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Explorers (episode)

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(written from a Production point of view)
Benjamin Sisko goatee

Sisko sports a goatee.

Sisko builds a replica of an eight hundred-year-old Bajoran spaceship, and tries to use it to prove that Bajoran explorers could have made it to Cardassia without developing warp drive.

Summary Edit

Teaser Edit

Dr. Bashir sits alone in Quark's reading a PADD as a dabo girl, Leeta, approaches him to solicit his help in treating her "cough". The two flirt and he orders them a Fanalian toddy, but Dax interrupts to inform him that an old colleague, Elizabeth Lense, will be arriving on the USS Lexington in three weeks. Bashir is visibly apprehensive; during his time at Starfleet Medical Academy, he was the salutatorian rather than valedictorian (an honor which went to Lense) due to him mistaking a preganglionic fiber for a postganglionic nerve.

Meanwhile, Sisko has returned from Bajor and tells Jake that he plans to build and fly a Bajoran lightship in order to recreate the process by which ancient Bajorans achieved space flight.

Act One Edit

Although Jake does not intend to accompany him and Chief O'Brien is unsure whether the starship is even spaceworthy, Sisko begins the laborious task of building a lightship from scratch. Intent on proving the vessel can fly, Sisko plans to fly to the Denorios belt as his major goal. He doesn't know if he could get all the way to Cardassia as the ancient Bajorans supposedly did, a hotly contested modern debate. Dax stops by while Sisko is working and pleasantly observes that she has not seen Sisko so excited since he and Jennifer decided to have a baby.

Act Two Edit

Ultimately, Jake decides to accompany his father. Jake and Benjamin bond during their voyage, and they both enjoy the tranquility of the lightship. Benjamin has determined to do things exactly as the Bajorans did – even taking zero-gravity ration packs instead of a portable replicator – with the only exception being the installation of a gravity net in the floor, as weightlessness makes him queasy.

Act Three Edit

After weeks of hiding it from even his father, Jake finally asks Benjamin to read a story he has been diligently working on. Meanwhile, Morn and Quark have made a bet on how long Bashir will talk with his old schoolmate once she arrives on the station. As usual, Odo has kept tabs on the situation as well. Bashir nervously sits in Quark's with Miles, observing Lense from afar, and finally gets up the nerve to talk to her; however, she walks past him as if he does not exist.

Having read Jake's story, Sisko appears reluctant to give his opinion of it. He is genuinely impressed, claiming the story shows "a lot of promise", but does not feel his son has experience with the issues being dealt with in the story. He is interrupted as there is a crash and one of the mast supports gives way, forcing them to jettison the lightship's starboard sprit.

Act Four Edit

Without the sprit, sail efficiency has been compromised. Sisko's enthusiasm about the journey's chances wanes, but Jake encourages his father to press on.

Obrien and Bashir drunk

O'Brien and Bashir sing "Jerusalem" together

Meanwhile, Bashir and O'Brien drunkenly sing together in the latter's quarters. The doctor is perplexed by Elizabeth's reaction (or lack thereof) to him, and the chief notes with amusement that Lense must be either in love with, or unable to stand, his friend. O'Brien encourages him to ask her himself – in the morning, when they are less drunk.

Back on the lightship, Jake informs his father that he has been accepted to the prestigious Pennington School on Earth, but has decided to defer admission for a year. The older Sisko relates a story about when he left for Starfleet Academy, for the first week he transported home to New Orleans for dinner because he was homesick, but Jake claims he does not want to leave Ben alone. Their conversation is interrupted as the ship rocks suddenly, caught in a tachyon eddy. The port mainsail breaks off as they accelerate quickly and go to warp for several minutes before coming to a stop. Sisko realizes that while a regular starship is not affected by tachyon eddies, a Bajoran lightship is different as due to its solar sails, its surface area is much greater relative to its mass. As tachyons travel faster than light, it's possible that their impact on the sails somehow pulled the ship to warp.

This new information for ancient Bajoran space travel doesn't do them much good for their current situation: main power is offline, they've lost the jib along with the port mainsail, leaving only the starboard mainsail and port sprit, and the sextant had fallen to the deck during the warp jump and smashed to pieces, without which Sisko can't determine their location or heading. Although they were less than a day from their goal of reaching the Denorios belt, Sisko decides they have no choice but to call the station for pick up with the emergency com unit he brought, but doesn't get an answer. As it's not damaged, Sisko believes they could be so far out that the signal hasn't yet reached Deep Space 9.

Act Five Edit

The next day, Bashir gets up the courage to confront Lense, who shows no sign of recognition. He discovers that, while at a New Year's Eve party of a mutual friend in 2367, Lense was mistakenly informed that Bashir was an Andorian. Once the two begin talking, Lense confesses how bored she has been aboard the Lexington, and claims she envies Bashir's opportunity to work on long-term projects. Bashir invites her to examine some of his latest results at the infirmary, which she is more than eager to see. On the second level directly above them, Quark happily informs Morn that he has won their bet.

