Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Collaborator"

3 stars

Air date: 5/23/1994
Teleplay by Gary Holland and Ira Steven Behr & Robert Hewitt Wolfe
Story by Gary Holland
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

On the eve of the election for Bajor's new Kai, Vedek Winn suspects Vedek Bareil of being a Cardassian collaborator and recruits Kira to help her find the truth. Kira—who is in love with Bareil—finds herself in a very difficult bind where her personal feelings are at odds with her duty to Bajor and the truth.

I like seeing characters put through the wringer like this; it's a good way to see emotional performances emerge, and Nana Visitor is one of the most credible and effective when it comes to projecting emotion onto the screen. There's never a question of whether Kira will find the truth or not; it's more a question of what she will find, and how she'll react emotionally to it.

The plot's twists and turns are probing, bringing up the issue of how to deal with Bajorans who sold themselves out to the Cardassians, and, further, looking at the reasons why people would be tempted to do such things. Odo makes a keen observation when he notes that in extreme circumstances everybody is capable of terrible things. (Was he referring to Kira's murder in "Necessary Evil"?)

Vedek Winn's political intrigue takes the character in some unexpected directions, particularly when she declares "peace" with Sisko in a scene that makes one wonder if she's being sincere or merely self-serving. Similarly, her belief that Bareil could be a collaborator gives her the perfect opportunity to milk the situation to her political advantage—yet her motives somehow seem deeper and more sincere than her superficial arrogance and condescending persona let on.

Kira's investigation takes her where she doesn't want to go—straight to proof that Bareil did help the Cardassians destroy a rebel base. His noble motives were to save Bajoran lives—an admission that will still cost him his political career. A last-minute twist privately confounds the situation even further, showing Bareil as a truly honorable man. If there's a subtext flowing through here, it certainly highlights how brutal and painful the Occupation was, even apart from the often-explored issues of killing.

Previous episode: Crossover
Next episode: Tribunal

◄ Season Index

33 comments on this review

angel
Sat, Sep 10, 2011, 12:29pm (UTC -6)
Episodes like "The Collaborator" show that Quark would be better at Odo's job than Odo is, seeing at how he can just effortlessly bypass security bullshit that Odo can't
T'Paul
Thu, Jul 4, 2013, 7:51am (UTC -6)
The twist (without revealing it) was very good regarding a much-loved previous character.
Kotas
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 5:01pm (UTC -6)

I just can't get into the Bajoran storylines.

3/10
gata4
Wed, May 7, 2014, 12:25pm (UTC -6)
Great Winn-Kira episode. Winn is shaping up at this point to be a great villain: there's sufficient ambiguities in the plot to make you think she just happens to be in the right place at the right time, adept at taking advantage of situations, or (more likely), she might have manipulated the whole thing, the arrival of the collaborator at DS9 and all. Winn seems to have ears everywhere, so will know of Kira's relationship with Bareil, so takes not a little pleasure in choosing Kira to investigate her lover. Her putdown of the "child" on the Promenade was classic. I liked the implication as to an inherent weakness within Bareil too, the number of times he seemed to need to visit that Orb for guidance.

An 8/10 episode for me, spoilt only slightly by Avery Brooks' acting again. His wild-eyed suppressed anger does him some credit here in his scenes with Winn, but he uses a variation of this face way too often, such as in getting excited about holosuite baseball with Jake, or trying to sidestep politicians. He seemed more suited to the Alternate Universe Sisko in "Crossover", IMO. Bring on the Nick Fury look and the new uniform in season 4 - that grave him some gravitas.
Yanks
Mon, Jul 7, 2014, 9:33am (UTC -6)
Solid 3 stars for me too.

Winn, knowing the truth finds a way to have Kira reveal it so as to dethrown Bareil before the election. Brilliantly evil.

I also loved the line where we find out that Winn isn't going to sit around and "take" Kira's disrespectful tone:

"Oh, and child, one last thing. I know you're under a terrible strain, but if you're wise, you will never speak to me with such disrespect again."

Louise Fletcher delivers these lines so well. The look she gave Kira was priceless. I just love (or hate) when she says "child" :-)

Weiss
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 1:34am (UTC -6)
I just watched this ep and noticed Odo's very subtle reaction to hearing kira loves Bareil. He was saddened in his reaction and but quickly hid it and misdirected kira interpretation of his reaction. Very excellent scene well written. This set up his love story for her.

When I watched these eps in my teens of the bajorans I was always bored, although I always loved winns character. But now as I am older I find these eps very gripping! All the twists visions all excellently handled. It was hard telling what winns involvement was, maybe she did call the collaborator, she did have a sideways glance at him. But she was also desperate so she threw everything at the window, even trying to get a implicit endorcemtn from sisko. Her becoming kai was the worst outcome, but did the prophets want her to become kai?

Quark figuring out whaat odo couldnt with security makes sense, he is a conmen and thinks differnetly. Conversely quark being a security chief would be a terible idea, he lacks a ethical code to maintain security

Domi
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 9:53pm (UTC -6)
Three stars? I could not be more bored.
Dukat
Mon, Sep 1, 2014, 6:40pm (UTC -6)
I can't stand bajorans or bajoran episodes. Their superstitions and their treachery and their lies, their smug superiority and their stiff necked obstinacy, their earrings and their broken wrinkled noses.
Dusty
Thu, Nov 13, 2014, 11:14am (UTC -6)
This is an example of a good Bajoran storyline. Instead of getting too carried away with visions, prophecies, and gods who actually exist, it explores a side of religion I can believe in: namely, the way people use it to serve their own ends.

