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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Collaborator (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

It’s surprising how long we’ve had since a solid Bajoran episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Barring the dark reflection of Bajor as a power-broker (and brief allusion to a colony in the Gamma Quadrant) in Crossover, the last episode to really explore the planet’s political and religious structure was probably Sanctuary, which aired more than half a season earlier. After a reasonably high concentration of Bajoran political adventures in the first season and the first half of the second, it seems that further explorations will be more broadly spaced.

Indeed, the first season ended (and the second season began) with a five-episode run that was heavily anchored in the show’s Bajoran surroundings. However, as of late, it feels we’ve been strangely disengaged from the show’s stated objective of welcoming Bajor to the Federation. With episodes like The Maquis, it seems like the show is making a conscious effort to disentangle Cardassian politics from those of Bajor.

In a way, this probably represents Deep Space Nine growing into the form that it will take for the rest of its run. The second season has really been about Deep Space Nine figuring out what it wants to be, and what it doesn’t want to be. With The Collaborator‘s focus on Bajoran politics feeling conspicuous by the lack of other Bajor-centric episodes in this half of the season, it seems like Deep Space Nine doesn’t want to be a show about Bajor.

Enough rope to hang himself...

Enough rope to hang himself…

That is – to be fair – a bit of a slight overstatement. Bajor isn’t going anywhere. Winn and Bareil will remain members of the recurring cast. We’ll even get a few other recurring Bajoran guest characters as the show continues. Bajor will remain a vital part of the show’s mythology, and the series will pay due attention to its internal politics and its place int he grand scheme of things. After all, Deep Space Nine is set on a station. It can’t go anywhere.

At the same time, you can see the show drifting. While many of the early Cardassian-centric episodes were focused on the relationship between Bajor and Cardassia (episodes like Cardassians, Duet, The Circle), the show is beginning to branch out a bit. In the very next episode, the crew will take a trip to Cardassia that has nothing to do with Bajor. The next episode to focus on the mysterious wormhole aliens will be the Ferengi-centric Prophet Motive.

His way or the Kai-way...

His way or the Kai-way…

In fact, Sisko’s biggest bargain with those ethereal entities will focus on the Dominion, treating Bajor as a tertiary party in negotiations between the Alpha Quadrant powers and the Prophets about the fate of the galaxy. When the Bajoran colony so casually name-dropped in the introduction to Crossover is so brutally and so casually destroyed in The Jem’Hadar, it seems to be to send a message to Starfleet rather than the Bajorans. Bajor remains conspicuously neutral in the conflict between the galactic powers, despite the fact it is the first victim of Jem’Hadar hostility.

The show would still do occasional episodes peering into Bajoran society and culture, but it began to like Bajor had been removed from the bulletin board and politely shuffled into the “once or twice a season” deck of cards – that place where the writers and producers had themes and gimmicks they’d return to on a regular basis. Sandwiched somewhere between “trip to the mirror universe” and “Ferengi episode” was “something to do with Bajor.”

Winn-Winn...

Winn-Winn…

It’s a far cry from the mission statement laid out in Emissary. The pilot revelled in the Bajoran mysticism and teased about the stolen Orbs of the Prophets. One or another was found or returned over the course of the show, but it never seemed like Bajor took centre-stage. After all, Sisko’s primary purpose on Deep Space Nine was to prepare Bajor for entry into the Federation. At the risk of offering any spoilers to any neophytes stumbling across the reviews, he doesn’t. The show’s mission statement is left to be resolved in the tie-in novels.

There are several possible and credible justifications for the show’s decision to shift focus away from Bajor. Although syndication allowed Deep Space Nine a relatively large degree of freedom, it was still a piece of American television. As such, it was inevitably driven to a certain extent by the business realities of the medium. And the ratings make a compelling argument for shifting focus away from Bajor and its politics.

Upping the Antos...

Upping the Antos…

In purely practical terms, the Nielsen ratings for the Bajor-heavy episodes were never that high. Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets were the two lowest-rated episodes of the first season, the only two episodes scoring lower than 9.0. While The Homecoming started the second-season off strong with a 9.7, the next two episodes dropped sharply to 9.0 each.

