“Station log: Stardate 46729.1. The Bajoran government has asked me to mediate a disagreement between two rival factions: the Paqu and the Navot. At issue is a land dispute, which could trigger a civil war.“
Sisko is busy preparing to receive the Paqu and Navot delegations, but another issue has come up with O’Brien. The chief has been assigned to pilot a runabout to Bajor, but he casually tries to find an excuse to get out of it, offering Ensign Boyer as a replacement. When his travel companion, Dr. Bashir, enters, it is obvious why O’Brien does not want to go: he does not like Bashir, who is oblivious to this fact.
They have been told there is a medical emergency on a village on Bajor, although the nature of the emergency is uncertain. Sisko leaves O’Brien stuck with Bashir, leaving them in the turbolift to greet the newly-arrived leader of the Paqu. When they get there, they meet Tetrarch Varis Sul – a fifteen-year-old girl.
During the two hour trip to Bajor, Bashir tries to make small talk, but O’Brien gives him the cold shoulder. Bashir does ask O’Brien not to call him “sir”, but to use his first name, “Julian”, which he reluctantly agrees to.
They beam to the surface to meet the village’s magistrate, Faren Kag, but find no signs of disease, despite Faren’s claim that the village is in danger of extinction. A man, simply called the Sirah, is dying, and Faren believes they will all die with him. Confused, Bashir gets to work.
Meanwhile, Varis and the Navot leader, Woban, meet with Sisko and Kira. They explain that they have had a treaty for ninety years and that it declares the boundary between their people a designated river, the Glyrhond. However, during the Occupation, the Cardassians diverted the river for their mining operations and caused twenty kilometers of land to shift from Navot to Paqu control. While Woban claims the land is still his, Varis believes the original boundary – the river – still stands.
Quark enters the room and – a little too cheerfully serves pre-ordered drinks to the delegates, including “a Trixian bubble juice for the little lady” – who takes offence at being called that, and empties the glass over Quark. He’s still going to charge her for the drink, however.
Jake and Nog are sitting at their usual railing. They are bored; Jake wants to go play baseball in the holosuite, but Nog is finding more entertainment by throwing small stones at passers-by below. Odo turns up and suggests – rather pointedly – that Jake and Nog can see the Promenade just as well without their legs dangling over the promenade. Suddenly, Nog becomes distracted by something and, watching Varis walks by, he is lovestruck.
Bashir finishes his scan when the Sirah wakes. He cries about something called the Dal’Rok and calls for his apprentice, Hovath. He tries to get out of bed, but Bashir stops him. Suspecting the Prophets have sent him, he feels for his pagh, but doesn’t see it. He calls for his companion, so O’Brien comes over. This time, curiously, he is pleased.
The Sirah dismisses them, and Bashir explains to the leader outside that he is suffering system-wide organ failure from old age, and there’s nothing he can do. Dismayed, he explains the Dal’Rok, a “terrible creature,” will threaten the village that night and only the Sirah can save them.
Back on the station, Nog takes Jake to Varis’ quarters, but neither has the nerve to ring the doorbell, and they begin arguing. Suddenly the door is opened – Varis no doubt was checking to see what the commotion was all about. Jake and (especially) Nog nervously stumble over their words to offer Varis a tour of the station, mentioning that a Klingon freighter is leaving for the Gamma Quadrant through the wormhole. She accepts with a hint of a smile.
That night, against Dr. Bashir’s medical advice, the Sirah insists that he be allowed to “tell the story” as a dark cloud forms over the village (although no atmospheric disturbances or energy discharges can be found with tricorders). He stands on a rock where all the villagers can look at him as his back is to the cloud. He begins to give an inspirational speech, which lifts the hearts of the villagers and causes some sort of energy beam to rise from the village. This seems to push the ominously close cloud back, but the Sirah finally collapses. As he does so, the beam stops and the villagers panic. Without his help, the cloud – the “Dal’Rok” of their legend – fires a lightning-like beam and injures several people.
Bashir and O’Brien help the Sirah to his feet and he asks for his successor, but not Hovath, his prior apprentice. He wants O’Brien. Urgently, the Sirah dictates what O’Brien should say and has him tell the story of how the village is stronger than the Dal’Rok. The villagers rejoice as the cloud-like formation is pushed away and disappears; immediately thereafter, the Sirah collapses and Faren proclaims O’Brien the new Sirah, to O’Brien’s chagrin.
In Sisko’s office, he confronts Varis about the last long round of unproductive talks. Bluntly, he asks whether she is there to talk or to start a war, since she has been wasting everyone’s time to this point. She insists that the land belongs to the Paqu, despite claims otherwise. He asks if her people are as ready to die for the land as she seems to be, but she storms out.
She heads out to the upper level of the Promenade where she encounters Nog and Jake. She tells the two of them about her land negotiations, but in a circumspect way and Nog suggests that this could be an opportunity instead of a problem.
Both Jake and Nog suggest talking to her parents, but she sadly reports that both her parents were killed by the Cardassians during the occupation. Jake tells her his mother has also died in a battle with the Borg. They all get chased off by Odo.