Vedek/Kai Winn is far scarier than most villains on the show because people like her must work hard to earn the trust of others. They aren't "supposed" to be bad. But Winn is, and only Kira and others on DS9 are in a position to see through her devout, benevolent mask. Even Bareil doesn't seem to understand the danger she represents. His faith keeps him from seeing anything but a fellow priest whom he happens to disagree with. Through Kira, Winn ultimately uses his faith and devotion to Kai Opaka against him, sabotaging him without a second thought--not because she gives a damn about the Bajoran rebels who died due to Opaka's decision, but to force him out of the election and become the new Kai.

People like Winn can be found in every religion, every establishment, waiting for an opportunity to deceive and manipulate their way to the top. And they always make for morbidly fascinating entertainment, which is why I find this such a strong episode.
SamSimon
Thu, Jul 16, 2015, 1:00pm (UTC -6)
Amazing episode. I didn't remember it (or maybe I had never seen it before), and I just finished watching it. It is tense, unpredictable, and with amazing characters' development. I don't understand why so much hate in the comments, I really loved the episode (and I expected even more than 3 stars from Jammer, actually!).
William B
Sat, Aug 15, 2015, 9:32am (UTC -6)
Kira's already found it in her heart to forgive Cardassians who were forced to play low-level roles in the Occupation, like Marritza; and she was able to find it within her to encourage "collaborator"/sex slave Sisko to revolt in the Mirror Universe in just the previous episode. Still, there is a particular trigger about Bajorans who collaborated with the Cardassians. The culture has developed this idea that any Bajorans who collaborated were essentially doing it for personal gain at the expense of their own people because of monstrous lack of empathy. And Kira not only spent years fighting the Cardassians, she also became a killer as a result. Like Jammer, my mind went straight to "Necessary Evil" when Odo mentioned that he has observed that solids will do horrible things in extreme situations; and "NE" gives further background to Kira's reaction here. Kira KILLED a collaborator; maybe her original intent was not to murder Vaatrik, but she killed him all the same, and the generalized guilt at taking a life with her own hands (and lying to Odo about it for years) is one thing, but it's still most likely a lot easier to sleep at night thinking that collaboration, to any degree, was absolutely *not* an option, and that her violent resistance, including the killing of her oppressors and those who opted for reluctant cooperation, was the best way to make good on a bad situation.

I like then that the episode starts with the classic Pariah Collaborator arriving on the station, being assaulted by Bajorans all around and locked in a cell immediately and yet still shamelessly and openly talks about thinking he should go home, moves through to a discussion of Prylar Bek who felt so guilty about his crime that he hanged himself, to the possibility that Kira's lover Bareil has this particular collaboration-skeleton in his closet, to Kira's *idol* Opaka being revealed as The One. The idea that Opaka made the call to give Cardassians the location of *her son's base* in order to save another thousand lives removes any doubt that this particular Collaboration was done for personal gain; Opaka is both idolized beyond all others, AND she did so at great personal sacrifice. Kira's lament to Bareil when Bareil takes credit for her actions that their had to have been some other way still hangs in the air; we cannot say for certain that Opaka killing her own son and dozens of others really was the only option she truly had. But we can say with relative certainty that she judged it to be her least-terrible action.

And so the price that Bajor pays for Opaka's sins is that they elect Winn. And here the show runs into some of the same issues in the season's opening three-parter, but overall better: how much is a lie worth sacrificing for? I've tried to think through what happened here, and it occurs to me that Bareil had *hoped* that he could cover up Opaka's involvement in her son's death without actually getting blow-back, and only reluctantly dropped out of the race once he realized that he would be exposed. He had already falsified records, and had kept Opaka's secret for years. Now, to be clear, I really do understand why Bareil kept the secret; I do think Opaka really did what she thought was right, and I understand why Opaka and those few who knew something about it believed that Bajorans needed spiritual guidance and would not understand her actions, during and following the Occupation. Maybe this is the only action that could have been done to preserve Bajoran souls. But it's another instance of Bajoran faith being based on a lie -- and the consequences of *maintaining* that lie is that power then goes straight to Winn, Bek kills himself taking on the full blame of the massacre while Opaka continues to be revered as a saint, and the Bajorans still, as a whole people, believe that all collaborators are unforgivable and remain divided against themselves, unable to face what they did. This is a tragedy. And the episode mostly gets that, but Bareil's "well, I guess Kai Winn is going to need our help!" and Kira's "Let's pay our respects to the new Kai!" in a tone that sounded like the weirdest euphemism for doing it of all time is a bit too bright, a bit too complacent that Bareil and Kira keeping this secret from Bajorans as a whole and allowing only Kira to get this difficult but necessary enlightenment while Bajor falls to Winn is a good thing.

The episode is also hampered by Philip Anglim, and the episode's insistence on opening act after act with another Orb vision for Bareil. Now these experiences do at least highlight Bareil's sense of guilt, most notably when he finds himself literally in bed with Winn as a representation of his figuratively getting into bed with her by withdrawing knowing that she will win the election. But they are overall cheesy, and Bareil's cipher face each time the orbs close fail to demonstrate the weight on this guy. The Kira/Bareil "romance" scenes are not quite as painful here as they were in "Shadowplay," but I still just do not buy these two as a couple.