The Bajor-themed Cardassians scored 9.1. In contrast, the non-Bajor themed episodes early in the season scored better, with Invasive Procedures scoring 9.3 and Melora pulling in 9.7. As if almost to prove the point, The Collaborator ended up the lowest rated episode of the second season at 6.6. (A sharp drop from the second-lowest rating of 7.7, attained by both Tribunal and The Jem’Hadar.)

Who prophets?

Who prophets?

Of course, it’s hard to argue for a trend here. Shows typically start out strong and haemorrhage viewers as they progress. It’s logical that Duet and In the Hands of the Prophets would be the lowest-rated episodes of the first season; they were the last two to air. Of course, this is hardly scientific. Certainly, there was never a sharp drop for the later season Bajoran episodes, and definitely nothing as steep as for The Collaborator.

Still, there’s a sense that Deep Space Nine grew a little more distant from Bajoran politics over the run. It was definitely still part of the show’s fabric, but the emphasis grew weaker. It seems like the decision to move the station from the orbit of Bajor to the mouth of the wormhole in Emissary was largely symbolic, as the show began to focus more heavily on the Dominion threat than Bajoran concerns.

The face of the frenemy?

The face of the frenemy?

Of course, Deep Space Nine was in a transitional period during the second season, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t. The show is already quite distinct from the series that opened its second season with The Homecoming. For one thing, the influence of Ira Steven Behr has been steadily increasing, as the other producers focused their efforts on the upcoming Star Trek: Voyager. And Behr’s view of the franchise is quite distinct from that of Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor or Michael Piller.

Given the post-colonial vibe of come of the episodes overseen by Behr, it’s quite possible to argue that Behr simply wasn’t interesting in pursuing a story about a a small world being recruited to join the Federation. There are slightly colonial overtures to the whole “Bajor must join the Federation” arc, particularly in Picard’s instruction that Sisko must “do everything short of violating the Prime Directive to make sure” that Bajor becomes “ready” to join the interstellar community.

Dabbling with the dabo girls...

Dabbling with the dabo girls…

After all, Bajor just came out of a brutal occupation by a colonial power. Would it be so bad if they retained their own identity for a while? The question of Bajor and the Federation is fleetingly raised in The Collaborator, with Sisko and Winn discussing her views on membership. When Winn tries to cosy up to Sisko to secure her base, the Emissary is quick to try to turn the topic to his advantage.

“Then you support the notion of Bajor joining the Federation?” he presses. Winn tries to offer a diplomatic response, “If that is the will of the Prophets, I would never oppose it.” Sisko seems to see the potential political advantage that might be garnered from Winn suddenly changing her position on the matter. “I’m glad you said that,” he explains. “And I would be grateful if you would tell it to the Bajoran people.”

A true girlfriend stabs you in the front...

A true girlfriend stabs you in the front…

The scene is just a little ambiguous. After Winn suggests she might be willing to make a public announcement in favour of Federation membership immediately, Sisko is quick to distance himself from the possible suggestion of meddling in Bajoran affairs. “Unfortunately, if we were to appear together in public before the Choosing, it might be misconstrued as an endorsement of your bid to become the Kai,” he candidly remarks when she presses him for an immediate appearance. “The election of the Kai is strictly an internal affair to Bajor. As a Federation officer, I would never interfere.”

So the Prime Directive is maintained. Sisko does not interfere, directly – even if the interference might advance his mission on Bajor. That said, even if Sisko were willing to break the Prime Directive and deal with the devil, it seems unlikely he’d be dumb enough to count on Winn keeping her word. Still, there’s something uncomfortable about the scene, and the show plays the ambiguities quite well.

The man who would be Kai...

The man who would be Kai…

While Sisko refuses to directly engage with the election, he is willing to offer his endorsement to Winn outside of election season in return for support of his agenda. He might just be needling Winn to see how many principles she’d sacrifice for power, but there’s also a sense that Sisko is a competent political animal in his own right. More than that, though, there’s also the suggestion that Sisko has been indirectly engaged with the Choosing.

