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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

To clarify some more:

Sisko does say that they don't put civilians "even potentially at risk," so Sisko does seem to believe that the situation was not a grey area in terms of what the correct command decision was. But again, I get the impression it's because Worf focused on the wrong thing in a grey area, which is made worse in retrospect because Worf's heart was impure.

I don't like Sisko's "smile because the troops can't see vulnerability" stuff, don't get me wrong. And I can understand why you view this as a key to his behaviour throughout the episode. It certainly maybe is what Moore was trying to get across, and seems consistent with the way he writes military material. But I don't really think Sisko's behaviour in the episode body reads that nefarious to me. I think he fully believed the truth was that Worf's actions didn't earn extradition; that they were a bad call, not in keeping with the spirit of Starfleet, but not criminal.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@Elliott, "It seems to me that the episode presented the case pretty clearly that Sisko's priority was protecting Worf, not ferreting out the truth. That's what that whole coda was about, no? "

Hm.... I think I agree with you in broad contours. But I think my read of the episode is different enough that Sisko's behaviour isn't so objectionable in my read.

The episode's title is "rules of engagement" and the subject is obviously on that, but the actual, literal 'rules of engagement' that Worf was supposed to/not supposed to abide by are never discussed. This is one of the episode's many flaws. But I think that the intent of the episode was that Worf was in a legal grey area. The priority is to protect civilians, but the odds of a civilian entering a combat situation *are* extremely low. The Defiant was in mid-battle. If the odds were zero, obviously Worf is right; if the odds were high, obviously Worf is wrong. If the odds are infinitesimal -- well, where is the line drawn? I think even if we assume that there are official rules of engagement, they necessarily will involve some wiggle room, so that even if the situation depicted in this episode is incoherent, that it is attempting to *represent* a grey-area situation. The episode is so badly done that it's hard to know if my hypothesis of what the episode is attempting to depict is correct, but that's still how it read to me.

At the episode's end, Sisko tells Worf he's damn right he shouldn't have fired on civilians...but I think this instruction is not because Worf did break any laws or violate any regulations, but because, with retrospect and clarity, Sisko can tell that Worf erred on the side of fighting when he should have erred on the side of protecting civilians. However, if the situation were somewhat different, Worf would have been right. So I don't think this means that Sisko was lying or misrepresenting the situation in his opening statement and in his general approach to the defense. The only thing in his opening statement that seems to be an exaggeration is when he describes the accident as "unavoidable," which is a word that I'd say is too loaded for him to use given that he believes it could have been avoided. But otherwise Sisko's argument that Worf should not be extradited because he made a command decision based on the information he knew at the time is not only made because he cares about and wants to protect his officer, but because he believes this is true. I think it's possible for Sisko to both believe that Worf made a poor command decision and that he did nothing illegal, and certainly not extradition-worthy.

So anyway, with that in mind, I want to distinguish between two points here. One is whether Sisko is more concerned with helping Worf or finding out the truth. I agree with you that his *priority* was helping Worf.

The other is whether Sisko's strategy suggests dishonesty. You seemed to be reducing Sisko's argument to impugning the character of the other captain, which is not only "protecting Worf" but illogical and cruel. I don't think that's the case, because I think finding out why the other ship decloaked is both relevant and is seeking out the truth. If the captain decloaked because he was aggressive or incompetent, that does seem to me to be relevant.

I think another place where the situation is different from Picard in The First Duty and The Pegasus is that Picard wasn't acting as Wesley or Riker's attorney. The Measure of a Man makes clear that in these JAG trials where command officers are advocates, they are responsible for zealously representing/prosecuting their case. Obviously that doesn't extend into lying or other trickery, but I don't think that's what Sisko is doing here. I think he's trying to find any facts of the case that will help his client, which is what, as Worf's counsel, he should want to do, given that the adversarial legal system is still in place.

Now, all that said, maybe Sisko *shouldn't* have been Worf's counsel. Maybe it's inappropriate for Sisko to be both the CO who needs to find the truth about Worf's actions and the lawyer who needs to zealously defend him. It actually does seem like an obvious conflict of interest. In "Dax," Sisko didn't have any responsibility for the actions that Curzon had ostensibly taken and so there wasn't much conflict in him representing Jadzia Dax, but in this case he probably "should" be impartial when trying to investigate what happened and also be *required* to be partial while actually dealing with Worf's case. I think this is part of what makes the, uh, "pro-military masturbating" tone of the final scene rankle.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@Chrome,

I think you've helped me see another reason this episode doesn't quite work! The way multi party negligence works when eg there's a car accident is that everyone's statements are taken into account. And so knowing whether the other party is drunk is hugely relevant because that makes it more likely they're behaving erratically. However, one thing is, generally there is information missing in these cases. Unless there's complete camera footage, what happened from each party's perspective has to be reproduced from the accounts. So it's maybe not possible to know *how* recklessly everyone was behaving. However in this case, they have literally all the external data Worf et al had at the time. They only had the viewscreen and sensors, so there is no extra information that Worf et al had that can't be pieced together from the Defiant's presumably recorded viewscreen /sensor logs. So no external information about the other ship will really change how the law views Worf's actions; what was going on in the freighter captain's head provides no more insight into how Worf acted based on the information he had.

Unless the Defiant doesn't record its viewscreen and sensor logs, that is.

That said, I do think the law would still assign partial blame to both sides if both parties behaved in a negligent way. It's just that I think the 20th century analogues are a bit off from the situation in the episode.

"That said, the story is very much a mess in the sense that Sisko does seem to be asking for Odo to *look for a Deus Ex Machina* to get out of the trial (Sisko: I know I'm reaching!). And yeah, searching for a miracle seems to be given higher priority than actually finding errors in the existing facts (there are plenty) that could've shown Worf was ineligible for extradition."

