Paying the Prophets
"The Reckoning" Plot Summary:
After a report on Dominion activity, Sisko lets the command crew know that he and Kira are going to Bajor; he has been summoned to view an artifact found in the ancient Bajoran city he discovered in "The Rapture." Jake accompanies them, worrying that Sisko is taking his role as Emissary too seriously, but when they arrive, they discover that the inscription on the ancient artifact reads "Welcome, Emissary," which is why the Vedeks summoned him. Sisko touches a pictograph and sees a vision of the Prophets, who take the forms of Kira, Jake and the Vedek; they declare that even though he is corporeal and limited, the reckoning must begin. Then they fling him across the ancient chamber.
Sisko takes the artifact back to the station for Dax to translate, angering Kai Winn, who comes to the station to insist that he return it. Sisko tells both women that he believes the Prophets may be able to guide him, and he must know what is expected. Dax reminds Sisko that Starfleet doesn't like the Bajorans treating him as a religious icon, while Winn gets a message from Shakaar demanding the return of the artifact. Sisko comments that this is the first time the Kai and the First Minister have agreed on anything. Dax gets a partial translation, saying that the prophets will weep and their sorrow will consume the gateway to the Temple. She asks Sisko whether the station is the gateway. When the rest of the crew hears of the prophecy, Bashir refuses to worry, but as he laughs at Odo for naysaying, the station trembles. The wormhole has become unstable.
Odo and Kira discuss her faith in the Prophets. She asks him whether he believes in anything; he says, "You." The Kai warns Sisko that Bajor is suffering from earthquakes and floods, and suggests that the stolen artifact must be the reason. Kira and Sisko discuss their mutual antipathy for Winn and Kira points out that Sisko's role as Emissary must be intolerable to her, since he's a non-Bajoran and an infidel. She reminds Winn that the Kai and Sisko are on the same side: Bajor's. Sisko agrees to return the artifact, but goes to it first to demand that the Prophets speak to him and explain their will. When they don't communicate, he smashes the object. Vapor-like powers escape from it.
While Dax and Odo try to track down the mysterious emissions, the station experiences a power drain. Sisko asks Winn to follow the path of the Prophets with him, but she insists that the crises are a result of his sacrilege. On the Promenade, Kira emerges from the Temple possessed by a Prophet who explains that Kira's body is a willing vessel. She declares that the reckoning is at hand: the end or the beginning for Bajor. Winn describes a prophecy in which a Pah-wraith flung out of the Temple will return to challenge the Prophets. If the evil is destroyed, thousands of years of peace await Bajor, but no one knows what the outcome will be. The Prophet tells Sisko that his task as Emissary is completed, and Winn begs for advice.
Sisko orders the station's evacuation. Dax insists that they can use chronoton particles to purge the Prophets, good and bad, which is what Starfleet would want them to do, but Sisko refuses: the Prophets saved them during the war with the Dominion, he is not going to betray them now. Odo adds that he knows Kira would willingly give her life for her faith. Worf tells Odo that if it were Dax, he doesn't think he could let her. The Kai and a group of Bajorans congregate near Kira to pray, but when Sisko goes to tell her to leave, Kira announces that the Evil One has arrived and chosen a vessel. It's Jake.
While the creatures inside Kira and Jake spew energy at one another, Sisko tells Winn that he believes the Prophets will protect his son and orders her off the station. Dax and Worf leave with the remaining officers, but Winn sneaks away at the airlock and goes to a now-empty Ops, where she floods the Promenade with the chronoton particles, forcing both the Prophet and the Evil One to depart. Kira and Jake are both all right, but Sisko is devastated and cries at what the experience almost cost him. Jake assures him that he could feel the hatred of the being which possessed him and would have let himself die to stop it. Kira tells Odo that she's confused as to why the Prophets chose her, but Odo suggests that it was her faith and humility which made her a worthy vessel. She walks Winn to her ship, where Winn wants to know why Sisko hasn't come to thank her for saving his son. Kira scathingly points out that Sisko's obeyed the will of the Prophets whom Winn betrayed - he trusted the Prophets to take care of his son. When Kira suggests that Winn's ambition has made her unable to tolerate the fact that Sisko's faith is stronger than her own, Winn leaves without a word.
What a great episode - in terms of genre, in terms of plot, in terms of pacing, in terms of characterization, in terms of building on an arc started six years ago. This issue started brewing in the very first episode of Deep Space Nine, and has always been one of the things that drew me to this series: it's not afraid to allow religion and culture to thrive in direct opposition to Starfleet and Federation interests. The Prophets are real aliens, but their powers are godlike to the "limited" corporeal beings they interact with, and as Sisko points out, it doesn't really matter whether one calls them by their scientific or spiritual names: they're real, they're present, and faith in them has material consequences for him personally as well as for Bajor. That's a very compelling hook, which can't be dismissed as mere mythology. Sisko is forced to walk a tightrope between his role as Prime Directive-defending Starfleet captain and Emissary to the Prophets of Bajor, and for me it's the most interesting aspect of his character.
His role as a father is another of my favorite things about Sisko, and the scenes in this episode were extraordinary in that regard. There were three: the first where Jake came to him in the middle of the night confessing that the Prophets have always scared him because they've threatened his father's life so many times, the second where Sisko begs the Evil One to use him as a vessel and spare his son, the third at the end where Sisko broke down in the infirmary after Jake's recovery. The parallels with Abraham and Isaac were very clear, but took on a whole different perspective because it's not even his own god making demands on Sisko: he is willing to make the sacrifice for someone else's religion. His motives are so much purer than the Kai's, whose lack of faith is rather extraordinary; for everything bad we've been able to say about Winn over the years, I've always assumed that she really did want to do the will of the Prophets even if she was misguided about what that will might be. Instead she circumvented an ancient prophecy, then tried to take credit for saving Bajor. She is turning quite literally into an antichrist.
Since "His Way" was just last week, I have to say something about Odo and Kira, namely: YESSSSSSS! Week two of the relationship and we got no contrived fights, no contrived sex, no contrived anything; there was some witty banter, some genuinely affectionate teasing, and a demonstration that Odo is strong enough to sacrifice the only person in the universe he truly loves because he believes it to be her will. It was telling to hear him say so and telling to hear Worf admit that he's not sure he would be strong enough to do the same. I love the relationships on this show, the subtlety, the realism, the emotional intensity, the fact that unlike certain other Trek shows, this one doesn't feel it necessary either to hit us over the head with or ignore the bonds between the crew. I thought last week might be the first and last time we got to see Kira kiss Odo; I am really glad that is not the case.
Finally, I have to say something about the mythology of the series, and the way this rather fantasy-oriented storyline has been woven in and through a science fiction arc and a war story. The battle between good and evil reminded me more of King Arthur than of Classic Trek, which could have been very awkward had it not been so very well done. Kudos all over the place. This entire season has been a joy to watch and it just keeps getting better.
Deep Space Nine Reviews