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Explorers (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
DS9, Episode 3x22
Production number: 40513-468
First aired: 8 May 1995
67th of 173 produced in DS9
67th of 173 released in DS9
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 173 released in DS9 Remastered  
365th of 728 released in all
Bajoran lightship (aft)
Teleplay By
René Echevarria

Story By
Hilary J. Bader

Directed By
Cliff Bole
Unknown (2371)
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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 a simple error.

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 at least as far as the Denorios belt and possibly all the way to Cardassia, as ancient Bajorans supposedly did. 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 ration packs instead of replicators – with the only exception being the installation of an artificial gravity system, 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 one of the lightship's sprits.

Act Four Edit

Without the sail and with a damaged ship, Sisko's enthusiasm about the journey 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 first attended Starfleet Academy, 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. Although they were less than a day from their goal of reaching the Denorios belt, they now have no idea of their location – and are unable to contact Deep Space 9, as the power is off-line.

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 party of a mutual friend, 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. 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 experience 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. The tachyon eddy allowed the ship to travel at warp speed, similar to what happened to the ancient Bajorans. Coincidentally, Cardassian Central Command has announced the discovery of an ancient crash site on Cardassia Prime, proving the story about ancient first contact is true.

Memorable Quotes Edit

"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

"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.
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • 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]
  • 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.


  • 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)
  • Ira Steven Behr was 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)
  • 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.


  • 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)

Continuity Edit

  • 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)
  • Kasidy Yates is mentioned for the first time, although she does not appear until the following episode.
  • 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".
  • 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; Bajor; Bajoran; Bajoran First Republic; Bajoran lightship; Bajoran wormhole; Cardassia; Cardassian; Cardassian system; Cardassian history; Cygnian; dabo girl; Dax, Tobin; Denorios belt; Erib; fairy tale; Fanalian toddy; hammock; immunology; infirmary; ion storm; Jerusalem; laser; Leanne; Lexington, USS; Lucier, Bruce; money; New Year's Eve; New Zealand; Nog; Pennington School; photosynthesis; Promenade; Quark's; replicator; Replimat; Romulan; runabout; salutatorian; Sisko, Joseph; Starfleet Medical Academy; tachyon; tachyon eddy; T-cell anomaly; transporter credit; valedictorian; Wellington

External linksEdit

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

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

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