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The Storyteller

Production no. 414
Teleplay by: Kurt Michael Bensmiller and Ira Steven Behr
Story by: Kurt Michael Bensmiller
Directed by: David Livingston
Stardate: 46729.1 
First satellite airdate: May 1, 1993
Lawrence Monoson ...
Kay E. Kuter ............
Gina Philips ...............
Jim Jansen ................
Aron Eisenberg .........
Jordan Lund ..............
Amy Benedict ...........
The Sirah

There is a conflict going on between two rival Bajoran factions, the Paqu and the Navot. At issue is a land dispute which could trigger a civil war. The Bajoran government has asked Sisko to mediate. As Sisko and Kira start for the docking bay at which the Paqu delegation has docked, O'Brien stops them. The Chief is due to leave for Bajor any moment, but asks if perhaps Ensign Boyer can take his place piloting the runabout. The reason for O'Brien's reluctance enters Ops at that moment. "Ah, Chief, there you are. All set to go?" It's Bashir.

Bashir asks if the village magistrate who called in the medical emergency had stated the nature of it; Sisko replies that he only said his village was in danger of extinction. Bashir says brightly to O'Brien that in a way he's looking forward to this mission; it'll give them the opportunity to get to know one another. O'Brien shoots Sisko an unhappy look, but he's stuck for it.

As they head for the docking bay to meet the Tetrarch of the Paqu, Sisko asks Kira to set up a preliminary meeting with the Paqu and Navot leaders, an informal session to get them talking to each other. Kira says just getting them to sit at the same table will be an accomplishment. "There's an old saying on Bajor, 'the land and the people are one.' Well, the land inhabited by the Paqu and the Navot is some of the harshest on the planet." She can't tell Sisko much about the Tetrarch; the Paqu avoid contact with outsiders. As they arrive at the airlock doors, they open, and Sisko and Kira see a girl who looks to be all of fifteen years old. In a tone that was probably meant to be dignified but comes out sounding haughty, she introduces herself as Varis Sul, Tetrarch of the Paqu.

On the runabout, Bashir breaks the silence to finally ask O'Brien a question: "Do I annoy you?" The young doctor genuinely wants to be friends, and can't really grasp the fact that he seems to make O'Brien's teeth ache. He tries to draw the Chief out, but O'Brien keeps his answers as brief as possible, hoping to be left alone. "I'm aware that I have a tendency to run off at the mouth sometimes...I hope you don't hold it against me," Bashir prattles. He goes on to say magnanimously that O'Brien doesn't have to call him "sir"; he can call him Julian instead. They achieve standard orbit around Bajor, and with just a slight edge, O'Brien says, "We can beam down any time -- Julian."

They materialize in the middle of a village square, where Bashir can't detect any signs of airborne infections or contamination of the soil or water. Yet when Faren Kag, the magistrate, comes up to them, he says, "This village is in great jeopardy. I only hope you're not too late." He leads them into a house where a very old man lies sleeping, with a young man at his bedside. "If he dies, we all die," says Faren.

On DS9, the meeting gets underway between Sisko, Kira, Varis, and the Navot leader, whose name is Woban. There has been a treaty between the Paqu and Navot for ninety years, stating that the border separating their lands will forever be the river Glyrhond. Unfortunately, the Cardassians later diverted the river during the Occupation for use in their mining operations, and now the river bends 20 kilometers west of its former position, into what had been Navot territory. Varis insists that now that land belongs to the Paqu, by the letter of the treaty. As they are arguing, Quark comes in with drinks, including a Trixian bubble juice for the "little lady". He ends up wearing the drink as Varis storms out. "I'm still charging her for that drink," Quark says wetly.

Jake and Nog are in their spot, arguing about baseball, when Odo comes up and admonishes them for dangling over the Promenade. He makes them stand up; they get back down after he leaves. Jake starts to take up his point again, but Nog's attention has been caught by something else. "I have never seen anything so beautiful," he breathes, looking down at Varis, who is passing by underneath. Nog decides he has to meet her.