LOL. Though in the ep's defense, I do think it's reasonable to wonder why the freighter would decloak in mid battle and to try to investigate that. The real problem isn't them "reaching" but, as you say, that the arguments for extradition are weak and contradictory and we have to mostly accept them on faith to let the story carry on.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 11:50am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

Clarification: "Worf's command instincts turned out to be correct" in that a civilian ship carrying civilians did not decloak. Of course Worf didn't "command instinct" his way into realizing it was a broader entrapment plot by the Empire, but he was correct in his anticipating that a civilian ship containing civilians wasn't going to decloak in battle.

I think this episode is weak for various reasons, but one thing I like about it is that I think the ending allowing Worf to be technically right but in a different way fundamentally wrong is a good conclusion. I don't mean that the way it's set up or executed is good, but structurally I think it's a good way to do a one-off that explores a character flaw without needing to upend the character. Worf having some bloodlust and anger at the Empire is also a reasonable place to go, as well as pointing out that without a Picard, Riker, Data or Sisko to restrain his inclination to fight from tactical he'll have to recognize the limits himself. It's a solid idea, not really brought out very well by the legal framework and incoherent political machinations.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 11:39am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

I should add, the other big difference between the Empire decloaking that ship so Worf fires on it and for a civilian captain to recklessly appear to join the battle is entrapment. For a state to deliberately provoke someone into behaving criminally so that they can prosecute them is considered a larger mitigating factor for the defendant than a civilian provocation (and often a reason for cases to be dropped).
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 11:23am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@Elliott, I agree with your take on the episode.

I don't really want to die on this hill, but I'm not sure I agree about Sisko looking for information about the captain being incompetent or suicidal. Obviously it is there to help find information that can help Worf. But I think why a civilian captain chose to decloak in the middle of battle is relevant to learning the truth of the situation. Part of the core argument Sisko is making is that it's not reasonable for Worf to have anticipated the unlikely event that a civilian ship would decloak. If the ship did decloak because the captain did want to fight, or die, or due to incompetence, this reinforces Sisko's core argument that it's a reasonable (if, again, not Starfleet) assumption that a civilian ship would ordinarily not decloak. The point isn't that the captain had a poor character, but that he may have made a choice to enter the battle, or have been at fault in his particular action in another way.

Or to put in another way, in a sense the reveal that the ship was staged is a more extreme version of the same argument. Instead of the captain joining the battle against Worf, the whole thing was staged by the Empire. Worf was the victim of a deception. He *still* shouldn't have fired on the ship, as Sisko emphasized, even if it turns out to be more the Empire's (other captain's) maliciousness or aggressive intent that was the real cause of its destruction. But it reinforces that Worf's command instincts turned out to be correct.

Of course, the bigger reason Worf was fully exonerated is because it turns out no civilians died full stop. If a crazed captain had decloaked in an unexpected way and Worf destroyed them before they had shown direct evidence of attacking, I think he still would have been censured more (probably not extradited). If the captain had genuinely intended to fire on Worf, all it proves is that Worf's judgment happened to be correct, but not whether Worf had enough information to know that. Had Sisko dug up statistics on how rare it is for a competent, non-aggressive civilian captain to decloak in mid battle, I think his argument would be far more logically sound (and the judge is, of course, Vulcan). However, Klingons surely value accurate battle instincts: if Sisko could prove that the ship was decloaking in order to fire on the Defiant, would the Klingons really be able to argue that Worf following his correct battle instinct would be wrong, because his instinct was insufficiently backed by the facts? I guess the answer to that question based on this episode is, who the hell knows because the Klingon legal perspective is all over the place in this episode, and I think that rather than Sisko is the real problem with this story point.
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William D Wehrs
Fri, Mar 15, 2019, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Project Daedalus

This episode was just incredibly hackneyed. Hmm, let's give a character who has had maybe five lines a tragic backstory and close friends we never knew about only to give her off. Let's have a rogue computer that kills its creators. God, both beats have been done to death.

Additionally, Sonequa Martin Green's performance continues to be highly problematic, as whenever she has an emotional scene, and she has a lot, she just weighs it down.

I'm also so tired of seeing Spock act angry all the god damn time. He was that way in two of the three reboots, and now this. Why can't we just have the highly intelligent Spock from TOS who maybe once a season would let his emotions show. Nope, instead we have to see him sniping at his sister and not helping Stamets until specifically asked.

Dialogue continues to be incredibly cringe-worthy. Admiral Cornwall's big epic smackdown of Pike "Why don't you get off my ass" was just painful. These are supposed to be professionals and they act like adolescents. Indeed everyone acts like adolescents in Discovery.
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William B
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: If Memory Serves

Oh, I see Alan Roi already addressed this. N/m.
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William B
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: If Memory Serves

Huh? Kurtzman (along with his Abrams-Trek collaborator Orci) wrote the screenplay to Transformers, which Michael Bay directed and executive produced. It's the fourth thing listed on "known for" on Kurtzman's IMDb page, at least for me (mobile viewing) and the first work listed on his current Wikipedia page. A few minutes' research reveals he also co wrote screenplays for Bay's The Island and the second Transformers movie.
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William B
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

SPOILERS

I more meant that fans often compare the two (Data/Spock), but yes.

