The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Sanctuary

When a Skrreean ship comes through the wormhole, it is just one of many refugee ships from the Gamma Quadrant searching for the legendary ‘Eye of the Universe’. The Skrreeans are looking for a new world to settle, but the presence of so many refugees aboard DS9 makes some of the inhabitants uneasy – especially when the Skrreeans decide that Bajor should be their new home.

Sanctuary aired almost 23 years ago, but in this episode DS9 tackles issues that still resonate today – refugees and the fears they incite in people about mass migration. If the Skrreeans are Syrians or other refugees, then the Bajorans are the conservative landowners, worried about these immigrants ruining their country and taxing the limits of their benefits system. Haneek points out that the Skrreeans are farmers, well up for hard work and self-sufficiency – perhaps even able to help the Bajorans with their crop shortages – but the government doesn’t want to take a risk. As Quark says “You know these Skrreeans are nothing but trouble. They’re all over the station, looking and touching, never buying anything. And they flake.”. They aren’t the nice, civilised people of the Alpha Quadrant – they are freeloaders with an unpleasant skin condition and insufficient respect for capitalism. Even Kira, whose bond with Haneek strengthens the portrayal of both characters, doesn’t necessarily want her new friend actually living on her homeworld.

Imagine if the Bajorans had said a reluctant yes to the Skrreeans. We could have had an entire spin-off storyline about tensions between the Bajorans and the Skrreeans – threats of violence, segregation, difficulties after a harsh winter. I guess there’s always fanfiction.

Other points

  • The Skrreeans were previously oppressed by the T-Rogorans for centuries, until the T-Rogorans were themselves conquered by the Dominion. This is the second mention of the Dominion, and they don’t sound particularly friendly thus far.
  • This is one of the rare times when the universal translator takes some time to work instead of just magically functioning straight away. It makes more sense to me that the universal translator would need to hear some speech before being able to translate it, and although it would be time consuming for this to happen episode, it’s a nice touch here.
  • Do the Skrreeans naturally have that skin condition, or is that a long-term effect of spending their lives on ancient spaceships that are constantly leaking out radiation – and probably not even protecting from the radiation of space?
  • The Skrreeans have a matriarchal society, and think that their men are too emotional to be taken seriously. It’s like an early version of manwhohasitall, where sexist tropes are gender-reversed to demonstrate how ridiculous they are.
  • The first tune we hear Varani playing is a variant of the DS9 opening theme – which means that that theme exists in the Star Trek universe as well as our universe.
  • Jake is dating a dabo girl.

Summary – Sanctuary: Surprisingly topical even 23 years later.

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