Sisko, Bashir, Chief O’Brien and Kira take the Kai on an outing to see the Wormhole, and when there is a distress call, she encourages them to answer it. As a result, they become stranded on a planet where there is continuous war, and the inhabitants have been treated with nanobots which ensure that when they are wounded and killed in battle, they do not die permanently, but are revived, so the cycle of war goes on and on. Kai Opaka is killed in the impact of the shuttle’s emergency landing and is revived, but then it turns out that she can then never leave the planet because the reviving nanobots only work there. And so, when they manage to fix the runabout so they can leave, Kai Opaka must stay, and Kira must say a final farewell.
“I’ve discovered we can’t afford to die here. Not even once.” – Bashir.
Noooo! Why did they do this? The answer of course is that Kai Opaka was just too nice, too perfect; there was no conflict, and that makes for a boring story. And as painful as it is, it’s a good episode full of feeling which explores all the themes of grief and loss, war and peace, love, friendship and hope.
I’ve mentioned my Dad before. I don’t think anyone else in my life has ever quite fulfilled that same role of mentor, and although I would love to find a new mentor, I don’t think it’s very likely that I would find anybody who could fully fill his boots. He was a religious man, and had a strong belief in the after-life to the extent that, when he was very ill at the end, and could have gone on living, he chose to die (by refusing to continue with dialysis) believing that he would go to his ‘eternal rest’, and that seemed more attractive to him than life.
I am a ‘believer’; I have a faith, but I don’t feel comfortable with such assurance that makes people choose death over life. It seemed an unthinkably cruel and cowardly choice, but I know that he wasn’t in his right mind when he made that decision, and for him, dialysis was his worst nightmare come true. After several months of misery, he decided to pull the plug. He was told that he would die within two weeks, but in fact he suffered 8 more months of pain and misery.
The grief that I felt when he left us was so deep, it was physical. I felt as though my chest was crushed and I really felt as though I were seriously, physically ill. Sisko, who had been through something very similar, was able to tell me that no, this was what grief is like.
Of course I like the idea that he is living somewhere, out of space and time, in a place where there is no more sorrow and no more tears and no more pain.
At the end of the episode, Kai Opaka tells Kira, “Your pagh and mine will cross again” but, apart from the odd couple of episodes where one of the Wormhole Aliens appears in the form of Kai Opaka, she does not return, and we don’t see her again as that character. The idea is that, negotiating between the two warring parties to bring them toward peace becomes Kai Opaka’s new life work.
I was speaking to my mum the other day about the idea of heaven and my Dad – what is he doing, what is he thinking? Is he aware of everything that goes on here? Would he be crushed if she were to marry again? I told her that I didn’t think he is aware because – in my way of thinking about how the universe works at least – I think that at the moment of death, he exited time and space, so he exists now in a heaven completely separate to our realm of being. That way, for him, there will be a mere blink, a twinkling of an eye between arriving in heaven himself and the moment when we arrive there to be with him, even, if the Prophets are willing, that will be many, many years from now.
To my mind though, even if you have some great assurance of heaven, it’s never the best idea to choose heaven over life in the real world. Life is precious, and rare and wonderful, and despite all the awfulness of war and misery and disease, there is beauty and goodness and love and hope worth staying for.