I'll check out Equilibrium soon! I generally agree with the possibilities there for comparing Data to the others; in fact maybe I would say that the show does make similar stories of how each main character's strength - - which is a specific value humanity should emulate - - leads to a weakness of some sort. I think rather than focusing on the emotional issue, with other characters they focus on some other element. In Data the absence of negative emotions means the absence (or at least inaccessibility) of positive emotions. In Picard the dedication to principle blots out some of his personal life. Geordi's better living through technology comes at the cost of his interpersonal relationships when not mediated by tech (mostly shown with women). Troi's emotional sensitivity leads to her competence outside that field being weak. This is partly just character writing, but the characters' strengths are mostly ones that are meant to show off some positive attribute of the show's philosophy, so the weaknesses do work as an acknowledgement that there are challenges that come with any "improvement."
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William B
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

SPOILERS

I tend to agree that TNG seemed more interested in the humanistic side than the "pure sci-fi questions" angle; while both TOS and TNG used metaphors, TOS did at times seem to be more focused on the actual implications of space travel, etc. TNG seems more about what a fully-lived, ethical life would look like in a "more evolved" humanity (which TOS also addressed, but in a different way). It does still seem to tackle larger social issues, but as you say it sort of keeps its characters a little separate from those, so that even though our characters in principle have the ability to act on the larger canvas, their actions are still a little confined to each individual story or arc.

I think with Data, part of what's being depicted, albeit subtly, is the way in which imposing "moral constraints" too rigorously can cause distress; the limitations of Data's parameters and room to experiment lead him to be isolated. Because he's "not emotional" this does not appear to cause him despair, but even Data's self-conception as completely unemotional appears to be partly a design choice as a response to Lore, to avoid Data prioritizing his wants and needs over others'. That Lal develops emotions but in a way that kills her, when her net is based on his, is partly about children overcoming their parents, but it also suggests that it's something Data is capable of, but is unable to "access," and I think it's notable that Lal had a better father than Data did, one who didn't burn through multiple failed models and one psychopathic one before getting to Data. The emotion chip is often derided as a plot device and, well, I'm not saying it's dealt with great (particularly in Generations), but given how closely it's associated with Soong and Lore (and, implicitly, Data's background), I think of it as a bit of a symbol for allowing Data out of the box he was forced to be in, rather than introducing something entirely new to him.

I think this is partly why the Spock comparison is interesting. Vulcans, we are told over and over again, have an intensely violent nature, and use logic to overcome it. What if a person "begins" with a purely logical nature -- but then is, as a result, somewhat empty? How difficult would it be for them to incorporate the best of humanity without taking on the worst? Given the basic "programming" (parental) restrictions, how can he become a complete person? And what would it take to overcome that initial parental restriction?
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William B
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

Quick thought (Datalore spoilers): I have talked elsewhere about how interesting it is that Soong seems to have deliberately made Data less human, in order to avoid the psychopathy that Lore develops. What I had forgotten until thinking about this episode is that it's already hinted at in Data's *very first scene*, where he apparently does not know the meaning of "snoop," and attributes it to being perhaps because his (at this point unknown, even to Data) creator did not want him to emulate that part of human behaviour. So already the possibility that Data's limitations in imitating human behaviour are not entirely because of limitations of what was possible to program (within the TNG-era Trek universe), but because of limitations in what was possible to program without making the super-strong machine-man dangerous. Pretty neat that it comes up this early.
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William B
Sat, Mar 9, 2019, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Naked Time

My memories of this episode are pretty positive, it's just that my main memories are of a few specific scenes (especially the Spock breakdown scene). At some point I'm sure I'll revisit.

I personally enjoy Springy's "watching and commenting" thoughts a lot. I also enjoy people's thoughts after watching the whole episode (as you do). Different strokes, etc.
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William B
Sat, Mar 9, 2019, 10:30am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Naked Time

I think of this episode fondly, but I wouldn't be surprised if Springy is right that it's very slow, thin etc. I love Sulu with the sword and Spock crying, in particular. (And I do like Riley's singing, FWIW.) I forget some of the other things that happen partway through the episode.
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William B
Sat, Mar 9, 2019, 9:06am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Investigations

@Elliott, you're right that there's some good moments in the Paris/Neelix material early on, and some potential in the Janeway/Chakotay/Tuvok stuff. I found the plot contrivances, Neelix and the ending so awful that it was hard for me to see any pros in the episode at all, but there are some.

I'm not a full-on Neelix hater, but I find him *agonizing* in this ep. ("On the other hand, we're talking about Neelix, not Glenn Greenwald." Yep.) Well, in much of season 2, but at least in Elogium and Parturition e.g. he's "only" long-term hurting his own story and Kes' and Paris', rather than ruining serialization for the rest of the series.
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William B
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter, I agree that it's very possible to have traditions and spiritual life without the pernicious aspects of religion, and that this is an important goal. I also think that Sisko is not demanding unthinking fealty...but is he really, at the episode's end, discouraging it? The huge negative consequences of the The Apple style thinking are ones that Bajor has to eventually leave behind, but is Sisko even aware that this is what he's now doing? Or is he just aware that at least he's not Akorem, and if Bajor is going to pledge uncritical fealty it should be to someone who will only tacitly accept it? It seems as if Bajor will still do whatever Sisko says, and it's just that he will restrict himself to not saying much. Or am I missing a part where the Bajorans have genuinely started into a new era?
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William B
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter, I will have to think about what you say some more. I think it's possible that much of what you present as what the Prophets seem to be teaching is close to what I would want them to teach. I'm a little stuck because I am having a hard time evaluating how much this corresponds to what I experience when I watch these relevant episodes.

What I will say is that the reason I'm stuck on the definition of "worship" that is closer to The Apple, rather than the "worship" in the sense of listening, taking advice from, etc., is that it seems to me that the Bajorans in this episode very much exhibit the former. I don't think it's a wild misrepresentation of what we see from the Bajorans within this episode, and I also don't think that what the Bajorans would give to Sisko at the end *if he asked it* would be that different. If it's the case that Bajorans are in a state of arrested development which can eventually end, and perhaps SPOILER is ending at the end of the series with Sisko taken off the board, at least to a degree, then the Prophets showing Sisko why it's necessary for him to occupy the Emissary role to prevent some Akorem-type from doing so makes sense. In the grand scheme of the series this appears to the what the arc is, and so I'm not opposed to the idea that this is what their plan is. However, in the process of Sisko showing them that it's less about piety and making temples, Sisko seems to be forced to do *more* piety and making temples, willingly doing blessings, etc. It seems as if Sisko is -- let's say encouraged rather than forced -- to take a more active role in the daily rituals of Bajoran religious life, or at least that's how he seems to interpret it at the episode's end. This seems to mostly be in purely symbolic gestures and generalized enthusiasm rather than in doing something more reactionary like Akorem or the murderous zealot.