In the village, Bashir finishes examining the old man -- known as the Sirah -- who wakes up and asks his apprentice, Hovath (the young man), the time. He wants to get dressed, but Bashir says he's in no shape to go anywhere. The Sirah looks at him. "The Prophets sent you, didn't they?" he asks hopefully; then, looking disappointed, he turns instead to O'Brien. "It must be your companion." Baffled, O'Brien comes over; the Sirah grabs his hand and smiles. "I knew the Prophets would not fail us." He then dismisses both O'Brien and Bashir. Neither of them have a clue what that was all about.

They are met by Faren, who asks anxiously how the Sirah is. Basically, Bashir says that he's simply dying of old age. He can keep him comfortable, but it's only a matter of time. "But we need him!" Faren exclaims. "The Dal'Rok will be here soon." The Dal'Rok, he explains, is a creature that lives in the woods nearby, and appears every year at the end of harvest. It comes for five nights in a row, and this is the fourth. Only the Sirah can defeat it. If he can't fight it tonight, the village will be destroyed.

Jake and Nog reach Varis' guest quarters in the habitat ring, but lose their nerve. As they are arguing outside the door, suddenly a voice demands, "What are you doing?" Tongue-tied on seeing Varis, Nog flounders, "My name's Jog -- I mean Jake." "He's Nog. I'm Jake Sisko," Jake corrects. On hearing the name Sisko, Varis' interest is piqued. When they offer to show her around, including their favorite spot for wormhole-watching, she agrees. The boys are ecstatic.

Night has fallen on the village, and the Sirah, against Bashir's recommendation, makes his way to the village square, where an anxious crowd has gathered. As he reaches a dais, a wind begins blowing, but O'Brien can't detect any atmospheric disturbance. "The Dal'Rok wakes," the Sirah says loudly. "But we are ready. In the shadow of the night he hungers. With the hatred of the ancients he rages. From the twisted pit of chaos he approaches." Above him, a huge energy cloud appears in the sky. O'Brien's tricorder doesn't register anything at all, including a power source.

The Sirah continues with his recitation, saying that the Dal'Rok thinks the village is powerless to defend itself, but that the village is much stronger than the Dal'Rok can ever imagine. His words seem to calm the frightened villagers, who look upward in defiance, as a light begins to grow and surround the Dal'Rok, making it shrink. But then the Sirah suddenly collapses. The crowd dissolves into chaos, the lights disappear, and the Dal'Rok grows and begins shooting tentacles of energy at the buildings, causing walls to explode. "Bloody hell!" exclaims O'Brien.

As the Dal'Rok rages, the Sirah feebly asks for his successor. Hovath approaches, but the Sirah ignores him and reaches instead for a confused O'Brien, telling him to repeat what he says. Tentatively, O'Brien does so. "The village shall not be destroyed...Despite our fears, we shall stand our ground and face the Dal'Rok...The village is strong, more powerful than the Dal'Rok. Together we use that power to drive it away." The lights appear again, encircling the Dal'Rok, which fades away with the lights, and the Sirah, having expended the last of his energy, falls dead on the dais.

"The Sirah has left us," Faren tells the crowd, and indicates O'Brien. "But the Prophets have sent us his successor. A new Sirah to tell the story. A new Sirah to protect the village!"

On the station, the negotiations haven't been going too well. Varis arrives in Sisko's office in response to his having asked to see her. The last five hours at the conference table have been unproductive. Sisko wonders what she's here on the station for. She says it's to defend her people's interests, and Sisko asks, "How? By starting a war?" Varis is still adamant that the land belongs to the Paqu, and she's willing to die for it. "Are you sure your people are as ready as you are to die for that land?" Sisko asks pointedly.

Though she doesn't show it, his words have hit their mark. Jake and Nog find Varis a little later, sitting at their Promenade hangout, staring miserably into space. Jake asks if something's wrong. She opens up a bit: "It's just, there are these people who want something I have, and I refuse to give it to them." Perking up, Nog asks if there's anything the other people have that she wants. "Maybe this isn't a problem. Maybe it's an opportunity." Varis looks thoughtful. They are still talking when Odo comes up. Jake and Nog don't have to be told again; they get up and leave, taking Varis. Odo watches them go, with one of his microscopic smiles.

