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

Season Index

32 comments on this review

Thu, Nov 29, 2007, 9:26am (UTC -6)
I have to say that I loved how Ezri Dax was introduced. For me it felt like a very special moment, very underplayed.
Wed, Apr 15, 2009, 1:10am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.

Mon, Dec 7, 2009, 10:22pm (UTC -6)
@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.
Mon, May 3, 2010, 4:23pm (UTC -6)
"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 (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Nov 12, 2011, 3:08pm (UTC -6)
When did the Rozhenkos move from Galt to Russia?
Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 4:16pm (UTC -6)
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...
Mon, Dec 26, 2011, 1:17am (UTC -6)
If it aint broke dont fix it the bags just get hauled off to a replacator to be decompiled
Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 1:53am (UTC -6)
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?
Tue, Dec 27, 2011, 3:07am (UTC -6)
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
Sat, May 19, 2012, 9:02am (UTC -6)
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.
Sat, Jun 30, 2012, 11:31am (UTC -6)
How could Sisko tell, based on the vision he had as presented, that he was on the planet Tyree in it?
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 2:28pm (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 2:39pm (UTC -6)
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...
Sun, Jan 13, 2013, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
Jammer -- I'm with you except for the introduction of Ezri Dax. I thought they handled that just right.
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 11:16am (UTC -6)
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).
Mon, Nov 4, 2013, 7:32pm (UTC -6)

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

Sat, Dec 21, 2013, 4:15am (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Dull dull dull. The shark jumping continues.
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 12:07pm (UTC -6)
I strongly disliked the sudden introduction of "Sarah", second only to the introduction of the concept of a "Borg Queen".
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 10:48am (UTC -6)
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 (UTC -6)
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.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 8:03am (UTC -6)
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? :-))
Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 10:48pm (UTC -6)
@ 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.
Thu, Aug 28, 2014, 11:38am (UTC -6)

Agree. Hell, they are talking about doing the equivalent of 3D printing on the Moon or Mars to construct buildings. :-)
Fri, Sep 5, 2014, 3:52am (UTC -6)
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.
Wed, Oct 15, 2014, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
This is a pretty solid continuation of several major plot points. Like "Tears of the Prophets" this episode balances a LOT of stuff and still comes out well paced. The producers should get credit for that. Jammer's observation that this is more of a launching pad episode than a ratings-grabbing premier is correct.

My thoughts:

-The Damar and Weyoun bickering is particularly well done, especially centring on Damar's love of the bottle (which is arguably the lynchpin that resulted in the Dominion losing DS9 back in S6). It's simple, but a nice continuation of the uneasy alliance they have going. Weyoun's threat that “too much imagination can be dangerous” is yet another line that characterizes Weyoun as an accommodating but wary diplomat. He's probably had more than his share of experiences getting involved in the political maneuverings of races who think they're smarter than the Dominion while simultaneously depending on them. The story of Cardassia is, frankly, one of DS9's crowning moments. They do have ONE line that makes me cringe, though – the “debt of gratitude” they owe to Dukat closing the wormhole and how it shifted the momentum of the war. Damar I can KIND of buy making such a leap. He DID seem to admire Dukat (though that admiration sometimes came off to me as pure sycophancy) but it seems so out of character for Weyoun to be this willing to buy into that notion of causality.

-Worf, O'Brien, Bashir all get some good moments. The scene in Worf's quarters is nice. It's odd, though, that Worf has nothing to say about Dukat considering the circumstances of Jadzia's death seem to be common knowledge. I imagine it was a difficult sell to the studio to have a main character actively plotting a murder (regardless of the victim being a villain), but... it seems more like a missed opportunity. I do like what's here but it's a shame it doesn't fill out its potential. Martok's inclusion fits in well, too, and I like that the episode spares us his obvious conversation with Bashir about Stovokor. Maybe it's just me, but it's the clever little omissions like this that make the series feel alive – like the characters exist and interact outside of the confines of the screen.

-I think Kira and the Romulans is actually a strong story. It's good to see Kira kick ass again and in a leadership position as well. I wouldn't have minded more episodes with Kira in charge of DS9. She's nearly always great.