I'm not saying that doing blessings is automatically bad. I'm not religious and that probably comes across in my writing, and I admit to some ignorance about the daily realities of religious life, but I'm not trying to be anti-religious. What I'm saying though is that I have a hard time seeing from this episode evidence that Sisko is led to a point of seeing his contribution as being the fact that he's not obsessed with ritual, when he seems to be more devoted to ritual at the end. Nor does Sisko seem to particularly get any impression of why he's designated by the Prophets as who the Bajorans should listen to, nor even that he recognizes that it's his task to get Bajorans to be more self-sufficient, rather than just relying *on him*. It seems that Sisko is going to continue trying to be Sisko and a little hands-off, but doesn't actually tell the Bajorans that what he wants, as Emissary, is for them to not follow any Emissary, including him, blindly, but to listen to them as an adviser. I know the series is not over, and so we can maybe say that the episode ends with Sisko only having gotten to the point of seeing that he is better than an Akorem, but not entirely that his task is to teach the Bajorans to be more self-sufficient.
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William B
Fri, Mar 8, 2019, 7:42am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Peter,

Let's start with agreement. I'm totally in agreement with you about Bajor's status re: self-government, and I meant to say that I really enjoyed and agreed with your recent post about Bajor's Federation membership. I don't think this episode shows it as a good thing that Bajor is willing to start reinstituting their caste system on the drop of a hat, either.

On that note, I guess the question that I would like to have been raised more explicitly is whether Sisko really does have "the right" to protect Bajorans from their (apparently) self-destructive tendencies. I think a caste system is wrong, but maybe it's what's right for Bajor, and who am I to object? Now I can hear a possible objection here -- why am I applying modern human moral standards to the Prophets but am content to be a moral relativist when it comes to Bajorans? Well, I guess what I really want is for the moral stakes to be talked about. Not everything has to be explicit, but central concerns of Star Trek are when to let other cultures make what we consider to be mistakes. I think that's why the "You are of Bajor" is important -- that Sisko identifies strongly enough with Bajorans (and Bajoran grief, loss, experience of oppression etc.) that he is not an external interloper but a part of the system.

As far as the Prophets:

1) Manipulation: The Prophets state that they sent Akorem out *for the Sisko*, with the implication seemingly being that it's to get Sisko back on track. I think we agree on this point of what their intent was. I think disagreement comes about because I don't think that the Prophets sending Akorem back is a relatively neutral or innocent plan. The Prophets virtually never intervene, let alone to revive some ancient poet. They know how this "miracle" would be interpreted (because they can see the interpretation). Which leads me to:

2) Worship. I would feel far better about the Prophets if I really did believe that they did not want to be worshiped, and you may well be correct. In general I'd say that once the Prophets *do* start communicating with Bajorans, at least via Sisko, they could start interfering by actually telling the Bajorans outright that they do not want the Bajorans' worship, that what Bajorans believe to be the case when they follow the will of the Prophets is often false, etc. I'd say that sending Bajorans Orbs with -- from what I can gather about the Prophets' nonlinearity -- the knowledge that this would lead to the Bajorans worshiping them is also a pretty big decision. It's true that we can't control all the cascading nth order impacts of our actions, and even if the Prophets can see time nonlinearly perhaps you are correct that it's unfair to hold them to a standard where they are responsible for all those impacts. But I feel that sending super highly advanced time-breaking orbs to a people insufficiently technologically advanced to see it as anything other than magic is something where it's really a first-order effect that they are going to start worshiping the beings who sent them. I guess to use Trek lore on this point, Kirk feels responsibility to clear up the Chicago gangster society on Sigma Iotia II, which started as a "cargo cult" around the accidentally dropped objects.

It's true that Bajorans still chose to worship the Prophets, but as far as I can tell that is because *Bajorans* believe that the Prophets wanted them to. If the Prophets *didn't* want this result, it's a misconception that would not be hard to clear up, or at least to attempt to.

But all right -- I can see that it's possible that the Prophets didn't intend the orbs to be bits of worship, and do not see it as their responsibility to clear up Bajoran misconceptions.

The problem I have is that it seems that their goal in this episode specifically relies on the Bajorans worshiping them. Their apparent goal is to get Sisko back on track *as Emissary*, which only works if the Bajorans actively worship the Prophets and see Sisko as a religious figure. Akorem has huge authority because he's assumed to be speaking for the Prophets. Sisko *gets* his authority from the fact that Bajorans believe that he's who the Prophets want them to follow, which is apparently true. I don't see how making Sisko more dedicated to being THE EMISSARY, not just the Starfleet custodian of Bajor's reconstruction but a religious figure, makes any sense without the Bajorans being religiously devoted to the Prophets, which means that if the Prophets want Sisko to fulfill his religious role, that means that they want the religion to continue.

Now even here, I understand that it's complicated. Sisko is a preferred Emissary over Akorem because Sisko is not going to make undue demands on the Bajorans, and so the Prophets could be viewed as making the best of a bad situation -- the Bajorans gonna worship, what are you gonna do, at least they should worship a better role model. But this again mostly makes sense to me only if the Prophets have no choice in whether the Bajorans worship them or not.

