Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Explorers"

***

Air date: 5/8/1995
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Hilary J. Bader
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"It's not a synthale kind of night." — Bashir

Some good character moments and a general dose of positive feelings characterize an appropriately timed, calm, light episode in the wake of the past two heavy duty outings.

After reading some astounding history, Sisko returns from Bajor with an impulse to build an ancient vessel. History states that 800 years ago ancient Bajorans built space vessels that operated on solar sails. According to legend, they were able to make the trip all the way to Cardassia. That's quite a feat at sub-warp speeds—a seemingly impossible feat, really. O'Brien doesn't even believe the design is spaceworthy.

Sisko decides to build one of these sailing ships to prove that the design is spaceworthy and make the legendary trip to the Cardassian system. Using the original plans for the design, he builds the ship in a cargo bay in his spare time. If you're willing to believe Sisko would have enough off-duty time to accomplish such an undertaking by himself over just a few weeks—well, even if you're not—this episode will most likely work for you.

Set as the B-story is Bashir attempting to face Dr. Elizabeth Lense (Bari Hochwald) of the USS Lexington, to whom he lost by a nose in their medical academy Valedictorian race.

I like this episode because it does what the series needs to do every once in a while—forget about threats and plots for a week and just sit back and let the characters carry the show. That's exactly what "Explorers" is—a light-on-plot-and-tension outing which proves the cast knows how to conduct itself with the most basic of material.

Like in the first half of "Past Tense," this episode shows a very respectable trait in Commander Sisko—his feelings of the importance of history. He puts forth a passionate effort on a project he hopes will uncover further truths about the ancient Bajorans, who were exploring their star system while humanity was finally ready to cross the ocean.

Put Jake in the ship with his father for the trip, and "Explorers" becomes a welcome father/son story. This episode highlights some seldom-utilized, meaningful concerns shared between Sisko and his son. For example, Jake reveals that he has been offered a writing fellowship to a school on Earth, which is a terrific opportunity. But Jake also reveals that he's worried to leave his father all alone on DS9. He wants his father to date a little more often. "It's been over a year since your last date. A year, Dad," he says. As a rather amusing notion, Jake knows a freighter captain named Kasidy Yates whom he would like to set up with his father.

The scenes between Sisko and Jake work well; both Avery Brooks and Cirroc Lofton bring a genuine sense of believability to the relationship. And even when the plot presents the lone sailors with torn-up space sails and destroyed navigation devices, the plot wisely plays down all remnants of a jeopardy angle and keeps the focus on the core of the episode—the character elements.

What initially appears to be a mission failure as the sail ship unexpectedly and unexplainably accelerates to warp speed—presumably light-years off course—turns out to be a successful cruise into the Cardassian system due to technobabble convenience. In a very positive ending, the Siskos are met by Gul Dukat, who offers words of welcome and even celebrates their arrival with fireworks. The presentation of Dukat's lighter side comes across surpassingly well. Finally, finally the writers paint the Cardassians as something other than a brick wall.

The B-story, in which Bashir can't determine why Dr. Lense totally ignores his existence, is a prime example of the presentation transcending the material. Trite as this story may be, it all comes together when Bashir and O'Brien decide to get drunk. Many viewers may find it hokey, but this scene is funny. Colm Meaney particularly does a fine job of acting intoxicated. It's not every day we can see the head of the medical staff and the chief engineer barely able to stand up straight.

"Explorers" simply conveys its own self-maintained optimism to the audience and uses characters rather than plot to tell its story. The strength is that the cast knows how to perform.

Previous episode: The Die Is Cast
Next episode: Family Business

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56 comments on this review

Sri
Sat, May 2, 2009, 12:04am (UTC -5)
One thing I always enjoyed about this episode was the interaction between Lense and Bashir- especially when Lense comments at how Bashir must enjoy the ability to undertake long-term projects and watch them develop.

An underhanded comment about the ability of DS9 to entertain story arcs that would be unfeasible on a ship that was always travelling? I like to think so. And I think it highlights the main difference between DS9 and Voyager; Voyager was forced to use a lot of "Bottle Shows" because they never visited the same planet twice.
Brendan
Wed, Jun 17, 2009, 11:54am (UTC -5)
Nice youtube recap of this episode:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCyowQs8dEA
Durandal_1707
Tue, Sep 15, 2009, 2:10am (UTC -5)
One thing I don't get about this one - Sisko kept talking about going from DS9 to the Denorios belt in the ship. Isn't DS9 *in* the Denorios belt? If they started at DS9, shouldn't they already be at their stated destination?
Chris
Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
A fun episode but with two huge flaws:

1. Sisko making a starship, albeit a primitive one, single-handed in less then three weeks of his spare time from running the station. It can't have been longer because it was finished when the Lexington arrived.

