Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Collaborating On Religion And Politics On Deep Space Nine: “The Collaborator”

The Good: Character development, Acting, Plot, Thematic issues
The Bad: Visuals become somewhat overbearing
The Basics: A pivotal episode in the Bajoran spirituality plot of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine leads to the naming of the new spiritual leader on Bajor in “The Collaborator.”

One of the ironies of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is that the allegory of the Cardassians and the Bajorans is analogous to the situation of Nazi Germany as it relates to the Jews and yet when the Bajoran religion is analyzed, it is structurally and theologically closer to Catholicism. The Bajoran worship of the Prophets is actually an intriguing combination of Jewish spirituality and prophecy, Catholic hierarchy, and Islamic reverence to prophets.

"The Collaborator" finds us two days before the election of the new Kai, the Bajoran spiritual leader roughly analogous to the Pope. Major Kira's love interest, Vedek (analogous to Cardinal) Bareil is the leading candidate for Kai and as he prepares to return to Bajor, the fundamentalist Vedek Winn appears on the station. When a collaborator, a Bajoran who worked for the Cardassians during the Occupation, arrives on the station, Odo arrests him and everything seems in order. That is, until Winn offers him sanctuary. Winn's political action takes a turn for the worse when she reveals that the collaborator she is granting amnesty to has information about a more important collaborator, one who sold out 43 Bajoran Resistance fighters who were slaughtered, including Kai Opaka's son. Winn conscripts Kira to prove that Bareil was collaborating with the Cardassians and was responsible for the slaughter of 43 Bajorans.

This is not the recommended way to build trust in an early relationship.

As always, character takes the forefront of the episode. Kira is torn between doing the right thing (discovering who was responsible for the massacre) and protecting the man she loves. The conflict is handled responsibly and realistically. Nana Visitor is working at her peak; the level of acting seen in "Duet" and "Crossover" (where she handles dual roles expertly). It's refreshing to see Kira in the acting role, moving the plot as opposed to relegated to a support position.

Vedek Bareil's character is fleshed out as we see a somewhat tormented man attempting to do the right thing for all of the right reasons. Vedek Winn emerges as the cunning villainess we've some to expect her to be. She is calculating in all the wonderful ways. There is a wonderful scene between her and Sisko where they actually confront one another on the rumors that they are adversaries. Winn's calculating political savvy is reaching its peak near the end of the episode where that prior conversation with Sisko is referenced.

The only major fault I can find is the overbearing visuals. The first Orb vision (we've seen these in "Emissary" and "The Circle") sets the plot up (and allows for the appearance of Kai Opaka, lost in the first season - see "Battle Lines," reviewed here!) quite well. Unfortunately, Bareil continues to have orb experiences and they are telling him the same thing over and over. It becomes a bit obvious.

Other than that, I enjoy the episode. However, those people who are easily offended by religious commentary are likely to be quite offended by this episode. I think it's both amusing and appropriate how the leader of the reactionary, fundamentalist sect of the Vedek Assembly is backstabbing, conniving and political, while the liberal favorite of the people (Bareil) is giving, self-sacrificing and kind to all. This episode harkens back to the Great Schism in Catholicism in some ways. I enjoy the episode as a stern warning against the power of the body of an institutionalized religion. And "The Collaborator" does it particularly well; never once are the affairs of people mixed with the affairs of gods. It is clear that it is the individuals who are corrupt, not their deities.

The twist at the end, for a change, works fairly well. I'll admit that the first time I saw the episode I didn't know the truth about who the collaborator was; I guessed wrong. But in the end, the episode has profound ramifications that reverberate through the remainder of the series as the new Kai is named. And as the Bajoran (usually in conjunction with the Cardassian) plot is one of the three main plots, you may imagine that the Kai will have profound influence.

Part of the essential Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and a fine episode for those who enjoy commentary on organized religion, "The Collaborator" does quite a bit right.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode, movie or DVD set reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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