Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Past Prologue   Rewatch 
April 29, 2015 7:41 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

A member of the Bajoran underground seeks asylum on DS9, attracting the attention of the Cardassians and Klingons, and testing Kira's loyalties.

Garak: "Oh, it's just Garak. Plain, simple Garak."

Themes (Mild Spoilers)
* “Bajor for Bajorans!” Bajor’s progression from an oppressed and occupied world to player on the galactic stage.
* Bajoran freedom fighters adapting to the new world order.
* Character development: Garak, Odo, Bashir, Kira, Sisko
* Klingons and Cardassians as power players in DS9's neck of the woods.

Introduced in this episode
* Garak, a Cardassian tailor and Promenade shopkeeper of Garak's Clothiers who lives on Deep Space 9. He's an exile from the Cardassian Empire.
* Federation Admiral Rollman, played by Susan Bay, widow of Star Trek alum legend Leonard "Spock" Nimoy. Mrs. Bay will return in the Season 2 episode "Whispers."

Odo: "You know, Cardassian rule may have been oppressive but at least it was... simple."

Notes (mostly cribbed from here)
* This was the very first episode of the entire Star Trek franchise in which no ship named Enterprise appears.
* This episode marks the first time Dr. Bashir uses the expression, "I'm a doctor, not a...."
* Getting Garak's characterization right was important to both the crew and his actor, Andrew Robinson. Of the origins of the character, producer Peter Allan Fields says that "we needed a Cardassian who didn't act like one, so I finally put him in a tailor shop, and nobody hit me, so we kept him there." Director Winrich Kolbe says of the performance that "we agreed that Andy could push the envelope, but he couldn't leave the Cardassian platform. We had long talks about wardrobe and makeup, but we also talked about attitude, so that he would retain that stiffness that you see in all Cardassians." Finally, Andrew Robinson himself says of the character, "he's all subtext. If a smart guy like Garak says that he's 'plain and simple', you realize that he's not plain and not simple. And that there is a lot going on. Regardless of how innocuous or simple each line is, there's always something going on underneath that belies the line. And his eyes and the tone of his voice say something different than the words he's speaking. It's not an easy thing to work with subtext, but when you do it well, you really get people's attention."
* Garak was also given a tailor shop as an homage to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (for which Peter Allan Fields was a writer): the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters was in Del Floria’s tailor shop.
* Nana Visitor requested Kira's hairstyle be changed from the pilot episode: "I just didn't feel that Major Kira would style her hair every day. She wouldn't care! I wanted a hairstyle that looked like she just woke up in the morning looking like that."
* The sentiments Tahna Los expresses toward the Federation, as well as his phrase "Bajor for Bajorans," come back in the beginning of season two with a three-part story arc ("The Homecoming", "The Circle", "The Siege") involving an extremist faction known as Alliance for Global Unity.
* The Cardassian method of torture, via a pain-inducing implant under the skin that leaves an unpleasant scar as seen in TNG: "Chain of Command, Part II" is referred to in this episode, as Julian Bashir notes scarring on Tahna Los during a medical exam.
* This is the first time that the Klingons appear on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
* This episode marks the only appearances of Lursa (Barbara March) and B'Etor (Gwynyth Walsh), the Duras sisters, on the series. However, their mirror universe counterparts, Lursa and B'Etor, would later be mentioned in "Crossover" and their nephew Toral appears in "The Sword of Kahless".
* Kira and Odo's friendship is established in this episode.
* Among the clothes seen in Garak's shop is the costume worn by Steven Miller in TNG: "Haven", the Risa outfit worn by Sovak in "Captain's Holiday" and one of Kamala's dresses from "The Perfect Mate".
* Sisko mentions the Klingon Civil War, which took place in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Redemption" and "Redemption II". This episode reveals the House of Duras are attempting to rebuild their forces by making profit.
* This was Star Trek recurring actor Vaughn Armstrong's first appearance on DS9. He had previously played Commander Korris on TNG's "Heart of Glory." His next appearance on the show would be the episode "When It Rains..." where he would play a Cardassian, Seskal.
* With the appearance of the Ganges, all three runabouts assigned to the station have been named. They’re all named after Earth rivers, a trend that will continue throughout the series.
* The episode title comes from "what's past is prologue" from The Tempest, act 2, scene 1, by William Shakespeare.
* This episode suggests that the value of gold pressed latinum is measured in weight, but future episodes firmly establish that it is measured in units of slips, strips, and bars.
* Babylon 5's Patricia "Lyta Alexander" Tallman was Nana Visitor's stunt double for this episode.

