Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Battle Lines"

3 stars

Air date: 4/26/1993
Teleplay by Richard Danus and Evan Carlos Somers
Story by Hilary Bader
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Sisko, Kira, and Bashir take Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) through the wormhole for a brief excursion, but their Runabout is shot down by an automated satellite system when investigating a nearby planet. Opaka is killed in the crash in a surprising, tragic twist of fate. Meanwhile, the survivors find themselves in the middle of two warring factions of a penal colony. The twist: no one on this colony dies; their cells have been re-engineered to keep them fighting a futile battle with no possible victory for either side.

Once you accept the implausibility of immortality in this sort of warfare (couldn't you sever your enemy's head to kill him?), this story's premise is intriguing. Ambitious production design stands out, as do some above-average fight scenes. The episode's relevant theme is the prisoners' error of continuing the pointless violence; neither faction can put aside their hate and think their situation through. When the same condition that gives the prisoners their immortality brings Opaka back from the dead, the episode wisely uses her character as a symbol of non-violence.

The most interesting character aspect is the focus on Kira's violent past and how, with the Kai's help, she comes to realize this internal conflict and decides to begin the journey of leaving her violent impulses behind. Opaka's subsequent decision to remain among the prisoners with the hope of helping them end their conflict and beginning their healing uses the foreshadowed idea of "destiny" rather well. It shows a character who has a new mission ahead of her, and it also promises to bring about sweeping changes on Bajor as a result of the important figure's absence. Running alongside the Kira storyline, this makes a lot of sense. The final line of dialog hints that we may see a follow-up to the storyline, which I definitely would welcome (even if it turns out to be five years down the road).

Previous episode: Vortex
Next episode: The Storyteller

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53 comments on this post

Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 11:36pm (UTC -6)
This is your first review where you and I significantly go off-course.

This is my least-favorite DS9 of the first season, so far.

The saving grace is the Kira/Opaka scene (personally, I like the ear-grabbing thing).

I never could get past the premise or how happy Opaka was to trade guiding Bajor through its transition for being a peace broker among two strange gangs of 20 or so people. The whole moon seemed stunningly boring and dismal.

Bajor had an epic sweep. This moon is an afterthought. And now -- so is Opaka. MAKE WAY FOR WINN!
Fri, Oct 12, 2012, 8:14am (UTC -6)
Following an impromptu visit to DS9, the Crew take Bajor's Spiritual Leader Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola) through the wormhole and tragedy ensues.

Not sure I think this is as good as Jammer does. I found it seemed to drag, especially the battle scenes on the Moon. The opening, with Opaka visiting the station does promise much and I like Kira's reaction when given the details of her intelligence file (Odd how Dukat is not mentioned by name) - Indeed for me the various conversations involving Sisko/ Odo/Bashir and Kira in the Captain's Office are some of the most memorable parts of DS9's Freshman season.

The story goes somewhat off the rails in the second part of the story. As Jammer says, although it's high concept, the idea of 'perpetual war' where no one can die seems far-fetched. I confess to not recognising under the make-up the usually superb Jonathan Banks as Shel -La, but the script here doesn't do much to flesh him out. Unquestionably the highlight are the scenes between Nana Visitor and Saviola. I liked the Kira/ Opaka dynamic, and it's a shame they didn't return to this story later in some ways. (I'd argue Season 2's 'the Collaborator' is more about Bareil than Opaka) I've been critical of Nana Visito's performance but here she is in fine form, perhaps foreshadowing an even better performance in a few episodes time.

All in all, the interminability of the scenes involving the Aliens and the shakiness of the concept do undermine what could have been a season highlight. 2.5 stars for me.
Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
I'd have to agree with Van_Patten on this one. I, too, don't think "Battle Lines" deserved its 3-star rating. I think it has to do with me not being able to look beyond the implausible immortaility backdrop.

If this planet COULD regenerate cells and keep people alive, wouldn't the entire Gamma Quadrant want to flock there and somehow steal, learn, and/or reap the god-like benefits that this planet offers?

Also, I think it would have been more powerful to have killed off Kai Opaka in ways that related to the Bajoran/Cardassian storyline. Imagine if she was killed on the station via a Cardassian assassination? What if Vedek Winn's crafted a plot to kill Opaka herself? Or that Winn's schemes led to an "accidental" death of Opaka? Instead, Opaka is forever stuck on some alien-of-the-week planet that we never see or hear of ever again.

Nana Visitor's performance was the highlight and saving grace of this episode. Her reaction to Kai Opaka's death helped to further develop the importance of the "Kai" figure through the eyes of the Bajorans, much like real-life religions idolize their leaders (e.g. Catholics and the Pope).

My rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 8:41pm (UTC -6)
I liked this a lot. The Kai is a serene character--Camille Saviola does a good job making her seem truly wise.

I was a little embarrassed for Kira--because I like her--when she got so emotional. That was a bit overdone.

I liked the warring factions, also. Nice to see the brilliant Jonathan Banks in an amazing role as Shel-La. His performance was nuanced and gave a convincing sense of how pointless their lives had become. I could understand why losing the fear of death might make reconciliation impossible.

DS9 seems to use very recognizable character actors a lot more than other series have--I'll keep my fingers crossed for Danny Trejo!
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
I think if we accept the premises of Bajor and DS9 this episode is a good contrast between the spiritual leadership of Opaka and Winn... Opaka saw how her abilities were needed on the moon, whereas Winn was an opportunist.
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 5:23pm (UTC -6)
I'm going to have to echo the others comments' - this episode doesn't rate 3 stars to me either.

