Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Past Prologue"

3 stars

Air date: 1/11/1993
Written by Kathryn Powers
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

When Tahna (Jeffrey Nordling), a former member of a Bajoran terrorist group, seeks asylum from Sisko after a narrow escape from Cardassians who have labeled him a criminal, he begins carrying out a new plan that involves gaining the trust of his old acquaintance, Major Kira. The most interesting aspect of "Past Prologue" is that it introduces the many shades of grey that define some of the strongest aspects of the series. The heated arguments between Sisko and Kira highlight how much of an asset that conflict between regular characters can be on DS9.

Meanwhile, the episode introduces "plain, simple Garak" with an amusing, unforgettable opening sequence between him and Doctor Bashir—and continues to develop Bashir's energetic kid-like naivete. Kira and Odo show an interesting understanding in a standout scene that reveals Kira's problem of being torn between her loyalties to the "old" Bajor and her loyalties to the ever-evolving provisional government that has made its alliance with the Federation.

Plot angles involving Tahna, Garak, the Cardassians, and even the Duras sisters tie together with surprising plausibility, leading to an episode that goes a long way toward defining characters and relationships while being quite entertaining all the same. Only the lack of development in Tahna as a character holds this one back.

Previous episode: Emissary
Next episode: A Man Alone

◄ Season Index

75 comments on this review

Christina
Thu, Jul 23, 2009, 10:28pm (UTC -6)
"Btw, is it just me or does Garak seem to be hitting on Dr. Bashir from the get go (...)?"

It's not just you. ;-) Bashir is so adoringly nervous during their first meeting, he acts like a blushing virgin girl, and yet he seems fascinated by Garak's charm and intimations of sinister secrets.

I see Garak and Bashir as the one great tragic love story of DS9, because they ended up apart, each one bitter and traumatized by their respective war experiences.
Elliott
Sun, Apr 24, 2011, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
2. Past Prologue

Teaser *** 5%

Ahh, Garak. What an absolute joy. He's strange and probing and uncomfortable and so gloriously enigmatic. The scene is also strangely charged with something bordering on sexual tension. Bashir on the other hand, is understandably discomforted, but obnoxiously and unbelievably naïve for a 26 year old. His eagerness to be some sort of spy-hero is cloying at best. Kira's self-righteous shouting is if anything worse. A lot of this has to do with delivery. Given a quickness, a fluidity to the delivery of lines would lend a great deal of empathy to the dialogue, but alas it's all very stilted. The entry of Tana Los is sufficiently mysterious to engage and wet the appetite for more.

Act 1 17% **

First question, how does O'Brien know from looking at his panel that the Cardassians are “hopping mad”? The fact that Sisko so easily slips into his opportunism again in invoking “docking regulations,” it's rather disconcerting that he's the commander of the station. On the other hand, I appreciated his sentiments to Kira. Her political spouting is grating and totally unsympathetic. She's totally self-serving and hostile. No experience as a member of the underground permits such an attitude in or out of a starfleet command structure. Her communiqué to Admiral Roland is the icing on the cake. I don't like that she seemed more concerned with the lack of procedure than the lack of loyalty in the situation, but I digress. O'Brien's attitudes—so easy to stereotype and generalise about Bajorans and Cardassians—are perhaps even more disquieting coming from a human family man. Sisko's obstinacy in the face of Danar is unreasonable—even if he's right about Cardassian “justice,” it would behove the situation to show some of that cunning he's supposed to be renown for and offer a little diplomacy.

Act 2 **.5 17%
Los is a f**king idiot and it's obvious. He's just a child who likes to play with guns and exercise his aggression. You'd think given Kira's argument to Los about the benefits of Federation presence and the wormhole, she'd ingratiate herself to Sisko a little more. I'd like to meet a Bajoran who isn't a violence-prone asshole to validate the claim that their culture is enlightened. Lursa and Betor are likeable as ever, but don't really get developed in this episode, their motivations are vague and their presence borders on gratuitous. Sisko's refusal to arrest the Duras sisters is also silly given how he behaved towards Danar. Either he's a Federation idealist or he isn't, why make two choices which are both out of everyone's interests and contradictory in their motivations. Garak saves the act, however, with his unique brand of charm, slipping suddenly and with deadly sincerity into something more closely resembling his true nature upon spotting Los.

Act 3 ***.5 17%

I have to say I laughed out loud when Sisko dressed Kira down in front of the entire command crew. While I can't say I approve of his lack of curtesy, it was nice seeing Kira smote a bit for her arrogance. Odo, for his part is engaging as an investigator and likeable for his frankness. “I think they all simply get tired of hearing my voice.” Hehe, truest thing you ever said, Kira. Actually, the scene where Los presents his plan to Kira is spot on. The arguments are solid and driven from a place of truth, both politically and in terms of character.

Act 4 *** 17%

But seriously, is Bashir 12 years old? Any subtlety in his relationship with Garak suffered a great deal given his adolescent dullness. Very quickly, the “new suit” joke becomes as tired as the “plain and simple clothier” gag. The episode didn't thirst for comic relief, it needed to develop Los with that time. Standout in the episode is the conversation between Odo and Kira. Damn if Odo isn't intuitive about humanoid psychology given his attested ignorance about the subject, but here it really works. The line “the only important things is not to betray yourself,” is a little bit of sophistry which really leaves a bad taste in my mouth however. It does on the other hand hint at the kind of people the Changlings will turn out to be. The reveal that the terrorist is making a bomb is a big let down. Who didn't see that coming? Surprising plot elements are not necessary for good drama. In fact I'd wager that most of the best drama comes as no surprise from an events point of view: drama stems from mythology and mythical plots are hardwired into our psyche. The key when turns of event are hardly earth-shattering is not to rely upon them, as I think the final scene here does in abundance.

Act 5 *.5 %17

I find it incredulous that given the gravity of the situation, Sisko would be willing to send Kira alone when he still oughtn't know if he can trust her. Why not send Odo along as a belt or something? Ah, anyway, Visitor does a very good job at believably portraying someone who is lying very well to Los. Los' threat to explode the bomb in Bajoran space is a comic-book style contrivance...there has been nothing to suggest this kind of desperation in a man who has myriad options and no pressing emotional concerns. It serves to move the plot along, which is something, but what follows drifts into excess...we get spinning ships which end up in the Gamma Quadrent with Kira and Los playing Die Hard in-vehicle fight inside...it's borderline laughable. The only dialogue the whole endeavour elicites from him is “Damn you” and “traitor.” Ho hum. Adding a little action into the mix isn't a problem on its own, but in this case it cut deeply into an ending which never occurred, namely a meaningful rehash and resolution between Kira and Sisko. A 3 second stroll down a corridor doesn't count I'm afraid.

Episode as functionary **.5 %10

Well, it's great that we get to scratch a bit into Kira's past. While I certainly appreciate complexity in my characters, making them appear absolutely two-faced is not a way to win me over to them. Understandable and worthy emotional struggles are undercut by trivial and self-serving political posturing. Sisko comes across as more of a plot piece than a meaningful foil for Kira as he really needed to be given the episode's premise. The bad guys are all underdeveloped. As a second episode, it's not too bad and spreads what gold there is around making for an uneven but watchable hour.

Final Score **.5
Van Patten
Fri, Jun 22, 2012, 1:53am (UTC -6)
Surprisingly impressive for the second episode although it was a little unfortunate they had to rope in some TNG characters in the shape of the Duras sisters (Arguably the main positive aspect of Star Trek: Generations was their demise) Nevertheless, A well- told story.I don't think the tension between Kira and Sisko was 'kept up' (At least not until the season finale) but those scenes were well- done.

The actor playing Tahna is sometimes slightly off- kilter, but the plot moves quickly, and the early promise shown by Rene Auberjonois in the pilot is confirmed here. His no- nonsense portrayal of a job- obsessed man with nothing else in his life really hits home. The scene where He advocates the immediate detention of the Duras sisters is excellent.

