Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Season 2 Episode 10


Aired Weekdays 11:00 AM Nov 28, 1993 on Syndicado

Episode Fan Reviews (4)

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out of 10
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  • Thou Shall Not Mention the Universal Translator

    A group of refugees from the Gamma Quadrant claims that Bajor is the homeland they've long been searching for.

    One of the recurring themes for the original Star Trek series is that because something is different or unattractive, it doesn't mean it's wrong or unworthy. A recurring theme for The Next Generation is, "How can we help this group of people who are struggling with a problem?" "Sanctuary" combines the two ideas into an immigration-themed episode that plays out as an average Deep Space Nine filler story.

    The episode begins with a Star Trek faux pas: it attempts to explain how the universal translator works. The problem is that the past (and future) precedents for communication between aliens on Star Trek can't be rationally and consistently explained and simply have to be accepted an artistic liberty. As such, it's in the show's best interest to mention the universal translator in abstract terms and not call attention to its details. This episode, however, tries to be cute by having aliens we have trouble understanding. \The DS9 writers have since admitted that this is just a stall tactic because the real story is too short for a full episode. The idea works in TNG's fifth season episode "Darmok" because that episode avoids the specifics of the technology. In contradistinction, "Sanctuary" awkwardly discusses it and raises more questions than it answers. How does the universal translator immediately and identify translate the languages of other aliens we haven't encountered before? Why do the lip movements always look like English? Heck, in the TNG episode "First Contact", Riker spends the episode seemingly speaking English with a race of aliens who don't know he's not one of them. Did the . project the foreign words in his own voice and project a holographic mouth making the sounds? But I digress.

    The story itself, once the communication issue is buried, moves along nicely and is enjoyable. It's especially a hoot to see William Schallert "Nilz Baris" in the original series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" as a Bajoran musician who opens the episode with a rendition of the Deep Space Nine theme. Ultimately, however, "Sanctuary" sidesteps offering a clear statement on the immigration issue, playing both sides of the fence and probably pleasing no one in the process.

  • Nowhere near perfect, but it's an interesting story done well enough.

    I have some of the same beefs as the other reviewers, but I guess they bother me less. This IS a great idea for an episode executed less than perfectly. Yeah, there are some ill-conceived parts in this episode. But there's enough substance here to make that mostly a nuisance for me. It's much better than the filler episodes of season 1.

    This is, I suppose, an issue show - in this case, about refugees and anti-immigrant sentiment (couched in politically correct rhetoric, of course, and having some justification to boot), but it really does touch upon one of the characters (Kira) in a meaningful way. There's no sense of preachiness here - more of a "life is tough, and there aren't no easy answers" theme.

    The Skreaans are a mixed bunch - the adult males are rather annoying (one-dimensional "aliens of the week"), but Haneeq was a genuinely interesting character - and her falling out with Kira rather intense. That's one harsh farewell in the episode's conclusion. Tumak's death has the appropriate sense of inevitable tragedy.
  • Lots of good ideas...questionable execution

    In 'Sanctuary', a massive fleet of refugees from the Gamma Quadrant (victims of the Dominion, in their second mention on DS9) arrive through the wormhole, in search of their fabled 'holy land'. The Skreeans believe that their mecca is actually Bajor...although unfortunately the Bajorans aren't so keen on the notion.

    There are some interesting ideas at work here: it's about time Trek tackled immigration and it was gutsy of the writers to put the formerly oppressed Bajorans in the role of oppressor (or near-enough oppressor), but the script is clunky and the pace uneven. A lot of the conflict feels forced and this considerably blunts the impact of the supposedly 'emotional' climax.
  • A noble episode that lacks any real sense of drama or tension.

    Sanctuary is an episode that should be more than just merely interesting or passable, but should stand out as a prime example of Star Trek's ability to deal with a contemporary in a futuristic setting. Sadly, in an episode that deals with two very Star Trek ideals like racism and freedom, it ultimately fails to make much of a case for either.

    Right from the beginning when our 'alien race of the week' show up, a rather uninspired group calling themselves the Skrreea, we are already on a rocky road. Firstly we learn that they are impoverished refugees who have broken free from centuries of slavery. This by itself might have made for a decent episode. However, the writers seem determined to add as many quirks and traits to the aliens as possible.

    The Skrreean's are a matriarchal society. And interesting concept that is ruined by the fact that the female domination of their society does not come their intelligence or strength, but more from the idiocy of its males. Frankly, the Skrreea are a deeply distasteful race. They suffer from a skin condition that causes their skin to flake. So when the Bajorans begin to feel overwhelmed by the mass arrival of a race that seem only to get in the way and consume precious resources, it's not difficult to understand where they are coming from. When you are trying to deal with racism and show how stupid it is, you usually don't make the racists seem somewhat sympathetic.

    So not only do you have a pathetic excuse for an alien race, the writers decide to waste the first half of the episode with the flimsy idea that the Skrreean language is too complex for the Universal Translator to understand. So we have Major Kira and the rest of the crew wandering around the station with the Skrreean members acting as though they are communicating with chimps. Sometimes when the Skrreeans waddle about in a crouched stance, touching everything and getting into trouble, it sometimes feels like they are.

    Again, the Skrreea are simply too annoying as a race to care about which eliminates any drama that episode might have had. The episode is too much of a Hodge podge of random attempts to deal with a complex issue. We have Jake and Nog in a side story where Jake is tutoring a Dabo girl and the young Ferengi makes light of her aspirations and treats her as a sexual object. We also have an old Bajoran musician who Kira is a fan of providing a perspective we are supposed to believe represents the majority of the Bajoran population. Indeed, he makes the most cogent argument against the Skrreeans. That Bajor is simply too overstretched to cope with them so soon after they themselves were freed from oppression and slavery.

    There is no doubt that the episode is Kira centric. But by the end the character has not really grown. The lessons Kira is supposed to have learned are ones she has already conquered in episodes such as Progress, Cardassians and Duet. Kira is no longer the angry young Bajoran woman she was in the first season. This was highlighted to greater effect in the preceeding episode Second Skin, which only serves the render this episode an even greater disappointment.

    Ultimately the episode presents nothing new. When the Skrreea appear and start bleating about their long lost homeworld that lies beyond what we all know is the wormhole, we immediately understand that they are talking about Bajor. And we also know that under no circumstances are the Skrreea going to be allowed to settle on Bajor. So when they are denied and toddle off into space to a nice Federation surveyed planet, we know we'll never see them again. And we also see their self righteous parting shot at Kira and Bajor for their fear and intolerance which could cost them.

    Sanctuary is filled with interesting ideas that are simply half baked. Had the writers peppered them into multiple episodes it would have been fine, but it seems as though they had a shopping list of interesting ideas that they decided to compress into one episode. This decision mixed with uninspired performances by the actors and the atrocious makeup of the aliens, makes Sanctuary an episode of frustrations and missed opportunities.