When-ever sci-fi tries to use a impossible or amazing thing/event, it needs to sell the audience on its premise - in this case, that a normally mortal being can be killed any way you can imagine and will come back whole and functional, and endlessly. Bashir's explanation did NOT sell me on it.

What if I put a grenade on someone's head, and it exploded, putting brain matter everywhere. You mean to tell me that somehow, the whole brain will constitute itself from scratch, and more than that, will function as it did before? No! If an episode is FUN enough (Q episodes are good examples) you can sometimes get away with such preposterous ideas - this episode, though isn't fun enough.

I did agree with the good production values and acting, and Kira character development was interesting, so perhaps 2.5 stars is more accurate.
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 3:37pm (UTC -6)
Agreed. This is a dumb episode and a bad way to write out a character.
Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
i always think of this premise with Wolverine and Xmen..but everyone else seems to buy his immortality.

just grind him up in a meet grinder and spread his body over 7 continents. i guarantee, he wont come back to life.
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 6:21pm (UTC -6)
The whole idea of their immortality was full of plotholes. Kira is out of character. The good part is Kai Opaka, having her negotiate more between the sides would have been a better story.
2 1/2 Stars
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
I strongly dislike the Bajoran storyline and this episode was very cheesy way to take Kai Opaka out of the story.

Wed, Nov 20, 2013, 1:34am (UTC -6)
This was kind of a silly episode, but it was cool to see Jonathan Banks, who I know as Breaking Bad's Mike Ehrmentraut, in a role on Star Trek, and he does a great job.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 1:12pm (UTC -6)
Not going to lie, I almost gave up on DS9 while watching this episode. Keep in mind I came off of TNG, and Voyager, so I was a little Star Treked out. This episode though I found slow, boring, and dull. Thankfully DS9 gets MUCH better later on around the 3rd season, but man did this episode suck.
Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 10:22am (UTC -6)
Just recently watched this episode.

So sad they chose to get rid of Kia Opaka. I really enjoyed how she was a positive religious figure. But I know DS9 (& trek in general) wants to protray religion as primative and currupt, so we need a character like Kia Winn.

Voyager and TNG get pummeled all the time about "technobabble" while DS9 is always lauded for having superior writing. (which I don't agree with) This episode should be crowned as the medical technobabble king.

Let's see.... we need something that regenerates wounds, so how about nano-probes... no, that's the Borg... how about microbes? .... nanites? ... then they have to remain in the system or they die (only when used to revive death), then they can't leave the moon because they made them "environment" specific (because they want Opaka out of the picture)..... eeeshh....

An interesting point about the PD here. Sisko initially commits to beaming everyone off the moon (clearly meddling in the internal affairs of another world) then instead of letting Bashir reprogram the nanites he just beams out of there. I guess the punishment isn't so cruel and unusual anymore, eh? All while making us feel better be telling Opaka "if we can ever find a way" ....pfffft.... really? (that's the writers snickering in the background)

Zero stars for failing on every level and for getting rid of what could have been a great character.
Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 7:24pm (UTC -6)

People say Deep Space Nine has superior writing because it has a high quality, long term story line. It's okay if it occasionally falls into a little bit of technobabble.

This is very much unlike Voyager, which hit the reset button constantly. And gave us constant torrents of stupid sounding technobabble.
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 7:01am (UTC -6)
To quote Worf...

"little" :-)

DS9 has used technobabble just as much as the other series from the start. (Emissary)

But I guess it wasn't "stupid sounding"?
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 9:06am (UTC -6)
I actually won't even say "stupid sounding" in the problem. It's deus-ex-technobabble that's the issue.

See Voyager's "The Swarm" :
KIM: Captain, our shield strength just went to zero.
CHAKOTAY: How did that happen?
KIM: Each one of those little ships is emitting an interferometric pulse. They're modulating in opposition to our shield frequencies, completely cancelling them out.
JANEWAY: All right, that's enough. Tuvok, give them a phaser sweep with the forward array. Don't destroy any of them, just let them know we're not going to sit here like ducks.
TUVOK: Aye Captain.
JANEWAY: What was that?
KIM: The interferometric pulses they're emitting. They've reflected the energy of the phasers right back to us.
CHAKOTAY: Anything we fire is going to affect us instead of them. What about a photon torpedo?
TUVOK: Since our shield strength is non-existent, I would not recommend it.
PARIS: They're only seven thousand kilometres away and still coming.
JANEWAY: Harry, start analysing those interferometric pulses. See if there's any pattern, any code to them. We might be able to find a weakness.
KIM: I'm on it.
PARIS: Captain, they're right on top of us. I can't shake them.
TUVOK: Captain, they are clamping onto our hull.
CHAKOTAY: They're starting to drain our systems.
KIM: Captain, I've got a pattern on the interferometric pulses. It's a lattice, connecting all the ships to each other.
JANEWAY: All right, here's what we're going to do. Turn those pulses right back on them. Tuvok, lock phasers on their nearest ship. If we can destroy one of them, there's every chance the interferometric pulse that links them together will cause a chain reaction.
TUVOK: But the phaser fire will be reflected back toward us.
JANEWAY: Harry, modulate our shields to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. That should allow the phasers to hit the ship.
TUVOK: Ship's phasers are locked on a target, Captain.
JANEWAY: Tuvok! Harry! Do it!
TUVOK: The swarm of ships has disbanded, Captain. They are moving away.

Sorry for the semi long dialogue dump. But the crew didn't earn that victory. Janeway just beat a superior force by modulating the shields (which were down) to an inverse harmonic of the pulse. Despite only studying these guys for 4 seconds. I mean... COME ON! I dislike this episode anyway because it's the one where Janeway violates Federation law and an alien's space to avoid a 1 year detour against the advice of Tuvok... but the solution is stupid too.