“It’s common knowledge that you support Vedek Bareil,” Winn notes. “Although I have been pleasantly surprised that you haven’t made any public statement to that effect.” Of course, how Winn gauges or measures “common knowledge” is unlikely to be scientific. At the same time, Deep Space Nine suggests that it’s impossible for Sisko to be completely apolitical. His job isn’t to act in the best interests of Bajor as a political entity in its own right – indeed, his principles tell him that it’s not his position to presume to know those best interests.

Don't leave me hangin', bro...

Don’t leave me hangin’, bro…

However, those principles would also seem to be at odds with his role as an intergalactic recruitment agent. Sisko is not impartial, because he has a very clear agenda tying into Bajoran politics. His mission is to get Bajor to join the Federation. If that means appearing in public with and implicitly endorsing Winn Adami (outside of election season), he’ll do it. The Collaborator seems quite wary of the colonial undertones of Sisko’s mission to Bajor.

One suspects that this is part of the reason why the biggest moment in the whole “Bajor joins the Federation” arc comes in the fifth season’s Rapture, as Bajor says no. Sure, there are important plot reasons for that decision – given the season’s final episode – but the conversation is never revisited. As far as Deep Space Nine is concerned, the final answer is “no.” Well, Sisko offers us the assurance that “one day Bajor will join the Federation – that I’m sure of”, but it’s never brought up again.

Odo can always spot a (shape)shifty character...

Odo can always spot a (shape)shifty character…

The show’s final meditation on the matter is to suggest that maybe it’s for the best if Bajor retains its own political independence for a while. Naturally, this turns out to be the correct decision. In the end, Sisko even dreams of retiring to Bajor, suggesting that his time on the station has converted him from a steadfast agent of the Federation into something else entirely. By the end of the series, Bajor is not of the Federation, but “the Sisko is of Bajor.”

Still, all of this is in the future and in the abstract. We should be talking about The Collaborator, which stands out as the first Bajoran episode in quite some time. And – in keeping with a lot of late second season Deep Space Nine – it’s really clever and exceedingly well constructed. It even manages to make Vedik Bareil seem almost interesting, which is no small accomplishment when you consider how wooden Philip Anglim’s performance can be at times.

Opaque Opaka...

Opaque Opaka…

It seems like the writers are hitting Bareil’s sweet spot here, as much as the character has a sweet spot. Unlike In the Hands of the Prophets, the show doesn’t try to paint the character as something of a liberal radical with cheeky stories and a finely-honed sense of politics. Also, now that he’s hooked up with Kira, the show has dropped the slightly creepy “mentor and would-be lover” vibe that made him seem a little strange in The Circle and The Siege.

Instead, Bareil is just a guy who is too stoic for his own his good. At the start of The Collaborator, he seems quietly confident that he’ll be elected Kai. He’s not shouting it from the roofs or anything, and not taking it for granted, but you get the sense that he is the front runner and he knows he’s the front runner. Being honest, it’s also the only portrayal of this whole Kai election that makes sense. Opaka’s been gone a year now, but there’s been no indication that Bajor’s been in religious turmoil since at least the events of The Siege.

The mystery box!

The mystery box!

Making Bareil the heir apparent and the presumed successor to the throne explains how this big religious election could be both unresolved and a non-issue for so long. It’s effectively a one-horse race after the events of In the Hands of the Prophets through The Siege. Bareil isn’t a candidate so much as he’s Kai-in-waiting. After so many episodes about political uncertainty on Bajor, there’s something quite comforting in the thought that something as vital as this could have been playing out behind the scenes without attracting the attention of our heroes.

The Collaborator is probably – along with Life Support – the episode that makes the best use of Philip Anglim as a guest star. Anglim’s performance style seems suited to a guy so used to hiding stuff that he’s become numb and distant, and we can immediately buy Bareil as the kind of character who has done something a little dodgy in the past but has very thoroughly buried it.

"Whoa."

“Whoa.”

The episode also makes good use of surreal Orb visions. I’m a sucker for absurdist dream imagery, and – while the washed-out golden hue looks a little dated and hazy (if only we had a remastered version of Deep Space Nine coming out) it’s vivid enough to be interesting. The use of imagery like vicious snakes, bloody daggers and hanging bodies is eye-catching enough that it doesn’t seem like a bunch of actors spouting vague nonsense in order to eat up screen time.