In amongst all this, Dirty Harry star Andrew Robinson makes his first (and only in Season 1) appearance. His character is justly praised, and the excellence of Robinson's performance goes some way to making this a good vehicle for fledging Actor Siddig (I know he's called something else here)

So, light years ahead of its TNG counterpart second episode- agree with the rating, and even reaching it today, it's still an excellent second episode of a series. 3 stars from me also...
Wiliam
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 11:01pm (UTC -6)
I thought for the first post-pilot episode, it was good. As you said:

The most interesting aspect of "Past Prologue" is that it introduces the many shades of grey that define some of the strongest aspects of the series.

Again, you can tell upon review they really had a vision for these characters -- and the people as cultures.

They just never seemed to get that many really compelling actors in these guest-star Bajoran roles, though. So a lot of the Bajoran political intrigue stories end up being lost in the fog of my mind as fairly good, but rarely stand out.
NCC-1701-Z
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 12:06am (UTC -6)
Overall, a respectable effort. I liked how Kira basically got her own ep, and was genuinely wracked by divided loyalties. It's nice to see genuine conflict between main characters, and my favorite scene was probably her talk with Odo - very brother-sister like. Her choice was made kinda easy by Tahna turning out to be a bad guy at the end, but I still thought it pulled through.

And, I love "plain, simple" (HA!) Garak already. Hope to see more of him in the future.

The chase scene felt flat and preordained, though. I would have liked a little more action, and if the senior staff knew Tahna was going to steal a runabout, couldn't they have just taken the phasers out of the cabin so Tahna couldn't simply grab one and take Kira hostage, or replaced them with fakes? Seemed to me to be a basic precaution I would have taken in Sisko's place.

High 2.5 or mid- to low 3 for me.
grumpy_otter
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
I really enjoyed this! The "who is selling out whom?" aspect really worked for me and kept me interested until we discovered Tahna's ultimate plan.

I thought he was fine as a character--I wanted to believe him at first, so that was convincing, and when he turned out to be still with the Kohn-Ma, I understood and sympathized with his motivations.

Of course, this is in the middle of me writing a lecture about China during the "scramble for concessions" so I am fairly anti-imperialist at the moment. I totally get why he would want to destroy the wormhole and keep Bajor for Bajorans.

And I love Kira! I don't find her annoying at all and am not sure what others are seeing. I actually yelled "kick his ass, Kira!" during the shuttle fight.

So far, the first three episodes of DS-9 are knocking all other series' first three out of the water!
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2013, 10:15am (UTC -6)
I just realized -- Katharyn Powers, writer of this episode, is the same Katharyn Powers whose only other Trek episode is *Code of Honour*. I know that CoH was partly torpedoed by the director, plus we don't know about the levels of rewrites of both episodes, but, well, wow, an improvement.
azcats
Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 2:57pm (UTC -6)
I liked the episode. but i forogt about the Garak character. I always loved his "intrigue."

I thought it was maybe a bit too soon to make Kira soften her stance to the federation. but you knew it had to be done eventually.

i forgot how much a dupe the doctor was in the first season. it is almost like he is 20 years old.

solid show. 2 or 2.5 stars....

also, i wish elliott had done his reviews for Voyager...
Snitch
Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
I liked the episode, although Kira's acting is a bit off, her character seems a little too naive in this episode. Where is Ensign Roe when you need her.

I enjoyed seeing the Duras sisters in the continuity plot of the week.

Garak is setting up his reign of greatness in the series. "a new suit at 20:55 did I make myself clear?"


3 Stars from me.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
A decent follow up to the pilot with some important introductions and character development.

6/10
Yanks
Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was pretty good. Love how they brought in the Duras sisters.

The best part was we start to get to know "plain, simple Garak".

Very good first regular episode.

3.5 stars for me.
Black_Goat
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 1:33am (UTC -6)
Past Prologue: B+
The Good:
- Garak is excellent, and I already know that we’ll be seeing more of him. He’s a wonderfully quirky character, and as morally ambiguous as the rest of this episode. I do wonder why he approached Bashir of all people (other than the fact that Bashir is a regular). Perhaps he sees that Bashir is full of enough self-importance to be easily manipulated.
- I’m liking Bashir, though he’s almost too bumbling at points – unlike “Emissary”, this episode didn’t showcase his medical skills to balance out the naïve fluttering. But that first scene with Garak was funny, as was the follow-up where he tries to convince the bridge crew to wire him.
- Odo. His nostalgia for the simpler days under Cardassian occupation, his inability to fake pretense, his basically straightforward way of handling Kira’s indecision – this is a character I’m growing more and more interested in.
- And speaking of Kira, this was a great episode for her. The conversations with Sisko, Tahna, and Odo reveal a certain degree of guilt about working with the provincial government of Bajor and the Federation, but I like the argument she makes about still fighting for her people, just in a new way.
- The whole plot really fit together rather neatly. Tahna is manipulating Kira while working with the Klingons, who are planning on betraying him to the Cardassians. Garak, somewhat fascinatingly, plays both sides of the fence by roping in Bashir, which allows Sisko to apprehend Tahna instead of the Cardassians. Sisko and Odo test Kira, who decides to betray Tahna. I enjoyed guessing who would end up playing who.
- Thematically rich episode, dealing with the delineation between warfare and terrorism, past and present, duty (to one thing) and duty (to another). Going back to “Emissary”, I might argue that Kira’s decisions in this episode validate some of the stuff Sisko says about pursuing the unknown based on our culminated experiences; she knows that the actions of the Kohn-Ma are no longer viable so she chooses to go with the Federation.

The Mixed:
- Tahna is pretty good in the earlier parts of the episode, and I like the ways in which he tests Kira. Even his eventual goal of destroying the wormhole is understandable. But it was probably a mistake on the writers’ part to let him start slapping Kira around; that very quickly burned away my sympathy for him and eliminated some of the episode’s moral ambiguity.
- Avery Brooks was better in this episode, although he was given less to do. I’m enjoying Sisko’s relationships with Kira, Odo, and Bashir, but Brooks is just so stiff, physically, in certain scenes, and some of his deliveries are quite wooden.

The Bad:
- The Klingon sisters were pretty goofy and awful, though functional within the plot.
- The chase sequence at the end was weak, and poorly edited to boot. I was confused as to what was happening at the end in regards to the wormhole and the bomb.
- Little follow-up to certain aspects of the pilot, especially the religious ones.
- Jake and Quark were no-shows this week, while Dax and O’Brien were given little to do. This is certainly understandable given the show’s large cast, but it’s still disappointing.
Robert
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 6:40am (UTC -6)
@Black_Goat - You said you were not a Star Trek fan, so I'm not sure how much Next Generation you've watched. In case you were not aware the Duras sisters were recurring antagonists on Next Generation and their inclusion was a marketing ploy to get TNG fans to watch DS9.

Likewise when you see Q and Vash in a few episodes, same deal :)
Black_Goat
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 12:32pm (UTC -6)
@Robert - I kind of suspected as much. Understandable on DS9's part, but unlike the Picard appearance in 'Emissary", the sisters didn't add much for me. And they're just so goofy.
Robert
Fri, Nov 21, 2014, 12:55pm (UTC -6)
"And they're just so goofy. "

You probably don't want to watch Star Trek 7 then, the movie where they were one of the primary bad guys :)

In either case, welcome to DS9! If you make it through to episode 19 I guarantee you'll like it!
Ash
Mon, Feb 2, 2015, 8:57am (UTC -6)
The ironic thing is if Los were successful it would have prevented the dominion wars and saved countless lives.
Diane
Wed, Feb 11, 2015, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
I like this episode for 2 reasons, Kira got just what she deserves. She automatically believes Tahna because he was Bajoran freedom fighter in the past. He didn't have the same goals in mind that she had. He manipulates her then betrays her. Secondly, Sisko let her know in no uncertain terms, he was her boss and if she went over his head again, she would be history. I loved the ending when Kira looked like a fool and just walked away with Sisko, he could have gloated, but he didn't.
My second reason is Garak and Bashir.

