Directed by David Carson
Created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), whose wife Jennifer was killed by the Borg at the Battle of Wolf 359 is assigned to a post on the distant planet of Bajor which has just freed itself from 50 years of occupation by the Cardassians and now seeks to join the Federation. Now the discovery of a stable wormhole near the planet will change the quadrant and Benjamin Sisko ‘s life forever.
This two-hour pilot episode came out during the heyday of first run syndicated television. It was a glorious time where you could get all sorts of shows that network television just would not touch. Not only would they be different from what you could find on the big three networks, but they would do things and could do things that network television could not do. It would not be until later seasons that DS9 would test those waters however.
We are introduced to Commander Benjamin Sisko. He is a single father and carries a great deal of anger over the events of his past and has not been able to forgive himself for not being able to save his wife or Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) for being enslaved by the Borg and being used to lead the battle.
The character of Odo while a great addition to Star Trek canon was horribly used here. His actions during the course of the movie felt a little shoehorned in. I know it is a pilot episode and you have to introduce the characters for the show but forcing things can make for a rough story. And they did force his presence. He would show up and grumble mostly. At one point he changes into an alien dufflebag so they can get him onto a Cardassian ship in order to shut down sensors so Sisko and Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) can get into the wormhole unnoticed. In a universe where exotic particle beams are regularly used, they conveniently couldn’t here just to show off the new character.
The character of Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) was just too much of a hard ass in the pilot. Her purpose was to be the anti-Starfleet officer since she was current Bajoran militia and a former freedom fighter. It felt like she was there to be difficult not because it was her character but because the producers felt the story needed friction for some reason. It was another element that felt forced on the part of the pilot.
One thing I need to talk about-and it has bothered me for decades-is something that happens towards the end of the story. As mentioned earlier, Jadzia and Sisko sneak into the wormhole. After a bit, the crew of DS9 fear that they have been lost. Kira, Dr. Bashir (Siddig El Fadil or Alexander Siddig-take your pick)and Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) are all set to go into the wormhole to look for them. Odo demands to go along because he was found in the Denorios Belt in which the wormhole exists. Then it cuts to commercial and that whole part of the story is just forgotten about. They never go near a runabout to search for their comrades nor mention the proposed rescue mission. It bothered me when I first saw it and it bothers me to this day. Can anyone explain what happened there? After all these decades, am I missing something still?
“Emissary” wasn’t to action heavy. In fact, most of the action came in the form of flashbacks to the Battle of Wolf 359. This brought up a question in my mind when I saw the pilot movie: why didn’t the Enterprise when it arrived at the scene of the battle pick up any survivors? In the two-part episode that these flashbacks connect to they do not mention survivors at all. Did another ship pick them up? I had originally assumed when I saw the Best of Both Worlds Pts. 1 and 2 that the Borg captured and assimilated everyone that they did not kill but this show stated otherwise. So where were they? This pilot retroactively created a small plot hole.
They took a great deal of time to establish the Bajoran religious mythology. At least the portion that allowed Sisko to become the Emissary. In the Bajoran mythology the Emissary is the being that opens up the Celestial Temple to the people of Bajor. The Celestial Temple as it turns out is where the wormhole aliens reside. The wormhole itself is an artificial construct by the aliens. Think of it like their house. Apparently they needed it in order to exist in our reality. Where they came from or even if they were from another reality is never really explained. The aliens here were more of a plot device than actual characters.
“Emissary” touched on the baggage that we all carry with us. They discussed how tragedy can cause us to live in the past rather than live in the present or even consider the future. Benjamin Sisko was trapped at the Battle of Wolf 359 because of the death of his wife. It had shaped every day of his life and every bit of his thinking since it happened. It also provided for a less than normal Starfleet moment between Sisko and Picard. When they met it wasn’t a friendly meeting of two Starfleet officers but rather a tense moment between a Starfleet officer and a still grieving husband.
The introduction of the Cardassians to the series was a little underwhelming. They just kind of waved “Hi” and then got mean. These were the aliens that had just abandoned the planet near which the series was set. They could not be more threatening or ominous?
The only plus from the was the introduction of Gul Dukat as played by Marc Alaimo. Then again Marc Alaimo was always good. He was in a lot of supporting and bit roles in television I watched from the late 70s up to this point. And you know something? He was always good. He may not have had the biggest role, but he did a lot with it. And he did a lot with his character here. Interestingly enough he had played a different Cardassian in a TNG episode.
Overall this pilot film was an OK start. A little underwhelming at moments and a little flawed at times. The film is enjoyable but not the best start for a Star Trek series. I will say that even though the show did not start strong it did end very strong and by the time season seven was over it was my favorite Star Trek spinoff and still is today. I recommend you watch this based on that. See how the best spin off started.