul 6, 2012 - 12:31am (USA Central)
It was a bit confusing.
The Jewish people returning to their ancient homeland seemed to be part of the point.
It is muddled in its message though.
The Jewish people WERE and ARE the rightful inhabitants of the land of Israel (wrongly referred to as "palestine,")
The bullying the previous post referred to is from the "palestinians," as Bajorans I assume...
Shane - Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 5:45am (USA Central)
"I guess the genesis project is not needed in the 24th century."

I imagine the great controversy involving the Klingons and the Genesis Device caused it to be outlawed. (Perhaps in the Khitomer Accords?) We see in TNG and DS9 that terraforming is used to create habitable planets which could be used to backup a theory on the banning of Genesis.

But you're right, in Trek there are thousands of M-class worlds anyway, so you might be right that it's not really needed.
Eric - Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - 7:03pm (USA Central)
My biggest problem with this episode is its almost complete failure to generate any sympathy in me toward the Skrreeans. I understand what they did and why they did it, but I didn't care. Ultimately, they struck me as needlessly stubborn and unreasonable.
conroy - Tue, Jul 31, 2012 - 8:14pm (USA Central)
Uhm... the previous episode "Second Sight" not only brought a dead star back to life, but the guy who did it was a TERRAFORMER. He said that his crowning achievement would bring life back to the system.

He talked about many of his creations - multiple worlds. The Genesis Project probably was superceeded, as Dax mentioned the characteristics of a terraformer, making it sound like there were more of them, and that terraforming was not uncommon.
LastDawnOfMan - Thu, Aug 9, 2012 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
One sad thing about the Trek universe, with its history of progressive messages, is that every species has the regressive effect of making you wonder which unfortunate contemporary ethnic group it caricatures.

I could see their situation sounding like the Jews in Palestine after WWII, but this would have been more compelling if, as with the Jews, there had been something to tell us that Bajor used to be their homeworld, rather than their apparently temporary and arbitrary claim that it was. Then the issue of them coming back would have been more of an ethical dilemma.

In the Trek universe, their space Jews are already horribly represented by the Ferengi anyway. So I thought maybe they were the Space Gypsies. And nobody wants them around, apparently.

As with many DS9 episodes, the story is utterly weakened by giving them an easy exit as you guys pointed out, making the whole incident a throw-away that may as well never have happened.

The universal translator is one of those Trek technologies that always breaks when it makes things more dramatic for it to. I wonder how Trek writers look themselves in the mirror when many of their tropes are just as pitifully certain as "Shave and a Haircut" in Roger Rabbit.

Could have been much worse, though. Remember the Space Irish versus the stuck-up Space British in TNG?
Elliott - Sat, Aug 11, 2012 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
I am very hesitant to pipe up on this whole Jewish allegory in the episode--it is definitely something I noticed the first time I saw it--the issues surrounding this continued problem are so thickly oppressive in their scope, that the idea of debating it alone is exhausting. However, let it be said that the only argument for any land belonging to a people who (for whatever reason) moved away and wish to return is a religious one. Otherwise, Americans would be morally obligated to return all the territory in the US to whatever native americans are still alive in our century.

That's why, I think, the social allegory works; the Skrreeans (who came up with that name?) have a perfect solution offered to them by the Federation, but insist, for religious reasons, that Bajor is the place they must inhabit, and try to curry sympathy for themselves as being victimised by the Bajorans. The only thing which would make the allegory more true to life would be arming the Skrreeans to the teeth with Dominion-style weapons which posed a serious threat to Bajor, and having the Federation back the Skrreeans.

I don't understand why the episode is lined with so much irrelevant nonsense, then--translator issues, gender issues, parental issues--the premise is potent enough on its own. 2 stars is just right.
Jay - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
I agree with Eric..the Skreeeeeeans had no claim whatsoever to Bajor, and thus their stubborn and unreasonable sense of entitlement to a piece of it reeked to high heaven...
Comp625 - Thu, Jan 17, 2013 - 2:43pm (USA Central)
I agree with most of the previous comments. "Sanctuary" seemed lost in its efforts in both entertaining the viewer and telling a strong story.

- The 10 minutes spent on the Universal Translator was awkward and misplaced. These 10 minutes could have been used to better develop the Skrreeans as a race.

- Similarly, there is little sympathy towards the Skrreeans. I'm not sure if that's because the acting was a bit off, or if the plot was thin, or both, but I found it difficult to care about the outcome of their plight.

- I see how this episode can be seen as a Jewish allegory. However, I still agree with "LastDawnOfMan" though; the arbitrary claim that Bajor is the Skrreeans' holy land is far-fetched. The religious tones are not properly built up, so there's no meaning behind the Skrreeans' claim (unlike the Jewish/Palestinian conflict that has a very deep backstory).

