(written from a Production point of view)
Chief O'Brien is appointed spiritual leader of a Bajoran village. Meanwhile, Nog and Jake try to help their new friend settle a struggle between two Bajoran villages.
- "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. They break temporarily, and as Varis passes by a bored Jake and Nog on the Promenade, Nog 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 to swipe his bucket with a Cardassian security rod that Nog has. 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, O'Brien tells Bashir that he's had enough of storytelling for a while, and Bashir informs him that he is not required to call him "Julian".
Walking with Sisko, Varis is 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 enough of storytelling.
"My dad's a pretty smart guy."
"Mine too! In his own way."
- - Jake and Nog
"I'm not a little lady!"
"I'm still charging her for that drink."
- - Varis Sul and Quark, when she throws her drink on him and walks off
"Major, what a pleasant surprise. I always look forward to one of your infrequent visits."
- - Quark, to Kira
"Once... upon a time... there was a Dal'Rok!"
- - O'Brien, trying to fill in as Sirah
"I mean, for all we know, you really were sent by the Prophets."
"I was sent by Commander Sisko!"
- - Bashir when O'Brien is selected as the new Sirah
"All right now... let's really focus!"
- - O'Brien, still trying
"I believe in people working together to find reasonable solutions to their problems. I hope you do as well."
- - Benjamin Sisko, to Varis Sul
Story and script
- Kurt Michael Bensmiller originally pitched the story for this episode during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The producers didn't purchase the show, but the script remained in the Star Trek offices at Paramount, and when Michael Piller joined the staff in the third season, he read it and liked it a great deal. Although it never got made for TNG, it was viable for DS9. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?)) Piller commented, "It was a script that was written for Next Generation on spec by a writer named Kurt Michael Bensmiller, who wrote 'Time Squared'. I had this script in my desk for three years and I bring it out every season and I say should we do this script this year? Everybody reads it and they say let's not do it. They just didn't like it. I needed some shows and I needed to put some things into development." After going two months without buying a story pitch for DS9, Piller was forced to resurrect the Bensmiller script which went on to form the basis of this episode. (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 33) As soon as the series went into production, Piller contacted Bensmiller and told him to adapt the story for the new show. Indeed, this was so early in DS9's development that Bensmiller had to write the story during Christmas of 1992, several weeks before Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's January 1993 debut. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- This episode was based on Rudyard Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?))
- This was the first episode to show the beginnings of friendship between Julian Bashir and Miles O'Brien. While they had had scenes together in "Emissary" and "Q-Less", the idea to pair these two characters up was Ira Steven Behr's. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion (p. ?)) Michael Piller noted, "Ira did a lot of work on that script." Behr himself remarked, "What I wanted to do was a show that explored the fact that you have two guys working together and one, Bashir, wants to have a really close relationship, and the other one, O'Brien, is saying back off. This was a chance for them to get together." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages pp. 33 & 51)
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)
- The knife that Hovath tries to stab O'Brien with was a prop constructed from rubber by Joe Longo's props department. ("Alien Artifacts: Season One", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features) The Prop knife was manufactured at Prop'er Effects By Michael Moore
- On the filming of the scenes where the villagers face the Dal'rok, David Livingston commented, "We had thirty extras, wind, and lightning. They were really difficult working conditions. I had to use a bullhorn in order to communicate since I had lost my voice. It's physically very demanding on everybody to work on Stage 18. The actors had to have big wind machines blowing in their faces and it was very debilitating, but we got through it. It was fun. Screaming through a bullhorn is a real power trip." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, p. 93)
- The exterior shots of the village were reused from the TNG two-parter "Birthright, Part I" and "Birthright, Part II", where the model had been used for a Romulan prison camp on Carraya IV. The exterior view of the prison camp was designed by Richard James and James Magdaleno, from which a miniature model was built. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 67)) Dan Curry created the final scene by inserting shots of the miniature into jungle photographs he had taken in Laos in the 1960s.
- The making of this episode was extremely costly. It was produced amongst a few other installments that were also expensive to produce. Stated Rick Berman, "It was very difficult to shoot, and we were way over budget on the opticals on that show because of the complexity of this thing that appears in the sky." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, pp. 33 & 51)
- The episode's score, composed by Dennis McCarthy, was recorded on 6 April 1993, at Paramount Stage M. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Collection liner notes) Cues from the score – totaling nine minutes, twelve seconds – appear on the first disc of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Collection.