(There’s also a strange bit of symmetry here. The opening of The Collaborator features the sight of a Bajoran religious figure hanging themselves on the promenade as a condemnation of collaboration. The show would return to that image at the climax of Rocks and Shoals. The Collaborator is the third-last episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, while Rocks and Shoals is the second episode of the second-last episode. It’s not perfect symmetry, but it’s close enough to be worthy of an aside.)

Arresting him was a collaborative effort...

Arresting him was a collaborative effort…

We get a bit more insight into the Bajoran religion here. The show has kept the concept sort of vague. In The Circle, we discover that Kira keeps an alter in her quarters. In Crossover, it’s hinted that meditation might be a daily means of religious observance. We know that there’s a temple on the station, and that it offers sermons and services, but there’s very little real sense of what observance of the Bajoran religion actually entails.

Here, the show seems to emphasis the religion as relatively progressive and democratic. Although the show has alluded to the selection of a replacement for Kai Opaka, The Collaborator suggests that it will be an entirely democratic process. “Are you going to vote for me?” he jokingly asks Kira, although the length and extent of their vote suggests that she really does have a vote to cast in the selection of a new Kai.

For a Changeling, Odo has surprisingly poor composure...

For a Changeling, Odo has surprisingly poor composure…

This isn’t the sort of restrictive or exclusive in-house vote that we might have expected, given the existence of an organisation like the Vedek Assembly. Instead, it seems thoroughly modern, open and transparent. Also quite charming is the idea that Bareil isn’t hounded by the press or treated as a celebrity. The election for Kai is a big deal, but it doesn’t seem like a rat-race. Even Winn’s reluctance to directly (or even indirectly) leak the accusations against Bareil suggests that negative campaigning is frowned upon.

There’s also something quite wonderful and hopeful in the idea that the Bajoran religion can be open to interpretation and debate. As alluded to in Shadowplay, Kira doesn’t entirely agree with Bareil’s approach to key scripture. However, that doesn’t mean that she can’t love Bareil, and it certainly doesn’t mean that she can’t in good conscience vote for him. “I may not always agree with your interpretations of the prophecies, but I think you will make a wonderful Kai,” she states, in a wonderfully enlightened manner.

Holding on in there...

Holding on in there…

In a way, the portrayal of the Bajoran religion demonstrates that Roddenberry’s utopian ideals are not incompatible with organised religion, despite the decidedly atheist subtext of some of his later Star Trek work. It is possible for people with different belief systems to coexist. In the Hands of the Prophets suggested that Kira’s political and religious compass aligned rather closely with that of Vedek Winn, and her frequent disagreements with Bareil suggest she hasn’t moved too far away from that position.

However, Kira can hold those beliefs without becoming as vitriolic or as angry as Vedek Winn. It’s not the individual beliefs that matter, it’s how the person reconciles those beliefs with the wider world. It’s a rather heartwarming message, and I don’t think Deep Space Nine gets enough credit for approaching that topic. The show is frequently accused of being cynical, but it was also an exploration of how fundamentally different people could get along without compromising anything of who they were. That sounds like Star Trek to me.

What a lovely Kai!

What a lovely Kai!

Anyway, it’s interesting that Bareil is presented as a progressive candidate. The only explicit policy disagreement we see between Winn and Bareil comes early in the episode, on the promenade. “Remember now, honour the Prophets and they will always love you,” Winn advises some children, in that wonderfully polite but also quite terrifying manner we’ve come to love about Louise Fletcher’s portrayal. Bareil politely inquires, “As I understand the Sacred Texts, the Prophets’ love is unconditional. They ask nothing in return.”

It’s a rather enlightened view – decidedly “New Testament.” Bareil seems to imply that the Prophets love their children no matter what. They do not require strict adherence to worship, devotion to ritual or even belief. They instead smile benignly upon the Bajoran people like concerned parents. Indeed, Bareil’s view seems to synch up with the show’s portrayal of the Prophets. While they have a fondness for Bajor and “the Sisko” (as evidenced in The Sacrifice of Angels), they don’t seem to be too bothered by Sisko’s beliefs or those of the planet below.