On the plus side, I do love Winn's continued scheming and I like the way she attempts to play Sisko, and, when she fails, brushes it off (and the casualness with which she says that she will not be meeting with him soon). I like the effectiveness at the game Winn played, more subtle maneuvering than the blunt-instrument assassination plot, and I think that putting *Kira* in charge of the Bareil investigation is pretty clever, especially insofar as getting Winn's actual, desired goal of getting Bareil to drop out of the race -- pressure from his girlfriend is more likely to put the screws on him emotionally, I think is her reasoning. The exchange between Winn and Bareil on whether the Prophets' love is unconditional or if that is a gross misinterpretation of the scriptures is fun, especially the way Fletcher plays Winn's smarmy judgment, though it does unfortunately raise some of the grander problems about Bajoran religious belief. (HEY MAYBE SOMEONE SHOULD ASK SISKO WHETHER THE PROPHETS SEEMED LIKE THEY LOVED PEOPLE UNCONDITIONALLY, OH YEAH THEY HAD NO REAL INTEREST IN LOWER, HUMANOID LIFE FORMS THAT SHOULD DEFINITELY CLEAR ALL THE CONFUSION UP, RIGHT? NO? OH WELL.)

Odo's reaction to Kira saying she and Bareil are in love begins the long, sometimes frustrating but ultimately rewarding Odo/Kira romantic plot. I like to think that Odo is/was unaware that he has Kira feelings, but just got so used to Kira being single that the cropping-up of jealousy the moment he hears otherwise shocks him into just barely beginning to recognize some feelings.

A solid to high 3 stars.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Nov 16, 2015, 1:35pm (UTC -6)
Another dive into the murky world of Bajoran religious and political power. There's some strong themes here.

Winn continues to play a delightfully devious villain - her footsie with Sisko, and her later casting aside of any commitment she made when it was no longer necessary, is very nicely done. As is her slap down of Kira. Perhaps the finest moment though is Odo's fleeting reaction to Kira's relationship with Bareil.

It's not perfect - the interesting Kubus storyline is dropped rapidly and without resolution, and I've never been a fan of false endings - but this is another strong episode. 3 stars.
BZ
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
I know that I am comparing an alien religious system to one on Earth, but Bereil doesn't seem like a good vedek to me in that he basically treats the Bajoran religion as just so much mombo jumbo. I can imagine that his views reflect those of most Americans "God may exist, but the bible is not necessarily literally true", but would someone with such views be a cardinal, and frontrunner in contention for pope? Sure he communicates with the prophets via his orb in this episode, but I just don't see those scenes as authentiic given his beliefs as shown in this and earlier episodes.

I see Opaka as a much more convincing leader of a global religious movement, and Winn at least plays one (maybe even too over the top).
JC
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -6)
@BZ I always see the various takes on Bajorans religion as analogous to sects of earth religions, E.g. Roman Catholicism vs. Protestant vs. Lutheran, although I make no attempt to make a clear analogy.

Being raised Catholic myself, its all I can really compare to. I always viewed Bereil as simply having a more loose, open minded view but still staying within the bounds of his religion. I recall, going to a Catholic school, some of the brothers there being significantly more down to earth than others, but still not straying from their faith. That's how I view Bereil, practicing his religion but more progressive than most.
Luke
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 8:35am (UTC -6)
I'm so happy that the writers and producers decided to start acting like adults here toward the end of Season Two instead of continuing with the rather lame stories we were getting toward mid-season. It's lead to a really good run of top quality episodes. "The Collaborator" is another excellent one.

This was a bold idea that was almost perfectly executed. The only flaw in that execution is, again, Philip Anglim's performance as Bareil - the stiff acting never seems to stop from this guy. Having all of the principle good guys in the story end up with blood on their hands, literally and figuratively, while letting the villain essentially win was a rather risky move. But, it works because all the heroes come off as well-meaning - Opaka was a collaborator only to save over one thousand people, Bareil covered it up to protect Bajor and Kira goes along with Bareil's cover-up because she's capable of seeing the big picture. Winn even comes across as something of a nuanced character instead of a simple villain. Was she only pursuing the truth about the cover-up for her own political ends or did she actually have a concern for the spiritual "health" of Bajor? It's left ambiguous and rightly so. And having Winn become Kai was a masterstroke in it's own right. I'll admit I'm more of a traditionalist than Bareil appears to be, but if I were living in this universe, I'd vote for him over Winn any day. But, from a story-telling perspective it makes so much more sense for Winn to be in that position because of all the different dynamics it can bring to the characters and the show as a whole. Having Mr. Nice Guy as the Kai would have been a dead-end, narrative-wise. And it shows that they were at least beginning to really plan ahead for future installments (I seriously doubt they could have worked it so that Kai Bareil would ever open the Book of the Kosst Amojan and ally himself with the Pah Wraiths).

The biggest plus for this episode, however, is that it's a return to Bajoran politics and all the world-building that entails. It's a shame that this plot arc is dropped, for the most part, after this episode and once the Dominion is introduced proper. I know a lot of people don't like the Bajoran centered episodes and story-lines, but I love them! We also get a short look into how collaborators are viewed/treated by Bajoran society through Secretary Kubus, an enjoyable emotional struggle for Kira (which Nana Visitor plays perfectly) and, of course, the first glimpse of Odo's feelings for Kira. I've heard that the writers didn't intend for Kira and Odo to ever have a romantic relationship, but Rene Auberjonois basically ad-libbed Odo's reaction to Kira's confession of her love for Bareil and they just rolled with it. And that, my friends, is why Rene Auberjonois is awesome!

I'm very tempted to give this one a perfect score of ten - really tempted. But, I just can't bring myself to do it. Anglim's acting is just too off-putting - especially in the early scene where he and Kira are cuddling. That had to be the most awkward "sexy" scene in Trek ever. And he does harm the climax when the truth is finally revealed pretty severely. God, some emotion, man!

