Sisko and Miles find themselves facing a cult in an episode that originally aired on February 13,1994. This is Paradise.
Station Log Stardate 47573.1 Paradise
After becoming stranded on an uncharted world near the wormhole, Sisko and O’Brien find a colony of humans who have lost contact with the Federation and plan to keep it that way.
Commander Sisko and Chief O’Brien go on an expedition to chart possible colonies near the wormhole. While exploring the area, O’Brien detects a potential location that seems to already have a colony. Beaming down they soon find themselves unable to return to the Runabout Rio Grande and captives of the local populous.
Almost immediately Joseph, one of the hunting party, recognizes O’Brien and Sisko’s uniforms and welcomes them to join them in their village. It seems that this small colony has been lost on the planet for nearly ten years and have turned their transport ship into a small cabin. Entering the village, they are greeted by the survivors in what seems to be a idealic village. It is almost immediately obvious that the leader is a woman named Alixus who seems to love her new life. She has shunned all modern technology and has fully embraced her situation.
Back on DS9, Dax and Kira notice that they have lost contact with the Rio Grande.
Sisko and O’Brien dig into the village, even reading some of Alixus’ writings. It is clear that she has always felt that technology is her bane and that the situation they are in is a perfect fit to her demeanor. Soon they are faced with a medical situation where one of the villagers has fallen ill. As Sisko attempts to help by trying to make contact with the Runabout, he is soon slapped down by Alixus who sees his efforts as futile. She demands that he abandons all of his illusions of rescue and even recommends he lose his uniform.
Back on DS9, Dax and Kira locate the Rio Grande and head out to retrieve it. Apparently, it has been travelling at warp 2 unmanned… I wonder how that happened?
Back in the village, Miles and Ben work in the fields with the locals. While there they witness the archaic methods Alixus uses to discipline her people. Removing a man named Stephen from a box, she explains that this was the punishment for stealing a candle. The Box, a former cargo container, is left in the sun creating a sort of ‘hot box’. Sisko commands O’Brien to find a way to get them off the planet as soon as possible.
That night one of the villagers, Cassandra, visits Sisko and attempts to seduce him with a massage to ease his muscles from his day of work. He resists, asking Cassandra if Alixus sent her to him to keep him there. Confronting Alixus, Sisko informs the Village leader that he is not pleased with her actions. Sisko points out that he has learned Alixus has always shunned technology and he finds it convenient that she has found a place that fits her idealistic lifestyle so perfectly. In order to get Sisko more in line, she informs him that he will be standing watch that night. The next morning, as Sisko heads to bed, Alixus informs him that he will need to work his shift in the fields making it seem like it is his choice.
Meanwhile, Dax and Kira find the Rio Grande and bring it under control. Boarding the runabout they begin the investigation as to why it has been abandoned. While on the Rio Grande, Dax and Kira discover that whoever sent the ship off course was attempting to destroy it by flying it into a star. Tracking the ship back to it’s origin, they head to the Orellius system in hopes to find Ben and Miles.
Back at the village, Alixus announces that Meg, a sick villager, has died. As she announces this she has Miles brought out accusing him of wasting time that could have been put to productive use. Although he has every right to do it, she uses this as an example as to how dangerous Miles and Sisko are to the community. As punishment, Alixus puts Ben Sisko into the hot box as he is Miles Commanding officer. Ben goes in willingly, showing that he will face down this tyrant one way or another.
Later, Alixus pulls Ben from the box and tells him that he can have a drink of water if he is willing to give up his uniform and accept their way of life. Although tempted, he soon rejects her demands and puts himself back into the hotbox, showing her and her people that he will not be her puppet. Miles attempts to help but the Commander refuses, determined to send a message to Alixus and her people.
Later, Miles and Joseph meet up and O’Brien asks for the man’s assistance. He tells Joseph that he thinks he has found a way to determine the source of the interference and asks Joseph to look the other way. Joseph gives in and the Chief goes out on a hunt for the cause of their problems. As he searches through the woods he soon comes across a mysterious device in the ground but, just as he begins to uncover it, he is attacked by Alixus’ son, Vinrod. Tricking the boy into thinking he was killed, Miles captures the kid and drags him back into the village. Using his phaser, he frees Sisko and demands the man be given water.
Talking to the village, Miles reveals Alixus’ betrayal to the village, forcing her to reveal the truth of the cause of their original crash. She set up the accident ten years prior in an experiment to show everyone who they really were. She tries to justify her actions by playing on the achievements of each individual however she accepts that she will need to be taken away and imprisoned for her actions and the deaths of the villagers she could have saved. In the end, Sisko and Miles are rescued by Kira and Dax. Miles offers to take the villagers from the planet, but most of them refuse indicating that they have been there for ten years and it is now their home despite the actions of Alixus and her son.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This episode is one of my favorite of the second season. We finally get a chance to see just how determined and strong Benjamin Sisko is and boy is he incredible. Avery Brooks does a tremendous job in this one playing up the role of the determined Star Fleet Commander who will stop at nothing to get himself and his crewman back home, even putting himself in mortal danger to do so.
The story itself is very much about how cult leaders manage to convince others to embrace their way of life. Alixus, under the guise of a benefactor, traps a group of travelers on a planet and, miraculously has the knowledge and skills necessary to help them survive. Since everyone is in survival mode anyhow, no one notices just how convenient it was for her and her son to have been there.
Alixus uses many of the traditional methods of cults to get her people to follow her. From Deception, Isolation, thought reform and even Induced Dependency, over time she has managed to break the will of the people around her, convincing them that any attempt to try to leave is a waste of resources and should be frowned upon. However, when Ben and Miles show up, she has to double her efforts as she sees that they present a problem in her great experiment. Had she truly had the groups best intentions at hand, she would have been happy to allow them to attempt escape as long as they earned their keep.
It is a deep and intricate story that makes this one of the best episodes of the season so far.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We never see nor hear from the villagers again, it is assumed that they remained on the planet while Alixus and Vinrod faced charges back home. I for one would love to know the story of the SS Santa Maria and the crew’s survival on the uncharted planet.
The timeline would imply that the SS Santa Maria crashed around the time of Star Trek TNG season one or two. It is amazing that neither the Bajorans nor the Cardassians ever noticed them there.
We learn that Sisko is not an only child having at least two brothers.
This episode also plants the seeds of Miles taking Jake in as a mentee.
For more on cults and how indoctrination works, there is a great article here from How Stuff Works. It is quite fascinating.
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Late To The Game 3/6/2021 (Originally published 5/13/2019)
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