-I enjoyed Sisko being back on Earth. It gives the show a lot of scope just by breaking out of the confines of the station. Brooks plays a lot of his scenes well. It's always just NICE to see him interact with Jake, laughing and teasing. One scene I particular like is when Joseph confesses his mistake about hiding Sarah from his son. Ben tells his dad that “yes, you made a mistake” and gets up from the table. The scene doesn't end there, while I feel like most programs would have left it at that. The scene continues with some exposition, but I like that the rift isn't just smoothed over. Obviously we don't need any prolonged drama over this (which, frankly, I wouldn't buy anyway since the Siskos are actually heartwarmingly close) but I like that it isn't smoothed over. Ben getting knifed by that Bajoran is actually a pretty shocking scene, although that tension kind of fizzles once he comes home completely healed because of futuristic medicine.

- I'm... not really big on the plot twist Joe drops, though. It's the kind of thing that people (rightly) dislike because it comes straight out of nowhere and doesn't need to, like the producers are suddenly decided to tell a new story when what we're already getting is more than good enough. There's more to be said, but most of it doesn't actually take place until the next episode.

-No more Vic please. He's an indulgent waste of time on the part of (from what I've read) Ira Steven Behr. I'm not usually one who re-writes a scene to his own taste, but there's no reason we had to sit through a Vic song so Worf could have an outburst. He could have done that sitting in Quark's among people playing tongo and coming in and out of King Arthur holoprograms – you know, things we've actually seen Jadzia enjoy. If the song was a definable thing that we'd associate with Jadzia, it might work. But it isn't. The whole thing just strikes me as a contrived situation when something so much simpler and relatable would have worked just as well if not better.

That said, this episode still balances FOUR separate plot threads and treats them all with the beats they deserve. I'm not down with the implications of the major Sisko plot twist yet, but this is still a surprisingly well executed stepping-stone episode. 3 stars.
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 2:10am (UTC -6)
Am I the only one who found Sisko's stabbing to be excessive? It would have been more effective for the Bajoran guy to have simply stayed with ominous threats. The stabbing added nothing to the story, and in the next scene it's as though it never happened (or that stabbings are routine in 24th century New Orleans). The stabbing scene was also weird. Sisko's on this quest to reconnect to the Prophets. A Bajoran guy shows up, and Sisko's body language indicates that he couldn't care less. Or is Earth filled with Bajorans?
Thu, Mar 5, 2015, 9:14am (UTC -6)
I agree with Yanks that Kira's reaction to Cretak and the Romulans was a bit over the top. Isn't the main priority at this point defeating the Dominion, rather than internal fighting? And Bajoran security, as everyone knows, doesn't count for much.

I may be in the minority here, but I've never found the Bajoran storylines or their race in general to be particularly compelling. As for their Prophets, there's just so much inconsistency there that it brings down their credibility even more. This may have been discussed somewhere else, but I just can't buy that the Prophets would stand by and allow Bajor to be subjected to brutal colonisation for 50 years without doing nothing, yet send along Sisko as an Emissary for the Dominion War. In fact, if they were capable of wiping out 2800 Dominion ships, then why didn't they do that every time the Dominion sent reinforcements? Why let the Dominion through to the Alpha Quadrant in the first place? At this point, a more credible explanation is that the Prophets are just an illusion perpetrated by Q, who's once again trying to test the Federation.

As $G pointed out, the Cardassian arc is frankly the best thing about DS9, and that was one thing they got completely and utterly right. I don't think I would have wanted to continue watching if not for them, and they get better with every viewing. As Admiral Ross said, thank God for the Cardassians. Oh, and Martok and Weyoun of course. In fact, thank god for most of the recurring cast, whom I ended up liking much more than the main cast.

Went slightly off topic there, but I'll finish by sharing my favourite scene in this episode:

BASHIR: Miles, I don't know what to say. I'm touched.
QUARK: You're both touched.

Armin Shimerman's delivery cracked me up. The man's a born comedian.
Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 4:26pm (UTC -6)
Vic Fontaine is the shark DS9 jumped over. And Sisko's dad continues to try to upstage him in the bad-acting-department. "She's nobody at all!" Most daytime soap operas are better than that drivel.
Wed, Oct 14, 2015, 6:54am (UTC -6)
^^ If it weren't for "It's Only a Paper Moon' I'd agree with you ,Stark. ^^

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