Last time on the Alternative Factor we looked at the problems faced by Captain Janeway in the Delta Quadrant with The Caretaker, and explored what the other captains of the Big 5 might have done if they were in the same situation. While Sisko handled it in the most creative and intriguing of fashions, it was Captain Archer who would have gotten back the quickest despite it being for the most simple of reasons.
This time we’re going to put Captain Sisko in the hot seat. For some he’s the epitome of what a great captain should be, the strengths of Kirk and Picard combined. For others he was just that guy on the space station who should have learned long ago never to get into a baseball game with Vulcan’s. Over the years we saw him go from angst-ridden commander to aggressively confident captain and beyond. However, one of his toughest challenges wasn’t any battle that could be won with phasers and photon torpedoes; it was one of spiritual leadership.
COULD ANYBODY ELSE HAVE BEEN THE EMISSARY?
The obvious answer would be no. The wormhole aliens said that Sisko was essentially one of them, and of Bajor. The grand reveal of his lineage pretty much sealed his fate. But let’s face facts, his mom could have just as easily been the mother of anyone. His career success had nothing to do with genetics, he achieved that himself. But when he first arrived at Deep Space 9 and was told he was the Emissary, he rejected it. He had to explain linear existence to the wormhole aliens. Starfleet hated that he became a religious figure to the Bajorans. It took him years to accept his role and eventual fate. But how would the other captains have taken to this?
KIRK: Years before the Cardassian occupation, the Enterprise NCC-1701 heads to Bajor on a routine mission to ensure that Klingons aren’t up to mischief in the area. While on the planet, Kirk is told by the Kai that he is the Emissary. In his typical fashion Kirk instantly dismisses this as superstitious mumbo-jumbo, yet Spock is fascinated by the ancient history and the Orbs, pointing to the technological advances apparently left behind by the Prophets. Spock crunches the numbers regarding Orb appearances, and they investigate the area thoroughly. Without warning, a wormhole opens up and Kirk orders the Enterprise to head in on impulse power.
Kirk meets the wormhole aliens, and struggles to make sense of what they’re saying. His explanation of linear time is weak, and fails to make an impact. Kirk may have been many things, but when it comes to understanding the motivations and methods of alien races, especially one as complex as this, he’s out of his element. The wormhole aliens insist that he is a part of them, but his primary concern is getting his ship back out safely. Acceding to his wishes, they return both him and the Enterprise to Bajoran space, leaving Kirk and his crew pondering the mystery that they’ve just been through. Looking at the view screen, Spock wonders if the aliens’ motivations may be true. Kirk replies, “Perhaps, Mister Spock. But in our… linear time, all we can do is waiting to find out more, and they have all the time in the world.”
PICARD: The Cardassians have recently abandoned Bajor, and Ensign Ro leads Captain Picard around the planet, showing him how much devastation the Cardassian occupation has done to the local archaeological sites. They are greeted by Kai Opaka, who insists that the Emissary has finally arrived, and it is Jean-Luc Picard. Ro is stunned, unable to comprehend what’s happening, while Picard is presented with an Orb. While the Enterprise remains in orbit to assist with the relief efforts, Picard and Ro take a shuttle craft into the area that Data has suggested is the most likely source of the Orbs. A wormhole opens up, but Picard is cautious before entering, placing a beacon there for the Enterprise to locate. While Picard and Ro marvel at the potentially stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant, their joy is short-lived as on the return trip they lose power and encounter the wormhole aliens.
Picard grasps their unfamiliarity with linear time, and after seeing events of his recent encounters with the Borg and his brother Robert he manages to explain it to them successfully. He questions his status of Emissary however, and upon returning to the Enterprise that has come looking for the captain and Ro he communicates with Starfleet. They accept that the situation is awkward, but that the Bajorans need somebody to run the recently re-acquired space station Deep Space 9 as well as keep tabs on this strategically important region of space. Picard grudgingly agrees to accept the new assignment, as long as Ro joins him to help smooth things out with the locals. Riker questions Picard’s decision as the captain prepares to leave. Unaware of his fate, Picard smiles and says, “It’s just a temporary reassignment, Number One. Besides, with the local ruins to keep me busy, I’m sure it’ll be a fascinating experience…”
JANEWAY: Starfleet’s presence at Deep Space 9 has been entirely unremarkable. The relief efforts on Bajor have been slow, and the Maquis have been actively targeting the Cardassians. Voyager has been sent in to investigate, but before they ship out Captain Janeway is greeted by a rare guest aboard DS9. Commander Sisko introduces her to Kai Opaka, who tells her that the Prophets were right to tell her to come, and presents her with the Orb. Janeway is the Emissary, and has a bigger mission than the one Starfleet has assigned her. Janeway apologises, saying that orders are orders, and sets out for the Badlands leaving the Orb behind. Before they get there, the wormhole explodes into life, and Janeway sends in probes to see where it leads. The readings show that the wormhole is stable, and debates whether she should investigate it despite orders.
Remembering Kai Opaka’s words she leaves Voyager in a shuttle craft, but she orders Lt. Commander Cavit to continue to the Badlands, her plan to rendezvous with them later. It’s the last she’ll see of them, as their destiny will be changed by the Caretaker’s actions. Janeway herself heads into the wormhole and encounters the beings who dwell within. She fails to understand her relationship to them, but it gives her pause for thought and she vows to return. Upon returning back to normal space, she is mystified by Voyager’s disappearance, and learns their fate upon returning to Deep Space 9. She is recalled back to Starfleet headquarters for debriefing, and her future could be bleak indeed…
ARCHER: The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that Bajor is a place of tranquility and boasts impressive archaeological evidence of ancient technology. Captain Archer orders the NX-01 Enterprise to Bajor on a fact-finding mission. They don’t even make it to the planet, the wormhole opening as they enter the area. T’Pol’s analysis shows that it could be the first stable wormhole ever discovered, and insists that the Vulcan’s be contacted to investigate. Archer is adamant that this amazing discovery should remain in their hands. They found it, and if anyone is going to explore it then it should be them. Mayweather points out half-jokingly that it should be named the Enterprise Wormhole. Regardless, a Vulcan ship is contacted as a safety precaution and Archer decides to investigate in a shuttle craft with T’Pol, who is keen to study the phenomenon and insists that the Vulcan’s will respect her assessment more than they would Archer’s.
When the aliens reject T’Pol, sending her back to the Enterprise, they inform Archer of how they view things and why he is there. Archer struggles to grasp their concepts but finally understands. However, he is highly suspicious given the number of hostile beings he’s encountered since his journeys have begun, especially fearing that this may be linked to the “time war” that appears to be going on. After explaining how humans perceive time differently, he begins to accept them – but only as a new species they’ve encountered. However, their non-linear existence and his connection to them could prove useful in the time war. Leaving them behind and returning to normal space, Archer contacts Starfleet, who agree to allow the Vulcan’s to remain and study the wormhole and where it leads. Maybe Archer will return one day, but for now it’s a big universe to explore and they’ve only just gotten started…