2. If it's so easy to make a replica ship, why hadn't any Bejoran explorers ever tried it in the 800 years since the original voyage? After all, the original trip to Cardassia is a major part of their folklore. If they had tried, they would surely also have found the unexpected tachion wind that propelled Sisko's ship to success.
Jonathan
Mon, Apr 12, 2010, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
@Chris, at the beginning of the episode, Sisko just came back from a library opening with the greatest collection of ancient Bejoran stuff. So, they didn't know about it.

Lee
Fri, May 14, 2010, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Wow, that gotee does wonders for Sisko's character. Starting with this episode, he has a charisma and an emotional range that had previously only been hinted at. They finally let Avery Brooks spill out into Sisko.
jon
Fri, Feb 4, 2011, 5:37pm (UTC -5)
A better song for Bashir would have been world in motion, or you'll never walk alone
Robert
Sat, Jun 18, 2011, 9:31am (UTC -5)
Two comments to make on this. Firstly I agree with jammer, it was a wonderful character episode. My favourite scene is the O'Brien-Bashir drinking scene. Totally agree that Colm Meaneys performance in this is pitch perfect. It really is a milestone episode in the development of their friendship and it was beautifully done.

Second comment I would make is this. The ship is a primitive sublight vessel, constructed long before warp drive was discovered. So how can they possibly achieve lightspeed and survive? If the craft moves that fast, father and son would be killed instantly. The only evidence left would be stains on the back wall.

But regardless of that, I really enjoyed this episode. It may have been lightweight in terms of plot, but the acting and the character scenes were fantastic. The scene between O'Brien and Bashir alone merits and extra half star, making this a 3.5 star for me :)
Elliott
Thu, Jul 7, 2011, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
I'm at a loss for words on this one. Sometimes I wonder if someone is playing a trick on me. The acting? Really? If the acting on the parts of Brooks OR Lofton were anything better than amateur, I might be able to stomach the nonsensical and hokey plot. I agree that the story is well-timed given the series arc in terms of weight and focus, but the execution is dismal. How can any of you empathise with these characters given their horrendous portrayals? I've said it before and I'll say it again--the scene with O'Brien and Bashir everyone is gushing over has no business on Star Trek and is precisely that thing which I believe made DS9 attractive to so many--namely that it wasn't really Star Trek. The appeal is absolutely pedestrian and a waste of an hour. 1.5 stars from me.
Captain Tripps
Sat, Sep 17, 2011, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
I don't know what to tell you Elliott, other than commenting that calling Avery Brooks "amateur" is a bit, well, amateurish.
Jay
Fri, Oct 21, 2011, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
Considering the apparent weight of it, it's odd that no mention is made of Bashir's recent Carrington nomination...unless I missed it...
Paul
Sat, Nov 19, 2011, 4:49am (UTC -5)
@Tripps
"I don't know what to tell you Elliott, other than commenting that calling Avery Brooks "amateur" is a bit, well, amateurish."

Don't pay any attention to Elliott :)
He just repeats one and the same ad nauseam.

I mean, he has a right to his opinion just like everyone else, but man, WHEREVER I look, be it DS9 or TNG or VOY reviews, there he is, telling everyone how disastrously awful DS9 is. Jeez.
Elliott
Sun, Nov 20, 2011, 2:23am (UTC -5)
@Paul : that might give you an inkling about how I feel when WHEREVER I look, be it DS9 or TNG or VOY reviews, there I see people throwing angry detritus voyager's way and licking DS9's well...I'll keep my comment PG.

The acting from most of DS9's principle cast was in line with the average 90s family sitcom, which is to say, not very good. It did have a stellar supporting cast, I won't deny. Brooks and Lofton however are among the weakest actors we repeatedly had to see week to week.

I don't think DS9 was disastrously awful. In fact, I think I see it the way many on this site seem to see Voyager; that is, a show with a lot of unrealised potential and unfortunate tendencies to do stupid things. For example, let's take a ludicrous plot and couple it with a fruitless and unenlightening bit of character study portrayed by weak actors. In a word : dumb.
Jack
Fri, Feb 24, 2012, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
Hard to believe that a valedictorian would think an Andorian would have a name like Julian Bashir.
Justin
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott, I think the reason you were at a loss for words initially is because you hadn't yet come up with an excuse to dislike this episode. You couldn't really fault "Explorers" as a story, so you reduce it to being "nonsensical" and "hokey" without explaining why, and at the same time you trot out the classic lame objection, "oh, the acting sucked." Please. Not everyone is up to Patrick Stewart's standards, so knock it off.

And how did you come up with the baffling idea that the O'Brien/Bashir drunk scene has no business being in Star Trek? Why?? Because a paddy and a paki become buddies? Because they get drunk together?

