1.3 Past Prologue

Past Prologue, despite being coded as 1×03, is only the second episode of DS9. In this one, we explore further the concepts of Bajoran identity and independence that were mentioned in Emissary.

We start off with plain, simple Garak, a humble tailor and definitely not a spy chatting with Bashir over lunch. Bashir accuses Garak of being a Cardassian spy. Garak fails to deny the allegation with sufficient force, and Bashir sprints to Ops to inform Commander Sisko. Sisko is rather unconcerned by this news – his current crisis is the Bajoran scout ship being pummeled by a Cardassian Galor-class cruiser. The ship is destroyed, but not before they transport its only crewman to Ops. His name is Tanha Los, and he claims political asylum before passing out.

Gul Danar demands that Tanha be returned to them as a member of the Kohn-Ma criminal terrorist group. Sisko is initially reluctant, claiming that Tanha needs medical attention.

The nature of the Kohn-Ma is explained – they are Bajoran freedom fighters who, after the retreat of Cardassian from Bajor, decided to take the fight to the Cardassians, engaging in acts of terrorism against the Cardassian Union. Major Kira sympathises with Tahna, although she herself is not “Kohn-Ma”.

Tahna confesses his Kohn-Ma affiliation to Commander Sisko, but claims that his violent days are behind him and he seeks reconciliation with the Provisional Government. Major Kira, concerned that Commander Sisko might not accept Tahna’s request for asylum, communicates directly with Admiral Rollman, who politely thanks Major Kira and then promptly calls Commander Sisko and rebukes him for his insubordinate underlings.

Sisko, possibly affected by his conversation with Rollman, grants Tanha asylum, angering the Cardassians who want to take him back to Cardassia for trial and execution.

At this point, we have an interesting discussion about Bajoran politics. Major Kira, at the forefront of Bajoran exploration, has reluctantly accepted the presence of the Federation to protect Bajor while it becomes a major power. Tahna wants a “Bajor for the Bajorans”, and seems angered by the prospect of becoming a major power. Kira, reassured by Tahna’s repeated claim that he is no longer Kohn-Ma, promises him her support.

At this point, Lursa and B’Tor, the notorious Duras sisters, appear on the station. Their mere presence is suspicious, and these suspicions are confirmed when they accost Tahna and demand their payment. He claims that it is on its way. The Duras sisters and Tahna are observed by a shapeshifted Odo.

Major Kira manages to arrange an amnesty hearing for Tahna before the Council of Ministers, and he tells her that two more Kohn-Ma would be willing to renounce violence if amnesty would be granted. Major Kira, thrilled by her achievements, tells Commander Sisko, who congratulates her and then threatens  painful retribution should she ignore the chain of command again. Odo then tells Commander Sisko about the meeting between the Duras sisters and Tahna.

Garak then summons Doctor Bashir to his shop, hiding him in a closet seconds before the Duras sisters arrive. This allows Garak to inform Starfleet of the impending capture of Tahna, his association with the Duras sisters and the fact that they are trading in the components to a weapon of mass destruction, all while remaining in the realm of plausible deniability. Note the parallels with 4.1 The Way of the Warrior.

Kira comes to Tahna and tells him gleefully that amnesty will be granted. Tahna informs her bluntly that he has no interest in amnesty or renouncing violence, and that he needs a small, warp-capable ship. Kira, torn between her loyalty to her principles and her loyalty to her old friend and the life she used to lead, approachs Odo for advice. Odo sends her to Sisko, telling her that confessing all to him is the best course. Sisko tells Kira to use the Yangtze Kiang, while they follow in the Ganges.

Aboard the Yangtze Kiang, the Duras sisters sell Tahna the bomb components in exchange for 13 kilos of gold-pressed latinum, an incredible fortune. Kira is horrified by the implications of the weapon, revealing her true intentions to Tahna, who knocks her down and heads for the station. The Ganges and a Cardassian warship give chase, but they are just a little too slow.

Kira realises at the last minute that DS9 is not Tahna’s target – rather, the target is the wormhole. Tahna’s plan is to seal it, thus removing Bajor’s reason for prominience and allowing his home to sink into obscurity. Kira manages to force him to overshoot and travel into the wormhole, causing the weapon to detonate harmlessly on the far side. Furious, Tahna is given the choice – surrender to the Ganges, or to the Cardassians. He surrenders to Major Kira, who takes him into custody. He is imprisoned aboard DS9, presumably prior to transport to a planet-side facility.

==

A number of interesting points are raised in this episode, not least the issue of whether or not prominience and power are good for Bajor. Major Kira and the Council of Ministers, along with the rest of the crew of DS9, certainly seem to think so. However, Tahna Los, representing the kind of Bajoran that joins the Circle in Season Two and the Maquis later on, clearly disagrees, and it’s hard to fault their logic over the short term.

Another point worthy of discussion is as follows: should violent terrorists be given amnesty in exchange for a renouncing of their violent ways? Should they not be prosecuted for their actions? Is it right to allow someone to escape punishment for terrorism and murder if they say “I’ll never do it again”? I mean, that stops working as an excuse for stealing sweets from the cupboard when you’re four. On the other hand, without amnesty, they will remain outsiders, and continue their campaigns of murder and terrorism until they are captured and killed. At what point should the desire to prevent futher bloodshed override the need to see justice done?

I don’t actually have an answer for that question – I just think it’s a rare example of an actual moral dilemma in a major TV show.

Another point – Garak. We see something very interesting here. He is still working for the Cardassians, as evidenced by the appearance of the Aldara, but he seems to have carefully played the situation so that the Cardassians are the losers in this engagement. They paid the Duras sisters, think that Garak is still at least a little loyal, and don’t actually get anything for their trouble.

We also see Garak’s careful playing of the Federation. Rather than directly report the situation to Commander Sisko, Garak hides behind a paper-thin cover of plausible deniability, thus at the same time indebting Commander Sisko to him and avoiding any possibility of being blamed for the incident. It is a masterful display.

The final point to consider, then, is the role of the Klingon sisters in this. They are allowed to escape from the weapons sale, but it is notable that the House of Duras is never seen attempting to regain its former glory. Their real purpose in this episode is to provide another connection between TNG and DS9.

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