“Past Prologue” presented many Star Trek: Deep Space Nine firsts

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Past Prologue” includes an impressive number of Deep Space Nine firsts.

“Past Prologue,” the first regular, hour-length episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, first aired 30 years ago this week (the week of January 11). “A Man Alone” was produced before it, and aired the next week. But “Past Prologue” makes a far stronger first regular Deep Space Nine episode because it marks an impressive number of “firsts” for the series.

The episode’s teaser is the first appearance of our “interesting new friend” Garak, played by Andrew Robinson (pictured above). Garak is the only Cardassian still living on the station after the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. While he professes to be nothing but a “plain, simple” tailor, DS9 viewers will soon learn he’s anything but. Even in “Past Prologue,” he’s involved in clandestine goings-on regarding the Cardassians’ interest in arresting Tahna Los.

And Garak tries, successfully, to draw Dr. Bashir into those dealings. “Past Prologue,” then, is the first chapter in Bashir’s series-long entanglement with espionage and covert operations. Sometimes, especially in the fourth-season standout episode “Our Man Bashir,” the spycraft is lighthearted, comedic fun (even if the stakes in that episode are actually quite high for our characters). At other times, as when Bashir is unwillingly working for the shadowy Section 31, it raises questions that challenge core Starfleet ideals.

The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Past Prologue” brought DS9’s first Klingons and a key relationship

“Past Prologue” also gives us our first sight of Klingons aboard Deep Space Nine in the persons of Lursa and B’Etor (Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh, respectively).

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Terry J. Erdman calls Lursa and B’Etor “the popular Klingon sisters” from Star Trek: The Next Generation (p. 22). I suppose Erdman must be right, as the TNG creative team saw fit to include the Duras Sisters in the series’ big-screen bow the next year, Star Trek Generations.

I always found the characters tedious and flat—if Klingon women had mustaches as the men do, they’d be twirling theirs—but their mercifully brief presence in “Past Prologue” does anticipate the increased Klingon presence in Deep Space Nine’s last four seasons.

For all of the firsts in this episode, the most significant may be Major Kira’s first visit to Odo’s security office. Sporting a different, close-cropped hairstyle than she had in “Emissary” (yet another first), Kira seeks her long-time friend Odo’s insight on whether the assistance she’s providing Starfleet is actually good for the Bajoran cause.

In the Companion, Erdman quotes producer Peter Allan Fields:

It was terribly important to put in a scene between Odo and Kira that establishes trust between them when she didn’t know where else to turn or what to do.

The scene not only establishes the trust they share but also plants seeds, albeit indirectly, for their later romance. When Kira asks Odo how much he knows about her, he says, “More than you probably realize.” In context, it’s a wry reference to his position as head of station security. In retrospect, we can hear it as a clue to his deep interest in her.

“Past Prologue” doesn’t feature an especially memorable main plotline. Tahna Los (Jeffrey Nordling) was one of Kira’s fellow freedom fighters in the Bajoran resistance—the first of many we would meet in Deep Space Nine. Indeed, so frequent would these blasts from Kira’s past become, Star Trek: Lower Decks even lovingly lampooned them in last season’s “Hear All, Trust Nothing.” He tries to destroy the wormhole—the first of several threats it will face over the course of the series—but Kira stops him, life continues, and he is never mentioned again.

But for the series firsts it presents, from “plain and simple” Garak to the soon-to-be-complicated relationship of Kira and Odo, “Past Prologue” deserves attention this 30th anniversary week.