HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
“Past Prologue” makes for a marked improvement over “A Man Alone,” but it’s clear that DS9 is still finding its footing. However, “Past Prologue” sets up so much of what makes DS9 great. Nana Visitor gives us our first glimpse of Kira’s struggles to make sense of both her past and present, and Andrew Robinson stands out from the jump as Garak, one of the show’s greatest and most beloved characters. There’s so much to love here that I somewhat see the reason for airing this episode second rather than third. Even the reappearance of Lursa and B’Etor serves as merely icing on the cake rather than the linchpin of the episode.
The episode opens with Dr. Bashir eating a solitary lunch in the Replimat until Garak, the station’s lone remaining Cardassian, joins him despite Bashir’s discomfort. Bashir accuses Garak of being a spy, and Garak neatly deflects while commenting that he appreciates having met a new friend. Dr. Bashir rushes to Ops to reveal Garak’s contact to Commander Sisko, but they’re all interrupted by events outside the station. A Cardassian warship has followed a badly damaged Bajoran ship into Bajoran space. The man aboard the Bajoran ship, Tahna Los requests asylum while Gul Danar, the captain of the Cardassian vessel, demands that Sisko turn Tahna over to him to be tried for his crimes. Sisko manages to convince Danar to break off the attack, and O’Brien beams Tahna aboard.
Tahna gets taken to the Infirmary due to his injuries, and Sisko asks O’Brien and Dax to stall Danar as long as possible. Kira knows Tahna and informs Sisko that she worked with Tahna during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor as they both worked with the Resistance. However, Tahna has since become a member of a violent Bajoran splinter group, the Kohn-Ma. Sisko, understandably, worries that Tahna and his organization seek to use the station as a shield against the Cardassians in order to escape Cardassian justice while continuing to visit violence upon all with whom the Kohn-Ma disagrees. Sisko points out that the group took credit for the murder of a Bajoran minister, but Kira believes that Bajor needs to repatriate the Kohn-Ma and other similar groups. Commander Sisko warns her that he won’t tolerate divided loyalties, and he proceeds to the Infirmary. Tahna shows clear signs of having endured Cardassian torture, and he intimates to both Sisko and Kira that his days of violence have come to an end.
Kira, concerned that Sisko will opt not to grant asylum, contacts Admiral Rollman to protest. Rollman immediately informs Sisko that Kira has engaged in insubordination, and Sisko signs off just in time to greet an angry Danar. Danar demands Sisko turn over Tahna, but Sisko grants Tahna asylum. Kira helps Tahna to quarters aboard the station, and the two discuss Bajoran politics. It becomes manifestly clear that Tahna takes a radically different view of Bajor’s situation than does Kira, even accusing her of following an illegitimate government.
On the Promenade, two familiar Klingon faces appear. Lursa and her sister B’Etor encounter Odo before slipping off to a clandestine meeting with Tahna Los. Odo, disguised as a rat, overhears the entire exchange. Back in Ops, Kira exults in having secured an amnesty hearing for Tahna and two other Kohn-Ma operatives, and Sisko warns her never to go over his head again. Odo comes up to tell Sisko about Tahna’s meeting with the Duras sisters, and Sisko advises him to keep that information to himself for the moment.
The Duras Sisters have wandered into Garak’s shop to offer him, or rather the interests he represents, Tahna Los. Initially repulsed by Garak’s offer of payment for Tahna, the Duras Sisters eventually agree to negotiate. Kira goes to tell Tahna her good news only for him to confess that he is still a member of the Kohn-Ma. He promises that his goal is not violence, but he asks for a warp capable ship. Kira comments that she should go to Sisko about this, and he accuses her of being a traitor to Bajor and a Federation puppet.
In Quark’s, Garak meets Bashir and draws his attention to the two Kohn-Ma terrorists and to the Klingon sisters. He secures a promise from Bashir that he will come to Garak’s shop to try on a new suit at exactly 20:55. Bashir goes to Sisko with this information, and Sisko tells him that he could use a new suit. Sisko asks Kira about the two other Kohn-Ma members, but she says nothing. Rather, she goes down to Odo’s office to talk through her predicament. Does she support Tahna and the Kohn-Ma or Sisko? Odo helps her come to a decision, and he calls Sisko to come down to the office to speak with Kira.
