Welcome to the last of our Bajoran NPCs here at Tuesdays at Quark’s… I mean not forever, just our Bajoran-themed month. I wanted to get back to basics here with a Bajoran Starfleet ensign since that’s where the species entered the canon of Star Trek. Ensign Ro Laren was the first Bajoran ever seen on screen and Ensign Jairim Meru is a similar young officer who is an emblem for the species as a whole. However, Jairim is the opposite of Ro in many ways and offers a different portrayal of the Bajorans and their relationship with the Federation.
Ensign Ro introduced the Bajorans in the Next Generation episode titled after her and throughout her appearance on the show she had a long arc about feeling ashamed of being a Bajoran. After seeing her father broken down by Cardassian interrogators she had a feeling of shame that Bajorans were so weak and would “let themselves” be occupied. She turned to Starfleet as a stronger alternative. Ensign Jairim is taking the opposite approach: she grew up seeing and feeling the strength of the Bajoran people and she enlisted in Starfleet to help that strength come to the fore.
As I’ve said throughout this series, the Bajorans are the best example of religion in Star Trek and there’s a lot of rich depth to that role. Species like the Klingons or the Ferengi have religious beliefs that are explored but mostly as a way of framing their cultural practices. Nothing wrong with that, but with the Bajorans we see religious ceremony and practice. There are clerical orders and monasteries and places of worship. It’s an awesome inclusion to the canon of Star Trek and one that I’ve enjoyed exploring this month. Of course, religious practice is a difficult thing and constantly runs up against modernity in our own world. Religious leaders respond in different ways from the rejection of electronics by the Amish to the Twitter account maintained by Pope Francis.
This character is about that same struggle. In Deep Space Nine we see a lot of very specific requirements for Bajoran worship and that led me to the idea of bekal which mirrors the practices of halal and kosher (more properly kashrut) which is an amazing subject when talking about religion and modernity. If the Bajorans have specific foods or materials that they have to use in ceremony and anything else doesn’t count, what do practicing Bajorans do once they travel farther away from Bajor? Well, Ensign Jairim Meru is hard at work answering just that.
There are plenty of ways to use this character, but here are a few plot hooks to get you started.
- Ensign Jairim Meru comes aboard the ship to oversee the first practical application of her holographic programs. The crew’s ship is being used as a proof of concept to show that standard starship holodecks can handle the detail required for bekal ceremonies. A group of Bajoran vedeks are coming aboard to inspect the program but during the demonstration someone onboard accesses the ship’s computer and downloads classified ship deployment records for the Cardassian border region. It seems that someone in the delegation is working with the Maquis but can the crew find out without a diplomatic incident?
- In the first application in practice of her replicator bekal programs, Ensign Jairim Meru travels to a majority-Bajoran Federation colony. Running the program for an important lunar festival, Jairim is shocked to see that the food comes out rotten and disgusting. The crew needs to work at two fronts: fixing the program so that the Federation doesn’t loose all the goodwill it was generating and finding out who has altered the program and how.
- An unexpected consequence of Ensign Jairim Meru’s research leads to a complex legal issue. Given that her holodeck programs are being treated as “legitimate religious expressions with all the rights and protections thereof” by the Federation Diplomatic Corps and the Federation Council, the sentient computer program Kovar has made a logical argument that this means holograms are sentient individuals who should be treated as Federation citizens. Given the spread of the EMH program, this is a serious issue and the crew given their (possible) involvement with Kovar in the past are in the middle of it all.