Or is it because of the SONG? That must be it. They sang "Jerusalem" and the idea of two 24th century dudes drunkenly belting out a British Empire hymn that arrogantly ponders the possibility that Jesus' feet once walked upon England's green and pleasant land just doesn't sit well with you, does it? If I'm right then your true belief here must be that irony has no place in Star Trek.
Elliott
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
@Justin :

The plot is ridiculous. Please don't tell me sailboats in space is anything but. It's a contrived idea to give Jake and Sisko their father/son dialogue which I totally support on principle. Really. The plot is dumb and pointless, but let's get some character work out of it. But if you're going to do 2 characters in a small space doing gritty character work, you'd better have actors that can rise to the challenge, which is why I make a point of it here. When Garret Wang acts badly it's usually not in a situation where it matters very much. Here it does.

Regarding the brits, my objection is that 2 Starfleet humans from the 24th century solve their problems by getting drunk together. That's how I solve my problems, not how Star Trek characters ought to.
Justin
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 3:24pm (UTC -5)
@ Elliott, now you're just making crap arguments. How is the concept of sailboats in space any more ridiculous than cloaked starships or transporter rooms? This is the universe in which we've chosen to suspend our disbelief. Quibbling about contrivances may work when nitpicking the execution of some episodes, but not here. The cloaked starship was a plot contrivance to make the original Romulans more menacing and it added to the mythology of the Trek Universe. The lightship was a plot contrivance to get Sisko & Jake into an intimate and lighthearted father and son situation and it also added to the mythology of the Trek Universe (and Bajoran history in particular).

Re acting: When Garret Wang acts badly it's not much different than when Marina Sirtis, or LeVar Burton, or Avery Brooks, or even the great Patrick Stewart act badly. It detracts. So does bad writing. But none of that matters, because neither apply here. Brooks' and Lofton's respective performances were by no means "bad" in this episode. And if you're going to continue to argue that they were then you're going to have to cite specific examples.

And there wasn't anything gritty about the character work in this episode. It was lighthearted and fun, which is less of an acting challenge than gritty. So, if you're seeing "Explorers" through a gritty prism it's no wonder you think the acting was no good, because you missed the point entirely.

BTW, Brooks and Lofton have done gritty too, and they've both risen to the challenge (see "The Visitor," "Far Beyond The Stars," and "Rapture").

Re O'Brien and Bashir: I don't know about you, but I've never broken down any personal barriers by drunkenly bonding with someone. Bashir and O'Brien were pretty much buds by this point and the drunkenness was done for comedic effect. Now, if O'Brien was using alcohol as a means to cope with his marital problems, then you'd have a point.
Justin
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
@Elliott, one more thing. I found this over at the Memory Alpha website:

At its 1995 convention, the Space Frontier Foundation recognized ("Explorers") for exemplifying "the most imaginative use of a vehicle to travel in space," and awarded the episode the "Best Vision of the Future" award. The award was presented by Robert Staehle, the world's foremost expert on solar sails.

More information relating to the actual plausibility of the Bajoran lightship can be found at:

wiki.solarsails.info
Ian
Sun, Jul 22, 2012, 11:58pm (UTC -5)
I see I am not the only one who finds elliot to be the most annoying character in Trek.
He/she/it/them/they...whatever...whichever...is our version of Wesley.
Best ignored or forgotten...
Did anyone else pick up the little in joke between Sisko and Jake? the "Hammock time," "yo," bit?
It is things like that that prove the show is not taking itself too seriously...
Also, "Cygnian respitory diseases," is a tribute to a line from TOS. They also did that alot as well...
Peremensoe
Mon, Jul 23, 2012, 12:30am (UTC -5)
"The plot is ridiculous. Please don't tell me sailboats in space is anything but."

"How is the concept of sailboats in space any more ridiculous than cloaked starships or transporter rooms?"

In fact it's much less ridiculous. The concept has been around for a long time, and has real science behind it. Read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_sail if this is all new to you. Only the FTL part is really on the fiction-level of those other Trek concepts.
Cail Corishev
Sat, Sep 15, 2012, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
The only problem with the ship was that a solar sail capable of carrying a couple of people and their capsule fast enough to be useful would need to have a sail miles across, not some bird-like wings. But hey, just figure it's catching some "sigma radiation" or something that we haven't discovered yet that pushes a lot harder than light.

Going faster-than-light with it is ridiculous, but as far as we know, so are all FTL methods on all sci-fi shows. If it backs up a father-son story as good as this one, I'm not going to complain.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Nov 12, 2012, 9:07am (UTC -5)
Elliot has proved that it is not just Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings that contain trolls.
DG
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 6:28am (UTC -5)
@Jack - Hard to believe that a valedictorian would think an Andorian would have a name like Julian Bashir.