*I notice on different occasions how people say DS9 was underrated, I remember how DS9 continually beat Voyager in the ratings, all of the time. DS9 was not understood, but it has a cult-following now. Personally I thought and think this show is extraordinary. Star Trek had gotten to be old stuff and needed a change. (DS9)
William B
Tue, Jun 23, 2015, 8:37am (UTC -6)
Kira is forced to choose between an angry man who issues threats at her when he's not sullenly silent, whose mercurial shifts in moods render her totally confused...and an old Bajoran acquaintance named Tahna. (Rim-shot.) No, I kid. I don't think the real purpose of this episode is to make *us* doubt where Kira's loyalties lie when she's being put between her burgeoning loyalty to Sisko and the Federation presence on DS9 and her loyalty to old resistance fighter friends who have become extremist reactionaries; Tahna is clearly the villain, especially when he gets to the late-game mustache-twirling I'LL BLOW UP THIS MOON stage. What it does do is give Kira a reason to recognize that she is at least more pro-Federation than a lot of other Bajorans, to give her a reason to see herself as being on Sisko's side instead of being opposed to him. That neither Sisko nor Kira seem all that interested in what the Cardassians' charges against Tahna are, and that Danar never gets around to saying them (HE KILLED PEOPLE! HE ATTACKED US! HE TOTALLY DID LOTS OF BAD STUFF, WHICH IS NOT WORTH SPECIFYING!) is frustrating, though at least in Kira's case there is the big sense that she is still very much in DO NOT GIVE THE CARDASSIANS AN INCH! mode, and semi-consciously omitting any data about what might make Tahna a threat in the present. Kira identifies with Tahna, and she assumes that his crimes are the type of crimes she might have committed; she has guilt over what she herself did during the Occupation, but also knows/believes that she was justified by what the Cardassians did. She both is unwilling to re-examine her own behaviour, probably understandably, and is unwilling to start examining the behaviour of others, in the now, because it might reflect badly on What The Bajorans Did To Survive, which is actually a problem with her job.

I do like that Tahna's ultimate plan involved blowing up the entrance to the wormhole. It plays differently knowing what is to come in the series, that he's basically talking about cutting Bajor off from the Celestial Temple, but it seems that not everyone got the memo that this is a religious site. Despite his cartoonish threats, Tahna really was serious about not killing any more people, and his plan will indeed remove the need for Federation protection -- just as it removes a whole lot of possibilities for Bajor to be part of a galactic community. And that is the big rub: do you blow up your own oil fields so that people stop trying to "help" you or invade you? And what if doing so happens to hurt your own society, which, deep down, is badly in need of all the help it can get? Kira's understandable isolationism does not extend to destroying things which might actually help Bajor, just because they bring it (unwanted) attention; and the recognition that, yeah, she'd rather have the wormhole and the Federation and the headaches that come with it than lose the wormhole and allow extremist factions to push all possible allies away and go Bajor For Bajorans.

Garak! "Emissary" introduced the main cast, plus the wormhole aliens, plus Dukat, Nog, Opaka, Jennifer, and, uh, Morn. This episode introduces Garak, and while it won't be until season two that we see him again he is a great sight to see. The way he approaches/manipulates Bashir is really fascinating -- he has to know something about Bashir's naivete, and it is pretty ahrd to tell whether, at this point in time, Garak sees Bashir more as a brilliant but naive ingenue that maybe could use some mentoring or a young foll who is an easy mark; probably a bit of both. He pushes Bashir in ways beyond the limits of what is socially acceptable, and gives him very little room to maneuver without facing embarrassment, but he also, I think, recognizes that Bashir *wants* someone to push him into a spy adventure story that he would, truth be told, be too afraid to pursue directly. Julian is fascinated and afraid and Garak plays him so wonderfully throughout. Bashir's somewhat juvenile reactions do strain credibility a bit, but I guess we are seeing some Wesley Crusher-style gullible wunderkind story bits left over, and, let's be frank, Garak would make anyone uncomfortable but fascinated.

Garak obviously brings this episode up quite a bit, but the Kira material, while a bit hamhanded at points, is fair too. A low 3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 3:05pm (UTC -6)
An excellent episode first up. This does indeed play in the shades of grey, making Kira question her loyalties and how her past will affect her future. The expansion of her relationship with Sisko is a highlight, with the two jockeying for position. The final "Go over my head again, and I’ll have yours on a platter" nicely caps round one.

Watching in retrospect I'm surprised at quite how early Garak is introduced. But it's wonderful that he is. All of the best of Garak is already on display - the multi-layered conversation a particular delight. That Bashir is currently still the wide-eyed naïf makes it an extremely effective vehicle.

Bringing in Lursa and B'Etor is, I suppose, a fairly naked attempt to cash in on the TNG audience. But they do a solid enough job. The disappointment is that Tahna Los isn't quite so well fleshed out, and reverts to foaming 'terrorist' mode when the 'freedom fighter' epithet has already been introduced. It makes the conclusion simple, and isn't worthy of that which has gone before. 3 stars.
Luke
Sat, Jan 30, 2016, 8:00am (UTC -6)
Good drama, good character dynamics from everyone, and a wonderful introduction for Garak = a really enjoyable episode.

However, "Past Prologue" has three things holding it back. First, the use of the Duras sisters was completely unnecessary. Their roles could have been filled in by any nameless mercenaries and nothing would have been lost. Including established TNG characters just leaves the audience focusing more on them than was called for (not to mention that it was a transparent ploy to draw in more TNG viewers).

Second, after making a rather big deal about the Wormhole being the Celestial Temple in "Emissary" they immediately follow that by placing the Wormhole in jeopardy and never once mentioning the Celestial Temple? Pretty glaring oversight!

Third, Tahna's plan isn't very well thought out. No Wormhole and no Federation or Cardassians, huh? Wrong. The Federation was there before the Wormhole was discovered and so were the Cardassians. How this helps the cause of Bajoran independence I can't understand.

Still, an above-average episode.

6/10
RandomThoughts
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 9:36pm (UTC -6)
While I try to write my comments in such a way that mostly ignores what would happen in later seasons, I must say that Garak would go on to be my personal favorite. It's been a while since I'd gone through DS9, and I'm attempting to write my thoughts (when I have 'em) soon after re-watching an episode. Heh, Gosh I like Garak! I was shocked when I read this was his only appearance of the season, as I'd not realized that. I'm so glad they brought him back on a semi-permanent basis.

I didn't have a problem with the Duras sisters. Yeah, any random baddies could have sufficed, but it brought home to me that this was a stationary station, and folks we saw in TNG might stop by from time to time if they were in the neighborhood. And for those that never watched TNG, or very little of it, they Were just random baddies. :)

Now for my Random Thoughts moment: Perhaps the Duras were NOT destroyed in ST7! Since the powers that be used the same scene of General Chang's ship being destroyed in ST6 as they used for the Duras ship in ST7 (*facepalm*), maybe we ACTUALLY saw Chang's ship get destroyed again in 7, by peeking through time! The Duras go through a Rift in the Space-Time Continuum caused by the warhead explosion and end up next to the Enterprise C, defending Khitomer from the Romulans!...

Yes, that is tongue-in-cheek (and I recall there being an explosion on the bridge behind Lursa), but if you've watched every episode of all the Trek's, you know it isn't above the realm of possibility for that to have been written by someone. :)

Regards... RT
MsV
Sat, Jul 2, 2016, 2:27pm (UTC -6)
For William B: Kira is forced to choose between an angry man who issues threats at her when he's not sullenly silent, whose mercurial shifts in moods render her totally confused...and an old Bajoran acquaintance named Tahna. (Rim-shot.)