And then, this leads us to:

3) The Will of the Prophets vs. Worshiping the Prophets.

This is a tough one and I admit that I don't know what to make of it. Bajorans are frequently talking about the Will of the Prophets, and their desire to follow it. If the Prophets don't ask to be worshiped, then Bajorans should be free not to follow said Will. So then there are two sub-cases.

i) The Prophets do not have a particular Will on a case-by-case basis -- they don't particularly care whether Bajorans celebrate a particular festival or not. In this case, the argument against the Bajoran religion is not just that they shouldn't worship the Prophets, but that they are not even correct about what the strange, inscrutable beings actually do want. Within this episode, of course, we see an example of this -- instituting d'jarras is not actually the Will of the Prophets. But more generally, if the Bajorans are going to try to execute the Prophets' wishes, then whether the Prophets actually want X or Y should be something they should try to determine -- and if the Prophets wanted to, they could presumably be more forthcoming.

ii) The Prophets do have a particular Will, but do not *require* the Bajorans to follow it. This one seems to be close to the mark some of the time, but I guess the question is, at what point does setting up a sequence of events to get your desired outcome, because credulous people decide to do whatever you nudge them to do, *not* constitute "asking to be worshiped"? If Bajor will only follow the Will of the Prophets if they worship them, isn't that a big moral hazard for the Prophets even if they don't *specifically* want worship?

The other question I have, which is really central, is: do Bajorans believe that the Prophets want them to worship them, or do they think that the Prophets are disinterested in Bajoran worship, but still have a Will, which Bajorans can choose to follow? To be honest, I always assumed it was the first case, and in that case if the Prophets *don't* want to be worshiped, then it's simple: Bajorans are wrong. However it *is* possible that it's the second case -- that Bajorans don't care whether the Prophets want them to worship them or not, or even believe they don't!, but want to follow them anyways. I don't know what to make of that interpretation.

---

I guess what bothers me about some of these episodes -- and I do like Accession, and think it's one of the strongest of this arc -- is that the goal posts seem to be always changing, and the arguments get tangled. "Is the Bajoran religion legitimate?" ends up resting on questions of whether the Prophets can see into the future -- of course they can! -- rather than on whether it's appropriate to worship an alien being, or whether they want that worship. If the Prophets *want* to be worshiped, then the question should be whether it's appropriate for superpowered beings to want to be worshiped, and if they don't want to be worshiped, then the question should be whether it's appropriate for the Bajorans to worship an unwilling or indifferent idol. For the most part these questions come up when the show talks about the Founders, e.g. (the Founders' godhood is met with skepticism, and in Odo we have an example of a "god" who rejects worship), but as far as I recall they come up very rarely with the Prophets. This is also why it's hard for me to talk about them: I genuinely don't know whether to read the Prophets as wanting/expecting Bajoran worship and being worthy of that, or being indifferent to Bajoran worship but still accepting Bajoran worship when it suits their purposes (i.e. pushing Sisko to further accept his Emissary duties).
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William B
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 11:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

@Chrome, I think you're right about Sisko for the most part. I still count it as manipulation (with the negative connotations) by the Prophets for two reasons:

1) It's definitely manipulation of the Bajoran people. Because the Bajorans submit so readily to whoever they see as the authority representing the Prophets, it is obviously going to have a big effect on Bajor for the Prophets to send Akorem in (apparently) to give Sisko a wake-up call. And of course the whole way in which it works as a wake-up call is to make Sisko realize that Bajor really needs him, which requires to some degree endangering Bajor in the interim. Perhaps it's necessary for Bajor at the moment, but it's still pretty dark. More to the point, the Prophets do perform a "miracle" of sorts by sending Akorem out to Bajor, which lends some apparent justification to his religious authority. A less...I don't know, credulous people would not have immediately agreed to follow Akorem, but the point is that the Prophets seemingly anticipated this result (non-linear and all), that the Bajorans would see Akorem's miraculous recovery as A Sign, so that they would start doing what Sisko would see as harm to their own society/selves.

2) I do think it's true that it pushes Sisko into accepting something he already sort of does accept, but in particular I think it also forces Sisko past not just his "selfish" disinterest in the tedious or annoying parts of his Emissary job, but also his quite rational desire not to be treated as a religious icon and worshiped. It's rational because it is a bad position to be in, for billions of people to hang onto your every word, and also rational because it contradicts Federation values for a person to be so venerated. Sisko wanted to try to help Bajor without being *worshiped*, and that was in general a worthy goal. The Prophets set up this big trial in order to get him past his reluctance to be worshiped, and under normal circumstances, it's correct for Sisko not to want to be worshiped. I agree that the Prophets kind of forcing Sisko to remember that he's committed to Bajor is...well, maybe the collateral damage is not fine, but it's reminding Sisko of something he already believes. The worship element is where I think the Prophets are deliberately short-circuiting a legitimate objection of Sisko's by their big set-up.

Anyway, maybe manipulation is okay! If we think of the Prophets as Gods, then basically any actions they take are justified because moral authority *comes from* them, so that they are manipulative in this sense is not even a criticism of them. If we think of them as wormhole aliens, it's possible that applying normative moral judgments to them is myopic because we can't even really understand them. There's maybe some overlap point. But if we think of them as agents who are at least somewhat comprehensible then we have to wonder what to make of their manipulations here, which do to some degree involve basically holding Bajor hostage until Sisko agrees to do things their way. I guess I'd say that it's good that they'd rather have Sisko's gentle shepherding than Akorem's conservative caste system or Dukat's iron will (the latter of which the Paghwraiths seem to prefer), but do they really understand what Bajor's devotion means? It appears that they either want Bajorans to worship them or at least do not want to discourage it. Why do they want that? Do they want it or do they want something else entirely? Is it Not Our Place to question them, and if so, why is it our place to question, say, the Founders, also held up by some in universe as gods?