Compare to Parallax (an episode I really like) where the solution is a complete technobabble fest, but they make you feel like the characters earned it, and they get bonus points by making it easy to follow by describing it to finding your way back into a hole you made in the ice.

I don't hate technobabble, but you want to feel like the characters earned their win, instead of just reversing the polarity on a differential magnometer and presto!
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 10:36am (UTC -6)
I will say though that there is a certain something to smile at with "interferometric pulse".
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 11:56am (UTC -6)
Technobabble is a relative term.

Obrien used it to make DS9 "lighter" in Emissary... lol

One could argue that the performance of the Voyager crew was exemplementry. They observed the situation, reacted to a life and death situation and made the necessary adjustments. Knowledge is power you know.


But then again, what the hell is "interferometric".

It's always a cop out. If it isn't, then it's not technobabble.
William B
Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 12:54pm (UTC -6)
Interferometry is a real thing -- which involves using the wave nature of light and radiation in order to create constructive and destructive interference patterns. It's generally used for things like measurements though -- a famous example is the Michelson-Morley experiment, which used an interferometer to make precise measurements of the speed of light in two separate directions, in an attempt to find the speed of the "aether" the Earth was moving through; the null result (i.e. the result that the speed of light was the same in all directions) is what led indirectly to Einstein's theory of relativity.

Of course, it's unclear that an "interferometric pulse" would do what they say it would do.
Fri, Jul 4, 2014, 5:56pm (UTC -6)
Robert's point about "The Swarm" is totally valid. In that story, the crux of the story's premise (argument) depended on silly technobabble to resolve. But DS9 is absolutely guilty of this sin. Can you identify this episode :

JAKE : I consulted with Dax, and we realised the accident must have created some sort of subspace link between my father and myself.
MELANIE : That's why he always appeared somewhere near you, even if you were hundreds of lightyears away from where the accident happened.
JAKE : We also realised that there was a pattern to his appearances; they were governed by fluctuations in the wormhole's subspace field. Dax' calculations also showed that the next time he appeared, I'd be an old man.

It's not as bad as "The Swarm" stuff, but it's still technobabble and the story's resolution depends on it. In "The Swarm", for the record, the main story was not even about the titular swarm, but about the Doc and his worth. I would also say that the dialogue above represents the absolute worst example (or best) of the Babble of Voyager. Most of the time, it was NOT that bad.
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 8:09am (UTC -6)
@ William.

Thanks! I love it when smart folks contrinute :-)

Maybe the "pulse" was used by the Swarm species to determine relative spacing... :-)

@ Elliot.

I would agree. And I haven't watched this episode in quite awhile and forgot all about the main story. Thanks.
Thu, Jul 10, 2014, 9:26am (UTC -6)
@Elliott - I actually did like the doc plotline in the Swarm. And I specifically used 2 Voy examples for my "good" and "bad" example because although I prefer DS9, I do think all Trek could do technobabble good and bad.

They did solve the Swarm's B-plot with nonsense technobabble in seconds. The difference in the Visitor is that the dilemma as presented was that the solution to the technobabble was suicide. So it became a human issue. To me the technobabble did not get in the way.

Similarly to my example of Parallax (which was a technobabble fest) the point of the episode wasn't to solve the problem, the point was to show Torres being a competent engineer and to bond with Janeway. Which they did well!

She didn't bond with Janeway due to technobabble and the technobabble didn't make her an awesome engineer... they bonded over the problem and the technobabble illustrated her being an awesome engineer. The Swarm's b-plot was again, solved by reversing polarity on their shields which were down. Yawn.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Teaser : **, 5%

So, the appointed geniuses discover a profile of Kira and some other Bajoran terrorists in the station's computer. Sisko remarks that Kira might be disappointed. Well, we mustn't forget that Kira is a psychopath, so an emotion like “disappointed” ends up coming across like hysterical rage. But they're all used to that now, as they all leave Sisko's office before she has a chance to read said file.

Bashir calls to inform them that Opaka has arrived at the station in time for Kira to storm out and start vomiting all over ops. They escort her to the promenade, where she stares at the stars enigmatically with that cliché “spiritual” reserve Hollywood just loves, and promptly manipulates Sisko into taking her in a runabout to see the wormhole. On their way, the Kai looks at O'Brien and tells him “you have a child” and hands him a necklace to give to her. Cue eye-rolling. What is this crap? How does she know he has a kid? Why does she give him this gift? This is all just cheap contrivance to create this aura of religiosity around her, with no explanation or justification. Do the prophets occasionally let slip irrelevant information to the Kai? Does she wake up one day and suddenly know about some Vedek's latest venereal disease or how many wormholes aliens can dance on the head of a pin? Eh, she must be a Jedi.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

So they take her on the laser-light show through the hole and to the Gamma Quadrant. Suddenly, the Kai's demeanour has totally changed and she behaves like, well, a normal person instead of some Dalai Lama knockoff. She remarks that “prophecy can often be vague...that's why we must test it.” Uh-huh. They pick up a distress call from a small planet and leave to investigate. A satellite knocks out their systems and they crash land on the planet. And, what do you know, the Kai is dead. You're really doing great at this job commander. I can see why you'll get promoted so often. Kira's tearful mourning is...I hate to say it, because I actually want to like this part, but it's really lame. If you're going to go for the over-the-top reaction (which is warranted by the way), then you better be ready to sell the shit out of it. Tears, banging the ground with your fists, snot dripping from your nose, uncontrollable sobs, the whole thing. Or, you can go for the reserved approach. Silent tears, shallow breathing, a little nausea. Instead we get this really uncomfortable blending of the two with open-mouthed moaning, with no tears, screaming but with the careful closing of the eyelids. Too bad. Some strangers emerge from behind the rocks and cue commercial.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Back on DS9, the smart people are heading up an investigation to find the missing runabout while Odo complains that the Bajorans are bugging him about Opaka's disappearance. You've got to love how Odo seems more annoyed that he has to deal with these people than concerned over the loss of the command crew and the Kai. I hear you, Odo. Bajorans are aggravating.