Although I believe Kira and most of the Bajorans were suffering from PTSD, but Kira was clearly against having the Federation being involved with Bajor, she openly said it in "Emmisary". She didn't trust them and was very unfair in her attitude with them. This attitude also caused her to misjudge the entire situation and jump to the wrong conclusions. All Sisko was trying to do was investigate. He needed to ask Tahna questions., which made sense. He needed answers and Kira jumped to the wrong conclusion. Anyone with any common sense would have suspected something was wrong with Tahna and his dealings with the Cardassians. He was a known terrorist, also, Tahna arrives at the station being pursued by Cardassians trying to kill him. He was bringing potential danger to the station. Kira could not see that Sisko had every right to investigate Tahna and not take him for face value.

Sisko was clearly in the right in this situation, I don't think he was sullenly silent, I truly believe he stepped back and looked at Kira's reaction. Sisko was not in familiar territory he was in an alien culture and he needed to examine everything and everyone involved. Kira was really out of her element. she had no formal training. She was ill-equipped for the position she was in, but she knew enough about Bajorans to be a good go-between, while she learned about the Federation and Sisko. Kira did learn and became a very good first officer, she stopped busting into the office and learned to press the buzzer like everyone else, she learned diplomacy when dealing with her government and others and most of all she learn that her people were capable of hurting each other for their own agendas (season 2) she could not just take them for face value.
johng
Wed, Jul 27, 2016, 7:39am (UTC -6)
@Luke
I had no problem with the Duras sisters. Using immediately let the audience know they were trouble. I loved the scene where Odo disarmed them. Also, bringing in TNG viewers was a good thing. Without viewers we might not have gotten seasons 2-7.

Good point about no mention of the Celestial Temple. Have a major trade hub in the system might be seen as a mixed blessing to Bajorans, but cutting off or destroying their gods would seem abhorrent.

Regarding the impact on Bajoran indepence, the Cardassians had apparently decided the cost of continuing to hold on to Bajor was too high. The discovery of the wormhole changed that equation dramatically. The Federation would not stay in a system with no strategic importance if its presence was unpopular.
Joey Lock
Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
This episode was a fairly strong second episode which is exactly what you need in a new series, an amazing pilot but crappy 2nd or 3rd episodes won't get you anywhere.

The actors are begining to unravel slightly in this one, Kira's patriotism and stubbornness is beginning to show, Odo's want for law and order and not being too happy with change, Garaks analytical nature etc

I also noticed in the scene where Odo and Sisko discuss in his office, they're standing extremely close to one another, almost face to face, it just seemed a little odd, almost as if they were gonna kiss despite having a whole large office to stand in.
Daniel B
Fri, Aug 25, 2017, 5:04pm (UTC -6)
{ The line “the only important things is not to betray yourself,” is a little bit of sophistry which really leaves a bad taste in my mouth however. }

The episode itself addressed that, I thought, with Garak disagreeing that there is any true philosophical wisdom in it and considering it just empty words saying nothing.
Iceman
Mon, Oct 9, 2017, 4:00pm (UTC -6)
Aside from Garak, this episode is like all season one episodes-mildly engaging, but nothing more than that. 2.5 stars.
Rahul
Thu, Jan 25, 2018, 4:17pm (UTC -6)
Pretty good, intriguing episode that gets most of the important DS9 cast involved, setting up their inter-relationships and future arcs to some extent. The ending action scene, while not bad, is the least strong of the episode (other than the Duras sisters). So was Tahna just late in firing/detonating his bomb to seal the wormhole or did he not know when to do it? Instead he fires it somewhere into the Gamma Quadrant and then has to surrender.

A nice scheme and stakeout builds up well that puts Kira between a rock and a hard place. Great scene when she talks to Odo about her loyalties and having to be a traitor to one party. This episode goes a long way to fleshing out Kira's character -- from her conflict with Sisko, who deals with the hothead pretty well, I thought. Liked the line about potentially having her head on a platter if she went over his head to the admiral 1 more time. Her character and inner conflicts are definitely one of DS9's strengths.

Unfortunately, the Duras sisters are more comedic than threatening -- getting them involved makes it seem like whatever they're associated with is not going to succeed. Hard to take them seriously.

Garak has a funny way of introducing himself -- certainly didn't come across as friendly (in a normal way) toward Bashir in the teaser, who seemed absolutely petrified. Julian's pretty green to Cardassians/Bajorans so this is good. But these 2 at least start off on the right foot and the doctor would seem somebody who reluctantly gets dragged into potentially dangerous "non-medical" situations.

A high 3 stars for "Past Prologue" -- plenty of interesting characters here in good situations. Well-written and thought out episode that touches on what will make DS9 so good. Definitely want to see more episodes like this one with the various parties (minus the Duras sisters) trying to fulfill their own objectives.
tempeh
Sat, Sep 15, 2018, 11:20am (UTC -6)
How does Kira know how to pilot a runabout (and so skillfully)? It's now happened in two episodes in a a row It's not like she attended Starfleet. Perhaps she gained flying skills in the resistance. Most likely it's because Kira's part was originally written for Ro Laren, someone who knew how to pilot Federation craft.

Anyway, this episode doesn't do too much wrong, but once you watch it you forget about it a few days later. Bland terrorist guy tries to do bland terrorist objective.
Springy
Sat, Nov 17, 2018, 11:49pm (UTC -6)
Hmm. Netflix seems to have skipped this one. It took me straight from Emissary to A Man Alone . . . am not on right now, but will check this out tomorrow . . . weird.
Springy
Sun, Nov 18, 2018, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
Ok. Have not read review or comments. Going to comment as I watch, play-by-play, except not really commenting on each play.

Yeee. What a weird little scenes with Doc Julian and creepy, creepy Garak.

I pray that Julian gets his space legs soon. That is some over-the-top naivete, nearly adolescent in its nature.

Pretty good confrontation between Kira and Sisko, a little "new show rough," but that's to be expected.

Nice touch with O'Brien warning Sisko about the brutal ways of the Cardassians.

Tahna very annoying. I don't know why, but I feel he deserves the Duras sisters.

Garak, the Cardassian Tim Gunn. But what exactly is the sartorial spy up to?

What's going to happen when the Bajoran, Klingon, Cardassian, Federation party meet up, here?

How does Jadzia get that poof in her hair?

This wormhole gets a lot of action.

Drama, drama, "Traitor!" Pained look. The End.

Passable, some definite character development for Kira. Odo is growing on me.

Season theme, 3 eps in, seems to be about how the past impacts the present, the struggle to begin anew and to adapt to the present.
Startrekwatcher
Wed, Dec 19, 2018, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
3 stars

This was a solid episode. Garak enters the picture and is put to intriguing use. The duras sisters were actually believably used not as a tng dressing but for a plausible purpose and their double crossing Tahna was definitely in their character.

Tahna wanting to destroy the wormhole makes a great deal of sense and provided a nice twist and exciting climax. His calling Kira a traitor was biting Kira sand odo soupseaeching scene was well done culminating with odo contacting Sisko letting him know that someone wanted to chat with him was also well done
Double A
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 8:46pm (UTC -6)
Kira's first vehicle of DS9 is an entertaining hour of Trek. Past Prologue reinforces the fact that DS9 is a different kind of Trek and that conflict between the regular crew is not going to be off limits, like it was on TNG. In my opinion this is a welcome news and makes for a better drama. This episode also marks the debut of Garak, who makes an unforgettable intro. I do have one minor issue with Past Prologue. I believe it is a little early in the season for a test your loyalties episode but that is a small gripe in an otherwise solid show.

3/4
Odo93
Sun, Jul 28, 2019, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
Formulaic and predictable but entertaining. Past Prologue is a good character development show for Kira. But I believe it was too early in the season to put her in the situation where she had to choose between her new commander and her former comrade. The outcome was predictable but it was still a fun show. An added bonus was the introduction of Garak, which was the highlight of the episode.

