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Star Trek: Enterprise – Chosen Realm (Review)

Next year, Star Trek is fifty years old. We have some special stuff planned for that, but – in the meantime – we’re reviewing all of Star Trek: Enterprise this year as something of a prequel to that anniversary. This August, we’re doing the third season. Check back daily for the latest review.

Chosen Realm is Manny Coto’s second script for Star Trek: Enterprise.

His script for Similitude marked Coto as something of an old-fashioned Star Trek writer. It was clear that Coto harboured a great deal of affection for the source material, and Similitude was structured in the style of a classic Star Trek morality play. It was a story about the circumstances in which “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one.” There is a reason that Star Trek fans are so very fond of Similitude, particularly given its position in the middle of a rather polarising and provocative season.

Archer encounter an enemy with faith of the heart...

Archer encounter an enemy with faith of the heart…

However, it was not entirely clear just how traditional Manny Coto was in his approach to Star Trek until the broadcast of Chosen Realm. If Similitude felt like a classic Star Trek morality play, then Chosen Realm literally was a classic Star Trek morality play. A commentary on religious fanaticism and zealotry, Chosen Realm was very much an update of the iconic Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Coto is quite explicit about this, rather blatantly borrowing the emotive (and poignant) ending from that episode.

Although it aired in the much-maligned third season, and has no shortage of its own problems, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield is an instantly recognisable Star Trek allegory. Casual fans – and even those with a passing familiarity with the franchise – remember “the one with the aliens who are half-black and half-white who are racist against the aliens who are half-white and half-black.” It is not a subtle or nuanced allegory, but it doesn’t really need to be. It is not as if the sort of blatant racism against which the Civil Rights movement fought was a grey area.

"I think I've seen this before..."

“I think I’ve seen this before…”

Unfortunately, Chosen Realm chooses to apply this simplistic metaphor to a complicated issue. In keeping with the War on Terror metaphor running through the third season, Chosen Realm explicitly ties religion into the larger arc. Archer finds his ship hijacked by a bunch of religious suicide bombers actively intent on turning Enterprise into a weapon that can be deployed against those who believe differently than they do. This is a very classic Star Trek morality tale – the “religion is bad” theme dating back to Who Mourns For Adonais? or The Apple.

Religion is undoubtedly an element of the War on Terror, but it is not the only issue or an issue that exists in isolation. Islamic extremism (as Chosen Realm never seems particularly interested in the trope of Christian extremism) is rooted in more than simply faith. There are political and economic factors at play that are just as vital to understanding why things happen in the way that they happen. Chosen Realm is uninterested in any of this, structuring itself as Richard Dawkins rant in science-fiction form.

What was that about politics or religion?

What was that about politics or religion?

There is a lot of pressure on a writer’s second script, particularly if the first was well-received. As Jolene Blalock noted of Chosen Realm:

Manny has a vision. When I was reading Manny’s second script (Chosen Realm) – because whenever you read a writer’s first script, you’re always thinking, ‘Ok, but let’s see what the next one is like….’ – I found it was very interesting.

Chosen Realm is a bit clunkier than Similitude, even if it does offer quite a bit of foreshadowing about Manny Coto’s specific interests as a Star Trek writer.

A ticking time bomb...

A ticking time bomb…

To be fair to Coto, Chosen Realm does demonstrate why the writer was so appealing to both fans and the production team. It explains why Rick Berman and Brannon Braga would feel comfortable turning the show over to him in the fourth season, and why an increasingly fractured and seemingly unpleasable Star Trek fanbase would actually give him a chance in the new role. Coto is an ideal prospective showrunner from both the perspective of somebody working on the show and from those watching the series.

Coto had been hired towards the start of the third season. He had been thrown in at the deep end. Although most new staff members were allowed a little time to acclimatise to the job, Coto was immediately handed a story assignment. Despite the fact that he was only just settling in, Coto managed to produce Similitude in a phenomenally short amount of time. The episode was well-received, proving Coto knew his stuff. More important than that, particularly for a show in something of a crisis mode, he was fast.