Meanwhile, the crash survivors are introduced to the survivors of a Zombi apocalypse. Actually they're prisoners who are fighting a kind of civil war with another, er, tribe I guess. Kira remarks that Opaka's death was meaningless. This is exactly the kind of scene we needed in “Skin of Evil” by the way. I would be remiss in not pointing out here that all of the choices which led to her death were made by the Kai—she wanted to leave the station and go through the wormhole; she wanted to investigate the signal. At each juncture, Sisko acquiesced to her wishes. So any potential burden of guilt for our regulars is totally stripped away.

Wait a minute, didn't grateful dead guy just say that these people have given up using energy weapons? So of course in the very same scene, they get into a firefight with energy weapons! Who wrote this? Hilary Bader, known for such gems as “The Loss,” “Dark Page,” and “Meridian.” That explains it.

A few of the Ennis (that's the group the survivors encountered) are killed in the skirmish. Or are they? A cloaked figure approaches them, and it's revealed to be the Kai. Oh no a ZOMBI!! It's happening again!! “You will go to the Degoba system....”

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Opaka describes her death. It's a good performance, bits of real horror mixed in with wonder and confusion. Brava Ms Saviola. Bashir confirms that some sort of mechanical changes have occurred in her body which have “radically altered her physiology,” thus allowing her to live. Indeed, the dead from the battle start getting up and walking around.

So the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis are a real throwback to TOS “ancient enemies fighting the same war for generations.” I checked on Memory Alpha and indeed Ms Bader was inspired by “Day of the Dove”'s hopeless fighting message. What I appreciate about this episode is the opportunity afforded by the familiar setup to attempt some character building with Kira. She instinctively starts pointing out the strategic faults in the Ennis' camp and Opaka observes that this is not her war.

This brief moment of good writing comes to a sad end as Sisko offers to beam all the Ennis and Nol off the planet once the rescue party arrives. Um, what? Sisko, have you heard of this thing called the Prime Directive? Do you care that these people were put here as punishment for a crime? That the people who put them there might be slightly bothered if you just decided to remove them all? Considering it is probably the Dominion who put them here as “an example,” that would have been a pretty costly mistake wouldn't it, Sisko? Anyway, Cmmdr. Hindsight gets the two sides to meet and attempt to work out a truce.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

We keep getting these scenes with the Smart People searching for the away team, running into obstacles, etc. This is textbook padding. There's no point to showing any of these scenes. Once it was established they were looking for them, we didn't need to see the search party until they arrive on the planet to rescue Sisko and co. And it's really padding because we get not a damned bit of character insight into either Dax or O'Brien, they're just spouting technobabble and pressing buttons.

We get a pretty good little followup with Opaka counselling Kira about her anger and brutal history during the Occupation. Kira remarks that she doesn't want Opaka to think of her as “a violent person without a soul or a conscience.” This explanation gives us some insight into how Kira ticks. Her devotion to religion is a means of compensating for an internal emptiness. She is ashamed of how she was forced to act during the Occupation (I think of Miles' line “I don't hate you, Cardassian; I hate what I became because of you.”), and fills that emptiness with something which she sees as beautiful: a beatific faith personified by Opaka herself (who Kira remarked had been a constant source of inspiration to her). Opaka offers her absolution.

After another padding scene on the runabout, Sisko offers his sophomoric justification for violating the PD (well at least he remembered it exists); he says he believes the Federation would recognise them as “separate and unique.” Why? Because they've been altered into essentially a new species by the nanites which have reanimated their corpses on this planet. I don't know why it doesn't occur that being altered in this way does not change the fact that politically, this is still an internal matter. Just own up to the fact that you're violating the law, commander! This is the same sort of cowardice from “Captive Pursuit”--'well, I'm *technically* not breaking the law, so I can't get in trouble.' What a wienie.

Anyway, Sisko offers an alternative to perpetual violence; resettling them on separate worlds. Of course the negotiations quickly break down and they start killing each other again because fuck you. Bashir rescues Sisko from being impaled by an axe remarking “we can't afford to die here, not even once.”

Act 5 : *, 17%

Bashir confirms our worst suspicions, that the reanimation process condemns these people to either live on this world for ever or die, including the Kai. Opaka eagerly accepts her fate saying that “all the prophecies of her life” have led her to this point. Geez. Well, isn't that rosy? So, any shred of possibility that Sisko and co. might bear some responsibility for stranding the Kai here is totally wiped away again since she WANTS to stay. Oh, I'm sorry, the *Prophets* want her to stay. Mhm. I hate it so much when religious people insist that doing something good requires the justification of God. You want to help these people? Great! You need to derive some meaning from the hellish existence to which you've been condemned? No objection. Just don't fucking patronise me by insisting that you're following a divine plan and that somehow makes it better, makes you better. “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

Eh, whatever. The away team is beamed away and Opaka settles in.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

A few good character-building scenes with Kira save this episode which is otherwise content to shift from being dull, to being insulting. That the Ennis and the Nol are stuck in their ways is a foregone conclusion. Obviously, the episode is important in that it gets rid of Opaka, making way for the introduction of Winn and Berail, so, don't skip it. I suppose if you forget it's Star Trek for the hour, turn off your brain and accept at face value all the new-age hokey bullshit, it can be tolerated. Overall, it's pretty much what one would expect as a followup to “Emissary.”