Bajoran lightship fireworks

The Cardassians celebrate the explorers' arrival

With nothing better to do, the Siskos discuss a freighter captain, Kasidy Yates, to whom Jake wants to introduce Benjamin. He confesses that he has decided to stay aboard DS9 not just for his father but because the station will prove an excellent source of the kind of experience Ben noted that he needs to be a truly great writer. Their conversation is interrupted as several Cardassian warships arrive, headed by Dukat, and congratulate them on having just entered the Cardassian system, thereby proving that the idea of the Ancient Bajorans sailing there was possible. The tachyon eddy allowed the ship to get past the Denorios belt, presumably how the ancient Bajorans successfully met the Cardassians so many centuries earlier. Coincidentally (which Sisko strongly doubts), Cardassian Central Command has announced the discovery of an ancient crash site on Cardassia Prime, proving the story about ancient first contact is true. The Cardassian ships set off fireworks around their ships in recognition of this momentous event.

Memorable quotes Edit

"What is this?"
"I thought it was time for a change."

- Jake, noticing Sisko's beard

"Oh, you sound just like a Cardassian."
"I beg your pardon?"
"They've denied the possibility of ancient contact for decades because they cannot stand the idea of Bajor having interstellar flight before they did."
"With all due respect, major, you're beginning to sound like a Romulan."
"A Romulan?"
"There is no piece of technology in existence they don't claim they invented before everyone else."

- Major Kira and Chief O'Brien

"I don't hear anything."
"Exactly. Not even the hum of an engine. It's almost like being on the deck of an old sailing ship. Except the stars are not just up in the sky; they're all around us."

- Benjamin Sisko and Jake Sisko

"Hammock time!"

- Benjamin and Jake stringing up a hammock on the lightship

"You're not an in-between kind of guy. People either love you or hate you."
"I mean, I hated you when we first met."
"I remember."
"And now..."
"And now?"
"Well... Now, I don't."
"That means a lot to me, chief, it really does."
"And that is from the heart! I really do... not hate you anymore."

- Miles O'Brien and Julian Bashir (while very drunk)

"Here is the immunological data you asked for."

- Bashir and his PADD, upon giving it to Jadzia

Background information Edit

Story and scriptEdit


  • During production this episode was known as "The Butterfly Episode." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 237)
  • The lightship (and the basic plot of the episode itself) was inspired by the voyage of the Kon-Tiki, a deliberately primitive sailing craft that Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl used to sail from Peru to Tahiti in 1947, substantiating his belief that it was possible that a Pre-Columbian South American civilization could have settled Polynesia by making a trans-oceanic voyage. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 236 & 237)
  • Production designer Herman Zimmerman and illustrator Jim Martin envisioned the Siskos as "sailors in space" and intentionally made the set of the lightship similar to a sailing boat. René Echevarria told Zimmerman and Martin that he wanted the ship to have a "Jules Verne look, a wooden cabin outfitted with brass." Indeed, some real sailing equipment can even be seen in the background at various points in the episode. Both men count this episode among their favorites to work on from a design point of view, and Zimmerman mentions it in the Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Special Edition DVD special feature Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute.
  • As Jim Martin explains, in reality, a solar sail would need to be several miles wide to propel a ship like this. As such, "We needed to take it into the realm of fantasy. But that was a very whimsical idea, and we could be very whimsical with it, and do something that was kind of in a fun fantasy vein." (Sailing Through the Stars: A Special Look at "Explorers", DS9 Season 3 DVD special features)
  • Leeta, who goes on to become Rom's wife, makes her first appearance here. Actress Chase Masterson originally auditioned to play the role of Mardah, Jake Sisko's girlfriend in the episode "The Abandoned". However, when Avery Brooks, who was directing the episode, saw her, he decided that she was too old to be the girlfriend of a sixteen-year-old. When Masterson returned to play the character of Leeta, it was originally intended to be a one-episode character, but the producers were so impressed with her performance that they wrote the character into "Facets", and subsequently decided to add her to the list of recurring characters in season 4. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
  • John Knoll at Industrial Light & Magic created the lightship as a CGI model. He later used the model for Akorem Laan's ship in "Accession".
  • Most shots of the lightship are from the aft (rear) because, being powered by solar currents, the ship always has its back to the Bajoran sun.
  • Regarding the scene where Bashir and O'Brien sing Jerusalem, Colm Meaney commented "We were a bit concerned about it. It was the first time that that sort of scene was ever done in a Starfleet or Federation situation. We're all susposed to be so well behaved and we were aware that it was a bit risky so it was a question of playing it right". ("Mr. Goodwrench", Star Trek Communicator issue 105 p. 19)