"Would you REALLY miss Mayweather?"

“Would you REALLY miss Mayweather?”

Chosen Realm was produced almost directly after Similitude. The two episodes were separated by Carpenter Street, but there was an astonishingly quick turnaround on Coto’s first two scripts for the show. More than that, neither script was terrible. Both scripts were functional and efficient, but also (mostly) dramatically satisfying. Fans of television often under-appreciate just how much speed actually matters in a television writer, particular for a show churning out twenty-odd-episode seasons.

(One of the interesting things about any fandom is that this really should be more obvious. There are quite a few fandoms that have significant issues with particular writers on particular shows – with commentators frequently wondering how certain writers are still on staff when other better writers have moved on. The answer is typically related to speed and efficiency. While these maligned writers may not consistently produce the best scripts, they are generally fast and agreeable, two virtues that showrunners like in staff writers.)

Archer's back, baby...

Archer’s back, baby…

This explains why Manny Coto seemed like such a godsend to Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. Given that the duo had written and re-written a lot of the show’s first two seasons, they undoubtedly appreciated a writer who could produce above-standard material in a relatively short time. Coupled with his showrunning experience on Odyssey 5, this firmly established Manny Coto as a suitable replacement showrunner when Berman and Braga decided to take a step away from the show in its final year.

So it is quite clear why Coto was so favoured on the staff – he was a great writer by the professional standards of the industry with actual showrunning experience. Coto was also quite appealing to a fanbase that had not always been particularly friendly to the writing staff on Enterprise. Coto certainly earned much greater respect from the on-line fanbase than other staff writers like Mike Sussman, Phyllis Strong, Chris Black or David A. Goodman. A lot of this is probably down to how he approached the material.

"You know, there was a time when the show suggested that stepping in the transporter was a death sentence. I remember those days..."

“You know, there was a time when the show suggested that stepping in the transporter was a death sentence. I remember those days…”

Star Trek fandom is quite conservative – narratively, at least. The fanbase does not like change. There was a very vocal section of the fanbase that spent the first three seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation complaining that it was not really Star Trek. There was (and still is) a vocal section of the fanbase that might grudgingly concede that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a good show, but “it’s not really Star Trek.” This is to say nothing of the pettiness of voting Star Trek Into Darkness as the worst Star Trek film on its release.

Star Trek fans tend to be quite fixed in their vision of what Star Trek should be, and do not respond well to anything that differs from that. (This is arguably true of any sufficiently large fandom. Even Doctor Who, a show that literally baked reinvention into its DNA early in its fourth season.) A lot of the criticisms of Enterprise as a show tend to focus on its perceived lack of respect for the Star Trek canon, ignoring the fact that Star Trek continuity has always had a certain malleability and flexibility to it.

Ship of the damned...

Ship of the damned…

(Such fans didn’t need to actually see Regeneration before complaining about it. The superficial similarities between Judgment and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country were enough to dismiss the episode as a rip-off, without any real consideration of its underlying themes or ideas. There is something of a double-standard here, as same fans who mercilessly mocked all the contrivances underpinning North Star are quite able to ignore the same sorts of issue when they appear in stories like A Piece of the Action.)

Coto was very much a writer steeped in the mood and aesthetic Star Trek. His first script was the sort of “morality play” that fans associate with the franchise, one of those great allegorical “what if?” stories that asks the viewer to deal with a hypothetical question that ties back to larger moral and philosophical issues. There is a tendency to treat Star Trek as something of a science-fiction update of Aesop’s fables. Ronald D. Moore even argued that “the lifeblood of Star Trek’s television shows is its morality plays and social commentary.”

"Not near the torpedoes!"

“Not near the torpedoes!”

Even before his plans for the fourth season revealed the extent of his love for the classic Star Trek show, it was quite clear that Coto was a fan of good old-fashioned Star Trek storytelling aesthetics. “I always thought that Enterprise could have a lot more fun with tying into the original series, which is what I was always a huge fan of,” Coto told Robert Greenberger, in an interview for The Complete Unauthorized History. His work on the fourth season demonstrates that in terms of continuity; but his work on the third suggests it in his storytelling.

