Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Image in the Sand"

***

Air date: 9/28/1998
Written by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Imagine what it must be like—hordes of rampaging Klingons, fighting and singing, sweating and belching."
"Sounds like this place on a Saturday night."
"Would you want to spend eternity here?"

— Quark and Bashir, discussing Stovokor

Nutshell: A lot of pieces come together to make a show that's a bit scattered, but with fascinating possibilities.

Unlike previous season premieres like "The Search" or "Way of the Warrior," "Image in the Sand" proves that the creators of Deep Space Nine are at this point much more interested in telling a story that's in tune with the series' larger goals than they are in succumbing to ratings-ploy mentality.

For starters, just look at the trailer. Here was an episode so impossible to effectively summarize that the preview, full of incomprehensible riddles and ominous foreboding, told me very little, and would likely tell someone who didn't have a firm grasp of the DS9 universe even less.

This is a story that works because it's one chapter of a saga. It's not the best piece, but it's a necessary one, and one that puts DS9 mythos more on par with grander, epic storytelling like Star Wars than any previous Trek incarnation. It's hard to judge this episode without knowing how the rest of this mini-arc will play out, but from what "Image" offered, I'm intrigued and enthusiastic about part two.

The story basically picks up right where "Tears of the Prophets" left off, never mind that three months of time has gone by. The characters have all been in a sort of limbo over the hiatus—which is sometimes spelled out a little too loudly in the dialog—but three months off for Sisko seems like an appropriate amount of time for him to linger in confusion.

While playing the piano at his father's restaurant, Sisko suddenly has a vision. He sees an image—a face buried in the sand in the middle of the desert on Tyree. It turns out that Sisko's father knows who this face is. He's not forthcoming at first, and for understandable reasons. It's a family secret that Ben's father has kept for decades: This woman was actually named Sarah, and was Ben's mother—married to Joseph when Ben was very young. For his entire life Ben has believed his stepmother was actually his mother.

Mysterious tales from a family's past are usually sold on whether or not we care about the people involved. Here, this theme delivers. I've always been a big fan of Sisko as a character who sees importance in his family history, and watching him face this new realization—that his father had never told him the truth until now—brings forth a quiet pain in Ben.

I particularly enjoyed Avery Brooks' restrained performance. It was subtle and much less prone to histrionics—which I think is a good thing. While I generally like Brooks' performances anyway, he does have a tendency to break out into Stage Actor Mode [TM] when his character gets worked up. But in "Image in the Sand," he seems much more serene, distant, and mysterious. Brooks' performance here is much more internalized; as we watch Sisko, we can see the gears turning in his head even when he doesn't say a word.

Later, when his father gives him a piece of jewelry that belonged to Sarah, we see that it has an ancient Bajoran inscription on it, alluding to something called "The Orb of the Emissary"—perhaps another Bajoran orb, which until now was never known as existing. Maybe it can bring back the Prophets.

I'm very intrigued about the possibilities here. We've always known that the Prophets consider Sisko to be "of Bajor." This connection might explain why. How was his mother connected to Bajor? And why did she leave Joseph for Australia with no explanation? And what about the details of her mysterious death?

"Image in the Sand" is sophisticated stuff that, quite frankly, blows most of those TOS reruns I've been watching the past few weeks out of the water in terms of intelligence level. But never mind—it's 32 years, and apples and oranges.

Back on the station, two subplots emerge. One of them involves a recently promoted Colonel Kira and her ongoing administrative duties on the station. Bajor has seen better days, as many people have turned to "hate and fear" after being abandoned by the Prophets. There is at least one mention of Bajoran cults that worship the Paghwraiths.*

Admiral Ross informs Kira that the Romulans will be setting up a military presence on the station. Kira isn't thrilled, but it's Starfleet's call and her cooperation comes with the job.

What's of particular interest here is all the parallelism when compared with the situation of one year ago. Once again we've got Kira on the station representing the Bajoran government, but without Sisko at her side. Once again we've got her at odds with an administration that doesn't represent immediate Bajoran goals. (In this case, now it's Starfleet and the Romulans, rather than the Dominion and Cardassians.) And again we have a volatile situation emerge when one government objects to the placement of military equipment and threatens to remove the other government's presence from the area as a consequence of such noncompliance.