In the village the next morning, Bashir is looking on the bright side. "I'll tell you this, Chief, I'm glad you came along on this mission, because if it wasn't for you, I'd have done what I could for the Sirah and left, and look at what I'd have missed." It's not funny at all to O'Brien -- the Dal'Rok is coming back tonight, and everyone expects him to stop it, but he has no idea how. Some villagers arrive with gifts; Bashir, enjoying this, tells O'Brien it would be impolite to refuse their hosts. But O'Brien draws the line at accepting "services" from village maidens, protesting that he has a wife and daughter. "Of course," says Faren understandingly. "You must send for them." O'Brien's objections go right over Faren's head, and the magistrate exits. Not seeing Hovath's resentful stare before the former apprentice leaves, O'Brien tells Bashir that he can only see one way out of this mess, which is to find out exactly what this Dal'Rok is and destroy it.

The negotiations on DS9 are still stalled, and Jake and Nog visit Varis to see if she wants to do anything. She is quiet, and doesn't think there's anything they can do that can cheer her up, but then she stops them as they're about to leave. "How can you be sure that an opportunity is worth the risk?" she asks. Happy to help, Nog tells her, "Instinct. The Ninth Rule of Acquisition clearly states that 'Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.'" Varis thanks him; he's given her more food for thought. Nog is on cloud nine, and suggests that they celebrate. He happens to have swiped one of his uncle's security rods, and gets an idea: to steal Odo's bucket for laughs. Jake and Varis trail after him.

Near the security office, Jake explains to Varis about Odo and his bucket, then Nog opens the office and they go in. Jake is nervous, thinking this may not be such a good idea; Nog ignores him and darts into the back area, emerging a minute later with the bucket. He suddenly trips, spilling a thick goo all over Jake, who panics, thinking it's Odo. Nog nearly ruptures himself laughing; the goo is oatmeal from the replicator. Jake tosses a glob at him, but can't help laughing too, and even Varis joins in. They are still standing there giggling when Odo comes in, catching them redhanded. The temperature in the room drops about twenty degrees. Nog dashes out, only to run smack into Sisko, who is surprised to see Jake emerging from the office covered in oatmeal. He is even more surprised to see Varis there.

O'Brien examines a damaged building with a tricorder. Neither he nor Bashir can figure out how something with no physical substance could leave a neutrino trace there. They're about to look for some kind of controlling mechanism that the Sirah may have used, when a woman holding a baby interrupts them. "It looks like she wants you to bless her child," Bashir says helpfully. Awkwardly, O'Brien tells the woman, "I'm sure she'll make you very proud." She goes off happy, but more villagers approach. Bashir holds them at bay while O'Brien goes to check the Sirah's room.

There, O'Brien is interrupted again, by Hovath. He takes the opportunity to ask the apprentice if the Sirah ever revealed any of his secrets to him, such as how he controlled the Dal'Rok. Hovath is surly. "Why ask me? Surely the Sirah must have taught you all you need to know." Seeing that there's no help there, O'Brien turns away, but then sees Hovath's reflection in a mirror, approaching him with a raised dagger and deadly intent. O'Brien whirls around just in time.

As they're struggling, Bashir enters and quickly goes to O'Brien's aid. Finally O'Brien manages to wrest the dagger away from Hovath, and demands to know why Hovath tried to kill him. "You are not the true Sirah," Hovath says. O'Brien almost laughs. "You won't get any argument from me!" If O'Brien isn't the Sirah, Bashir asks, then who is? "I am," says Hovath.

