“Sanctuary” is one of those frustrating Deep Space Nine episodes because it brings up some good issues, has a little bit of good drama, but just completely falls on its face in the plotting, script, and acting fronts. There are elements in this episode that would make a 5-star episode, but there are other elements that would make it a 1-star episode. Both sides being equal, I guess that makes it a completely down the middle piece. It’s a shame, because “Sanctuary” actually has some relevance to the overall Deep Space Nine story, in more ways than one.
Major Kira (Nana Visitor) is a very frustrated woman. She’s been getting nothing but the runaround from the Provisional Government about rebuilding the arts on Bajor, Quark (Armin Shimmerman) is giving her problems about the Bajoran instrumentalist who he agreed to host for a month (namely that he’s entrancing the customers so much that they’re not gambling or drinking much).
Then, a ship appears through the wormhole, carrying four refugees. The universal translator is having trouble picking up their language, but once it succeeds, they find out that the refugees are Skreean, and they are on a search for the mystical planet of Kentana. More importantly, they are the harbingers of three million more Skreeans, all refugees from a race that was overpowered by the Dominion (a name that perks up everybody’s ears, though they still haven’t been seen by anybody in the Alpha Quadrant). Will Sisko (Avery Brooks) be able to help the Skreeans find a new home? And what happens if the home they think they’re looking for is Bajor?
Let’s start with the wonderful parts, first (which, unfortunately, will not consist of most of the guest acting). The episode comes at a perfect time, when Bajor is going through some very hard times. Famine is sweeping across the planet, the Provisional Government argues more than it agrees, and Bajoran culture is under threat because a lot of it was destroyed by the Cardassians and that culture is being rebuilt much too slowly.
Then, the Skreeans come along, looking for a home, and the home they think they’re looking for is Bajor. Can Bajor support three million more people? The Skreeans claim that they will be able to fend for themselves, but could they? If they aren’t successful in creating farmland out of the waste the Cardassians left, would they really be able to avoid asking the Bajorans for help? These issues are powerful issues, and it’s gut-wrenching to see the problem. You know that there are no “right” answers. The Skreeans are not conquerors, and they will not be able to take anything by force. They just want a home.
During their stay on the station, the Skreeans meet some prejudice, especially from Nog (Aron Eisenberg) and Quark. Odo (Rene Auberjonois) is also worried about them running rampant on the station, but his concern is more about crowd control than anything else. Again, these issues are very important, though in this case they are let down by the guest acting along with some questionable acting from Eisenberg (who technically is a guest actor, but I consider him part of the cast).
Taken by itself, this is good stuff. Unfortunately, there’s the rest of the episode that goes into the tank. First, there’s the pointless issue of the universal translator not figuring out the Skreean language. This made for some really plodding scenes that I think were supposed to be funny, like when they go into a store and two of the Skreeans keep taking things, forcing Odo to keep putting them back. They were going down to the infirmary, what the heck were they doing taking a side-trip into a store? This went on for most of the first act, and it didn’t forward the plot at all. It made for tedious scenes that could have explored the issue a little better.
Secondly, the acting of most of the Skreeans was *horrible*. Andrew Koenig (son of Walter Koenig, of the original Star Trek series) is dull as Tumak, the other men (who appear to be the same age as Koenig’s character, though they are supposed to be bonded with his mother) are even worse, though thankfully they have few lines (and no English lines, I don’t think).
Deborah May, as Haneek, the chosen leader of the Skreeans, does a good job, though she goes a little too far into histrionics during the climax of the episode. I really liked the expressiveness of her eyes during the sequence where the translator wasn’t working, and she did a pretty good job of showing how the imposed leadership role was something she wasn’t comfortable with. The rest of the guest cast was adequate. On the regular cast front, Visitor does a great job with Kira, especially in the scenes where Haneek rebuffs her friendship after the Bajorans make their decision.
*SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING*
One other major problem with this episode is the ending. The final scene just does not really follow from the climax. Tumak and his two colleagues steal a ship for no apparent reason (they’re trying to get to Bajor, but why? So they can stake a claim?). When the unfortunate occurs, suddenly the next scene the Skreeans are meekly ready to move on to the next planet. While Haneek does tell Kira that she was right, Bajor was not Kentana, there’s really no indication of why she suddenly feels this way. Perhaps she saw no other solution and it took the deaths of her son and his friends to see that? That still doesn’t indicate why that scene happened to begin with. *END SPOILERS*
One thing I did love about the ending was the ambiguousness of it. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, and while one side is still convinced it’s right, we’ll never know which one actually is. Kira has a lot to think about, and she shows it with her body language. If Deep Space Nine could have taken these gems out of the episode and put them into a better-paced one, it would have been a much better episode. We don’t even get to the main conflict until 30 minutes in! Keep in mind these are 45 minute episodes. If they had disposed of the translation issue, they could have explored the issue more. Thus, “Sanctuary” gets a middle of the road grade. It’s a shame.
*note* Considering that Ferengi ears are erogenous zones, wouldn't that make Odo leading Nog away by the ear the same thing as if he had grabbed Jake by his privates?
Just a thought...
“I am *way* beyond frustrated.” Kira (I hear ya, sister!)