SPOILERS

I think what's interesting is that within the series there are at least two other sets of "Gods" (not counting Q's one episode appearance) who the show expects us to treat with, to put it mildly, skepticism, and more to the point to treat as being outright villains: the Founders, who are, ultimately, potentially redeemable (via Odo), and the paghwraiths, who apparently are not. The Prophets do seem to be more hands-off and less controlling or cruel than the Founders or the paghwraiths, and so I'm willing to view them in less negative terms than those, but I guess my problem with the series is that it doesn't interrogate far enough (as far as I can see) why the Prophets are worthy of worship, being treated as gods, etc., and the Founders and the paghwraiths aren't. It's not even clear how much the Prophets have the various properties/desires that Bajorans regularly ascribe to them, which means that it's hard to parse all of what happens.
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William B
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 9:57am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

Correction: I said,

"Sisko still doesn't plan on doing much to influence Bajorans except preventing some other Emissary from exerting undue influence, which, of course, *IS STILL* a major influence."

As Peter says, though, Sisko is definitely a *role model* for Bajorans. I guess what I mean is that Sisko is going to use a much lighter hand, and a hand encouraging self-sufficiency, egalitarianism, understanding etc., than the internal Bajoran factions like Winn/Jarro/Akorem or like exploitative empire reps like Dukat or Weyoun (or even Cretak). So he'll provide help and give an example, but isn't going to forcibly restructure their society in a way that limits freedom, beyond the fact that his presence itself and their need to worship him creates that, which is a *lot*.
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William B
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 9:53am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

Just to elaborate a bit more:

I don't particularly think Sisko "believes in the Bajoran religion" by the end of this episode in the same way that Bajorans do. As Elliott says, the Prophets just straight out tell him that they set this thing up to manipulate him, so, you know, no belief required for that part (except insofar as believing they're not lying, I guess). I think what comes in more is something like love -- Sisko cares about the Bajoran people, and is willing to take on, with enthusiasm, a role that will save them from themselves. I guess where faith/belief comes into it is that Sisko has to believe that it's good for him to take on this role, despite lots of reasons against it -- it's a Prime Directive violation, he doesn't enjoy it, maybe if the Bajorans are unable to prevent themselves from ossifying they're not worth the effort of his/the Federation continually preventing them from doing so. And, rather than just bringing up the text of the Prime Directive, there's the spirit too: if Bajorans "want" to institute a caste system, which strikes us (well, I guess, most of us) as backward, pointless and cruel, who is Sisko to stop them? How does he get to decide he knows better than them? Right, he's the Emissary. The aliens picked him to the guy to tell Bajorans what to do, so they'll do what he says. The main way in which it makes sense for me ethically is to view the Bajorans as so shattered that they cannot really be trusted to make their own decisions at the moment, so that all Sisko is doing is acting as a benevolent wedge to prevent Jaro/Akorem/Winn/Dukat/the Dominion/whoever from destroying their ability to work things out themselves, and Sisko *mostly* is a hands-off Emissary. His embrace of the symbolic value of Emissary at the end notwithstanding, Sisko still doesn't plan on doing much to influence Bajorans except preventing some other Emissary from exerting undue influence, which, of course, *IS STILL* a major influence.

This is all interesting, but I feel like it needs more excavation and analysis in the series (either in this episode, or, probably better, in later episodes). And there's some but I don't know that I find it all that satisfying, except possibly in the case of Kira herself as Bajoran rep/everywoman.
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William B
Thu, Mar 7, 2019, 9:41am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

The episode title is Accession, which means either attainment of a new position of power (monarch etc.) or the addition of a new item to an existing collection. It does seem that the episode is mostly "about" Sisko genuinely adding being the Emissary ("spiritual leader") to the Bajoran people to his roster, and accepting that role unreservedly. This happens because of Akorem's temporary accession to power.

I was thinking about how the A- and B-plots work in this episode. In the B-plot, Keiko had left Miles' everyday life "long ago" (in The House of Quark). Miles never stopped loving Keiko or seeing her as essential to his life, but his access to her on a daily basis was cut off, so in the intervening time Miles has filled the void by forming a closer friendship with Julian, which includes playing a soldier. The Battle of Britain: in which members of what had been defined as a naval empire are forced to become something different, aviators, in order to defend their isle from Nazis (who are often linked to Cardassians, in this series). Keiko returns, with unborn baby in tow. With the "crisis" of Keiko's departure ended and a new life form on the table, Miles believes that he has to mostly cut Julian out of his life in order to demonstrate the depth of his devotion to Keiko. Julian agrees to step aside and disconnect from Miles' life. However, the thing that's actually important about Miles and Keiko's marriage isn't that he's around her every second, but that he loves her, will support their child. And so he can still be a drinking buddy with Julian, and can still play a soldier in the Holosuite when convenient. Keiko notes that Miles' attempting to take on the role of the dutiful, self-sacrificing husband, and Julian's artificial distance, are making both Miles and Julian miserable, and not in a way that is actually necessary for Miles' devotion to her. So she uses some gentle manipulation to bring Miles and Julian back together. The end is that Miles can keep his newfound friendship with Julian and his love for Keiko, but it required Keiko to push Miles and Julian to both recognize a) that they need each other, and that b) it's not against Keiko's actual wishes.