9/10
DLPB
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 7:14pm (UTC -6)
It's decent episode but, see, here's the elephant in the room. Kira and others are acting as if the collaborator was an evil person who allowed, for no good reason, the deaths of innocents. And when they find out this is not the case (that thousands were saved as a result) - they STILL act as if it were a bad thing. It doesn't make a lick of sense.
Rahul
Thu, May 18, 2017, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
This was a better episode than "Crossover" which I just watched.
The character and emotions here are great along with the twists and turns this episode follows. Winn plays an important part -- not sure if she's deceptive initially or what her motives are. Good that this episode is unpredictable, but in a sensible way.
Jammer writes: "Odo makes a keen observation when he notes that in extreme circumstances everybody is capable of terrible things. (Was he referring to Kira's murder in "Necessary Evil"?)" - I liked Odo's part in this episode - making this observation here and also his reaction when Kira professes her love for Bareil. Great acting.
I don't think it should be the case that Odo/Kira come to ask Quark to get past the Bajoran code - it's ridiculous that the security chief has to ask a conman of a bartender for this. Couldn't they have figured out some other way.
The Bajoran story of the treachery to save more lives does paint the collaborator in a different light -- all is not what it seems at the surface.
Intriguing episode - I'd also rate it 3 stars out of 4.
grumpy_otter
Mon, Aug 21, 2017, 6:26pm (UTC -6)
I loved this one--I thought the tone was perfect and of course Winn is delightfully wicked. I had two observations--one is that I would give it an even higher rating except for the stupid visions Bareil kept having. I found those totally boring and revealed nothing. I hate such hallucinations--can't think of one time Trek used that sort of thing without losing my interest.

The other is a question--the Cardassians have been off Bajor only about a year, right? Because wow did their city look incredibly pristine! I had assumed Bajor had been pretty well ravaged by the invaders--perhaps not.
Paul M.
Tue, Aug 22, 2017, 7:17am (UTC -6)
"The other is a question--the Cardassians have been off Bajor only about a year, right? Because wow did their city look incredibly pristine! I had assumed Bajor had been pretty well ravaged by the invaders--perhaps not."

Well, Paris looked OK right after the German occupation. I imagine Cardassians strived for nice Orwellian public face of peace and contentment while they plundered and butchered behind the scenes. It is not unexpected to see big cities relatively untouched while the countryside suffered.
grumpy_otter
Wed, Aug 23, 2017, 12:26pm (UTC -6)
I think you are right, Paul M. I read up on Bajor a bit after this and learned that apparently the Cardassians scorched certain only regions of the planet--keeping a pristine capital would definitely go right along with Cardassian values. They remind me more and more of North Korea.
Doug
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 10:11am (UTC -6)
Why...isn't Odo considered a collaborator by the Bajorans? Wasn't he head of security in a Cardassian station during the occupation?
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 10:23am (UTC -6)
@ Doug,

"Why...isn't Odo considered a collaborator by the Bajorans? Wasn't he head of security in a Cardassian station during the occupation?"

Because they knew he was impartial, and didn't contribute to or assist the Cardassians in their oppression of Bajor. In his capacity as chief of security on the promenade he would probably have been seen by them as potentially a helpful person rather than The Man just waiting to get them. In some respects his activities no doubt protected the Bajorans from disorderly conduct by Cardassians. This is speculation, of course, but based on Kira's testimony the Bajorans respected and even looked up to him as someone of integrity. He did his job because he thought it was right, and not because the Cardassians gave him a cushy life or promised him things, which would be the hallmarks of a collaborator.
William B
Tue, Feb 20, 2018, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
I actually wonder how much Kira herself led to this interpretation of Odo's actions; in Necessary Evil, he demonstrated that he cared about justice rather than serving the Cardassians by letting Kira go when she (falsely) claimed that she was innocent. Kira had said that he would have to choose a side, and he insisted he wouldn't, and she banked on the idea that he was either noble enough or naive enough to believe that, in order to get released, and she succeeded. Kira's personal admiration for Odo can be traced back to that moment, and it also has an element of guilt for her, because their early relationship was based on a lie -- where she used his pro-justice beliefs against him. Certainly Bajorans probably came to trust him for the reasons Peter mentions, but once the Occupation ended and it was no longer necessary to trust anyone working for the Cardassians, no matter how noble, I think it's probably Kira's position and support on the station that probably led to Odo's acceptance and continued role.

But more generally, I think Odo gets his status for being a literal out-of-this-quadrant alien. He was raised by Dr. Mora, but he's still physically and emotionally markedly distinct from either Bajorans or Cardassians, and is even more different physically than the Bajorans and Cardassians are different from each other. If the Bajorans never quite accept Odo as being one of them, then it's not really "collaborating" for him to work with the Cardassians. I have a hard time imagining even some Bareil-type ascetic being able to take Odo's job and convince the entire Bajoran people that he's "neutral" when he arrests and jails Bajorans and sometimes presides over their executions (if they are murderers), even if he doesn't get any cushy perks from his position. Odo's otherworldliness is also part of why people bought the idea that Odo had some sort of preternatural, almost mystical ability to recognize and carry out Justice that was beyond the petty Bajoran and Cardassians, and, indeed, it does turn out to be genetic, though as we discover it's actually Order that he has a genetic propensity for and he had mistaken this for Justice.
Iceman
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 9:42pm (UTC -6)
"The Collaborator" is one of the only Bajoran culture episodes I actually appreciate. Usually, whenever the non-existent Bajor storyline pops up (there is no Bajor arc, but there several episodes that pretend that there is, such as this one), or the show starts delving into the minutiae of mystical mumbo-jumbo, I fall asleep. But here, the show takes Bajor and adds in some effective political intrigue tied into more of the depth that "In the Hands of the Prophets" showed-the way Winn (and plenty of individuals in the real world) uses her religious influence to gain her power. It might be a repetitive message, but it never gets old for me.