Deal with it...

Deal with it…

A cynic might argue that Bareil’s philosophy lines up the trends in pop culture religion outlined by Jeff Gordinier in a October 1994 issue of Entertainment Weekly, only a few months after The Collaborator aired:

In a year when TV airwaves are aflutter with winged spirits, the bestseller lists are clogged with divine manuscripts and visions of the afterlife, and gangsta-rappers are elbowed aside on the pop charts for the hushed prayers of Benedictine monks, you don’t have to look hard to find that pop culture is going gaga for spirituality. [However,] seekers of the day are apt to peel away the tough theological stuff and pluck out the most dulcet elements of faith, coming up with a soothing sampler of Judeo-Christian imagery, Eastern meditation, self-help lingo, a vaguely conservative craving for ‘virtue,’ and a loopy New Age pursuit of ‘peace.’ This happy free-for-all, appealing to Baptists and stargazers alike, comes off more like Forrest Gump’s ubiquitous ‘boxa chocolates’ than like any real system of belief. You never know what you’re going to get.

In a way, you could try to contextualise the conflict between Bareil and Winn as part of a larger media conflict in the nineties between traditional Catholic ideology and more new age religious beliefs.

Waking up and smelling the coffee...

Waking up and smelling the coffee…

Perhaps suggesting the conflict was millennial, it reached its absurd climax in 1999’s Stigmata, where Gabriel Byrne became the champion of a new age heavily gnostic bible against a Catholic Church so sinister and secretive that seemed like it could have been part of The X-Files. Roger Ebert rather effectively summed up the somewhat muddled manifesto as “the funniest movie ever made about Catholicism–from a theological point of view.”

The vague new age-y belief-y stuff that Byrne’s disillusioned priest unearthed was a rather heavily modified version of The Gospel of St. Thomas, with decidedly gnostic overtones. The film portrayed the Church’s reaction as conspiratorial and oppressive, when the Catholic Church’s reaction has generally been one of relative indifference. (That said, Pope John Paul II acknowledged gnosticism as one of the greatest threats to the church in Crossing the Threshold of Hope and Don Giussani claims to have advised His Holiness that “not agnosticism, but Gnosticism is the danger for the Christian faith!”)

mirror!Kira isn't the only sexy Kira...

mirror!Kira isn’t the only sexy Kira…

Alternatively, the election contest between Bareil and Winn could be read as a conflict between a more liberal belief system and more traditional religious values. It could also be seen as an expression of a more overt political conflict playing out in American culture during the nineties. James Davison Hunter introduced the term into the popular lexicon with the publication of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America in 1991, and Republican Pat Buchanan used the term during his address to the Republican National Convention in 1992.

Discussing the nineties, it’s hard to avoid the rise of the religious right, with a massive resurgence during the 1994 mid-term elections returning an impressive Republican majority, a Republican majority led by Newt Gingrich – who would lead the charge against Clinton during the Lewinsky Affair in 1998. (Hypocritically, while having an extramarital affair himself.) However, the nineties also saw the emergence of what might be termed “the religious left.”

The Kai's the limit...

The Kai’s the limit…

After all, despite criticisms from traditional religious groups, Bill Clinton did not position himself as a secularist. Although the Southern Baptist Church he grew up in might have condemned some of his decisions, and cynics might suggest that he simply “knew the language”, columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. argues he was very religious:

Bill Clinton was religious. Bill Clinton could quote Scripture with the best of them. Bill Clinton could preach with the best of them. He gave some very powerful speeches at Notre Dame, where he sounded Catholic; at African-American churches, where he sounded AME or Baptist. Now, these all overlap. It wasn’t contradictory. And he quoted Scripture at least as much, if not more than George W. Bush does.

The Clintons maintained ties to various religious organisations and figures during their time in office. Indeed, Hilary Clinton’s 1993 “politics of meaning” speech was drawn from Rabbi Michael Lerner, who would publish The Left Hand of God in 2004. The culture war in American politics wasn’t necessarily religion-against-secularism, it was about two different ideas of faith conflicting.

If only he'd play ball...

