The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Explorers

When Sisko returns from Bajor with plans for a spaceship that can sail on the solar winds, he decides to build it to prove that such a craft would be spaceworthy. But whilst Sisko is very taken with the project, Jake seems less than enthused when his father invites him along for the ride. Meanwhile, Bashir is determined to prove himself when his old rival from medical school pays a visit to the station.

I’ve been looking forward to this episode for a while; the solar ship is one of the more fun and interesting craft to feature in Star Trek, and I actually quite enjoy the father-son dynamic between Sisko and Jake. Whilst it’s still a good episode with plenty of character moments – including some plot points that seem insignificant now but will become important later – unfortunately the visuals haven’t stood the test of time and higher definition. DS9 may not exist in blu-ray, but DVD is enough to make the solar ship look terrible, which is a shame, as I really liked that ship back in the day. I remember the eagerness with which I added it to my Star Trek Fact Files (my teenage years were nothing if not wild).

Important character moments

  • This episode marks the first appearance of dabo girl Leeta. Right now, Leeta seems interested in Dr Bashir, but later on she will turn her attentions to Rom, and will go on to marry him.
  • Jake says he is planning to set his father up with a freighter captain. This freighter captain will turn out to be Kasidy Yates, who will eventually marry Sisko and have his child.
  • Jake reveals that he has written a short story, and that he has been offered a fellowship at the Pennington Writing School in New Zealand. Jake plans to defer this fellowship, and indeed in the prime timeline he will never attend, instead becoming a reporter for the Federation during the Dominion War.
  • Sisko has grown a beard. He will retain this beard for the remainder of the series, and also start shaving his head.

Other bits and pieces

  • Solar sails are an actual thing. They were proposed centuries ago, and by now some have even been sent into space. The tachyon bit is not part of the accepted science, though.
  • We’ve long been told that the Bajorans had a fully functioning society whilst humanity was still swinging round in the trees. Now it seems that they made it to Cardassia some eight hundred years prior to this episode, i.e. in the late 16th century.
  • Even though Dax has shown no romantic interest in Bashir, she still seems to be wilfully cock-blocking him during his interaction with Leela.
  • O’Brien seems to lack any interest in Sisko’s project, despite his love of engineering. Maybe fixing and building things is too close to the day job for O’Brien to want to spend his spare time on it, although as a man who enjoys a good technical manual, you’d think it would be more of a vocation to him than a mere job. Maybe he just considers the solar ship to be frivolous, when there are real things to be built.
  • If the only reason Bashir came second was because he got one question wrong, then surely he could have at best tied with Lense. Unless of course she got one question wrong too, and it was just worth fewer marks than the pre/post-ganglionic question.
  • Lense claims she gets excited when a planet has life on it, even if that life is only moss. Surely moss is more a subject of study for the ship’s botanists, xenobiologists or even science officers, and not the chief medical officer? I guess she could study its effects on humanoids, or as a side research project. Dr Crusher grew moss in Clues, after all.
  • O’Brien implies that the breathable air on the station is produced by the replicators.
  • Sisko is apparently an enthusiastic builder when the fancy takes him – not just when he makes clocks when controlled by alien personalities. His last project was a starscape ceiling for baby Jake.
  • What exactly were the fireworks the Cardassians deployed at the end? Not only did they look lame, but they clearly couldn’t have been fireworks per se, as the lack of air in space would hinder combustion.

Summary – Explorers: In which Sisko goes on a joyride, and Elizabeth Lense learns that life is boring when you’re not a main character.

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2 thoughts on “The Great Star Trek DS9 Rewatch: Explorers

  1. Pyrotechnic materials typically contain an oxidising agent rather than relying on the presence of oxygen (with only air I think they wouldn’t burn sufficiently rapidly to be interesting). So not that implausible that they should work in space.

  2. The internet agrees:
    “Launching fireworks in a near-zero-oxygen environment is completely feasible, says Stefan Bossmann, a chemist and rocket enthusiast at Kansas State University: “That would be no problem at all. They have an oxidizer, and they have a reductant.” That chemistry is not reliant upon oxygen, and similar reactions are responsible for powering space-shuttle thrusters and other large space-borne rockets.

    The trouble would come after launch, when the bursting charge releases and ignites the colorant pellets. The reaction that imparts a rocket’s metals and metal salts with enough energy to change pretty colors requires oxygen. Unless your fireworks were specially designed for bursting in space, their colors would quickly fizzle out. “There may be some color in the initial explosion,” says Bossmann, “but it wouldn’t be half as spectacular as what you see on the Fourth of July.”

    Even with space-enabled fireworks, a burst wouldn’t have any thunder. With no atmosphere to propagate sound waves, even the loudest of rockets would be reduced to silence.”

    Obviously we give “no sound in space” a pass, as we do for all of Star Trek.

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