3 stars.
Elliott
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 12:17am (UTC -6)
Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin in what we know to be an orb vision, telegraphed by the saturated lighting and heartbeat under the musical score. Vedek Driftwood is wandering about the Promenade. He sees Kira playing racquetball I think. Oh, and there's a dead body hanged from from the upper deck. Kira obliges Driftwood's request for “help” and releases the corpse. He recognises the man as...((Prylor Beck?))--let's call him John Steinbeck. Orb-Kira says, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.” Just kidding. She says, no no, sir, that dead man is YOU. Driftwood closes the Orb and we cut to credits. I can't bring myself to get excited about the return of Philip Anglim, but this is an effective teaser.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

After some morning sex on DS9, real-life Kira is begging Driftwood to extend his holiday with her. Per the odd idiom of their sweet-talking, we are granted some exposition where we learn that Driftwood is mere days away from being elected the new Kai. Now, Opaka has been on planet Rob Zombie for at least a year, right? That seems like a really long time for the Bajoran sheep, I mean, zealots, I mean believers to go without their space pope.

Driftwood coyly asks Kira if she's going to vote for him for Kai. Wait a minute. Non-clergy vote for the space pope? Are there attack ads, town halls? Has Driftwood been campaigning around garnering support? This seems completely preposterous. Not only that, it raises serious ethical dilemmas about Bajoran society. Is Bajor a theocracy?

Grr...

Driftwood reminds us that he and Kira are from different religious orders (she from the conservative order that Vedek Bitchwhore belongs to). I should also remind us about my comment regarding this pairing from “Shadowplay,” where it officially began:

“An Orthodox person of faith does not abide wishy-washy, New Age, listen to your heart soft-peddling of the sort the writers are clearly intending Driftwood to be advocating for. I'm not saying Kira should be intolerant of his views. After all, it is acknowledged that different orders co-exist in Bajoran society. But that she would enter into a [] sexual relationship with a person, let alone a priest whose religious advocacy is directly in conflict with tenants of the Orthodoxy she claims to ascribe to is utter bullshit.”

However, thinking about Opaka reminds me of a comment I made about Kira in “Battle Lines”:

“Kira...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 [], 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.” Driftwood says that Opaka got Bajorans through the Occupation. Since he was apparently her hand-picked successor (add nepotism to the list of questionable Bajoran political norms), we can assume they were from the same Order, or at least from orders of complementary theology, unlike Kira's. So, it would be fair to say that Kira's attraction to Driftwood beyond the physical is rooted in her affection for Opaka, filtered through the damage done to her psyche as part of the Resistance. This makes it more believable that the two would be together (at least from her end), and paints an interesting picture of Kira's heart and mind, albeit not a flattering one.

Ah, and speaking of bad memories, we run into Bitchwhore herself brainwashing some children on the promenade. She and Driftwood have a clichéd little debate about the nature of “the Prophets' love.” Driftwood's is, of course, the more liberal “God loves unconditionally,” while Bitchwhore is more fire and brimstone. Try to contain your shock. Kira, meanwhile, promises to have Odo up security lest any more schools get bombed or war heroes assassinated...accidentally.

Meanwhile, an elderly Bajoran man is recognised by somebody as a man who “worked for the Cardassians.” A traitor. Odo recognises him as well, Secretary Kubis, and promptly arrests him. He and Bitchwhore exchange a glance while the chords of bad news sound.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

Another Orb vision. Driftwood has been pointy-hatted and is the new Kai. He sees Opaka who advises him to be strong and peaceful. She insists that his destiny is to follow in her path. The dead guy from the teaser shows up and offers him a gift from the Prophets, a poison snake, which is actually a noose. Let's save the vision analysis for a little later in the episode and just move on for now.

Odo checks up on his prisoner, who has “come home” after having lived on Cardassia the last two years, which seems dubious, despite the fact that Kubis served as liaison between the Occupying force and his own people. We learn that Kubis is a political centrist, having found it preferable (convincing himself for *all* Bajorans) to work with the “recognised” government. No doubt, the Cardassians welcomed Bajoran collaborators who leant credibility to their illegal Occupation of Gaza, I mean Bajor. Kira shows up and informs him that his request to return home to Bajor is denied. Kubis and all other collaborators have been permanently exiled.

Bitchwhore pays a visit to Sisko, calling him “Emissary” and trying to mend fences. Why? Because it is politically problematic for her having a contentious relationship with the person whom their gods have anointed liaison between themselves and the Bajoran people. Huh. I'm sensing a theme here. Sisko reviews the continuity of their relationship. She spin-doctors—she now recognises that the Federation's presence provides long-term security for Bajor. This may be somewhat genuine on her part; in “The Siege,” she seemed surprised that the Cardassians were fomenting and arming the uprising against the Provisional Government. The issue of Bajoran membership in the Federation is still very problematic for me. Bitchwhore AND Driftwood AND Kira should be opposed to Bajoran membership because Bajor will have to abandon its religious beliefs (and unethical laws) to become members. I don't see that happening soon. We see that she would like to extract an endorsement from him. Sisko, for once, is happy to hide behind the Prime Directive and withhold any endorsement for her or his preferred candidate, Driftwood. Fully in character, Sisko drifts towards whichever identity most suits his immediate needs. If he needs to be The Emissary, despite this being a violation of his oath to Starfleet and human principles, so be it. If he needs to be a strictly dutiful Starfleet officer, despite his substantial misgivings about its philosophy, so be it. All the backbone of a tapeworm, this one.