The only saving grace of this episode is the ending, which I thought was actually NOT a fast exit. A fast exit would have meant the Bajorians giving up a piece of their land to the Skrreeans. Instead, they did end up relocating to a nearby Class-M planet.

It's also important to note Andrew Koenig's appearance as Haneek's son, Tumak. He was the real-life son of Walter Koenig (Chekov from TOS). Unfortunately, Andrew took his own life in 2010 after a battle with depression. May he rest in peace.

Lastly, this comment extends beyond "Sanctuary," but I personally find the DS9 early series aliens-of-the-week to be very cheezy on multiple levels (almost equally cheezy to the Season 1 TNG aliens).

- The Skrreeans are ridiculous, not only in their demands, but also with their hair and clothing styles from circa 1985.
- The Dosi were absurd with their facepaint and American Gladiators style outfits. Conceptually, they were "OK" (two-dimensional creatures but at least their dialogues weren't hokey). However, I still couldn't take them visually seriously.
- The immortality of the warring clans from "Battle Lines" was far-fetched to begin with.

My episode rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars
Shawn Davis - Sun, Mar 10, 2013 - 5:06pm (USA Central)
I agree with Jammer and most of the comments here about this episode.

I understand with what they are trying to do here by doing the story about the "Skrreeans" and finding their home planet being similar to Jewish people trying to find Palestine. I don't have a problem with this, but it's the way that the story was written that made me feel little simpathy for the Skrreeans and their representative Haneek. As Jammer said, there is no specific reason stated on why Haneek thinks that Bajor is their home planet that they are looking for. I agree with what he said about the Bajorans being right not to allow the Skrreeans to live on their planet due to paranoia and xenophobia also.

I agree with Jammer and everyone else's comments about the translator problem during the first 10 minutes of the show. I actually glad that they brought up something like this to indicate that not all the gadgets in the world of Star Trek doesn't always work for some species and not convient or is some type of "Deux-ex Machina", but it is the way that part of the story was executed that made the translator thing look ridiculous.
Andre - Thu, Mar 14, 2013 - 5:38pm (USA Central)
@Lastdawnofman about the ferengi:
I´m not sure if I understood you correctly, but are you implying that the star trek writers created the ferengi based on their view of jewish people? Or at least your comment would be based on an assumption of yours that jews are like the ferengi, greedy profit-makers an so on.

Either way, both of the possibilities are plain antisemitic. I think you should make clearer how you meant it or you should overthink again what you have written. Because if i´m right, this kind of argumentation should have no place in a forum, especially not in a star trek minded forum.

I just doesnt want to let this rest unspoken of.

Thank you.

A.
Matt - Tue, Apr 2, 2013 - 1:23pm (USA Central)
In this episode, we learn from O'Brien that phaser beams can possibly ignite radiation.
T'Paul - Tue, Jul 2, 2013 - 10:38am (USA Central)
I really have to disagree with the comments above.

I think this episode was better than both the episode after and before it. Yes, the translator bits were awkward, and yes, it mixed a lot of issues, but overall I think it worked.

Without searching for real world comparisons, which I think is unnecessary and unwarranted, I think the real idea here is Bajorans turning down help because they have become suspicious and untrusting.

The Skrreeans could have helped the Bajorans out of a famine, but the Bajorans refused that help. Perhaps the Skrreeans could have been helpful in the problems the Bajorans were to encounter later in the series. Perhaps the Skrreeans could have really turned Bajor around... alas, they'll never know. Also, the Skrreeans were not unlike the Bajorans in their mysticism and religion.
K'Elvis - Tue, Oct 15, 2013 - 7:53am (USA Central)
If habitable planets are so widely available that they can hand them out like party favors, why bother with terraforming. Just because the Skrreeans decided Bajor was their home, doesn't mean that it is. The Skrreeans are given a whole planet of their own, and they come off as simply ungrateful because Bajor didn't give into their demands. The Skrreeans just don't have any claim on Bajor.

The sub-plot with the stolen ship seemed pointless, nothing was changed. It actually undermined the story, Tumak's belligerent behavior doesn't bode well for the Skrreeans fitting in well if they were to have settled on Bajor.

Besides, who said they interpreted their prophesy correctly? They did find their new home in he Bajoran system. It wasn't LOCATED there, but when they came through the wormhole, and arrived in Bajoran space, they were given a new home. They have a choice: they can reinterpret their prophesy, or they can stew over not being given land on Bajor. The former is healthier.
Kotas - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 3:42pm (USA Central)

I found the premise and the Skrreeans to be quite annoying. A bad episode.

2/10

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