Final Score : **
Sat, Dec 27, 2014, 2:03am (UTC -6)
Battle Lines: C+

The first episode to follow up on the pilot’s religious elements, “Battle Lines” is a bit of a wash: for every good element present there’s at least one bad element, and while the show is bold, I think (especially for nineties sci-fi), for removing an important secondary character so early, they really ought to have done it in a better way.

I have mixed feelings on the ambiguity of the Sisko/Opaka/Prophets situation. It’s very unclear if there has been much communication between Sisko and the Kai since “Emissary”; more ambiguous still is whether either character realizes just what Sisko encountered in the wormhole. They share a couple of knowing glances, and Opaka’s facial expression after passing through the wormhole indicates that the experience was powerful – perhaps even transcendent – for her. In this sense, “Battle Lines” doesn’t really tell us anymore about the Prophets or the Emissary than we already knew – and Sisko is on his own now that Opaka is stranded on planet-of-the-week. But it’s nice to know that there’s still something going on this front.

The penal colony of eternal war itself? Fairly ho-hum, and the idea of two tribes/races/families warring endlessly for time immemorial (with both having forgotten the origin of the conflict) is one I know I’ve seen multiple times in the past. There are some interesting bits concerning the futility of a war that cannot end (or a war that people refuse to bring to an end), and the leaders of the warring factions are ably acted (Banks!), but there isn’t much here to excite me.

Better handled is the Kira/Opaka stuff. I wish Kira’s revelations in this episode had been built up to a bit better, and I saw the parallels between Kira and the two races coming before they were made, but the scene where Kira comes to grips with her warlike mindset was well done. It’s a shame that the mentor figure of Opaka abandons Kira and the other Bajorans during the difficult transitional period to help out a bunch of thugs we’ll probably never see again.

The Good:
- Actually a pretty good episode for Sisko. He’s not perfect – he can be impatient and shouty – but he’s not such a bad diplomat, and I like that he’s able to modify his belief in the Prime Directive in such a way that he’s willing to help both factions. Plus, he’s pretty awesome in a fight.

The Mixed:
- Nana Visitor can be shrill as irritating as Kira. Sometimes it works for the character, sometimes it doesn’t. This episode had examples of both, but her work with Opaka was quite good, I thought.

The Bad:
- Every time we’d go back to O’Brien and Dax on the Rio Grande, I’d sigh. To be fair, they seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of the technobabble by having Dax be clueless about certain terms.
- This show is really pretty bad with fight scenes.
Wed, Feb 18, 2015, 12:14am (UTC -6)
I think Kira acted very well in this one. Her genuine sobbing over Kai Opaka was very much like real life. I have a problem with 2 things I notice on this site. The unnecessary comparison with TNG, this show was suppose to be different from the others and people complain when the actors show real emotion, you guys think its to much or over-the-top. Then, on the other hand, I love that you freely express yourselves, I like the diversity of opinions whether I agree with them or not. DS9 is the best Star Trek ever, especially for the differences.
William B
Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 6:39pm (UTC -6)
So Opaka spells out for us a big part of what this episode is about: warring factions locked in perpetual combat as a reflection of the state of Kira's soul. Or pagh, I guess. Kira is both ready to fight others at a moment's notice and is in a state of war with herself. There is the Kira who refuses to step down from a fight, even one that is not her own, and even one in which there is very little evidence suggesting that Their Side is any better than the other side; and there is the Kira who does not believe that the Prophets could ever forgive her for the things that she did to survive, and to help Bajor survive, the Occupation. There are no easy answers here; in a broad sense, I think Kira deserves forgiveness and peace, but in practice Kira's keeping at least some degree of self-loathing may have been one of the only things holding her back from greater horrors; meanwhile, a full-on embracing of peaceful ethos puts her prior behaviour into a new context that makes it seem horrible, unforgivable; and how can she be a woman of peace, eschewing these people locked in perpetual combat, when she would not have *been* here if it weren't for her intense dedication to violence?

That Kira needs to start healing, and needs to forgive herself, is well taken, and the backdrop of a perpetual combat which sets the same people through an endless cycle (in the metaphor, this is akin to blood feuds lasting generations, where no real progress can ever be made because the combatants essentially view themselves as part of a long line) helps clarify the type of person Kira does not want to be. Still, in spite of that nice scene between Opaka and Kira, the situations are pretty non-analogous either to the way Kira was during the Occupation, or the way Kira is now. The Resistance to the Occupation was not an endless cycle of revenge, in that they actually *did* achieve the goal of getting the Cardassians to leave. And current Kira certainly very quickly starts barking orders about how to improve their defenses, and seems in a perpetual state of readiness for a fight...but this PTSD-ish readiness to combat is not the same as wanting personal vengeance.

