by Michelle Erica Green

To be fair, were I writing about ANY of the Star Trek captains, I'd have to label
his or her love life a tragedy. Intimate relationships are not Trek's strong
suit: characters generally only make love while under the influence of a disease,
possessed by an alien, or (increasingly) on the holodeck, unless they're doing
the deed with someone we all know will be dead or absent by the end of the
episode. So we've had Kirk chasing his long string of bimbos, Picard refusing to
get close to anyone, Janeway mooning over the guy back home, and Sisko...well,
I'll grant the writers this, he's certainly the most complex of the lot. We know
that he's capable of great passion and deep commitment; this was one of the first
things we learned about him in "Emissary," and one of the things which endeared
me to the character.

Oh, heck, I may as well admit to having a crush on Benjamin Sisko; it's not like
that's going to shock anyone reading this, and I have good reasons. He's a great
leader. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, or he never would have come
to DS9 and stuck it out this long. He's not threatened by subordinates who talk
back to him, and he likes working with women who are just as strong as he is.
He's devoted to his family. He's not a womanizer, but he doesn't flee in terror
from a bit of a flirt, either. He's not afraid to laugh or cry in front of his
lovers...and he can cook. So, given all these pluses which Kirk and Picard didn't
share, why can't the powers that be write a decent romantic interest for him?

Sisko's shown genuine interest in five women since the series premiered--well,
six, if you assume that part of his performance for the Intendant stemmed from
some unresolved sexual tension with her double from his own universe. Trek has a
habit of dividing women into "good" and "bad" types based on the aggressiveness
of their sexuality, and I can't help but wonder about Sisko's choices, in that
light. Four of these women have been alter egos of other women, women he couldn't
have. This is another Trek staple, creating doubles of people because the
originals are inaccessible for plot reasons: if only real life worked the same
way, and we could meet up with more available versions of people we had crushes
on! Sisko's main romantic interests until very recently have been Finna, the
fancy-free mental projection of the repressed wife of a scientist; Jennifer, the
alternate universe double of his dead wife; and various versions of the two
officers next in DS9's hierarchy, the Mirror side and "Fascination"-infested
Jadzia Dax, and the evil twin of Kira Nerys. Most recently he's been on-again,
off-again with Kasidy Yates--more on her later.

I'm not sure why Sisko's primarily been attracted to dark-skinned women like
himself, and the only light-skinned women we've seen him get intimate with have
been very clearly defined as Bad Women. I'd like to believe that this stems from
a positive source, like the producers' desire to employ more black performers,
rather than from racism and fear of audience expectations, but it does seem
puzzling: it can't be attributed to Sisko's desire to find someone of similar
cultural background, since Finna was an alien and Alternate Jennifer came from a
totally different background than his own wife. And he knows very little about
Kasidy other than their common interest in baseball and her affection for Jake.
Yet it seems odd to me that in spite of some progress made in demolishing
romantic prejudices, like Dax's love for another woman and the O'Briens'
intercultural marriage, Sisko prefers women who appear to be human and of the
same ancestry as himself, just as Kira prefers powerful Bajoran men. What does
"interracial" mean, after all in a society composed of species from across the

I guess my first concern about Kasidy Yates was that she appears to have been
chosen for Sisko--by his own son as well as by the casting agents--because she is
an attractive woman of African-American ancestry. This wouldn't be a problem if
only there were some logic behind it--does she remind Benjamin of his mother, his
sister, his dead wife in some way, is he as committed to preserving African
culture as his off-duty clothes occasinally suggest, does he feel that as a human
among aliens he'd be most comfortable with someone from a similar background to
his own? We don't know, because we know so little about Kasidy. This is the first
of many reasons that the relationship seems contrived to me. The second is the
set-up by Jake. Even assuming that he's very mature for his age, is neither
worried about Kasidy replacing his mother nor taking his own place in his
father's affections, I'm bothered by the fact that a teenager is supposed to be
more of a relationship expert than his father's friends; Trek's attitudes towards
sexuality are frequently adolescent, but this is ridiculous! The characterization
of Kasidy's been inconsistent; for every time she's shown some spark, snapping at
Benjamin for being unable to deal with his feelings and asserting her
independence, she also hasn't hesitated to whine in a most stereotypical fashion
about whether they have a future or turn to him as rescuer when alien hostility
threatened. Her irregular appearances and the lack of apparently chemistry
haven't helped the relationship any.

It never ceases to amaze me that while various technological and scientific
deviations on romance seem to be commonplace in the 24th century, the most common
relationship of our own era--the for-better-or-worse monogamous heterosexual
kind--seems to be beyond Trek's characters. If rumors can be believed and
Kasidy's really either a shapeshifter or a Maquis spy in disguise, that might
spice things up a bit. We'd get some interesting conflict with real ideological
differences coming to the fore, and then if they decided to stay together it
would be in full knowledge and insight about the consequences. But such a
revelation would also be a predictable end to a relationship for a Trek captain,
discovering that he's been manipulated because of his position.

Will Sisko then swear off falling in love for the remainder of his time in
command, as Picard and Kirk seemed to do? Will he moon occasionally over one of
his inaccessible officers, like Picard did frequently with Crusher and Janeway
seems well on the way to doing with Chakotay? Will the powers that be write him
an Alien Bimbo Episode of the sort they can't seem to stay away from, where he
has sex after eating the wrong food or turning into a lizard? What if they did
something truly novel and wrote him into a relationship between equals, with
someone on the station but not directly under his command, without alienation or
suspicion of hidden motives clouding genuine affection and trust? Maybe that's
not as dramatically interesting as ongoing tension with regulars and unexpected
flings with aliens, but it would be a lot more in character for Benjamin Sisko.

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