7/10
Peter G.
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 10:46am (UTC -6)
I have to grudgingly give one to Elliott about this episode. I recently watched What We Left Behind, where Andrew Robinson said very cdirectly that Garak was obviously gay in this episode, practically coming on to Julian with every word. Now to be honest I never saw that when I watched the episode, nor do I see it to this day even with this in mind. But I suppose I can see why it might be taken that way; Garak's slim fitting costume, his strange touching of Julian. I always took it as Garak trying to put him on edge; perhaps even to feed into what might be Julian's homophobia, since we can likely assume that a skirt-chaser might well be very self-consious about being seen as gay. Maybe that's a 20th century conceit, but I suspect that this hesitation to want to be seen as gay won't go away anytime soon.

The thing is, though, that Garak didn't end up written the way he did by accident. The writers clearly fed off Robinson, to the point where that's the only reason he was written back into the show in the first place. And I suspect that Robinson is a first class troll. So I am extremely hesitant to outright accept what he says about Garak clearly being gay, especially in a statement made now, about a show made 25 years ago, where there has been plenty of time in the interim to come up with theories about Garak. And Robinson eats that stuff up; so much so that he wrote his own Garak book. In which Garak was clearly not gay.

SPOILERS

But then that raises another point: maybe Robinson really did think of Garak as gay, until the writers screwed him over by giving him a Ziyal romance plotline. And once the series ended and Robinson wrote his book he was maybe stuck with the continuity they gave him, rather than his original conception of the character. It's pretty telling that Robinson made Garak straight in the book, since in theory he could have made him bi or anything else. It could even have been possible to imagine that his relationship with Ziyal was more for company and love than sexual attraction, and that he really was into guys and not ladies. Who knows.

So I'll give Elliott kudos for his certainty that Garak is gay, even though I'm not sure if Robinson was trolling us in the documentary or not. But he did say it, so that can't be ignored.
Some Garak Fan
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
I'd just like to give some context to Peter G here, and to anyone else who might be reading: Andrew Robinson's been stating in full seriousness that he played Garak as "omnisexual" (and not specifically "gay"; it's only Behr in the documentary who claims that) for decades now.

As a queer Star Trek fan who'll take whatever they can get when it comes to LGBT characters, I've looked into this a good deal myself. I'll try not to flood this comment with quotes, but suffice to say, Robinson has talked about this a LOT.

From an interview regarding his Garak novel, in 2000 (source: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=53485):

"I started out playing Garak as someone who doesn't have a defined sexuality. He's not gay, he's not straight, it’s a non-issue for him. Basically his sexuality is inclusive. But--it’s Star Trek and there were a couple of things working against that. One is that Americans really are very nervous about sexual ambiguity. Also, this is a family show, they have to keep it on the "straight and narrow", so then I backed off from it. Originally, in that very first episode, I loved the man's absolute fearlessness about presenting himself to an attractive human being. The fact that the attractive human being is a man (Bashir) doesn't make any difference to him, but that was a little too sophisticated I think. For the most part, the writers supported the character beautifully, but in that area they just made a choice they didn't want to go there, and if they don't want to go there I can't, because the writing doesn’t support it."

In 2019, specifically referring to the documentary (source: https://www.andyjrobinson.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Andy-Interview-Edited.pdf):

"My take was *always* pansexual. Because, you know, you’re trying to work out “Okay, an alien, what’s an alien? A Cardassian?” We have to start with the human image and they’re all kind of hominoid, the aliens. But, you know... Do they have the same habits that we do? Are they the same, you know, in taste and in their sexuality? And from the very first moment I did the show, when I saw Dr. Bashir, I see him across a crowded room and I’m sexually attracted to him. And I thought, well, that was the *in* for me in terms of Garak and his sexuality."

[...]

"That’s the one thing that they never got right. That wasn’t Garak. It, you know, I think that’s part of what Ira was talking about – that missed opportunity. Because you could have had a really wonderful kind of relationship, a *gay* relationship, you know? Or, you know, with a character that really was so different from a Cardassian, another species."

That's probably more than enough to prove the point, and more than enough page space here taken up by quotes, but for what it's worth I'd like to link a few more interviews where he talks on the subject of Garak's sexuality (and plenty more, of course, given how much the character of Garak gives you to talk about; these are all interesting reads no matter what).

Another interview from 2000, around the time of his novel:
www.webcitation.org/6WIgLcuHN

From 2008, referring to the way he played Past Prologue and to his novel:
web.archive.org/web/20140509074944/http://www.trekzone.de/content/cc/darsteller/ds9/andrew-robinson/tzn-exclusive-interview-with-andy-robinson.htm

And another from 2019, referring back to Past Prologue, the documentary and his novel:
thatshelf.com/what-we-left-behind-deep-space-nine-star-andrew-robinson-on-the-new-star-trek-doc-garak-cardassian-sexuality-doctor-bashir-and-irony-in-trek/

Regarding his novel, I wouldn't say he specifically wrote Garak as straight. Definitely attracted to women, but that's fully compatible with Robinson's view of Garak's omnisexuality. The 2008 interview linked above mentions how he'd wanted to go into more detail on Garak's sexuality, but even as it stands, the book does at least mention his attraction to a male classmate: "Five was an athlete who also did well in class. I could see that he was attracted to Eight. As indeed I was." It's easy to miss, though.

And finally, for what it's worth, Robert Hewitt Wolfe has stated (in 2006) that he did in fact write Garak as being attracted to Bashir, and suggests "it would not be wrong to interpret Garak as bisexual." Which is interesting to see, given how the first Garak episode written by Wolfe was The Wire; this would mean the undertones to Garak's relationship with Bashir definitely extended past Past Prologue.
(source: www.exisle.net/mb/index.php?showtopic=38718&st=160&p=857040&#entry857040)

I went on here for far longer than intended, but I imagine this makes it very clear. Garak's a complex character by any metric, and here's another aspect of his character that was made apparent in both the acting and, to some degree, the writing. As Peter G says, it can't be ignored.
Peter G.
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
@ Some Garak Fan,

Thanks for adding all that info. I've never researched the matter and generally only confine myself to watching what's onscreen. As a kid I loved cons but over time I've come to actively avoid them and even avoid watching interviews, because basically it takes the magic away for me to see them out of uniform talking about the show. It's now a 'show' to me, it's a real place populated with real people. Taking the stuffing out puts me off. However that does result, on occasion, with me probably missing some information such as you just provided. If Robinson has repeatedly mentioned his take on Garak then I'm sure that's legit. I still can't say that really comes across clearly to me in Past Prologue (or even in The Wire), because since Garak is so opaque it's never clear what his motives are. And if the average TV viewer would notice flirting then so would Bashir, which he didn't, so perhaps we didn't either. It was probably smart for Robinson to cloak that aspect of his character. Or maybe it just got lost in the mix. It can often be tough to tell if you got your idea across clearly enough, and in this case if you're actually doing something contrary to the desires of the writing team or producers then you can't exactly go up to them and ask if the pansexual idea was evident in the work.