In this case, instead of Weyoun threatening to take the station from Sisko if he doesn't remove the minefield (a la "Call to Arms"), we have Kira and the Bajoran government threatening to remove the Romulans from a moon the Bajorans had granted them to use for a hospital facility—because they learn Romulans are storing unauthorized weapons there.

As Weyoun so aptly puts it, this is the sort of situation that can cause an alliance to disintegrate. My only complaint is that this conflict arises so quickly that it seems a little forced. Personally, I like the idea of a Romulan presence aboard DS9 because it's a prudent measure for military allies that also has story potential. And although Kira initially objects to the arrangement, there's a genuine chemistry that begins to emerge between Kira and Cretak (Megan Cole), the officer in charge of the DS9-based Romulan presence. I'd hate to see this all thrown away in the next episode, because there's some great long-term potential here.

The other station-based subplot is okay, but hardly worthy of awe. I'm referring to Worf's inability to get over Jadzia's death due to his belief that she has not ascended to Stovokor, the "Klingon heaven." I'm glad to see that Worf's grief has not simply been dismissed. But I also probably could've done without the Gratuitous Vic Fontaine Sequence [TM] that accompanies this subplot.

I also question the wisdom of "Starfleet officers go on rogue mission to help get Jadzia into Stovokor," arising here when O'Brien and Bashir decide to go with Worf and Martok on an honorable suicide battle mission in the name of Jadzia, a gesture that would assure her a spot in Stovokor. The sentiment is nice, but would Starfleet really permit officers to abandon their assigned posts so arbitrarily?

I did, on the other hand, enjoy some of the comic relief, including a scene where O'Brien and Worf discuss the Enterprise days over a bottle (or three) of blood wine. Remember Lt. Barclay? Don't we all?

I suppose that brings us to one last matter: the last-second unveiling of Ensign Ezri Dax (Nicole deBoer). Well, it was so brief and completely disconnected from the storyline thus far that it really doesn't play a factor in the episode, other than to send us into the closing credits awaiting next week's upcoming character introduction. I'll reserve all comments on this matter until then, when deBoer gets more than three lines.

"Image in the Sand" is a good story that tries, perhaps, to do just a little too much in terms of giving lots of characters something to do. I definitely liked the episode, though it jumped a lot from plotline to plotline. I can't say where it's headed, because I haven't the slightest idea what will happen with all these pieces next week. For now, let's put it on the high end of the three-star range, and await the follow-up.

* Jammer's note: I am henceforth spelling the term "paghwraith." I know I have used other spellings in the past, but the official spelling is not known. Ron Moore has stated online that multiple spellings have appeared in scripts, and that he believes the preferred spelling is "paghwraith."

Next week: The Siskos go to the desert, Worf goes to battle, and Kira takes on the Romulans.

Previous episode: Tears of the Prophets
Next episode: Shadows and Symbols

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27 comments on this review

Billy - Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - 9:26am (USA Central)
I have to say that I loved how Ezri Dax was introduced. For me it felt like a very special moment, very underplayed.
EP - Wed, Apr 15, 2009 - 1:10am (USA Central)
That Worf would sit around, essentially moping for his lost Jadzia, might be exactly how a human would respond to death, but for Worf, is completely out of character, and is only a continuation of the absolute bastardization of his character by the DS9 staff. Compare his actions in this episode to his words in The Next Phase, regarding Geordi's "death": "I am happy for Commander La Forge. He has crossed over." When K'Ehlyr was assassinated, he picked up his bat'leth and got his revenge. But here? He listens to holograms sing songs. Oh where, oh where, has my Worf gone?
Aldo Johnson - Sun, Nov 29, 2009 - 5:37am (USA Central)
Re: Worf; I think Jadzia really changed him. Remember how he behaved during "Change of Heart" The old Worf would never have put "feelings" over !Duty! That would've been unthinkable. Which is another reason, I guess, that Starfleet allowed both him and Jadzia on the same mission.

Also, I think it's devastating that she can't get into sto-vo-kor. Perhaps he even feels responsible for that; after all, he was the one who got Jadzia into the family.

Destructor - Mon, Dec 7, 2009 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
@EP- this was specifically addressed in the episode, Bashir said that Klingons got over grief quickly and it was extremely unusual behaivour for Worf, and this was attributed to the reasons stated by the episode. Jadzia was slaughtered, after all- hardly a fitting death from Worf's perspective.
Jake - Mon, May 3, 2010 - 4:23pm (USA Central)
"Oh where, oh where, has my Worf gone?"

