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December 28, 2012

Star Trek: DS9 - Ep 13 - Battle Lines

Violence lurks inside all of us. In some, it’s buried so deep that it will never come out. For others, it’s just below the surface. Part of whether it comes out or not depends on our circumstances or our upbringing. It can become a way of life for some people. Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) is trying to put that past behind her. While she thinks she’s succeeded, deep down she hasn’t allowed herself to do so. That's one of the major issues of "Battle Lines." We’re mid-way through the first season, and we've had a series of fluff episodes leading up to this point. This episode, however, digs a little deeper, and it’s all the better for it. While it’s certainly not a perfect episode, it is intelligent and features some wonderful character development for Kira.

Kai Opaka (Camille Saviola), the religious leader of the Bajorans, unexpectedly comes to the station. Sisko and Kira go to meet her, but she seems distracted. She gazes out to where the wormhole is, but no traffic is due to go through today. Sisko (Avery Brooks) offers to take her on a ride through the wormhole. Bashir (Siddig el Fadil) tags along (he’s got nothing better to do) with Kira as the pilot. As they are leaving, Opaka gives O’brien (Colm Meaney) her necklace to give to his daughter, a sign to the viewer that Opaka knows her destiny is waiting for her on the other side of the wormhole.

They go to investigate a moon where they find strange sensor readings. Sisko wants to leave a marker and go back to the station, but Opaka insists on investigating. The satellite defense systems around moon knock the runabout out of the sky and it crashes, killing Opaka. Or is she dead? Sisko and the crew get caught in the middle of a never-ending battle, where death is not an option or a release. Has Opaka found her destiny? And will this war bring peace to Kira’s soul?

“Battle Lines” has a wonderful guest cast in Saviola and Jonathan Banks (who plays the Ennis leader, Shel-La). I’ve always loved Banks as he always comes very close to chewing the scenery, but not close enough to criticize him for it. He plays a tortured man, a man who has already died many times and has resigned himself to dying many more times. Their situation, in constant battle with the Nol Ennis and never able to leave the moon, has hardened him to a point where he doesn’t care any more.
When Bashir offers them a possible way out, he can’t think of it as a way to save his people from their eternal damnation, but instead thinks of it as a way to wipe out the Nols for good.

Saviola brings a marvelous sense of peace and serenity to Opaka that is a marvel to witness. Her discussions with Kira about Kira’s terrorist past, and how Kira has to accept the violence within her before she can move on are simply wonderful. (“The Prophets are waiting for you to forgive yourself, Kira.”) The other guest star is Paul Collins as the Nol Ennis leader, Zlangco. Unfortunately, he doesn’t fare as well. He only has one scene, but he doesn’t do very well with it. He tries to pull off the same hardened man as Banks does, but he goes a bit too far over the top. His lines are delivered with an attempted cynicism that just doesn’t work.

Visitor, Brooks, and el Fadil are wonderful in this episode. When Bashir makes a light-hearted statement about Sisko’s plan to offer both sides a way off the planet (“sounds more like a jailbreak, sir”), Sisko quickly shoots him down with a curt “Don’t quote the Prime Directive to me, Doctor.” He really feels for these people who have been trapped here for years, continually killing each other and then having to do it again. He feels that they’ve suffered enough.

Bashir is a perfect mixture of arrogance and naiveté (he congratulates himself for fixing the computer), but he’s also intelligent, figuring out what’s going on and discovering just in time that what the secret of the microbes keeping everybody alive is. Visitor does an excellent job as the tortured Kira (though she goes a little bit over the top with the crying when Opaka dies in the crash). She handles herself very well in the above-mentioned scenes with Opaka.

O’brien and Dax (Terry Farrell) don’t have much to do (though they do have more then Rene Auberjonois does as Odo…he got all made up for that ONE scene?). Most of their lines are technobabble as they are trying to rescue their trapped people. O’brien even makes a joke about having to invent the techie-device he thinks will solve the problem. Their scenes do nothing but drag the episode to a screeching halt when the much more interesting stuff is happening down on the planet. It was filler and unnecessary.

There are a couple of minor plot holes that brings the episode down as well. If the Ennis and the Nol Ennis are truly interested in wiping out the other side, they don’t seem to be very inventive about it. Nothing in what Bashir says about what’s happening on the planet indicates that somebody will grow a new head if you cut off the old one. The machines that keep the body’s processes going have some sort of regenerative function (wounds are healed), but entire limbs? The fact that Shel-La’s face is so burned that one eye appears to be almost useless is another indication that some kind of permanent damage can be done, so why not try for the ultimate?

Secondly, seconds after Shel-La tells Sisko and company that they gave up on energy weapons because they were too clean, they get attacked by….yep, you guessed it. Energy weapons. Later battles use melee weapons, so you have to wonder why they used energy weapons in this particular case. To show that Shel-La is an idiot?

While “Battle Lines” isn’t a classic Deep Space Nine episode, it is one of the better first-season ones. We have had a lot of filler lately with little bits of character development for Odo and Quark, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a meaty episode with themes and issues that we can sink our teeth in to. “Battle Lines” is one of those episodes, and it’s a welcome change. It shows that we all have a little bit of violence in us. Controlled, it’s not a bad thing. When let loose because there are no longer any consequences, because there is nothing left in your heart but hatred, it’s a truly miserable life.

Memorable Quotes:

“Major, when you’re through feeling under-appreciated, perhaps you’d care to join me in welcoming the Kai?” - Sisko

“When you cease to fear death, the rules of war change.” - Shel-La

4 Stars


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