Sunday, June 6, 2010

“Past Prologue”

Review by Paul Steven Brown

Two episodes into ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ and Major Kira Nerys is shaping up to be the standout character of the series so far. She is obviously loyal to Bajor first, but she knows that having the Federation around is in her world’s best interest. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.

Having a foot in each world translates into a sort of sci-fi version of racial identity crisis. Tahna Los accuses Kira of selling out her people now that she’s “working for the man”. He makes fun of her new status and rank, and calls the Federation her master. She constantly has to remind him that she’s still a Bajoran and loyal to her people. In other words, she hasn’t “gone white”.

This episode is another example of how Kira and Sisko are not always going to get along. They have a heated discussion about her loyalties on the way to the infirmary and later Kira goes over Sisko’s head to complain to a Starfleet admiral. However, there is an underlying mutual respect there that gets to play out by the end of the episode.

Another great relationship that is developing is that of Kira and Odo. Since he isn’t Starfleet, he makes for a perfect sounding board for the major. Nana Visitor does a great job selling a very torn Kira, while Rene Auberjonois’ Odo follows in the footsteps of Spock and Data as the alien character used to make insightful observations about humanity.

While he completely misses the big picture, you can still see where Tahna is coming from. Bajor just won its independence after sixty years of cruel Cardassian occupation. Now, the new government has invited the Federation in to help them get on their feet. What’s to keep Starfleet from seizing more control over the day to day lives of the Bajoran people, just like the Cardassians? As viewers, our perception of the Federation is colored by the fact that we’ve followed the adventures of Kirk and Spock and Picard, and they represent the best of what the Federation is. But what of those that live in that fictional universe that don’t get to see Starfleet as we do? The Federation is just another large governmental body. Why should they be more trustworthy then say the Klingons or the Romulans?

While not as prominent as in the last episode, O’Brien is still put to good use in “Past Prologue”. Here he gets to give a war vets perspective in dealing with the Cardassians. It’s a good reminder that the Bajorans aren’t the only ones with a history with these people.

‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ villains, Lursa and B’Etor make an appearance as another way to help smooth the transition for ‘TNG’ viewers. The plot only requires someone to do business with and ultimately sell out Tahna, but using familiar faces help reminds the viewers that this is still part of a larger continuity. Also, why create some completely new characters when you’ve got a couple of actresses that already know their roles?

“Past Prologue” also introduces us to Garak. Plain, simple Garak. While this is a very strong Kira episode, Garak almost steals the show every time he’s on the screen. His initial contact with Doctor Bashir is fun and almost flirtatious. Andrew Robinson easily sets up the character as being very intelligent, very mysterious, and exceedingly charming. Also, he’s fairly complex, too. He could have easily not told Starfleet about what Tahna had planned and sold him out to the Cardassians, but he seems to see a bigger picture.

Bashir’s naivety is used effectively here. Siddig el Fadil does a great job of displaying Bashir’s anxiety around the tailor rumored spy, while switching to excited exuberance when he relays the news of his contact with Garak to his fellow Starfleet officers. It may go a little too far when he simply can’t seem to read between the lines about having to buy a new suit, though. Still, the pairing of Garak and Bashir is a lot of fun.

Odo’s shapeshifting is put to good use as he sneaks off after Tahna and the Duras sisters to eavesdrop as a rat. I have to ask, where does the rest of his mass go? Does it disappear somewhere or does he become an extremely dense rat? I know this is a nitpick, but I can’t help but think about the conservation of matter whenever he changes shape into something smaller than a humanoid.

“Past Prologue” is a great example of what kinds of stories that ‘DS9’ can tell that ‘TNG’ cannot. We get to see Kira’s mettle tested and feel for her when she makes the right decision but is still called a traitor by a former comrade. An excellent episode and after three solid hours, ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is off to a great start.

The commenting rules continue to apply. Only discuss this episode and the one prior in the comments section. Please, no spoilers for future episodes.

1 comment:

  1. "Garak ALMOST steals the show every time he’s on the screen"??? No. He ALWAYS does. Every time. I have a feeling that in future episodes, he will continue to do so as well.

    Although, I must say, Visitor does a great transition between "Bajor Nationalist" to "Major Bitch" when conversing between one of her people and then a Federation officer.

    Did You Notice?:
    - The Bajorans are ROCKIN' those stirrup-pants, aren't they? *lol*
    - Two dudes in Quark's Bar FIST-BUMPED?
    - How awesome the Cardassians' makeup is?
    - How hot... er... bright-eyed-&-bushy-tailed Bashir looked? Freaking adorable. The Garak/Bashir scenes are what MADE this episode, in my opinion.

    As for Odo's shapeshifting, try telling yourself that he can manipulate his mass down to the molecular level. (I really don't know if/how that would actually occur or what it even means, but it helps me sleep at night.) MY problem: Why does he turn himself into a rat? Why not just another of those cargo containers that he was hiding amongst? That would be a bit more inconspicuous, don't you think?

    Did I mention that Garak's awesome? 'Cause he is.