Hovath studied with the Sirah for five years, he tells them; only to have O'Brien come along and take his place. "Look friend, as far as I'm concerned, the job's yours," O'Brien says. Hovath further explains that the Sirah chose O'Brien as his way of punishing Hovath, who tried to tell the story three nights ago but failed to control the Dal'Rok, causing several people to be injured by it. He shows them a bracelet that had been the Sirah's, with a stone said to be a fragment of an Orb. Long ago, he tells them, the village was divided by hate and mistrust, until the first Sirah decided to unite the people, and used the orb fragment as a catalyst to give physical form to their fears. The villagers don't know that it is their own thoughts that create the Dal'Rok, or that the story is simply a means of focusing those thoughts to drive the Dal'Rok away.

Hovath wants another chance to control the Dal'Rok, and O'Brien is only too happy to hand over the robes of office, but Faren, entering, is outraged. Hovath had his chance, and failed. Dejected, Hovath takes off the robes. O'Brien can see he's not going to get out of this so easily. And it's nearly time for the Dal'Rok's next appearance.

Varis tells Sisko that she takes responsibility for what happened in the security office, and that Jake and Nog were just trying to impress her. They're both nice boys, and she enjoys their company. But she admits that her main reason for wanting to be with them was to learn more about Sisko. And what she learned was that Jake trusts his father. She has tried to be as strong as her own father was, but it's hard. Her father wasn't afraid to compromise, Sisko says. But Varis thinks that if she were to make concessions, Woban would think she was weak. "So your answer is still no," says Sisko. "You don't lose by saying no," Varis replies. Sisko concedes that this may be true. "But a great leader -- like your father -- is one who's willing to risk saying yes." Varis takes another beat to think, then turns back to Sisko, her decision made. "Commander, I believe I know of an opportunity that could allow both sides to say yes."

O'Brien, in the Sirah's robes, reluctantly makes his way to the dais, followed by Hovath, Faren, and Bashir. "I thought you wanted this job," he tells Hovath, who says he does. "Then why don't you fight for it?" But Hovath says sadly that Faren is right. The villagers will never accept him as the Sirah, and without their support, he cannot control the Dal'Rok. O'Brien mounts the steps to the dais as if he were going to his own execution.

"Once upon a time, there was a Dal'Rok. He lived there, in the woods, and he hated the village..." Right on cue, the cloud appears, and O'Brien continues uncertainly. "Something's wrong," says Hovath fearfully. Bashir tells him, "What's wrong is that O'Brien is not the Sirah. You are." Perhaps the Sirah planned all this, he suggests. Since the villagers had lost confidence in Hovath, the Sirah chose O'Brien as his successor, knowing that Hovath would have to rescue him. "Don't you see? This is your chance to prove once and for all that you are the true Sirah."

O'Brien gamely falters his way through the story, making it up as he goes along, but the villagers murmur in apprehension. They aren't caught up enough in the story to produce the lights. The Dal'Rok lashes out, knocking O'Brien to his knees. As Bashir helps him up, Hovath dashes over and grabs the bracelet. "A new voice appears to challenge the Dal'Rok," he cries to the crowd. He gathers confidence as he goes on, and so do they. The lights appear and close around the Dal'Rok, which finally fades away. O'Brien removes the robes and grabs hold of Bashir. "Let's get out of here before they change their minds."

On their way to more negotiations, Sisko and Varis talk. She plans to propose that she give the Navot back their land, in exchange for free trade access to both sides of the river. They meet up with Jake and Nog, who want to wish Varis good luck. Varis thanks them, and kisses Nog on the cheek, leaving him dazed with happiness. Then Odo grabs the boys and steers them to his office to clean it up.

O'Brien and Bashir have escaped the village and made it back to the station. Bashir remarks that this will make a fantastic story. "No thanks," says O'Brien. "I've had my fill of storytelling for the time being." But he doesn't mind if Bashir tells it. "Suit yourself -- Julian."

"Oh, and Chief," Bashir says, "on second thought, you don't really have to call me Julian." "Right you are -- sir." And O'Brien smiles, triumphantly.

  • This episode evolved from a story that Kurt Michael Bensmiller had submitted to TNG in its first season.
  • Buck Bokai (the famous 21st-century baseball player first mentioned in TNG's "The Big Goodbye") was finally named.
  • Odo's bucket was shown for the first time.