Bashir appears two minutes late to Garak’s, and Garak unceremoniously shoves him into a fitting room with the absolute ugliest jacket aboard the station. Lursa and B’Etor arrive and agree to Garak’s price. They tell Garak that they’re meeting Tahna in four hours to sell him bilitrium and depart. Bashir emerges from the fitting room to ask about bilitrium, and Garak spells it out for him. Tahna stole an antimatter converter from the Cardassians and plans to use it along with the bilitrium to create a bomb.
Kira and Tahna eventually depart in the Yangtzee Kiang, and Tahna discovers that Kira has betrayed him. He puts a phaser to her head and reveals his plan to collapse the entrance to the wormhole, and she opts to drive the runabout through the wormhole. She and Tahna struggle, and they emerge in the Gamma Quadrant just as Tahna manages to release the bomb. It explodes harmlessly, and Sisko and O’Brien emerge from the wormhole just in time to force Tahna’s surrender.
The story in “Past Prologue” is fairly straightforward. There aren’t any twists or secret reveals; it’s just about circumventing a peculiarly silly plot to collapse the wormhole. The plot merely serves as the device driving Kira’s decision. “Past Prologue” forces her to make a choice, and that choice is not one she anticipated having to make. Kira has a past relationship with Tahna Los; they worked together to fight the Cardassians. However, Kira, by taking this post, has begun taking steps to move forward, beyond that war. Tahna and the Kohn-Ma have not. Tahna’s accusations against Kira basically boil down to calling her a politician rather than a resistance fighter. Despite Kira’s own initial reluctance to accept that change, eventually, she comes to realize that there is some truth there. Tahna’s appearance forces Kira to take a long look at her past and to evaluate where she sees her own future and that of Bajor. She ultimately chooses to work with Starfleet to thwart Tahna because she recognizes that in order to move beyond the occupation, Bajor needs the wormhole. Kira herself also needs to move beyond her past.
DS9 will revisit those themes throughout the rest of the series run, exploring both how Bajor remakes its society and how Kira wrestles with some of the things she did while a member of the Resistance. “Past Prologue” introduces the concept of choosing another path than that of violence, particularly when grappling with the fallout of previous violence. Certainly, other episodes will address that idea more in depth, even later in this season, but “Past Prologue” provides necessary groundwork for that theme. Moreover, Kira observes to Odo that things were easier when she knew who the enemy was. Certainly, considering the Founders later in the series, her words prove prophetic. However, the point she makes here is that she must now navigate a more morally complex situation, and that is the very heart of DS9.
The episode juxtaposes Kira’s situation with Dr. Bashir who comes off as guileless to the point of naivete. Bashir’s awkward ignorance gives Robinson ample room to give us an over-the-top, unsubtle Garak. Garak has to be obvious in order to spoon-feed Bashir the information he needs Sisko to have. Sisko grasps this concept immediately, but even after he comments to Bashir that sometimes, communication cannot occur via official channels, Julian Bashir remains confused. Siddig El Fadil’s performance somehow keeps Bashir from coming off as a complete buffoon, though Robinson’s obvious charm as Garak certainly helps as well.
The other standout moment belongs to Odo. Sure, Odo bemoans how the Federation’s staunch adherence to its principles complicates his life. However, when Kira needs his advice, he deftly guides her to the right decision, and that decision involves working with Starfleet. Odo never overtly acknowledges that he knows the root of Kira’s dilemma, though we as viewers knows he does. He doesn’t have to acknowledge it because what Kira needs is space to come to her own decision. Odo asks the questions she needs to answer in order to work out the solution on her own. In this quiet scene, Odo displays far more emotional awareness than even he gives himself credit for having, and Auberjonois absolutely nails the gentle presence necessary in this scene. It’s a great scene and one that foreshadows the evolution of Odo’s own feelings for Kira.
Four baseballs and a double
Stray Thoughts from the Couch:
- Kira sports extremely short hair in this episode, which makes for a confusing transition considering that this episode aired before “A Man Alone,” in which she still has her “Emissary” hair.
- Garak apparently takes inspiration from TNG. Several of the clothes seen in his shop were costumes from TNG episodes.
- The torture device implanted in Tahna Los was first mentioned in TNG’s “Chain of Command” trilogy.
- Ira Behr really loved the way Colm Meaney has O’Brien look at Bashir when Bashir comes up to squeal about his run-in with Garak. In that moment, we are all O’Brien.
- I will never understand why Tahna Los would want to irradiate the wormhole. Not only would Bajor be affected, but that’s the Celestial Temple. I get that not every member of a society has to be deeply religious, but even I would blink before sealing off the gods I’d heard about since childhood.
- I get that Odo is a shapeshifter, but c’mon. There is a law of conservation of mass, people.