The fourth season gets a lot of the credit for reconnecting Enterprise with its Star Trek roots, but the trend began during the third year. The links are not as explicitly rooted in continuity, but there is a strong aesthetic trend towards the earliest Star Trek show. The pulpy sexy slave girl aesthetic of Rajiin is an obvious example, but it is not the only one. North Star was very much a classic “alternate Earth” and “literal space western” episode like Bread and Circuses or The Spectre of a Gun. Exile seemed to draw from The Squire of Gothos.

Shouldering his peoples' faith...

Shouldering his peoples’ faith…

Coto’s script for Chosen Realm is pretty much an update of Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, the third season episode of the original Star Trek that found Kirk and his crew embroiled in a rather broad metaphor for the pointless folly of racially-motivated hatred. In that episode, the planet Cheron finds itself divided among racial lines. The dominant chaste is half-black on the right-hand side and half-white on their left-hand side; the persecuted minority is half-white on the right-hand side and half-black on their left-hand side.

The allegorical point is obvious. Judging somebody on the colour of their skill is an irrational and illogical act, one that the episode emphasises by demonstrating how trivial differences in skin pigment can be. Kirk and his crew are shocked that so much hatred could be built around so pointless a detail. It is not a particularly subtle allegory, even before Kirk and his crew discover that the pointless conflict has completely destroyed the planet Cheron and everybody inhabiting it.

"Now our positions are reversed..."

“Now our positions are reversed…”

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield is not a good episode. It is clunkily written, and it hammers the audience over the head with its central metaphor for fifty minutes. However, it is one of the defining examples of that “Star Trek as morality play” mode that fans love about the franchise; its simplicity becomes a virtue, allowing the fifty minutes be reduced to a handful of devastating (and effective) images that work better in isolation than they do repeated over the course of an hour.

It is an archetypal and quintessential Star Trek story, even if it is not a very good one. (There are quite a few of those; demonstrating that even when the original Star Trek was not always very good, it was frequently iconic and memorable.) It is easy to see why Coto would want to return to that sort of story, and why fans would be quite happy to see such a distinctive piece of Star Trek lore updated for the early years of the twenty-first century. After all, blowing the dust off that classic story just reaffirms its timelessness.

Burning zealotry...

Burning zealotry…

(On a slightly more cynical note, the script is careful to keep the references outside the narrative itself. Coto does not pile too many obvious or explicit pieces of continuity into the episode. As a result, Chosen Realm is much less likely to be described as a “rip-off” than Judgment and much less likely to be subjected to criticisms of treading well-worn ground than Regeneration, despite the fact that it is steeped just as firmly in the franchise’s history and draws just as deeply from existing material.)

Chosen Realm owes a lot to Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. Much like the characters in Let That Be yOur Last Battlefield, the feuding religious characters in Chosen Realm invert the markings on each others’ faces; D’Jamat wears his tattoo on the right-hand side, his opponents on the left. Both stories featuring the hijacking of the Enterprise, with the commanding officers winning the ship back through the threat of destruction. Not to mention the ironic closing twist common to both episodes.

Mark his words...

Mark his words…

Chosen Realm is an episode that is quite pointedly trying to say something important and meaningful. In a contemporary webchat, actor Scott Bakula made the obvious connection between Chosen Realm and the central themes of the third season:

Well, Chosen Realm has to do with a species that’s been dealing with what we think is religious fanaticism, with regard to the spheres. And it turns out to be about something quite different than that. But it has to do with, in many ways, similarities to the situation in the Middle East.

D’Jamat is a religious zealot who would happily murder anybody with whom he disagrees. At one point, he erases weeks of research into the Spheres because he considers such scientific study to be blasphemous. It recalls the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in the months before 9/11.

"We have to get to the Armoury, Lieutenant. We're retaking the ship." "Yay!"  "We need the MACOs." "Aw."