Sisko: [to Kira] Go over my head again, and I'll have yours on a platter.
posted by zarq (25 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In the US, the entire episode can be streamed for free on Hulu.
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on April 29, 2015

The Duras sisters!

It feels really weird in these early episodes how much they rely on runabouts. Other versions of Trek they were predominantly used when someone needed to surface on a planet or take a short detour from the rest of the ship.

Many of these early episodes are all about testing morality and questioning humanity. It mostly works, but it also leads to some of the worst Trek episodes.

A lot more relationship establishing going on here. Odo and Kira. The beginning of Garak and Bashir, one of my favorites.

(Started my own rewatch a few weeks ago and I'm halfway through the first season, but trying to not comment on anything that's a future spoiler.)
posted by 2ht at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2015

Feel free to post spoilers! Since this is a rewatch thread, they're expected.
posted by zarq at 9:23 AM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I loved this bit, once Sisko & Co. have figured out Tahna's plans:

GUL DANAR: If I may, Commander, take this opportunity to say that I warned you...

It establishes, really early on, that it's not going to be as simple as Bajorans = good/correct, Cardassians = bad/wrong. That our heroes are going to make mistakes, and other characters, especially antagonists, will not be shy about pointing them out. I also like that Sisko shuts Danar off mid-sentence--Danar may be right, but Sisko doesn't have patience for "I told you so."

I love the whole scene with Kira and Odo, how strong and supportive their friendship is, right from the start. This part in particular was fascinating:

KIRA: How could I possibly turn against my own people?
ODO: Are they? Your own people?

I don't think they had Odo's arc planned out at this stage, but that's the question that Odo will struggle mightily with, later on.

Also, Garak is an absolute delight. Sometimes it takes an actor a few episodes to really get into a character, but Andrew Robinson nailed it right out of the gate.
posted by creepygirl at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

In that case... I didn't recall Bashir being such a ladies man! Or at least he tries to be a ladies man with varying success. Does this taper off as the show goes on, or did I completely miss this fact when I watched DS9 growing up?

Why are the Bajorans tolerant of Garak? I guess he's "exiled" by the Cardassians, but I'm still not sure they would tolerate him on the station.

I love O'Brien:

"You've never fought Cardassians, have you?"


"Well, you wouldn't wanna turn a man... any man... over to their tender care, sir."

Speaking of which, how many non-commissioned officers have their been in the history of Trek? Surely not more than a handful.
posted by 2ht at 11:22 AM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why are the Bajorans tolerant of Garak? I guess he's "exiled" by the Cardassians, but I'm still not sure they would tolerate him on the station.

A good question. In the episode "The Wire" he says, "Every Bajoran on the station looks at me with loathing and contempt."

Obviously the station is leased to the Federation, and they have some say in what goes on there. But still, the Cardassians committed genocide against the Bajorans. It's a wonder that Odo's not stopping people from trying to kill him all the time.
posted by zarq at 11:47 AM on April 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bashir was definitely DS9's Riker in the early days, especially with hitting on Dax
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:48 AM on April 29, 2015

Yeah, thankfully it pretty much stops after the first season. It's painful to watch.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:58 AM on April 29, 2015

This is episode 2, is it not? (It says Episode 3 up at the top.)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:40 PM on April 29, 2015

The pilot (Emissary) was a two parter, so kind of?
posted by dinty_moore at 12:43 PM on April 29, 2015

Confusingly, Netflix has this as episode 3, after "A Man Alone."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:53 PM on April 29, 2015

"Emissary" had two episode production codes. One for the first half and another for the second. When the show was released in syndication, "Emissary" was broken into two episodes. This is very typical for double-length episodes of television shows. The next two part episode in the series was the fourth season opener "The Way of the Warrior", which also had two production codes.

You can see the breakdown in Wikipedia's episode guide. So in terms of the way we're covering the eps, this is #3, with "Emissary" being episodes #1 and #2.