Later, Odo calls Kira to inform her that Bitchwhore, for some reason, has granted Kubis sanctuary on Bajor. How or why a Vedek would have this authority is left unanswered, but adds credence to the Bajor-as-theocracy theory. Kira has Dax prevent Bitchwhore's departure and questions Odo. Bitchwhore accessed some information after a brief meeting with Kubis. Kira recognises one of the searched people as John Steinbeck—the noose guy from Driftwood's guilty visions. We learn that this guy was also a collaborator. We learn that John Steinbeck gave the Cardassians information which led to the death of about 50 Bajorans including Opaka's son. He confessed in...a suicide note. Hmm.

Bitchwhore lets herself in and confronts Kira. Kira will let Kubis go...after a few weeks of security scans, given Kubis' notoriety. Bitchwhore shows Kira some of her cards. Kubis offered the names of other collaborators. According to her, Steinbeck was under orders to betray the Bajoran rebels. Sidenote: could Louise Fletcher be channeling Peter Cushing any harder when she spits the words “rebel base” from her mouth? According to Bitchwhore, the person who gave the order was none other than Driftwood. Dun dun dun...

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

And here's where the meat really gets served.

WINN: That's yet to be determined. But if [Bareil] is chosen and turns out to be guilty, the ramifications for Bajor would be catastrophic. It would shatter faith in the authority of the Kai, and without a strong Kai Bajor cannot survive.

This statement is not one I agree with. I think it would be really good for the Bajorans to have their faith shattered, to go searching for meaning and possibly find it in the enlightened humanism of their Federation protectors. But, for Kira, the Orthodox Wormholeist, Bitchwhore's perspective is wholly correct. Kira believes in belief. Bitchwhore decides that Kira will investigate the allegations. Before she leaves, she petulantly advises Kira never to treat her with “such disrespect again.” Ah, the pious life...

Kira questions Kubis. He testifies that John Steinbeck became stressed leading up to the rebel massacre. That he frequently contacted the Vedek Assembly (Bajorans were able to communicate freely during the Occupation?), and that he was visited on the station by Driftwood the day before Steinbeck committed suicide. So Kira contacts Driftwood and questions him. He could not sound more guilty in his denial (“Winn will never be able to prove otherwise.”) if he tried. He claims that Steinbeck gave him confession. And since it's confession, it operates exactly like Roman Catholic confession and Driftwood is spiritually forbidden from divulging what they talked about. Except he just told Kira that Steinbeck confessed to the rebel massacre in his...CONFESSION.

Kira and Odo are still looking for corroborating evidence to exonerate/vindicate Driftwood. Odo recognises that Kira is worried that her boyfriend is lying to her. When she admits she's in love with him, Odo is momentarily gutted. Yep. She's his femme fatale, remember. They discover that the records of communication between Steinbeck and the assembly have been sealed...by a Vedek.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

Quark is reluctantly paying one of his Dabo girls her salary, when he finds himself confronted by Odo and Kira (triggering his “persecution complex” HA!). They're being unusually kind (not arresting, threatening, or jailing him) and he immediately realises they want something (illicit) from him. They want him to bypass the security seal.

KIRA: Quark, this is important. We need access to certain communication files in the Vedek Assembly records.
QUARK: Perfect. Not only is it illegal, it's sacrilegious.

Double HA! The whole scene is exceptionally hysterical, actually. Quark agrees, while Odo and Kira reflect on Steinbeck's suicide. I fully agree with Jammer's suspicion that Odo's line, “The one thing I've learned about humanoids is that in extreme situations even the best of you are capable of doing terrible things,” is a direct callback to “Necessary Evil.” Enlisting Quark ends up turning little up—the messages behind the seal have been erased. Driftwood is looking more and more guilty.

Just like in “The Wire,” O'Brien can only recover the erased data (in Star Trek, information is never really deleted) at about half-past too late to help you, Major. Buuuut, he can probably figure out who erased the messages. And, guess who? Boy, Kira's next date is going to be awkward.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

A final orb vision. Everything is backward—Steinbeck accuses Driftwood of betraying his trust, Kira and Bitchwhore are in each other's places in his life, and Opaka is congratulating him on his reward (a knife in the gut).

Kira confronts Driftwood about the scandal. She is obviously (read: convincingly) devastated to conclude that her man effectively killed Opaka's son and 42 other Bajoran resisters. Driftwood confesses that he is *also* a centrist. He sacrificed the resistors in order to protect the lives of 1,200 other Bajorans in the same valley whom the Cardassians would have executed otherwise. Later, she learns from Bitchwhore that he has withdrawn his name from consideration for Kai. She realises, however, that something isn't quite adding up.

On Bajor, Bitchwhore is revealed to have won the vote thanks to insidious Facebook memes. A great touch is her deciding she's going to have to postpone her public appearance with Sisko. Kira confronts her boyfriend, revealing she figured out that Driftwood was NOT a collaborator. He was protecting someone else. Turns out it was Opaka who was the centrist, I mean collaborator. She sacrificed her own son and the resistors to protect the 1,200. Driftwood says that Bitchwhore's election is “the will of the Prophets.” And yeah, he's right. We'll circle back to all the orb stuff at the end. Kira decides she still wants her man candy. The end.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

Another very difficult episode to rate. Let's start with good.

1. Structurally, this episode is very similar to both “Duet” and “Necessary Evil”: a very competently-told and skilful mystery in which an enigmatic character triggers an investigation which reveals a dark but character-altering twist. The character work is quite good (not as good as those two, but still good). And the scene with Quark was among the funniest moments of the show so far.

