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Kai Opaka (played by Camile Saviola) appeared in the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in what looked like a fairly important role, but was then written out in her next appearance (‘Battle Lines’).

Whilst this set up the succession storyline, it seems a bit odd. Did Saviola get another job? Did the writers have a change of heart? Or was her exit planned from the pilot? I haven’t been able to find any reports of what happened there.

  • Or was her exit planned from the pilot I don't think much of anything is planned from a pilot other than getting good ratings and trying to get signed for a first season. – maple_shaft Mar 28 '12 at 19:16
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    @maple_shaft: sure, although it’s not unprecedented — for example, Joss Whedon introduced Doyle in Angel with at least some idea of killing the character off early. – Paul D. Waite Mar 28 '12 at 20:10
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    @maple_shaft That strongly depends on the series. See Supernatural (first 5 seasons only) and Babylon 5 (first 4 seasons, which were supposed to be all 5) as examples. – Izkata Mar 29 '12 at 0:30
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    @Izkata: All of B5, actually. Production issues messed up the pacing of S4 / S5, but S5 would still have been about the ISA. (Note that JMS was expressly trying to use B5 as a test case to establish the value of preplanned plot in TV production; he can take credit for kickstarting a lot of change in that direction.) – Tynam Aug 24 '12 at 15:12
  • For more exciting DS9 casting information, see scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/33913/… – Paul D. Waite Jul 15 '13 at 17:38
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Best I could find was this note on the Memory Alpha article for Battle Lines:

The writers had also considered creating a new character to be killed and resurrected (see redshirt) but this was changed to Kai Opaka as she was considered to be the most expendable recurring character. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)

I'm not complaining, though. It created more of an impact than a redshirt would have, the choice to stay fit her personality pretty well, and it opened the door for the conflict between Winn and Bareil.

  • Aha, good find. I agree it worked out pretty great — with the greatest respect to Camile Saviola, I wouldn’t want to have missed out on seeing Nurse Ratchet in Star Trek. – Paul D. Waite Mar 28 '12 at 16:57
  • I agree that having Louise Fletcher on the show was great, even if Winn is a "love to hate" character. I'm disappointed they never revisited that planet though. – Austin Jul 19 '16 at 7:32
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Introducing Kai Opaka gave the audience a good idea of what the position of Kai is all about. It shows Opaka as a wise, kind and caring person. When they wrote her out and introduced Kai Wynn, it allowed the audience to clearly see how wrong for the position of Kai Wynn actually was. She was everything Kai Opaka wasn't Wynn had a twisted vision, was power hungry and clearly was a horrific Kai. Without introducing Opaka, Wynn would have just seemed like an overly ambitious politician. By introducing Opaka, Wynn was now seen as truly evil. Opaka made her a much better villian!

  • Maybe that's a matter of taste, but showing a character as particularly likeable just to amplify the contrast to another character who is supposed to be perceived as "bad" (or vice-versa) can be considered a symptom of bad writing. – O. R. Mapper Dec 25 '16 at 20:51
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    The entire dramatic concept of opposed protagonists and antagonists is about highlighting the differences between them. It's only bad writing when done ham-handedly, something DS9 averted quite successfully with its moral ambiguities. Even Kai Wynn was nuanced and sometimes even sympathetic. – Chuck Adams Dec 26 '16 at 19:26
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Without any canon sources, my opinion is that her character was too friendly for the upcoming storyline, where a more ambitious and "evil" Kai was needed.

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    It is impossible to say what story lines would have evolved had Opaka stayed. – Xantec Oct 6 '15 at 20:45
  • I think the producers had already the big picture in their minds, IMHO of course... – Marc-André Appel Oct 27 '15 at 18:33
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I think it had more to do with establishing Sisko as the Emissary of the Prophets than anything else. As long as Kai Opaka was around, the people would contiue to look to her for strength and guidance; the same way they did during the occupation. In so doing, they would never have been able grow beyond the occupation into what was next for them. This was something that had to happen, and if you look at either history or religion, it works the same way. One leader is always raised up to lay the groundwork for the next leader to come.

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I think they did well to take Opaka out of the picture, though I did like her and missed her. Not only did the contrast between Opaka and Winn highlight the choices that Winn made later in the story I think Opaka needed to be taken out of the story so the Prophets could manipulate Winn into making the choices they needed her to make for the desired outcome. Because Winn's self serving, power hungry choices were what was needed to cause what the eventual destruction of the Pah Wraiths and the desired future for Bajor. Winn was the Judas to the story, but Opaka was the red shirt, written just for sacrifice to make the storyline work. Who knows why it was written this way, design or accident but it works.

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