Also, if you follow the production numbers, "A Man Alone" was actually filmed first, yet aired second. Sometimes episodes are filmed out of order, depending on a wide range of factors, including actor availability, set preparation, etc.

In terms of our re-watch, I opted to go with the order the episodes were aired, because they follow chronological order (stardates). But if y'all would prefer production order, we can always switch in the future. No worries there. :)
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on April 29, 2015

Airing order is fine with me, unless it's a case where the airing order was off for some reason. I don't think that's the case here. I'll just be sure to double check before following Netflix's advice next time.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2015

Oh and for more riffing on DS9 characters, there's always Texts From Deep Space Nine which will make you giggle embarrassingly at work.
posted by emjaybee at 7:22 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

thus begins GarakWatch: with jazzhands.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think I've ever seen this episode, but I'd heard that Robinson played his first conversation with Bashir very homoerotically, in keeping with his general view of Garak as pansexual:

I started out playing Garak as someone who doesn't have a defined sexuality. He's not gay, he's not straight, it’s a non-issue for him. Basically his sexuality is inclusive. But--it’s Star Trek and there were a couple of things working against that. One is that Americans really are very nervous about sexual ambiguity. Also, this is a family show, they have to keep it on the "straight and narrow", so then I backed off from it. Originally, in that very first episode, I loved the man's absolute fearlessness about presenting himself to an attractive human being. The fact that the attractive human being is a man (Bashir) doesn't make any difference to him, but that was a little too sophisticated I think. For the most part, the writers supported the character beautifully, but in that area they just made a choice they didn't want to go there, and if they don't want to go there I can't, because the writing doesn’t support it.

When I actually saw the scene, I didn't think it played that differently from any Garak/Bashir interaction -- which is to say, I'm not sure how much Robinson ever turned it down.

-I particularly enjoyed their interaction through the lens that Bashir is canonically hiding a lot about his nature and capabilities (as he is in every episode pre-"Dr. Bashir, I Presume") and Garak is canonically high as a kite (as he is in every episode pre-"The Wire").

-Kira is another character who seems pretty much herself, right out the gate -- she has such a sense of comradeship and warmth with Tahna, a loyalty to her fellow revolutionaries that will expand to include Sisko, but certainly hasn't yet. I liked how her going over Sisko's head was played as both inappropriate and something that Starfleet handles badly, too -- the admiral doesn't even grant her a name or title, just "that Bajoran woman you have working for you."

-I kind of like this earliest iteration of Odo's face; it's closer to Rene Auberjonois' real one, and so it brings across "trying to look like a humanoid but can't quite do it" more than the later, smoother version that I'm used to.

-The Duras Sisters make everything worse.

-"Now just take this, and try it on as many times as you like, and stay very, very quiet!" is the line and line reading of the episode.

The series still isn't that good yet, I don't think; I find myself giving it credit rather than enjoying it ("oh, that's nicely complicated; what a well-observed portrayal of a manipulative person"). I'm still waiting for the warmth and humor that will leaven all this anger and tension into a delicious drama-bread. Still, if I'd been watching this in realtime (and I didn't really join DS9 back in the day until season three or so), I think I would've been blown away by how ready it was to allow that tension into the story, to question the Federation and show its flaws.
posted by thesmallmachine at 12:56 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Garak is superb, and completely in character. I've often wondered why he chose the Doctor as his point of contact within the Federation. I suppose it's because he could see something in him that he could mould - Bashir was rather "unfinished" when they met. Relying on someone like that for delicate wink-wink-nudge-nudge manoeuvring was a little risky. I like to think that Garak enjoyed having a disciple to teach, so he could get himself back into the game. I love the way Robinson acts entirely with his eyes, as he says goodbye to Bashir during their first scene together.

Kira is interesting in this episode, with the moral choice she has to make. She's very much a nationalist, and it can't have been easy for her to side with the Federation over someone who she has a lot in common with. Kira has to adapt a fair bit in this episode.

Odo is cool as a Breen winter, in the face of Lursa and B'etor. I would be behaving more like the security guard who was pointing the phaser at them. Snarky Odo is the best Odo, re ostriches.

