Fundamentals of Fundamentalism
"In the Hands of the Prophets" Plot Summary:
Conservative Vedek Winn comes to the station to protest Bajoran children being taught that their Prophets are mere aliens in a wormhole rather than a celestial temple. As Kira and Sisko try to defuse growing tensions between Bajoran and Federation citizens which close the school after a bombing, Winn encourages one of her supporters - an associate of Chief O'Brien's - to make an attempt on the life of the more liberal Vedek Bareil, a likely candidate to become Kai.
A gutsy episode about spirituality and hypocrisy, "In the Hands of the Prophets" demonstrated that Sisko is not afraid to explore the ramifications of being seen as the Bajoran Emissary and provided nice closure with the series' pilot in addition to setting up a major conflict for next season.
Vedek Winn is a wonderful, creepy character - the politics of Anita Bryant with the quiet demeanor of Louise Fletcher's calm, rational, quietly sadistic Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Winn enters Keiko O'Brien's classroom and asks what initially sound like intelligent questions about the balance of faith and science she feels Bajoran children should be taught, since Keiko teaching about the wormhole is a little like having a class of Jewish kids taught about the Temple Mount by a Buddhist. But then she starts throwing around phrases like blasphemy and advocating censorship, so we know which side she's on. It's too bad she's a nut as well as an extremist -- Winn's much more compelling as a religious figure before we have direct evidence linking her to the attempt on Bareil's life - but now we also know she's power-hungry and possibly believes she's on a mission from her gods. People like that are always terrifying and rarely boring.
Bareil's the real mystery. We don't know much about his politics or his beliefs other than that they're more liberal than Winn's...or at least less xenophobic. Is he out for personal power? Does he want what's best for Bajor? Sisko seemed to like him, but we don't really know him well enough to tell. I am glad he was not martyred in the assassination attempt; I wish Odo had been allowed to catch on sooner just so he'd look like a better chief of security, but this wasn't really a story about Starfleet or station competence. It was about Bajor and its future, an arc which looks very promising for next season.
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