While true up front, there's a Russian Lieutenant named Worf...
Viv
Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 2:17pm (UTC -5)
I liked the design of the ship but did the ancient Bajorans have space stations? If not, how did the ship break the bonds of Bajor's gravity? How didn't it burn up in reentry? I wish they'd addressed these questions at least in a passing way.
Peremensoe
Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
The "ancient Bajorans" terminology is misleading. Relative to the whole of their history (half a million years!!), the lightship-to-Cardassia was very recent. They had certainly had some kind of (orbital?) flight for many years already because they had recovered the Orbs.
Trent
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
I loved this episode. It has heaps of heart, good pace, good jokes, good acting, some nice visuals and some wonderful character moments. I wish Jammer liked Heart of Stone too, that was another low key, underrated episode.
T'Paul
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
A nice change of place... interesting sci-fi ideas... good to see the Cardassians eating their hats at the end.
ProgHead777
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 5:21am (UTC -5)
I loved every second of this episode. It's one of the shows from the first three seasons that stayed with me long after the series ended its initial run, after I rewatched it again years later, and I find now that I'm rewatching it again after another long interval, that it is one of the best episodes of Star Trek, period. That is, thanks to its honest, completely relatable depiction of close friendships (Miles and Julian) and family relationships (Sisko and his son). I believed every word of it for its entire duration. That's rare among Star Trek episodes. And all with not one single phaser or photon torpedo fired... Cardassian fireworks notwithstanding. ;) 4 stars.
JB
Wed, Aug 21, 2013, 6:58pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode. The solar sail idea is more plausible than them (and the whole ship) not being crushed from the force of acceleration to warp and back to normal space (why the ships have inertial dampers). Oh well, all the character interactions are great. As far as the science problems, they're no where near as annoying as out of phase episodes where people can still breathe (the air should be out of phase) and don't fall through the floors (I love the part in another sci-fi series where they mock that).
Kotas
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 9:01am (UTC -5)

A watchable episode of no real consequence.

5/10
NoPoet
Mon, Dec 9, 2013, 5:00am (UTC -5)
"I'm going to build a Bajoran ship and sail it to Cardassia. What can I do to make this idea even more brilliant? Oh I know! I'll bring my son!" I need to watch this episode again (with reluctance, I'd rather be watching the more intense episodes), but it seems like such a silly idea. I mainly know DS9 from the later seasons so it seems weird for a Starfleet officer to fly a Bajoran ship right into the solar system of Bajor's deadliest enemy. But I guess these things will make more sense in the 24th century.
Jons
Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 1:02pm (UTC -5)
There's suspension of disbelief and then there's ludicrous plot.

- how can a ship made by a civilisation ready to launch something into space be so easy to make it's made in one week by a single man?

- how is a starfleet bridge officer able to construct so many things by himself as if nothing needed specialist knowledge? As if he was totally aware of 800 years old bajoran technique?

- how is this frail boat-ish design supposed to have taken off the planet?

- can i PLEASE know how a people who have to build mechanic handles to spread sails (so apparently no computers at all!) worked out anti-gravity?

- since when does Sisko have so much time on his hands?? (A trip to bajor, then building a ship, then going off in space...)

- sure the ship wasn't tested or anything before leaving. Also they can be saved in under an hour which is really a-ok since humans can survive for hours in the vacuum of space in case something goes wrong! Also, you totally take your only son along!

Why does DS9 insist on these completelly iseless filler episodes?? It's either GREAT or PATHETIC (TNG and Voyager are at least constant in their averageness...)
Peremensoe
Sun, Feb 2, 2014, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
Again, there is no reason to think that sailships themselves *ever* launched from or landed on planetary surfaces. We know that Bajorans had some kind of space travel before the original sailships.
Vylora
Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 4:19am (UTC -5)
A note to some earlier comments...it seems plausible to me that ancient Bajorans were able to build this type of vessel. I see no reason to believe otherwise.

1. It's been noted that Bajorans had ability to leave the planet and explore their system

2. If anything they could have built the ship on Bajor and attached it to another ship/rocket that can break orbit

3. They could have simply built the ship in space

I do have an issue with no explanation on how it was able to achieve warp speed without affecting everyone inside. It was explained HOW it was achieved just not much beyond that. It could've added more "dreaded" technobabble but it seems important technobabble.

The above comment about the drunk scene having no place in Star Trek is wildly misguided. It's very well known in Trek that not only is alcohol socially acceptable, but the Federation has even come up with an alternative for it called Synthale. Where the 'on-call' duty officer can enjoy the intoxication but shake off the effects at the chirp of a com-badge. Bashir an O'Brien getting drunk on real alcohol just shows to me two people having a moment together that furthers their bonding. It wasn't about 'solving problems'.