Exactly, EP. DS9's final season should've had Worf obsessively hunting for Dukat. That would've made things more interesting.
Marco P. - Sat, Aug 21, 2010 - 6:02am (USA Central)
All the previous comments about Worf are certainly warranted, but as one reader observed Bashir explains it's unusual behaviour for a Klingon. However even though Jadzia certainly has changed Worf from his usual Klingon antics, I expected a little more exploration into the character's feelings of mourning and why they are present. This was probably not possible due to lack of time, but it's a shame nonetheless.
Jay - Sat, Nov 12, 2011 - 3:08pm (USA Central)
When did the Rozhenkos move from Galt to Russia?
TDexter - Thu, Nov 17, 2011 - 4:16pm (USA Central)
Not a bad episode.

Anybody notice Sisko taking out the trash -- literally -- around timestamp 36:00?

You'd think that they would have figured out how to move beyond Hefty(R) bags...
tec - Mon, Dec 26, 2011 - 1:17am (USA Central)
If it aint broke dont fix it the bags just get hauled off to a replacator to be decompiled
Steve - Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - 1:53am (USA Central)
Speaking of weird technology...why is it they need a data pad for every different thing? In some scenes, Sisko has half a dozen of them. Do they have an entire room full of the things?
tec - Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - 3:07am (USA Central)
Each PADD contaned diffrant infromation downloaded onto it there could be gigs of info on each PADD I guess you could say that the bluetooth network or cell network is to cloged to allow a single PADD to be used or ...

Its about giveing the actor a range of movement from the props it gives there hands someing to do and visualy looks good
Sisko - Sat, May 19, 2012 - 9:02am (USA Central)
Who needed a new Dax? this season has so many plots and subplots open, introducing a new character will only take time from the real story.
Jack - Sat, Jun 30, 2012 - 11:31am (USA Central)
How could Sisko tell, based on the vision he had as presented, that he was on the planet Tyree in it?
Sam - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 2:28pm (USA Central)
I love the fact that Ezri Dax shows up. It really points to what i've always suspected that Dax and Sisko is a symbolic love story that survives through the changes in the Dax's hosts (Curzon, Jadzia & now Ezri). That's why it makes sense that Ezri shows up at Sisko's door. She carries within her that extraordinary love that began with Curzon (father-son relationship) onto to Jadzia (which curiously may explain Bashir's comment to Sisko in the funny episode "Fascination", that the crews actions may be due to latent emotions buried sub-consciously, ie. Curzon's love for Sisko) and ultimately to Ezri, which would explain why she had the impulse to seek out Sisko. Anyways, it may just be me but that's what I get from the Dax/Sisko relationship, a beautiful symbolic love story.
Chris - Wed, Dec 5, 2012 - 2:39pm (USA Central)
O'Brien says that it wasn't until the third bottle of blood wine before Worf mentioned Jadzia, but O'Brien only brought one bottle with him...
William - Sun, Jan 13, 2013 - 4:41pm (USA Central)
Jammer -- I'm with you except for the introduction of Ezri Dax. I thought they handled that just right.
Herman - Wed, Feb 13, 2013 - 11:16am (USA Central)
The writers tried to tell too much in one episode, that's why things like the Romulan treachery felt a bit rushed.

The new Dax has the looks alright, now let's hope she acts better than Terry Farrell (her acting style got on my nerves).
Kotas - Mon, Nov 4, 2013 - 7:32pm (USA Central)

Too many different story threads going on at the same time and none of them are particularly compelling.

5/10
Ric - Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - 4:15am (USA Central)
And now, we have to swallow the idea that Sisko receives visions from the prophets even when he is on Earth. Pfui!!

I could swear I've been watching Star Trek for a few seasons. But maybe I just went through a confusing wormhole myself, without noticing. Pathetic.
William - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 8:02pm (USA Central)
Dull dull dull. The shark jumping continues.
Jack - Sat, Feb 15, 2014 - 12:07pm (USA Central)
I strongly disliked the sudden introduction of "Sarah", second only to the introduction of the concept of a "Borg Queen".
Bravestarr - Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - 10:48am (USA Central)
Star Trek predicted Tablets years before they existed. Now we just need replicators and I'll officially call this the future.
Latex Zebra - Mon, Jun 23, 2014 - 8:24am (USA Central)
3 is probably fair. I might knock it up half a star for some good dialogue. This being my favourite exhange.