In hindsight I agree with Robinson in that thinking of Garak as gay, straight, pansexual, whatever, actually affects my understanding of him about zero. It basically doesn't matter, Which is maybe the point. Or at least it wouldn't to a futuristic alien dude who's an exile anyhow.
TopHat
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
Is it true that Robinson disliked the Ziyal plot line? I sort of feel like he sleepwalked through it a bit.
Nolan
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
Garak having an ambiguous sexuality is so Garak that I choose to not question the way anyone reads it, hah.
dlpb
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 11:36am (UTC -6)
It's never stated in the original program and bears no mark on it. It makes no difference other than to give the left a warm heart at their progressive shoe horned in agenda.
Chrome
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 11:55am (UTC -6)
I don’t agree with DLPB often, but I think he’s right here. All the actors coming forward with these super progressive ideas *after the fact* don’t really change the product we got. I can’t wait for JJ Abrams to make a documentary 20 years from now telling us how much better the sequel trilogy should’ve been for women.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 12:18pm (UTC -6)
Do you suspect Robinson of being insincere? Some recognized that he was playing Garak as queer at the time (this book https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/The_New_Trek_Programme_Guide talks about Garak as a "camp character" and it was written when DS9 was in its early seasons). It's not a new idea.
Chrome
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 12:26pm (UTC -6)
I'm not saying his lying, but his portrayal of the character didn't affect the product much. Frakes has gone on the record as saying "The Outcast" should've been about him and a male actor in a relationship. Good for him, but "The Outcast" we got doesn't bear Frakes' intentions out.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 1:19pm (UTC -6)
It affected the character enough for some audiences to catch onto it, for whatever that's worth (and apparently enough for the producers to move to semi-straighten the character out via Ziyal). It's an example of double-coding, I suppose, and it's nothing new: Paul Lynde on Bewitched was clearly playing his character as gay, but a smaller component of the audience was attuned to it then.

If you want to accuse anyone of post hoc revisionism, it should be Behr. In What We Left Behind, he falls on his sword for not petitioning Paramount to let them portray Garak as gay openly and clearly. How sincerely that reads is up to you to judge.
Chrome
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
You can read a gay, feminist, anti-gay, right, left, whatever into a show. That's the neat thing about art. Did DS9 successfully pull it off in this episode? I'm not so sure, despite Elliott's arguments. Shows at this stage suffer from what we call "early-installation-weirdness" (Max Grodénchik's Rom is a great example) but Robinson shows it too with Garak. I think it's hard to figure out whether Robinson was just trying to figure out Garak or was actively trying to play him pansexual. I think he gets more warm fuzzies for touting how progressive he was instead of simply saying "I'm not really sure who Garak was at this point in the series".
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 1:59pm (UTC -6)
Your ability to read Robinson's mind is impressive. It sounds like the only circumstance under which you accept he at his word is if he wrote "I am playing Garak as a queer" on a notorized, time stamped piece of paper and placed in a time capsule.
Chrome
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
No need to get hostile. I just don't readily accept actors at their word. Sorry if that offends you?
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
It's just that he's been saying more or less the same thing for around 20 years, so I'm not sure where this skepticism would come from.
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
For what it's worth: maybe I'm just more attuned to this as someone fitting one or more letters of LGBT, and I'll admit that at times I'm actively looking out for not-entirely-straight subtext (especially in a show as straight as I've almost always experienced Star Trek to be). But I *definitely* saw sexual tension going on right from the beginning of Past Prologue; rewatching the scene now, I'm definitely still seeing it. It's not the only place I've seen it, either -- I just watched Our Man Bashir, and [mild SPOILERS] I couldn't help thinking that, complete with Garak getting *right* up in Bashir's personal space, his merciless cockblocking at the beginning of that ep may well have had an ulterior motive. He certainly doesn't seem too displeased that Bashir isn't getting to bang his Bond girl.

It may not have affected the finished product *much*, but I still think it's easy to say it was there, enough to take Robinson's comments seriously and not as "wow, thanks, brownie points for saying that retroactively after the show's already done". Believe me, things like "surprise! Dumbledore was gay all along" piss me off, but this doesn't come off like that to me. Enough is shown for me to appreciate the effort, especially given the time period. Depicting a non-caricaturised male character showing non-caricaturised attraction to another man would definitely not have been as easy as doing the same between women; women have the sexual appeal to het male decision-makers (and fanboy audiences), whereas the same between men tends to get perceived as more depraved. There's a reason lesbian kiss episodes would come to be a big Sweeps Week spectacle, *not* gay male kiss episodes.

This is all regarding the acting, though (and, I guess, whatever writing got snuck in along these subtextual lines). I'd also like to draw attention to the fact that the earliest comments from Robinson (of what's been posted above, that is -- if he's saying it then, by all means he might've been saying it in less permanent media earlier on) date from 2000, which is apparently just a year after DS9 ended, and *definitely* not yet a time with everything peachy for gay people. Less incentive to say things for "progressiveness points". And then there's the mention that he wrote Garak's attraction to a man into a novel -- a bit blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but then I have no idea what guidelines he might've been under. Honestly... not *too* bad for 2000? And better than nothing.

As for Top Hat's comment:

"If you want to accuse anyone of post hoc revisionism, it should be Behr. In What We Left Behind, he falls on his sword for not petitioning Paramount to let them portray Garak as gay openly and clearly. How sincerely that reads is up to you to judge."

Yeah, this sounds a lot more like the "Dumbledore was gay!!!" thing I described. Piggybacking on Robinson's long-established comments to go "we should've done this!" -- sure, but you didn't, and I don't see much point in making a big show about what you didn't do.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -6)
Fenn, just a thought but would it be possibly to also include the somewhat gay-bashing like scene of Klingons attacking Garak in his shop in "The Way of the Warrior"? Afterwards he tells Bashir, "I got off several cutting remarks which no doubt did serious damage to their egos... the damage I did to them will last a lifetime." This idea of evoking wit as a counter to physical damage strikes me having potential queer resonances.
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:49pm (UTC -6)
I can see what you mean with that, Top Hat -- I feel that teeters closer to stereotypes rather than plain, simple attraction to men, but as far as 90s writing and 90s audiences go, I can definitely see "simplistic brutish types gang up on and attack one solitary campy guy; campy guy achieves victory by sass" as coming off that way.

(I have further thoughts on subtext on Our Man Bashir, but I'll save them for when I have time to write my full take on that episode in the comments there)
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
For the record, you can see pretty much the same discussion playing out 20 years back: http://nitcentral.philfarrand.com/discus/messages/5/4167.html?1155729431
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:02pm (UTC -6)
Lord, what a thread that is.

One little tidbit from that which interests me, given what I said above:

"After being questioned at various conventions, Andy Robinson has generally characterised Garak as sleeping with anything that moves. (Not gay, but bisexual. I can live with that. Good comprimise, no?)"

Apparently he *was* saying this while the show was still on air.
Booming
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
I'm not sure if this is in and of itself not misleading. Robinson saying that he played him as gay which in that context means gay coding is a little problematic, isn't it?
While I can understand the need for representation and to have role models and so on. Is gay coding not a special form of stereotyping. Effeminate, sophisticated and so on. The only way to actually portray a gay characters would be by having the characters be in a homosexual relationship. For all we know he is asexual.
Sure they were to timid for a homosexual relationship between two men because people like dlpb were still too influential, I guess.

Murdering and torturing LGBT people for 2000 years is fine but having one gay person in a TV show is pushing leftists politics. I just hope that hatemongers like dlpb have a child which then becomes trans and marries a seven foot tall, visibly well endowed black guy who has a PhD in rocket science. *fingers crossed*
Chrome
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:22pm (UTC -6)
@Fenn

Actually, I think that could've been a cool angle to push for Garak actively in the show to sort of explain his eccentricities. Maybe he even had to sleep with men as part of being a spy and he's so emotionally removed that he just does it matter-of-factly. I don't think the show ever gets there, but the pieces are in place.

Anyway, I think the show does a more explicit representation of bisexuality with Dax. We've got the lesbian episode along with whatever she's doing with Vanessa Williams on Risa. Trill society may naturally lend itself to pan-sexuality and the writers jumped at that chance.
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Booming: "The only way to actually portray a gay characters would be by having the characters be in a homosexual relationship."

I *almost* agree with this, but I'd step back just a little further: "the only way to actually portray a gay character would be by having them show homosexual attraction". Which, going on those quotes from Robinson, is exactly what's been done.

I do see some merit to gay coding, though. There's a difference between "dialing up the stereotype to make fun of this type of person" and "peppering in certain mannerisms in order to portray a type of person you might not be allowed to show ordinarily". The intent matters, basically.