Camille Saviola is strong as Opaka, and it is also nice to see Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks as Shel-La, leader of one of the warring tribes. Nana Visitor is okay in most of the episodes, but I agree with commenters above that her breakdown over Opaka's death did *not* work, and her breakdown when Opaka read her pagh similarly left me cold. Those help elevate the episode, which is something like a grimmer version of TOS' "Day of the Dove," except transposed to aliens and thus leaving Our Heroes mostly off the hook, despite the examination with Kira. Opaka's decision to stay behind is kind of annoying; there is some vague reference to a prophesy, which she does not go into (and the show is not really dipping its toes into the murky waters of the Prophets stuff), and to her having gut feelings blah blah blah, but it's worth noting that Sisko/Kira/Bashir do not get the words out that she's trapped on this planet forever to live out an eternal damnation, and while it is surely a noble endeavour to help these guys, there *is* still Bajor, isn't there? She saw Bajor through the Occupation, but Kira can only start healing because Opaka tells her to, and Opaka leaving Bajor very suddenly just opens up the power vacuum for people like Winn to seize control and steer Bajor toward fundamentalism. I guess maybe Opaka is meant to understand that she is dead if she leaves the planet, in which case her behaviour makes a little more sense.

The pagh ear thing does bother me, though not entirely -- touch telepathy is a feature of the Vulcans, so it makes sense that some Bajorans with a certain amount of training would be able to do that, though at times it seems as if the only thing Opaka is doing is grabbing someone's ear so hard they go delirious from pain. This would not grant mystical powers but a certain amount of understanding of a person by touch-telepathy (through another name) is consistent with the Trek universe. I've got to say, Opaka does not talk about the importance of the Celestial Temple as the Prophets' home, and indeed I'm still not sure, on a rewatch, if we are meant to understand by this point in the season that the wormhole aliens are The Prophets, who are really mostly mentioned here and there in passing.

The Runabout scenes were very filler-y and tech-y. Nothing to see there.

2.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
As an examination of Kira's difficulty in adapting to a peacetime environment I felt this was well done, with a strong performance. Opaka also brings a gravitas to proceedings. And that the two warring factions proved to be irredeemable, rather than reaching a mutual accommodation, suggested an unusually dark outcome (although one I suppose required for the Opaka storyline).

That said, for all its good things, it didn't really catch my imagination. A lot of the exposition with the factions seemed superfluous, and the search element didn't engage. It's not bad... but not great. So 2.5 stars.
Sun, Nov 15, 2015, 5:25am (UTC -6)
Holy crap it's Jonathan Banks (aka Mike) from Breaking Bad!
Johnny Rocketpants
Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Sisko would definitly be court martialled after this episode. He's been recently assigned to help the Bajoran people recover from Cardassian enslavement and one of the first things he does is take their most important religious leader on a jolly through a newly discovered wormhole out into uncharted space then kills her by crashing his space ship into a moon. What a complete tool!
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 7:42am (UTC -6)
So, let me get this straight.... Kai Opaka is the only thing holding the sectarian violence at bay on Bajor (which was expressly stated by Kira in "Emisssary") either through her charisma, sheer force of personality or whatever. So now, when her services are still greatly needed on Bajor during this time of transition after the Occupation, she just up and decides to abandon everything she's worked for for her entire life and help some random group of strangers? Yeah, I'm not buying it.

The Bajoran religion in general, and Opaka in particular, is stopping various factions on Bajor from degenerating into something very similar to what is happening on this moon and Opaka thinks it's more important to help these people? What?! I hate to have to boil a moral question like this down to simply mathematics, but I'm going to. She's essentially turning her back on billions of people in order to help, what, at most fifty? This makes no sense.

Add to that the fact that this is going to have major ramifications on Bajor besides the possibility of civil war. Imagine if Pope Francis just up and disappeared one day. What do you think that would mean for the world's Catholics? And just remember, Francis is the spiritual leader of only one-seventh of the population and leads a religion that isn't as essential to it's practitioners as the Bajoran religion is to its. The sudden departure of the Kai would have ramifications (political, economic, spiritual and military) that are so gargantuan it's almost impossible to convince of them. And yet, the episode just fluffs that off like it's no big deal. Are they kidding?!

And, of course, the eternal war on this moon makes no sense either. So, these people all know they can't die but they're so blinded by their thirst for vengeance that they're willing to condemn themselves to perpetual suffering. But they want to end their suffering. Um, come again. Either these people are just stupid or.... no, they're just stupid. Here's an idea, one faction moves to the other side of the moon. Problem solved! Why have they all clustered themselves in a twelve square kilometer area? The episode never explains that, so.... yeah, morons.

What saves "Battle Lines" are the Kira/Opaka scenes. Say what you will but Kira's break-down over Opaka's "dead" body worked for me. And their scene where Kira bares her soul was wonderful - great character growth for Kira and a splendid example of how someone's religious faith can make her a better person.

Mon, Feb 8, 2016, 12:38am (UTC -6)
Jammer I think you've been a bit generous with the DS9 stars... :)
Sat, Aug 27, 2016, 2:04pm (UTC -6)
@Luke - I am absolutely loving your reviews, more so than Jammers actually as I tend to agree with 95% of what you say.

The only bit I disagree with on this particular review is that the Kira/Opaka scenes saved this episode.

I am really struggling to watch Visitor's acting right now. It seems to be getting worse and worse with each passing episode.

Siddig is getting on my nerves and I've been far from impressed with his acting so far too. He's very irritating.