Speaking of the B-story in this ep, I did find it a little out of place that Bashir would be so upset about Dr. Lense showing up in the first place. I felt his dismay at his being 2nd in class to her was a bit out of character. Especially knowing before and after this episode that he purposely missed a question in the exams for one reason or another. Everything after Lense walking right past him in Quarks was great fodder for light-hearted material though despite being based as it is on a shaky premise.

The A-story is a lightweight father/son outing that contains well written dialogue with believable characters and taps into the romanticism of space-travel that, frankly, really hasn't been the hallmark of many episodes of any Trek series. Also, the end of the episode was rather poignant and one of my favorite moments of DS9.

3.5 stars.
Q-Less
Sun, Mar 9, 2014, 1:19pm (UTC -5)
For me this episode works better in rerun than when it aired first. When I saw it the first time, I had a WTF-moment at the end. The previous episodes, actually the whole season to date, was so action- and plot heavy that I somehow expected a bigger bang at the end of this episode. It's not that I didn't enjoy the episode, but while watching I was always anticipating something big coming up, like the solar ship getting into real trouble with life support being offline, or a space battle or something similar. Instead I saw a technical crisis that wasn't really one and Gul Dukat congratulating the Siskos for having won a bet against Cardassian pride. And that was it. I guess this was just a question of false expectations on my end. When I watched the episodes again some years later, I was able to actually enjoy the show for what it was, a quiet piece of character study.
Quarky
Wed, Jun 25, 2014, 3:58am (UTC -5)
Did anyone else find the fireworks display at the end kinda dumb? It was a little too nice of the cardassians. I'm sure someone was being executed for allowing Sisko to prove the bajorans got there first

It was an ok episode. I'm just not big on Sisko Jake episodes. I didn't really think the Visitor was that good either and apparently DS9 fans think it's worth all the latinum on ferenginar.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 8:52am (UTC -5)
One of my favorites.

There is all kinds of "WTF’s" with this vessel, the first would be how did they get it off DS9. :-)

But so far as Sisko constructing it, I'm thinking replicator technology covers that. He doesn't need a foundry or anything like that he’s just assembling parts replicated to fit together for the most part.

This is a father/son episode - the best part of which is when Jake decides to join his father on this little project. Great father/son discussions on the voyage. As a father of 5, 4 that are older, I can empathize with Sisko so this episode kind of hit home for me.

The whole Bashir "B" story I always thought was kind of silly. Why is coming in second such a big deal when he missed that question on purpose? Was this whole thing just a charade to further the deception?

The best part of this one that wasn’t the main story was “cough, cough” :-)

I wonder how a sextant works without a horizon for reference. I guess you can hold it horizontally, but what’s “horizontally” in space?

The first time we see Sisko with the goatee and a shaved head.

3.5 stars for me. Some episodes just hit home with ya and this is one of them for me.
Grumpy
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
"The first time we see Sisko with the goatee and a shaved head."

Well, the *first* time would've been on Spencer for Hire, or maybe A Man Called Hawk.☺

My point is, though the goatee debuts here, his head is yet unshorn. A rare combo in this era of the show.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 5, 2014, 4:15pm (UTC -5)
Thanks Grumpy! You're right! :-)

(I had to look up 'unshorn') lol
sexy riker
Sat, Aug 30, 2014, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
this episode was an insult to star trek. they build a wooden spaceship, so how does it get into space ffs?

worst episode EVER!
Domi
Thu, Sep 18, 2014, 7:46pm (UTC -5)
Why does Jake change his mind about going on the trip? I thought he had a date. It seemed to be implied that he broke up with his girlfriend, but then it was swept under the rug.
Prawn
Wed, Oct 1, 2014, 9:31am (UTC -5)
Ummm... it wasn't wooden? BTW, 100% agreement with Quarky about the Cardassian fireworks and someone being executed for this incident; it seemed WAY too nice, like completely 100% out of character for the Cardassians.
Sonya
Tue, Oct 21, 2014, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
I loved the father/son plot, and I loved Gul Dukat's grudging yet gracious congratulations and display of fireworks. One of the things I value about this show is Sisko and Jake's relationship. Aside from a few comedies (e.g., the Cosby Show), how often do we see strong, positive relationships between African American fathers and sons in the media?
MsV
Thu, Feb 19, 2015, 4:18pm (UTC -5)
Why all of this quibbling about the lightship idea not being plausible, Star Trek is not plausible either. Its a TV show, all spacey things work. Starship aren't real, warp speed is impossible, transporter or fantasy. This is an interesting show and all things work. I think its funny when you try to base harsh opinions on Sci-fi. It makes for good television.