Even then, though, portraying a camp character doesn't mean you're portraying a gay character (because, as above, only portraying a character that *actively shows that attraction* really counts). Yet it'd be wrong to say there's not some overlap between "camp" and "gay". By all means people can be camp and not gay, or gay and not camp, but "camp" did evolve as an intrinsic part of gay subculture. It can definitely *hint* at a gay character when actually portraying one might cross some lines.

I would say Garak definitely has at least *something* of a camp sensibility to him. Doesn't display the machismo of other Cardassians we've seen, that's for sure. But I've never felt that was for the sake of making fun of him, just an aspect of the character's personality as I've grown to love it. And one particularly important thing to note here is just how much *else* Garak has to show, character-wise. You certainly couldn't describe *this* character as "reduced to a stereotype", not by any means.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -6)
@Fenn

Dumbledore being gay was an actual plot point in the HP series, though. The story simply wouldn't have worked without Dumbledore's attraction to men (or more specifically: Dumbledore's attraction to one specific young man).

As for that notion coming out of the blue: How would you've expected Rowling to write a gay old wise wizard? Should a gay old wise wizard behave any differently than a straight one? Maybe I've gotten it all wrong, but I've always thought that gays are just ordinary human beings who happen to be attracted to people of their own gender. Shouldn't they behave exactly like straight people in non-romantic situations?

Back to Garak:

Unlike Dumbledore, whose romantic preferences turned out to be of importance to the ongoing story, speculations about Garak's sexual orientation have exactly zero relevance to the plot. I'm not saying that the character isn't gay, or that Robinson didn't sincerely play Garak with this intention in mind. I'm just saying that the entire question is irrelevant. If our heroes aren't part of a story in which their sexual orientation is relevant, who cares? Honestly, this kind of thing shouldn't be any of our business unless the story itself demands that we know.
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -6)
(and @Chrome, whose comment hadn't been posted yet when I loaded the page: I've certainly appreciated what I've seen regarding Dax so far, but I also suspect it might have been "easier" to portray that between women than between men -- as mentioned in an earlier comment)
Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
And not to get into Harry Potter fan debates, but: regardless of the nuance of that situation, I was using the phrase as shorthand for "character is stated as being queer retroactively, without any author or performer having had to display actual queerness in the work itself". Whether that was or wasn't the case with Dumbledore, I'll leave for a HP discussion board; suffice to say, that's what was meant there.

Also, I won't get too far into this, but sincere portrayal of queer characters -- especially ones as interesting in general as Garak is! -- is something I'll always appreciate, whether "relevant" or not.
Booming
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 4:26pm (UTC -6)
@ Fenn
Good points.
About the Lesbian relationship. That is always the choice when you want to have gay people but offend the least amount. It is the more timid option. In other words heterosexual women have far less problems watching homosexual women kiss than heterosexual men do with gay men. It is actually quite an interesting social phenomenon.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 3:40am (UTC -6)
@Fenn
"I was using the phrase as shorthand for 'character is stated as being queer retroactively, without any author or performer having had to display actual queerness in the work itself' ".

I was talking about that general point too.

The specific case of Dumbledore isn't the point here. My question was: Why should we expect a queer character to behave any differently than a straight one in circumstance that have nothing to do with sexual attraction?

I agree that if an author or actor starts talking about this only 20 years after the fact, it looks really suspicious. But if he says so immediately, should we disbelieve his statement just because said character didn't follow the usual gay stereotypes?

In the end, though, it all boils down to the interpretation of the individual viewer. And when it comes to a guy like Garak, there's always something more to him than you think.
Top Hat
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
Apropos of nothing: https://twitter.com/BryanFuller/status/1197705516933214208
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Chrome that I'm not a fan of revisionist artistic vision. What they intended *then* is what they intended then. On the other hand it's worth asking what Robinson intended then. Could he have been exaggering his belief in Garak's pansexuality because it was cool to talk about? Not that he didn't believe it, but did it really impact the performances very much? So I do think it's relevant to inspect the episodes for signs of this, if for no other reason than out of curiosity.

I suppose I'm not surprised that some viewers distinctly see Garak's *sexual* attraction, whereas for my part while I do see attraction I've never really seen it as sexual. Maybe that's the issue, that a dude liking a dude, and even wanting to touch him, risks being seen as homosexual in America when in some cultures it wouldn't be seen that way. The German notion of friendship and kissing is totally different from the American one, for instance. So to be a bit more objective I do think we need to do what Booming is wary of, and look for signs of gay coding in either the writing or the acting.

The issue about gay coding *in art* is that there are certain objectives in art, one of which is usually (and in the case of TV, almost always) to clearly communicate content. If you have a gay character, it's not enough to say that in real life you might not know someone is gay; on TV you need to 'show your work' in the sense of having the content be *presented* to the audience for their understanding. Usually you'll know things about TV characters you wouldn't know about real people except maybe for those closest to you. It's not because they're telegraphing stereotypes necessarily, but because it's the job of TV to show you stuff and portray it in a digestible and clear format. This might well mean going above and beyond verissimilitude for the sake of storytelling. So a real life Garak might be inscrutible totally, whereas on DS9 we do need to be able to scrute him a little. If we didn't see it then it wasn't there, basically. Like, if the character successfully hid that he was with the Obsidian Order for the entire series, then it would simply not be canon that he ever was a member. It's a simple as that. So if we're going to assert something in canon about Garak's sexuality it has to have been onscreen somehow, and therefore in absense of an actual homosexual relationship we need the coding signals to at least flag it somewhat.

This argument runs parallel to another one I could make, which is that in real life LGBT people code signal plenty themselves. Some of it may be subconscious, some may be overt, as there are definite advantages to being able to make others (at least certain others) aware of your proclivities. It's no accident that the gay stereotypical characteristics exist as they do; it's because many gay people really do exhibit them. So portraying a gay character in art that has gay signal coding baked in surely doesn't run counter to actual reality. To me the only question is whether it's tasteful, interesting, and relevant. An insultingly broad depiction of gayness may get a laugh but it's probably 'not nice' on some level either. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater makes it almost as bad, where no signalling at all would probably mean that we are even mor restricted in portraying gay people than real gay people are at portraying themselves. And that can't be right.

So for Garak we have:

1) Is into clothes.
2) Is a bit touchy-feely, at least at first.
3) Wears slim-fitting clothing and comments on others' looks quite frequently.
4) As others have mentioned, often chooses sass over violence.
5) Does not do that arrogant alpha-male thing that other Cardassian males tend to do.
6) Feels kinship with the two other people on DS9 (Odo and Bashir) who also have something to hide and are odd men out.

However when inspecting this list I'm not sure I buy it very much:

1) I've always felt his positive references to clothes and tailoring were completely ironic, as if to say that he hated everything to do with it despite it working excellently as both a cover and a side business. Whenever he compliments someone's looks I can almost feel the sarcasm meter rising, as if to comment on the banality of actually caring about such things. I think he actually detests the preening side of Carassian culture, as seen in Civil Defense, and as a result probably has made a habit of jesting about liking clothes, just as his regularly seen smile is a gigantic jest in the face of living in a place that's practically torturous to him.

2) I guess this point might hold, but I guess it's hard to tell the difference between "this guy is weird" and "this guy likes guys". I also think his objective in Past Prologue was to maximally mess with Julian, so I don't really buy that it was all just a come-on. He was totally manipulating Julian on multiple levels and making him guess what each weird signal meant.

3) The slim clothing style for him didn't persist much past S1-2, and in terms of his manner in observing clothing in general, I think it was part of his 'game' of always pretending to be Plain Simple Garak even while knowing no one believed it. He was always poking people about this, like a double wink.

4) I actually see this as being strategic rather than a personality trait. He uses violence exactly as often as needed, and no more. The difficulty of being too violent too often is it shortens your lifespan. Garak is all about surviving. Also been seen as physically threatening is something his image could not sustain, so I think he tried to minimize exposure to that side of him.