2. Thematically, the episode is very tight. Everyone is an asshole! Odo has Quark break the law on purpose to get what he wants. Sisko plays both sides of his Emissary role to manipulate Bitchwhore. Bitchwhore manipulates everyone to become the Kai. Driftwood manipulates Kira to protect Opaka. Opaka betrays her son to protect strangers. With the exception of Sisko, I like the depth this adds to everyone's characters, especially the fact that the apple of Kira's eye was technically guilty of the worst crime Kira can imagine for a fellow Bajoran.

3. In terms of what this offers the series, giving the terrorist Winn greater political and religious authority promises juicy conflict down the line, as well as, potentially, a potent lens for examining belief and power. Her saccharine backhanded compliments and scathing peaks “behind the veil” are extremely fun to watch.

So, now the bad:

Two related issues really drag this episode down for me. The first is what I mentioned during the scene with Sisko and Bitchwhore. The issue of Bajoran membership in the Federation is supposed to be what this series is about. We haven't seen any sign that the Bajorans have made strides to become citizens, nor from Sisko on leading them to that end. One could make the argument that electing a more liberal Kai would be a step in the right direction for the Bajorans, so this is a setback, for sure. The fact that the writers aren't really dealing with the ramifications of Bajor's lack of evolution is a problem for me. Even if they want to do the typical DS9 subversion and portray this cultural change as negative, I could accept that, but there seems to be no concern about the fact that Bajoran society is presently incompatible with Federation values.

Second, the visions. While the cinematographic execution of these scenes was the best we've seen of this type so far, what they mean for the Star Trek universe is starting to become concerning. From a character perspective, Driftwood's visions could have easily just been portrayed as dreams and had the same effect on the story (and that would have been just fine), but these aren't dreams. These are prophecies from magical wormhole aliens. They reveal to Driftwood that Kira will be the one to kill his ambition (made metaphor when she kills him). They also instruct that this path which prevents his election and pushes Bitchwhore into power is their will, what is BEST for Bajor. So they aren't passive observers of non-linear time, they CHOOSE to intervene (via prophetic visions) in order to force certain outcomes, which presumably they can see. I'm not going to break continuity and talk about future events, but even so, the morality of this situation is very troubling.

Connecting these points, the Prophets are essentially moving Bajor in a direction which makes it less likely to join the Federation. Based on the information we have, the only conclusion I can draw from this is that the Prophets like to be worshipped as gods, and want to keep their goldfish in their bowl. This tracks with William B's astute observation, “[I]t's another instance of Bajoran faith being based on a lie—and the consequences of *maintaining* that lie is that power then goes straight to Winn, Bek kills himself taking on the full blame of the massacre while Opaka continues to be revered as a saint, and the Bajorans still, as a whole people, believe that all collaborators are unforgivable and remain divided against themselves, unable to face what they did. This is a tragedy.” Indeed. And what really causes these issues to metastasise is the lack of examination they receive from the characters. Kira, nor Sisko, nor Driftwood really question the implications of all this deceit and manipulation. Sure, all the double-dealing is fun to watch in the moment, but this is Star Trek; it has to mean something. And the meaning here does not cast this plotline in a favourable light.

Final Score : ***
Peter G.
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 1:05am (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

"Connecting these points, the Prophets are essentially moving Bajor in a direction which makes it less likely to join the Federation. Based on the information we have, the only conclusion I can draw from this is that the Prophets like to be worshipped as gods, and want to keep their goldfish in their bowl. "

I can come up with many possible explanations for why the Prophets would want Bajor on some path other than a fast track to join the Federation. In fact, the series will later give an outright explicit reason why this is helpful for Bajor.

But putting aside the issue of why delaying joining the Federation may be good, I don't see why we should presuppose that the Prophets need to want them to join at all in order to still have Bajor's interests in mind. There are many possible futures, and it would be foolish to suppose that only a future in the Federation can result in good things for Bajor. But in fact we don't even need to suppose that 'good things for Bajor' in the material sense is what the Prophets have in mind. Maybe Bajor needs to have a bunch of bad things happen to it in order to survive at all in the long term, none of which 'feel good'. This is actually a central point in Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune, wherein someone could foresee in the future an outcome so disastrous that terrible measures absolutely needed to be taken to avoid it, all of which still felt really bad.

Bottom line, we're not in much of a position to judge whether the Prophets are being reasonable, or fair, or vain, or anything else. Babylon 5 deals with this type of scenario as well, albeit resolving it in a very different way than DS9 does.
Elliott
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

"Maybe Bajor needs to have a bunch of bad things happen to it in order to survive at all in the long term, none of which 'feel good'."

I find this kind of reasoning very disturbing. The kind of capricious arrogance required to assume that deliberately interfering in another culture, to intentionally cause suffering because, in your judgement, things will eventually be better is morally repugnant. The only justification for the Prophets' behaviour is that they are so beyond humanoid sentience that they see the Bajorans as pets who cannot possibly look after themselves, or, even if they could, the Prophets' derive some sort of enjoyment from being considered gods. The only thing which prevents the Bajoran people from getting a grip on this dynamic is their religion: religion was a comfort and inspiration during the Occupation (and probably many times before in their history), so questioning it is too uncomfortable, too difficult. Like I said, goldfish.
Chrome
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
@Elliot

How would you say what the Prophets are doing to the Bajorans is doing any different than what Q does to humanity? Q introduced the Borg, but he did it prepare Picard for the challenges humans will face in space. Are the Prophets not similar?
William B
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott, Peter, Chrome:

I am not sure that the visions in this episode specifically require Wormhole Alien intervention. Not that they don't, but what future events are shown to Bareil that he himself couldn't predict or anticipate? What elements couldn't be part of a dream (or acid trip)?

