Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Accession

Sisko: “No more prophecies to fulfill. I’m just a Starfleet officer again. All I have to worry about are the Klingons, the Dominion, and the Maquis. I feel like I’m on vacation!”

A quiet but important episode, in which Sisko finally begins to embrace his role as a religious icon.

The episode starts with O’Brien and Bashir getting O'Brien's quarters ready for Keiko’s return from the months in which she has been away on a botanical expedition on Bajor. When she arrives, we learn Keiko’s pregnant: it’s a cute use of Molly to announce that she will soon have a brother. The facts that Keiko is back and another child is on the way and that the O’Briens have to get used to living with each other again comprise the B story of this episode.

Over in Ops, Sisko has to give a blessing to a newly married couple. This reminds us that he is a reluctant Emissary, which is the basis of the episode’s A story. For shortly afterwards, Akorem Laan comes through the wormhole in an old lightship, claiming that he’s the Emissary. All seems well at first to Sisko, who is happy to give up the position. As Sisko says: “Akorem will make a far better Emissary than I ever was. He’s Bajoran. He’s a revered poet, and he wants the job. Besides, Starfleet will be thrilled. They never liked the idea that the Bajorans saw me as a religious figure.” Sisko searches the prophecies to discover bits that make more sense with Akorem Laan as the Emissary.

As Sisko is happy to give up the position and the Vedek Assembly makes no objection, all of Bajor accepts Akorem. The only one who seems to be bothered by this is Odo: Sisko was the Emissary yesterday but not today. How can that be? Kira cannot quite justify it, but she puts it down to faith, in an exchange which is very appealing, even to this logic-driven observer.

Then discover what Akorem Laan has in store for Bajor. His goal is to restore the D’jarras, a caste system where people are forced to follow particular professions whether they have any aptitude or not, and where some castes are inherently better than others. This makes many people uncomfortable. Although I do not agree at all with a caste system, I do not think the episode’s writer (the talented Jane Espenson) was trying to cast Akorem as the bad guy. Akorem comes from a time when the caste system was part of everyday life, and he truly believes that D’jarras are needed to make Bajor flourish again.

Caste-based discrimination is not permitted in the Federation and would disqualify Bajor from membership. This displeases Starfleet and makes them annoyed with Sisko. This shows that the Federation, although it claims to have principles, is more into outcome-based morality than it cares to admit.

Kira tries to accept Akorem’s orders. Her D’jarra means she is supposed to be an artist, and she spends a night of frustration attempting to make clay models. She even arranges for Sisko to meet with potential first officer replacements as she intends to go study art.

All of this is frustrating for Sisko, who discovers how much power he had had as Emissary (but which he never wielded) and suffers from prophet-like dreams. When someone is killed Sisko decides to reclaim his position. Akorem Laan is actually fairly reasonable, asking how they are supposed to resolve this. The elegant solution is going to the wormhole and asking the prophets – who make it very clear that Sisko is the Emissary. They return the healed Akorem Laan to his time, and he finishes some poems. Everything is as it was, or even better, because Sisko is now much happier in his role as the Emissary. Which appears to be what the Prophets wanted, and in my opinion, answers the questions that Odo posed earlier.

Still, I have to ask: why isn’t anyone wondering if Sisko did something to Akorem Laan? Sisko has been around when two religious icons disappeared: Kai Opaka (in “Battle Lines,” 1:12) and now Akorem Laan. Even if the Bajorans have a lot of faith, why isn’t Odo asking questions? Or Kai Winn?

Keiko is sometimes a random character, behaving in a way that services the plot, but this is one episode where you can see how much Keiko supports her husband, as she makes it clear that she’s fine with Julian and Miles spending time together. Besides, it's not just Miles who has to adjust, but Keiko and Molly as well.

Title musings: “Accession” is not a word that I use frequently, so I checked out its definitions in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The first definition is “the act or process by which someone rises to a position of honor or power.” We can see this for two of the characters, both Sisko and Akorem Laan. Then there are a couple of definitions dealing with acquisition, which are less relevant, except for viewing the position of emissary as one that enables acquisition, especially of power (the Ferengis might like this). Definition 4 – the act of assenting or agreeing – and definition 5 – the act of becoming joined – are both extremely relevant to Sisko’s arc. In this he sees how important his role could be, and how dangerous to give it up. “Accession” is a great title in its aptness, and for improving my understanding of the nuances of my mother tongue.

Bits and pieces

Sisko built a similar lightship in the episode "Explorers" (DS9 3:22).

In an earlier episode, “The Circle” (DS9 2:2), Kira confesses to Vedek Barail that she was the worst artist in her kindergarten class and that her parents were always ashamed. It seemed like a joke back then, but given that her D’jarra means that she’s supposed to be an artist, perhaps there was some truth in it.

It's amusing to watch Worf, who delivered Keiko’s first baby in Star Trek TNG’s “Disaster” (5:05), learn that Keiko is pregnant again and make plans to be far away when she is expected to deliver.

What was a poet doing up in a lightship anyway?

Kai Winn is happy about the prospect of the D’jarras returning – and in a nice moment, Akorem points out that Winn fears Sisko.

The introduction of the storyline that Keiko is pregnant is really clever. The actress who was actually pregnant at this point was Nana Visitor (Major Kira!) by Alexander Siddiq (Dr. Julian Bashir!), and as we’ll see in “Body Parts” (4:24), this was the way of writing the pregnancy into the story.

Quotes

Jadzia: It isn’t that bad, is it, being the Emissary? A few ceremonies, an occasional blessing.

Kira: Who are you?
Akorem Laan: I am the Emissary.

Quark: You know babies. Everything they pick up goes straight into their ears.

Odo: But two days ago, you believed Captain Sisko was the Emissary.
Kira: But he made it clear he wants to step aside.
Odo: Does that mean he never was the Emissary?
Kira: No.
Odo: But they can’t both be.

Kira: that’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it, you can’t understand it, and if you do, no explanation is necessary

Kira: Maybe you never realized this Captain, but we would have tried to do whatever you asked of us, when you were Emissary – no matter how difficult it seemed.

Prophet in form of Kai Opaka: Know you? How can I know someone who doesn’t know himself?

Bashir: Morn couldn’t hit a Yridian yak at five paces.

Overall Rating

This episode is important, as it moves Sisko along the arc of accepting his position as the Emissary. Espenson is brilliant in that each character is organic; they’re behaving as they should; they have different points of view but for very good reasons. However, compared to other episodes, during a rewatch, this one feels slow. Also, the D’jarras are interesting, but I don’t think we heard about them before or after this episode, which turns them into a MacGuffin (an arbitrary element for furthering the plot). How many of Kira’s clay masterpieces should we award it? Two and a half? Or three?

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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