5) I think part of this is the self-hatred of his society, despite having been shaped by it. It takes us the entire series to see it, but his view of Cardassia is not to rosy-colored as he'd led us to believe in The Wire (when discussing The Never-Ending Sacrifice). And likewise, his view of himself. The self-critical part of himself, the one needing help in early S7, is probably the self-examining faculty lacking in the narcissistic Central Command people we meet. That being said, that preening attitude seems to be more a thing among power-hungry guls and legates rather than ordinary people, of whom we have little contact. Judging regular human behavior based on military officers ranked Captain and above would probably create a ridiculously skewed vision of us too.

6) To be fair Bashir's secret didn't exist at this point in the series; or at least the details of it didn't. Pillar's original plan for Siddig may or may not have been dropped by this point. And regarding Julian being anything other than a keener womanizer, I'm not sure there's evidence of it yet here. Garak just decided to take advantage of the green officer who could be gulled into thinking he was breaking into something important. Anyone less arrogant wouldn't have imagined they'd be the center of an amazing adventure. The scene where Julian asks to be bugged (a laugh every time) seals for me why Garak chose him, at least in terms of the scripting: it's because he's a brlliant dolt, the perfect tool to use. The idea that his looks has anything to do with it seems to me far-fetched.

In conclusion: I'm not writing all of this to denounce the theory. I guess I'm inclined to believe Robinson's statement about it. But like Chrome I'm not sure it matters. I don't quite see any evidence of it on-screen, and to whatever extent DS9 (unlike other Treks) really explored male-male non-sexual love in Bashir/O'Brien, Odo/Quark, and Garak/Bashir, the Garak parts of it fit right in with that and don't seem to me to be of a significantly different color. At least to my eyes.
Trent
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 6:31am (UTC -6)
Peter said: "I've always felt his positive references to clothes and tailoring were completely ironic, as if to say that he hated everything to do with it despite it working excellently as both a cover and a side business."

Garak's tailoring is also a reference to a familiar archetype in spy fiction. WW2 era spies in fiction, and then the more sophisticated novels of Graham Greene and John Le Car which milked the Cold War period, often had spies masquerading as "simple tailors". Antique book shops were another common "front" for a spy organization.

The association between homosexuality and secrecy and potential treachery has also had a long history, and gay spies or double agents were a recurring trope in Cold War-era spy fiction (Le Carre's "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold"* and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" include gay subtexts for example).

*- the 1960s movie version of this is awesome BTW.
Trent
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 6:33am (UTC -6)
Also, Booming, did you give up on Orville?
Booming
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 10:36am (UTC -6)
@Trent
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNLUS0o69wQ


I'm going to continue until I reach this stage, at least.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO9CFlTYVb0
RandomThoughts
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 1:56am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

Plain and simple... Garak.

For me, when this first aired, I figured Garak was trying to over-emulate human behavior, for a sinister reason... he was acting that way to ingratiate himself with a naive Julian

We knew nothing about Garak, just that he was the lone Cardassian on the station for some reason. The C's we'd seen recently valued family (the pilot episode being just after "Chain of Command", I think), but were pretty strict in general, and condescending and/or humorless toward humans (the exception being the fellow in the bar ("The Wounded"), as it seems a bit of synth/alcohol makes even C's a bit more chummy/chatty).

Garak was acting differently, enough that it made us notice and keep a side-eye on him. I figured it was all part of his plan.

In conclusion, he was being above-and-beyond with his niceties to get Bashir interested in him, since that wasn't how C's normally acted. And nothing more.

I really try to remember these as I first saw them, and not let what might have happened later cloud me...

Have a Great Day Everyone... RT
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 8:01am (UTC -6)
Reflecting on Bashir’s conduct, rather than anything about Garak’a motivation, it reminds me of a few cases when I was younger where I’ve had a pleasant if out of the blue conversation with some fellow and found myself thinking: was that a chat up? Or was he just being friendly? Everyone likes attention but I’d hate to give the guy the wrong idea. El Fadil nails this mix of excitement and mild confusion.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 9:21am (UTC -6)
Adding to some of the interviews cited above, here's another interview (undated but presumably around 2000, when A Stitch in Time came out) where Robinson talked about Garak as sexually ambiguous: http://www.littlereview.com/getcritical/trektalk/robinson.htm. He also expresses disenchantment with the Ziyal arc:

"Was the romance with Ziyal an attempt to heterosexualize Garak because the writers got nervous about the Bashir/Garak dynamic? "Probably," admits Robinson. "It never really developed. There was never really any investment on their part.""
Chrome
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 10:56am (UTC -6)
I think Garak and Ziyal was sort of a natural coupling though. You can imagine this discussion in the writer's room...

WRITER 1: So Ziyal and Garak are the only Cardassians on the station. What are we going to do with that?
WRITER 2: Dukat and Garak hate eachother, right? It's only logical that Ziyal should hate him.
WRITER 3: No, let's make Ziyal unlike her father for the twist. You know, shades of gray...
BERMAN: Brilliant! Put my name on that somewhere!

But seriously, Ziyal is really just a character foil. She's Dukat's morality pet, Kira's little sister, and Garak's token girlfriend. We're not supposed to care about Ziyal as much as the characters she's developing.
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 12:28pm (UTC -6)
SPOILERS

Frankly I don't think I ever got a vibe that Garak was 'into' Ziyal, just that he cared for her. Maybe even felt bad for her. That even comes across in the script, and he was never given lines that showed overly romantic overtones. Granted he's not into sentimentalism, but still their relationship was about as warmly platonic as you can get onscreen. It makes perfect sense that she'd be lonely, and maybe even respect Garak for his sense of assuredness and calm. On Garak's side it was a perfect chance to cross Dukat and bewitch his daughter. At least at first. And he would have never felt the need to make a distinction between spending time with someone nice, and continuing his 'private work'. His association with Julian very much had that character, where he was enjoying Julian's company but also working him.

I'm not exactly fighting for the pan-sexual Garak intepretation, but on the other hand I could see a case where Robinson was resisting portraying being overtly attracted to Ziyal. It did sort of seem more like he was curious about her, rather than drawn to her.
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
Yes, I think there's space to push against the idea that Garak was sexually or romantically interested in Ziyal at all. There's exchange in "In Purgatory's Shadow":

Ziyal: You’re intelligent, and cultured… and kind…
Garak: My dear, you’re young, so I realize that you’re a poor judge of character—
Ziyal: Why do you always make fun of my feelings for you?
Garak: Perhaps because I find them a bit… misguided?
Ziyal: Well, if that’s what you think, why do you spend so much time with me?
Garak: Because I’m exiled, and alone, and a long way from home, and when I’m with you, it doesn’t feel so bad.

It sounds like he's trying to politely to deflate any romantic interest on her part.
Chrome
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
"Destiny" establishes that Cardassians flirt through spirited antagonism. Just one more wrinkle for you to consider. :-)
Top Hat
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
So the lack antagonism between them makes romance less likely? Ziyal not being particularly socialized with other Cardassians?
Chrome
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 2:30pm (UTC -6)
RDM said that they goofed up with Ziyal in regards to the antagonism and made her outwardly nice her pursuit of Garak. I don't know if Garak is being antagonistic here, or just shifty as usual. He's got feelings for her, obviously, but you could interpret this many other ways than the intended romance scene, I suppose.
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 15, 2020, 2:55pm (UTC -6)
To be fair, I always interpreted that particular scene as Garak being a bit selfless for once and suggesting that it was a bad idea to get mixed up with an ex-assassin and Dukat's enemy. Her naivete would lead her to judge him based on what she sees and how he treats her, and he knows that you shouldn't necessarily believe those things. I think in this scene he's putting himself down in a sense, and trying to give her good advice despite the fact that he does like being with her.

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