  • Ira Steven Behr commented: "I want to pay special homage to René Echevarria, who I thought wrote a really wonderful script and gave Sisko his best role in the history of the show. Avery was wonderful; for the ship itself I also have to give a nod to Herman Zimmerman. When we went on stage and walked the ship, it was probably how they felt about the time machine from the 1960 movie - a great little piece of equipment. I said, 'Don't throw this out; don't trash it. Keep it somewhere because this goes in the Star Trek museum someday'. It's just a great prop". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
  • Behr was also extremely happy with the O'Brien/Bashir drinking scene, and he feels that it is an important scene in establishing Deep Space Nine's differing ideology from The Next Generation. Behr explains, "That was a scene I pushed for. Every couple of shows, I'll have a scene that becomes a baby that I nurture. This one was just so human. It had friendship. It had vulnerability. It was funny. It was sloppy. It's that stuff that Deep Space Nine had helped bring back into the Star Trek universe. The Next Generation was very serious at times, and I understand that it did a lot of wonderful things, but it had a very self-important air to it. Finding things that work against that is very important to me." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 238)
  • David Livingston commented "It was a bottle show, but an interesting bottle show with a father-and-son relationship and some interesting computer graphics of the sailing ship. We were reluctant to do computer graphics, but Peter Lauritson finally came around. He recognized how valuable it is. You can do more stuff with the ship, but you have to do it right. Not to pick on other shows, but Babylon 5 looks like computer-generated imagery. On Voyager and Deep Space Nine, you may not know some of these shots are not motion-control shots. They're really, really good if done properly. You have to spend a couple of extra bucks and get really good artists, but CGI just allows you to do more and you can build more elements into the shots". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages)
  • At its 1995 convention, the Space Frontier Foundation recognized this episode for exemplifying "the most imaginative use of a vehicle to travel in space," and awarded the episode the "Best Vision of the Future" award. The award was presented by Robert Staehle, the world's foremost expert on solar sails. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 236)


  • When the Star Trek Customizable Card Game released its "Energize" set in 2003, special pairs of starships and their matching commanders were released as a promotion to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the game's launch. One such pair was "Benjamin Sisko, Shipwright" (whose alignment was Bajoran, rather than Federation) and the ship seen in this episode, which was given the name Baraka. [1]
  • During the conversation between Julian Bashir and Elizabeth Lense, the writers may have been commenting on the comparison between DS9 and other Trek series. Bashir believes Lense "must've had quite an adventure out there... exploring uncharted space, meeting fascinating new races with fascinating new diseases" aboard the USS Lexington, but she instead describes how bored she got between discoveries. The message especially comes through when Lense claims, "I really envy the opportunity you have to work on that kind of long-term project. On the Lexington, it was collect your samples and then on to the next system." This seems to recall some of the producers' comments about how DS9 was different from TOS and TNG, and how in those two shows, issues raised each week could simply be forgotten about the following week as the ship moved on to another planet (See the Background information section on the episode "Emissary" for more information on the producers' initial attempts to differentiate DS9 from TOS and TNG) (citation needededit)
  • No explanation is provided as to how a Bajoran lightship managed to penetrate Bajor's atmosphere without burning up, nor how such a lightship was propelled high enough to make it through the atmosphere. It can therefore be inferred that either ancient Bajorans built their lightships outside of Bajor's atmosphere, or the lightships were housed within some sort of rocket capable of atmospheric penetration. In either case, their early technology must have been far superior to that of any other major power in the Alpha Quadrant during that period.

Continuity Edit

  • Kasidy Yates is mentioned for the first time, although she does not appear until "Family Business".
  • Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) sports a goatee for the first time. He keeps it throughout the series, though its look would change in subsequent episodes. An additional touch, shaving his head, first appears in the season 4 opener "The Way of the Warrior" and would also keep his head bald for the rest of the series.
  • The "awkward" moment between O'Brien and Bashir marks the beginning of a running joke about the chief's love for his best friend. A later example is "Hippocratic Oath", in which he finds himself agreeing completely with Bashir's analysis of a fight he has had with Keiko and stops short of saying he wishes Keiko was a man, much to the doctor's amusement. Another situation comes up in "Extreme Measures", where O'Brien refuses to admit that he likes Bashir more than Keiko.
  • This episode contains the second hint of Jake's literary talents. It was revealed in "The Abandoned" that he wrote romantic love poetry; here he is revealed to have composed a short story about the Maquis.

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

References Edit

ancient contact; Andorian; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran lightship; Bajoran system; Bajoran wormhole; Cardassia; Cardassian; Cardassian government; Cardassian system; Cardassian history; Survey on Cygnian Respiratory Diseases, A; cough; dabo girl; Dax, Tobin; Denorios belt; England; Erit; fairy tale; Fanalian toddy; First Republic; Galor-class; graduation; graduating class; gravity net; hammock; immunology; infirmary; ion storm; Jerusalem; Jerusalem; laser; laser cutter; Leanne; Lexington, USS; living room; Lucier, Bruce; money; New Orleans; New Year's Eve; New Zealand; Nog; New Orleans; O'Brien, Keiko; Pennington School; photosynthesis; Promenade; Quark's; replicator; Replimat; Romulan; runabout; sabre saw; salutatorian; San Francisco; Sisko, Joseph; stairs; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Medical Academy; tachyon; tachyon eddy; T-cell anomaly; transporter credit; valedictorian; Wellington; winch

Unreferenced materialEdit


External linksEdit

Previous episode:
"The Die is Cast"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 3
Next episode:
"Family Business"

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