When Sisko and O'Brien beam down to a planet, they find a human colony that has been stranded 10 years with no means of escape. The colonists have been forced to abandon all forms of technology, none of which work due to bizarre interference in the atmosphere. In what turns out to be more than a coincidence, the colony leader, Alixus (Gail Strickland), is a naturalist extremist who has always resented the effects technology has had on mankind ("We have become fat and lazy," she notes tellingly). She considers her technology-free community a shining achievement—never mind that many of her followers have died as a result of living in such an extreme environment without modern medicine or supplies.
"Paradise's" intent seems to be allegory—making a statement about cult leadership and how strong opinions and followings can oppose the general consensus. But the social commentary is heavy-handed and only marginally effective; some of Alixus' long-winded speeches—particularly the one at the finale—ring false because they feel completely scripted. And considering how unlikable Alixus ultimately comes off, it's hard to see her as much more than a villain, albeit with a sincere motive.
Still, on that level, "Paradise" works quite well. Alixus and Sisko almost instantly fall into conflict. She's set on absorbing Sisko and O'Brien into her community, adamant on quickly and completely forcing them into her way of life. Her methodology of torture in the face of any threat to the community's well-being—the simple and appropriate "hot box"—prove she will do anything for her ideals. Like it or not, Alixus is a villain, although a three dimensional one surrounded by some intelligent issues. Sisko's adamant opposition and strength in the face of such a situation is commendable, and both Brooks and Meaney deliver solid performances. I have some problems with the colonists' over-simplified reactions to finding out Alixus planned both their marooning and the deletion of technology, but the grey-area polemics make the Sisko/Alixus hero/villain conflict that much more interesting.