Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Episode Review - Emissary (Deep Space Nine, Season 1, Pilot)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here


Overview – Years after suffering a devastating personal loss in the Battle of Wolf 359, Commander Benjamin Sisko is placed in command of Deep Space Nine, an abandoned Cardassian space station in orbit of the recently liberated planet of Bajor. Under orders of Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise, Sisko is supposed to help prepare the Bajorans for possible entry into the Federation. As Sisko grapples with the merging of a Starfleet crew with a Bajoran crew, he finds himself caught up in the discovery of a stable wormhole that leads to the Gamma Quadrant. This discovery not only puts this specific region of space into the focal point of the quadrant, but begins Sisko on a journey of self-discovery and destiny.

Sisko and O'Brien

Score: 8/10 – This is a very strong episode to begin a new and ground-breaking Trek series. There is a lot of exciting action and compelling story telling. As is typical in a pilot episode, the key characters are brought together and introduced to the audience. Key ideas are begun to be fleshed out, and new sets and ships give us much to look forward to. The pacing of this show is near perfect, and the story is quite interesting. You can’t help but feel excited for the new series. Yes, there were some growing pains that were very apparent in this episode. I found that some of the original pairings of characters didn’t quite work at first, and a couple of the actors had not yet found their groove with their new characters. Others, however, were spot on. Even with just a few scenes together, you knew that Odo and Quark were going to be a great duo. Looking back, the episode does appear to be weaker compared to what is to come, but that can be said of almost every series, and it stands more as a testament of how great the quality of DS9 is as a whole. So, in spite of its few flaws, “Emissary” is a great episode.

Welcoming the new CMO and science officer

Relevance - 3 points. No surprise that this show is relevant on so many aspects. In addition to the wormhole being a major plot point for the entire series, it also gives us a look at many stories that were set up in TNG. We see the Bajorans (originally introduced with the character of Ensign Ro Laren) and the Cardassians become central species. The Enterprise loses its transporter operator, Miles O’Brien, as Colm Meaney receives a well-deserved promotion to main cast member. Along with his family, Miles brings his past experiences, as he demonstrates in this episode when he makes reference to his experiences touched on in “The Wounded”. While Ensign Ro was originally to serve as Sisko’s first officer, we are instead given Bajoran nationalist Kira Nerys, who shares many of Ro’s character traits. We are given a great insight into the never before seen battle of Wolf 359 at the beginning of the episode (look for a familiar sounding Vulcan captain) and the action gets going from there. In addition to the main cast, we are introduced to some soon-to-be welcome recurring characters. We meet Nog, Dukat, Rom (known at the time as the Ferengi pit boss), Kai Opaka, and even Morn. We establish some important themes that will come up again and again over the next seven seasons, such as Sisko’s role as the Emissary of the Prophets, Bajor struggling to rebuild after the occupation, and a crew who has a relationship that is far less harmonious than what we have seen before. And, as has become tradition in Trek, the series pilot is directly related to the series finale. It is an understatement to say that Emissary is influential on the series.

Odo demonstrates the usefulness of his shape shifting abilities

Continuity - 2 points. Universe continuity is a check. Cardassians ran amuck on Bajor for fifty years, and the Bajorans are recovering. The Battle of Wolf 359 happens as we expected it to happen with a total destruction of the fleet. All things work out. Story continuity is also a check. Where I sadly had to take a point off was when Sisko referred to his father as “having been a gourmet chef” (past tense). We later learn that Sisko’s father is still an active gourmet chef, neither dead nor retired.

Sisko meets Kai Opaka

Character Development – 3 points. Pilot episodes have a character development advantage in that they are starting with (mostly) clean canvasses. The one exception here is Chief O’Brien, whom we have gotten to know very well on the Next Genertation. Not much new develops with him, but as for the rest of the crew, we get our first glimpses of them. Odo is strict, dedicated to law and order. Quark is a rascal who always has his fingers in everything. Bashir is a typical wet-behind-the-ears naïve youngster who may not be the most experienced officer, but has a supreme talent at medicine. Kira is a bit of a hot head, but this is due to being a passionate freedom fighter. Jadzia displays a wisdom that belies her youthful appearance. Jake is, well, just a typical kid. Ben Sisko, who the show centers on, is a man conflicted, broken, and lost. In this episode he discovers a bit of himself and starts a seven year journey. He reconciles his feelings of anger and animosity towards the role that Picard played in his wife’s death, but his journey has only just begun. While some of the cast (Quark, Odo, Dax) have to wait for any significant growth, we immediately get a great feel for these characters.

Major Kira and O'Brien

Social Commentary – 3 points. The journey of self-healing and discovery is pretty universal. Many of us have found ourselves in similar situations, having faced a great loss, only to rediscover ourselves in the least likely of places. Like Sisko, we find ourselves at times wanting to give up the life we know and just avoid the challenges that it brings, only to realize that the challenges will always be there with us. When it is all said and done, we find ourselves on a journey we may have never expected to be on, but it is the one that will bring us the growth and healing that we need.

The Prophets inquiring about Sisko's family

Cool Stuff – 3 points. Point scored for Odo’s shape-shifting effects. At the time these special effects were revolutionary. A point is scored for the appearance of Picard, who I think was the perfect choice for the now traditional previous incarnation cameo. I especially enjoyed the scene he has when O’Brien leaves the Enterprise for the last time and Picard goes to see him off. The battle between DS9 and the Cardassian fleet may seem like small change compared to the epic space battles that were to come, but at the time it was a level of excitement we had only really found in the feature films, so I’m giving that a point.

The passing of the torch

Rank – Admiral (22 points). Forget the fact that if you want to watch a series you must watch the pilot episode, “Emissary” is a great episode of television. Action, intrigue, and new characters brought together for the first time. While not everything worked as well as it could have, overall it was an ambitious project that ultimately succeeded.

Quark, resident businessman and scoundrel

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