“We have to get to the Armoury, Malcolm. We’re retaking the ship.”
“We need the MACOs.”

The Triannon people become a catch-all stereotype for religious extremism. In fact, they are only able to hijack the ship because they can hide behind their religious beliefs. “I’m unable to perform detailed bioscans,” Phlox tells Archer. “They have an aversion to any kind of invasive medical care, for religious reasons.” Of course, if Phlox had been able to run detailed scans of the Triannon people, he might have been able to figure out that they carried “powerful organic explosives” that served to turn them into human bombs.

Later it is revealed that their religious beliefs also extend to control of women’s bodies. “I understand your wife paid a visit to Sickbay,” Archer tells one of the hijackers at one point. “She had a long talk with my doctor. She’s pregnant.” He adds, “I guess you also know she wants to end the pregnancy.” It is an interesting conversation on a number of levels, despite being something of a cliché and calling doctor-patient confidentiality into question. It is the first time that the franchise has come out equivocally and unambiguously in favour of abortion.

"It's okay, you'll still be the only character who gets any lines."

“It’s okay, Malcolm, you’ll still be the only character who gets any lines.”

While this is arguably just as valid a criticism of radical Christianity as it is of Islamic fundamentalism, it is quite clear where Chosen Realm is really aiming its political and social commentary. D’Jamat is very firmly rooted in the pop cultural stereotype of the jihadist. He is a hijacker and a maniac, a man who would turn his own followers into suicide bombers and who has drawn outsiders into what should essentially be a domestic affair. He even targets those who try to help him.

It is a very crude depiction of religious terrorism, one that feels rooted in a very superficial and somewhat one-sided understanding of geo-politics. Islamic fundamentalism is absolutely horrifying and barbaric – just like many other forms of fundamentalism all across the world. It has been used to justify horrific and brutal acts against innocent populations around the globe. However, it does not exist in a vacuum. One of the most pervasive myths about 9/11 is the idea that the attack came out of nowhere, shattering a decade of peace and prosperity.

"Good buy, faithful cargo container."

“Good buy, faithful cargo container.”

That is not entirely true. The attacks just seemed to come out of nowhere. After all, they were not the first attempts to destroy the World Trade Centre. The War on Terror is the result of a complex mechanism of cause-and-effect that stretches back decades and which involves all the major global powers as more than just passive observers. Chosen Realm treats Archer as a tourist embroiled in a local religious skirmish, which is a very shallow (but surprisingly common) interpretation of the campaign of terror that was launched against the West in the twenty-first century.

Chosen Realm strips out any sense of nuance or sensitivity in order to make cheap shots. “These people you’re fighting,” Archer wonders at one point. “What makes them heretics?” One of the hijackers explains, “We believe the Makers created the Chosen Realm in nine days. They believe it took ten.” Archer is somewhat incredulous. “For that, you’ve been at war for over a century?” he asks, rhetorically. He does not get a response. He doesn’t have to; this is the episode’s “he’s black on the other half of his face” moment.

"We've learned an important lesson here today. Next time, make sure we pay no heed to the religious customs or beliefs of any of our guests."

“We’ve learned an important lesson here today. Next time, make sure we pay no heed to the religious customs or beliefs of any of our guests.”

Triannon culture is religious to the point of self-parody. In particular D’Jamat seems to have quite the bone to pick with science. “Your species is obsessed with numbers,” he confesses to Archer. “A characteristic of your misguided belief that the secrets of the universe can be revealed through science.” That seems a little hypocritical coming from a character who is super-excited to have hijacked a warp-capable ship with high-tech weaponry that he plans to use in a religious war against his enemies.

When Archer asks D’Jamat about the Xindi, D’Jamat responds, “We place very little emphasis on meeting other lifeforms. Space travel for us is merely a means to bring us closer to the Spheres.” There is a sense that Chosen Realm is trying to have it both ways. The idea that a civilisation so pathologically disdainful of science seems unlikely to develop the mechanisms to organise a space program, let alone a fleet. The plot hinges of the Triannon characters being able to browse the ship’s logs and handle weapons, but not being about to read up on the transporter.