Re: Getting Jadzia into Stovokor with a great battle.

Quark: What if I let him beat me at tongo?

Hungover O'Brien: Not good enough. Unless he has to carve his way through a hundred Jem'Hadar to reach the table.

Cracks me up.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 21, 2014 - 8:03am (USA Central)
I'm not impressed with this season opener. I’m honestly not surprised as the writers regressed some characters in Season 6.

Star Fleet just lets Sisko go for 3 MONTHS?!?!? Really? … in the middle of a war? He's so damn important that he is selected to plan the attack on Cardassia and .... poof, he's gone?

Come on...

Kira’s “B” Plot. I understand that placing weapons on that moon should have been a transparent issue with the Bajoran government, or at a minimum with Kira, but I don’t see Kira’s position as a realistic or even smart one. Once the cat is out of the bag, why does she have an issue with this? The Romulan’s are on our side.

“KIRA: Not this time, Admiral. My government considers the Romulan presence on Derna to be a direct threat to Bajor.
CRETAK: This is ridiculous. I regret not informing your government about our weapon emplacements, but I didn't think it was necessary. We're your ally.
KIRA: Then remove the weapons.
CRETAK: That would leave the hospital unprotected.
KIRA: Bajor will guarantee its safety.
CRETAK: I'm afraid that's not acceptable.
KIRA: Either you remove those weapons, or we will.”

Really Kira? Just how can Bajor protect anything? How does this pose a threat to Bajor? What would Romulus want with Bajor? I understand this could be seen as a problem with the Dominion non-interference treaty and all, but you just go ahead and make this public knowledge by bringing this to the Council of Ministers? This is just stupid. Hell, the hospital can be considered a breach of this treaty. Kira just said "hey Dominion, looky what we have on this moon!!"

Worf & everyone else left on the station’s “C” plot:

I’m OK with this one I guess, although I keep wondering if all this is necessary if Worf doesn’t leap out of his character in ‘Change of Heart’ and Jadzia dies as a result of Worf completing his mission.

I’m guessing Sisko is receiving these visions via the Orb of the Emissary, but I didn’t think that’s the way it happened. I thought these visions came from the prophets in the wormwhole. Does this mean they reside in the orbs as the wormhole is cut off and all the other orbs are dark? It all seems like a plot convenience to me.

I can understand Sisko being upset with Joe because Joe kept the truth from him about his real mother, but it seemed to me like Sisko went a little overboard with this. He’s had a loving caring family his whole life…

Ezri, When I first watched DS9 I was so opposed to Ezri it wasn’t funny. (Jadzia lag I guess) but with more rewatches, I’m most impressed with Nicole as an actress and more welcoming to the Ezri character. I guess I was right; Sisko did need someone to call “old man” in season 7.

2.5 stars for me. Sisko’s plot dragged and I thought and Kira’s “threat to Bajor” tantrum didn’t make sense.

(boy, didn’t that hospital and 7000 torpedoes go up fast on the moon? :-))
Jack - Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - 10:48pm (USA Central)
@ Yanks:

I imagine that the one-two combination of transporter and replicator technology makes infrastructure construction a fairly short term affair :)

The DS9 episode where Joe mentions something about Ben hitting on a new neighbor while her parents were still beaming in the furniture was a throwaway line, but it made you realize the myriad ways that all this military technology is used in civilian life.
Yanks - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 11:38am (USA Central)
Jack,

Agree. Hell, they are talking about doing the equivalent of 3D printing on the Moon or Mars to construct buildings. :-)
Sean - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 3:52am (USA Central)
What is the scientific explanation as to how Sisko is receiving these visions on earth? Is the show trying to say the wormhole aliens are beings like Q? Ds9 would be a perfect series if had handled the wormhole aliens better. I understand the bajorans are a primitive culture that worships these life forms but the show should give us some scientific explanation. Give me technobabble for all I care. Like later in the season when blood drops on paper and the words appear. Or what about the episode where dukat breaks open that statue and an alien enters him. Since the show didn't explain these scenes the show seems to be saying that there is magic in Star Trek now. Not just evolved aliens like Q. It seems the show is saying there are paranormal things going on too. I love ds9 but I can understand why people are mad that the writers did this. It's like ds9 is an alternate universe where Star Trek has gods and ghosts and spells and magic.

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