If only he’d play ball…

In Clinton and the Culture Wars, author James L. Guth argues that Clinton appealed as much to a particular school of religious voter as he did to secularists, rather than appealing exclusively to non-religious voters:

Although his handling of some cultural issues resulted in temporary increases in Democratic vote totals, the underlying structure of cultural issues persisted. While some moderate mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Hispanic Protestants moved toward the Democrats as a result of the president’s careful triangulation, most evangelical Protestants – the new core of the GOP – actually moved farther away. And this is not surprising: the fundamental cultural positions of the Clinton administration did little to appease the strong concerns of this constituency over abortion, gay rights, school choice, and similar issues. The administration’s moderate positions on personal responsibility, school violence and V-chips appealed to some religious traditionalists, but not to most evangelicals. On the other end, the strong approval Clinton received from religious minorities and secular citizens often reflected support for the same policies that evangelical traditionalists found so distasteful.

In a way, a lot of this seems to play out through the Bajoran religion, with Deep Space Nine very much a product of its time. It’s a more nuanced and mature approach to religion, rather than the simplistic atheism that Roddenberry wove through some of his later Star Trek work. (Although, even acknowledging Roddenberry’s championing of atheism, one should note that Starfleet seemed tolerant of monotheism in Who Mourns for Adonais? and Bread and Circuses.)

A gateway to the future?

A gateway to the future?

It should also be noted that, quite simply, The Collaborator is a pretty fantastic little episode. Star Trek does morality plays remarkably well, and The Collaborator is a particularly juicy one. What lengths would you go to in order to protect the reputation of a figure-head? Kai Opaka is revealed as a collaborator, a woman who sacrificed her own son to save countless lives. However, she’s also a vitally important figure to Bajor. As Bareil explains, “I could never replace Opaka. Bajor wouldn’t have survived the occupation without her.”

There’s a fascinating ethical issue here. Can a lie ever be better than the truth? Is hope build on something patently untrue completely worthless? Is it valid to destroy everything good that has come from a person’s legacy by shattering the public perception of them? At the same time, who has the right to decide such things? Who holds the moral authority to decide whether the people can or can’t be trusted? What gives Bareil and Kira (and Winn) just cause to withhold such information?

Old grudges...

Old grudges…

In a way, The Collaborator calls to mind the climax of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, where Batman and James Gordon conspire to secure Gotham’s future on the basis of a myth concocted about Harvey Dent. Released at the height of the War on Terror, The Dark Knight generated no shortage of debate about the idea of lying to the public in the pursuit of the greater good. Indeed, a significant portion of The Dark Knight Rises seems intended to directly deconstruct that position by demonstrating how fragile the unity built on a lie can be.

The Collaborator never delves too heavily into the matter. Indeed, it might have been nice to see the issue return to haunt Bajor a few years down the line. Like what is arguably the show’s strongest hour, In the Pale Moonlight, the show puts an incredible amount of weight upon a few shoulders. The Collaborator never really offers a definitive answer one way or the other on the matter. It allows Opaka to retain her status as a hero, securing Bajor’s romanticised past. But that lie allows Winn to become Kai, effectively undermining Bajor’s future.

Hi, Kai!

Hi, Kai!

(It’s also worth pausing to note just what a wonderful idea it was to put Winn in a position of power. Apparently the original script ended with Bareil becoming Kai. I can’t imagine how boring that show would have been. You could sort of assume that everything was probably ticking over grand on Bajor, but that doesn’t make good drama. Putting somebody who hates Sisko and Kira in a position of power is absolutely brilliant storytelling. And it pays off down the line.)

At the same time, The Collaborator is also a pretty brilliant piece of character-based storytelling. The central mystery concerns Bareil, but the episode also thrusts Kira into the role of investigator, tasked with figuring out what her lover is hiding. It seems like a pretty gimmicky set-up – Kira discovers her lover has a dark secret! – but it fits what we know of Kira as a character. Kira is a character who has seen the worst in people. There’s a reason that Tribunal cast her as the devil’s advocate when O’Brien is accused of treachery.

Prophets and loss...