I think the analogy is basically Keiko = the Prophets, Miles = Bajor (and Kira in particular), Julian = Sisko (and more generally the Federation). Keiko's arrival and pregnancy as inciting event matches with Akorem's arriavl. Access to the Prophets was cut off from Bajor for a long time during the Occupation, when the Cardassians tried to suppress the Prophets entirely. During that time, the D'Jarra system fell out of favour, and Bajorans took on new roles, including military roles, to deal with the crisis. Eventually the Occupation ended and Bajor found Sisko and became devoted to him. Akorem's return seems to signal that Bajorans have to now mutilate their new lives and return to old ones (D'Jarras) in order to show their faith in the Prophets, and also for them to cut themselves off from Sisko/the Federation. Kira's inability to be an artist and to have to leave a job she is passionate about is paralleled with Miles' depression at no longer getting to hang out with Julian, and his performative attempt to be The Perfect Husband And Father gets him rejected. ("Can daddy color too?" he asks Molly, attempting to be an artist himself, and, like Kira, not finding the niche has room for him.) Sisko steps back but, like Julian, finds himself sad that he's lost a relationship that he values. Eventually the Prophets explicitly reveal that this thing has been a manipulation to force Sisko into realizing the depth of his role. At the end the Bajorans are brought back into love with the Prophets (the "marriage" restored to equilibrium), but with Sisko as an important figure in their lives, and without having to give up their new careers as a gesture of fealty. The Keiko comparison is important here because the Prophets didn't actually want Bajorans to give up their new jobs or institute a caste system, just as Keiko didn't actually want Miles to give up his friend. Akorem in this case represents -- I don't know -- the voice in Miles' head saying that to be a good husband requires him to give up all other connections.

The plotting mostly makes sense to me in this sense and the episode's structure is strong. Emotionally I mostly get where Sisko and Kira are as the episode goes on, additionally. I guess my problem, which the comparison kind of makes pop even more, is that whereas Keiko's manipulation seems to me to be cute, harmless, and kind, and Miles' sacrifices not that extreme really, the Bajorans' eagerness (or at least willingness) to throw themselves into a figurative dark ages based on their belief that this is what the Prophets want, leading eventually to a murder by a religious official, is really dark and reflects badly on Bajorans as a whole planet. That the Prophets set up this Rube Goldberg machine to make Sisko "play ball" is also -- I don't really know how to describe it -- icky? Back in Emissary, Picard as the voice of the Federation said that Sisko should do everything short of violating the Prime Directive to bring Bajor into the fold. Sisko's intervention in Bajoran affairs is partly to bring a Federation sensibility to Bajor, which once he starts actively encouraging their worship of him crosses a PD line, but is "justified" in-story by the revelation that he is "of Bajor," chosen by Bajor's gods. Sisko's full-on embracing of his Emissary role -- of being worshiped -- relies on the fact that the Bajorans are going to uncritically worship *someone* as who they believe is representing the Prophets' will, whether that person actually does (as Sisko apparently does) or not (Akorem); and importantly, whether they should follow the will of the mysterious aliens whose actual goals are opaque is never really examined. As a post-Occupation story, I do think there's a lot of weight to the idea that the Bajorans are going to necessarily have to cling to *someone* and that it's better that this someone be Sisko rather than an Akorem, a Winn or even a Dukat, and I guess that appears to be what the story is about. It still leaves me feeling -- I don't know. Icky, I guess, to repeat, that Sisko has to accept Bajorans' blind devotion, because at the moment the Bajorans are incapable of anything else. It's pretty downbeat, actually, and I don't know that the episode's final act really sells how worrying what just happened is, in terms of the likelihood of Bajorans being able to understand themselves. I think the episode is actually quite good at getting the characters to where they end up, for what it's worth, I'm just not sure I like what that implies.

I guess, too, that Bajorans need Sisko as an interim blind-worship-idol-figure is something that I think the larger series implies, and is part of what this episode is covering, but the show doesn't really make explicit that Sisko sees that, or sees his role as even mildly temporary. The instability of this arrangement -- do Bajorans start murdering each other for stepping out of line of old caste systems the second Sisko is no longer preventing it? Sisko's not immortal, right? -- goes uncommented upon. And that's maybe okay for this episode in particular, but there's a whole series that keeps dancing around this question. And I still don't really know what to think about the Bajorans' worship of the Prophets themselves at all.

SPOILERS for the end of the series, but I think season seven *implies* that Kira as our Bajor representative is moving beyond the twin dangers of blind worship and blind rebellion and into self-leadership, but even then it really *only* tells this story with Kira and not any other Bajorans (Winn also has an important role but it's to at the very last moment choose Sisko over Dukat, to show that even the worst and most power-hungry Bajorans will ultimately worship Sisko when forced to look at what Dukat offers them, and not to do any self-governance stuff). And I don't think that even Kira's genuinely moving beyond having to blindly follow an Emissary is told explicitly enough to be fully satisfying, let alone the rest of Bajor. I guess Sisko's immateriality -- he's still the Emissary but he's a Prophet and he's coming back but maybe not -- is a way of getting past the duality where they have to worship a present Emissary and do whatever he says. It sort of makes symbolic sense.
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William B
Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Seventh Season Recap

@Yanks, you are correct that in Accession, Sisko says that Bajor going back to the D'jarra caste system would make their Federation membership be rejected. However, when Akorem went back in time the caste system was dropped, and Bajor was then back on track for membership (and almost did join in Rapture).
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William B
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Man Trap

@Springy, I hope you stick with it, at least for a while.

"Watching it, I'm overwhelmed with both how daring it was, and how dated it is."