On the planet, neither Bashir nor O’Brien can figure out what the strange creature was, nor how it was controlled. Bashir takes the opportunity to tease O’Brien before some of the villagers arrive bearing gifts and offering services (apparently including his choice of young, beautiful women). When O’Brien says he is a married man, Faren insists that O’Brien bring his wife and daughter down to the village to live with him. As he exits, the Sirah’s previous apprentice, Hovath stares at O’Brien with undisguised hatred. The only thing they can do is figure out what the Dal’Rok is and destroy it.
“Station log, supplemental. We have completed a second day of talks between the Paqu and the Navot. So far, we’re no closer to finding a solution than we were when negotiations began.“
Jake and Nog visit Varis again, but she is preoccupied with the negotiations. Just as the two boys turn to leave, she asks how you can “be sure that an opportunity is worth the risk.” Nog quotes the ninth Rule of Acquisition to her: “Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.” This rings a bell for her, and says that helped, even though Jake and Nog still don’t know her problem. Nog decides to celebrate with a practical joke and drags the other two to Odo’s office, with a Cardassian security rod that Nog has stolen, to steal Odo’s bucket . In the office, Nog tells them to watch the front door and then heads to look for the bucket. After a moment, he comes running out, trips and the contents of the bucket spill onto a horrified Jake. But the joke is on Jake: the contents are not Odo, but oatmeal. Nog begins laughing, and the others join in – until Odo walks into the office and takes the bucket from Nog, who, in attempting to escape, runs headlong into Sisko.
Bashir and O’Brien continue to search for any hints of what the Dal’Rok might be when they are approached by a woman wanting her baby blessed by the Sirah. O’Brien leaves Bashir to distract the crowd and heads back to the Sirah’s home. There, Hovath approaches O’Brien, and while O’Brien continues to search, draws a dagger and lunges at O’Brien. Instinct saves him and they struggle for a moment until Bashir enters the room and gets between the combatants. Hovath is disarmed and tells O’Brien that he is not the “true Sirah” and that Hovath is.
Hovath explains his apprenticeship to O’Brien and Bashir and told how he was unable to control the Dal’Rok three nights ago. He then shows them a bracelet that apparently contains a fragment of one of the Orbs from the Celestial Temple. Hovath continues his story, telling them of the first Sirah, back when the village was split by hatred and mistrust, and how he used the fragment to create the Dal’Rok, and thus “give their fears a physical form” and force the villagers to work together to defeat it. O’Brien gives the Sirah’s robe to Hovath, but Faren enters and tells Hovath that he had failed before and would not be allowed to endanger the village again.
In his office, Sisko listens to Varis as she takes responsibility for the actions of Jake and Nog in the security office earlier, telling him that they were just trying to impress her. She tells him that she was trying to learn more about him and that Jake thought very highly of his father. Her own father, Varis reports, was a great man who had been feared by the Navot. Turning to the talks, she admits she has been trying to be strong as he was. He could afford to make compromises because the Navot feared him, but she would not have the same luxury, appearing weak. Varis supposes “you don’t lose by saying no,” but Sisko remarks that great leaders know when to risk saying “yes.” This prompts her to suggest she may have “an opportunity” that allows both sides to say “yes.”
In the village, O’Brien is reluctantly getting ready to tell the story. The crowd urges him on as he reaches the platform, but he is obviously not comfortable. He begins to tell the story, poorly, as the Dal’Rok makes its appearance. There is no sign of the sparkling lights to fight off the Dal’Rok though.
Meanwhile, Bashir encourages Hovath to step up to his true role and that the prior Sirah had likely chosen O’Brien so that Hovath could rescue him, and thus regain the confidence of the villagers. As the Dal’Rok comes in for the final attack, Hovath rushes onto the platform, grabs the bracelet from O’Brien and begins to tell the story, brimming with confidence. The lights appear, and the Dal’Rok is driven off and defeated once again. Bashir and O’Brien quietly make their escape.
Back on the station, Varis is walking through the Promenade with Sisko, nervous about the compromise she is going to suggest; giving the Navot their land, but allowing free access to the river for the Paqu. They encounter Jake and Nog, watched by Odo of course, and she thanks them both, giving Nog a kiss on the cheek.
Odo walks the two boys to the security office to clean up the mess they left.
Just then, Bashir and O’Brien arrive back on the station. Bashir’s interested in telling people about what happened, but O’Brien has had quite enough of storytelling for a while.
Bashir informs him that he is not required to call him “Julian”.
Cast and characters
- Colm Meaney commented, “[Alexander] Siddig and I had a good time doing that episode. It was the first episode in which O’Brien and Bashir – and Siddig and I – had many scenes together. It sort of established our relationship, made us much closer as characters. Bashir relished that I was in trouble there with those people. I had to bluff my way through it.” (“Colm Meaney – Miles O’Brien”, The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 5, p. 8)
- The Sirah’s village was constructed on Paramount Stage 18. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?)) Production Designer Herman Zimmerman commented, “We had to design and build a whole village with only seven days to do it, with the company off that stage for only three days.” (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 3, p. 33)
- This episode marks the first appearance of Odo’s bucket.
- Referenced Rules of Acquisition: #9 (“Opportunity plus instinct equals profit”).
- This is the second episode in which we see Odo smile. The first was two episodes prior, in “Vortex“. In both cases, Odo smiles as a result of interacting with children.