- Ira Steven Behr commented, "I like 'The Storyteller' a lot because it gave us a chance to do Bashir and O'Brien, and that's the core of that show. It also gives a nice little feel for the Bajorans and shows that Bajor is indeed a strange place. There are things happening in those little hamlets and villages that are certainly not your average Federation attitude toward life, religion and spirituality [….] Colm's quite good. It's basically The Man Who Would Be King, and he's a wonderful person to make king." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages p. 33)
- Michael Piller commented, "One of the really big problems with this script, which is why it didn't appeal to anybody, is because it was not about any of our characters. We were just watching the events occur by putting O'Brien in the middle, saying you have to solve it. What really appealed to me was the great theme that sometimes we create our own monsters so that we can defeat them and feel secure in our power. I was always in love with that theme, and finally we made it work." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 51)
- Rick Berman commented, "It was a little fanciful, but I like the science-fiction element involving a creature created by the collective imagination of this village as a way of bringing them closer together. The story's having to do with a little piece of one of the orbs that is held by the storyteller was a very interesting concept as well." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 51)
- In a review in Cinefantastique, the reviewer wrote, "Although the 'evil entity' menace plays like a bad '50s science fiction B-movie contrivance, the juice of the episode is the Abbott & Costello banter between Chief O'Brien and Dr. Bashir. The B-story involving Jake and Nog's affinity for a comely young Bajoran is surprisingly endearing, distinguished by a moment of comic inspiration in which Nog hurls a bucket of oatmeal at the young Sisko who thinks it's Odo in his disassembled form." (Cinefantastique, Volume 24, Issue 1)
- Several of the Bajorans in the Sirah's village have a forehead ridge that was visible on Ro Laren's forehead in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and several earlier Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes.
- This episode marks the first appearance of Odo's bucket.
- Buck Bokai is mentioned by name for the first time in this episode. He was previously alluded to in TNG: "The Big Goodbye". He (or at least an alien posing as him) appears several episodes later, in "If Wishes Were Horses".
- 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.
- O'Brien protests that it wasn't the Prophets who sent him, but, rather, Commander Sisko. Considering the later revelation of Sisko's heritage, both the perspective of the villagers and of O'Brien are actually accurate.
- Aspects of this episode later became crucial in the Deep Space Nine relaunch series, such as Fragments and Omens in Worlds of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as well as in Warpath, Fearful Symmetry, and The Soul Key. The village seen in this episode is called "Sidau" in these novels and the orb fragment is called the "paghvaram".
- Remastered scenes from the episode are featured in the documentary What We Left Behind.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 7, 8 November 1993
- As part of the DS9 Season 1 DVD collection
Links and references
- Rene Auberjonois as Odo
- Siddig El Fadil as Doctor Bashir
- Terry Farrell as Lieutenant Dax
- Cirroc Lofton as Jake Sisko
- Colm Meaney as Chief O'Brien
- Armin Shimerman as Quark
- Nana Visitor as Major Kira
- Lawrence Monoson as Hovath
- Kay E. Kuter as The Sirah
- Gina Philips as Varis Sul
- Jim Jansen as Faren Kag
- Aron Eisenberg as Nog
- Jordan Lund as Woban
- Alexander as a tailhead
- Sam Alejan as a Bajoran villager
- Jimmy Angel as Bajoran villager
- Angela as Starfleet civilian
- T.B. as Yellow-skinned dabo girl
- Scott Barry as a Bajoran officer
- Jeanne Bascowe as Bajoran gift girl 2 or 3
- Christine Anne Baur as a Bajoran villager
- Jim Baxter as Bajoran villager
- Everdina Boyd as Bajoran gift girl 3 or 2
- Bill Buck as Bajoran villager
- Stacey Chamberlin as Bajoran villager
- Robert Coffee as a Bajoran officer
- Len Costanza as Bajoran Paqu advisor
- Derek Cravin as Bajoran villager
- Janet Dillon as Bajoran villager
- Jeannie Dreams as a Human operations division ensign
- Holiday Freeman as a Human DS9 resident
- Anthony Giger as Bajoran villager
- Bob Harks as Bajoran villager
- Randy James as Lieutenant Jones
- Nira King as Bajoran villager
- Malcolm Knight as Bajoran villager
- Mark Lentry as a Human command division lieutenant
- Tony Lorea as Bajoran villager
- Dennis Madalone as a Bajoran villager
- Mary Mascari as Bajoran villager
- Chad McCord as operations ensign
- Robin Morselli as Bajoran officer
- Roberto as a tailhead
- Ivonne Perez as Bajoran villager
- Frances Praksti as a Bajoran gift girl 1
- Robin R. as Starfleet civilian
- Mark Allen Shepherd as
- Ty as Human DS9 resident
- Michael Zurich as a Bajoran security deputy
- Unknown performers as
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- "The Storyteller" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Storyteller" at Wikipedia
- "The Storyteller" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Storyteller" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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