The only thing I find ridiculous is when people try to make assumptions on what Gene would have felt, Who cares, he beieved in making money, btw he's dead.
MsV
Sun, Apr 12, 2015, 7:00am (UTC -5)
I have one other comment since I am watching DS9 again but, from the beginning, not skipping around like I did last year: I know we have our opinions and should voice them, but why does everyone think Patrick is so great. For the first 3 seasons, I had a hard time watching his wooden performance. He was so bland he could have been a Vulcan. I thought he would get the show cancelled, along with the horribe stories each week. He eventually convince me he could perform better as time went by. He finally got his footing.
Andy1
Sun, Jun 21, 2015, 11:27pm (UTC -5)
Did Bajorans even have rocket technology to put in space a mechanically operated sail ship that apparently uses 18th-century style nautical navigation instruments?
Nathan B.
Fri, Jul 31, 2015, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Fantastic episode in every way--a worthy successor to TNG's "Family."
methane
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
"Did anyone else find the fireworks display at the end kinda dumb? It was a little too nice of the cardassians. I'm sure someone was being executed for allowing Sisko to prove the bajorans got there first"

If this had happened earlier in the series I would have agreed. But think about what just happened last episode! Cardassians launched a preemptive strike on the Dominion. Granted, it wasn't the main government that launched those attacks (just the spy agency), but the Cardassians have to be very fearful that a Dominion attack fleet can come through the wormhole at any time looking for retribution. Right now their diplomats must be anxiously trying to get on the best of terms with all of their neighbors (including the Federation-allied Bajorans). They would certainly be looking to form an alliance with one or more of the big powers if the Dominion ever comes. At the very least, they must try to keep any of the other powers from taking advantage of a Dominion situation and trying to grab some Cardassian territory of their own.

Fireworks is a cheap way to try and improve diplomatic relations. The Cardassians have to be willing to try just about anything right now.
William B
Wed, Sep 23, 2015, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
Plausibility time: the solar sails concept is not necessarily that dumb by itself; taking advantage of the momentum transfer from light as a means of propulsion is fine as far as that goes. I hasten to note that the surface area to mass ratio would have to be pretty big, probably bigger than is depicted, but I'll spare the calculations and accept that part on principle. Seriously though, a guy can build a space ship in a few weeks by himself, using "ancient Bajoran" instruments? The episode further introduces unnecessary implausibility by throwing that whole visit-to-Cardassia thing in the story. So Cardassia is only five days away. Good! Of course, uh...I guess those tachyon streams take the ship back too, huh? I mean, if at least one Bajoran solar sailing ship crashed on Cardassia, then for word to get back means that at least two must have gone to Cardassia (or one ship doing so twice) and at lest one ship getting back to Bajor to tell of the tales. Also, at no point does anyone mention how the ancient Bajorans got their solar vessel into space, even to say "they used rockets for that part." The whole idea that Bajorans got whisked to Cardassia has its analogues to modern who-got-where-first arguments on Earth, but the vastness of space makes these kinds of arguments pretty hard to take -- would the tachyon field really lead straight to the Cardassian system, of all systems, if it is a random process (rather than a constructed device like a warp drive or the wormhole), and seems mostly there to have Dukat eat crow a bit at the end -- which is fine as far as that goes, but also leads to the weird notion that Dukat really would take the time to discourage Ben from going on this trip because Cardassian ego is too fragile to deal with solar sails. I guess the idea is that the Cardassian national pride is pretty damaged because of their crippling defeat just last week, which also happens to make the audience rooting for Sisko to prove those dumb Cardassian naysayers wrong a little weird. As with much of DS9, it is also a bit odd that Sisko does most of the advocating for Bajor, and that there is only one regular Bajoran character of much note and few Bajoran guest characters (though Leeta is introduced in this one, so that's one more).

I do think that Ben's interest in the solar ship is meant to remind us of Ben's further commitment to Bajor, and it's certainly nice to see his interest in Bajor depicted through hobbies and interests rather than through Jake telling us ala "The Search, Part 1." Still, it is weird how obsessive Ben gets very suddenly. It does hearken back to "Dramatis Personae" and "IT'S A CLOCK!", though it seems as if Sisko spent less time working on that weird clock while under alien possession/influence than he did in this episode on this ship. I mean, I get why it is good for the viewers to have a light episode after the IC/TDIC two-parter, but is it really good for the guy in charge of the space station near the wormhole to spend weeks on his own crafts project and then five days doing a sublight proof-of-concept flight when the Romulans and Cardassians just sent an entire fleet right by him, provoked the Dominion with a massive attack and had themselves roundly slaughtered as a consequence? Wouldn't the fall of the Obsidian Order make this a great time for the Maquis to start making trouble in the DMZ, which sometimes seems to be Sisko's responsibility? Does Sisko even do his job during this time? I feel a bit churlish pointing all this out, but the relaxed pace feels at odds with what just happened and with the way Sisko's responsibilities are so often portrayed.