TNG and later feel much more like modern storytelling -- often great/very good, sometimes not as good. TOS feels at times like it's beamed in from another universe, and it comes across as shockingly brave/foolish, things that the newer shows wouldn't be able to try. I think a lot of that is how much the show's sensibility comes not just from 60's television (which was a big factor -- Roddenberry had a long tv career before this, of course) but also that era's sci-fi, pulp sci-fi. The show has a higher density of professional sci-fi writers than the other Treks, with a lot of overlap with The Twilight Zone as well as print publications. Most TNG-and-after Trek episodes really are written by television writers (many of whom are extremely good), with some definite sci-fi interest/background but obeying the laws of sensible television storytelling more rigorously.
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William B
Tue, Mar 5, 2019, 10:17am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Seventh Season Recap

@Iceman,

Yeah I should be more forgiving of Melora. Elliott in particular raised a number of good points in its favour. And I think for the most part the problems with that episode are more structural than specific to Bashir's character. It's a flaw of sorts that Bashir falls for his patient so hard but it's not an unreasonable one for the character to have at that stage in the series. Distant Voices really does show a sense that they are at a dead end with the character. I think Siddig really struggles in that ep but it's not his fault. I don't like Life Support but I don't think that Bashir's characterization is a big problem in it -- but then, it's not really strong enough to buoy the episode.

But yeah, Chrysalis they absolutely should have known better, and more importantly Bashir should have known better. If they did want to write a Bashir/Genetically Engineered Genius romance, they should have just brought in a new character to avoid sending him through Melora 2.0 with a far more vulnerable patient/girlfriend when he's much older.

I should say, I think there are a lot of (presumably unintentional) hints in season seven that suggest a really dark reading of Ezri's story in s7. I talked in comments about how the triple-whammy of Prodigal Daughter/The Emperor's New Cloak/Field of Fire seems to be implying Ezri's one or two steps away from being a murderer, and in particular being forced near the breaking point by a weak sense of self and unreasonable demands from family (PD), potential lovers (TENC), her other hosts/memories (FoF). It's very possible to read Sisko's behaviour toward her in Afterimage as overt emotional manipulation. Worf obviously registers her as a continuation of Jadzia Dax in the Penumbra/TDDUP/Strange Bedfellows mini-arc, though at least he eventually gets knocked out of it. Anyway, while (again) this is I'm positive unintended, the positioning of Chrysalis, where Julian goes all in on a romantic relationship with a miracle-woman, a "reborn" Sabrina with all of her genius and talents but none of the ostensible barriers to their relationship, right after Ezri's arrival and the establishment of her extreme vulnerability, in a season where he ends up with her, underlies the creepy inappropriate wish fulfillment of Julian ending up with the newest Dax model. I think that the actual story is meant to be that Julian and Ezri realize that they are attracted to each other for reasons unrelated to Jadzia, and for Ezri's "arc" over the season to have her getting over her vulnerabilities and hang-ups enough to be her own person (and to have a relationship as Ezri rather than purely as Dax), but the alternate (presumably unintended) read is pretty coherent. Anyway to be clear, even in this alternate read Julian is unaware of the dark side of what he's doing, just as he's non-malicious in Chryaslis.

I agree about Kira. Kira has a lot of good stories over the series, but I think the most notable *development* is, as you say, in season 1 and season 7 (in addition to the Cardassia material in season seven, s7 really devotes a lot of time and energy to her and Odo) and at times it feels like they don't have a big direction for her over the intervening episodes. This isn't by itself bad. As I said, I don't think it's a problem that a lot of O'Brien stories are one-offs rather than furthering an arc, because not everyone has to go through wild changes and more subtle ones or a sense of stability are also totally worthwhile. Still it feels like Kira, especially as our Bajor representative, should have more of an arc in the whole bulk of the mid-series, especially since they do keep giving her mini-arcs (like the opening trilogy of season 2, aspects of her Bareil story, her apparent surrogate parenthood of Ziyal which largely disappears in episodes without Dukat in them, her pregnancy), the Occupation in early s6, many of which fizzle out a bit. The show invests a lot in her evolving relationships with enemies Dukat and Winn, but in the end saves both of them for Sisko. Her closeness to the O'Briens due to the pregnancy gets a lot of attention and then fades into the background. She's backgrounded in Life Support around Bareil's death and is backgrounded in her relationship with Shakaar. Anyway this maybe sounds more negative than I mean it! I do think Life Support should have been better on Kira's feelings about Bareil, but I don't think we needed to have a Kira/Miles buddy episode after season 5, and I can see how it would have been tough to integrate Kira into the Last Word on Dukat or Winn. I think it's more just interesting that while I think Kira is well written and performed and has many strong episodes, I find her story less satisfying as an arc in the bulk of the story than I do at the beginning and end, and why in some ways I feel like the way in which the mini-arcs Kira has don't seem to connect to each other that strongly.

(To elaborate further: Kira carrying the O'Briens' baby could have really been tied in with Rapture and Kira's increasing confidence in the Federation. It's a pretty physical, direct link between Kira and humans -- Earth, even -- by having her be part of a human family, rather than primarily associating the Federation with Sisko who is conflated with his Emissary status. Her slowly finding herself swallowed by the second Occupation, and her watching Odo be seduced by the Founder and then turn around and save them, could have allowed her not just to continue to have some forgiveness for Cardassians as a people, but for Bajoran collaborators as well. And I think it's certainly possible to argue these are somewhat true, even if not made explicit. Kira is much more open to the Federation at the end of the series, and certainly her friendship with the O'Briens (and Jadzia, and to a lesser extent Bashir and Worf) plays into that. She does have a different attitude at the end of Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night and in Covenant to Bajorans who get lulled into following Dukat than she would have at the series' beginning and we can see her going through a period of finding herself too comfortable with her position in a Dominion/Cardassian regime as being one of the factors. I feel that the show could have made Kira's arc stronger if they had played up the connections between the various things Kira went through more, though. I can understand some reasons. With Bareil and Ziyal, there were maybe acting/chemistry limitations on how far Kira's relationships with them could be explored, which is less true for the stronger actors Odo, Dukat, Winn, O'Brien etc. Again, I'm not really *complaining*. Kira has a lot of interesting material, and I wouldn't want to force her various subplots together in an on-the-nose way. I still feel like there could have been more...flow, maybe?...to how Kira develops over the middle seasons.)
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