He hasn't a prayer...

He hasn’t a prayer…

Of course, all of this could be explained somehow. Maybe the space craft are relics from an earlier civilisation. Perhaps the Triannon people were not always so devote; maybe the faithful simply use the left-over pieces from an earlier secular society. However, Chosen Realm never seems too interested in the mechanics of all this. It never seems particularly interested in exploring the types of conditions that feed and encourage a faith that is so toxic and bitter. There are no hints of any context for D’Jamat, beyond his faith.

Let That Be Your Last Battlefield might have simplified the racial politics of the United States, but it had its heart in the right place. The problem with Chosen Realm is that it patronisingly oversimplifies its arguments in order to score easy points. Even if the differences between radical Islam and Buddhism (or between extreme Christianity and Judaism) were as trivial as the number of days in which God designed the universe, that would not be the cause or the root of aggression between the groups. It would be a justification, at the very best.

Pregnant pause...

Pregnant pause…

This is very much old-school Star Trek approach to matters of faith and religion. This is the kind of story that the franchise would tell in the sixties, when it seemed like the franchise believed that faith and spirituality existed at odds with reason and rationality. This is the type of attitude that feeds into stories like The Apple or Justice. It feels like a step backwards from Deep Space Nine, where these ideas were handled with a great deal of care and nuance – treated as complex issues that could not be reduced to crude stereotypes.

In fact, Chosen Realm feels almost passive-aggressive towards the more nuanced approach shown to faith and spirituality in Deep Space Nine. The make-up on the Triannon characters feels consciously designed to evoke the Bajoran people – a minimal amount of make-up, focusing on a distinctive nose ridge. Even the braiding of the men’s hair behind their ears looks almost like the distinctive Bajoran earings, to say nothing of the fact that they also wear the robes associated with most of the franchise’s religious aliens, but particularly Bajoran religious officials.

"But don't worry, I'm sure the Makers spared you for a purpose."

“But don’t worry, I’m sure the Makers spared you for a purpose.”

Then again, a lot of the third season of Enterprise is exploring similar territory to the final years of Deep Space Nine. Although it was produced in the late nineties, there are a lot of elements of Deep Space Nine that feel strangely prescient, accounting for the fact that the third season of Enterprise would want to touch on similar topics. The Dominion and the Xindi are both enemies composed of several distinct species; the Founders and the Sphere Builders add a religious element to the conflict; both Archer and Sisko find themselves good men going to war.

In fact, Deep Space Nine was so prescient that producer Ronald D. Moore was able to use it as practise for his later work on Battlestar Galactica. One of the big recurring themes of Ronald D. Moore’s reboot of Battlestar Galatica was the idea of faith and spirituality as a motivator in epic warfare. It is unfortunate that Battlestar Galactica was exploring these themes so well at a point where Enterprise was clearly struggling to make them all fit together. Chosen Realm makes a case for the franchise’s obsolescence.

In lock down...

In lock down…

To be fair, Chosen Realm is very much an edge case when it comes to the exploration of the War on Terror. Rather shrewdly, the season generally avoiding focusing too heavily on “the other” embroiled in the conflict with Earth. Chosen Realm is perhaps the closest that the show comes to literalising the War on Terror themes of the season, to the point of creating an antagonist designed to evoke the general perception of the nebulous enemy in the real world. The Triannon characters feel like stock War on Terror baddies.

During the rest of the third season, the show was more interested in exploring what the War on Terror meant to the United States. The show interrogated Archer’s response to a terrorist atrocity, but it also avoided positioning the Xindi as space!Taliban or cosmic!al-Qaeda. Instead, the Xindi were presented as another twisted reflection of the Federation – a confederacy of interests and alliances built around a common goal, with deep schisms developing. The Xindi occasionally felt like an analogue for an increasingly divided and fragmented United States, to mirror Archer.

Spheres of influence...