You are right though that the episode seems to be tying Bareil's faith in with his decision to hide the truth. Overall, the need of the Bajorans to worship Opaka personally -- who not only didn't save her son, but actually helped kill him -- does seem to tie in with the Bajorans' inability to consider what the Prophets' non intervention (and, if the comparison with Opaka holds, perhaps even active engagement) in the Occupation means.

This could tie in with Peter's point in an interesting way. I guess my problem is that for the most part, I don't think DS9 really engages with the question of "what if the Prophets do bad things in the short term to prevent a worse outcome," ala Q or Leto Atreides. It addresses it to an extent, but mostly through Sisko and pointedly almost never through Bajorans. We see Picard react to Q with more than blind worship, even if he eventually accepts him. The cynical take on the worship Leto encourages is examined in God Emperor of Dune, and the case against his tyranny is mounted and examined. I might be forgetting something, but the Prophets' good intentions seem to me to go unexamined. Maybe that's the best you can do with beings so powerful as to basically be gods, but dramatically they remain too opaque for me, so that even Peter's point, which I think is probably what the writers were going for with the Prophets, doesn't quite come through for me, even putting aside my moral reaction. (I like God Emperor of Dune, FWIW, so I don't object to the trope of the prescient, benevolent tyrant as such.)
Elliott
Sat, Sep 1, 2018, 11:12pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome:

After the 18 deaths in "Q Who," the next time we see the Borg is in BoBW, where the Federation fleet is decimated. I'm not quite sure what they learned that justified those original deaths. Q's arc (mostly) is about rejecting the meddling superiority of the Continuum in favour of levelling with humanity, eventually intervening on Picard's behalf in "All Good Things."
Chrome
Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 12:31am (UTC -6)
@Elliott

The Federation was only decimated because the Borg stole the lion’s share of their countermeasures through Picard. Yet, they notably missed out on Riker and his countermeasures that won the day. Without Q introducing the Enterprise to the Borg there’d be no countermeasures to begin with.

Besides which, “Q Who” wasn’t just a lesson about the Borg, but the dangers in space humanity wasn’t ready to handle on it’s own.
William B
Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
Thinking about this some more, I wonder if we really are meant to *specifically* view the Opaka issues as a synecdoche of religious/Prophet issues. Opaka is so idolized by Bajorans that Bareil will sacrifice his own chances at the Kai, and give the office to a terrorist-supporting social-climber fundamentalist like Winn, to preserve her good name. And what Opaka did is not only the worst crime that Bajorans can be accused of by other Bajorans -- collaboration -- but she even gave up *her own son* to die, for a greater good. Opaka sacrificing her own son maps onto the Prophets allowing who seem to be their chosen people to suffer unimaginably during the Occupation, and the explanation/justification is perhaps the same: Opaka knew that something worse would have happened if she hadn't given her son up, and perhaps the Prophets worked the same way. It is even possible that Opaka literally consulted the one Orb that the Bajorans kept hidden away (that she shows to Sisko in Emissary) and that the Prophets actually told her what decision to make, which -- given the Yahweh/Jewishness elements that seem to be occasionally in play for the Bajorans and their relationship with the Prophets, might have some Abraham/Isaac connotations -- in which case the Opaka and Prophets stories are *really* intertwined.

My take, I guess, on Opaka herself, is not to judge her too harshly, personally. I think in war, and particularly when facing potential extermination, it's not so clear what the correct choices are to make. I don't doubt that Opaka made her decision unselfishly, and probably under the circumstances it was the less horrific option in her Sophie's Choice. What I found when I last wrote about the episode, and find now, is that I think it shouldn't be covered up, now that the Occupation is over. To know that *Opaka* made some calls that the Bajorans' knee-jerk reactions would see as evil could allow them to come to better grips with the moral complexity of the Occupation. Probably some collaborators were self-interested scumbags, but some may have had their reasons (like Opaka did), and an honest accounting is probably necessary for Bajor to actually heal. That keeping Opaka's secret leads Bajor to Winn rather than Bareil in the interim is a signal about what is damaging about this strategy.

Along similar lines, I guess I feel like the Bajorans will eventually have to recognize the ways in which the Prophets either failed them, or made decisions "for their own good" which Bajor will eventually have to grow up enough to grapple with. Maybe they simply are not capable of it at this stage of their development, which is an idea I find disturbing...but does not necessarily mean it is wrong. This episode seems to be pointing with a bigger reckoning of Bajorans with what the Occupation actually meant, and what their faith meant, and what the Prophets' highly selective interference in Bajorans' affairs meant, one which I don't think the series really gets to, partly because Bajoran affairs to some extent get shunted aside except through Kira's, Sisko's and to a lesser extent Winn's and Dukat's characters, and some episodes like Accession.
Springy
Fri, Dec 7, 2018, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
Not a huge fan of the Bajoran stuff, but I do love to watch Fletcher in her Vedek Winn role. She's deliciously nasty.

Bariel is deadly dull; weird match with fiery Kira. Nana V tries valiantly to sell it, but she's truly alone in that effort. She's kissing a cardboard cutout and trying to make it look passionate.

Loved the scene with Kira and Winn, that ends when Winn tells her never to disrespect her like that again. Just perfect. Now, that's some real two-way fire.

I did not like Kai Opaka as a character and I found the justification given for her collaboration quite weak. Also . . . sacrificing her son that way . . . not that believable regardless, but especially because the story didn't convince me it was absolutely necessary.

Sacrificing her (only begotten? ) Son to save others . . . that has a familiar Sunday morning sermon sound to it. Don't know if that's deliberate or not.

A respectable offering.

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