I am, however, slowly growing to appreciate Sisko more. He seemed a little bit bizarre with some really out of place facial expressions in the first few episodes, but now that he's toned that down, he's actually coming across as a good Commander with Captain potential.
Trek fan
Tue, Oct 18, 2016, 6:45pm (UTC -6)
Three stars, seriously? This is a mind-numbingly boring and static episode, limited to a single set where two Implacable Alien Factions (TM) are locked in an unending battle with each other skewed by Artificial Immortality (TM), with our intrepid crew engaging them in dull negotiations. Honestly, this is the kind of thrice-warmed-over early TNG-style plot that was invented to cure insomnia, with endless scenes of people standing around and talking about things which don't really matter. You could surf the internet during this episode, without looking up once between the bookend scenes, and not miss anything. The Kira anger thing and stranding of Kai Opaka would only make you look up briefly before lapsing back into boredom The performances lack anything resembling energy. All I can say is "bleh." I'll give it 2/4 stars, as there's a thoughtful story buried in the bland execution, but it's not an engaging episode for me.
Sat, Jan 7, 2017, 1:20am (UTC -6)
This episode isn't as bad as some people say it is. This is definitely dare I say underrated. Jonathan Banks from "Breaking Bad" playing Shel-La was an unexpected treat. Even if I didn't recognize a guest star as one of my favorite actors from one of the greatest t.v. shows ever made I can tell Banks' acting was a home run. The technobable was made tolerable my the meta line delivery by Dax "A Deferential magnetometer. I've never heard of deferential magnetometer. How does it work?" Admit people there far worse instances of techobabel in the Star Trek universe. Visitor uses all of her method acting skills in this one. Overal this episode feels like a TOS episode written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. That look of disgust and or pity was pretty good. This is an interesting piece of sci-fi overall. Though the limited set pieces and fighting definitely are sub par.
Thu, Aug 31, 2017, 4:57pm (UTC -6)
Glad to read the comments. A dull 2 stars indeed. Rather boring and dragging episode. Didn't think the fighting was real good. Fighting scenes and Trek just don't mix so well.
Mon, Sep 4, 2017, 9:13pm (UTC -6)
2 stars

Pretty sluggish episode. And they got rid of opaka too soon in the series. Dax and obrien search was pretty ho hum. The two warring factions were annoying frankly
Thu, Sep 28, 2017, 7:14pm (UTC -6)
It's not only Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad, it's also Frank McPike from Wiseguy!
Thu, Jan 4, 2018, 2:08am (UTC -6)
All these comments, yet no-one's noted the appearance in this episode of Patricia Tallman, who played Lyta Alexander in Babylon 5?
Jeffrey Combs
Thu, Jan 4, 2018, 6:15am (UTC -6)
@Drewmina - We don't talk about Babylon 5 here. Jammer doesn't like it. Too much competition for DS9, I guess.
Nadav Har'El
Mon, Jan 29, 2018, 4:01am (UTC -6)
I agree with several previous comments, and really disliked this episode. This episode simply doesn't make any sense in the context of the entire Star Trek universe and what we know about Star Fleet:

Those "resurrection" nanites can apparently bring back to life dead people, as well as fix their physical injuries (broken vertebrae, knife wounds, etc.). This is probably the biggest medical breakthrough ever to be shown on Star Trek. Since the goal of Star Fleet is to explore and learn, wouldn't they at least try to learn from this breakthrough? Take back samples, come back with research teams, and so on?

An even more disturbing implication of these nanites is stategic: Star Fleet doesn't know anything about the civilizations in the Gamma Quadrant. Here we learn that they have super-advanced technology, including technology to make them immortal. Shouldn't this information be relayed back to Star Fleet? Shouldn't Star Fleet send armed ship - not the crappy DS9 - to stand at the mouth of the wormwhole, or even establish permanent armed presence on the other side, to watch out for these advanced immortal beings?

Finally, the fact that Kai Opaka stayed to help a few hundred immortal fighters who don't want any help doesn't make any sense. The Pilot episode established that only she with her religous leadership can unify Bajor. Suddenly she wants to give that up and help those belligerent idiots? And since Sisko's orders appear to be to help Bajor stabilize so it could join the Federation, doesn't leaving Kai Opako on this moon contradict his orders? Shouldn't they at least come back a week later to see if she changed her mind?
Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Interesting premise here on the penal colony with nobody dying and just continuing to fight forever -- makes me think of "Day of the Dove" -- but these idiots don't have somebody like Kirk amongst them. Kai Opaka (what a contrast from Kai Winn later on...) does truly convey how a revered religious figure should act and Kira is great here with her devotion to Opaka and coming to grips with her violent nature. Many good scenes with Kira trying to advise the fighters (Sisko shouting her down), crying when she sees Opaka dead and then when Opaka grabbing her ear.

So the writers decide to abandon Opaka after, what 2 episodes? -- by sticking her on this moon to try to make peace. Certainly a noble endeavor for the character. Wonder if it gets revisited...

I liked the performances from the 2 heads of the warring factions, although one has to assume their mental side has been so compromised through ages of fighting that they can't reason properly. But their hatred for each other came through loud and clear. Would have been nice to get more of their backstory.

Sisko really ripped into Bashir here for reminding him of the PD -- that came out from left field after the doctor fixed the computers on the runabout. Sisko can really be needlessly rigid at times. It's still early for his character, but the acting needs a lot of work.

So it is a bit farfetched with the microbes being able to bring back the dead -- would have been even more farfetched had Bashir been able to whip up a way to disable them and transport all the fighters away. Glad the episode didn't go there otherwise I might have thrown the remote at the TV.

A solid 2.5 stars for "Battle Lines" -- a tad farfetched but the payoff for Kira is worth it; also liked the Opaka character being true to what I think she should be like. The fight scenes were ok and the 2 warring clans really gave that sense of desperation, hopelessness for their situation.
Thu, Feb 15, 2018, 2:24am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!


I noticed. But it isn't the only reason Tallman was (maybe) in the episode. She was Dr. Crusher's stunt double on TNG as well.

Oh, and I loved, loved Babylon 5.

