Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Deep Space Nine 4x17 "Accession"

rating: ***

the story: Sisko unexpectedly finds a challenger to the role of the Emissary.

what it's all about: The most revolutionary thing Deep Space Nine ever did was include as one of its central elements the idea of religion as something to be embraced rather than dismissed, as it is in virtually every other corner of Star Trek.  In the first episode ("Emissary"), Sisko finds himself identified as the savior of the Bajoran people, the embodiment of their gods, the Prophets (whom Starfleet refers to as "wormhole aliens," since they reside in the wormhole that sits just to the side of the eponymous station).  He immediately chafes at the idea, and it takes him seven seasons, really, to figure out what it really means.

"Accession" is one of the few episodes to tackle the idea headfirst.  In the third season, he's tasked with determining whether or not a prophecy is true in "Destiny," which is the first time he takes Bajor's faith seriously.  In the fifth season, he gets a sense of the mystical nature of the role during "Rapture."  Yet in "Accession," he's forced to decide whether he personally takes the idea seriously. 

The wormhole spits out a Bajoran poet two hundred years after he disappeared.  Anyone who steps out of the past will affect the present, but this is an extreme case, and it's one of the episodes where we really get a sense of what it means to live in Bajoran culture when the poet-cum-Emissary tries to set back the culture two hundred years, basically to what he used to know.  Seeing Kira humbled is an unusual experience, and probably this is the only time we see it played out, but somehow she is, and it's the mark of her evolution as a character that she no longer fights everything, as she did at the start of the series (Voyager's characters actually had a similar arc, but fans always had a hard time with that). 

Meanwhile, O'Brien is reunited with his wife Keiko, who announces that she's pregnant, but as much as he hated the idea of her leaving last season, he's grown comfortable with the freedom he's had to live the bachelor life again, which is what helped solidify his bond with Bashir (the absence of which was what made "Hippocratic Oath" early in the season so jarring).  "Accession" actually marks the beginning of the rest of the series for O'Brien and Bashir, and even Keiko's new willingness to live peacefully at the station, so it's ironic, and clever storytelling juxtaposition, to watch this unfold as Sisko struggles with whether or not it's okay to walk away from his role as the Emissary.  Whereas "Destiny" had him realize the prophecies aren't always what they seem, here he learns that sometimes the truth is exactly what it always seemed.

It's definitely an episode for the thinkers among the fans, which is to say, the truly dedicated Deep Space Nine fans.  Best easter egg for those fans?  An appearance by the warmest Bajoran presence the series ever had, Kai Opaka, who was written out all the way back in the first season.

criteria analysis:
  • franchise - Kind of directly smacks the face of Star Trek tradition.
  • series - A necessary story in the overall arc of Deep Space Nine.
  • character - If the whole season were a crisis of faith, this is the episode where it's dramatized by Sisko.
  • essential - Crucial to a deep understanding of a deep series.
notable guest-stars:
Rosalind Chao (Keiko)
Hana Hatae (Molly)
Camille Saviola (Kai Opaka)

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