Other points:

That bed does not look at all "comfortable".
Is Tahna Los actually naked under that sheet?
The Admiral was kind of rude about Kira, calling her "that Bajoran woman".
There's an interesting disparity between the colour palettes of Kira and Tahna when she tells him about getting the minister's votes.
How did Tahna know how to draw antimatter out of the ship into the storage device?
posted by Solomon at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2015

One more thing, about Garak yelling at Bashir -- Garak seems to have very little patience or emotional control, as spies go; he's certainly clever and observant, but he can't hide his perpetual frustration even when he's applying his layers of oil. It's an interesting choice that I actually think says something about his people. Cardassians don't seem to value being patient or emotionally controlled at all, instead rewarding ambition, passion, and rhetoric. It makes sense that the Cardassian manner of subterfuge would look different from ours.
posted by thesmallmachine at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Watched the wrong episode thanks to Netflix, but now I'm back up to speed.

Loved that Garak almost seems fully-formed in his first appearance.
posted by drezdn at 1:35 PM on April 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

"It's Doctor Bash-ear, isn't it?" I fucking love Garak. Such a fun character, and most of it is just the amount of silence and knowing-grins/glances/etc that Mr. Robinson inserts that force each viewer to try to guess what he's thinking. It helps that his inflection seems so ... odd... that you wonder what he's really saying and even question "This is English, right? a followed by b leading to c? ... because what he's saying and what it means are two different things..." outside of one-off villains, I can't think of any character in the ST universe that went to such lengths to indicate "don't trust me ... or, why not, do, it's your choice after all..." from the very beginning.

Bashir ... becomes lest earnest as the series goes on. Thank God. thesmallmachine, on preview, I love the "Bashir is hiding, Garak is high" line of thinking. I also love that Bashir actually does start to try on that damned suit.

Second episode in, and Kira is already starting to be fleshed out more than "ANGRYDAMNIT!". ... why couldn't they do this amount of character development on Voyager?

"The Geranium Ostrich hides by sticking its head underwater..." ... ahhhh, Odo studied at the Jed Bartlett school of metaphor.
posted by Seeba at 8:44 PM on April 30, 2015

I've always liked Rene Auberjonois, even back in the Benson days when he was supposed to play the villain, he was always a little sympathetic even at his snarkiest. His voice lends itself so well to overbearing prissy tones that he's been typecast in those sorts of roles, but he's a good enough actor to add depth to them. Odo was a stretch for him; no mugging with that gunked-up face, so he was forced to use his voice and body language instead. And did so amazingly. I found his later arcs with the Founders to be really touching (although frustrating from a sci-fi maguffin standpoint sometimes).

Really, as with some of the TNG episodes, the sci-fi cheesiness/episodic restrictions of the form could and would be subverted occasionally by the sheer talent of the actors and the writers willing to take their stories into unexpected places.

Avery Brooks sometimes slips into that Sonorous Black Male Thespian thing, like he's doing a scene from A Raisin in the Sun, but then Patrick Stewart certainly had his tics too.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 PM on April 30, 2015

Garak really is a delight. That quote above about pansexuality reminds me, Andrew Robinson played Liberace in a 1988 TV show. Now I'm never going to be able to hear Garak speak again without imagining a Cardassian in a fabulous fur coat, fingers dripping with costume jewelry.
posted by Nelson at 10:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

Odo is in an interesting spot in this episode. Sisko asks him to keep information from Kira, but he also listens to her without betraying either her or Sisko's confidence.

I find myself puzzled by the legal jurisdiction DS9 falls under. It feels like Sisko's treats it kind of like Switzerland: an island unto itself. Why should Tahna need to request asylum? Isn't he in a Bajoran space station? But then Sisko turns around later and says they can't hold him because he hasn't done anything wrong. Pretty sure the captain of a starship can throw someone in the brig just because.
posted by dry white toast at 9:22 PM on May 9, 2015

Having seen this fantastic twitter version of Bashir and Garak's first encounter more recently, it was kind of weird seeing it without the subtext on screen, as it were.

"Well, you wouldn't wanna turn a man... any man... over to their tender care, sir."

I could have sworn he said something very similar in TNG:S04E12 "The Wounded", but scanning through it I'm not seeing it.

Also, good call for Kira's hairstyle. The Bajoran Bob wasn't working last episode.
posted by Kyol at 6:48 PM on April 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

That video might be my single favorite reason the internet was invented
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:21 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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