Spheres of influence…

Perhaps appropriately, this is also the episode that explicitly adds a religion component to the mystery surrounding the Spheres. “We’re not here to study the Spheres, we’re here to venerate them,” D’Jamat tells Archer. “We believe that it is through prayer and meditation that the Makers become manifest.” He explains that “the Makers” are “the creators of the Spheres. I’ve felt their presence here.” The show never leans on the point as heavily as it does here, but the show does equate the Sphere Builders with gods in the episodes ahead.

This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of Chosen Realm, the way that it foreshadows certain thematic arms by framing them in an explicitly religious context. “Mythology often has a basis in fact,” T’Pol states at one point, and the rest of the season reveals that D’Jamat is quite close to understanding the purpose of the Spheres when he observes that “the Maker’s Breath” (the spacial anomalies) “reshapes reality, allows ordinary men a glimpse of the divine.” That turns out to be quite true, just not in the sense that D’Jamat means it.

"Trip is never going to let me forget about this one."

“Trip is never going to let me forget about this one.”

The third season repeatedly alludes to the idea of the Sphere Builders as gods, but the show lacks the courage to really follow through on that. There is none of the ambiguity that surrounded the Prophets on Deep Space Nine, for example. Instead, the Sphere Builders are just time-travelling extra-dimensional aliens that the Triannon people have elevated to godhood; they are huxters, with more in common with the Ferengi from False Profits or Ardra from Devil’s Due. There is a sense that the show could have been more ambitious in its handling of these ideas.

At the same time, there is an efficiency to Chosen Realm. As much as it flounders as an allegory or piece of social commentary, it works remarkably well as a thriller. Coto is a writer with a firm understanding of structure and with a great sense of pacing, which explain why he fit in so well on 24 after the cancellation of Enterprise. Even when the “message” parts of the show don’t land as well as they might, Chosen Realm is more entertaining and engaging than something like Carpenter Street.

Blowing the whole thing wide open...

Blowing the whole thing wide open…

Conor O’Farrell actually does great work in the thankless role of D’Jamat. The zealot has none of the zest or energy of characters like Winn Adami or Skrain Dukat, but O’Farrell gives the character a quiet and reserved certainty. It is a performance choice that plays very well off co-star Scott Bakula. Unlike some of the other Star Trek leads, Bakula doesn’t tend to wrestle with his opponents for control of the screen; Bakula prefers a calm and stoic heroism to large-scale theatrical flourish. As such, Bakula and O’Farrell quietly complement each other.

Still, Chosen Realm feels like a misfire. It is a clumsy attempt at a classic Star Trek allegory that tries a little to hard to emulate a storytelling approach that felt heavy-handed more than three decades earlier. It is competent, and it does hint at towards Manny Coto’s future direction of the show, but it also feels like it is not trying as hard as it might.

9 Responses

  1. Religion is going to have a tough time of it in sci-fi…

    If you’ve watched Babylon Five for any length of time, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the religious folk wandering around. You have the Minbari, some Jews, a Crusader (David Warner)… but the bottom line is that these people are primitives. The Minbari worshiped a time traveler, the varied “Gods” were just Vorlons in disguise, and so on. Likewise the Prophets on DS9 never fooled me for a second as being something divine. Even if we hadn’t already met the Q (another reason why Trek can never approach religion even-handedly is because its own continuity…), why would God hang out above some backwater planet? The Prophets and Pah-wraiths aren’t gods to anyone but the Bajorans, who again are depicted as simple, stubborn religious folk.

    Not to be querulous. I like that ENT is dealing with these issues, too. 🙂

    • I think DS9 is more nuanced than you give it credit for. I loathe the introduction of the Pah Wraiths, but I think that episodes like Sacrifice of Angels make a credible argument that the Prophets are functionally gods in the world of DS9, even if they are also non-linear wormhole aliens. (They enact what is very clearly a deus ex machina.) And I think that’s much better than, say, the approach to Q – which is to normalise pretty much everything about a being who should be so powerful and so alien as to be a mythical construct.

      (But, then, that’s what Voyager does. It takes something alien and intriguing, and renders it banal. See also the Borg.)