I know, I know; that is not what this episode is about. It is really about the Siskos hanging out. Initially, Jake does not want to go with Ben because he wants to see a girl. Then he gets word from the Pennington school that he's gotten a fellowship, and he jumps for joy and decides to go with Sisko on the voyage...at which point he eventually reveals that he is *not* planning to go. It's a weird series of events, because it seemed as if Jake's going on the trip with Ben would be specifically *because* he was leaving and wanted to spend time with his father before leaving; if he was going to stay, then why would his approval for the fellowship change his plans? Or did he decide while he was on the ship that he should stay with Ben? OK, let's forget that. The dialogue between the Siskos is generally amiable and leads to a few interesting insights -- I like the notion of Sisko beaming for dinner every day -- and furthers Jake's writerly plot as well as sets up for Kasidy (next week!). I don't know what to say about the acting; I have a hard time even knowing how to evaluate Brooks because his performances are so out there, in a way that I suspect would be great on stage and occasionally hits the mark on the show but much of the time just comes across as odd. Still, the scenes seem heartfelt, even if they largely add up to "we care about each other, but we're not planning on anything significant changing in our lives." It would be nice if more serious topics were broached than what we see on screen, though; the threat of Dominion attack and what that means for Jake, what Nog's departure will do to Jake and whether he'll be lonely, Sisko maybe mentioning that he saw Jake's mirror-mother, etc. A bit of a missed opportunity.

The Bashir plot is also amiable and I have little to say about it. Bashir and O'Brien getting this drunk, though, does make Bashir look more insecure than I would expect even from him -- I mean, when Scotty got drunk in "Relics," it was because his entire world had been upended and he awoke in a future that he felt ill at ease in, rather than because he was snubbed by a classmate he barely even knew. I also found myself wishing that the story would point out the other problem -- Bashir should surely not get *this* drunk on actual alcohol in case there is a medical emergency; it could have been pretty funny, though, if a medical emergency had happened and Bashir was too drunk to operate, so that Dr. Lense of the Lexington, first in her class at Starfleet Medical, would have to sub in for him. I like O'Brien's comments that Bashir is not really an "in between" kind of guy, that he used to hate him and now he doesn't. The progression of Bashir/O'Brien has been fairly well-handled, even if I'm not particularly a fan of "The Storyteller" or "Rivals."

Anyway, it is fine as far as it goes, though it does not go very far. 2.5 stars.
Zimriel
Wed, Sep 30, 2015, 9:07pm (UTC -5)
My problem with this is that it was too-obviously an analogy for a fad at the time, the 'Kon-Tiki' notion that Polynesia was first discovered by Chilean sailors.
David
Sat, Oct 17, 2015, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
For all the talk about solar sails etc, the thing that I wondered at the end was mostly how the 'ancient Bajorans' even knew their ships made it to Cardassia. If a ship in the Doritos belt did disappear and never came back they'd probably just assume it was destroyed by whatever. Unless there are other warp booster pockets next to Cardassia, it would be a one way trip. It would be like a Carthaginian ship getting wrecking the Americas, who knows, maybe it happened but they never got home to write about it. Maybe they had FTL radios or whatever and called home but the episode never mentions it.

Otherwise a passable filler episode, not a classic but not unwatchable. I didn't find the technical impossibilities more implausible than what happenes everytime somebody is beamed into ops, but the fact that on its own terms the episode never explained how the Bajorans knew hurt it a bit.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Dec 3, 2015, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Just a nice, quiet episode. Nothing really dramatic happens, and nothing really of any great consequence. But it's fun to see Sisko enthuse about something, the character moments with Jake are nicely handled, we get a montage sequence AND we get a Cardassian fireworks display to finish. What's not to like?

The B-story also nicely subverts what could be a fairly hokey premise. "Hammock time" indeed. 3 stars.
Adam
Wed, Jan 13, 2016, 9:26am (UTC -5)
Elliot is an idiot. Fact.
Luke
Mon, Mar 21, 2016, 12:35am (UTC -5)
I'm fairly surprised I liked this episode as much as I did. I remembered "Explorers" as being a fairly standard, run-of-the-mill average outing. Instead, it's really good!

First off, for such a low-key, laid-back kind of episode, the amount of world-building is literally off the charts. In this one episode we have the introduction of Leeta, the introduction of Jake as a writer, Sisko's beard and the first reference to Kassidy Yates (who, I believe, will make her first appearance in the next episode). That's actually quite a lot to bring to the table in such a light-hearted offering. And, just as an aside, I think Sisko looks his best like this - with hair and a goatee.

The A-plot works wonderfully as a father/son story and as a nice little example of true Star Trek exploration. For all those people who say that DS9 isn't really true Star Trek because it doesn't feature exploration, I can only say "watch this episode." Sisko just up and decides to build a ship and set off into the unknown. Why? Because screw it; it'll be fun! I really like that! Isn't that the true spirit of Human exploration? Most of our discoveries (scientific and otherwise) have come about in such a way - not from some highly organized, meticulously planned and controlled, government sponsored program (like Starfleet). No, it comes from one guy just doing something for shits and giggles because he enjoys it. Bravo, well done.