Prophets and loss…

Kira didn’t grow up in a post-scarcity paradise where a replicator could provide everything she needs. In Shadowplay, she explains to Bareil that she grew up in a refugee camp. (With two brothers – by the way – who never show up on the show, so make what inferences you will.) Kira liberated a labour camp that Duet tried to paint as a futuristic Auschwitz. Necessary Evil showed us that Kira even had to kill Bajorans to help liberate her planet.

It’s a pretty crappy personal history, and the fact that Kira has been to hell and back helps the episode’s introductory sequence seem heart-warming rather than overly saccharine. If anybody deserves the right to be happily and goofily in love making out with a handsome (if boring) shirtless hunk, it’s Kira. She has earned a break. And yet we know enough of her character to know that she will never be completely blindsided by Bareil because she’ll never let her guard down completely.

(Bar)keeping them informed...

(Bar)keeping them informed…

She won’t overlook a potential scab because it might undermine her happiness. She’ll go poking at it, because she knows what those sorts of things can hide. She confesses her love of Bareil to Odo in a wonderfully heartbreaking sequence. (How does she not know he’s in love with her – “you humanoids… when it comes to emotional attachments, you never see the obvious” indeed!) It’s a moment that could seem cynical or coy, or at odds with the fact that she’s sabotaging his election bid, but instead it feels perfectly in keeping with what we know of her.

(I also love how Winn is smart enough to manipulate Kira in this way. Winn knows that Kira is honest enough that she couldn’t bring herself to cover up for Bareil, so Winn gets the bonus of unearthing her rival’s secret without having to do her own dirty work. Winn’s decision to trust Kira’s investigation seems like a gambit, until we realise that Winn just has a very good read on Kira. The fact that it allows Winn to undermine a loving relationship between two people she hates is icing on the cake. Have I mentioned that Nana Visitor and Louise Fletcher are very good? Because they are.)

Talk about a healthy glow...

Talk about a healthy glow…

That said, the only real question I have is how Kubus Oak is a collaborator and Odo isn’t. Kubus signed what amounted to death warrants for the Cardassians, but episodes like Things Past and even Necessary Evil make it clear that Odo wasn’t above handing Bajorans over to the authorities to face execution. The only difference was that (Things Past notwithstanding) Odo probably felt the people being executed deserved it. However, while that’s a nice character beat, I always felt it strange that the Bajorans were so quick to forgive. Obviously, Odo’s conduct isn’t too similar to that of Kubus, but I find it interesting that Kubus is punished so harshly while Odo is let off scot free.

(It’s not really related to everything, but I love that there’s a Pakled clearly visible in the other holding cell. It really gives the impression of Deep Space Nine as a frontier town when Odo has people outside the week’s plot cooling their heels for a bit – it gives the impression that the station can be a bit wild and untamed at time, putting the “frontier” back in “final frontier.” It’s a small touch, but I appreciate it.)

Ah, that "did you kill the space pop's son?" conversation is a milestone in any budding relationship...

Ah, that “did you kill the space pop’s son?” conversation is a milestone in any budding relationship…

Still, The Collaborator is a pretty wonderful piece of television, and another example of how Deep Space Nine has really found its feet.

You might be interested in our reviews of the second season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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3 Responses

  1. Although Prophet Motive is the next episode to meet the Prophets, I always thought Destiny was the next one to tackle Bajoran religion and Sisko’s status as the Emissary.

  2. I agree with your doubts about Odo – the same thing occurred to me. Part of that might be explained by his “otherness” (he is no real Bajoran), another part might be that he seems to have a much more neutral position, really caring for the law wheras the “true” collaborators merely were in it for their own sake. But it seems to be a bit strange, especially given Odo’s very self-righteous reaction to Kubus.

    Other than that it is one of my favorite early shows. I also found Bareil/Anglim’s acting very fitting and his serene aura very compelling here as it served the character story, much better somehow than in previous episodes. The end is heart-breaking and quite foreshadowing (where will Winn lead Bajor?). And I loved Sisko’s dialogue with Winn and his witty smile during that.

    • The Collaborator is probably one of my favourite Bajor stories, and proof that the concept can work. It’s a shame that the show couldn’t keep doing one or two of these a year. I’d much rather two or three episodes like this than anything involving the Pah-Wraiths.

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