      Although I accept that I seem to be in the minority among Star Trek fans, I am not a big fan of complete dismissal of religious belief – any more than I am a big fan of completely embracing religious belief. Absolute faith (whether in God or country or any authority) is toxic, but faith can also be empowering and a vital part of the human experience. And I think that to dismiss all faith as inherently “stupid” in the way that certain strands of atheism do is to miss the point, somewhat.

      And I think that the Prophets are a pretty interesting example, in that they don’t choose to become gods until Sacrifice of Angels. They exist above Bajor by coincidence and happenstance; the Bajorans choose to interpret them into their worldview. The Prophets are generally quite passive and disengaged, until Sisko manages to convince them that maybe they should accept at least some of the responsibility for their actions. (After all, if the wormhole had remained closed, there’s by no Dominion fleet pouring through it.)

      What I kinda liked about how aloof the Prophets were in the first few seasons was the way that it nodded towards the narcissism of a lot of organised religion. If you can conceive of a supreme being with control of everything that ever was or ever would be, how arrogant is to believe that this being is waiting on your (personal and collective) every action?

      How vain is it to believe that God cares about your life so meticulously that he objects to you eating meat on Friday? If God created the cosmos and ordered the universe, surely he has better things to be doing than worrying about you have sex outside of marriage?

      The Prophets didn’t really give two f*cks about Bajor, despite the fact that they were everything to the Bajorans. I thought that was an interesting dynamic.

      • I never thought of it like that. So, Bajor only matters insofar as it’s a penal colony for their enemy?

        Gripping stuff.

      • I loathe the Pah Wraith stuff, if only because it’s a much more generic way of handling the show’s religious themes than the first five or so seasons. I like the idea of the Prophets as existing beyond mortality and corporeality in a way that makes them terrifying and awe-inspiring. Turning them into “the good guys” in some eternal struggle simplifies them (and the show) greatly. A prime example is the fact that the show doesn’t seem to have any real problem with the whole “Sisko’s mother thing”, because it plays into this weird Christian archetype stuff.

  2. >and calling doctor-patient confidentiality into question.

    This would hardly be the first time Phlox ignored that ethical code. 🙂

    >Even if the differences between radical Islam and Buddhism (or between extreme Christianity and Judaism) were as trivial as the number of days in which God designed the universe, that would not be the cause or the root of aggression between the groups. It would be a justification, at the very best.

    I think the line could work if the one who spoke it (naive young worshiper guy) had accepted it at face value without exploring what other motives his people’s leadership might have had. Of course, the episode doesn’t offer an alternative. As it stands, it has more in common with Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle Book than real world terrorism.

    >“Would you REALLY miss Mayweather?”

    Are you kidding? He’s one of the most popular and beloved characters on the show! He’s integral to the series!

    We’re talking about the pet beagle, right?

    • Ha.

      I think Phlox has another confidentiality breach towards the end of the season, but I might be misremembering. Ah, Denobulian medical ethics; you are so alien.

  3. Okay Paramount and CBS does own the cheron man like lokia and bele

    The only two guys that been on TV

    But what about the rest of it dead planet I don’t think so not in the fan world

    We have cheron women cheron children cheron and babies and teenage
    I guess we can play with all it

    They lost out on something that could’ve gone into the right direction
    oh well

  4. This episode is so deeply a product of 2003-2004 that it almost hurts. The Osama bin Laden and Al Quaeda references are blunt and obvious, as is the Dawkins-inspired New Atheist line of reasoning that was popular at the same time.

    It’s also a suspect episode because this is earlier in Trek history, which would imply there may still be religious groups kicking around. Their conspicuous absence in other season is connected to the 1960s rooted idea of material progress rendering spirituality obsolete, which is amusing considering it was the cold war and the “Godless Commies” were essentially following the same ontology.

    At least Cato enjoys writing dialogue. We get actual conversations in some spots. I hope to see more of this.

    I do think this episode is almost purposely antagonistic to the more nuanced world-building done in DS9.

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