I like the B-plot even better, however. I think it's fair to say that this is where the O'Brien/Bashir friendship really comes into sharp focus. They haven't been at loggerheads like they initially were but they haven't exactly been best buddies yet. Having them get drunk and sing "Jerusalem" (not to mention having O'Brien admit his not-hate for Bashir) shows that they are, in fact, well on their way to becoming heterosexual life partners. Not only that, but it might be the single most "human" thing I've seen any character ever do on Star Trek. It just rang so true to life. And it's funny, genuinely funny! In fact, the whole B-plot is a welcome humorous little romp - if only Ferengi "comedy" episodes could be this good!

There are sadly problems, however. This episode features one of the primer examples of why I simply do not like Dax. When Bashir first meets Leeta what is Dax's response. To cock-block him. And make no mistake, that's exactly what she was doing. For a woman who spent so much time and effort to dissuade Bashir's interest in her, she sure seems happy to keep him away from other women, doesn't she? It all plays into how I think she was just playing extra-ordinarily hard-to-get with Bashir at first. Or maybe she's just a bitch who enjoys raining on other people's parades. Either one is likely. Second, how exactly does going to warp for something like ten seconds send Sisko and Jake all the way to Cardassia? Is there a second Wormhole in the area or something? And shouldn't Sisko and Jake be little more than puddles of goo on the back wall of the ship after being thrown into warp without inertial dampers?

7/10
Del_Duio
Mon, Mar 21, 2016, 11:04am (UTC -5)
I really liked how the Cardassians threw the fireworks party at the end. Pretty class act, all things considered.
Skywalker
Thu, May 26, 2016, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
The Beard! The Sisko has arrived!

I believe this episode is the real turning point of DS9 as it finally comes into its own -- symbolized beautifully in Commander Sisko's growing of The Beard! Once he shaves his head, the transformation will have been complete, haha. In my opinion, this is the true birth of *The Sisko.* He has accepted Bajor into his life and resonated with it, ensuring the eventual fulfillment of his role as the Emissary of the Prophets, seems calm and filled with joy, and literally sets sail with his son onto the adventures ahead. (It's also the time when Kassidy Yates is first introduced, who remains integral to the end of the series' run. Also Leeta, one of my favorite minor characters.)

I absolutely love this episode. I liked it as a kid, and even more now (particularly the romantic and fascinating quality of the light ship). I thought Ben and Jake's civilian clothes looked a little too Cosby Show, but maybe that was part of the point, especially with the above-mentioned "hammer time" joke they threw in at the hammock, which I thought was great. Further comparing DS9 to the contemporary Cosby Show, Sisko is the first leading captain on Star Trek who is black, and expertly fills the role as just another awesome Starfleet officer -- that is to say, the actor being African-American has almost no effect on his role in the series (except for the brilliant "Far Beyond the Stars"). Similarly, Cosby's Heathcliff Huxtable and his family were a joy to watch because they were simply relatable *people*, and served as great role models for everyone who saw the show, white or black or any other race. I am white, and grew up enjoying reruns of The Cosby Show and DS9 long before I had any sense of what racial tensions could be like, and looked up to Heathcliff and Theo as well as Ben and Jake, finding relatable similarities with my own father. I'm sure one day I'll resonate with these stories again with my own children.

And *that's* the power of the futurism of Star Trek! to optimistically depict our own reality free of its prejudices, and to show exceptionally talented yet still flawed and human people working together to explore the unknown.


@Luke, I also enjoyed O'Brien saying he didn't hate Bashir anymore, and Bashir being so touched. It reminded my of "Friendship Test" by Tenacious D.
I like your analysis of Dax, but this was a plus for me. She can have flaws like that, and it's a very human trait. I loved the writing of "GO AWAY" on the PADD in the Starfleet font.
As for the lack of inertial dampers, that's actually not how warp drive is supposed to work. The most important thing a subspace field does is lower the mass of a ship, to the point of it having negative mass (just like the hypothetical tachyons that are cited as the mechanism for the FTL in "Explorers"). So when a ship, even the light ship, goes to warp, its forward velocity has already been achieved; the subspace field just amplifies that velocity to faster than light. One mistake the effects department made was to put streaking lights around the light ship while it was in warp -- those are not in fact stars, but micrometeoroids and other particles energized by the field produced by the main deflector dish (which, if not deflected, might impact the starship and damage it) -- and the light ship does not have one of those.
Inertial damper are especially useful for unexpected jolts or bumps while in motion, like during an attack, and even then have a delay of reaction time.

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