Regards... RT
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 6:37pm (UTC -6)
"Battle Lines", despite being a pivotal episode in the Bajor arc (which doesn't really exist. That's one of the great failings of DS9 imo.), it's a remarkably dull and sluggish episode without much merit to it. Jonathan Banks is in it, but even he can't really salvage this episode from a weak, poorly paced script.

1.5 stars.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
Nice start.

Not a big fan of the mystical Bajoran stuff, was bored stiff by it in the first ep.

Ah, a crash! A dead Kai; that can't be good.

Nana V with a nice performance as she grieves for the Kai. Ah, but the Kai is not dead after all.

This is some weird planet. Weird "war."

A bit of a snoozer, very dull, downer performance from Shel-la, but I guess you would get kinda depressed in that situation.

Sisko promising to transport them away? Does he really know enough about them to releasee them all?

Lots of stuff about the impressions and the impacts we make on others, and vice versa.

Brooks still struggling.

Not horrible, not great. Forgettable, though I'm guessing we'll revisit this at some point.
Sun, Oct 6, 2019, 7:27am (UTC -6)
This is a phenomenal episode, and the only reason I don’t like it is knowing that it shoves Opaka in a fridge and leaves her there. Camille Saviola has such a great sense of religious wonder, of surrendering to destiny, even if that destiny is stupid. And Jonathan Banks imbues every line with gravitas in a way that might be scenery chewing with another actor. His final line, where we think for a moment he’s going to plead for death as a mercy, and then reveals that he just wants permanent death for his enemies, was a real highlight.
Tue, Dec 17, 2019, 9:54am (UTC -6)
This is a good episode to take less seriously, I feel. Oatmeal Odo and O'Brien's "storytelling" were definitely the best moments.
Tue, Dec 17, 2019, 10:02am (UTC -6)
... disregard that last comment, wrong episode. And now I feel obliged to say something about this one.

I gotta say, I feel sorry for Kai Opaka, stuck on a moon where not even the meaninglesness of death will stop people killing each other. It came off as a bit of a tiresome conceit to me. But it's a good way to kill someone off without killing them off (well, not more than permanently). The consequences of her death are effectively preserved, because the Bajorans are still losing their spiritual leader (I'd be interested to see the consequences of that for Bajor), but you don't lose the use of the character. Bit of a crappy place to be bound to, though.

Kira and her scenes with Opaka were the highlights here, no doubt.
Fri, Oct 29, 2021, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Read the sad news of the passing of Camille Saviola just now. I loved her portrayal of a leading religious figure -- for me, she just portrayed really well somebody in Kai Opaka who was above a lot of the petty crap that everybody worries about and truly was on a spiritual path in search of something greater.
Sat, Nov 6, 2021, 7:41pm (UTC -6)
It's funny watching old TV shows and seeing how many Jonathan Banks played in.
Mon, Nov 8, 2021, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
How did the alien know the phaser was an energy weapon just by looking at it?

Final score: 7/10 for making the viewer think about life after death & fates worse than death.
Bok R'Mor
Mon, Feb 14, 2022, 1:55pm (UTC -6)
Two things always stand out sharply for me in this episode: firstly, the moment where the mortally injured Opaka is pulled out of the crashed runabout with a shocking look of sheer terror and disbelief on her face - I still find it extremely unsettling and quite traumatic to see. That moment contrasts so tragically and brutally with the patent, all-knowing serenity of Saviola's portrayal of Opaka's apparent sense of her own impending destiny up to that point.

Secondly, as Adam (Oct 6, 2019) explains, the way in which Jonathan Banks' character's final speech degenerates into a bloodthirsty restatement of the madness of war is wonderful, pitch-perfect misdirection - as is the crushing, disgusted disappointment of the appalled Starfleet crew in response.
Tue, Mar 22, 2022, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
This episode is paced extremely slowly. The scene where Opaka dies is the peak of the episode. The look in Saviola's eyes in this scene is pure, believable terror, and Visitors grief feels real. Unfortunately things go downhill after that. I was never able to accept immortality of these poor souls. A 1 star for me.
Peter G.
Mon, Sep 18, 2023, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
Man, this rewatch is reminding me has weak some of S1's stories are compared with TNG's track record in the years leading up to this. I really love the character performances and the small details added to make the world come alive, but taken in isolation I would not approve some of these stories. This one in particular is overly bleak. There is a resonant note of hope added in that we expect the Kai will help these people eventually find peace, but that note is somewhat lost in a sea of misery.

For any Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad) fans out there, we get a somewhat younger Jonathan Banks in a prominent guest role here. I have to say I never liked his character, but then again we aren't supposed to. That's really a shame, because when I look at the details of what Banks does they're great, as is usual for him. Watching him work made the episode around three times as enjoyable to watch as it used to be, so that was a treat.


My favorite part of the episode, though, is the Kai stepping down from her leadership role in order to help these tortured prisoners. She could lead a whole world if she wanted to, but knows that they need her help, and that this is more important. I feel like this retroactively has strong resonance with a much later scene when Kira tells Winn that she should step down as Kai in order to purify herself, and the mere suggestion is unthinkable to Winn. That episode never references Battle Lines, and frankly I rather expect they had forgotten it, but nevertheless the fact that the previous Kai did in fact voluntarily step down for such a seemingly 'small' mission really stands starkly with what most of us probably think of as the "importance" of being the head of major organization. Winn felt as many people would - why would I walk away from the recognition and power I've aspired to? Let's be honest, few people would walk away from it to do quiet work in a nothing location, never to be heard from again. It's a very inspiring look at a religious leader. And I'll just note that she made the choice to stay prior to being told by Julian what would happen if she left.

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